Well, Mormons think he is. A martyr for Catholicism, Fr. Miguel Pro was executed in 1927 by the Mexican authorities because he insisted on bringing the sacraments to persecuted Catholics. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II the same day Junipero Serra, the "apostle of California," received the title Beatus.
But Mormons say Fr. Pro is now a Mormon, not a Catholic, because in 1986 he was baptized by proxy through one of Mormonism's "baptisms for the dead." The Mormons baptize lots of people who never would have adhered to Mormonism while alive.
Presidents? Sure: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, both baptized in 1877. Dwight Eisenhower was baptized in 1973. And non-president Paul Revere became a Mormon in 1975.
The literary world has not been overlooked. Edgar Allan Poe had to wait 41 years to achieve equality with Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), who was baptized in 1937.
"The Resurrection is an event of grace not involving in any way the corpse of Jesus." So writes Fr. David Coffey, president of the Australian Catholic Theological Association.
Coffey has been making the headlines for several months--his pronunciamentos are being examined in Rome--having gone beyond the position of the men he claims as mentors, Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx.
A decade ago the latter was saying that "whether or not the tomb was empty is irrelevant for us." Coffey drew what he thought was a logical conclusion: If it's irrelevant, he said, it must be because Christ never rose bodily from the tomb.
Coffey admits the tomb is empty, but "the question of how the tomb came to be empty can be relegated to the domain of pure historical speculation." Probably Jesus' bones were transferred elsewhere by his followers; in any event, they're still somewhere in the Holy Land.
Why mention Coffey and his views at all? Just to remind you that this kind of anti-miraculism still infects prominent people within the Church (and therefore lots of non-prominent people), and we have to take that fact into account as we engage in apologetics and evangelization.
Lots of Catholics leave the Church for Fundamentalism, the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Mormonism because they've been turned off by what they perceive to be "absurd" positions held by people who call themselves believers but who don't seem to believe anything.
If we want to keep these folks in the Church and away from the sects, we need responses to those who are embarrassed that God might intervene in history and who insist the Bible is fairy tale, not fact.
The ironic thing is that real progress in biblical studies and theology, far from substantiating the anti-miraculist position, is rapidly undermining it, much as progress in the sciences is doing away with scientism, the notion that science and religion are at odds and that science can explain everything.
"His Holiness Plays 'Hide and Seek' with Muslims." That's the title of a brochure disseminated by the Islamic Propagation Centre International, headquartered in Durban, South Africa.
The accompanying photo is that famous one of John Paul II peeking through circled fingers. On the back of the brochure is a photo of a laughing Ahmed Deedat, the chief spokesman for the Centre and a fellow who likes a good debate. He's laughing because he thinks he's won by default.
The Pope wouldn't take up his offer to engage in a public duel, but that's all right with Deedat, who gets mileage out of the Pope's not having answered his challenge. Deedat thinks the world is going to turn to Islam in droves, communism having gone under.
Is he right?
Good Bible Christians never let an opportunity for evangelizing pass them by. During the March for Life in Washington anti-Catholic tracts were distributed by The Church in White Hall (no, not the Whitehall where Britain's government offices are located, but White Hall, Maryland, a town not far from Washington, D.C.).
One of the tracts, written by Ronn Heilig, is called Come Out of Her My People. The alert Catholic will know immediately its contents just by looking at the footnotes. Books cited include Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons and Ralph Woodrow's Babylon Mystery Religion.
Here are some of the subtitles, in case you still aren't sure of the tract's thrust: "Mother Worship," "Worshipping the Mother of Jesus," "Gods, Goddesses, and Idols," "The Supreme Pontiff," and "The Mystery Solved."
The tract provides some blockbuster insights, such as the fact that, "although Mary was certainly a righteous woman, she is not God!" What's more, "God never intended for Mary to be reverenced any more than the other righteous men or women who have kept His word." (What about "Blessed are you among women"?)
Oh, and the mystery that is solved? Easy: "The similarities between Catholic traditions and those of ancient Babylon are too striking to be ignored. Traditions such as transubstantiation, purgutory [sic], kissing statues, and many others, all have traceable pagan origins. Please write for details."
