Guest Post: Dr. Ann White

mom(My dear mom has a Ph.D. in history and has done extensive research on the Reformation.)

Is the present-day Catholic crisis more dangerous than the indulgence crisis, which led to the Protestant Reformation?

In Catholic teaching, obtaining an indulgence means substituting for penance following genuine confession. This is no problem and caused no crisis.

Problems came when the selling of indulgences became big business. The market opened up after the pope in 1476 declared that an indulgence could be purchased on behalf of another, for example, on behalf of a dead relative suffering in purgatory. In the following decades, cardinals and archbishops led great indulgence-selling campaigns to support the building and rebuilding of churches, the performance of pilgrimages, crusades against the Turks.

A tipping point came when Pope Leo X in 1515 proclaimed the sale of an indulgence for building St. Peter’s in Rome. Martin Luther, a devout priest and monk, posted his 95 Theses because he feared that parishioners – the sheep of his flock and the victims in this crisis – were being taught that their money could buy God’s forgiveness when they purchased an indulgence.

Which is more dangerous to the church – a crisis based on money or a crisis based on the damaged lives of human persons?  The money did some worthwhile good, but absolutely no good comes from Christians damaging lives and covering up the damage.

Will today’s Catholic church escape the church’s 16th century punishment: tens of thousands of church members following the excommunicated Luther out of the church?

Don’t count on escaping similar losses to the church. In 16th century Europe, people were interested in religion; they wanted to go to church. We all know that in our culture there is little interest in religion and quite a bit of scorn for it. Think about the people who will leave the church as this crisis grinds on, and then think about how God’s children who should come into the church in the future will not do so because the image of its leadership is morally repellent.

Dear Catholic brothers and sisters, I’m a Lutheran but I know that this crisis in your church affects all of us Christians. Please fight for your church. By excommunicating Luther, 16th century church leaders dealt with a symptom of their problem, but not with the problem itself, which they themselves had caused.  Today’s church leaders do the same thing. They plan meetings to pretend to cope with the crisis, thus avoiding the crisis itself, which they themselves have caused. They spurn and condemn the very journalists and activists who have given the sex-abuse victims a platform to speak.

Please fight this church leadership. Call your own meetings and ask bishops to testify under oath. Plan mass protests. Attend meetings you’re forbidden to attend and risk arrest. Write letter after letter, blog post after blog post. Fight for the return of truth and morality to your church.

Remember: the 16th century crisis led to the break up of the Catholic Church. The present day crisis is even more dangerous.


10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Dr. Ann White

  1. Thank you for your well-written and informative post. I believe many people are in agreement with you that action has to be taken by the laity.
    Judy R.

  2. Now we know where your courage comes from. Of course due credit is given to your departed father.

  3. A wonderful post! We Catholics have suffered every imaginable crisis after crisis! This one is no different than what happened in the 6th century that was the same as today’s. With one exception the part you stated people don’t care for religious beliefs..the few that do will be persecuted and as a result all Christians will be open season on. The hierarchy of the church is the problem. There is a saying when the big wheel doesn’t turn right neither do the little wheels! Thank you again for a wonderful post!!!

  4. Dr. and Fr. White,
    Having read this very insightful Post, I am reminded that, “The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
    Another interesting Post regarding the subject is on “The Catholic Thing Blog” for today.
    Jerry Webber

  5. It is the job of the living to take responsibility for the Church we build. Let us lay the stones carefully on the true foundation.
    I will remember your mother in my prayers. If I recall correctly see lives at Our Lady of the Valley.

  6. God Bless you “Mom” – Your son is a shining example to his congregation bringing truth and clarity to these devastating issues effecting all of us and sorrowfully your son and his religious brothers.. Thank you for the time you spent on your informative letter. How Proud Father must be.

  7. “The Dynamic Duo”, writing style and cadence very similar, each of you bless our hearts! Like Fred Downey said, “This is my Church, I’m not leaving!” Persecution is inevitable for the ones that remain faithful to the Truth of Christ and do not conform to the agenda being revealed. A Fr. Mark White, Fr. Mark Goring (You Tube), Cardinal Arinze or Viagano, I willingly would follow into battle. Viva Christo Rey!

  8. Dr. White, I have read only two of your essays: the one to which I am replying and the one about church music. You are a fine writer.

    I am 73-years-old, a Roman Catholic from birth, a former Franciscan friar who studied theology in the 1960’s, and a trained RC musician who has been an organist and some-time choir director since I was 14.

    I disagreed with your implied dislike for more current hymn lyrics vis-a-vis those of the 14th-16th centuries. I agree wholeheartedly, however, with your appreciation of Bach and, in a narrower way, of Luther as sacred lyricist.

    More significantly, I think your historical analogy above is somewhat facile and certainly fear-mongering. I believe that God has all of us in God’s heart. I believe God will work – and already is working – to bring God’s Church closer to the perfection that is God’s will for us. I believe that Jesus established His Church on Simon Peter, the apostle who loved Jesus unreservedly but who was severely flawed from the time of his calling until Pentecost. Peter, having denied Jesus, went on to great work and martyrdom. As sinful as the human Church is, there is nothing and no one in it, as far as I can see, that or who compares to the sins of our first Pope. God does chose the weak to confound the strong, the sinful to confound the self-righteous.

    My faith is strong. My love of the Church is as great a part of me as ever. Most of all, I remain in love with Jesus and rely always on His mercy, for me and for the Church.

    “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

    God bless you!

    Ed Hawkins

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