A Catholic Assessment of Gregg Allison’s Critique of the “Hermeneutics of Catholicism”

    This is a guest article by Eduardo Echeverria. Eduardo was born in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, in 1950. His family immigrated to Manhattan, NY, in 1952. He was raised Roman Catholic, but only responded to the Gospel in the summer of 1970 through the ministry of L’Abri Fellowship,  founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer, and located in the small Alpine village of Huémoz, Switzerland. His journey home to the Catholic Church took him from Evangelical Protestantism to Reformed Christianity (particularly, Dutch neo-Calvinism), on to Anglican Catholicism and from there ahead to Catholicism. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and an S.T.L. from the University of St. Thomas, the Angelicum, Rome, Italy. He is the author of dozens of articles and several books, most recently, Berkouwer and Catholicism: Disputed Questions (Brill, 2013), and Pope Francis. The Legacy of Vatican II (Lectio Publishing, 2015). He is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology, Graduate School of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI, and a Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is also a member of the American ecumenical initiative, Evangelicals and Catholics Together.  – Eds.

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July 17, 2016

Is “Politics a Good Thing” ?

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 8:46 pm

When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, I had the pleasure of taking an introductory politics course taught by the well-known commentator and political analyst Larry J. Sabato, who runs UVA’s Center for Politics. One of the most memorable moments in that course was when Dr. Sabato distributed small bumper stickers with the slogan “Politics is a Good Thing!” As a fairly cynical undergraduate, I was a bit skeptical of such a slogan. Sabato, however, pushed the point to the auditorium full of students, explaining that many of our culture’s great accomplishments — be they the preservation of freedom of religion and speech, universal suffrage, or our justice system — owe much not just to government, but to the complicated if frustrating back-and-forth of bi-partisan (or multi-partisan!) interaction and dialogue. Yes, Sabato acknowledged, the trials of partisan deadlock, political corruption, or noxious political debate can lead us to question, or even give up on politics, whether at the local, regional, or national level. Yet politics in all its forms, so our professor argued, remains an essential good to the human experience and society that requires our support and participation.

Concurrent to taking Sabato’s course, I was also knee-deep in exploring a new-found love for the Reformed faith. What did Reformation theology have to say about politics? Was it indeed, as Sabato proposed, a good? Certainly there is a fairly broad diversity of opinions regarding politics and government among Reformed Christians, or even among Protestants more generally. From the “two kingdoms” perspective elucidated by early Reformers like Luther and Calvin, to the “Reconstructionism” of R.J. Rushdoony or D. James Kennedy, or the often politically-liberal positions promoted by mainline Protestantism, there is ample space to maneuver for any Protestant considering his political opinions. In my own experience, however, I increasingly found myself and many of my Reformed friends leaning towards a more libertarian political ideology that bore a fundamental skepticism towards politics, and especially politics on a national or international scale. I should of course acknowledge that this might have reflected more on myself and the specific circumstances of that time and place in my life. Yet I would cautiously offer that in some respects libertarianism does seem a natural extension of certain principles of the Reformed faith. Both libertarianism and Presbyterianism harbor deep suspicions of centralized authority (they didn’t call us the “Split P’s” for nothing). Both prefer systems that reflect a certain purity and simplicity, particularly eschewing whatever might be an obstacle or hindrance toward the ultimate goal, be it God in the case of the former, or individual freedom in the case of the latter. And both maintain a fairly skeptical opinion of comprehensive social doctrines or regimes, as both the religious and political systems tend to argue that private citizens or groups of such citizens should be responsible for many societal needs, rather than a centralized government. Is politics good? Myself and my libertarian-leaning Presbyterian friends might have been inclined to say “no,” or, at best, a highly-caveated “sort of.”

What does Catholicism have to say about politics? Can politics be good without reference to an objective moral order? Can a self-described impartial political system such as our own protect man’s inherent dignity without recognition of that objective truth? Or, alternatively, vis-a-vis my earlier libertarian leanings, is politics a good at all? Should our goal be to limit as much as possible man’s need for politics so that he can be as free as possible to pursue his individual definition of the good?1 Two recent books, Christian Social Order, by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., S.T.D., and A Concise Guide to Catholic Social Teaching, by Fr. Kevin E. McKenna, though approaching the question from different perspectives, help us see that politics can indeed be good, but only when informed by a proper understanding of the objective moral order. This moral order is discernable via the natural law, but finds its fullest expression in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Fr. Mullady’s study offers a helpful general philosophical introduction to the necessary role community plays in the Church, the State, and the Family, though with plenty of examples and specifics to substantiate the principles. Fr. McKenna’s work meanwhile serves as a useful summary of Catholic social teaching from the papacy of Leo XIII to Pope Benedict XVI – offering a quick, digestible way to understand more than a century of Catholic social teaching. The two books together also provide Catholic and non-Catholic alike a useful guide to knowing what Church has to say about various controversial issues, many of which are front-and-center to debates in America’s current election cycle.2 For the sake of our immediate question, we will look at a few broad themes discussed by these two authors that explain how and when politics can be a “good thing.”

