Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian Servant

Author: Fr. William Most


P. 2: "I hope it will be apparent to all that this book was not written to present Catholicism as the only legitimate form of Christianity and certainly not to criticize [sic] other Christians, nor to 'prove them wrong' in their beliefs."

COMMENT: All other forms of Christianity are heretical and/or schismatic. They are not legitimate. And we should criticize them and prove them wrong in their heresies.

Pope Gregory XVI (DS 2730. Cf. Pius IX, DS 2915. Leo XIII, DS 3250) condemned "an evil opinion that souls can attain eternal salvation by just any profession of faith, if their morals follow the right norm."

P. 3: ". . . we will assume that any perceived errors in the life or doctrine of other Christians are honest errors that any good Christian could make."

COMMENT: We grant most Protestants are in good faith - but we must not say that their errors are relatively minor. They deal with the very heart of the truth. Luther taught justification by faith - but did not know what St. Paul meant by that word faith. He thought it meant confidence that the merits of Christ apply to me -- there is no scholarly support at all for this. Instead Paul means: 1) belief in God's revelation' 2) confidence in His promises; 3) obedience to His commands (Rom 1:5) , all done ion love. Very different from Luther. So the very basis of his church is gone. Luther rejected the teaching authority of the Church. Luther taught, in "Epistle" 501: "Even if you sin greatly, believe still more greatly." One need not do anything if he has sinned, just believe it is all paid for. These are not small or honest errors. Objectively all outside have an obligation to investigate and find the truth. We should not make them comfortable in their errors by saying it is just an honest error that any good Christian could make.

P. 63: "'The Decree on Ecumenism' states that the worship and liturgical actions of other Christian bodies 'can truly engender a life of grace and can be rightly described as capable of providing access to the community of salvation.'"

COMMENT: The quote is from "On Ecumenism" 3. But sadly, it quotes only part of the sentence, omitting context, and supplies a subject not in the original, namely "the worship and liturgical actions of other Christian bodies." Here is the actual text of the Decree: "In addition, out of the elements or goods by which, taken together, the Church herself is build up and made alive, certain things, or rather many and excellent things can exist outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church: The written Word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and love, and other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit and visible elements: all these things, which come from Christ and lead to Him, belong to the one-only Church of Christ. Even not a few sacred actions of the Christian religion are carried out among the brothers separated from us. . . which beyond doubt can really generate the life of grace, and are to be said to be apt to open the entry into the community of salvation." We notice the things mentioned: (1) Scripture -- Protestants read it. (2) the life of grace-- yes, one can reach the state of grace without formally entering the Catholic Church, as "Lumen gentium" 16 says: "They who without fault do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with a sincere heart, and try with the help of grace to fulfill his will, known through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation." Even pagans can do this. (3) faith - yes, outsiders can have faith, at least if they are not misled by Luther's great error on what faith is. (4) hope and love - again, even a pagan may attain these. (5) other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit-- yes, if outsiders reach the state of grace, they also have the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (6) and visible elements - Baptism if validly given. BUT We must note the next words in the decree: " all these things. . . belong to the one-only Church of Christ." In other words, it is not a protestant church as protestant that can provide these things -these are things that belong to the Catholic Church, which the Protestants have not completely rejected. (7) The next sentence says some religious actions are carried out in protestantism which can really generate the life of grace. Yes, Baptism does that. Reading of Scripture, prayers, and other things enumerated above in the first 6 items can do that. But again, it is not protestant worship as protestant that gives grace -- it is things the protestants have retained even after breaking with the one-only Church of Christ. As the previous sentence said: "The Decree continues in the next sentence cited above: "they belong to the one-only Church of Christ."

To take the words as Schreck does would violate the condemnations of Gregory XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII cited above.

P. 62: (in this order to put it into the context of p. 63 just studied): "The Second Vatican Council does not make a distinction between a 'true church' (the Catholic Church) , and other 'false churches, '. . . . this means that Catholics can honestly approach other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, without necessarily having in mind 'bringing them back to the fold' of the Catholic Church."

