Monday, May 27, 2013

The Difference Between Catholics and Episcopalians - Who Knew?

Yes, Virginia, there are people who call themselves Episcopalians, and no, they are not the same as Roman Catholics. The Episcopalians like to think themselves as better than the Catholics, because they do not have to kowtow to an old, fuddy-duddy Pope who simply cannot get with the times.

But then the world proves things otherwise. And do you know, Virginia? The Episcopalians do not even notice -- which is why they are Episcopalians.

Take last week, for instance.

The Pope gave a sermon at morning Mass in which he said that all were redeemed by the death of Our Savior on the Cross:
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! 
Jesus' death on the Cross served to redeem even the atheists -- yes, even the Richard Dawkinses and his ilk among us, who think the Pope is under a delusion.

And just a week earlier, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) also gave a sermon (albeit at CuraƧao, in the Diocese of Venezuela, and not in some big city like Rome). And what was her theme? Redemption by Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Not exactly:
We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end. We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong. For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.  
There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. [Fn: "E.g., Rom 1:1."] But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so! The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.  
An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God. The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand. This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor. This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household. It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.
Thus the Pope made in his sermon what is for Catholics (as well as for nearly all Christians, as far as I can tell) a very traditional and not controversial point: Jesus died on the Cross to redeem us all from sin. The Pope went on to say that if atheists and unbelievers will simply follow the natural law that is written on their hearts, and "do good" rather than evil (and even Richard Dawkins claims he does good because it's the product of "secular, moral philosophy and rational discussion"), then Catholics can "engage them there." In other words, the Pope is encouraging a "culture of engagement," a celebration of common ground, rather than a heretical form of salvation by good works.

The liberal media, however, wanted to portray a Pope more to their liking, i.e., a liberal Pope. So they misread the Pope's word "redeem" as the equivalent of "save." And they ran with headlines like: "Pope: Second Look at Letting Atheists into Heaven?" Others made a note of the difference (which is everything, theologically speaking). While some atheists even took note, if only to say: "No thanks, Pope -- keep it to yourself" -- or other (perhaps also predictable) reactions.

The point is, however, that virtually the whole Western world took note of what the Pope had to say.

But our Presiding Bishop? Any reaction to her blasphemy about St. Paul in the Western press?

Zero. Zip. Nada.

Only a few fellow Episcopalians even bothered to take notice.

-- Oh, that's right. The same Catholic reporter who explained Pope Francis' sermon managed to write about the Presiding Bishop's sermon, as well. And a few continuing Anglicans, and -- what do you know? -- even one other Episcopal bishop. (Not even her supporters in the House of Bishops could manage to utter a word of empathy for her.)

But for all practical purposes, as I say, the reaction was miniscule in comparison to the reaction to the Pope's sermon. No atheists (or even LGBTs) trumpeted her putdown of St. Paul. No feminist theologians jumped on her bandwagon.

Instead, the reaction could pretty well be summed up as . . .

Embarrassment. Yes, that's it -- shame and embarrassment among Episcopalians; shrugs and "so what?" from all others.

While most Catholics and other Christians took heart at the Pope's affirmation of traditional doctrine -- because he expressed it in a new way. A way charged full of hope in renewal of the Holy Spirit -- without having to put down St. Paul, or to twist the narrative in Acts to selfish ends.

Yes, Virginia, that is the difference between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.

The Catholics have their old fuddy-duddy, Pope Francis, who breathes new life into traditional doctrines.

And we Episcopalians have to make do with -- Katharine, who with her every utterance manages to deaden and stultify the gospel of the saints.


  1. The difference in one word: Relevance.

    While the Episcopal church has spent the past 40 years constantly changing trying to be relevant, the Catholic Church stays relevant by staying constant.

    The lack of media coverage of +KJS' teachings is more evidence for the decline of TEc's relevance.

    Look for the GC to try to come up with some super-duper, fashionable, relevant resolutions and a new P.B. who can be more super-duper, cool, and relevant, next time they meet.

  2. The revisionists in TEC keep insisting (what they call "maintaining the narrative") that the reason the Diocese of South Carolina disassociated with (or "abandoned" in Episcobable) TEC is all about "marriage equality," when in reality the false gospel perfectly espoused in the PB's sermon is the real reason we left. "Marriage equality" is merely a presenting symptom that points at TEC's underlying sickness unto death.

  3. Robert Munday has a different take on that Pope Francis sermon:

  4. Isaiah54, I think that Dean Munday was just picking up on the sensationalist news reports about the Pope's sermon, some of which I linked to above. All of those reports twisted the Pope's message by equating "salvation" with "redemption." And if Pope Francis had actually used the words ascribed to him in those reports, then, yes, he would be bordering on Universalism, as Dean Munday says.

