Paradox: R.I.P
Being Friendly Without Being Friends

Isn't that Catholic?

Pp000415smIt's been five years now that our congregation has been observing Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season.  Although our noontime service is rather brief (30 min.), those who attend always find it to be thought-provoking and personally meaningful, including the imposition of ashes.

There have also been a number of other, older, faith-practices which we have introduced into our weekly worship gatherings.  Praying ancient common prayers together, standing for the reading of Word, and reciting the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds are among these.

Despite the fact that many Protestant groups have long incorporated practices like these into their respective liturgies and services, people in our congregation repeatedly encounter folks who say to them, "isn't that Catholic?"

What's behind that?!?

Is it simply the ignorance of Evangelical believers (I've never heard a Lutheran or Episcopalian say this)?  Or does the practice betray something deeper?  One thing I'm thinking of is how much "Catholic-bashing" has taken place within some evangelical denominations in recent decades (e.g. Calvary Chapels and Southern Baptists), leading them and other groups to "distance themselves" from anything that remotely looks or feels "Catholic."

I'd be interested in hearing your 'read' on all of this -- not only regarding it's cause, but on what it will take to turn the tide, helping people to be better informed and less suspicious and/or critical of our more ancient faith traditions and ecclesiologies.


image credit:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Of course it's catholic. Not Catholic, catholic, with a lower-case "c."

The Nicene Creed to which many evangelicals ascribe professes belief in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Those of us trying to be Christians -- "that we all may be one" -- need to recall that Jesus could never have imagined how divisively we have managed to operate the Body of Christ.

In attempting to define for ourselves what the exactly correct orthodoxy is, we have split hairs over what's in and what isn't in "good" worship. When Jesus instructed us to "do this" in rememberance of Him, he used symbols of His sacrifice; yet we have managed to split and re-split over wine vs. grape-juice, common chalice vs. individual cups, or special wafers vs. bread from a loaf. Or, believe it or not, whether the Eucharist is every Sunday, once a month, or once a year!

We look askance at other denominations for so many silly reasons that we forget that Jesus told us to love one another as he loves us. We call Him Lord, but pay allegiance to a Pope or a synod or to no ecclesiastic authority (but also not to Him!).

The imposition of ashes is symbolic for the beginning of a period of contemplation about the suffering our Lord endured. Let's stop adding to His suffering, and begin to show our love for Him by trying to regain the unity that He so fervently desired.

We were studying Nehemiah in Sunday School this morning. Take a look at the worship service in the last few verses of Nehemiah 12. You have two great choirs singing and praising in almost a chanting style. How positively Catholic; and "Gregorian" in particular! But, I would have loved to have heard it and been a part of that great dedication service.


Reformations and revolutions are in the habit of throwing out babies along with the bathwater. It's good to remember that by defining yourself by what you are not, you may end up with almost nothing. The puritan church would be an example of that. Ultimately, this catholic-bashing you mention, deprived the evangelical (and other) churches of worship element the emerging church now tries to add ...

It's good to remember the ancient dictum "lex orandi, lex credenti", you can only believe what you pray and vice versa. Within this principle resides a lot of liberty to create new liturgies.

I agree with the poster 'catholic' not 'Catholic'. 'course catholic just means "Universal". We had a 'weird' ash wednesday thing happen. The Jade and Janice went to a noon Ash Wednesday service at Trinity Presbyterian Church, (apparently the Presbyterians have only been doing Ash Wed since early 1990's)

However, there was no placing of ashes on the foreheads. They didn't have any ashes at all.

So we went to an Ash Wednesday service at 7pm that night at Church of our Saviour Episcopal...

I'm also reminded of the saying 'All Truth is Ours'.. I think it was said by Lady Julian of Norwich quoting one of the Fathers.


In our congregation there is man who had studied to be a Roman Catholic priest. He dropped out for a variety of reasons but none of them have to do with a view that certain worship practices are wrong, stupid, empty, meaningless (all adjectives that people who have been worried about things being too Catholic have used to explain what they meant). He has been a blessing especially when he "rediscovers" some of those things from his past that he had forgotten about (that is 'turned his back on') and sometimes is able to offer an additional level of meaning (for example holy water at the entrace of the sanctuary and the practice of genuflecting).