COMMENT: So, Schreck does not see a need to work for conversion - just leave them where they are. The same section of the decree does say that those validly baptized "are incorporated in Christ. . . and are rightly recognized by the sons of the Catholic Church as brother in the Lord." To be incorporated into Christ means to become a member of Christ, that is, a member of His Mystical Body. But that Mystical Body is the Catholic Church. So validly baptized Protestants even though they do not know it are really members of the Catholic Church, and as such can be called separated brothers. But we should try to get them out of their dangerous errors, which can bring eternal ruin - cf. the major errors of Luther mentioned above.

P. 166: ". . . the Gospel of Mark, probably the earliest Gospel written, presents Mary in a seemingly negative light, as one of Jesus' relatives who did not understand him or his mission. This is not surprising; according to Mark's Gospel, no one really understood Jesus or his mission, not even his closest apostles, until his crucifixion.

COMMENT: 1) The passage in mind is Mark 3. 20-35. Schreck does not mention that there are obviously three segments in this passage: (a) 20-21: The "hoi par' autou" see He does not take time out to eat. They say He is beside Himself, they go out to grab Him. ) b) 22-30: Scribes charge He casts out satan by satan. (c) 31-35: His Mother and relatives come to a crowd where He is speaking. It is announced to Him. He says: Who is my Mother and my Brothers? He who does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me."

2) Schreck assumed without proof that the "hoi par' autou," those about Him, included His Mother. This is not impossible, but Schreck says it flatly, without proof. Further, Schreck ignores the fact of three segments. Form Criticism has shown many times over that some Gospel passages are put together out of three once independent units. Therefore we cannot be at all sure that since His Mother is there in segment 3, she is also meant in segment 1. This is especially so in view of the odd, and unconnected second segment, which is very long compared to the other two segments.

3) Schreck also assumes not only that she is part of the group in segment 1 - far from proved- but also that she did not understand Him. The fact that the slow Apostles did not, does not prove she did not. But much more,

Schreck, like Brown and others, in violation of Vatican II, On Revelation paragraph 12, ignores the relation of one Gospel to another. Luke clearly presents her as the first believer - how then is she now lacking in faith? Still further, Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" paragraph 56 says that at the start, at the annunciation, "embracing the saving will of God, with full heart and held back by no sin, she totally dedicated herself to the person and work of her Son."

4) Schreck makes her less than an ordinary Mother. An ordinary Mother, even when her son is clearly in the wrong, commonly stands up for him. Schreck is sure Our Lady did not, that she did not believe in Him. Even if we conceded she may have been in the group of segment 1, it does not follow that she went along with them in disbelief. She might well have gone along to try to hold the others down! 5) As for the words that whoever does the will of God is Mother and brother etc. -- Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" paragraph 58 says that He while saying the kingdom is higher than reasons of flesh, "proclaimed blessed those who heard and kept the word of God, just as she was faithfully doing. Yes, one category is higher than the other- but she is at the peak in both! So Schreck, who strains so much to give a favorable light on protestants, strains in the opposite direction to give an unfortunate image of her at this point.

P. 11. A quote from "Kilian McDonnell, O. S. B.": "Indeed the historical churches, Catholic and Protestant, owe a debt to classical Pentecostals for witnessing to the role of the spirit and his gifts." This is said to be necessary for the "full gospel".

COMMENTS: Kilian McDonnell, on p. 1 is called "leading Catholic ecumenist." He is also a leading Charismatic - one of the editors of "Fanning the Flame," Liturgical Press, 1991. Both that booklet and Schreck's work are striving hard to convince all that charismatic things are needed for the "full gospel." They seem to say that charismatic phenomena are merely the actualization of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, received at Baptism.

