The Twilight of Protestant America?

Back in 2008, Jody Bottum, then the editor of First Things, wrote a fine essay called The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline, exploring the collapse of “mainline” Protestantism.  There’s been a lot of talk of this: that Protestantism in America is rapidly losing its grip on the culture.

It’s easy to exaggerate this idea, but I think there’s really something to it.  Consider the Supreme Court.  Of the nine justices, there are exactly zero Protestants.  This would have been completely unthinkable even a generation ago.  From 1789 until about 1969, nearly every justice was Protestant, and even as recently as 1994, a majority of justices were Protestant.  Today, in the words of Christianity Today, we’ve got a Court composed of 6 Catholics, 3 Jews: Kagan, Breyer, and Ginsburg are Jewish, while Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Sotomayor are Catholic.

Catholic Vote noticed that we’re seeing a similar phenomenon now in the GOP primaries, where the three candidates credited with a shot at winning (Romney, Gingrich, and Santoroum) are either Catholic or Mormon (with another Mormon, Huntsman, having recently dropped out of the race).  What’s even stranger is that this thing that was very recently unthinkable wasn’t newsworthy.

In a talk he gave this summer, Cardinal George said that he was much less worried about Protestant America, and much more worried about post-Protestant America.  I think we’re going to have to start thinking much more seriously about just what this entails, because America’s post-Protestantism is descending upon us rapidly.


  1. For the first 500 years of Christianity, there was one Christian Church. For the next 500 years there were two. 500 years after Chalcedon, there three. 500 years after that was the Reformation. A few years ago there 30,000 denominations that are Christian but not Catholic. Today that number is 40,000. At the current exponential growth ( logarithmic? ), pretty soon there will be more Protestant denominations than there are Protestants. ;-p

  2. This is, indeed, very important. I think that, for the justices, it’s more an example of culture. Jewish culture and Catholic culture emphasize law and legal interest; there are commandments, mitzvot, codes of canon laws, prayer books, commands from the Talmud, the GIRM, the list goes on and on. So it makes sense to me why, culturally, Catholics and Jews make excellent lawyers and judges (and often make very good scientists).

    The reason it was all Protestants is because American culture, especially upper-class American culture, was pretty anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic. Since that’s gone away (or has started to really go away) we see more Catholics in public office, period.

    I do wonder, though, if some of this is the effect of the pendulum swinging far the other way. We feel this cultural guilt for the way we’ve dealt with Mormons, Catholics and Jews, and so we are more likely to respect the people who identify with these groups. Even if the media is still pretty hostile to Catholic and Mormon beliefs and institutions, it’s typically very favorable to the people who see themselves as part of these groups, especially if those people dissent from the beliefs or the institution in some way.

    Very interesting… there’s my wild speculations.

  3. The growth of Protestant denominations was at one time exponential, but is now probably geometric, or slower.

    Logarithmic growth is very slow growth, slower than linear growth.

  4. Paul,

    Wild speculation is quite welcome. I didn’t have a well-formed argument in this post. More an observation coupled with some idle curiosity. As a result, I’m interested in your theory, and I agree at least in part, particularly about the Supreme Court.

    I’m not sure on how the media views Catholicism: if we’re sufficiently “exotic,” so to speak. The fact that Santorum was routinely described as an Evangelical in press coverage suggests that they haven’t got their ducks in a row quite yet.



  5. “Santorum was routinely described as an Evangelical in press coverage suggests that they haven’t got their ducks in a row quite yet.”

    They may notice that he’s socially conservative, passionate about his beliefs, and tries to convince others.

    That makes him an evangelical, doesn’t it? 😉

  6. Robert and Paul,

    As long as we’re ignoring the difference between evangelical and Evangelical, I should point out that folks like Beckwith aren’t just evangelical Catholics. They’re orthodox evangelical Catholics.

    That’ll really confuse people.

  7. Why are these guys in black cassocks, white beards, huge crosses around their necks coming to my door? They’re asking if I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then trying to hand me Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity.”

    (What I imagine when I see the words “Orthodox Evangelical Catholic”)

  8. You need to remember that confessional protestantism has all but died. Just 100 years ago amost every protestant would point to the Westminster Confession or the Hiedelburg Catechism or something like it as the best statement of what they believe. Almost nobody does that now. Protestantism has grown a lot more wishy-washy. To the point that it is just confusing to talk about the modern protestantism and 19th century protestantism as the same religion. There is a continuity from one to the other but in terms of doctrine, liturgy, and morals there are huge differences.

