I keep saying to people to demonstrate how Anti-Catholic I was that my school celebrated Reformation Day, and now, as a Catholic, I sometimes get accused for rejecting the Reformation. It’s not unpopular for some of my Protestant brethren to take pride in tracing their heritage back to the Reformers (as my old school does.) From even a non-Catholic standpoint, I think making this claim is ludicrous aside from doctrine. So this is an open letter to The Reformation from the stance of a generic Christian (Yes, you heard me. I will try to be impartial to Christian Tradition in this essay. I’ll probably fail as I’m human, but here goes.)
Why are you called the Reformation? Your name seems very misleading, because as we see today, none of the beliefs you shouted as your war cry have changed the Catholic Church from which you separated. All five or your Solae have not changed Catholic doctrine to date. What’s even more interesting is why you would shout Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. The Catholic Church believes in these. Perhaps you thought that yelling Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria would paint the picture that the Church in Rome didn’t believe in them. Did you ever check their doctrine on these things? Maybe you would realize you were chanting things already accepted and taught. Your only two points of contention were Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Important points, but you did not have Five.
So why are you called the Reformation? What did you actually reform? I’m not talking about your disowned, fraternal twin, the Catholic Reformation, which did nothing new but to more firmly and officially establish its doctrine in response to your critique. You changed nothing. Is that not the purpose of reforming? You are as misnamed as a renovator who builds houses from scratch.
So your mission failed, but that’s assuming that reforming was your mission. One would think that if there were things to change about the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church wasn’t willing to budge on them, the dissenters would bond together and make a church identical sans the points of dissension. This has been done before. It’s not impossible. Around 500 years before you were born people, what we now refer to as Eastern Orthodox Christians, did it. Other than a couple points of disagreement, they all look pretty much the same since their split in the eleventh century. Even now the relationship of that schism is being healed and reconciliation is in sight. So why were you different? If your goal was to reform, then why didn’t you imitate our eastern brothers?
I’m skeptical your mission was to reform, and that’s fine if it wasn’t, but then why call it the “Reformation?” Today it seems only the Lutherans have been working towards unity again. But as we’re approaching your 499th birthday, why are you still content with separation? I understand why because some of your children in your mosaic of denominations denounce the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon, so it would make sense that they would not seek out reconciliation, and thus the actual title to describe their beliefs would be “separatists” not “reformed” because they have merely separated and are not intending to reform anything.
But again there are some of your various branches who accept Catholics as Christians, even if it is as condescending as the attitude derived from “some Catholics are Christians.” If, Mr. Reformation, these sons of yours believe this, then why are they content to sit in separation from the (by their own standard) largest body of believers? What is more is why are they content to be separated from each other as if they were estranged siblings? If they claim their heritage from the reforming gene of yours, why do they not try to come to agreement with each other? Holding differing beliefs about theology is not of your invention, yet you of the three sons of Christianity take pride in it as if it was yours and use it cause divisions between your own children. Why pride yourself in a spirit that works against a very prayer of Jesus. Although you changed your canon a little from your formers, I know you didn’t cut out John 17 where Christ prays that we would be united as he is to the Father. Yet why are your sons content to let their differences stop them being in communion with each other and worshiping under the same roof? Where is the “reforming” in their genetics?
Or perhaps your sons claim that we are all united in Christ. I totally agree with that. But what they claim is an abstraction and an abstraction only. If it were a reality, none of what I have just said would be relevant. Your sons are content to be estranged from each other, to discriminate amongst each other and not worship in communion with each other. Even at their birth, they would persecute each other with the same intolerance that they had for their Catholic uncle.
This disunity amongst your sons is not only against this prayer of Christ, but a horrible testimony to the rest of the world when they look at Christianity. If we are so split and divisive and yet claim one truth, it seems that anyone looking on from the outside would see us as hypocrites. It’s fine to have different views, that’s nothing new, Mr. Reformation, but to let them divide us and hinder our unity is the only thing your heritage has contributed. So perhaps you’ve been misnamed, Mr. Reformation, perhaps you’ve taken a name that makes you look positive and able to be celebrated. But really, you’ve done nothing but to separate from the Church not reform it, and then have passed on that same separating gene to your sons.
So in sum perhaps a more accurate name for you is Mr. Separation, and such a negative thing should not be celebrated. Unless separation from Christian brethren has become a virtue since the New Testament.