Monday, July 05, 2010
A Lorraine Boettner Mystery: The New York Catechism
Reformed theologian Lorraine Boettner wrote a number of books throughout his life. I have a few of them (I've found some of his work helpful). Anyone though who tries to dig a little deeper into his books though usually ends up on quite a journey. I recall trying to track down some of his Luther citations in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. What I thought would take five minutes ended up taking a few hours.
Every so often someone will ask me what I think about Boettner's work, Roman Catholicism. Boettner doesn't get everything wrong in his book, but he presents enough problems that I would not recommend it. His book came under scrutiny in an entire section of Karl Keating's book Catholicism and fundamentalism. Boettner's method of citation can be troubling. Recently someone asked about a quote from page 127 of Roman Catholicism:
The New York Catechism says:
"The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth.... By divine right, the Pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the Head of the entire Church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils, the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God Himself on earth."
The mystery of this quote isn't the quote itself. As radical as the content of the quote may seem, I've seen various things written by Roman Catholics expressing this type of sentiment. Take for instance this quote from Prierias. The mystery is rather the New York Catechism. This website claims this source to be its "most wanted book."
The Catholic Answers participants likewise joined the hunt for this source a few years back. They produced a few clues, including: Gasparri, Peter Cardinal, The Catholic Catechism. Part Three (New York, New York P. J. Kenedy & Sons) 1932. They've also noted this source describing a "New York Catechism"- but it appears to be an Episcopal document.
This link lists a number of early catechisms. A few of the Catholic Answers folks think Boettner simply made up the quote and source. I don't think he was that unscrupulous- particularly when you scroll through this link and note the amount of possibilities it could be. Google books produced a few hits including this one: The Small New York Catechism, as well as this one.