The Reformation

A Reflection on the Reformation

by Art Sippo

I think it is time to bring our discussion to a higher level of serious, sober discourse. It is unfortunate, but in many cases apologetic discussion can degenerate into nothing more a vicious brawl which is not edifying for the followers of Jesus Christ. Also, I consider apologetics to be a ministry to those lost souls outside of the Catholic Church who are in desperate need of the truth. There is a time for bravado in apologetics but there also comes a time for Christian witness "from heart to heart." The various Protestant movements were derived from the 16th Century sociological turmoil caused by urbanization, the rise of the middle class, and the transition from a feudal society of rigidly stratified social classes to a more egalitarian society stratified by ability and personal initiative. There was also a serious deviation in philosophy away from the classical essentialist view of the world to a nominalistic subjective view. All of the Protestant Reformers came from the nominalist, urbanized, bourgeoisie classes. They may have paid lip service to the Bible, but in reality they were taking their own middle class values and projecting them into the Bible where they did not belong. Essentially, the notions of faith alone as salvific was merely the rugged individualism of the middle class projected into theology. The claim of private interpretation of Scripture was really a act of defiance against all "official" opinions because nobody was really inherently better than anyone else in bougeois eyes. Sacraments were just "official" means of receiving grace that were as welcome to the middle class as the court protocol of the king's palace. Any concept of the Church over and above the local community (especially over international boundaries) placed authority in the hands of strangers and foreigners instead of in the hands of local populace. This is an overly simplistic picture of the values of the Reformers, but I submit that it is true to type.

When I read your objections to Catholicism, all I see is the same blindness that Luther and Calvin inflicted on the poor souls of the 16th Century. You equivocate on the meaning of Scripture. When it is to your advantage you stand on the literal meaning of the words. When it is not, you spiritualize it away. You exploit whatever insult, lie, exaggeration, or objection you can use to abuse the Catholic Church without any regard for the fact that we Catholics may have a valid point. It is bigotry that is your obvious motive, not the pursuit of truth. In essence your guiding principle is not derived from the Bible, but read into it based upon your own prejudices, presuppositions, and hatred for the Catholic Church. It is the same dominant paradigm that the Reformers invented in order to advance their own agendas. The history of the Christian Church and her faith are an open book for any honest person to examine. There is both good and bad in that history, but there is also clear evidence that the Historic Catholic Church has never abandoned her Lord, his teachings, or his great commission. Doctrines have developed and deepened over time as new logical consequences of the original revelation in Christ have been discerned. It was the discernment at the Ecumenical Councils and through the Papal teaching office that have kept Christianity pure and healthy. Without the Traditions of the Church, maintained by a strong international episcopate and centralized Papal authority, Christianity would have degenerated into a westernized form of Hinduism long ago with numerous disparate cults espousing strange doctrines. Protestantism is undergoing such an auto-demolition as we speak. Protestantism was built upon the borrowed capital of the Catholic Tradition. It is only the Catholic Tradition that can save it from total destruction and subversion into pandemonium. One of the saddest spectacles of recent years has been the migration of so many Protestants into Judeophilia. People such as yourself become so enmeshed in the alleged history of post-Christian Judaism that you disparage Christian history and instead identify with those who denied Christ and who worked for the destruction of the early Church. This is another way of demonizing the Catholic Church and dehistoricizing Christianity.

The roots of Christianity do not lay with the history of those who conspired to kill Christ and then abandoned his follwers to persecution because they refused to acknowledge before the Roman authorities that Christians were fellow believers in the God of Israel. Our history diverges from theirs specifically over Yeshua Messiah and the true sons and daughters of the promise of Abraham are numbered only among those who accept Christ. It is the same type of split as there was between Isaac & Ismael and Jacob & Esau. It is this biblical motif that St Paul uses in Galatians 3&4. So-called "Messianic Congregations" portend to be recapturing early Jewish Christianity, but this is not so. "Messianic Judaism" is a hodge-podge of post-Christian Rabbinic compromises with 16th Century nominalism. It is not authentic.

