Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Catholic Unity vs Protestantism?



Q - Aren't there a bunch of different Catholic rites? I mean, you have the Roman, Byzantine, Carmelite, Dominican, and a whole bunch of other different titles. What happened? Why the split? What makes us different, and what makes us all Catholic? What makes our church the 'right one'/the one to be in? Can we recieve their communion and can they recieve ours?

And what makes this split different than the one Luther made? What makes the difference between one rite and another different than the difference between the catholics and the lutherans or the catholics and the baptists? Is the catholic church just as screwed up and separated as all of the protestant churches?

A -
Thanks for the questions, I hope I can help straighten some of this out for you.  I will break up the questions below to see if I can answer them all for you.  Also, I have provided links that can answer the questions with more depth.


1 - Aren't there a bunch of different Catholic rites?
Yes there are.  Most Catholics are ignorant of this fact.  There are more than just Latin-rite Catholics, which 99% of us are.  In fact, there are dozens of other rites, you can read about all of them here.
A Rite = A way to pray liturgy and worship God which comes from a certain ecclesiastical (church) tradition.

2 - I mean, you have the Roman, Byzantine, Carmelite, Dominican, and a whole bunch of other different titles. What happened?
What happened is that each of the prayers and ways of worshiping God developed in different places in different ways over many years.  The Church has never believed that every catholic rite has to have the exact same prayers or ways of having the liturgy, as long as the essential elements of each liturgy are there.

3 - Why the split?
There is no split.  There is still unity.  A different Catholic rite is still Catholic.  They are still in union with Rome.  It might be the Eastern Orthodox you are thinking of here.  They are not Catholic, but this is a different story that you can read about here.

4 - What makes our church the 'right one'/the one to be in?
There is no "right" rite, but there is a "right" Church - which is the one true Church Jesus established = the Catholic Church.  You can read more about it here and here.

5 - And what makes this split different than the one Luther made? What makes the difference between one rite and another different than the difference between the catholics and the lutherans or the catholics and the baptists?
Again, between the differing Catholic rites there is unity in diversity, not disunity.  Between Catholics and Protestants we have much bigger doctrinal issues, the preeminent issue being authority.  Luther rejected the Catholic Church's authority and set himself up as an authority of one.  This opened the door to the doctrinal chaos we see in Christianity today.

The different Catholic rites developed different ways of praying, different doctrinal emphases, etc.  But, there is always unity.

6 - Is the catholic church just as screwed up and separated as all of the protestant churches?
No.  We can see this because we have the Pope who is the visible sign of unity for all Catholics.  To illustrate my point, a prominent Protestant theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, recently preached about Reformation Sunday (celebrated in some Protestant churches) about how that particular celebration was scandalous and what Protestants can learn from Catholic unity.  I recommend you read all of the article, but here is a snip:
Catholics do not begin with the question of “How much do we need to believe?” but with the attitude “Look at all the wonderful stuff we get to believe!” Isn’t it wonderful to know that Mary was immaculately conceived in order to be the faithful servant of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ! She therefore becomes the firstborn of God’s new creation, our mother, the first member of God’s new community we call church. Isn’t it wonderful that God continued to act in the world through the appearances of Mary at Guadalupe! Mary must know something because she seems to always appear to peasants and, in particular, to peasant women who have the ability to see her. Most of us would not have the ability to see Mary because we’d be far too embarrassed by our vision.

Therefore Catholics understand the church’s unity as grounded in reality more determinative than our good feelings for one another. The office of Rome matters. For at least that office is a judgment on the church for our disunity. Surely it is the clear indication of the sin of the Reformation that we Protestants have not been able to resist nationalistic identifications. So we become German Lutherans, American Lutherans, Norwegian Lutherans. You are Dutch Calvinist, American Presbyterians, Church of Scotland. I am an American Methodist, which has precious little to do with my sisters and brothers in English Methodism. And so we Protestant Christians go to war killing one another in the name of being American, German, Japanese, and so on.

At least it becomes the sin of Rome when Italian Catholics think they can kill Irish Catholics in the name of being Italian. Such divisions distort the unity of the Gospel found in the Eucharist and, thus, become judgments against the church of Rome. Of course, the Papacy has often been unfaithful and corrupt, but at least Catholics preserved an office God can use to remind us that we have been and may yet prove unfaithful. In contrast, Protestants don’t even know we’re being judged for our disunity.
I hope this helps. Peace to you.  Pray for Christian unity.

4 comments:

tour86rocker said...

Understanding the different rites and churches helps ecumenism with the East. Misguided Romans would have Easterners become Latinized in the name of unity, but the council specifically charged Eastern Catholics to restore their traditions that had been discouraged.

I was astonished to read a Roman bishop suggesting that the upcoming Anglican ordinariates would be a good model for reunion with the Russian Orthodox. I find the suggestion appalling and I hope that the Russian Orthodox bishops don't read it because it's contrary to Catholic belief. We esteem the Orthodox Churches as churches in their own right.

Gregory said...

There are two big differences between Anglicans and the Orthodox: 1) Anglican orders were declared null and void because the loss of the intention to do what the Catholic Church does in ordination. This has not happened in Orthodoxy; they maintain a strong belief in the sacrament of Holy Orders. 2) Many Anglican bishops are married, and cannot become Catholic bishops. The Anglican ordinariates allow a structure where a married priest can be an ordinary. Orthodox bishops are all celibate, so this is not an issue for reunion with Orthodox churches.

I don't know about the unnamed Roman bishop you mentioned, but I think it is pretty clear that a reunion with the Russian Orthodox would look more like the other Eastern rites than what was done with the Anglicans.

bullschuck said...

Hauerwas rocks.

Rich said...

The idea of a uniform liturgical worship (rite) is something that was unheard of in the Latin Church until after the Protestant Revolt. We are very accustomed to the Latin Rite (should it even be called that now since we hardly hear Latin, but I digress), but there are different styles of worship and doctrinal emphases of believed truths, and they are mostly geographically based. Different areas developed different customs, and usually these were formalized by the Catholic bishop(s) of the area. You had entire missals that were for certain areas, and were not used anywhere else. And that was perfectly fine. Rigid uniformity in worship was not a priority back then. After the Council of Trent, only those Catholic rites that were 200 years or older would be allowed to continue (IOW, there were a lot more rites back then than there are now). This uniformity was done to protect and regulate doctrinal integrity (the more expressions of a faith that have to be monitored, the more chance that confusion would set in among the Catholics being proselytized by new Protestants).

Just remember that these rites are regional expressions of the same Catholic doctrines, preached by Catholic bishops and priests, with the same Catholic loyalties to the Pope in Rome.

Luther and Calvin attacked the doctrines themselves, and thereby created new religions.