...coupled with another massive dose of historical ignorance.
Last seen comparing Thomas Aquinas and all Christians prior to 1517 to children, C. Michael Patton offers his flock the final word on "The Rise of the Roman Catholic Church."
Here is what I taught last Tuesday at the Credo House.
In order to be a good Protestant, you must be a good anti-Catholic. I am not Catholic. I am Protestant. There are many doctrines of the Roman Catholic church that I am against, but there are many things that I appreciate about them.
Both Protestants and Roman Catholics have our lineage in the catholic church. Yes, I just said that. I am catholic, but not Roman Catholic. I’ve got some info for you: If you are a Christian, you are catholic too. This differentiation between catholic and Roman Catholic is part of a solid Protestant polemic against Roman Catholicism. It normally drives Roman Catholic apologists crazy, since it undermines their belief that they are the one true church. But it is true; Protestants are catholic Christians, but not Roman Catholic Christians. The word “catholic” was used very early to describe the church. It simply meant “universal,” describing the church’s universality. The church is not exclusive to Gentiles, Jews, Greeks, Romans, those in the East, or those in the West. The church that Christ built is universal, or “catholic.”
However, there was an institutional arm of the catholic church that eventually became known as the Roman Catholic church, complete with its own hierarchy, doctrines, and liturgical distinctives. The type of institutionalization that eventually characterized the Roman Catholic church is one of the major issues the Protestants battled against, believing that it had corrupted the catholic church to the core, even obscuring the Gospel itself. We now call it the Roman Catholic church due to its identification with the “seat of Rome.” This seat, according to the Roman Catholics, is the perpetual seat of ultimate authority that Peter passed on. It is known today as the papacy, which is the office of the Pope. The Pope sits in the seat of Rome, having the infallible authority to guide and direct the church in matters of faith and practice. He, along with the magisterium, form the institution and can, through “ordinary” or “extraordinary” means, intervene in church life and doctrine in a binding way. If a heresy arises in the church, the institution can condemn it, thus securing the faith of the church. Intervention rarely takes place (though this is debated), but this infallible safeguard can theoretically step in at any time and protect the church from corruption.
Patton offers a singularly non-historical recitation of history. He offers no names, no dates, no development of concepts, although he does illustrate his points iwth stick figure drawings, which are de rigeur if you are going to learn the Big Thoughts.
For example, Patton authoritatively tells his readers that the Roman Catholic Church grew out of the institutional arm of the catholic church. As if the cathedrals and bishops and priests just walked off one day leaving their congregations behind.
When did this happen?
Well, it didn't, obviously. The Catholic Church was the people and the bishops. St. Ignatius in 120 AD recognized this when he counseled Christians that they were to stay with their bishops. St. Clement understood this when he explained in the 80s or 90s that the apostles had appointed successors in order to prevent schism:
Chapter 44. The Ordinances of the Apostles, that There Might Be No Contention Respecting the Priestly Office.
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.
But what did he know? He just knew the apostles. He didn't have the benefit of the internet.
Patton's refusal to deal with dates and his mythmaking is his way of dealing with history. He incorporates both the "historical amnesia" technique and the "infantilization" technique; the latter he does explicitly when he explains that the Catholic Church developed its idea of the magisterium in order to protect its members from the Bible and its Great Big Threatening Ideas:
This is where history takes an interesting and definitive turn. It is not unlike our desire to protect our children. There are two extremes. One extreme locks the children up in the house and thows away the key in order to protect them from all harm (like I am tempted to do!). Nothing wrong with the intentions here. The other extreme lets their children run wild, believing they have to learn the ways of the world in order to learn to protect themselves. Again, intentions good. As the church began to face more and more dangers, as doctrine was continually manipulated, as teachings that did not fall in line with Scripture or the church’s historic interpretation of Scripture were put forth, the church began to institutionalize itself. In other words, we brought all the children in the house and locked the door.
So, there you are. Once again, Patton views all Christians - except maybe that weirdly anonymous and non-existent group who didn't make up the "institutional arm" of the catholic church - as children who are scared of independent thought, God, rainbows and puppies.