Friday, August 28, 2015

Luther Square Welcomed by Vatican

Luther Death-Mask
As many of you will no doubt have learned, the city of Rome is naming a square in honor of 16th century heresiarch Martin Luther. The Bear suspects Luther is otherwise occupied to give the matter his attention, but the Vatican has taken note.

The move was started by a request six years ago from the Seventh-Day Adventists, a bizarre and aggressive cult that even other Protestants don't have anything to do with. (The Bear has noticed they are pushing their junk on the internet, including relatively well-produced and completely wacky religious documentaries.)

Luther himself, the article notes, said, "If there is a Hell, Rome is built over it." Its origin suggests that is is not an ecumenical reach-out, but can only be regarded as a provocation.

According to Religion News Service the Vatican, to absolutely no one's surprise, is fine with the move.

Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.

Luther was a troubled, undisciplined, crude, sensual, political opportunist known for experiencing revelations in the privy and throwing his inkpot at an appearance of the Devil. He was not a first-rate thinker. He devised a theology which gave him some relief from his fear of Hell by teaching that "works" -- by which he imagined everything, good or bad, a person might do -- didn't figure into judgment. Sola fide, sola scriptura. His legacy is the disaster called Protestantism.

Now, the Bear must say that his Lutheran friends seem to have somehow risen above the worst of their founder, although they still retain many of his errors.

For some reason, the Church felt compelled to try to make an accommodation with Lutheranism. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation published a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999. Typically, of 124 Lutheran bodies, 35 refused to approve of the mess, which means many Lutherans have more sense than some Catholics. We can probably agree that God does not save us by any merit on our part.

By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

Joint Declaration, 15.

But the Bear can't understand the Joint Declaration completely. It is one of those confusing compromise documents with which the Church has been all too familiar since Vatican II. For example, Lutherans do not believe man cooperates with grace. According to the Joint Declaration, turns out Catholics don't really either. The "cooperation" is a consent that is itself the product of grace, rather than anything attributable to man.

The council of Trent's Decree on Justification said this in Canon 4:

If anyone says that man's free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God's call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.

There are subtle, but important distinctions here. The Bear's sensitive nose smells heresy. There are so many reservations and qualifications, however, it is hard to say exactly what Catholics and Lutherans have agreed on. Nor should we care. The Council of Trent was unambiguous in dealing with Luther and his heresies.

But the Bear has digressed. The point is that the Church covets a rapprochement with the Lutherans, and we should be happy it wasn't St. Peter's square they renamed for Martin Luther.

We're only two years away from the 500th anniversary of Luther's Reformation. Brace yourselves for blizzards of sniveling nonsense out of the Vatican.

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