Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Cafeteria Catholicism

Gerry Matatics is a Roman Catholic speaker who is the driving force behind Biblical Foundations International, an organization with the motto Uncompromisingly defending the traditional Catholic faith in an age of apostasy. He is a Roman Catholic apologist and speaker of no small repute.

Some background on Mr Matatics now follows. The material is taken from "An Interview With Gerry Matatics" (1994).

(1) He was a self-described "anti-Catholic Protestant."

(2) Mr Matatics majored in classical, New Testament, and patristic Greek. In 1978, he entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and was there from 1978 to 1981 getting a Master of Divinity degree, with a concentration in systematic theology.

(3) Mr Matatics was an ordained minister from 1983 to 1986 in the Presbyterian Church of America. The PCA is a conservative Presbyterian denomination that affirms the Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF].

As a side note, WCF XXV:6 originally read
There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.

Among the prooftexts given for referring to the Pope of Rome as "that Antichrist" is 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 8, and 9:

2TH 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.

At the same time, the main site for the PCA indicates as follows:

The First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, meeting at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama, December 4-7, 1973, adopted the Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism as the doctrinal standards of the Church.

The Presbyterian Church in America received the same Confession and Catechisms as those that were adopted by the first American Presbyterian Assembly of 1789, with two minor exceptions, namely, the deletion of strictures against marrying one's wife's kindred (XXIV,4), and the reference to the Pope as the antichrist (XXV,6).

I'm not personally sure if Matatics held the papacy as the Antichrist or not. He was apparently not obligated to do so as an ordained PCA minister. Given that Matatics describes himself as viewing Catholicism as "a demonic delusion that was intended to delude people into thinking they were Christians when they were not" and "an insidious evil that had to be eradicated from the world once and for all," language, by the way, that even ruffles my feathers, it seems the safe conclusion is that Matatics upheld the original form of XXV:6, though I say this without a tone of utter finality.

Let's continue on some background relative to Mr Matatics:

(4) Matatics conversion from Protestantism to Romanism came in the following stages:

(a) He realized that sola scriptura was merely a man-made doctrine.

(b) Here, let's let Matatics speak on Matatics:

The second step in my progress was made when I saw that the Bible not only shows that the Word of God is passed on in oral, as well as written fashion, but that the Church is the custodian of the Word of God, oral and written. It's the Church which is the final arbiter of the meaning of the Word of God. Otherwise we're interpreting it according to our own fallible likes and dislikes. It became clear to me that the Bible envisions a Church which is authoritative, as in Matthew 18:17, where Our Lord said that a Christian must heed the Church, or be treated as a heathen or publican, which means being excluded from the Church, not being a Christian at all. When I saw this I realized that, if the Church can err, if the Church cannot pronounce a definitive sentence, then Christ would not have commanded Christians to heed it, or be thrown out. It also makes nonsense of Saint Paul's statement in I Timothy 3:15 that the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth." How can a Church formally teach error and yet be the pillar and foundation of the truth? And not to mention that Matthew 16:18 states that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Now, Satan's prime stratagem is to lead people astray. He's a liar and the father of lies. So, if the Church could teach falsehood, the gates of hell could prevail against it.

(c) Again, Mr Matatics speaks:

The third and final step came when I saw that there must be not only an authoritative Church, but a Church that comes down from Christ, through the ages, lineally descended from the Apostles. I saw that Saint Paul was conscious of an apostolic authority which he could transfer, let's say, to Saint Timothy and Saint Titus. When we read the pastoral Epistles, I and II Timothy and Titus, we see that he invested these two men with authority to function as bishops of the Church in Ephesus and in Crete, respectively, and he says to them, in effect, "Look, you teach, to the faithful, those things that I passed on to you, and you teach them to others who will teach them after they do" (II Timothy 2:2). And he expects people to heed Timothy and Titus with the same submission of mind and heart that they heeded him, Paul. And in heeding him, of course, they were heeding Christ. As Jesus said, "Whoever hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).

So once I saw that Our Lord founded an authoritative Church, and that whatever that Church teaches is true, and whatever it teaches is consonant with Holy Scripture, that was all I needed. That was the key doctrine for me.

Hence Mr Matatics' conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.

(5) From near the end of the section of this interview titled "The Bible and The Papacy," Mr Matatics again states

And so we come to the final consideration: historically, who, in fact, inherited Peter's office and authority? There's only one candidate -the Bishop of Rome! I saw from early Church history that all Church Fathers who talked about where Peter went, talked about his going to Rome. It's as historically documented as any fact we know about the early Church - that Peter went to Rome, that he died in Rome, and that the next bishop of Rome acted confidently as the possessor of his authority, which the early Church sought and accepted.

