November 30, 2020

Thoughts On A day of Catholic Radio


MOD: Thank you to all who contributed comments on this post. Obviously we are not going to resolve all of our questions about church history, Roman Catholicism, the Reformation, and Eastern Orthodoxy in a single blog post about a day of listening to Catholic media. The journey will continue, but for now, comments on this post are closed. Peace.

Thanks for prayers for health. I am feeling God’s goodness and kindness each day. Still several days away from any kind of information I can share. Continue praying. I love you and count myself blessed a thousand times to be surrounded by so many who will pray for me.

I spent the entire day yesterday listening to Catholic radio. I took in EWTN and Ave Maria in about equal portions, along with a couple of archived hours of Catholic Answers. I thought it would be interesting to the IM audience today to hear some of my thoughts on the “Catholic radio” experience.

Let me say a couple of things. First, some good Catholic friends have told me not to do this. Not because it is counter-productive as much as simply a bit distorted in its picture of the Church. EWTN is one kind of American Catholic experience, but it’s very much its own culture and flavor. There is lots more going on, some not as conservative, some far deeper and richer in flavor. I hope I counted all of this as I reflected on what I was hearing.

Secondly, I’m very open to what Catholicism has to say. I’m about as soft a sell as you could find right now. My own evangelicalism has made its case to me and while I remain part of the evangelical community, I am not manning the ramparts with weapons. I’m opening windows and doors, actively inviting in the voices of non-evangelical Christians and their experience of Christ.

Third, it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday, so I heard a lot of discussion of Mary.

So here are some of my reflections. No particular order or significance to placement.

1. The broadcast of the mass of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. was very impressive. With all the theological questions that come along with this emphasis, the beauty, majesty and antiquity of the Catholic faith comes across. Evangelicals these days, given an hour or so of similar time, would….what? Contemporary music with a celebrity sermon? We could, within our resources, present a wonderful and beautiful worship experience, but one wonders if it would ever get past the discussions of contemporary music. etc.

2. Likewise, there are some embarrassing and ignorant goof-balls who have managed to corner an hour of Catholic radio. If anyone thinks that evangelicals or fundamentalists have a corner on this market, you are quite wrong. They are waiting for you on the other side.

3. It doesn’t seem that a majority of the voices I heard on a day of Catholic radio have a sense of how the church itself, and the mysteries of Christ, the church and personal faith, are experienced differently in Roman Catholic spirituality as compared to Protestantism. The reformation isn’t just a historical and doctrinal event. There has developed a significantly different experience of the church, the Gospel and the Christian life in these two traditions. It’s not simply a multiple choice question, but two very different ways of living, trusting and being a Christian. Overlooking this is a real mistake. It isn’t easy to talk about, but I’m convinced that, at the end of the day, it has to be counted far more important than most make it.

4. Catholic Answers’ apologists answer a huge number of marriage related questions. It’s simply quite extraordinary. Sometimes half the questions offered to a Catholic Answers apologist are marriage related. Is there a better place to work these things out than the radio? The impression this leaves with a Protestant is poor.

5. Catholic Answers’ apologists, at least as I have heard them on this day and many others, vary widely in quality, and some of them are quite weak. Jimmy Akin is CA’s senior apologist. A caller asked him about Mary’s behavior toward Jesus in Mark 3. He was stumped. Speechless. He sounded as if he hadn’t read up on this passage in years. Eventually, after a couple of extended silences, he resorted to appealing to “nuances in translation,” a far too frequent apologetic hide out for the unprepared. I know this passage well from teaching Mark. I could have answered- in a Catholic friendly way- in a minute. Unimpressive and indicative that, as I’ve said, the wrong emphasis is often implied in this kind of Catholic argumentation.

6. Fr. Benedict Groeschel did an hour long presentation on the Immaculate Conception. He’s simple and quite excellent, and I say that counting in what scholarship has to say, what the early church fathers contribute and where the teaching authority of the church steps in to define dogma. Fr. Groeschel understands them all, gives them the proper emphasis and never- never!- tries to argue an evangelical into seeing that this doctrine is plainly taught in scripture. Even Luther and Calvin believed it by way of Augustine. When one meets a Catholic who deals with his/her own beliefs in the context of how the Catholic church actually holds the faith, everything works much better. The voices that act as if these things are simply matters of argument about scripture and that’s all are not helpful.

7. Scott Hahn may not be the scholarly heavyweight that the RCC in America make him out to be, but he really is a gift to the RCC. Few people in evangelicalism could do what he does with scripture, tradition and experience in such a winsome way. His evident joy in his journey goes along with his enthusiasm for the Bible in Catholicism and results in a very glad witness.

8. More than a few people at Catholic Answers/EWTN need to re-read the Vatican II documents on ecumenism and make up their minds whether they plan to present the church’s views accurately or not. At times, it seemed to me that some persons were ready to go to the rack rather than say “separated brethren.” Bizarre.

Your thoughts and responses to my impressions are welcome.


  1. It makes you wonder what evangelical radio would be like if some of these same comments were applied to it. Rather than building their own little media empires and egos, what if evangelicals used radio time to talk about Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Wesley, C.S. Lewis, etc? Hard to make money on public domain writings, I guess…

  2. I’m an Orthodox Christian who surfed over out of curiosity after reading Patrick Madrid’s blog. An absolutely delightful experience, to see Protestants and Roman Catholics discussing issues in such a positive and mutually-respectful tone! Then farther along I was chagrined to see flashes of acrimony between a Catholic and an Orthodox believer (or perhaps simply an Orthodox “defender”!).

    The old disagreements still fester, and for important, substantive reasons, but I can only pray – and I do daily – that the Holy Spirit will work within Pope Benedict and our Orthodox hierarchs in such a way that we may again become one Holy and Apostolic Church of those who believe and commune in the True Presence, along with our long-separated Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian brethren. Wishful thinking, perhaps – but definitely a fervent prayer. I’m Orthodox to the core, but I’m also the only Greek Orthodox I know with a “Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club” beer stein.