  9. The situation is much more hopelessly confused than you are admitting.

    First of all, Protestant denominations are not Churches, they are “ecclesiastical bodies”. There is a real, qualitative difference between them and either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches.

    Secondly, the old card about how many Protestant denominations there are is really nonsense. It’s like saying that there are 200 million Protestant popes in America just because many of them believe they are infallible when speaking “ex cathedra”. It’s trying to shoehorn a messy reality into the wrong categories. Thus it could be argued that all “churches” with open communion are just one denomination, despite differences in teaching and practice — because they each admit the other to communion. Or, maybe each Independent Fundamentalist Church is a separate “denomination”, because they do not acknowledge the authority of any outsider over them.

    By the way, where do you put SSPX in this? They’re Catholic, sorta, in principle, but they do not in practice acknowledge the authority of the Pope. They’re trying to negotiate the terms under which they will acknowledge his authority in practice. Until they do, are you counting them as a different “denomination”?

  10. Howard,

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you. As Catholics seeking to understand Protestantism, we’re trying to treat their denominations as churches, or at least as incredibly meaningful distinctions. That is, ordinary Catholics would assume that Methodists more or less get along with other Methodists, or at least, more than they get along with Baptists. But obviously, it’s much more complicated.

    I avoid using the “30,000 denominations” figure … or any figure, for that matter. I think that as a statistic, it conceals more than it reveals. It ends up in a pointless debate over whether the number of Protestant denominations is 30,000, or something else. That’s straining at a gnat, while swallowing a camel. If a number of denominations is needed, let the Protestant side supply it. Because whatever it is, it’s disturbingly high, and shows an ecclesial movements that no longer stands for anything coherent.

    That is, Protestantism has become the Occupy Movement of Christianity. Whatever noble goals it began with, it’s disintegrated into a cacophonous Babel of competing Christianities.



    P.S. The SSPX are needlessly risking becoming schismatics. But their situation is admittedly bizarre: they clearly recognize that the pope is the valid earthly head of the Church, but want to obey him on their own terms. They’re not a separate denomination by any means, just sons of the Church who are talking back to their Mother.

  11. Yes Joe, as a social scientist the numbers are clear. Protestantism is declining at a rate of 1% per year according to the Pew Forum. That means in 20 years the Protestants will be were we are now (about 26% of the population). We will likely surpass them at 27% of the population.

    This assumes we hold steady, as we have historically. Yet the likely scenario will be that Catholics will grow when Anti-Catholicism wanes, and be at around 30% at the same time the Protestants are at 26%. So the numbers will flip.

  12. When you cease to believe in God you then can believe in anything and this is what much of the West is doing.Primarily if you are not a Catholic then anything goes …. materialism is the “God” for many people. Good Protestantism are much much better than no protestantism at all.

  13. As a former Lutheran pastor (resigned December 31 after nearly 13 years of ordained ministry) and now a returned prodigal to the Catholic Church, I can tell you this conversation is right on target. Regardless of the actual number of denominations, the protestant “experiment” has indeed failed, but few in the movement are willing to recongnize it. The proliferation and separation into further divisions has been likened by many of us involved in it for so many years to simply “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

    I myself had become part of the “evangelical catholic” movement among the Lutherans (and it exists in other denominations), which was small but (trying to be) faithful. Most of us seek for and teach about the Church as a body, with a hierarcy, and we long for the return of (or to) the magisterium. However, and I don’t mean this with any malice, most also are not willing to submit to another person – that is, the pope. (Bishops among the ECs are fine – just as long as they are elected, it seems) Even among the leaders of this movement, there seemed to be, even within their clinging to and expressing the relatedness of each other in the body of Christ, the very core pathology that is killing protestantism (and much of western) culture – radical individualism. They want a teaching authority, but only if “I am at the top of it.” For as much as we were orthodox, catholic (oh, think of a religious order, and you’ve got our ethos, practice, and look) and confessed that the “unfinished business of the Reformation is reconciliation with the Church and Bishop of Rome,” there was still a srong undercurrent of “only when they (The Roman Catholic Church) compromises with our principles.”

