News has recently come out of Germany of an appeal to Roman Catholics “not to put up with split of Christianity,” but rather to strive toward a “reunification in faith of the Christian churches.” The appeal was made by Dr. Julius Doepfner, Bishop of Wuerzburg, who, we are forced to assume, speaks for the Catholic Church.
Some Catholics, the bishop explained, feel that the desired condition could be achieved if “those who destroy the unity of the Church should return”; that is, if all Protestants should simply come back home like prodigals and say, “Father, we have sinned.” But the bishop wants to be fair. It is not easy, he admits.
“If we look back to the Reformation in Germany,” he says, “we recognize with great grief that there were severe shortcomings in Church life which contributed towards the separation of Luther and the Evangelical communities from the Roman Catholic Church.”
The bishop outlined several ways in which Catholics could help establish church unity, among these beings (1) Prayer and penance to win God’s grace; (2) cultivating a “loving understanding for non-Catholics” as prerequisite for establishing an honest contact with them; (3) “clarifying talks” with non-Catholics, conducted in strict adherence to the instructions of the Holy Sec and bishops; (4) “trustful cooperation” with non-Catholics in “the common tasks of our time.”
“In all questions of public life,” Bishop Doepfner declared, “we Catholics want ot keep ourselves free from all confessional narrowmindedness, at the same time asking our Evangelical brothers to show the same liberality.”
This fits into a pattern for world conquest which is currently being promoted by the Catholic Church. It sounds like a cautious confession that the Roman Church has been wrong on some matters and is willing to compromise with Protestants in order to achieve religious unity. But that is just what it most positively is not. Apparently the latest directive from the Vatican is that Catholics should try to win bemused Protestants to the Catholic faith by talking sweet to them and emphasizing the things they hold in common. In the United States the Knights of Columbus are currently running large ads in the public press aiming to convince unwary Protestants that they have had an erroneous impression of the Catholic Church and especially of the Pope. These pieces are well written, smooth and remarkably persuasive.
The best answer to this Roman Catholic purring is to quote the famous words of Emerson, “Your actions speak so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” For the Catholic Church does not compromise on anything. That may be set down as a simple historic fact. “The voice of the Church is the voice of God,” and serious-minded men do not agree to compromise on the voice of God. And The Catholics are serious-minded-we’ll gladly accord them that virtue.
The underlying philosophy of Roman Catholicism forbids that the Catholic Church should ever adjust her differences with Evangelicals. Every dogma held by the Roman Church must be believed upon pain of damnation. This includes everything from the infallibility of the Pope to the Assumption of the Birgin. Imagine asking a Catholic to keep his mind “free from all confessional narrowmindedness” where the Virgin or the Pope are concerned! The basic differences between the positions held by the Roman Church and Protestants are of such a nature as never to be reconciled. Catholics cannot compromise on threat of damnation, and Protestants (it is to be devoutly hoped) will not.
The Roman Church is an authoritarian church, requiring of its adherents absolute submission to all its teachings. There must be no doubts, no mental reservations, where official dogmas are concerned. And certainly there dare be no acknowledgment that Rome may be mistaken on anything that has to do with doctrine. She is right, and all beliefs must come to her for approval. The rightness or wrongness of any teaching is settled not by an appeal to the Scriptures but by a dogmatic fiat of the Roman Church.
Those acquainted with the history and doctrines of the Catholic Church will not be taken in by her latest attempt to bring free Christians back under her rule. Her actions over the last several hundred years, and the doctrines which she so boldly declares, all go to prove that there is only one way for Evangelical Christians to unite with her, and that is to forsake the teachings of the Scriptures, accept the false dogmas of Rome and come back on their knees to the authority of hte Roman Sec.
So, Dr. Doepfner, we Protestants will just have to reject your kind invitation to walk with you. The following limerick may not have been translated from the Latin nor received pontifical approval, but it carries a warning which we Evangelicals cannot forget:
There once was a lady of Niger
Who went for a ride on a tiger.
They came back from he ride
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
A. W. Tozer The Lady And The Tiger is from Alliance Weekly 31 March 1951