Having examined Protestant reactions to the Roman Catholic conceptions of Divine Revelation and the Church, Non-Catholic Churches, the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom, what may we conclude? As noted before, the initial reactions of many Protestants to the Second Vatican Councils seemed to be generally positive in nature. As we have seen however, critical Protestant reactions to Vatican II are more nuanced. Some reactions are positive, such as that of Marty, who concludes that “for the most part, Vatican II appropriately addressed the anguishing circumstances of its time.” Others are more caution, such as Patterson, who reacts with both joy and concern, especially regarding ubiquitous language about the primacy and infallibility of Rome. Other reactions are more negative, such as those of Sproul and Duncan. The former writes that since Vatican II must be interpreted through Trent, there remain fundamental and dangerous misunderstandings of the council and the acceptability of its teachings for Protestants. While noting that many Protestants view Vatican II positively, Duncan similarly notes that while there may be new levels of understanding between Protestants and Catholics, there are significant barriers to true unity and understanding. Continue reading
While we cannot consider every facet of the Second Vatican Council that Protestant scholars have engaged, there are three remaining issues worthy of briefly considering here: reactions to Vatican II’s position on the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom. It is important to note with Martin Marty that during Vatican II very little was actually said concerning contemporary concerns such as female ordination and clerical celibacy, and thus many Protestant and Catholic differences on these issues are not directly the result of Vatican II. The council did weigh in on several matters pertaining to priests however. In the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the council affirmed that celibacy was to be “embraced and esteemed as a gift” among priests. Additionally, priests were called to avoid greediness, to develop their spiritual lives, to engage the sacred scriptures and Church Fathers, to remain aware of current events, and to take vacation every year. Such praxis-oriented concerns, combined with calls for lay participation in the ministry of the church, suggest a commitment to collegiality of all levels of church hierarchy. This collegial view of the church includes the leveling of authority within the official hierarchy, though maintaining the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, including the restoration of the historical office of deacon. However, significant differences continue to exist between Protestant conceptions of the priesthood of all believers and the Roman conception of a celibate clergy. Continue reading
By now you’ve likely heard: the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby’s (and other companies) contention that it should not be forced to provide certain types of contraception for its employees due to the religious beliefs concerning abortion (click here for the full text of the ruling). Below are some immediate thoughts on this ruling:
First, this is a victory for those in favor of religious freedom. While certain media organizations and the Oval Office have tried to frame this discussion in terms of ‘healthcare’ or ‘basic contraceptive care,’ that’s not what this case is really about. The health insurance which Hobby Lobby already provides its employees actually includes most of the ‘contraceptive’ and birth control options required under the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read that right: Hobby Lobby already provides its employees with ‘birth control.’ This case was therefore about whether or not the United States government can force companies to provide medical care which may lead to the death of a human being, an important, long-standing issue for people of many religious persuasions across our country.
Second, there will be much said in the next few days (weeks, months, years) similar to this piece by Richard Cizik in the Huffington Post. Pro-life and pro-freedom advocates must take these concerns seriously and respond appropriately. There has already been enough rhetoric surrounding this case; it’s time for sustained clear thinking about how we may continue to defend human life and freedom.
Third, this case is yet another in a long-stream of SCOTUS cases in which the Obama Administration has been on the losing side. There have been exceptions, of course (namely the ruling on the Constitutionality of the ACA itself). But the White House has not had a ton of good news lately, and it will be interesting to see how our President and his supporters respond to this setback.