    Personally, I felt deeply that if we couldn’t submit to the magisterium, the bishop and the pope, then we really were rejecting submission to God himself. Consequently, when our congregation voted to leave our former denomination and join a new one, even though it was a movement from an organization that had explicitly and implicitly declared they were breaking from the historic teachings and faith of the Church catholic to one that claimed to restore the original Lutheran confessions, I actually became sick and finally had to leave. Even the “new church” has proven not to be even as close to the original Lutheran confessions. For if the Augsburg Confession been taken at face value, the gap between Rome and Wittenburg would have been narrowed even more than the (moderately helpful) Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by Rome and the Lutheran World Federation back in 1999. However, in practice, they are still plagued constitutionally by an americanized, individualistic congregationalism. Adherence to the atual content of the Augsburg Confession would not have closed the gap and reunited us, but it would bring us to a point where, on the Lutheran side, it would have made it diffiuclt to actually perpetuate the division. But alas, it continues on the course of what we dubbed “every man a synod.”

    I was surprised about the supreme court make-up, but I do feel there is a shift in the culture concerning religion. I pray there will be a growth in the Catholic Church, and it can happen, but we need to work hard on the New Evangelism. I believe, though, this is the kairos moment, if only we step out in faith.

  14. My experience in the USA working on some committees and being an observer at protestant denominational gatherings taught me a few things. Most delegates to mainline groups were quite “liberal” translate pro-choice, and in latter years pro-same gender unions and ordination of active homosexuals. The average member was more likely to be more “moderate” or cared less. The shopping around was quite common also in recent decades, so that mixed marriages denominationally and our Catholic ethos on re-marriage, annulments filled a lot of Methodist, most commonly, and Episcopal congregations if they were high church liturgy lovers or wanted to “compromise” between Rome and US Protestantism. Culturally of course prominent Catholic “pro-choice “Democrats lowered the cultural barrier to the creeping disappearance of the basic code of Natural Law, abortion and now “Adam and Andy” and “Eve and Elizabeth” a trend now getting its last hammering from Mr Obama and his cabinet and dwindling number of supporters for mostly economic reasons for now at least. The more traditional Protestant sexual public code is dead so we pray and hope that evangelicals and Catholics and others get together on a broader biblical social justice agenda – more than sexual tipics, important as those are, and swing the nation’s voters back to the centre

  15. David,

    Welcome home. What a powerful testimony that was, there. I think you hit the nail right on the head, and gave voice to a lot of the things that I’ve been struggling to find a way to say. The effect of radical individualism on Christendom has been pernicious.

    I’d love to get a fuller account of your reversion story, by the way. I think it would make for a good guest post, if you’re interested. I think you raise a lot of important issues, and I think you do so from a perspective that gives you a lot of credibility.


    I think you’ve got a pretty good grasp on the way things look here in the States. How long were you here? I’m curious about your role as an observer at Protestant denominational gatherings. What was that all about?

    From your profile, it looked like you live in Ireland. My grandma was a Heagerty, who I believe came from County Donegal. What’s it like to live the faith over there right now? I hear a lot, but there’s nothing like a native perspective.



  16. After reading Mr. Bottum’s extensive article and reflecting upon the Supreme Court “religious” make-up, I can see why Roman Catholicism is being recognized as not a papal pejorative. When Al Smith and John Kennedy were nominees, many feared the obvious–subject to Rome. However, Kennedy was anything but a papal puppet (but an immoral rascal). The folks who are leading our nation today are often Catholic in name e.g. Pelosi. Some Mormons have also been resurrected to prominence in name only, e.g., Reid. Abortion rights and Gay marriage are just 2 social issues that must have a resolution near term or any thought of a “land of the free” will be just a cliche’.

    The Supreme Court is not going to change Roe v. Wade based on the Catholic make-up but on the law. If any court decides positions on their person preferences or beliefs alone (or seriously influences by such) is not impartial. I am for each and every conservative their (and in any public office) for it is hoped that they are not swayed by a liberal bent fostered in “believe in nothing or anything Protestant entities.”

    I have no problem with Catholics in power because having been raised that way instilled in me strong moral and critical (the right kind) of thinking. I am not sure I understand the concept of post-Protestant but Protestantism is not all non-Catholic folks. Unusually, within Baptist circles, Protestantism is mainline liberal, non-believing, bleeding heart social justice misfits.