What is Politics? A Short Digression

In the 1958 rock song entitled “Summertime Blues,” singer/songwriter Eddie Cochran croons:

…I’m gonna take my problem to the United Nations
Well I called my congressman and he said quote:
“I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote”
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

This is what we typically think of when discussing politics: governments, elected officials, voting, political parties. More than likely, this is what Larry Sabato has in mind, as well. These concepts certainly compose much of the political order, but fail to do sufficient justice to politics as it is classically understood. Mullady, drawing on Aristotle, observes, “politics is the perfection of man’s life in this world which is limited and incomplete.”3 Given our culture’s perception of politics as often exhibiting the very worst of human behavior — corruption, reckless ambition, self-aggrandizement — such a definition may come as a bit of a shock. Yet Mullady (and Aristotle) have much more in mind than voting in an election, canvassing for a political candidate, or serving in public office. The classical tradition, as well as Catholic philosophy, define politics as man’s role in public life, in the community outside his immediate family — a natural society that presents man with the opportunity to perfect something about him that could not be accomplished alone. How political society (properly understood) can accomplish this we will discuss in more detail below. Suffice it to say, our discussion here of politics will certainly touch on those elements most popularly connected to politics: voting, political parties, elected officials, etc. A fully-formed understanding of politics must however take account of all the ways in which man participates in the society existing outside of his immediate family.

What Does Washington Have To Do With Jerusalem?

An important question worth considering is why and how the Church should have anything to do with politics, given its other-worldly, spiritual orientation. Indeed, an important narrative present in many Protestant communities is a strongly negative opinion of the Catholic Church’s intimate relationship with secular authority beginning with the emperor Constantine and coming all the way down to the present day. The investiture crisis, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, popes leading armies on the battlefield – all of these and more are raised as examples of Church-government relations gone horribly wrong. Should not the Church, or Christianity more generally, keep itself free of the unavoidable stain of politics? Mullady cites the Second Vatican Council as a helpful way of explaining the Catholic understanding of that relation:

The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system. It is at once the sign and safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person. The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles4

This is in many respects the same proposal set down as the Gelasian “two swords” theory first proposed by the 5th century bishop of Rome from which it takes its name. The Church is not in the business of determining the best form of government, or focusing on some narrow particular political goal (even if at times specific churchmen have indeed done this). Instead, serving as a moral authority representing Christ Himself, she can recognize what kinds of governments and laws are just and unjust, or, alternatively, “define and assert solutions to problems concerning the state and family which are based in their character as human and ethical institutions.”5 Morality is part-and-parcel of the political sphere: is this law fair? Is that policy good for citizens or the world? If the Church does not speak on these issues, other voices will step in to fill the void, such as a mainstream media with strong antipathies towards Christianity, or even natural law. Indeed, many in the media or politics would prefer that the Christian faith — frequently labeled backwards, archaic, or “on the wrong side of history” — play no role in informing political decisions. The same voices have also often suggested that Christian institutions get out of the public square wherever those institutions’ beliefs collide with that of secular government, be it in providing health care, running schools, or offering adoption services. Yet McKenna, citing Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate writes, “if religion is excluded from the public square it will hinder an encounter between people and their collaboration for the progress of humanity.”6


Moreover, there are certain questions the Church has greater authority to answer that provide the very framework for determining the justness of every law and policy.7 For example, what is man? Is he a being with an eternal soul, with inherent human dignity given by God, and a purpose existing outside himself, or simply a sophisticated collection of cells to be manipulated by the subject as he or she wills, with no inherent, extrinsically-given purpose? Or alternatively, what is the “final purpose” of a given society? To keep people from doing violence to one another, vis-a-vis Thomas Hobbes? To achieve some arbitrary standard of living deemed sufficient for achieving that happiness? Or something grander, such as the improvement in virtue of its citizens? The crux of many contemporary American debates on marriage, sexuality, or “death with dignity” stem from diametrically-opposed answers to those questions.

