A Surprising Clue
But reunion without compromise between Catholics and Protestants still seems impossible. Yet, here’s a surprising clue that it may be possible after all: the main point of what I said in the last few minutes “Jesus only,” “the all sufficiency of Christ,” that’s the essential Protestant point and it was just made by me, a Catholic.
That point seems to be an essential dividing point for Catholicism seems to Protestants to violate that point. Catholicism seems to Protestants to be “Christ plus paganism,” “the Ark plus the barnacles,” or “Christ plus many human traditions and historical accretions,” “Christ plus the pope,” “Christ plus Mary,” whatever. The most serious Protestant objection to Catholicism as a religion, not just as a theology, is that it violates the scriptural teaching of the all sufficiency of Christ, the teaching that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
To Protestants, Catholicism seems to add other mediaries, other intermediaries between man and Christ: Mary, the saints, the Church, Sacraments, priests, human traditions.
But I suggest that if Protestants make just one single adjustment in their vision, they will see the possibility of reunion. Not just theologically, but more deeply religiously and spiritually, without any compromise at all. And that one adjustment is not to see Christ in any different way at all, but to see the Church in a different way. Not as an obstacle between us and Christ, not even as an intermediary between us and Christ, but as the very body of Christ Himself.
And why would they make that adjustment? Well, which of these two concepts of the Church is the scriptural way of seeing it? Come on, answer honestly. You read the Bible and isn’t the Bible the supreme authority for any Protestant? Once Protestants see the Church’s identity, they can love her instead of fearing her because the body of Christ is Christ as your body is you. It’s not an alien, it’s not an obstacle. How can your own body be an obstacle? How Gnostic! The body is not your prison house, or your coffin, or your punishment. It’s not even your tool, or your clothing, or your house. It’s not This Old House. It’s you. Although it’s not the whole you. It’s not your head, or your soul. The same is true of Christ’s body which is what the New Testament calls the Church.
It is Christ. Though it’s not the whole Christ. He is her head. And the Holy Spirit is her soul.
Protestants will not and should not stop protesting against the Catholic Church until they see the totally Christocentric character of her and all her teachings. Sometimes, the understanding of the Church’s Christocentrism can be the key to understanding the Christocentric nature of each of the Church’s teachings. And sometimes, it works the other way around. Doctrine by doctrine, yielding its Christocentric treasure at the heart as it is more deeply explored and understood. As Christ the teacher appears at the heart of each of the Church’s teachings. I know a number of Protestants who have read the Church’s new Catechism and had been amazed at how consistently Christocentric everything in it is. And unless Protestants see this, how could they think of reunion with Catholics? And how can they see this, unless Catholics show it to them? And how can Catholics show it to them, unless they see it themselves? And how can they see it, unless they have a teacher, a preacher? As it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the good news.”
In this light, it seems to me, clearly Providential that God has raised up for our time, the time of the end of the second millennium, the millennium of Christian disunity, and the beginning of the third millennium, hopefully the millennium of Christian re-unity, has raised up John Paul the Great. The most Christocentric pope of modern times, probably of all times. The most ecumenical pope of all times, and yet one who is totally and traditionally and enthusiastically Catholic. Is the pope Catholic? There have been times in the Church’s dark history when that joke was not funny. Today it’s funny.