    As to the Roman Catholic claim that their must be 30,000 (or whatever) popes is so off base. I speak as a Baptist whose CHURCH voluntarily enters into an association of like faith CHURCHES but is not subject to any. The core precepts are the cement, not the minor things. Just because their are many groups does, in no way, violate Scripture as long as the chief truths (i.e., Trinity, Jesus’ nature, Virgin Birth, impeccable life, propitiation, resurrection, and return someday (anyway He sees fit) are not negotiable. A few more can be added, but you are a smart man and get the point.

    Unity is a huge point in Roman Church theology. Anyone outside of Rome, is either a schismatic, heretic, or such like. When one comes home to Rome, yeah!!! Unity within a local church is the Biblical concept and within the associated groups who choose to work together in missions, etc. A Magesterium does not serve our purposes so that every single possible issue has an answer (huge catechism or canon law).

    Politically, Catholics were the Irish thugs of days gone by. Maybe that had something to do with the divide. Or the thought of Papal control is an aversion to some. Maryland — hmmm, how did it get its name? Catholicism is going through the same quote Mr. Woodward used in Newsweek: “…running out of money, members, and meaning.” Though directed at the fledgling non-Catholics, you are bleeding money, closing parishes, wondering where are the young couples (who refuse to practice your methods of birth control), infant baptism is the main reason the membership hasn’t fallen off the grid completely, and meaning — Vatican I or Vatican II or Trent or Encyclicals or internal squabbles no Vatican official wants to acknowledge [you have internal strife that are equal to or maybe greater than any other religious group.

    A bit of humility minus the arrogance and a doze of mea culpa makes your faith more appealing.

    From a former Catholic who will not ever be classified with the derogatory term “revert” even if I should come back.

  17. Lagniappe,

    Revert is not a derogatory term, anymore than convert is.

    You bring up core precepts, of your church. In the same way, Catholicism has it’s core precepts that include things established by Apostolic Christianity such as the Creed, Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the sacraments, The Mass and Apostolic succession.

    There cannot be unity without truth or a break from historical Christianity.

    From the Catholic perspective, it was the Protestants who rejected these things, and not the other way around.

    Yes, internal struggles are an issue, like other denominations, but a lot of us are confident that we can trace our beliefs and practises back to the early church, when Protestants cannot.

    Please don’t take this in the wrong way. Read the early church fathers to see for yourself.

  18. I would also disagree with the Newsweek analysis. It’s more like things are becoming more concentrated. Cultural Catholicism is fading away, giving rise to people who choose it by choice, not because it’s just part of their cultural or family upbringing.

    Much like in the beginning itself.

  19. I was very interested to read David’s post.

    I am Anglican, and have recently transferred to the Anglican Church of North America from the Anglican Church of Canada. The new body, formed in 2009 rejects the Biblical revisionism of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada. The principal points of dispute are the uniqueness of Jesus, the authority of Scripture as highlighted by the same sex marriage debate.

    I also long for the unity of the ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church’ but with my Anglican forebears feel an individual (vs individualistic) duty to examine teaching in the light of Scripture. (see Anglican Articles of Religion XV on Christ Alone without Sin and XX on the Authority of the Church)

    Anglicans value the homily within the liturgy of the word as a opportunity to hear biblical exegesis. We affirm the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist (see the 1662 Catechism) I valued the 1999 joint declaration on Justification signed by the Lutherans and Catholics and would hope that a similar understanding could be reached with Anglicans.

    While I understand Marian theology has grown out of the Council of Ephesus’ right insistence that she is Theotokos the post-Reformation doctrine of the Immaculate Conception seems at odds with Mary’s childbirth pangs in Revelation 12. The Assumption, while honouring Mary’s unique role in salvation, separates her from us, her children.

    When his mother and siblings tried to restrain his ministry did Jesus not discourage singling out his own mother by promising that we too can become members of his family through obedeience?

    On the other hand, I do believe Peter was established as steward over Christ’s church but the nature of that authority is still being worked out. What does servant leadership look like?

    As for infallibility, I do understand the principles but I wonder about the lack of explicit accountability. Jesus immediately rebuked Peter after establishing him and Paul rebuked Peter’s falling in with the circumcision party. In both cases he was restored to living up to the revelations he had received.

    In principle I would love to see Peter’s successor speak with authority to all Christians and for us to know the unity Jesus intended for his body.

