May 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Every sincere Catholic looks forward to the unification of Christians in answer to the prayer of Christ Himself. Yet tragically there have been splits in the Church which have caused many to be deprived of the fullness of the truth.
Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ approach to the question of those Christians who lack the fullness of faith has been very confusing.
Today, on Episode 8 of The John-Henry Westen Show, I’m discussing why Pope Francis’ many comments and actions related to Protestantism have been concerning faithful Catholics.
The John-Henry Westen Show appears every Tuesday. It is a short weekly commentary on the most important news developments in the Church and culture. We are beginning with a series laying out the hard evidence for our concerns with Pope Francis.
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Transcript: What’s up with Pope Francis and Protestantism?
In his stunning 6000 word letter on the abuse crisis released April 10, 2019, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said something of great importance which was missed by most. I tried to draw attention to it in my special John-Henry Westen show on the letter – it was this, Pope Benedict said “the Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.”
What’s he talking about? Why would ‘courtesy’ require Holy Communion to be given out. Yes we see it with weddings and funerals for people not in the state of grace. But how is this linked to Pope Francis? That’s what we’re talking about in today’s episode of the John-Henry Westen show. Welcome I’m John-Henry Westen co-founder and editor in chief of LifeSiteNews.
Let’s start with a sign of the cross…
First off, every sincere Catholic looks forward to the unification of Christians in answer to the prayer of Christ Himself we see recorded in John 17:22 where Christ prays to His Father for future Christians “that, they may be one, as we also are one.” That oneness has no room for differences in fundamental beliefs such as the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, confession and the intercession of Our Lady.
Yet tragically there have been splits in the Church which have caused many to be deprived of the fullness of the truth. In the times of Pope St. John Paul II began a revival of Catholic faith among our separated brethren in converts like Scott and Kimberly Hahn, and the work of organizations like Catholic Answers that built up from those converts to bring thousands back to the fullness of faith, to the sacraments, to Our Lady. My own wife is among that number and celebrating 20 years as a Catholic this year.
Pope Francis’ approach to the question of those Christians who lack the fullness of faith has been very confusing. His frequent talk against proselytism only makes sense if you understand proselytism to mean force or pressure to convert someone. However from his statements and actions on the subject it’s still confusing even with that interpretation.
In an October 2013 interview with La Repubblica, he said, “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense (later in that same interview he said)… I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation.”
And here is the Vatican English transcript from October 2016 when the Pope was speaking in Georgia and Azerbaijan where he again criticizes ‘proselytism’ saying It is a “very grave sin against ecumenism” for Catholics to try to convert the Orthodox.
“Let the theologians study the abstract realities of theology. But what should I do with a friend, neighbor, an Orthodox person? Be open, be a friend. ‘But should I make efforts to convert him or her?’ There is a very grave sin against ecumenism: proselytism. We should never proselytize the Orthodox! They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ.”
During a Q&A session at a meeting with Lutherans and Catholics in the Vatican on October 13, 2016, the Pope responded to a question from a girl who asked about trying to convert her friends.,“It is not licit that you convince them of your faith; proselytism is the strongest poison against the ecumenical path,” responded.
Now, hopefully the Pope only means not to proselytise in the sense that we shouldn’t try to force or pressure someone into accepting the faith. However in practice the Pope himself — at least while he was Cardinal Bergoglio — has gone to the extreme of suggesting that someone wanting to convert to the Catholic faith remain Protestant and with tragic result.
The story is recounted in the best known biography of Pope Francis that of Austin Ivereigh. In the 2014 book, The Great Reformer, we learn that Tony Palmer, an Anglican clergyman and long time friend of Pope Francis, spoke to then-Cardinal Bergoglio wanting to become Catholic. Palmer described the then-Cardinal’s response as: “[Bergoglio] told me that we need to have bridge-builders. He counseled me not to take the step because it looked like I was choosing a side and I would cease to be a bridge-builder.” Tragically Palmer died suddenly in a motorcycle accident without ever entering the Catholic Church.
The story is retold by Iverigh in covering the tragic death of Palmer writing in the Boston Globe. “At one point, when Palmer was tired of living on the frontier and wanted to become Catholic, Bergoglio advised him against conversion for the sake of the mission. We need to have bridge-builders”, the cardinal told him.”
But the story only starts there and gets more and more confusing.
In late 2016 Pope Francis travelled to Sweden to assist in the launch of a year-long commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, officially launching the Protestant split away from the Catholic Church.
In a lead-up event at the Vatican on October 13, the Pope received a group of 1,000 Lutherans and Catholics from Germany in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall and addressed them from the stage where a statue of Luther was erected.
Luther was excommunicated and his theses rejected by Pope Leo X in 1520. This split in Christianity was the second major break-off after the Orthodox split in the eleventh century.