We need some distinctions here: In the broad sense, all graces are gifts from the Holy Spirit. But there are two major categories: (1) Sanctifying graces - these are aimed at the sanctification of the recipient. The term Gifts of the Holy Spirit normally refers to these; (2) charismatic graces - these are aimed at some benefit for the community, not directly for the sanctification of the recipient. Here are such things as tongues, praying in tongues, healing the sick.

The kind of phenomena we see at charismatic meetings definitely belong to the charismatic category - no sign of the sanctifying features regularly called effects of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Surely, no instances of infused contemplation being given "en masse" - it never is so given - nor routinely. The phenomena are tongues, praying in tongues, healing etc. These are very definitely part of the charismatic category, not the sanctifying category. So they are not an actualization of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which belong to the sanctifying category. Schreck has jumped categories.

Further, the mass phenomena of praying in tongues does not readily fit with St. Paul's injunctions in 1 Cor 14:27-28 where Paul specifies that no more than two should speak in tongues, and then only one at time, and only if there is someone to interpret. The rule is wise - there are cases where persons who knew the needed languages went to a charismatic gathering - they found some did praise God well, while others cursed Him. And letting many at a time speak in tongues hardly fits with St. Paul. Yes, I know they say that there is difference between praying in tongues and speaking in tongues. The distinction is probably not important. As we said above, there have been cases where charismatics have been cursing God, without knowing what they were doing.

So the thrust to at least imply all Catholics should be charismatic is invalid. The booklet, "Fanning the Flame," cites a few Patristic texts to try to prove the same thing - that we have been neglecting things needed for the "full gospel". (We will return to these texts presently) . But the texts are insufficient, because few, and not always clear. As we said, there are two kinds of charismatic graces - the ordinary and the extraordinary. The latter are such things as tongues, healing the sick, prophecy. But the ordinary are given to everyone, such as the grace to be a good parent, a good teacher, a good speaker etc. Schreck and "Fanning the Flame" seem to mean the extraordinary type.

Something frightening: Our Lord Himself warned (Mt 7. 22-23) that on the last day He will reject many who worked miracles: "Many will say to me on that day: 'Have we not prophesied in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and done mighty works in your name' - and then I will confess to them: 'Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you. '" So those with extraordinary gifts may not even be in the state of grace - much less having the actualization of sanctifying graces!

Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" 13 said: "These charisms, whether the most brilliant or even the more simply and widely diffused, since they are well accommodated to the needs of the Church, are to be received with thanks and consolation. However, the extraordinary ones are not to be rashly sought, nor should fruits of apostolic works be presumptuously expected of them." [underline added]. Such things as tongues, healing, miracles etc. are extraordinary. The Council said they are not to be rashly sought - which is very different from saying all Catholics must have them or they will lack something needed for the "full gospel".

As to the Patristic texts, as we said, they are few. Fairly clear are those of Tertullian, St. Hilary, St. Cyril of Jerusalem. But the booklet admits on p. 18 that: "Both Basil of Caesarea. . . and Gregory Nazianzus. . . situate the prophetic charisms within the Christian initiation, though they are more reserved in their regard than Paul." No quotes are given. Then we see a remarkable admission on St. John Chrysostom, quoted on the same page, "Chrysostom complained, however 'the charisms are long gone.'" St. Augustine, in "City of God" (21. 5), has to argue strongly that miracles are possible, against those in his day who denied the possibility. He says that if they want to say the Apostles converted the world without any miracles - that would be a great miracle. If there were miraculous gifts commonly around, Augustine would have merely pointed to them. But he did not.

As to a debt to classical Pentecostals - in the first decade of this century a group of Protestants claimed to have miraculous charisms in abundance. The main Protestant churches did not receive them well, so they did the usual Protestant thing, they established splinter churches, such as the Holy Rollers. More recently, perhaps 20 years ago, a group of Catholics, precisely by contact with the Protestant Pentecostals, began to claim abundant gifts again. These gifts were routine in the day of St. Paul - but they faded by the middle of the next century, when the heretical Montanists claimed to have them in profusion. And that was the pattern throughout the ages. Thus the Albigensians claimed them again.