  20. David: What a thoughtful and powerful testimony, thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Lagniappe: You may think you were very clear, but your piece is extremely emotional and I really have a hard time understanding your point — except that there are Catholic positions you don’t agree with and that you find somehow degrading to yourself and offensive in general. I’m saying this not to criticize you, but to let you know that whatever you meant to say does not come across. I think you are trying to explain in part that you don’t accept the Catholic position that there has to be a universal and visible Church, that a bunch of separate “churches” that agree on certain points (but different points from what the Catholic Church teaches) is fine. Is that correct? I’m sorry if you don’t agree with what the Catholic Church teaches on that respect, but I don’t see why you should find it offensive. I don’t agree with you but I don’t find YOUR position offensive.

  21. Unknonwn: I’m intrigued by your post. The individual duty to examine teaching in light of Scripture makes no sense to me — at least, when given free reign. It will inevitably lead to schism. Yes, it is nice in theory… but have you spent any time in a high school lately? I have high schoolers and so I am quite conversant with the differences between the way they think. The same is of course true for all adults.

    Intellectual ability varies greatly from person to person, as does attention to detail, retention of information, and study habits. Let’s face it, some people are not very bright. Others are obstinate when they are wrong. Others depend more on how they feel about things than about logic. Others are so literal they can’t recognize a simile. If you belong to a church full of smart people who like to study, you’re of course going to get unity of a sort, one broadened a little by less studious and more accommodating relatives and spouses who will be happy to agree with whatever the prevailing notion is because they don’t much care. It’s easy to think that the doctrines you all agree on are correct, because you have selected yourselves and segregated yourselves from people who disagree. But the next church over is full of people who believe the same about their doctrines and readings of scriptures. Maybe they disagree on some doctrinal point (like the position of Mary you explore above). Maybe they disagree about how many times one should go to Church every week, or what sort of worship one should do there, or what kind of charities one should engage in, or how emotive one should be.

    Everyone thinks his church is right. In the middle of doctrinal disputes, etc., it’s easy to take the short view. But look around! My little neighborhood has dozens of churches in it, all of them doing their own thing, some of them getting along, some of them fighting, some of them in complete isolation from any other church (and liking it that way). That’s the reality of Protestantism, whether you want to look at it or not.

  22. Unknown,

    May I recommend Newman’s book “Development of Christian Doctrine” in which he explains the methodology used by the Catholic church to maintain consistency.

    I wish you well in your search.

  23. My first post appeared as unknown for some reason…

    Gail Finke,

    it is because I appreciate the necessity of a steward to keep the body healthy that I have posted here. As an aside, yes I have two high schoolers and teach university students.

    I was encouraged by the 2009 offer of the ordinariate and have been reading Roman Catholic authors extensively ever since. I particularly enjoy Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn and the new Catholicism DVD series hosted by Fr Robert Barron.

    Without unpacking all the possible barriers to full communion I raised Mariology as it has developed extensively since our churches broke communion and is probably the most visible barrier. I understand that neither St Augustine nor Thomas Aquinas accepted the Immaculate Conception and Aquinas’ Dominican descendants only withdrew their opposition in the 19th century. While the immaculate conception only posed a ‘difficulty’ but not ‘doubt’ for Cardinal Newman. I must admit it does raise doubt for me about why this doctrine that so separates Mary from her children.

    Savia, thank you for the book recommendation and good wishes.

  24. So the Supreme Court make up has no Protestants (at this time) and this supports the view that Protestant is on its death bed? What drivel. Also drivel is someone’s ridiculous notion that Protestantism is comprised of thousands of denominations. God Spare me from such foolish prattle. But since this site seems to favor logical absurdities, how about this one for size: The Catholic churches in Europe are largely empty nowadays, and European Catholics are not reproducing to replenish their population, ergo Is Catholicism is now dead on arrival.

  25. Flanneur,

    You seem very defensive. I’d be curious if you have any substantive objection, rather than just calling the idea “drivel.”

    The idea, in a nutshell, in this. Even twenty years ago, the idea of a Protestant-free Supreme Court or Republican primary field would be unthinkable. Protestants had made up a majority of the Supreme Court and virtually every major party presidential candidate since the founding of the country. Today, those previously-unthinkable things are a reality. So what I’m asking is: what changed? And what are the implications of this change for Protestantism in America?

    It seems to me that at a bare minimum, you have to concede that America is moving away from being culturally Protestant to being culturally post-Protestant.

