It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Monday, October 17, 2005

Protestants Crossing The Tiber

I'm going to make a bold and startling statement here. Some might even call it arrogant and presumptuous. (I can only hope.) So here it is, brace yourself...

And Rome Won!

Yes, I said it, and yes I mean it. The Protestant Reformation has come to an end. The signs of its implosion have been with us for nearly a generation now. All that remains is for the inevitable conclusion to manifest itself. Expect no grandiose proclamations. Expect no climatic finale. In the early 16th century, the Protestant Reformation began with a bang, and now it ends with a whimper. The process of full and complete implosion will probably take about a hundred years (maybe a little longer). The mass exodus of Protestants back into the Catholic Church will probably be a slow and steady flow, rather than a mad dash. I expect that will also take at least a century (maybe longer). The longest holdouts will most probably be the Pentecostals and Evangelicals (including Baptists), who will find themselves increasingly marginalized by their liberal opponents both within and outside their churches. In the end, (perhaps a century or two from now), they too will flee to Rome. As we approach the 500th year anniversary of the birth of Protestantism (October 31, 2017), we will discover the only thing Protestantism has left to celebrate is its own struggle for survival.

By now you must be asking if I'm really serious about this. By now you must be wondering if I've completely lost my sanity. Well, only history can answer that question, and I suppose if anyone is reading this two or three generations from now, the truth will be apparent one way or the other. Until then, the best thing I can do is try to explain myself.

The stories in the above links tell it all. In the 1970s the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) took a hard turn to the Left and ushered in an era of Liberalism to American Protestantism. This was nothing new of course. The trend was already well rooted in European Protestantism, and American denominations were just following through. In the Episcopal Church, this began with the ordination of women to the priesthood and dramatic changes to the liturgical structure of the mass. It wasn't long before homosexual men were then welcomed into the priesthood. In recent memory, a practicing homosexual priest (who left his wife and kids) was ordained to the level of bishop -- receiving not only the approval of the ECUSA for his actions, but also a celebration for his "lifestyle choice." As a result of these actions, the ECUSA has essentially become the poster boy of Liberal Protestantism in America. Other mainstream American denominations have followed through with their own versions of Protestant Liberalism. Just to name a few -- the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the United Methodist Church (UMC), and the United Church of Christ (UCC). As a result, over the last thirty years, America has seen a mass exodus from these mainstream denominations to more conservative Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, ranging from the Southern Baptist Convention to nondenominational affiliations. The membership rolls in these more conservative churches have swelled to record numbers, while the membership rolls in mainstream Liberal denominations continues to wane. Liberal Protestantism is dying a slow and staggering death, which is sure to drag on for several decades (perhaps a century), before somebody finally pronounces it "dead."

That's because what's killing Protestantism is a cancer that cannot be cured -- liberal relativism (often called simply "Liberalism"). It destroys every denomination it comes into contact with. Not right away of course! It takes years for the cancer to infiltrate, fester, and finally take over. All Christian churches have had to contend with this killer, and the Catholic Church is no exception. However, only one has ever been able to beat it, and it is none other than the Catholic Church. For over five centuries now, Protestants have relied on their one and only method of fighting the disease -- amputation. This is otherwise known as schism. In the past, when Protestant denominations have been overrun by liberal theologians, conservative and orthodox Protestants simply broke away from the diseased portion of the denomination, forming a newer conservative denomination. In other words, they "amputated" the diseased Liberal portion of their church, by breaking away, and created a new church body to call their own. Within a few generations through, these new church bodies would themselves become diseased with the same Liberal cancer, and the process of amputation (schism) would repeat itself. In recent times (within the last thirty years) the cancer of Liberalism reached a high point, and infected nearly every mainstream denomination at the same time. This caused a mass exodus from mainstream denominations, to more conservative (and less organized) Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, as well as nondenominational affiliations. For now, most Protestants in these conservative churches are safe. But that is a temporary situation. Within a generation, they too will be fighting the same battles their fathers did in the last generation. Already there are rifts of liberal dissent gathering within the conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and more traditionally conservative denominations are sure to follow.

In truth, no Protestant denomination has ever successfully survived a liberal onslaught, and these have been going on for a lot longer than most of us realize. The first sign of liberal relativism within Christianity began in the late 1800s. Both Catholicism and and Protestantism were attacked simultaneously by the same liberal heresies. Catholicism soundly put them down in the First Vatican Council and subsequent papal proclamations. Catholicism would remain "safe" for the next hundred years, without significant schism or amputation.

Protestantism did not do as well. A massive splintering of Protestantism soon followed the Liberal infection of the late 1800s. What resulted was a handful of newer denominations and sects. Then in the 1960-70s it happened again, resulting in further splintering of more denominations and sects. In truth, conservative Protestants deal with Liberalism by running away from it. They amputate themselves from their liberal denominations, and go out to start new denominations. This process cannot repeat itself indefinitely, and some would argue that we're starting to see the end result. As conservative Protestants continue to divide and splinter, while valiantly attempting to defend their orthodoxy, they are starting to reach a point where they can splinter no further. The emergence of completely autonomous "nondenominational" churches is evidence of that. The role of "defense through amputation" has finally reached its inevitable end -- there's nothing left to amputate.

The splinter groups of the Episcopal Church have come to this conclusion themselves. In 1979 the Anglican Church in America (ACA) was formed as an amputation (schism) from the mainstream Episcopal Church (ECUSA). Almost thirty years later, the ACA has learned that it has no defense from future infections of the cancer of Liberalism other than further schism (amputation). The only problem is that their denomination is so small, they can't afford any further schisms. Necessity being the mother of invention, the ACA has been forced to examine why Catholicism seems to survive these liberal onslaughts by confronting them, and Protestantism doesn't seem to be able to successfully do that. The answer is the pope. In every case, Catholicism has met its Liberal challenge with a few strong popes who are unafraid to confront it head on. Within a generation they knock it down, forcing it to retreat until a more opportune time to reemerge a century or so later. Once again, the process repeats itself, and Catholicism not only survives, it thrives. The ACA is no different that many other conservative Episcopalians still within the ECUSA. They've come to realize that without the apostolic authority of the pope, they cannot hope to confront the onslaught of Liberalism successfully. The best they can hope for is more schism (amputation), and they're finally starting to reach the point where there is nothing left to cut off. That's why they're contemplating a reunification with the Catholic Church. Episcopalians (i.e. "Anglicans") were among the first Protestants to break away from Rome in the early 16th century. Now we're seeing them return. For decades, an increasing number of Protestants have been converting to Catholicism on an individual basis. Now, were starting to see it happen on a denominational basis. The Anglican reunification with Rome is no subtle statement that the Protestant Reformation has failed. What seemed like a pretty good idea at the time (16th century), has turned out to be a disaster for many, and before it's over, it will have become a disaster for all. In spite of the success of conservative denominations within Protestantism, in the end, Liberalism will prevail over them all. When that finally happens, Catholicism will prevail over Liberalism, just as it always does.

NOTE: Just four days after composing this article, the following was published on ZENIT: Is the Reformation Over? {Download Here} It looks like many others are starting to see the same trends I am. It's nice to have my opinions affirmed every once in a while.