Monday, November 12, 2007

Long Knives

Once upon a time a man named Kevin Johnson popped in here at The Supplement to register his disagreement with those who consider converting to Catholicism to be intellectual suicide. At that time, Mr. Johnson said:
I want to first register my disagreement with such a comment as well as let your readers know that such a reaction is not the only way our contributors react to such moves to Rome.
Whether that is true of Mr. Johnson's fellow contributors or of the general readership of his blog is one thing. But recently Mr. Johnson has provided personal testimony that - whatever others at "Reformed Catholicism" may think about it - he does indeed seem to consider conversion to the Catholic Church to be an act of intellectual penury at best, and maybe worse.
In my view, converting to Rome is the most Protestant of all acts. Returning to Mother Church in America is a return to the fundamental identity of Protestantism for it is only in a conscious turning of the mind toward Rome that one fully realizes the power of what some have termed "private interpretation" (source).
Now how can one be exercising an act of intellectual integrity if - according to Mr. Johnson - at the very moment when he is rejecting private interpretation in converting to the Catholic Church, he is nevertheless performing "the most Protestant of all acts" and "fully realizing" its "power"? Fine, Mr. Johnson. It may not be intellectual suicide by your lights, but your supposed irenicism flies out the window when you paint the convert as ignorant or cognitively dissonant (or both) - and that is exactly what your view expressed above does.

But even worse than this, in the same post (and in the ensuing comments) on his blog Mr. Johnson goes on to describe the abomination of the pedophile scandals as being perpetrated "by the authority of Rome."

At least we understand things - or rather, we understand Mr. Johnson - a bit more clearly. But an abuse of authority is a usurpation of authority, not an exercise of it. And notwithstanding the disgusting, revolting, vile, blasphemous evils that have been done by some in positions of authority in the Catholic Church, it is no less absurd to condemn the Church as an institution for this evil than it is to condemn the United States government as an institution because of the evils perpetrated by some of our leaders. It would be no less absurd to condemn Mr. Johnson's congregation or his session or his presbytery or his denomination as irrational because of the silly things he just said as a pastor of that congregation, and as an elder in that session and presbytery and denomination.

Maybe it's too much to hope for, but I'd like to think that we can move on from silly Donatism like this, where we imagine ourselves as somehow holier than others, and where we fancy that some group of Christians larger than none can be free of sin. The question has to do not with whether there is evil to be seen here or there. Whether we see it or not, it's probably there in some form or other, to some degree or other, wherever we loook. The question has to do with Christ and salvation and truth.

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