    Maybe that’s a good thing (a new springtime for evangelical Catholicism), and maybe it’s a bad thing (the rise of European-style secularism). But to just plug your ears to the reality because you don’t like it seems silly.



  26. Anglican Hobbit,

    Your comments were great, and I am thrilled at your interest in Catholicism. I also understand your concerns about the Church’s Marian doctrines, and used to share those concerns myself.

    These days, I think the Marian doctrines are well supported (e.g., both Aquinas and Augustine believed that Mary was sinless, squabbling only over the exact moment in the womb when she was freed from sin). But more importantly, I eventually realized something much more fundamental: either the Holy Spirit guides the Church or He doesn’t.

    If He does, then I don’t have to worry about false dogmatic definitions. I can just trust the Church and treat her as my Mother. If He doesn’t, then the Marian doctrines are the least of my worries. So if we can trust the Church on the Trinity and Christ’s Dual Natures, we can trust Her on the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. And if we can’t trust her on the Immaculate Conception, we can’t trust Her on the more basic Christian doctrines.

    So I ultimately came to realize that if the Holy Spirit does guide the Church, Catholicism is true. But if He doesn’t, it would be much more than Catholicism proven false — all of Christianity would be untrustworthy. Fortunately, the evidence is rather overwhelming (at least in my opinion) that the Holy Spirit does actively guide and lead the Church.

    Catholicism is much too consistent to be something manmade. I’ve never seen a human institution stick to the same story or the same set of principles so perfectly over such a long period of time. Just consider: Catholicism has outlasted every empire in the world — literally. The papacy is the oldest government on Earth. Yet this government teaches the same thing today that it taught under Peter and Linus and Cletus and Clement, etc.

    So the view that once seemed tenable (that the Church used to be infallibly correct, but in these later days, has promulgated heresy) no long seems to be even coherent, particularly since, for all we know, we still are in the Early Church. (Millennia from now, folks may be quoting Blessed John Paul II as an Early Church Father). I’m not sure if this helps you in your pilgrimage, but I thought it might be worth at least drawing attention to the point, so you didn’t fall into the trap of believing that you had to personally figure out the answer to every doctrine on your own. That’s the radical individualism spoken about above, and it’s not only against Scripture and Tradition, it’s illogical. God bless you on your continued journey.



  27. JH

    thank you for your blessings and your insightful comments. I particulary appreciated your point:

    “But more importantly, I eventually realized something much more fundamental: either the Holy Spirit guides the Church or He doesn’t.”

    Thank God he does! We also recite the creed week by week: I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

    And I agree that quibbling over the exact timing of Mary’s redemption is a minor issue. However, not all the church fathers were convinced of her sinlessness.

    I also agree that radical individualism is a trap to be avoided, and even parallels Adam and Eve’s desire to be as God and determine good and evil for themselves.

    However, I found your point:

    “So the view that once seemed tenable (that the Church used to be infallibly correct, but in these later days, has promulgated heresy) no long seems to be even coherent, particularly since, for all we know, we still are in the Early Church.”

    to be more of a caricature than a reflection of Anglican concerns. I would highlight this heartcry from the founding Anglican formularies:

    “HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    In that light, differences over Marian doctrine (for example) become ‘adiaphora’ as in the Orthodox tradition rather than communion breaking issues. I rejoice in what is revealed of Mary in Scripture: with Augustine she is both mother, model disciple, and in Revelation 12 she accompanies us on earth as a fellow recipient of God’s protection and intercessor.

    I mentioned before how I appreciated Scott Hahn and particularly his explanation of the papal office. In his “Reasons to Believe”, p 132 I was struck by this passage:

    Now, how could a man graced with the charism of infallibility endure public correction by both Jesus and Paul?

    We should note right away that both Jesus and Paul were reproving Peter not for his doctrine, but for his failure of will. Indeed, they were faulting him for not living up to his own doctrine. … both Jesus and Paul were exhorting Peter merely to practice what he infallibly preached.

    I think the Anglican heritage lies with Paul in exhorting Peter to ‘live up’ to the tasks of feeding the sheep and lambs through biblical exegesis (as he did in his first sermon at Pentecost, explaining Jesus’ fulfillment the Scriptures (Mt 5:17)) and to exercise servant leadership (Mt 20:25-28). And in turn, I pray and give thanks for Peter’s successor, the servant of the servants of Christ.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

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