Readers can read the entire interview from the link above for this interesting man's thoughts on other things as well.


You'd think that with the great unity, apostolic succession, and the possession of Peter's office and authority, the RCC as it is today would be the apple of Mr Matatics' eye, putting a mint on his pillow every time it makes his bed. After all, this is a man, who above, stated the following:

So once I saw that Our Lord founded an authoritative Church, and that whatever that Church teaches is true, and whatever it teaches is consonant with Holy Scripture, that was all I needed. That was the key doctrine for me.

You'd think that Mr Matatics, who elsewhere implies in this interview that Protestant disunity is either a direct falsifier or strong argument against Protestantism, that he would bask in the glory of Rome c. 2005.

You'd think that a man whose ministry claims to uncompromisingly defend the Catholic faith [among other things] would cheer JPII or Benedict XVI.

If you think those things, you'd be wrong.

You see, Mr. Matatics contends that the RCC has gone terribly wrong in the last forty years or so. Mr. Matatics has decided, on the basis of his own private judgement of scripture and such, that today's Romanism is a phony-baloney affair, defended by, among other things "Neo-Catholics."

Post Vatican II, something is rotten in Rome, sayeth Mr Matatics.

In case somebody thinks I'm exaggerating, one can appeal directly to Mr Matatics' words on the front page of his ministry website:

The mission of this apostolate, Biblical Foundations International, is two-fold:

1) To demonstrate the Biblical foundations of the Catholic Faith, in order to vindicate authentic Catholicism, not Protestantism, as the real "Bible-believing Christianity," and to expose the varieties of Protestantism as man-made frauds.

2) To equally expose the "neo-Catholicism" that has taken over the structures of the Catholic establishment since the Second Vatican Council as being a counterfeit Catholicism, whose radical departures from traditional Catholic teaching, worship, and life have over the last forty years (a biblical "generation") successfully robbed millions of Catholics of the faith of their fathers.

This second aspect of our apostolate is no less Biblically based than the first. Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us in Sacred Scripture of a spiritual seduction in the last days involving the appearance of "the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" (St. Matthew 24:15) -- i.e., something abominable or abhorrent (in the eyes of God) that would make the Church desolate (again, in the eyes of God; outwardly, the Church might seem to be as populated as ever) placed right in the very heart of the Church. In this same passage our Lord also warned that false teaching would be so pervasive and potent, this counterfeit Catholicism so cunning and clever, that, if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived (St. Matthew 24:4, 11, 22, 24). The result of these two factors -- the abomination of desolation, the near-universal acceptance of pseudo-Catholic doctrine -- would be, according to Our Lord Himself, that, when He does finally return, He will hardly find anyone still holding to the true Faith (St. Luke 18:8). St. Paul likewise speaks of these same two factors when he speaks of the unprecedented apostasy of the last days prior to the return of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:3-11), which will successfully claim the souls of all those who do not love the truth above every other consideration (verses 10-11).

Many neo-Catholics of our day dismiss this as "extreme traditionalism," but they forget (or perhaps, in their "extreme ignorance," never knew) that, for example, the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, for whom many of them profess a great reverence, predicted the same thing, long before the current crisis:

"He [Satan] will set up a counterchurch which will be the ape of the Church, because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ. . . .But the twentieth century will join the counterchurch because it claims to be infallible when its visible head speaks ex cathedra" (Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill,1948, pp. 24-25, emphasis mine).

We note the following:

(i) In point (1) above Matatics seems to distinguish "authentic" Catholicism from, it would seem, non-authentic Catholicism.

(ii) But who are the non-authentic Catholics? In point (2), Matatics seems to refer to the "Neo-Catholics" who have taken over the structures of the Catholic establishment since the Second Vatican Council. Presumably, the Papacy and Magisterium are part of these structures. Such Catholics are counterfeit, in Matatics' own eyes.

(iii) Among other prooftexts, Matatics applies the 2 Thesslonians texts that WCF XXV:6 applied to the papacy in referring to it as "that Antichrist." [!!]

Mr Matatics sure seems to be acting awfully much like a conservative Protestant here. And Mr Matatics sure seems to be going against some pre-Vatican II statements of the Church:

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; [Page 20] or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.

[From Session IV, Council of Trent, Decree Concerning the Edition, and Use, of the Sacred Books.]

Likewise I accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.

[Pius IX, Vatican I, Session 2:3.]

So in the end, we have Mr Matatics using his private judgement and arrogating to himself the right to interpret scripture --- a right that only Holy Mother Church holds --- to run a ministry that opposes the supposed Neo-Catholic takeover of the post-Vatican II RCC.