With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, it became impossible to keep the requirements of the Torah. None of the genealogies needed to establish priestly lineage survived and most of the priests themselves were killed. From that time forward, it has been impossible to practice Biblical Judaism. The Rabbinic colloquies at Javneh were a feeble attempt by the Pharisees to spiritualize away the concrete requirements of Torah and replace them with "nominalistic" compromises. Even today, in a pious Jewish household, when the Moyl comes to a bris for the first born he will accept the coin to "redeem" the child oly to give it back at the end of the ceremony since he cannot prove that he is a true Aaronic priest who has a right to keep it. No true Passover can be celebrated because the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb is not possible and can never be possible. That is why the Church abandoned Jewish practices. Not because She did not value the OT ways but because they were rendered obsolete by the destruction of the Temple and its priesthood. What passes for Judaism in our day is a pious sham. While I share your love and concern for the Jewish people, I have no illusions about who constitutes the real Israel of God. I follow Jesus and St Paul. Circumcision is of no avail because the covenant that it symbolized has been dead and gone for 1938 years and cannot ever be revived. To circumcise children into this dead covenant is an abomination because you are placing religious obligations on these children that they cannot fulfill.

And then there is the nominalistic skepticism so evident in you attack on the sacraments. "Did Jesus 'magically' change the bread they were just eating into his body?" The proper term is not "magically" but "miraculously." And the answer is yes. Just as he changed the water that the guests just washed their feet in into the wine that they drank at Cana. Just as he turned a few loaves and fish into a banquet for multitudes. You see, that is what faith in Jesus is all about. You either believe Jesus when he says "this is my body" or you don't. If you don't then reserve to yourself the right to spiritualize everything else that he said. When that happens you can justify divorce and remarriage, polygamy, contraception, abortion, sodomy or any other thing you please just as Protestants have done. The faith of the Church over the last 1900+ years has always maintained that the Eucharist was more than an empty symbol. Read 1Clement, the Epistles of St Ignatius of Antioch, the Didache, St Justin Martyr, St Irenaeus, St John Chrysotom, St Augustine, etc. You yourself admit that the Midrash identifies the Kiddush cup with the blood of the paschal lamb and the afikommen with the flesh of that lamb. When Jesus identifies these things as his very body and blood, he is using that symbol to declare a new Passover in himself. The sole commemoration of it which Jesus asked for was the weekly Eucharist celebrated in ritual memory of him by the Church on the Lord's Day. (Acts 20:7)

I honor the Scripture as the inerrant word of God and I am pleased to be a student of it. I have never found anything in Scripture that conflicts with Catholic teaching. I haven't been "brain-washed" as you claimed. I have been washed with the laver of regeneration and I now can discern my Lord and Savior in his One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the Protestant system, absolute authority in religious matters is denied to any man. Allegedly the Bible is the absolute authority but that is a sham because the Bible can be interpreted anyway that it pleases you to do so. But, alas, that is the Protestant system. By what right therefore do you dare to challenge my right to interpret the Bible as I see fit? If you believe in no infallible human authority then I am as entitled to my opinion in your system as much as you are. Yet you attack and defame me and the Church. Why? Your system makes it impossible for anyone to be declared a heretic because you have eschewed the authority necessary to do that. All you can do is disagree with my interpretations. Why then do you hate the Catholic Church and assault it when by doing so you invalidate your own system? I think it is because the Catholic Church is the one obstacle to autonomous humanism which is the real error at the heart of Protestantism. Only the Catholic Church wields the authority that you have to "protest" against in order to be a Protestant. If indeed, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, then anyone cut off from them is cut off from the superintendance of the Holy Spirit and has lapsed into man-made religion. Catholicism alone stands to accuse you of this and you hate her for it. But the Catholic Church has always remained loyal to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and will continue to do so until he comes to take Her as his Bride. I implore you in the name of Christ to repent and believe the Gospel and to turn away from the religions founded by mere men who apostasized from the Church founded by Christ himself. The time is short. You cannot be saved outside of the one true Church. You must cease to serve your own desires and submit to God in Christ before it is too late!

Art Sippo
The Catholic Legate