Politics Requires Recognition of An Objective Moral Order

Mullady and McKenna both cite the same fundamental concept: when a government abandons any recognition of an objective moral order, its laws and actions sway confusingly about, relying solely on the subjective and entirely fickle sentiments of majority public opinion, with disastrous results. Mullady observes, “democracies seem to have adopted the point of view that majority rule creates ethics with no nod made to objective human nature.”8 McKenna likewise summarizes Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate: “an overemphasis upon rights can lead to a disregard for duties… If the basis of human rights is only to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, these rights can be changed at any time and are no longer seen as inviolable.”9 Elsewhere McKenna cites Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, summarizing the encyclical:

Authentic democracy is possible only in a state ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that the majority determines truth, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. However, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. History shows that a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.10

Politicians should embrace some recognition of the objective moral order that must circumscribe all political decisions. Moreover, such an objective moral order presumes a certain teleology for both individuals and the greater society – is our end something we as individuals determine, or something given to us from an external source? The Catholic Church has taught that man’s ultimate end is fellowship with God, while his earthly end is his own perfection, accomplished through virtuous acts. Much of the modern political debate alternatively suggests our end is “freedom,” though what this freedom is for remains nebulous. As First Things editor R.R. Reno has observed, this freedom is typically expressed as a tautology: freedom for the sake of freedom, rather than freedom to pursue the objective good.11 Take for example Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey asserted: “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.” The fruit of such a description of freedom – which implicitly rejects belief in an objective moral order that transcends the personal opinions of individual citizens – is visible in recent government decisions regarding what is deemed as the supreme freedom of individual sexual identity and personal choice.

Politics Requires Recognition of the Unique Dignity of Man

Integrally related to the fact that man and society do indeed have some end is that he has a unique dignity that stems from his possession of a rational soul. Our souls have acts that transcend matter, capable of knowing “real objective universal ideas through sense experience,” namely intellection and the will12 We are not mere compilations of cells, but eternal beings with an existence beyond our physicality. This makes us different from all other animals, because they rely solely on their matter and sense powers for their existence. Our laws must then respect the unique character of the human person. McKenna’s summary of Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae offers one important application of the belief in the human person’s inherent, eternal dignity. Summarizing the pope’s teaching on abortion and euthanasia, McKenna writes,

The direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. No one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying…. Among all the crimes that can be committed against human life, procured abortion is particularly serious and deplorable…. from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is that of neither the mother nor the father. It is the life of a new human being with its own growth. The human being must be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception… The use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person…. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act

Our culture’s acceptance of abortion, euthanasia, and other attacks on the dignity of the human person flow from a rejection of the earlier principle discussed: that civil law must be based on an objective moral order reliant on natural law and/or the Christian tradition. In its place, we have elevated democracy and majority opinion as the standards for determining right and wrong. McKenna, again summarizing Evangelium Vitae, further explains,

In the democratic culture of our time it is commonly held that the legal system of any society should limit itself to taking account of and accepting the convictions of the majority… Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. The moral values of a democracy are not automatic; rather, democracy depends on conformity to the moral law, the “natural law” written in the human heart, to which it must be subject.(( McKenna, 20-23. ))

Democracies are capable of great good, as evidenced by such remarkable achievements as America’s unique contributions of freedom of religion, speech, and the press. Yet it is also democracy that has permitted – and even endorsed – such evils as racial inequality, abortion on demand, and what St. John Paul II has so accurately described as the “culture of death.” Democracy is then no panacea capable in-and-of-itself of creating a just or happy society that will recognize and preserve man’s unique dignity. It must rely on something beyond itself, or even preceding itself, that is capable of defining the nature, extent, and implications of that human dignity.

Social Order is Necessary for the Perfection of Man

The goal of man’s existence in society is not, contra widespread public opinion, individual freedom, as if political society is a “necessary evil” and the purpose of the state only to serve the individual.13 Nor is society “an accident pure and simple,” based purely on choice, as if it is composed of autonomous, atomized individuals who determine to enter into a “social contract.” Neither is society’s character substantial, as if human beings are incapable of acting apart from the collective, an idea emanating from Marxist and communist political philosophy.14 Rather, man is by nature a social animal, and we have responsibilities to various strata of human society: our families, our religious communities, and indeed our civil societies. We exercise our freedom in fulfilling, and even transcending these responsibilities, by doing “something together.”15 As we discussed earlier, politics then enables man to perfect something about himself, as he gives of himself, his talents, and his resources, to the welfare of others, and grows in virtue in the process. This may be incomplete and limited and requires God and the Church for its full fruition, but it is a perfection nevertheless.