Don't bother to write. It's the same old stuff, in a cheaper and more forgettable form than usually seen. Pray for people who swallow such claptrap.
We've heard the rumors too, but put little stock in them. So far as we know, the late Walter Martin has not appeared to Bart Brewer, advising him to dust off his old breviary.
The secular press is beginning to take notice of an interesting phenomenon within Evangelicalism: the movement of a small but prominent cluster of Evangelicals into Eastern Orthodoxy. Many of them are finding their way into the Antiochean Orthodox Christian Church, which has about 325,000 members in North America.
These migrating Evangelicals first sought a more liturgical Evangelicalism, largely in response to their studying early Christian history and the writings of the Fathers. For a while they were in a way station church of their own fashioning, the Evangelical Orthodox Church. They applied around to traditional Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Antiochean accepted them.
Peter Gillquist, formerly an executive with Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ and now an Orthodox priest, said, "We felt we needed to become part of the church. The questions was, 'Which church?'"
Catholics, when they hear about these conversions, are invariably surprised, and most of them ask, "Why did they become Eastern Orthodox? Why not Catholic?" As a rule, the answer is: the papacy. We might wish that these former Evangelicals had come "all the way over," but let's be grateful for how far they've come. The journey from Campus Crusade to a liturgical church can't have been easy. And let's keep these folks in our prayers too.
Brooklyn has a new bishop, Thomas V. Daily, and Fr. Richard McBrien doesn't like him. In an article for the New York Times McBrien complained that Bishop Daily is like almost all the rest of Pope John Paul II's appointments: "uncritically loyal to the Pope," "rigidly authoritarian," "solitary in the exercise of pastoral leadership," "reliably safe" in his theological views. (Daily's probably a lousy golfer too.)
There is worse. Bishop Daily "is an adviser and strong supporter of the pietistic and censorious Mother Angelica." He is also "affiliated with the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars."
Good grief! Is Daily entirely hopeless? Can nothing good be said of him? Is he going to hell? McBrien may remain silent on the third question (he may not believe in hell), but he answers Yes to the first two.
The problem, you see, is that Bishop Daily is a believer. He believes in the Resurrection as historical reality. He believes in sin. He believes in redemption. He does not believe in the infallibility of the Usual Suspects who determine, in McBrien's language, "mainstream Catholic theological and biblical scholarship."
In other words, Bishop Daily believes he's really a successor to the apostles and intends to act that way.
McBrien claims that "the Vatican's pattern of episcopal appointments"--Daily is only the latest example--"is lowering the morale of the church's most engaged and effective priests, nuns, and lay members, many of whom are edging to the conclusion that the church's present leadership is irrelevant, if not inimical, to their deepest religious and human concerns."
It depends, no doubt, on whom you define as the "most engaged and effective" priests, nuns, and laymen. How is that to be determined? How about by toting up conversions?
Who has brought more people into the Church--Richard McBrien or Mother Angelica? (For that matter, Call to Action or Catholic Answers?) Such questions answer themselves.
The fact is that the religion McBrien promotes, and the kind Bishop Daily opposes, is going nowhere. It simply doesn't appeal to the folks in the pews, who want to be loyal to Christ, the Church, and the Pope, and it is appealing less and less to the Church's intelligentsia, which no longer feels obliged to conform to the "assured results of modern scholarship"--especially when those results don't jibe with reality.
Okay, so Richard McBrien is the house Catholic for the New York Times. Fine. But he doesn't speak for the great mass of Catholics, and what he offers them has no power. The religion he offers can't inspire anyone. It is dying, if not already dead.
Think of the great battles in defense of Christendom--for example, the Battle of Lepanto, where, in 1571, the Christian fleet headed by Don Juan of Austria turned back the Turks. Can you imagine any of those Catholics putting out to sea to save McBrien's brand of Christianity?
No, what they tried to save then--and were successful in saving--was the kind of Christianity promoted today by John Paul II, by Bishop Daily, and by many others written off by McBrien.
What are we driving at? There are "name" theologians who no longer represent (to use a term they like) a "viable" form of Christianity. To follow them is to go nowhere. To follow the Slav successor to Peter is to go where God wants us to go.
Does that sound corny, unsophisticated, "irrelevant"? Maybe so, but just keep in mind that you'll look in vain for a Beatitude that says, "Blessed are the relevant."
