As a part of their Future of Religion series, the religion portal Patheos considers the future of Catholicism. Elizabeth Scalia notes the intriguing entry by my buddy (the best talk show host in America) Hugh Hewitt:
The brief history of American Catholicism is this: mission, persecution, immigration, community, political power, strength, Vatican II, confusion, decline, scandal, confession, penance, and renewal. A new cycle of mission, persecution, immigration, community, political power, and strength has begun. Provided the reformed American Church remains steadfast in its renewed commitment to orthodoxy, all will not only be well, it will be a spectacularly vibrant and wonderful era for the Church in the new world.
[ . . . ]
The Roman Catholic Church in America owes a profound thank you to American evangelicals who, thoughout the last thirty years, stood in the gap created by a retreating Roman Catholic Church. In many ways they inspired and led the renewal in American Christianity while defending the teachings of the Gospel against the culture even as an enfeebled and wounded Church fell back in disarray. Now that American Protestants and Catholics are both entering eras of growth and confidence and they are the opportunities for genuine ecumenical cooperation are extraordinary.
Scalia calls this a “virtual valentine to Evangelical Christians” but I think it merely reflects Hewitt’s peculiar self-identification. Several years ago on his radio show, Andrew Sullivan asked Hewitt if he was a Catholic :
Andrew Sullivan: Youre not a Catholic, are you?
Hugh Hewitt: When we come back, well continue with that. Yes, I actually am, and I will return to that when we come back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Im an Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian, Andrew.
Now I consider myself an “Evangelical Southern Baptist Presbyterian,” which is a bit convoluted but not, I don’t believe, inherently contradictory. I also think it is possible, in certain respects, to be an “Evangelical Roman Catholic” (see: Francis Beckwith). But while I can appreciate Hewitt’s one-man ecumenist movement, wonder if its really possible to be, without contradiction, an “Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian.”
I’m about as “Catholic-friendly” as a Reformed Evangelical Neo-Calvinist Baptist can be without getting thrown out of the camp as a complete traitor. (I am not, however, in danger of falling into the Tiber and having to swim to the other side.) But how Protestant-leaning can a Catholic be before they fall out of the pew?
I understand (and least I think I do) that once a person receives the sacrament of baptism they are considered Catholics in communion with the church. But can you be a professed Catholic if you prefer to skip Mass and take the Lord’s Supper with the Pentecostals? Can you disagree with the Church’s teachings on core doctrines such as justification and still be a Catholic in good standing?
At what point does theological alignment with Protestantism become a bridge too far?