May 10, 2005


Sacred mysteries: The Pope and Luther agree (Christopher Howse, 23/04/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Reunion with the Orthodox churches was an ambition of Pope John Paul's reign which was left unfulfilled. He named St Cyril and St Methodius as new co-patrons of Europe along with St Benedict, and called the Eastern churches the "other lung" of Christianity.

The new Pope is very familiar with the Eastern churches and, 40 years ago, was delighted when, at a service during the Second Vatican Council, a reading from the Gospel was proclaimed in Greek.

In his first public address, after Mass last Wednesday with the cardinals who elected him, Pope Benedict, spoke first about Jesus Christ as the centre of Christianity, and then stressed his commitment to dialogue with Christians who are not Catholics.

He also reached out "with simplicity and affection" towards "those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life".

According to John Allen, the American Vatican-watcher who has kept an eye on Joseph Ratzinger for the past few years and written his biography (Cardinal Ratzinger, Continuum), the Pope's greatest hopes are for talks on Christian unity with the Lutherans, who number about 60 million.

In 1998 a great break-through was made, with an agreed statement by Catholics and Lutherans on the thorny question of "justification" - a crux of the Reformation.

In the statement came this sentence: "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not by any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works." It almost seemed as if Luther need never have broken with Rome.

But later that year the agreement nearly foundered over questions on both sides as to precisely what the text meant. On November 3, 1998, Ratzinger called a meeting of Lutherans and Catholics at the house of his brother Georg (whose friendly-looking face appeared in this paper yesterday) at Regensburg in Bavaria.

According to the Lutheran theologian, Joachim Track, Ratzinger made three concessions that saved the agreement from collapse (including a declaration that justification and final judgment were God's gracious acts).

If this incident showed Cardinal Ratzinger as an altogether more open and conciliatory figure than the fierce enforcer depicted by his opponents, his actions as pope will be watched almost as keenly by Christians outside his jurisdiction as by the flock of this German Shepherd.

Went to a First Communion for a neighbor's kid this weekend and have to say, the Church badly needs some Protestant hyms--the tunes stunk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2005 12:00 AM

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9

Posted by: Gideon at May 10, 2005 12:44 AM

I've thought since childhood that the hymns in Catholic churches need some work. They replay the same boring tunes over and over, normally ignoring powerful, stirring or beautiful songs like Amazing Grace, How Can I Keep from Singing, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, Lord of the Dance (sung to the traditional Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts"), Let There Be Peace on Earth, How Great Thou Art, We Three Kings (except during the Christmas season), Lord of All Hopefulness, Holy God We Praise Thy Name, etc.

Even Salve Regina and Ave Maria are rarely heard, at least in my neck of the woods.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 10, 2005 12:54 AM

She Who Must Be Obeyed just returned from Molokai & reports that the Episcopals there are into "praise music." Not quite sure what that means, except that saying the phrase "praise music" causes you to swallow your own tongue.

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 10, 2005 1:05 AM

The Church doen't need Protestant hymns, they need to jettison all the postV2 crap folk songs and bring back the traditional Catholic hymns.

Old hymns + organ accompaniment + heaping doses of Gregorian chant, in Latin/Greek for the kyrie,gloria,credo,sanctus, agnus dei would go along way to improving things.

The Church has a rich muscial heritage, heck the Church invented Western music, but it was all thrown out by the barbarians of the 60s and 70s.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 10, 2005 1:32 AM

Gideon - most evangelicals don't really believe that. At least they talk as though one drums up faith from within oneself.

Jim - every time I think of Vatican 2, that folk singing nun from Airport 75 and Linda Blair come to mind.

My iPod is filled with Bach Cantatas -- now there is heavenly music.

Posted by: Randall Voth at May 10, 2005 4:13 AM

Geez, next you guys are going to be lobbying for a guitar mass and "Climb every mountain."

Posted by: David Cohen at May 10, 2005 7:47 AM

The Protestants and the Roman Catholics have both maintained that an individual is saved 'by grace.' The difference, and the issue of justification, was 'How is grace experienced?' The Reformers stated clearly, grace comes by faith in the person and work of Christ. Roman Catholic theology teaches that grace comes through the sacraments. This coupled with their doctrine of Apostolic Succession, they alone can administer the sacraments (through which grace is received). The question to ask of the new pope, "Can a person be saved by grace apart from the sacraments, or are the sacraments the necessary means of grace?" Both the Catholics and the Protestants talk of 'grace'--the question is how is grace received.

Posted by: sdwatson at May 10, 2005 9:27 AM

Randall -

For years I attended a Methodist church with a great chorus that regularly performed Bach cantatas in church - it got me hooked and my hPod is filled with the music as well - I know #4 by memory now. Needless to say that music director didn't last and I stopped visiting that church. They do a "contemporary" guitar service now.

Posted by: Shelton at May 10, 2005 11:46 AM

The catastrophe that is Catholic liturgical music is well known in the Church. The odd thing is that (like Jim says) we have a trove of great music, as well as the great Protestant hymns that have been incorporated into the Catholic lectionary, but so many parishes insist on playing primarily music composed after 1960 by Americans (e.g., the St Louis Jesuits). Nearly all of it's bad, but it has the virtue of being easy to perform.

Posted by: pj at May 10, 2005 12:04 PM


I knew we were in trouble when every song had a copyright, all seemingly in 1978.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2005 12:12 PM

Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. Ga 2:16

Someone who puts in "faith in oneself" above faith in Him is not evangelical. A hedonist perhaps, or maybe a Hollywood screenwriter.

Posted by: Gideon at May 10, 2005 12:13 PM

Jim in Chicago:

"Old hymns + organ accompaniment + heaping doses of Gregorian chant, in Latin/Greek for the kyrie,gloria,credo,sanctus, agnus dei would go along way to improving things."

I just interrupted my wife and son watching American Idol to run that by them. They said "whatever", so I guess you are right.

Last week we had a post about how liberal radio like NPR and CBC had better music. Same with the Protestants, Jim. You can't be right about everything.

Posted by: Peter B at May 10, 2005 8:15 PM