There's also no truth to the rumor that Loraine Boettner appeared to Bart Brewer in a vision and, from his place in the hereafter, advised Brewer to pray the rosary.
Christianity Today reported [March 19, 1990] that Evangelicals in Mexico have been attacked by mobs of Catholics:
"[A]n interdenominational prayer meeting attended by some 160 evangelicals in the Mexico City area was violently broken up by a mob of several thousand Catholics armed with stones, machetes, and sticks....Townspeople were reportedly told the group consisted of squatters who had come to steal their land....Catholic officials in the neighboring suburbs...have made it clear that evangelicals are not welcome."
What really happened? It's hard to say. Part of the problem, no doubt, is a kind of yanqui religious imperialism: Protestant missionaries bringing American cash to convert "unsaved" Mexicans to "real" Christianity.
Unlike the U.S., Mexico is culturally Catholic (even if Mass attendance is low), and this is especially true among the poor. American missionaries are seen not just as religious outsiders, but as cultural outsiders.
We don't approve of violence by either side, but we are suspending our judgment until more of the facts are in. It just seems unlikely that Mexican Catholics are going after Evangelicals merely because they dislike their religion. We suspect something else (or at least something more) is involved.
When we learn about the gung-ho activities of certain "Bible Christians," we sometimes get a bit depressed. Why aren't Catholics doing similar things? A case in point:
South Padre Island, Texas is the place to go on spring break. Each March 100,000 college students descend on the resort area, most of them to get drunk, some of them to get "saved." The drinking they do on their own. The "saving" is done by the congregants from Island Baptist Church.
Had too much to drink? Then call the church's hotline. One of five vans will pick you up and take you back to your hotel. While in the van you'll be preached at by two Baptist students. Last year 8,000 drunkards were picked up and preached at.
Do you think that's pushy? Then consider the church's team of party crashers. They "invite" themselves to private parties, ask the host to turn the music off, and then give a "personal testimony." Conversions result.
No one is neglected. Are students out in the water, waiting for the perfect wave? Baptist surfers swim out to them and share the good news while hangin' ten.
On the beach Island Baptist sets up "burnt-aid stations." If the sun has cooked you to a bright red, stop by for complimentary water and aloe--and a complimentary spiel. Each day 700 students hear about Christ this way.
At the end of the week the church has baptisms right on the beach. Each time a new convert comes out of the water, the crowd cheers. Granted, there are never many baptisms--only five last year--but about 300 students last year "made a commitment to Christ."
How many of these "took"? It's hard to say, but no doubt today, a year later, some of those instant converts still practice their new faith. (Their names were sent to churches near their schools so there could be follow-up.)
Okay, so you'd feel foolish being a "surfer for Christ" or aren't inclined to help pass out 75,000 hotline cards. But you have to admit these Baptists are doing something, which is more than can be said for many Catholics.
Think of the great disadvantage the Baptists work under: Theirs isn't the Church Jesus established, and they don't believe everything he taught. What they have to offer is only a partial, not a complete, Christianity. Yet they're having measurable success.
They know that students who take their spring breaks at places like South Padre Island are at a spiritual dead-end. When they meet up with these students about four days into the week (that is, when they're beginning to tire), the students are starting to admit to themselves that they need something more than suds.
All in all, Island Baptist Church has a clever ministry, one from which we could take a cue. After all, not only are there more of us--we far outnumber the Baptists--but we have complete Christianity to offer students. So why don't we do it?
Of course, reading the breviary and praying the rosary are fine things, and we highly recommend them to ex-priest Bart Brewer, but he never takes our advice.
Christendom College will be holding a summer institute in apologetics from June 18 through July 23. College credit can be arranged. Speakers include Christendom staffers Timothy O'Donnell (who is dean of the summer institute), Warren Carroll, and Damian Fedoryka. Outside lecturers include Fr. William Most, Peter Kreeft, and Karl Keating. In all there will be at least a dozen top Catholics giving presentations.
For information, you should either call Mark C. McShurley at (703) 636-2900 or write to the Christendom College Summer Institute, 2101 Shenandoah Shores Road, Front Royal, Virginia 22630.