    But he didn't, and just to be sure the press got the message, the Vatican's spokesperson, Fr. Thomas Rosica, issued a statement the next day to clarify that while Christ may have redeemed the atheists' sins along with everyone else's, the atheist would have to repent and convert to Catholicism to actually be saved from Hell.

    So I think Dean Munday can assuage his concerns. As the article I just linked says (along with the one I linked in the main post), there was no new doctrine in the Pope's statement -- only a new encouragement to evangelism on the part of Catholics (and, by derivation, on the part of all Christians). Don't let those atheists throw away their redemption!

  5. The dreadful sermon has been noted among some Orthodox as well. See...

  6. Father Rollo Rilling, my first priest, was a saintly man. Jolly, but very earnest, incapable of fatigue....two weddings, a funeral, and tomorrow annual Parish Meeting (lots of beer and bingo and voting).

    The Bishop came, laid upon us hands, and we all became very wise and full of the desire to ask the best questions at "senior Sunday School" now that catechism was in the rear view mirror. El Gringo Viejo was quick to ask the first question that particular Sunday following confirmation.

    "Father Rilling, what is the difference, precisely, between the Roman Catholics and us if we are both catholic and apostolic, and our line-up of saints is so similar, and our churches are almost identical on the inside. It seems like it just the difference between Latin and Olde English and the married priests issue.
    Father Rilling responded with a sly grin, "Do not tell a soul. We are actually exactly alike. The only real difference is that...They are wrong!!!"

    It was a good laugh for 12 and 13 year-olds who were beginning to have to fight pimples and dancing lessons. Yes, it was a good laugh.

    There is no laughter left in this issue. The Bishop of Rome has more understanding about the Word and the Message, Redemption and Salvation, than this horrid woman, who is presiding over Dead Church Walking, will ever possibly comprehend.

    We keep trying to go, but find ourselves easing into the Roman Church a mile away, where my wife graduated from the parochial elementary and junior high. It's a shame. She's on the Altar Guild at the Episcopal Church in McAllen....What WAS that banal woman trying to say in Venezuela?

    The Nazarene saved the harlot from the stone throwers. He also told her to "...go and sin no more." He did not say, "Hey, you guys, live and let live! You're okay, she's okay."

    Oy veh!
    El Gringo Viejo

  7. I note, ASH (and hello it's been awhile), that most of us Episcopalians are not particularly concerned or interested in the criticisms of folks who seem to take inordinate delight in being "anti"....I offer the thought that Pope Francis I in his role as Pope and as a Jesuit is quite capable of saying precisely what he means...I suspect the follow up "correction and clarification" after the fact was a case of the Curia trying to ensure that folks who worship tradition and power instead of God didn't have a hissy...perhaps some of the folks in the Anglican Curia might take a hint as well?

  8. Small Farmer, it is late and I am tired after a day of full-on lawyering. I cannot tell what you are saying, and will not presume to speak for you, or put words in your mouth. You claim to speak for "most Episcopalians", but I do not see from anything you have said here the basis for that claim. And you speak of an "Anglican curia" which, as we both know, does not exist, although there may be those Anglicans who worship "tradition and power" (do you mean, e.g., the current rector and vestry of Trinity Wall Street?), just as in every religion. But I cannot be certain whom you mean to designate, even if it be Trinity Wall Street (or not) -- since (again) you do not specify, and there is, unlike the RCC, no "Anglican Curia" as such. Also, you say that the RC Curia wanted to avoid a "hissy" on the part of the tradition- and power-worshipping Catholics; but if there was a similar reaction on the part of any Episcopalian or Anglican, I am unaware of it. As I said in my post, it seems as though all other Episcopalians and Anglicans were embarrassed by the PB's remarks, and did not even try to explain or exegete them. So if you care to amplify your remarks to explain yourself better, I will be in a position to deal with your concerns tomorrow. Meanwhile, thanks for coming here and sharing how you think about these things.

  9. I have always believed that the slave-girl in the story in Acts got a raw deal. Paul was more imperious and nearly as mercurial as Peter. The difference? Paul wrote more, or more of what he wrote survived, and Paul was theologically much deeper and more through going than Peter.

    It's good to know that someone feels for the slave-girl in the story.

  10. @Eric: Yeah, the slave girl was freed from demonic possession and, afterward, was possibly abandoned by her handlers who had kept her enslaved. All by the imperious Paul.

    What a raw deal.