Our participation in public life — to include our vocations, our social or charitable activities, and yes, our support of and participation in various political institutions — can accomplish the achievement of acts for the common good. Consider the many political activities at the local, regional, and national level that provide services indispensable to our daily existence: the institution and enforcement of just laws, the creation and preservation of infrastructure necessary for commerce, or even the protection of its citizens from external threats. These are shared goods that belong to everyone, individuals who act not in competition with one another, but as a “single unity,” or as Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World explains it, a “family,” treating one another “in a spirit of brotherhood.”16


The problem we soon discover is that society disagrees over what exactly this common good is – a disagreement with deep ramifications on account of the kind of perfection at which politics aims. When such a common good is sought, persons can begin fully to realize themselves in the world when they offer themselves as a “disinterested gift of self to others.”17 When there is little or no agreement, “there can be no community.”18 Moreover, this common good is not directed at the acquiring of material goods, but is instead oriented at something non-material, an idea articulated by Aristotle. He notes, “…the end of politics is the best of ends; and the main concern of politics is to engender a certain character in the citizens and to make them good and disposed to perform noble actions.”19 We pursue the common good so that we ourselves might become good: virtuous people whose souls are perfected for a more eternal end. This perspective is in stark contrast to our contemporary politics, where so many people are motivated not by the common good, but by a mob psychology that eschews critical thinking, “[and] merely to indulge in a general mood created and manipulated by clever group dynamics.”20 Ironically, such a mood typically rejects any “common project for society” apart from that of an aggressive individualism and libertinism: freedom to be one’s self, to define one’s life and purpose apart from any reference to an objective moral authority.21

Even when common ground exists – such as religious and secular authorities’ concerns with threats to the global environment – various factions will debate the proper means and ends sought. McKenna cites a 1991 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on the Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching. McKenna’s summary includes reference to Catholic bishops’ concerns that “advantaged groups often seem more intent on curbing Third World births than on restraining the even more voracious consumerism of the developed world…. Christian love forbids us from choosing between people and the planet.”22 Indeed, current US foreign policy attaches strings to foreign aid that require other countries to accept various US political agendas related to birth control or acceptance of alternative sexual lifestyles.23 Governments — even when capable of doing good — still require an external objective moral authority that will define and promote the inherent dignity of all persons, lest man seek immoral means to achieve some good end.


Politics at this moment in American history is viewed with an especially skeptical eye. Our election season has been a particularly disconcerting one for committed Christians, be they Reformed, Catholic, or anything else. Recent surveys indicate a growing pessimism with this election cycle – a statistical finding that is particularly identified with conservative voters, the demographic more commonly associated with evangelical, Reformed, and practicing Catholic voters. Of course, many have a tendency to equate national politics — and more so a presidential election — with the complex, many-layered levels of politics, which, as we have seen, encompasses much more than the executive branch of government. All the same, we increasingly hear voices, frustrated with our current milieu defined more by emotivism and slander than charity and rational conviction, suggesting that the American experiment, or even politics in any form, is a failed, irredeemable enterprise.24

Yet such a perspective, as Fr. Mullady and Fr. McKenna have demonstrated, would be an errant one. If there is a problem, it may be with contemporary American politics, or even more specifically, national politics, rather than politics itself.25 Society, even political society, remains an essential part of human existence, and a mechanism through which we grow in virtue, both individually and collectively. And through the political life, in the many varied forms that it takes, we discover we are capable of accomplishing far greater good than we could ever hope to achieve individually or through smaller, less formal associations. Such action transform not only societies for the better, but even ourselves. What we require, however, is a political system and government officials who recognize and submit to the objective moral order, and who accept the unique, unalterable dignity of the human person. Under those circumstances we can wholeheartedly agree with Larry Sabato’s mantra, “politics is a good thing!”

  1. Catholic political thought — contra Reformed Protestantism — flows out of a complex, layered intersection of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterial teaching. It is perhaps exemplified most specifically in Vatican II, a number of papal encyclicals spanning the end of the 19th century to the present, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. []
  2. This article also relies on the 2009 book The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching: Its Origin and Contemporary Significance, edited by David Matzko McCarthy. []
  3. Mullady, 2. []
  4. Gaudiem et Spes, 76. []
  5. Mullady, 1. []
  6. McKenna, 32. []
  7. For further information on this topic, see Bryan Cross’s “The Relations of Man’s Two Ends to Church and State”: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/the-relation-of-mans-two-ends-to-church-and-state/ []
  8. Mullady, vii. []
  9. McKenna, 46. []
  10. McKenna, 93. []
  11. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/10/false-freedom []
  12. Mullady, 5. []
  13. Cloutier, David. 2009. “Modern Politics and Catholic Social Teaching.” In The Heart of Catholic Social Teaching: Its Origin and Contemporary Significance, edited by David Matzko McCarthy, 95. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009. []
  14. Mullady, 33. []
  15. Cloutier, 2009, 97. []
  16. Clouthier, 2009, 98. []
  17. Mullady, 21. []
  18. Mullady, 44. []
  19. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Ostwald (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1999), 23. []
  20. Mullady, 47. []
  21. Clouthier, 96, 104. []
  22. McKenna, 126, 127. []
  23. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/ugandan-leader-signs-harsh-anti-gay-bill-despite-warning-from-obama-administration/2014/02/24/88486066-9d63-11e3-878c-65222df220eb_story.html []
  24. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-the-us-presidentialist-democracy-failing/2016/02/10/37fa9ec8-d018-11e5-abc9-ea152f0b9561_story.html and https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-the-product-of-our-failed-political-system/2016/02/22/20a3b378-d99a-11e5-81ae-7491b9b9e7df_story.html and https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2016-04-14/democracy-decline-puzzle-non-western-democracy and https://theintercept.com/2016/06/25/brexit-is-only-the-latest-proof-of-the-insularity-and-failure-of-western-establishment-institutions/ []
  25. http://brandon.multics.org/library/Alasdair%20MacIntyre/macintyre2004vote.html []