The Franciscan University of Steubenville will have its own summer conference, but its will be shorter than Christendom's. Titled "Defending the Faith," the institute will run from June 1-3. Speakers include Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, Paul C. Vitz, Ronda Chervin, Alan Schreck, Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Keith Fournier, Chris Noble, Peter Kreeft, and Karl Keating.
Topics range from the psychology of unbelief to the need for moral authority, from purgatory to Peter and the papacy, from justification to apologetics in the marketplace.
For further information phone (614) 283-6314 or write to the Christian Conference Office, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, Ohio 43952.
Scripture scholar William Farmer, who lectures on the New Testament at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, has converted to the Catholic faith. Farmer is best known for The Synoptic Problem, a book in which he casts off one of the "assured results of modern biblical scholarship."
In that work and others Farmer has argued that Mark was not the first of the synoptic Gospels to be written. Instead, the order of the synoptics, according to Farmer, really was this: Matthew, Luke, then Mark. This is called the Griesbach hypothesis, after the eighteenth-century scholar who first popularized it.
The traditional ordering of the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and then Luke) is known as the Augustinian hypothesis. It still has backers among scholars, but it may be in third place if scholarly heads are counted.
Most scholars today, both Protestant and Catholic, adhere to Markan priority: first Mark, then Matthew and Luke (more or less together). This isn't a new theory. It was developed by German Protestants in the nineteenth century and gradually came to be accepted as "gospel truth."
But as the position of Markan priority was developed--along with its necessary adjunct, the notion that Matthew and Luke were dependent not just on Mark, but on a document commonly called "Q" (from the German Quelle, "source")--immense difficulties arose. The hypothesis seemed, to more and more people, to be internally contradictory--that is, any one of its necessary subpoints seemed to contradict some other necessary subpoint.
Thus there has been a renewed interest not just in the Griesbach hypothesis, but even in the Augustinian hypothesis.
Where are things heading? It's hard to say with any finality, but it looks as if the theory of Markan priority is the wave of the past. The more study that's put into it, the more glaring its defects appear.
Yes, many scholars, having devoted their professional lives and reputations to this position, are reluctant to abandon it, but increased numbers are doing just that. It's probably fair to say that in the next decade we'll see greater respect given to both the Griesbach and Augustinian positions, even while the Markan position moves ahead on the momentum it's built up over the years.
That momentum may dissipate more rapidly than many people suspect, as older scholars, who back Markan priority, retire and find their places taken by younger scholars who, influenced by writers such as William Farmer, aren't at all convinced that the "assured results" of modern scriptural scholarship are as infallible as some people think.
We reported two issues ago that Mission to Catholics International, one of the chief anti-Catholic groups in the country, is trying to raise funds for a new building. It will house the ministry's offices, will serve as a half-way house for converting priests and religious, and will also include a School of Roman Catholic Evangelism.
Naturally, we're not looking forward to such a building project (frankly, we'd like to see Mission to Catholics go out of business), since it will cause mischief by extending anti-Catholicism's outreach.
Our spirits were raised slightly when we learned that in March contributions to the building fund totaled less than a thousand dollars. The goal is $65,000, the amount needed to begin construction, and about $10,000 of that has been contributed so far.
Another encouraging sign: Beginning in March Mission to Catholics had to start making interest as well as principal payments on the loan taken out to purchase the property. The result: lower income and higher outgo. This suits us just fine, since we hope the School for Roman Catholic Evangelism never gets off the drawing board.
Come to think of it, even if Bart Brewer doesn't take up the breviary and rosary again, maybe more of us should turn to them--and to other prayers as well--if for no other reason than that prayer works.
After all, what's happening in Central and Eastern Europe has been as much a consequence of prayer as of politics and economics. In fact, you'd be safe to conclude prayer has had more to do with the changes than has anything else. Yes, most people won't admit that, since they don't believe in the efficacy of prayer (having prayed for riches and not received them), but truth isn't determined by majority vote. We shouldn't let ourselves get discouraged; there's nothing wrong with being in a minority.
If anyone hears of further sightings of Loraine Boettner or Walter Martin, please let us know. These guys are Catholics now, as are all the dead, and we'd very much like to know how St. Peter greeted them.