Adding to the confusion the Pope was photographed meeting with and embracing the head of the Church of Sweden – female ‘archbishop’ Antje Jakelin. The Lutheran Church of Sweden to which Pope Francis went for the celebration accepts contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and female clergy, all of which are strictly and unalterably forbidden in the Catholic Church.
In a joint document issued by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches, Luther was called a ‘witness to the Gospel’. The document states that “Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a ‘witness to the gospel.’”
And later in 2017, the Vatican issued a stamp depicting Luther under the cross where Our Lady is traditionally depicted. A description of the stamp reads: “The background shows a timeless view of the city of Wittenberg, where Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation.”
And now we come to the heart of the issue. Although for many of you it will be obvious that non-Catholic Protestants should not be given Holy Communion, let’s quickly review some of the reasons why.
St. Paul teaches in Corinthians 11:27-29 teaches:
Therefore, whoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. Let every man examine himself before eating of the bread and drinking from the cup. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not recognizing the body of the Lord.
Most Protestant denominations don’t recognize the Eucharist as the actual Body of the Lord, but regard it as a symbol. In the case of some Lutherans they believe in a sort of fleeting presence of Christ where during the service Christ is somehow present but then absents Himself thus the concept of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament makes no sense whatsoever.
So in a very real sense they don’t “recognize the body of the Lord” in the words of St. Paul.
Canon law is also clear on this point. In Canon 844 subsection 4 we read:
4. If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.
So the requirements laid out in canon law are these
- they must be in danger of death or some other grave necessity
- they must be unable to approach a minister of their own faith community
- they must show Catholic faith in the sacraments – (in other words believe the Catholic teaching on them)
- be in a proper disposition (ie. free of moral sin and how do you do that without confession? A perfect act of contrition is difficult to come by to say the least)
The biggest pushers of Holy Communion for Protestants in the Church have been the liberal German bishops. The leading prelate on the left pushing the agenda is Cardinal Walter Kasper who has pitched the idea for decades meeting with refusals from Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
However, it was Pope Francis himself opened up the question again when he opined on the subject during a visit to a Lutheran church in Rome in 2015. Here in this video footage you will see the Pope is asked by a Lutheran woman whose husband is Catholic if she can’t receive Communion with her husband at the Catholic Mass. Pope Francis appears to suggest that if she is comfortable in her conscience receiving the Holy Eucharist she should feel free to go ahead. He tells her: “Speak with the Lord and move forward. I dare not say more.” Watch.
Do you notice the great theologian Pope Francis refers to in attendance – none other than Cardinal Kasper himself!
This talk of Francis launched a long debate among high ranking clergy. The head of the Vatican’s dicastery dealing with the sacraments corrected the Pope pretty much head-on in an interview in which Cardinal Robert Sarah, summarized Canon law on the matter saying “Intercommunion is not permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics. You must confess the Catholic Faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive Communion. That is very, very clear. It’s not a matter of following your conscience.”
The German bishops pushed more and more for allowing intercommunion going so far as to vote for the proposal at their bishops conference in February 2018. 7 German bishops wrote to the Pope to protest the vote. Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Gerhard Mueller and many other bishops issued statements countering the proposal.
When in May it became clear that Pope Francis would not clear up the confusion on the matter. Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, issued a statement saying Pope Francis’ failure to give German bishops proper directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church, points to a drift towards apostasy from the truth.
At one point it appeared that the Vatican had rejected the German bishops proposal to allow for communion for non-Catholic spouses of Catholics. A letter issued by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith took issue with a document of the German Bishops conference allowing for the intercommunion.
But despite the appeals for clarity and the seeming Vatican clamp down, the Pope announced his decision to allow individual bishops to decide on the matter for themselves. The Pope’s surprise announcement came during an interview on a plane. He suggested that the only reason why the German bishops document was not appropriate was that it suggested a law for the whole country while canon law insisted that individual bishops decide.
Subsequently several German bishops praised the Pope’s approval and have publicly announced the allowance of Protestant intercommunion in their dioceses.
And this brings us back to the beginning. As you recall our motto at LifeSite is Caritas in Veritate – Love in Truth. How can it be love to deny someone communion? Well, the Holy Bible tells us that very plainly. St. Paul said, in his letter to the Corinthians mentioned earlier. “Therefore, whoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. Let every man examine himself before eating of the bread and drinking from the cup. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not recognizing the body of the Lord.”
Why would we want our brothers and sisters to be “eating and drinking judgement to onto themselves”? How is that loving them?
That concludes this episode of the John-Henry Westen show. Be sure to sign up to receive notices of each new episode and any special episodes at the links below. Thank you for joining me and may God bless you!