May 3, 2016

The Law of Love

Filed under: Blog Posts — David Anders @ 3:49 pm

The most contentious issue in the Western theological tradition has been the relationship of law and grace.  In the second century, Marcionites stressed grace so much that they completely rejected the Old Testament and what they took to be the God of “law.”  In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman priest Novatian and the British monk Pelagius emphasized law and morality to the point of eliminating grace. In the sixteenth century, nothing was more divisive than Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther rejected the Catholic tradition with its supposed emphasis on “works.”

(Continue Reading…)

February 23, 2016

Who is a “Real” Christian?

Filed under: Blog Posts — David Anders @ 11:29 am

I grew up an evangelical Protestant and became Catholic only in 2003. In the Church of my youth, we had a troubling practice. We distinguished “real Christians” from Christians in name only. People who had gone to Church all of their life would come to our meetings and declare, “I’ve just now become a real Christian!”  What they meant was that they had finally experienced conversion. In our minds, conversion was all that mattered. Everything else was just human tradition or ritual. The seemingly unconverted were not “real” Christians. (Continue Reading…)

January 31, 2016

Jack Mulder Jr. Answers “What Does it Mean to be Catholic?”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 10:23 pm

A review of Dr. Jack Mulder Jr.’s 2015 book What Does It Mean To Be Catholic?

(Continue Reading…)

January 25, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Eight, “Hearts burning for unity”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Bryan Cross @ 12:19 am

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who announces peace.” (Isaiah 52:7)
(Continue Reading…)

January 24, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Seven, “Hospitality for Prayer”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — J. Andrew Deane @ 12:19 am

“Keep sane and sober for your prayers. Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.  As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” 1 Peter 4:7b-10, RSV

The theme for day seven of this week of prayer for Christian unity focuses on hospitality for prayer. Of the three readings assigned, I found the passage from 1 Peter most insightful with regard to where we stand as Catholics and Reformed Christians in dialogue with one another.



As the background for this year’s set of prayers and readings indicate, ecumenical dialogue in Latvia was a large inspiration for our prayers for Christian unity in 2016. In today’s reflection, the town of Madona (shown above in a photo from 1918) is particularly relevant to this theme of hospitality for prayer.

Madona is a place where there is a good amount of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians living together. In a heart that lacks hospitality, walls could be drawn and each community could never give the other the time of day. But in Madona, these Christian communities come together and pray around the clock, despite having differences with each other.

Can we look each other in the eyes and consider one another Christians despite our differences? Do we come together in that spirit of hospitality?

The stalwart may ask whether love and hospitality sacrifice truth and values. But if we follow the passage from 1 Peter and we are speaking of Christians in dialogue, we understand that love can cover a multitude of sins. Can love lead to unity in the truth? This is our prayer, and it can come when we keep love and hospitality in our hearts, as we speak the truth in that same love.

After receiving communion, Byzantine Christians often sing, “We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the truth faith; and we worship the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.”

The truth of the Gospel comes through union with God who saves us, and through our union with one another. When that union is imperfect, we long for that deeper sense of seeing eye to eye. We want to love one another more, and to be as St. Paul tells us to in 1 Corinthians 1:10, agreeing with one another in everything. Admitting that this is not the case in the here and now, hospitality opens the doors for us to come together and discuss where we are. In hospitality we do not grandstand or ostracize, but we also do not sit indifferently towards what troubles us.

We see the image of God in one another, we profess our common baptism and stand together where we agree, and in love we seek to grow closer together even as we do not fully agree with one another. In this time of prayer for unity, may we journey towards that vision of love, hospitality and the truth, so that we may be ever more united. Grant this, O Lord!



Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O gracious One.


January 23, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Six, “Listen to this Dream”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Tom Brown @ 2:00 am

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37:5-8, RSV.)

(Continue Reading…)

January 22, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Five, “The Fellowship of the Apostles”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Tom Brown @ 1:00 am

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, RSV.)

(Continue Reading…)

January 21, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Four, “A priestly people called to proclaim the Gospel”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Casey Chalk @ 1:00 am

Biblical text for 2016:

Day Four: A priestly people called to proclaim the Gospel.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (RSV). (Continue Reading…)

January 20, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Three, “The Witness of Fellowship”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Beth Turner @ 2:00 am

When I first confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and God, my unbelieving sister’s strongest argument against the Christian faith was: how do you know what to believe about Jesus when so many Christians claim Jesus as God and yet believe such different things? This is a serious problem for evangelization. (Continue Reading…)

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    March 23, 2015

    John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 1:46 pm

    Here is a talk I gave last night (3/22/15) at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery, AL.

    The talk was titled “John Calvin and the Reformation: A Catholic Perspective.”

    Download the mp3 by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here by clicking on the play button below:


    August 31, 2014

    Radio Maria Interview with Tom and Jessica Brown

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: — Tom Brown @ 7:38 pm

    Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico’s program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here. (more…)

    April 16, 2014

    An interview with Dr. Thomas Madden on the Medieval Catholic Church

    Filed under: Podcast — Casey Chalk @ 7:52 am

    Protestant criticisms of the Catholic Church frequently target the medieval Catholic Church as a prime example of the Church’s problematic relationship with politics and the secular order. These critics often claim that the medieval Church was ruled by a greedy hierarchy bent on increasing its power in Europe and abroad, eager to silence or even eliminate its detractors or opponents, and rocked by internal scandals, corruption, and ultimately confusion. The seeds of the Reformation, so many Protestants believe, were sown during this tumultuous period where attempts at reform, like conciliarism, were destroyed underfoot by power-hungry popes. (more…)

    November 11, 2012

    How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman

    Filed under: Podcast — Bryan Cross @ 6:16 pm

    Jason Stellman

    In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it. (more…)

    June 17, 2012

    Podcast Ep. 17 – Jason & Cindy Stewart Recount Their Conversion

    Filed under: Podcast — Tags: — Tim A. Troutman @ 6:14 pm

    In this episode, Tom Riello, a former PCA pastor, interviews Jason Stewart, a former pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and his wife Cindy on the topic of their conversion to the Catholic faith in 2011. Jason earned his Master of Divinity from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2005, and subsequently served for five and a half years as pastor of Trinity OPC in eastern Pennsylvania. Jason and Cindy currently live in Rockford, IL, and have four children. He is completing a two year course of study with the Diocese of Rockford’s Diaconal Program.


    February 17, 2012

    David Anders on Catholic Answers: February 13, 2012

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 11:45 pm

    David Anders

    Open Forum for Non-Catholics
    David Anders on Catholic Answers, Monday, February 13, 2012.

    August 2, 2011

    Episode 16 – Stephen Beck’s Conversion Story

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: , , — Jeremy Tate @ 8:00 am

    Stephen Beck

    Stephen Beck was raised Evangelical, but read his way into the Reformed world. He became a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and then the Presbyterian Church in America. Stephen and his family were received into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 2011 at St. Andrew’s by the Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland. He has a Master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America. Stephen is a brilliant thinker with a deep love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In this episode, Stephen’s personal friend and regular CTC contributor, Jeremy Tate, interviews him to find out the reasons behind his conversion.


    Right click here to save the MP3 file.

    July 16, 2011

    David Anders on Catholic Answers

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 8:23 am

    David Anders

    On Friday, July 8, I was the guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, taking calls and questions from non-Catholics. The one-hour broadcast featured the following questions and discussions:

    7′ A discussion of John Calvin’s view of his relation to the Catholic Church, the Catholic positions he affirmed, and his rejection of denominationalism.

    15′ A discussion of the Catholic doctrine of communion of the saints, and whether the saints can hear our prayers.

    22′ A discussion of legalism and scrupulosity among Catholics.

    28′ Why is it difficult for Protestant leaders who recognize the truth of the Catholic Church to become Catholic? Wouldn’t remaining Protestant, in order to hold on to reputation, livelihood, etc. be contrary to Protestant theology?

    33′ What are some resources for non-Catholics who want to understand the differences between Calvinism and Catholicism?

    36′ What is the Catholic understanding of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom?

    41′ How does the Catholic understanding of justification address the Reformed claim that the scriptural evidence supports the Protestant notion of justification by the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ to the believer?