Gerry Matatics is an interesting fellow who has had some intellectual battles of note. Gerry Matatics is an educated man. Gerry Matatics would extol Holy Mother Church to yours truly. But Holy Mother Church is not the same Roman institution of other Roman apologists such as Mr David Armstrong.

In the end, Gerry Matatics is a Cafeteria Catholic who doesn't take seriously his previous words that "whatever the Church teaches is true."

So much for the unity that Holy Mother Church is supposed to provide, as compared to we benighted conservative Protestants, who, in the eyes of starry-eyed Romanists with a mother-love for the One True Church, wander blindly in a room whose furniture has recently been rearranged!

[Edit 1: Removed some typos, fixed some grammatical errors.]


Blogger centuri0n said...

I think Matatics winds up being a victim of his own Presbyterianism.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Matatics sounds like an interesting guy.

In the interview though, he repeats the same silly equivocations about the words "church" and "tradition."
I'd pick many nits with what he said, obviously, but I admire him for sticking to his guns.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 1:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Matatics is inconsistent. He accepts the historical magesterium and the church dogma's they proclaimed. Yet somehow he rejects the current magesterium. Why? Because he disagrees with them. But the whole idea was that they speak with the mind of Christ. If you disagree with the mind of Christ you need to change your thinking. You can't expect the church to change her thinking because it comes from God. I think he misunderstand Vatican II and Trent. There is not contradiction. There may appear to be one at first but you can be both orthodox and eccumenical.

It the arrogance of being right about everything that Matatics has a tough time giving up. Vatican II says we need to humbly listen to members of other faiths and we will learn about God from them. We cannot just tell them they are going to hell unless they become Catholic. We need to be loving and humble. The truth of the Catholic faith will become clear to people if we just stop talking down to them.

Matatics has so many gifts. It is very sad to see him end up in such a place. It makes his minstry useless. I pray God gives him the heart to accept that even the craziness of Vatican II is really the wisdom of God.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Hello and welcome to the PP blog, Randy.

Regarding your comments, Mr Matatics in turn replied to me, stating as follows:

Randy is inconsistent. He accepts the historical magesterium and the church dogma's they proclaimed. Yet somehow he accepts the current magesterium, which goes against the historical magisterium and dogma. Why? Because he disagrees with ultratraditionalists --- the truest of Roman Catholics. As we follow the true RCC, the whole idea is that the pre-Vatican II Church spoke with the mind of Christ. If he disagrees with the mind of Christ, he needs to change his thinking. You can't expect the Church to change her thinking because of the false reasoning of modernists that claims to come from God, which means we must reject and point out the errors of today's Church. I think Randy misunderstands Vatican II and Trent. There are contradictions. Today's Church with her Neo-Catholics may claim that there are not, but you can't be both orthodox and eccumenical.

It the arrogance of today's Church being right about everything that Randy has a tough time giving up. Pre-Vatican II, the Church defined Herself quite clearly regarding who was anathema. We cannot just tell them they aren't going to hell if they're not Catholic. We need to be loving and humble. The truth of the Catholic faith will become clear to people if we just stop talking down to them with this watered-down Neo-Catholic modernism that passes for the modern Church.

It is very sad to see Randy end up with the conclusions he ends up with. It makes his faith a faith that is in a corrupted institution. I pray God gives him the heart to accept that the craziness of Vatican II is really just that, craziness.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

That is always the case with these arguments. You can rarely convince anyone on the substance. I am not sure if you contacted Mr Matatics but I am sure he would reply in a similar vein. However, if you are convinced that Jesus meant to grace the papacy with the ability to lead his church and not steer it wrong then you need to view disageement about essentials differantly. It can't be the pope's problem. It must be yours.

That is the error of Martin Luther and it is the error if Gerry Matatics. Both men who were largely right and had the gifts to do a lot of good for the church. They just could not get their mind around the possibility that they might be wrong about some key things. That would allow them to transform the church from within rather than try and destroy it.

Friday, August 19, 2005 7:01:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Randy --- the point of the Matatics impersonation was that he too could make the same claims against you. Triumphalism is a game that two can play.

My guess is that he's say roughly the same things about you that you said about him in your second post, and we're back to square one.

There is a way around this vicious circle though, and that is to actually mount an argument or provide evidence for your case instead of asserting these sweeping claims. Who has better evidence? You or Matatics?

Also, from this side of the fence, it looks like Rome isn't all that united, despite her claims.

On a completely different note --- you're a far braver man than I, as you are married and expecting children. Even in my thirties, "commitment" and "radioactivity" are functional synonyms, and the thought of having children terrifies the overgrown adolescent who lurks inside of me! And the crying at night....well, some people are just better off being single!

Friday, August 19, 2005 12:41:00 PM  

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