    But back to the original point: I enjoy EWTN programming a great deal, particularly Fr. Groeschel and Fr. Pacwa. I’m also enthusiastic about Patrick Madrid. He comes across as a thoroughly decent and caring man, and an excellent RC apologist. Scott Hahn is very learned, careful and clear in his reasoning – and kind. I respect and get a real kick out of Fr. Corapi – he’s sometimes a bit over the top in the flair and dramatic delivery departments, but I know he’s sincere. He’s fighting the good fight against a common enemy, and I can enthusiastically second much of what he says.

    I understand and don’t get too ruffled when the apologists misrepresent or overlook the Orthodox Church – it’s their show, after all – but Jimmy Aiken gets switched off when I hear him assuring his Catholic listeners that it’s OK for them to take communion in an Orthodox liturgy (under certain circumstances), but neglects to mention – or perhaps care – that it’s definitely NOT OK as far as the Orthodox are concerned. As if the Orthodox opinion doesn’t count. That re-opens old wounds, I’m afraid, which does not speak well of me, to be sure. But I could easily listen to Catholic radio all day, Michael – with much more pleasure and (I believe) profit than any Evangelical programming I have encountered.

    I suppose it all boils down to issues of depth, humility and love. The ancient churches flow broad and very, very deep, and I can expect to find discussions that display a cognizance of scripture AS WELL AS familiarity with the post-apostolic fathers, the lives of the saints, a deep devotion to the Theotokos, and 1500 years of church history and thought that I look for in vain in Evangelical programming. Huge differences still exist between the Eastern and Roman churches – in theology and practice, ethos and overall mindset, but I find the articulate expressions of those differences enlightening and very engaging.

    I have to admit that some of the EWTN apologists seem to come up a bit short in the humility department, at least as compared to many Orthodox broadcasters. And humility doesn’t seem to even be on the Evangelicals’ radar screen, but maybe I’m not listening to the right programs. Perhaps most importantly, I catch glimpses of profound, life-changing love for our Lord and for every one of His children as expressed by Fr. Groeschel and Fr. Pacwa, which helps me to feel a little more “at home” in spite of all the Western theologizing, hairsplitting and bravado.

    I agree with you about the distressing prominence of marriage-related questions and resulting strife and confusion on EWTN. The Orthodox approach marriage difficulties very differently – I would say with every bit as much concern and pain when things are not working out, but with – dare I say? – what seems to me to be a great deal more individual focus, and pastoral approachability and flexibility on the local level. From inside the Church, it comes across as much more loving, and less structural and legal. But I would never allow myself to interpret the hearts of the RC hierarchs and say that the Orthodox priests and bishops love more and the RC less. I can only believe that they are expressing real love, and concern for their parishioners’ eternal welfare, by applying the canon law of the Roman church in the way they are instructed. And that canon law is complex enough that many, many callers are desperate for solid information.

    As far as Orthodox programming goes, I second the recommendations of dear Fr. Stephen Freeman’s podcast/blogs (“Glory to God”), as well as many of the other offerings to be found on Ancient Faith Radio. Michael Gallatin is another good one. I particularly like the easy going, couple-of-guys-chatting approach of the two broadcasters in “Our Life in Christ”.

    Michael, I can’t assess whether Catholics have a good understanding of Protestantism. I KNOW that many Orthodox – especially those in Orthodox countries who have limited or no contact with actual Protestant believers – can have a very distorted view of Protestantism, and a real, visceral and perhaps justified fear of Protestants and their growing influence in Orthodox countries – especially in those countries whose populations have been so traumatized (and so abysmally catechized) after generations of communism and the martyrdom of thousands upon thousands of Orthodox Christians. They form their views of Protestantism from popular culture or alarmist media reports of the antics and beliefs of some of the wackier of the 30,000-plus denominations or sects, without seeing first-hand the deep love of Christ and the scriptures that so many Protestants hold.

    I suppose I’ve blathered on too long. Thank you for a great blog, Michael – you’ve attracted a marvelous group of commentators. Here’s an impertinent suggestion from an absolute newbie: how about going on a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos – the Holy Mountain – and writing about it? I’d love to hear the thoughts of a Baptist iMonk after an encounter with some heavy-duty hagiorites! We’re talking monks’ monks here…an incredible experience, to be undertaken only after some serious preparation.

  3. Michael, I will pray for your swift recovery. I do not mean this as an apologetic, as my road seems to be leading me to the “via media” of “Oxford Movement” style Anglo-Catholicism, but do you ever listen to the Orthodox podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio or Fr. Stephen Freeman on AFR, who someone else mentioned, seems to have an incredibly sweet spirit. I think you’d find these podcasts miles from the dreadfully catechized Ethiopian Orthodox student you’ve mentioned in previous posts. If you find any audio by Kallistos Ware, jump at it. Even though I’m not Orthodox, his talks and writing about the love of God went a long way toward saving my faith when I was seriously considering tossing my hands up in despair. Their really seems to be a very irenic tone among many of the Orthodox podcasters on these two sites, especially compared to what you have described of RC radio in this post. Of course, many Google searches for Orthodox topics will bring up orthodoxinfo . org, which you’ll want to avoid like the plague unless you want to hear a lot of ranting about church calendars, beard length, and “true” Orthodoxy.

  4. I wish EWTN represented the church in America as it really is, my experience as a convert has been isolation, institutionalism, liberalism gone wild. Yes I love Mass, but the communion of the saints that we speak about is lost in fundraisers and funerals. It was much easier when I had my camp of like minded zealots. I have groan personaly but the growth has been like learning how to live with chronic back pain. To all considering the cross, all the standard hangups were for me no big deal once I was in, but when I entered the church I woke to a progressive liberal communion, this has been a sentence of suffering for me, to other christians perhaps liberation from rigidity. I think of Scott Hahn teaching in his conservative charasmatic bubble glorying in the joy of Rome and asking myself how Scott would fair if he had to sit in the pew and submit to the Rome I live with.