    51′ What is the Catholic position on eternal security and the possibility of apostasy, and what is the support for that position?

    Listen to the program:


    Or download it by right-clicking here.

    November 24, 2010

    Episode 15 – The Conversion of Annie Witz (OPC)

    In this episode, Tom Riello, former PCA minister, interviews Annie Witz, a convert from the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).  Annie’s father is an elder in the OPC church and serves on the board of Westminster Seminary California.   Annie shares her personal conversion story from being a devout OPC member to a Catholic in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church).  Of particular interest is the role that the women saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in her conversion.  We are thrilled to have our first female guest on the show!


    To download the mp3, click here.

    August 25, 2010

    Episode 14 – A Presuppositional Apologist Becomes Catholic

    Tom Riello interviews Marc Ayers on the topic of his conversion to the Catholic Church. Marc was a ‘disciple’ of Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Hear him tell how his presuppositional apologetic method helped him see the need for a divinely instituted authority, namely the Catholic Church.


    To download the mp3, click here.

    For older posts, visit the archives.

    Called to Communion Radio

    CTC Radio can be heard Tuesday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media: Live with video, Podcast, EWTN.COM, Sirius Sattelite, Iheart Radio, The EWTN app, Short wave, and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.

    December 1, 2014

    CTC Radio Update

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 1:59 pm


    Called to Communion Radio is now available four days a week.
    CTC Radio can be heard Monday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media:


    EWTN Youtube Channel

    Live with video



    Sirius Sattelite

    Iheart Radio

    The EWTN app

    Short wave,

    and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.

    October 20, 2014

    Divorce & Remarriage Revisited

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 10:29 am

    A few weeks back I wrote an article titled: “Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod on the Family.” In the article, I discussed the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage and what it means for civilly divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Based on the teaching of Christ, the Church’s longstanding practice has been to deny communion in these cases.  As to whether the Church could change her doctrine on marriage or her discipline based on that doctrine, I wrote this:

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.”

    In the weeks since I wrote that article, the Synod of Bishops generated a lot of media attention and, quite frankly, a lot of confusion. Did the Synod suggest a change to the Church’s doctrine or practice in this matter? Some media outlets would have you think so.  The main source of confusion was a “midterm report” supposedly summarizing the discussions at the Synod. The document suggested that “some synod fathers” were in favor of a change of “present regulations.” The report was neither seen nor approved by the Synod Fathers prior to its release. Instead, it provoked vehement protests among the bishops. (The most controversial statements of the report were not concerned with divorce and remarriage.)

    Days after the release of the relatio, the synod Fathers insisted that their objections be made known.  Reports of each of the discussion groups (organized by language) were published on the Vatican’s Website Thursday, October 16.  The following selections are some of the remarks from synod Fathers on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments.

    Circulus Gallicus A (French language group) wrote:

    On the connection between the divorced/remarried and the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist . . . it is important not to change the doctrine of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the non-admission of the divorced/remarried to the sacraments.

    Circulus Angelicus A (English language group) wrote:

    We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.

    Circulus Angelicus B (English language group) wrote:

    On the subject of the admission of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist the group stressed two principles flowing directly from God’s Word: 1) the clear affirmation of the indissolubility of a valid sacramental union, while humbly admitting that we need a more credible way of presenting and witnessing to that teaching; 2) The strong desire to invite and embrace sincere Catholics who feel alienated from the family of the Church because of irregular situations.

    Circulus Italicus A (Italian language group) directed attention on this issue to the teaching of St. John Paul II in his Familiaris Consortio, section 84. In that document, the Saint wrote:

    The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

    It is true that the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church are were not universally acclaimed at the Synod.  The final version of the Relatio (released October 18) ackowledged this. Clearly, some of the Synod Fathers were searching for a way to “soften” the Church’s position.  In his final speech, Pope Francis also acknowledged division among some of the bishops. Strangely, he did not make his thoughts plain on the controversies in question. He did, however, conclude the Synod by beatifying Pope Paul VI. Of his predecessor, Pope Francis said:

    Before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

    To what was Pope Francis referring when he spoke of Paul’s holding fast in the face of a secular and hostile culture? He didn’t say. But we we remember Blessed Paul today mostly for his courageous stand on behalf of the Church’s long-standing tradition on human sexuality and the necessity of openness to life.

    Neither the the Synod nor the Pope issued any teaching documents, nor has there been any change to Church law. The final message of the Bishops, published on October 18, ended on a postive note of continuity:

    Conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education.

