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Question
Dear Fr. Bechtel,

I have a Catholic thread on a forum offered by my ISP.  As you can well imagine, I receive many Protestant rebuttals to any teaching of the Catholic Church.  Most times, the posters will refer to Matt Slick's writings in the CARM website.  After checking out that website, I found that it was distinctly anti-Catholic and many of the writings contained errors.  When I wrote to them, in a civil, respectful manner, the receptionist in the office answered for Slick, in a rude manner.  Has this been your experience when you were a member of CARM?  I know they weren't aware of your aspirations to the Priesthood.  

The most vicious attacks against Catholic teachings have been against the doctrines of Papacy, Mary, Purgatory and Infant Baptism.  I started this thread four years ago, and included short bios on the lives of our Saints.  The thread grew faster than any other thread on the religion forum, outpacing even the ones on the political forum.  It now has over 247,000 views.  I must say when one admits to being a Catholic today, the most vile accusations are made, mostly from unproven allegations and indoctrination.  How do you handle such animosities?  At my end, I found the best way to deal is to remain detached, post compelling data from the Early Church Fathers and scriptural proofs on each of our doctrines and move on to the next topic.  Most are amazed that they did not know much that was true about the Catholic Church.  There are a few who could care less and use such opportunities after I post, to vilify the evidence.  Their claims are seldom backed up with supporting data.

Answer
The reason that Protestants and Catholics have such a difficult time understanding each other is because Catholics and Protestants believe the ESSENCE of the Gospel differently.  We believe in the SAME Gospel, but believe the ESSENCE of that Gospel differently.

For Protestants the ESSENCE of the Gospel is the principle Justification by Faith Alone.  This was the formal cause of the Reformation. (Many scholars will say the Formal Cause of the Reformation was Scriptura Sola, or the issue of authority, but I disagree.)  

Justification by Faith alone is the Form of the Protestant Faith. Everything in the Protestant Faith is conformed and configured to this principle.  Every Bible verse is read in conformity to this principle.  What Protestants receive as Scripture is governed by this principle.  This is why Luther wanted to throw away the seven books of the Old Testament received by Catholics as Scripture and the Letter to James: they did not teach the "Gospel."  What was the Gospel for Luther?  Justification by Faith Alone.  I argue therefore that Justification by Faith Alone informs Scritpura Sola. Yes, Protestants go by the Bible Alone---in so far as the Bible teaches Justification by Faith Alone.  Protestants are normed by the Bible, the Bible is normed by the Gospel Justification by Faith Alone.  Protestants therefore do NOT reject Tradition, as Tradition informs their Scripture much as it does in Catholicism.  The question is just what Tradition informs their Scripture.  Justification by Faith Alone is their Tradition which gives Form to Scripture, and thus Scriptura Sola.  

Catholics on the other hand believe the ESSENCE of the Gospel is the INCARNATION.  The idea that God has joined humanity to Divinity.  Humanity has been "Graphed" on to Divinity and united in the one Divine Person of Jesus Christ through the Kenosis- #self emptying.#  God emptied Himself of everything but Love.  Catholics reject Justification by Faith Alone because redemption in Christ #our head# does not work that way.  

In Adam, man brought about the Sin of the World, in Christ #The second Adam# man restores what man destroyed.  

We who are part of Christ's body participate in the works of redemption because the merits of Christ are infused into our being.  Thus, in the elect, as in Christ, man restores what man destroyed through the merits of Christ which have been "Graphed" on to our humanity.  

In Baptism Divinity is joined to humanity united in one human person.  In the Incarnation Divinity is joined to humanity and united in a Divine Person.  In the Incarnation God took on a Human Nature, in Baptism we take on a Divine Nature.  In the Incarnation, Humanity and Divinity are united in one Divine Person, in Baptism humanity are Divinity are joined in a human person. In the Incarnation, Jesus adopted a human Nature, in Baptism we adopt a Divine Nature.  Because natures do not do things in and of themselves, people do things, in man as in Christ man and God work as one.  As Redemption was both man and God in Christ, so too redemption is man and God in the elect. Faith and Works therefore are two sides of the same coin. Grace is the coin.

Justification by Faith Alone implicitly denies the Incarnation which is why the Church rejects it. Justification by Faith Alone sounds good as a slogan, and even theologically until one starts connecting the dots.

The other reason Catholics have such difficulty speaking with Protestants is that Protestants take our doctrines and isolate them from our other doctrines.  When one focuses on the papacy, purgatory, Mary, the Sacraments, #the Sacraments are an extension of the Incarnation# etc, in isolation from everything else it is little wonder why Protestants cannot make sense of them.  

If the Church is understood as a Communion of believes, and the Body of Christ, the pope, Mary, the saints, Sacraments, etc, are all "parts" of that body with a specific function within the body.  As in a human body, some body parts are more essential than others, and have a more important function than others, but all parts work together for the overall health of the body. When our organs are isolated from everything else, they make no sense and they do not work.  Catholicism is like a piece of art that can only be understood by stepping back and looking at the whole picture.  Protestantism is like a piece of art that can be understood by looking up close, but as soon as you step back and look at the whole picture, everything falls apart.  

What you have to keep in mind in dealing with the likes of CARM is this:

Most of the people at CARM who post attacks on the Catholic Faith simply have no life.  They have far too much time on their hands.  If all they do is sit around all day and worry about Catholicism what does that say about them?  I have better things to do then sit around and post attacks on Protestantism, why don't they? Though I disagree with Protestants, I DO consider them fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I respect them.  CARM does not show the same towards Catholicism. They do not treat us as they want to be treated.

Most of the people posting at CARM post to "hear themselves talk."  They do not post to learn or have a resonable discussion. They are more interested in apologetics tricks and winning arguments than listening and responding to opposing views in a reasoned and respectful tone.  

People like this cannot be dealt with.  It is a waste of time.  This is why I rarely post at CARM anymore. At some point they changed the wesbite and we all had to change our screen names.  I now post under a different screen name, but very, very rarely.  The discussions are just the same old same old. You can only reason with people who want to be reasonable.  How do I deal with them?  I don't.  That is my point.  I don't usually post at CARM anymore.  At some point I realized the utter futility of engaging them in discussion.

"All Experts" seems a far better venue to have a reasonable discussion.  People who post questions for the most part want to learn, and have an openness to the answers.

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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