MY CATHOLIC FAITH
72. Protestant Churches
Upon Martin Luther’s refusal to retract his declarations on the teachings of the Church, he was excommunicated. But Luther proudly tore up the papal bull of excommunication, and burned it. The fire that incident started has not yet burned down.
Who are Protestants? –In general, Protestants are adherents of the religious organizations that broke off from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or of any religious body formed from them.
The term “Protestant” was first given to those who protested against the decree of the second Diet of Speyer in 1529. Later the term was applied to all reformers, all opposing the doctrines of the Church.
Even today the term is included in the new formula of the Declaration of Faith that the ruler of England must make at the coronation, saying: “I declare that I am a faithful Protestant.”
In the sixteenth century the Protestant revolt took place, this beginning of a multitude of heresies, this sad event that has divided Christendom for centuries. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk of Erfurt, taking offense at what he believed was a lack of appreciation for him at Rome, combated the teaching of the Church on indulgences, in the year 1517.
The Pope commanded Luther to retract his teachings upon his refusal, he was excommunicated, in 1520. His heretical teachings spread like wildfire over Germany, occasioning religious wars; peace came only with the Peace of Augsburg, in 1555.
The Council of Trent met (1545-1563) to set forth in a clear manner the errors of the Protestants, by explaining the true doctrine of the Church on those points. At that time, religious training had relaxed; many did not know the true doctrines.
Among the errors of Luther were these: that there is no supreme teaching power in the Church; that temporal rulers have the right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters; that the Bible is the sole guide to faith: that every man should interpret the Bible according to his own mind; that faith is sufficient for salvation; that the priesthood does not imprint a special character on the soul of a man, and that everybody is or can be a priest, as a result; that Penance is not a sacrament, but a mere invention of the Church; that the Mass gives no special grace; that there is no purgatory, etc.
In the beginning, Protestantism spread rapidly. Whole countries, led by their rulers, adopted its doctrines. In Switzerland Zwingli and Calvin, and in England Henry VIII, about this time increased the defections from the Church. But soon there were other kinds of Protestantism.
Today the divisions and subdivisions of Protestantism are too well known to need comment. Great numbers of Protestants are returning to the faith of their fathers. Meanwhile, as the divisions subdivide, the Church continues to grow.
How may Protestant denominations be grouped? –Protestant denominations may be placed into three groups:
First, those requiring that a church be able to trace its origin to apostolic times. They believe in a priesthood established by Christ, and commanded to offer sacrifice and administer the sacraments. The High Church Episcopalians belong to this group.
Unfortunately the High Church Episcopalians deny a fact: their succession of bishops was cut when they separated from the Catholic Church, and so they have no valid orders. Hence they cannot have any sacraments except Baptism and Matrimony. The Anglican orders were declared invalid under Pope Leo XIII in 1896, after the question of their validity had been thoroughly examined.
Second, those that do not believe in the theory of “all religions are the same,” but do not have an organized hierarchy. They, insist on their own brand of Protestantism, requiring prospective members to study their doctrines. They consider Holy Scripture as the only rule of faith and of life. Some of them accept the Apostles’ Creed, and teach justification by faith alone.
Lutherans, and some bodies of Methodist and Episcopal churches belong to this group.
Third, those that declare Christ their personal Saviour, and believe in Baptism as indispensable; although some bodies do not hold the latter doctrine. Every Christian, according to them, must be a member of some church, on account of the practical benefits from church membership, from organized religion. But, one church is just as good as another.
To this group most of the bodies of Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Congregationalists belong.
The Church for Everyman
It is often said that the Catholic Church is the Church of the ignorant. Perhaps; but below is a partial list of the many brilliant literary people who in recent times have been converted into the Catholic Church in adult life, with their eyes wide open.
The Catholic Church is the Church of the ignorant; it is the Church of the wise. The Catholic Church is the Church for Everyman, whatever his race, color, economic condition, education,-for in the Church “there is not ‘Gentile and Jew’, ‘circumcised and uncircumcised’ … ‘slave and freeman’; but Christ is all things and in all” (Col. 3:11). Christ came to redeem all men; the Church is His Living Voice, His Mystical Body. Let us obey.
Achmed Abdullah, Maurice Baring, Edwin Harrison Barker, Anita Bartle, Robert Hugh Benson, Eugene Bishop, Katherine Bregy, Heywood Broun, Orestes Brownson, Dom Bede Camm, Cecil Chesterton, G. K. Chesterton, Isabel Clarke, Paul Claudel, Ethel Cook, Dr. Herbert E. Cory, F. Marion Crawford, A. A. Curtis, Dorothy Day, Christopher Dawson, Selden P. Delany, Mary Angela Dickens, Enid Dinnis, Owen Francis Dudley, Richard Lynn Edsal, Ethel Cook Elliot, Francis Perry Elliot, R. Willoughby Ferrier, Henry Jones Ford, Mrs. Hugh Fraser, Henry Dymoke Gasson, Sir Philip Gibbs, Eric Gil, David Goldstein, Morris Gordon, William Hard, Henry Harland, Joel Chandler Harris, Msgr. Edward Hawks, Rose Hawthorne, Carlton J. H. Hayes, Ross Hoffman, Christopher Hollis, Bishop Duane G. Hunt, Charles P. Hunt, Henry Jenner, Johannes Jorgensen, Vernon Johnson, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Joyce Kilmer, Clare Boothe Luce, Thomas Merton, George Parsons Lathrop, Shane Leslie, D. B. Wynham Lewis, Helen Landreth, Theophilus Lewis, Arnold Lunn, Compton Mackenzie, Lucas Malet, Horace Mann, C. C. Martindale, Jacques Maritain, Bruce Marshall, Theodore Maynard, Charles W. Myers, Alice Meynell, John Moody, Anne Nichols, Meredith Nicholson, Alfred Noyes, Dr. William Orchard, Giovanni Papini, Coventry Patmore, C. Kegan Paul, John Howard Payne, Max Pemberton, Alexandra Rachmanova, Mrs. Victor Rickard, Ruth Reed, Daniel Sargent, Adeline Sergeant, Lady Eleanor Smith, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Frank H. Spearman, Cynthia Stockley, Charles W. Stoddard, John L. Stoddard, John Swinnerton, “Guy Thorne”, Ivar Tidestrom, Sigrid Undset, Aubrey de Vere, Dr. Frederick Wagner, “Artemus Ward,” Evelyn Waugh, Sir Bertram Windle, Norman Wise, Cuthbert Wright, Fulton Oursler, etc.