  5. I’m curious about the supposed implications of Mark 3. iMonk seems to suggest that Jimmy Akin did a lame job responding to a question about it. Fair enough; I’ve heard Jimmy Akin respond in an outstanding way to a lot of questions, but everyone can have a bad day.

    But what was the question? I don’t see anything much in Mark 3 that can be ginned up into an argument against a Catholic dogma without a lot of stretching. Had I been in Akin’s shoes, far from scrambling for an answer to a serious challenge I’d never previously heard, I might instead have been nonplussed, straining to understand why the passage was raised as a challenge at all.

    R.C. is my initials, BTW. I’m not trying to contrast myself from “Not RC.” Although, I have to admit that he’s not me and I’m not him we are not all together and neither of us is the walrus, goo goo g’joob.


    Anyone want to let me know about this Mark 3 issue?

    • I would assume, R.C., that the standard apologetic issue raised by Mark 3 is the presence of “brothers” and, in some translations, “sisters” of Jesus, and how that jives with the supposed “Perpetual Virginity” of Mary. There are, as Michael hinted, standard Catholic responses to this typical Protestant objection.

      However, of much greater interest to me, and I think much more confounding for the Catholic elevation of Mary, is why the family of Jesus is mentioned at all. In Mark 2:15, we are told that Jesus was followed by, and ate his meals with, many “tax collectors and sinners”. In chapter 2 and 3 he repudiates the religious authorities, and their Sabbath regulations. In 3:13 he selects an inner circle of disciples – as if this “carpenter from Nazareth” believed himself to be some sort of Rabbi. He’s already performed healings and miracles, and cast out demons, by this point as well. So all of that brings us to 3:21, where “when his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind’ “. The implication is that he is bringing *shame* upon his family within their community, and they’ve set out to put a stop to it. We would say, today, that he was “giving them a bad name”, although the consequences were much more serious in their culture.

      The culmination of this familial strife begins at 3:31, where it’s made explicit that his “family” is his *mother* and brothers, who won’t even make themselves fully known by coming to Jesus personally, so great is the potential for increased social shame. Instead they send an envoy to deliver their message, which you can bet was a bit more wordy than “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” Jesus’ reply to this, as is so often the case in the Gospels, is deeply ironic and implicating, once you know the context.

      All that to say, unless you believe that Mary is utterly opposed to the family’s behavior the whole time, but powerless to stop it, then you have to assume that *she is ashamed* of her son as well – and therefore much more concerned, at least at that moment, about her status in the eyes of her neighbors, than doing, and allowing Jesus to do, as he says, “the will of God”. This flies in the face of what I gather to be the Catholic position – that is, that based on Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, sanctifying grace from birth, sinless life, etc., she fully cooperated with and supported Jesus at every moment of his mission and purpose, never attempting to obstruct the Father’s will for the Son. Not so here, it would seem. Her nature appears to be as fallen as all the rest of humanity.

      This interpretation takes no “stretching” at all, as I see it. It’s clearly what Mark is implying.

      • Charles, you got a lot out of those passages that I did not get! Concerning MK3:21, I looked at four different translations to see how “family” was translated. Two of them said family, one said friends and one said those close to him. I have the Latin but since I don’t read Latin, I cannot say how it was phrased there. So, there can be discussion as to just who were the people that were concerned about Christ’s sanity.

        Moving on to MK3:31, I saw no expression of shame mentioned or that the Blessed Mother sent an envoy. It said that the Blessed Mother and Christ’s brethren were standing outside shouting for him and the crowd inside passed on the message to Jesus that his mother and brethren were outside. Not to mention that there was nothing to connect them as being the family in the earlier passage. It is entirely possible that this second group had heard about the first group’s reaction and came to show their support for Christ. It could easily be read either way and we don’t know for sure from merely reading the text.

        Here are some quotes from the Navarre Bible Commentary on these passages:

        “Jesus did not say this to disown his mother, but to show that she is worthy of honour not only on account of having given birth to Jesus, but also because she has all the virtues” (Theophylact, Ennarratio in Evengelium Marci, in loc.)

        “Therefore, the Church reminds us that the Blessed Virgin ‘in the course of her Son’s preaching received the words whereby, in extolling a kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God as she was faithfully doing'” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 58).

        Also, to state that the Blessed Mother is sinless, does not mean that she was also omniscient. Scripture shows, as in the Annunciation and the finding of Christ in the Temple, that, at times, she does not fully understand what God is saying or expecting, so she asks. When it is explained, however, she is totally obedient. There are times in Scripture, as in the wedding feast at Cana, when we see that she clearly understands what is to happen and reveals that to her Son by her encouragement. She is fully human with all the limitations that entails but those limitations are not sin.

        Thank you for promoting this discussion of our Lady on such a beautiful feast day–Our Lady of Guadalupe!

        • Thanks for the feedback, Lauretta. You’re right that the phrase in 3:21 is ambiguous – thanks for noting it. I’m sure you’re aware that the NT was written in Greek, not Latin, but in the Greek it is literally “those from among him” or “those belonging to him” (or something like that), apparently a common phrase for “family” or “relatives”. That’s my own reading, which is admittedly poor, and heavily dependent on the standard lexicon!

          On the “envoy” issue in verse 31, I’m simply following what seems to be the plain sense of the language. In other words, I don’t see “shouting” implied in any of the following translations. On the contrary, I see the party wishing to avoid over-publicizing its presence:

          The New American Bible:

          31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
          32 A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers 12 (and your sisters) are outside asking for you.”

          The New Jerusalem Bible:

          31 Now his mother and his brothers arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him.
          32 A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Look, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’

          The NASB, the most literal “Protestant” Bible:

          31 Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”

          However, I’ll even admit that this is ambiguous as well. But how one takes either of these issues is really irrelevant. Cultural context – and Jesus’ reply – make the meaning apparent. It is well known that the ancient Mediterranean world, including Israel/Palestine, was thoroughly saturated (as it is to a lesser degree today) in values of honor and shame. These cultural values informed almost everything that was done publicly. This is what frustrates me in discussions with Catholics, especially when it comes to Mary. You seem to speak as if Mary existed in a cultural vacuum, completely insulated from any prejudiced influence of fallen society. Her behavior in the Gospels, however, often makes her seem as much a slave to her culture as anyone around her. To use your example, at the Wedding of Cana, far from “schooling” Jesus on the Father’s will, she is simply saving face: “Son, they’re running out of wine, they [or we, or both] are gonna look like fools!”

          As I mentioned, Jesus’ reply in Mark 3 makes this clear. Since Jesus, as we see time and time again, was *not* a slave to his culture, and constantly challenged the reigning assumptions of the day, he does not do what is expected of him – ie., getting up, leaving at once with his family, making appropriate penance for his “bad behavior, and trying to rebuild his, and his family’s, honor. Instead, in a statement thick with irony, he declares that his true family are the ones who obey God rather than the blind dictates of human culture. It’s ironic because what his family is apparently expecting of him would be a major hindrance to the progress of the will of God in Jesus. He knows this, and I’m sure the message wasn’t completely lost on everyone that day.

          This bucking of the honor game, by the way, helps to explain why Jesus’ followers included so many of the “marginalized” of society, as the game itself often served the ends of the rich and powerful, and the maintenance of whatever honorable status they had. There was very little “upward mobility” in that environment. Jesus message was attractive because in part it said “That’s okay, you don’t need it! You have access to God’s Kingdom anyway. Blessed are you.”

          Jesus’ statements in Mark 3:31-35 really make no sense without considering the context of honor and shame.

          • You are right, Charles, that the cultural context is very important to keep in mind when one is reading the Scriptures and that is something that we Catholics complain about non-Catholics not understanding as well!

            It is interesting to see how Christ operated in this cultural climate. There can seem to be somewhat of a tension between his doing that which the culture dictates and that which is the will of God beginning from the time of his conception. If one looks at that event, one can see the difficulty that Mary and Joseph faced due to cultural mores. If I remember correctly, and I am not a scholar by any means but merely a Christian who has striven on my own to understand the faith, the correct “punishment” for a woman who became pregnant by someone other than he to whom she was betrothed , was stoning. Imagine the shame for Joseph upon being told that piece of news. Scripture says that he decided to divorce her quietly but chose not to after the angel assured him that all was well. There has been speculation as to why he would want to divorce her, but the explanation I appreciate the most is that he felt unworthy to be part of such an enormous event–the incarnation of God himself.

            As far as the wedding at Cana, we see in that event something deeper than just sparing anyone embarrassment at insufficient wine. Again, I hope that I am not misstating anything since I am going from memory from things I have heard or read from quite some time ago. The turning of water into wine was chronologically the first miracle that Christ publicly performed. We see in that the first step in his public life, the path which led ultimately to the Cross on Calvary. So, we see that as a big deal. We see a deeper exchange in the words between Christ and his mother than what appears on the surface. We see the Blessed Mother acknowledging that that is the moment in which her Son is going to begin his walk to his death.

            What I have come to understand as a convert is that the Church has been praying about and meditating on these Scriptures for two thousand years and has a depth of understanding that is awe-inspiring. Not to mention that we also have capital “T” Tradition which is a verbal understanding that has been passed on from generation to generation that supplements and often clarifies that which the Scriptures state. Obviously, if Scripture were so easy to understand on its own, we would not have thousands of denominations all claiming to base their teaching on the Bible who disagree tremendously about very important things.

            You are very correct in your assessment of Christ’s “bucking the system” and how it shows that not only the powerful or “chosen” have access to God. He made it very clear that he has a special love for the lowly and despised.

            I disagree, however, in your assessment of Mark 3, if it is looked at from the perspective of the quotes I gave previously as well as it being an opportunity for Christ to explain how we are all called to be part of God’s family.

  6. It never ceases to amaze me how fur, spittle and tomatoes splatter when apologetical arguments, uh…excuse me…discussions are raised between Catholics, Orthodox and Non-Catholics. A real fun Jesus shaped discussion…(duck)

  7. One thing I think that might be helpful in understanding Catholic programming is to look at its intended audience. It has seemed to me that the focus for most of EWTN programming is those who are already Catholic and the goal is that of catechizing. Unfortunately, most Catholics are very ignorant about their faith, therefore, the programming can’t be extremely in depth or the vast majority of those listening would not understand what was being said.

    Another Catholic radio network, found on channel 159 Sirius, seems to me to be much more geared toward the non Catholic or lapsed Catholic. It seems focused much more toward evangelizing. As a convert of many years, this station has little appeal for me.

    However, I seldom hear anything that I don’t already know on the EWTN programming either. If one wants to learn about Catholicism at a deeper level, the radio and television programming is insufficient. One needs to go to other sources, some of which have already been mentioned. The internet is wonderful for this.

    • I think you make a good point Lauretta. “Shop Talk” as we call it in our industry is often unintelligible to those “outside” the “club.” That’s why I’ve spent nearly ten years studying the Catholic faith. It has really helped me understand what is really being said. We often use the same language as you, but so often the meanings are so much different. And so often our meaning is the same but the words are different. And I see your point. Catholic stations should be reaching out to Catholics. Lord knows Catholics need to bone up on their church. (wink)
      But, and it’s a BIG but…ahem…when a show or book is geared to those outside the Catholic church, it would sure help to cross the language “shop talk” barrier to make things a bit more clear. I wish the Vatican did this more often. But that’s another issue.

      • I know, Richard about the “language barrier”. I was a convert from a totally non-religious home so all of the Christian lingo was “Greek” to me! I often suggest to those interested in the Church who have little exposure to either Catholicism or Christianity to get a catechism for children since they often do an excellent job of simply explaining the faith and gradually introducing the unique words and definitions.

        And don’t worry, depending on the document and the author, we Catholics can have a difficult time understanding that which comes from the Vatican! However, I have learned that even though I may not understand everything in a document, there is plenty that I do understand and often wish I didn’t since it entails me changing some part of my life.

  8. Gideon-

    “The Eastern Orthodox admit that the Bishop of Rome originally held the primacy in the Church and that Constantinople was in error at various times. What they cannot explain is what changed so that all of a sudden they can disregard the authority of Rome and must instead follow the lead of Constantinople.”

    Yes they can explain that. The Orthodox hold, and have always held, that Rome had a special place in honor, but not in authority. “First among equals” was the idea. The Orthodox stress the “equals” part.

  9. I just stumbled across another Catholic Network. IT looks slick and well done. I can’t vouch for content, but it looks pretty good. It’s Catholic or
    IT’s an alternative to EWTN.

  10. Oh dear. I can’t imagine how there were ever any schisms and splits. God have mercy on us all.

    • Church history is like laws and sausages – i.e., one is better off not knowing how it’s made. 🙂

  11. Interesting discussion. I love some shows on EWTN, and others not. It really bugs me that Al Kresta, who is great when interviewing his guests, gives out his 800 phone number 30 times each show. We get it AL!!

    I’ve put together some quick hit Catholic Theology based on the bible at
    Check it out….

    Pax Christi – Jude

  12. EWTN also doesn’t have any music programming. Not that catholic radio should go “K-LOVE”, but there is a lot of excellent Catholic music out there which puts your typical, smarmy, shallow K-Love yuck to shame, but it’s pretty difficult to find.

    Couple promising sites:

  13. So, back to the topic….

    When traveling by car between Northern California and Southern California, I used to catch John Martignoni (an EWTN apologist) quite often. The number of inaccurate statements that flowed out of the radio during that single hour was quite amazing. I remember one day when he was arguing with a caller as to whether parts of the New Testament had been found at Qumran–and Martignoni was asserting the affirmative! For the life of me I can’t imagine why EWTN pays his for making up ideas off the top of his head–and it’s even sadder that apparently no one at EWTN is well-informed enough to realize this.

    The term “Protestant” is a favorite apologetic straw man with the EWTN/Catholic Answers crowd, though. They pick and chose oddities from various denominations and produce a monolithic “Protestant” which is naturally quite easy for them to undermine. I can guarantee that whenever they say “Protestants believe X…” the next words out of their mouths will be an error of generalization.

    Scott Hahn is more of a biblical theologian than a biblical scholar. In terms of being able to write about the Bible in ways that are interesting to the average Catholic, he does a pretty good job and has revived interest in the Bible among Catholics, which is a plus. The theology itself though is a curious blend of reformed covenant theology and medieval sacramental thinking, but whatever–I guess it works for him because he’s from a reformed background.

    BUT I think it’s fair to say that virtually every time Hahn or his disciples (Brat Pitre and Michael Barber) start delving into anything involving “Jewish Tradition”–Hahn’s argument about the four cups of the Seder is a perfect example–they really go off the scholarly deep end by taking Jewish sources that are sometimes 1,000 years after Jesus and imputing them back onto a first-century Jewish milieu. And they don’t tell you that that’s what they are doing–which is dishonest.

    I like Fr. Groeschel quite a bit, though at times I think he’s a not-so-closeted Docetist.

    • Yep. While four cups are now drunk at the Seder (one explanation being that they stand for the four terms of redemption spoken of in Exodus 6:6 7), some think that only two cups were drunk at that time, and that the four cups date from a later period. Also, authorities differ on the names used to designate the cups.

      As for the value of rabbinic literature informing our knowledge of the New Testament, Jacob Neusner wrote a scathing attack of the rather facile use made of it by some NT scholarship in his book Rabbinic Literature & The New Testament: What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know.


      • “What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know.”

        A nice motto for apologists of every stripe.

        • Read the Introduction and first chapter of Neusner’s book (which, by the way, was written “For H. E. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who teaches the simple but governing truth that hermeneutics is the child of theology, and exegesis, the grandchild”) and you will find yourself alternately laughing and crying. 🙂 1994 Trinity Press International ISBN 1-56338-074-9. You’ll never look at rabbinic “insights” re: the New Testament the same again.

    • Dave, I haven’t read or heard Fr. Groeschel, but you really think he may be a docetist?? I went and found the definition of docetism: “An opinion especially associated with the Gnostics that Jesus had no human body and only appeared to have died on the cross.” I did read the beginning of one of his books on Amazon and I can see that he may be an “inclusivist,” but I would be surprised that a priest getting the “imprimatur” on his books would be a docetist. (I was going to type a bunch of stuff here about what “imprimatur” is, but anyone who does not know can go to or elswhere.)

  14. Just for the record, Julie, St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus and St. Cyril of Jerusalem do not equal “all Christendom.”

    I’d suggest doing some comparisons with writings from the churches of the East–start with Aphrahat for example. By doing your own research, rather than relying on what other people are telling you, you’ll find that there was actually a rich diversity of views within Christianity from the beginning.

  15. An odd column and even more unusual responses. The writer did little to detail what he actually heard on Catholic radio. He also picked a really bad feast day to be listening and needed to listen to more representative days in order to get a fair feel for what is being programmed.

    Some of the respondents don’t seem to understand the difference between the Catholic Church on paper and the living body of people in the pews (a typical problem with outsiders trying to look in to the Catholic faith). EWTN represents the day-to-day believer and has historically been at odds with the Catholic Bishops, who have objected that EWTN has not been more orthodox (often out of jealousy of the network’s success). Just as CNN, MSNBC or Fox News don’t always uphold the official U.S. government view, so Catholic networks and programs don’t always preach the official Church position. That’s good for the Church that the people’s voices are heard instead of it being another case of indoctrination.

    Catholic radio is going the way of Christian radio, with a diverse group of programs that all provide specific slants and none of which represent the entire Church. To expect Catholic radio to constantly reflect official Church doctrine is naive and holding it to a standard that none other is held to. It also would make for incredibly boring radio.

  16. As a former RC and now an evangelical, I used to listen to official Orthodox program on the the local evangelical station, and they would tell me things like how I needed to develop a personal relationship – with departed saints! At least they did not try to substantiate it with Scripture, in which no one ever prayed to anyone in Heaven but the Lord.

    I find it grievous when RC’s attempt to justify things like clerical celibacy, when they just admit its authority really is their Perpetuated Petrine papacy an that which flows from it.

    As for Mark 3:31-35, (cf. Mat. 12:46-48; Luk. 8:19-21) while the word can mean cousins, the only reason to go against the most natural inference is in order to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary, which itself is contrary to the basic description of marriage, (Gn. 2:14) as it leaves out the sexual cleaving, which Jesus also affirmed, (Mt. 19:4,5) and Paul, (1 Cor. 7:2) and which is why Rome is against birth control. Meanwhile, a strong witness for Christ having brothers and sisters is the prophecy of Christ, “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” (Psa 69:8)

    As for the poster who described his grief over isolation, institutionalism, liberalism gone wild in Catholicism, i certainly can concur, having remained in Rome for 6 years after becoming born again, with the unique changes in heart and life manifesting a clear contrast. Though i still need much growth in grace.

    I left in answer to sincere prayer, due to my desire to serve Christ, with the deadness and doctrinal problems of Rome also becoming manifest, ,and God has clearly confirmed that i made the right decision. And while i certainly find things like praying to Mary as unBiblical, unnecessary and slighting Christ, yet the key issue is what Rome officially teaches, amidst her multitudinous promulgations, and what she effectually conveys as the means of salvation, which is confidence in ones merits and esp., the power of the church. . As Teddy K illustrated, the main message is that as long as you die in the arms of Rome, there is strong assurance will be forgiven. Those who convert from Rome to become conservative evangelicals are the ones who seem to be more targeted.

    If Rome did not teach her souls that they (the majority) became Christians via paedobaptism, and effectually and pointedly called for personal repentance and faith,as sinners who have absolutely nothing to merit eternal life by, r escape their just punishment in Hell fire, so that souls experience the new birth with its resultant dramatic changes, then there could be some basic fellowship in the spirit, things such as clerical celibacy, or even transubstantiation notwithstanding.however, is more problematic).

  17. Get better soon I Monk, because your post has become over run by the nuts plugging their points

  18. I’m very curious to know what you meant by: “There has developed a significantly different experience of the church, the Gospel and the Christian life in these two traditions. It’s not simply a multiple choice question, but two very different ways of living, trusting and being a Christian.”

    I’m Catholic myself, and I’m very interested in how a Protestant experiences “the mysteries of Christ, the church and personal faith.” Care to elaborate?

  19. I went to Mass today and heard that our diocese (which includes the entire State of Maine) is going to be sponsoring a Catholic radio station. I don’t know when it will begin but there are pledges being made for a period of five years to pay for this and other programs. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Maybe it will just be the Catholic radio station that other states currently have. I don’t know how all that works.

  20. Anyone care that the RCC teaches that justification by faith is anathema?!?!

    Did you get that; the foundational truth behind all that Christanity is, is deemed anathema by the RCC.

    Oh, ecumenical. Thats right.

    • Funny, I thought the foundational truth behind Christianity was the Incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Silly me!

      Also: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)

      It is possible to rationalize this verse in a Protestant scheme, but by the time you are through, you’ve agreed with Trent anyway, so why get hung up on it?

      The real issue, as it always was, is authority, not justification.

      • I guess there are many parts of that foundation! 🙂

        I’d submit that unless one believes, understands (and actually IS), that is is by faith alone [a repentant one- not a hypocritical one!] that we are justified in the sight of God, all is else is false.

        The cry of the reformers is to be the same for any Christian today.

        That includes that; the RCC is not a part of thr bride of Christ.

        A spirit of rank ecumenicalism abounds here- and according to holy Scripture it ought not be.

        Soli Deo Gloria

        • LOL, Johnston, tell everyone where the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is taught before the Reformation? Protestants are like JW’s in their historical knowledge!

          • Justin,

            Your statment with a question mark no makes no sense at all really.

            I did not comment on the historical areas of the doctrine but rather its vital importance.


          • If it’s so important why don’t we find it anywhere before the Reformation?

          • I believe that Justin is saying that one must question whether it is of any importance at all, given the lack of historical or Biblical basis for the radical Sola position. Justification by faith, sure, absolutely. But faith without works is dead. Hence, the canons of the Ecumenical Council of Trent.

          • Justin says: December 14, 2009 at 7:35 pm If it’s so important why don’t we find it anywhere before the Reformation?

            We do find it – e.g., in Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans. To the best of my knowledge, those were written before the Reformation. 😀

          • “Because in Christ Jesus, having circumcision or not having circumcision are equally of no profit; but only faith WORKING THROUGH LOVE.” (Galatians 5:6)

            “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

            For just a couple of examples that the writings of St. Paul are rather amenable to the Tridentine interpretation, just as easily, if not much more, as it is to the Reformed.

        • By a repentant faith, I can only assume that you mean “faith with works”, ala the Epistle of James (you know, in the Bible?), which makes the whole question slightly bizarre, really.

        • Further reading for the curious, even if it has a proof-texty flavor:

          • For the whole faith and works thing – that has been dealt with biblically, ensure you read this :


          • Yes, it has. Hence my reference to Trent.

            It’s nice to see scanning your linked article that some Reformed recognize that justification does, indeed, require works.

          • What I’m getting at is that the insanity of claiming that “Justification by Faith Alone” is essential to the faith when no one (no one!) between Paul and the Reformation seemed to understand “this essential doctrine”. So, I repeat the question, if it’s so essential (ESSENTIAL) why don’t we see it before the Reformation? Here, I’ll repeat it again just in case, if it’s so essential to the “true faith” why don’t we see it before the Reformation, anywhere, East or West?

            The reality is, it’s not essential to the faith, only to Protestantism, because Protestantism is an a-historical work like the JW’s. One must insist that between Paul and the Reformation the Church was “fallen”, something Jesus explicitly says would not happen.

          • Well, at least you don’t exclude Paul from your explanation of by whom and when “justification by faith” was believed.

            As for its essentiality to the faith – Paul considered it essential, and pronounced an anathema on any person teaching a gospel different from or contrary to one that teaches that a person is dikaioô-ed “ek pisteôs“.

            Read Romans and Galatians without any preconceptions or assumed definitions of what “justify/justification” means. I.e., don’t automatically assume it means, or read it to mean, “to make someone righteous” or “to declare someone righteous,” etc. Just read it for what it says, and see whether or not Paul teaches that a person is dikaioô-ed by pistis and that dikaiosunê comes by/from pistis. You can define dikaioô and dikaiosunê and pistis and pisteuô later, for the question of what Paul means by those terms is a different question from whether he teaches a Gospel of dikaiosunê ek pisteôs.

          • So what your saying is that the entire Church from the time of Paul until the Reformation (1500 years) was teaching a false gospel? Cause that’s where you have to logically take that one…

          • …and if you answer that question I’ll give you my take on Paul’s letters there…

          • Justin says: December 15, 2009 at 10:36 am So what your saying is that the entire Church from the time of Paul until the Reformation (1500 years) was teaching a false gospel? Cause that’s where you have to logically take that one…

            No, that’s not what I’m saying. We know “the entire Church” did not hold all things in common, so to claim that “the entire Church” believed or didn’t believe something, or did or didn’t do something, and to hence accept or reject or question a belief or practice or argument on the basis of what “the entire church” supposedly did or didn’t believe or practice is a strange argument/defense, IMO.

          • I’ve read Paul. He does not teach justification by faith *alone*, anymore than James or Jesus do. Indeed, you have to contradict the epistles of Paul to get that.

          • No actually the whole Church DID hold to a common view interestingly enough, and it wasn’t justification by faith alone (unfortunately for those who wish it were – read the entire Protestant Reformation). The Church had a remarkably similar soteriology from Egypt to Greece to Italy to Russian to North Africa to everywhere we look – even when they were no longer a part of the same church bodies they still held the same soteriology. The a-historical Protestants (like their deformed brethren the JW’s, who also say the church “fell” in 325 at Nicea) don’t want to either know this or hear it, but it is in fact the truth of the matter. When it comes to the issue of interpretation, we have to have some medium to get to our end results, and the Protestant one is just not a useful one (partly because it presupposed a simplistic theory on the clarity of Scripture, a clarity that is just not there on many topics (this one included), as much as they would like it to be).

            You may not think your saying that the Church universal was fallen, but your doctrine is saying that, and Luther said that justification by faith alone was “THE” doctrine upon which the Church either stands or falls, leading to the ludicrous idea that the Church was fallen for 1500 years (the only possible and logical followup to such a doctrinal statement) – contrary to Jesus promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. My original post was to Johnston and it still stands, it read,

            “LOL, Johnston, tell everyone where the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is taught before the Reformation? Protestants are like JW’s in their historical knowledge!” (and yes that question mark should have been a period)

            Otherwise I agree with Sam when he says,

            “Funny, I thought the foundational truth behind Christianity was the Incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Silly me!”

            which is why I was laughing at Johnston’s assertion that “true Christians” believe as Protestants do, it was humorous, and still is!

            I didn’t once say Paul taught the doctrine, though certain parts of his writing my be appropriated to say that (I do believe), but is not the best overall reading of Paul. Paul, as Peter warns, is a difficult read, and one needs to be careful in coming to too hasty conclusions about the point Paul is trying to make (which is almost always Jew/Gentile relations, not the abstract theological “doctrine of justification alone”). The fact that Judaism didn’t teach “works righteousness” should push against the Reformed reading of the text as well, but hey then we’d have to study something (gasp) outside the BIble! Like (gasp!) history! Let’s not let history help us in reading a historical document! Nope we wouldn’t want to do that! Then we wouldn’t be historically retarded, and theologically divided! (this same line of thought can be applied to a whole score of other issues as well)

          • My main point is this: if this doctrine (so essential to historic Protestantism) is so essential to the faith once delivered to the saints, why do we not see it ANYWHERE before the Reformation? Does that not just strike you as plain odd? Does it not spark something in you to reevaluate how your reading your text? I did me, and it still does. And no I’m not Catholic, but I’m very close to Orthodox.

          • The fact that Judaism didn’t teach “works righteousness”…

            There are scholars and arguments that disagree with your assertion.

          • Yes, Eric, but the majority of Christian scholars throughout the ages and today do not agree with the Reformation reading of Paul. We can all point to scholarship that agrees with our point of view, but what matters is what is true. Which is why I’m Catholic and not Protestant.

          • Sam Urfer says: December 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm Yes, Eric, but the majority of Christian scholars throughout the ages and today do not agree with the Reformation reading of Paul. We can all point to scholarship that agrees with our point of view, but what matters is what is true. Which is why I’m Catholic and not Protestant.

            The majority of Jews didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah.

            The majority of Jesus’ disciples didn’t believe that He would rise from the dead.

            Which is why I don’t automatically accept majority opinions.

          • Actually, scholars now think that the vast majority of Jews in the Empire did become Christians, but that’s neither here nor there. You are right that just because a majority thinks one way, does not make it right. Same arguement could be used by the Jews today about Christianity.

            However, the lack of anyone ever reading the Bible as teaching sola fides until the 16th century is suspicous. It’s not like this was a minority opinion the whole time through that got slowly corrupted. Nobody read Paul that way, and there are still Christians (the majority of them, though you are right that is no proof of anything) who read Paul as affirming the New Testaments overall message of a neccesary relationship of faith and works. This is why Trent anathamized sola fides, incidently, because it can and has led to fideism.

          • lol, who says that? A bunch of fringe scholars in evangelical-only seminaries? How many of them are Jewish? (answer: none, and for good reason), the reality is that these scholars are being attentive to only a select batch of scholarship (their own) and making their own case to themselves and their choirs. But not one Jewish scholar buys that the idea that Judaism ever taught “works righteousness” (as is needed for a Reformation reading), not one. They have always been rooted in the Old Testament teaching of grace, and the fact that they have been saved by grace. Their desire for works is not salvific, because they know who saves them (God), and that they don’t “earn” this status (like a good Pelagian, or maybe a Muslim). That is their teaching to this very day! Call a Rabbi and see!

            Like I said, I’m not saying you can’t pull the Protestant view out of some sections of Paul’s text, however, one can’t just take those couple texts and ram them down the neck of every other text that doesn’t mesh with it. Like I said this approach comes from a faulty theory about the clarity of Scripture (and has caused Protestants no small amount of headaches over the past 500 years). Furthermore, when you look down the history of the church you see no one, no one, teaching justification as “an essential doctrine” as the Reformation would propose it to be. That is a big problem to Protestants, especially in light of the fact that they suffer from sever historical amnesia, for the only reason that they INSIST that they know what the text is saying properly. Forget the difficulties in the text about free-will and predestination, or the fact that Paul is using paradox at points in his argument (no, instead war between the Calvinists and the Arminians!). Forget the fact that Jews never taught that works made you righteous. No instead insist that one can sit down by themselves, not read it in context (whether the Jewish context or the early Church context) and just “understand it”. Forget that James says that one is “justified by (faith and) works” (though he just says works). Don’t heed Peters admonishment to be careful in terms of perverting or mishandling Paul’s writings. No, instead stick you head in the proverbial hole and pretend one knows what they are talking about!

            Let me propose why the early Church saw Paul as teaching Paul as talking about Jews and Gentiles. Because he was! I know, it’s not all that novel, but it sure explains a lot! In fact, it explains 1500 years of Church teaching in all places! (not just the West or the Medieval West, though including them).

            What I’m looking at is the historical realities, and how these historical realities came to be. Why did no one teach justification by faith alone before the Reformation as an essential doctrine. Here, easy answer, because Paul didn’t! I may LOOK like he did, and some people might genuinely be persuaded that way, but “looks can be deceiving” and in the end you go back to that boring old trick of “reading it in context”. All of a sudden it ALL makes sense, the ongoing teaching of the Church, the Jewish insistence that they don’t teach works righteousness, the whole shabang! Or, go on being an a-historical Protestant, resembling the techniques of the JW’s and insist your right! (funnily enough, like the JW’s!)

            At the end of the day, one can’t persuade someone that the Sun doesn’t go around the earth, or that the earth isn’t flat, if they are convinced in their own mind that it is.

          • I think I wrongly overlooked the word “sola” in Justin’s rebuttals.

            I am not claiming that Paul taught “justification by faith alone.” I have never said that in any of my posts. I’ve been saying that Paul taught that a man is “justified by faith” (dikaioutai ek pisteôs). My mistake for misreading Justin.

            What I would say to Justin, though, is that his statement that “Protestants are like JW’s in their historical knowledge!” is fallacious. Think Everett Ferguson. Alister McGrath. Jaroslav Pelikan (who, though he became Orthodox for the last few years of his life, was up till then a Lutheran = Protestant and certainly not JW-ish in his historical knowledge). Michael W. Holmes. Henry Chadwick. Etc.

  21. As a convert to RC, I think you’re absolutely right about point 3 – there is a real difference. But I’m not sure that relates to the mission of EWTN except on shows like “Journey Home”. And on that show, I think they do get into the experiential differences occassionally…although it very much depends on the guest. I”m very interested in this topic, but I don’t expect EWTN to program much with a lazer focus on it. But I do think it is fascinating and also a real emotional/cultural/spiritual issue for protestant converts and also for Catholic-Protestant understanding.

    Actually, there is a good video called “Common Ground-What Catholics and Protestants can learn from each other” where a priest is “interviewed” by an evangelical pastor (they are friends). The priest (John Riccardo) grew up in a mixed faith family – he gets the thing you are talking about. The video is not part of EWTN or available there. I think you can google it and find it on Ninevah’s Crossing. You might like this.

    I think there is a lot to your other points. I enjoy Catholic Answers, but agree sometimes they are a little too confident in certain answers that are not quite right. Ironically, Jimmy Akin is normally one of the best. Father Groeschel has always been my favorite and I have listened to his series on the Trinity a zillion times.

    • The RCC is not something you want to be converting to.

      Seek Jesus.

      • Your two statements are incompatible, sir.

        • How can you honestly believe in the teachings of the RCC?

          I mean: Purgatory
          Prayers directed to Mary
          The Papacy is of pagan origin. [The title of pope or universal bishop, was first given to the bishop of Rome by the wicked emperor Phoca.]
          Worship of the cross, images and relics.
          Holy Water??
          Canonization of dead saints
          Celibacy – Jesus imposed no such rule, nor did any of the apostles.
          The Rosary
          Referring to Mary as the Mother of God”

          and the list goes on and on and on………………

  22. If you’ve got time you might check out Peter Kreeft’s Lecture on ecumenicism. As an evangelical I can absolutely get behind everything this fine Catholic scholar puts forth here:

    I read it while listening to it so I didn’t miss anything.