"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kevin Johnson's seven reasons for not being a Catholic

Recently I read Kevin Johnson's, "Some Reasons Why I am not a Catholic". Fr. Kimel at Pontifications already examined Kevin's reasons here. But I wish to say a few more things. Kevin gives seven reasons.

First, he says that he is committed to Reformed theology. He writes, "I am firmly committed to a Reformed understanding of the Christian faith as expressed in her historic confessions and the writings of the major figures of the magisterial Reformation especially."

Stating that one is firmly committed to being Reformed is neither a reason to be Reformed nor a reason to be Catholic. For example, saying, "I am firmly committed to atheism" is obviously not a reason for not becoming a Christian, because such a 'reason' just begs the question: Why are you firmly committed to atheism? In order to be a reason not to become a Christian, it needs to be a reason to believe that atheism is true and theism is false. Likewise, claiming that one is firmly committed to a non-Catholic position is not a reason not to be a Catholic.

Let me skip reasons (2)-(4), and come back to them at the end.

His fifth reason is that he believes the Reformation was necessary.

The Catholic Church also believes that reformation of the Church was necessary. But "reformation" and schism are not the same thing. In either case, this reason depends entirely upon the degree to which the things needing reform have been reformed, and whether the remaining need for reform justifies remaining in schism. So this 'reason' is not a reason for not being Catholic, because it depends entirely on more fundamental matters that are left unspecified.

His sixth reason is the sex abuse scandal.

The sex scandal is not a legitimate reason not to be a Catholic. If the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, then the sex scandal does not justify an act of schism. That is because if the Catholic Church is who she claims to be, then Donatism is a heresy. And if Donatism is a heresy, then it is not the case that sin among the clergy justifies schism. If sin among the clergy does not justify schism, then it does not justify remaining in schism. Therefore, appealing to the sex scandal as a reason not to be a Catholic assumes that the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be. In other words, it is a question-begging reason.

His seventh reason is that he opposes absolute uniformity.

So does the Catholic Church. Within the Catholic Church there are twenty-two Eastern rite particular Churches, along with the Western rite Church. The Catholic Church recognizes the beauty and value of *diversity* within unity. She does not conflate unity with uniformity; neither does she accept diversity as an excuse for division.

So, out of the seven reason Kevin lists, we see that the first, fifth, sixth, and seventh are not good reasons. Now let's go back to reasons (2)-(4).

Reasons (2)-(4) are that he thinks the pope has too much power, that Apostolic succession is no longer important, and that Eucharistic adoration is wrong.

On what grounds is he judging these three Catholic positions and practices? Kevin claims that these three are not "biblical". So these three depend upon a deeper question: whether the Church must be governed by the principle of sola scriptura and/or by lay-Catholics' or even non-Catholics' interpretations of Scripture. Kevin also claims that the papacy in its current state lacks "historical justification".

So when we carefully analyze Kevin's seven reasons, we find that they all fundamentally depend on just two issues: the papacy, and sola scriptura. So to dialogue on these two issues, I recommend reading Stephen Ray's Upon This Rock, and Not By Scripture Alone, edited by Robert Sungenis. I also recommend meditating carefully on my collection of quotations from the fathers regarding the primacy of Peter.

One final thought. One comes to the Church just as one comes to the Apostles, and just as one comes to Christ. Not with lists of requirements and demands that must be met before one will enter and submit. That approach reminds us of some of the 'ghosts' in Lewis's The Great Divorce. Whatever it is that must conform to one's own judgments before one will submit to it, is something man-made, something beneath and below us. The Church is not only made by God, but more importantly, she is joined to God as His mystical body. She is divine. And for that reason one should expect to find that some of her teachings and practices do not align with one's own opinions regarding what the Church should be like. One should expect to have to conform oneself to her, not the other way around.

No comments: