What Catholic Tradition Means to a Protestant

Facebook is making me a bit ill these days. And I’m not sure who to blame. Pope Francis? The media? Ordinary Catholics squabbling over what the pope really did say or didn’t say, lecturing other Catholics about why they should or should not be in love with the pope, and accusing bishops and priests whom they don’t know of any number of sins, from clericalism and worldliness to suspected financial malfeasance.

Really, I can’t stand much more. At this point, I’d trade the whole lot of postings for one stupid kitten shot. And I hate cats.

imgres-2Anyhow, in the midst of avoiding my newsfeed and working on a fun project for Catholic Vote (that’s going to result in light blogging for the next couple months), I came across an old commentary by radio legend Paul Harvey.

It’s called, “What Catholic Tradition Means to a Protestant.” He first read it in his radio broadcast, during the heady days of the Second Vatican Council. I’m reposting it here, in its entirety, without comment, because I found it interesting…and relevant…and, well, sobering.

What Catholic Tradition Means to a Protestant, by Paul Harvey

This is none of my business, yet I am unexplainably compelled to address myself to a most sensitive subject however many or few read it, heed it, or resent it.

The Roman Catholic Church, from the outside, has symbolized authority since my earliest recollections.

Great institutions might erode away, towering individuals reveal feet of clay, nations be reduced to ashes or decay—yet the steeple with the cross on top remained, timeless and unchanging.

Why I did not abandon the faith of my fathers and ask adoption into the Catholic family which I so much admired, I cannon explain. Momentum, perhaps. Most often we keep going in the direction we are pushed.

The strict discipline implied by Catholicism certainly was not a deterrent, for I had been much disturbed and distracted by the almost constant intramural harangue among undisciplined Christians. Indeed, the rigidity of Catholic doctrine and tradition were comforting, reassuring evidences of a hierarchy which affirmed, ‘This is right…’ in an hour where so few seem to know what is.

Then came the recent sessions of the Ecumenical Council and the perhaps over-emphasized differences between ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives’ within the Church. And when these differences reached such a crescendo that the third session ended with His Holiness, Pope Paul, in tears, my unscholarly and largely emotional reliance on the invulnerability of the Church retreated.

True, there are sometimes shouted disagreements among the children of any family, but we don’t open the windows at such times.

And when long-standing texts of the Bible are called into open question and when the priesthood is expanded to include quasi-lay clergy and when sisters of some orders shorten their skirts up to their knees, the world appears to wobble on its axis.

In secular affairs we are being urged to tolerate, accommodate, and compromise. In personal relations, absolutes are passé, international relationships are governed by expediency.

In this climate of vacillation I shall pray in my protestant way that the Roman Catholic Church will emerge, when the smoke has cleared and the tears are dry, substantially unaltered.

I reread my own words here and am embarrassed by them; by the presumptiousness of one who needs others to live as he has been, himself, unwilling to live.

Yet each of us whose reach exceeds his grasp must similarly rely on the soldier.

And the lighthouse keeper.




Categories:Church News Culture Uncategorized

  • http://www.thescholarlyredneck.com Deborah Lee

    The smoke cleared and She did emerge– worn yet beautiful , timeless yet timely, humbled yet exalted. As a 2012 convert to the Church, I clearly see it is an amazing time to be Catholic. The struggles of the past are still here, but the work of the Holy Spirit is so beautifully clear. My awe grows daily.

  • Bob

    I think it was Chesterton who said “the Catholic Church is the only thing that prevents society from self destruction.”

  • dave

    Nice read and statements from the master of the airwaves himself … yet I can’t help but think what Mr. Harvey was in love with was tradition with a small “t” … not tradition with a capital “T”, for Traditions stay, while traditions can change … and she stands tall today, even in the turmoil surrounding her inside and out.



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