Do Catholics and Protestants agree on anything? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some folks will tell you that Protestant teaching and the Catholic belief system are 100% incompatible – Protestantism is faith in Jesus Christ, a relationship with a Person, assurance of salvation, and an evangelistic effort to preach the Gospel to the four corners of the earth, while Catholicism is dead liturgy, Mary worship, works-righteousness and rote prayer, in essence, a man-made religion. The difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, they’ll tell you, is like the difference between light and darkness, the living and the dead. We agree on nothing!
The more ecumenically-minded among us may swing in the opposite direction. Common ground? Well, what do you think the Nicene Creed is? It’s a statement of agreement! We believe in God the Father, God the Son (born of a virgin) who died for our sins and rose again, God the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting! By gosh, we agree on everything!
Of course, neither perspective is entirely in line with the truth. The first point of view is predicated upon buying into anti-Catholic propaganda of the worst sort, while the second glosses over some very legitimate differences which should not be ignored. It has been said that Catholics and Protestants hold about 80% of their doctrinal beliefs in common. (Who does the math on these things?) The issues that fall into the 20% category tend to get most of the press, but like all brothers and sisters, we need to give some time to the consideration of what it is that makes us a family. Catholics as well as Protestants are Trinitarians, meaning that we worship one God in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our adoption as children of God makes us one family; it behooves us to get to know our relatives.
I’m beginning a mini-series called “Common Ground?” on the doctrines that Protestants and Catholics agree on, as well as points we agree to disagree on. Sadly, many times Catholic teaching has been misrepresented, and even Protestants who are well-disposed towards their Catholic brothers and sisters may not realize to what extent Catholics share many of their beliefs. In many cases where we do hold beliefs in common, I think that the nuances of the Catholic view may be something charitable Protestants might like to take into consideration. Here’s hoping, anyway!
On the memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
Deo omnis gloria!