    September 25, 2014

    Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod of Bishops

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:31 am


    Listeners to CTC Radio often ask about the Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. With them in mind, I have attached a brief article I wrote for One Voice, the newspaper for the diocese of Birmingham.

    To listen to CTC Radio, tune in to EWTN at 2:00 PM Eastern Tuesday through Thursday.
    Podcasts are available here

      Here is the Article:

    There will be an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops in October to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” No doubt the synod will discuss many issues, but none has garnered more media attention than the status of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. In particular, the media have focused on the question of their eligibility to receive communion. Cardinal Walter Kasper encouraged speculation about a change in the Church’s discipline by asking a consistory of cardinals in February whether or not the Church should continue to refuse communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. As the synod approaches, it seems appropriate to reflect on what the Church can and cannot change about her doctrine and discipline.

    What is the rationale for barring the civilly divorced and remarried from Holy Communion? The answer to this requires an understanding of Christian marriage. According to the teaching of Christ and the Catholic faith, Christian marriage is by definition a lifelong union, effected by a promise of fidelity and the intent to raise a family, elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. It is always indissoluble under any and all circumstances.

    To understand the current discussion, the key point to emphasize is the indissolubility of a valid Christian marriage. The Catechism states:

    Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom. (CCC 1640)

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.” In this regard, the Church’s Magisterium is a servant of the truth, not its master. The Catechism says, “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.” (CCC 86)

    Because marriage is indissoluble, a validly married Catholic who obtains a civil divorce from a judge and then contracts another civil marriage is objectively in the state of ongoing adultery. Jesus said, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Again, following the teaching of Christ and the words of Sacred Scripture, the Church has no choice but to withhold communion from those deemed to be in grave sin. (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Matthew 18: 17)

    Some have asked whether or not a person could “repent” for a failed first marriage, receive the sacraments of reconciliation, and then be admitted to communion while remaining in an invalid second marriage (i.e., a relationship the Church deems adulterous). This proposal fails to take into account the doctrine on Christian marriage and the doctrine on reconciliation and penance. By definition, there is no forgiveness of sins and no reconciliation as long as one intends to persist in grave sin. St. John Paul II explains, “Without a sincere and firm purpose of amendment, sins remain ‘unforgiven,’ in the words of Jesus, and with him in the Tradition of the Old and New Covenants.” (Dominum et Vivificantem) If a valid marriage exists, all subsequent unions are adulterous by definition. “Repentance,” in this context, must mean repentance for the subsequent union, whatever else may be involved.

    The Church does recognize some situations in which reconciliation with a spouse is impossible and in which subsequent civil unions have resulted in children being born. In these cases, the Church sometimes permits the parents in these unions to remain together for the sake of the children, provided they agree to live as brother and sister. This is not a tacit recognition of the subsequent marriage, but rather an unusual and, quite frankly, difficult concession that Catholics must make for the sake of children.

    What then could the Church change? Theoretically, some change is possible to the process by which Catholics obtain annulments. It is highly unlikely, however, that such changes could dispense with canonical expertise or judicial process, since the declaration of nullity is a finding of juridical fact and requires moral certainty on the part of the judge. The most likely outcome to the Synod is a deepening pastoral emphasis on the means and the virtue of chastity, and a renewed catechesis on the meaning of Christian marriage. A good deal of ink has been spilled on this topic and I fear that many people may have unfulfilled expectations for what the Church can and will do. Let us remember the Bishops and the Holy Father in our prayers, and ask that they have wisdom and grace to communicate the Church’s teaching with compassion and clarity.

    September 11, 2014

    Television Interview with Johnette Benkovic

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 5:00 pm


    My television interview on Women of Grace is now available here.

    We discuss the new radio show, Called to Communion, as well as my path to the Catholic Church.

    September 9, 2014

    Do We Really Meet Christ in the Sacraments?

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 7:53 am


    Catholics and some non-Catholic Christians disagree about the nature of the sacraments. Are they merely signs? Do they really conform us to Christ? (more…)

    September 4, 2014

    Scripture and Tradition

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:09 am


    How do we know the will of God for the Church? On CTC Radio today, I hope we can generate discussion about Scripture and Tradition.

    I welcome your emails at ctc@ewtn.com

    There is also live video feed from the Radio Studios at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/radiolive.asp

    Here, finally, is a short text I prepared for One Voice, the Diocesan paper for the Diocese of Birmingham. (more…)

    September 2, 2014

    Called to Communion Radio

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 12:33 pm


    Dear Friends,

    Today at 2:00 PM Eastern, we launch the new EWTN Radio Show Called to Communion.

    We hope to encourage collaboration across media (internet and radio) as we continue to discuss what divides us as Christians and as human beings. (more…)

    For older posts, visit the archives.

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