Maybe we need more of these relationships in order to "turn the tide."
In Christ,
Mark Eberly

I'm going with ignorance and fear. The 1970's are old school for most evangelicals. (Cool - Keith Greene just popped up on my iTunes Lent mix! "Create in Me a Clean Heart") Anything that predates is a bunch of Catholic hocus pocus. That's the "take-out" version.

Solution: More voices who occupy multiple spheres and the space between our denominations. More people who always say "yes" or "no" when asked Are you Catholic? Evangelical? Methodist? Lutheran? Anglican? Charismatic? etc.

Chris, check out this great idea:

Dawn and I tend to identify with the Catholic Faith. We have found God present there and have some close friends who are hardcore catholic believers. There is something a bit earthy and reverent about being in a Catholic Mass. I could see how one could do it out of memory because of repetition and become habitual; but make no mistake, the Roman Catholic faith has been around a long time; longer than most. In our home, we even have iron crosses on the walls, and even a holy water dish at the front door.

I too am amazed how many evangelicals are so anti-catholic; some of whom even came from catholic background. So sad. They are part of us, we are part of them.

A Few Comments: First, catholic does not merely mean "universal" but "in accord with the whole" and denotes those things that are believed and practiced "in common". Secondly, if memory serves, Gregorian Chant does have its roots in Jewish liturgical worhsip. Third, I do not agree that "lex orandi, lex credendi est" (the rule of prayer is the rule of Faith) provides room to create a lot of liturgies. In fact it is precisely because praying shapes believing that innovation in the liturgy should only be done cautiously at best (and not at all according to the Orthodox). Finally, I think that Evangelicals are biased because they have carried on a latent Protestant prejudice against things catholic.

Hold up. Let's not bash the anti catholic folk anymore than we bash the catholic folk. Why do alot of protestants shy away from the RC Church?

Come on, ya'll don't know? Let me help. The linchpin of the Reformation is thus: Salvation is thru Faith Alone in Christ Alone thru Grace Alone.

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent #9 says:

"If anyone says that Salvation is thru Faith Alone, Thru Christ Alone, thru Grace alone, let them be anathema"

and let's not forget that just this year Pope Benedict gave out 'indulgences' to celebrate an anniversary of the Church..

So remember, Unity on Essentials - Soeterology is pretty essential.

God's Peace


Oddly enough, (well it isn't odd to me but I assume several of you might be surprised) we get just as many, if not more, former Catholics than the protestant and evangelical folks do.

When they come to us, their break with the church tends to be significant and they are looking for the anti-catholic approach. This is one of the first things I have to teach people again and again. If you are looking to define your spirituality through not being Catholic, you are wasting your time, for your whole belief system still hinges on theirs.

For whatever reason, it seems that disillusioned protestants move to other Christian faiths. Disillusioned Catholics become Pagans and atheists.

Seraphim, you must know that the statement you quote from Trent is in bald reaction to the Reformers. Lots of people around us, and indeed many Christians, are not invested the question "How does one get saved?" to the extent that the Reformers/Counter-Reformers were, or even those of us who went through the Jesus Movement were, or at all. Indeed, the idea of Hell is being rethought these days by many sincere "bible-believing" Christians, so your comment about indulgences is probably moot for many.

I cannot not return to the Catholic Church for several reasons, not very many really, but the Soteriologic is not one of them. Most important for me is the perceived necessity of sacrificing Jesus over and over again, which is the very heart of RC praxis in the Mass.

I have always been saddened at the continued anti-RC stance of so many Protestants, the reasons for which I think Fr. Matt has outlined very well. I do not in any way repudiate having been raised RC; it gave me many good things, not least of which was a interpretive grid for my God-consciousness even as a child. I left it for Conscience's sake, which is the only reason that makes any sense at all within a RC framework.

Seraphim, you might enjoy reading this:
(hope you can paste that in your browser ok)


The comments to this entry are closed.