It’s quite possible that he did not. There is a somewhat famous statement by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, (famous in Roman Catholic circles) to the effect that, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”
One of the reasons why people misunderstand Roman Catholicism is because, for centuries, the Roman Catholic apologetic has not been one of honesty and clarity, but it’s one of deflection. It’s a classic bait-and switch, which I would argue, is fundamentally dishonest, on a regular basis. Hart allowed in his comment that he had “high ideals.” Roman apologists are constantly these days appealing to “unity” and “antiquity” and even to equate “the Roman Catholic Church” with “the ongoing Incarnation of Christ” [“you will be like God”] – appeals to high ideals. But one thing they don’t lead off with – in fact, they hide from public view what their true doctrines actually are. What the Roman Catholic apologetic appeals to is … “just trust us on this one … wink wink”.
First of all, what is a good apologetic? Francis Turretin described the Reformation method for understanding and instructing “the faith”:
Although an examination of faith and doctrine could not be made without study and labor, it does not follow that it is impossible or dangerous to the ignorant and uninstructed … the doctrines necessary to salvation … are contained in Scripture with sufficient clearness so as to be perceived by any believers furnished with the spirit of discretion. Hence Paul appeals to the judgment of believers and orders them to prove all things and to hold fast what is good (1 Thess 5:21). John wishes believers to try the spirits whether they are of God (1 Jn. 4:1). Surely this could not be said if this examination were either impossible or dangerous to them (Francis Turretin, “Institutes of Elenctic Theology, translated by George Musgrave Giger; edited by James T. Dennison, Jr.: Phillipsburg, NJ, P&R Publishing, ©1997, Vol. 3, pg 5).So, in Turretin’s method, apologetics means you state your doctrines, openly and honestly; but don’t just rely on that. Allow, no, challenge your disciples to search the Scriptures, “try the spirits,” prove all things, and hold fast to what is good. But even in Turretin’s day, he encountered something different from that:
Thus this day the Romanists (although they are anything but the true church of Christ) still boast of their having alone the name of church and do not blush to display the standard of that which they oppose. In this manner, hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church, they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them concerning the various most destructive errors introduced into the heavenly doctrine. (Vol 3. pg 2)At the time of the Reformation, Luther was met by assertions of authority. In preparation for his 1519 debate with Luther, Eck asserted, “We deny that before the time of Silvester [I, 314-335] the Roman church was subordinate to the other churches. We have always known that the one who occupies the See of Saint Peter and the faith is the successor of Peter and the universal representative of Christ” (quoted by Bernhard Lohse in “Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development,” translated and edited by Roy A. Harrisville, ©1999 Minneapolis: Fortress Press, pg.119). Such assertions had always worked in the past; consider the case of John Huss.
[But even in Eck’s statement, note that he does not properly characterize what Luther had said. Luther did not say, as Eck claimed, “the Roman church was subordinate to the other churches.” Luther only said, in his 95 Theses, that “at the time of Gregory I (590-604) the Roman church was not yet ranked over the other churches.” This is a digression, but an important one.]
Roman apologetics that came out of the Reformation had a certain character that asked (maybe in disbelief) “Where was your religion before the year 1517?” This appeal was characterized by the Roman Catholic claim, “Semper Eadem,” “always the same.” By 1688, this appeal to authority and antiquity was so etched into the public mind that bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704) had produced a work, Histoire des Variations des Églises Protestantes (1688) in which he asserted:
The Church’s doctrine is always the same….The Gospel is never different from what it was before. Hence, if at any time someone says that the faith includes something which yesterday was not said to be of the faith, it is always heterodoxy, which is any doctrine different from orthodoxy. There is no difficulty about recognizing false doctrine: there is no argument about it: it is recognized at once, whenever it appears, merely because it is new….But as it turns out, Rome, however, cannot hold itself to that standard. Less than 200 years later, Newman was crafting a “theory of Development” that was necessary to explain away all of the many changes that Rome HAD incorporated.
If by such proofs they show us the least unconstancy, or the least variation in the dogmata of the Catholic Church from her first origin down to us, that is from Christianity’s first foundation; readily will I own to them that they are in the right, and I myself will suppress this my whole history (cited by Owen Chadwick, “From Bossuet to Newman,” Second Edition, ©1987 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pgs 17, 20).
Which goes back to the high-minded appeal to authority. A prime example of this methodology is provided by Mark Shea in his book, “By What Authority”? Shea’s book is a long look at why “Evangelicalism” cannot adequately respond to such challenges to orthodox Christianity by such efforts as “The Jesus Seminar,” and why we need an infallible authority to properly respond to such challenges.
At the end of his work, Shea posits for himself this dilemma:
According to Catholic belief, the very doctrines which irk most Protestant believers (such as Purgatory, the Assumption of Mary, the infallibility of the Pope, and so forth) are doctrines which cannot be set aside since they are squarely located under the Big “T” heading by the Catholic Church and are therefore immovable features of Sacred Tradition -- the very same Tradition which tells us what is and is not in our Bible and does so in a coherent voice of authority sounding down to the centuries through a line of bishops leading inexorably back to Jesus Christ himself. In other words, I was (and you by extension, good reader, are) obliged to either:But this comes at the end of this work, where Shea declines to say just what that “whole, truly coherent” Big-“T” Tradition actually was. He says, “I discovered (in a journey I will not recount here) that, in the final analysis, there is not a single solitary aspect of Catholic Sacred Tradition that is anti-biblical” (Shea’s emphasis). What the reader is left with is, “Rome has the authority … “just trust me on this one … wink wink”.
1. Find out if the whole Catholic Tradition was truly coherent; or,
2. Arbitrarily reject the bits I was [and therefore you are] uncomfortable with, but simultaneously exploit Catholic Tradition’s authority (where it was useful against modernism)--all the while hoping that both Evangelicals and modernist (not to mention the Holy Spirit) would not laugh at my [i.e., your] inconsistency. [Mark Shea, By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1996, pgs 174-175.]
It’s really a classic bait-and-switch. I have two thoughts on this: First, there is very much in “Catholic Sacred Tradition” that is quite “anti-biblical”. Beginning with an apologetic that says, “you can’t understand what the Bible is or says without an infallible interpreter.” [In fact, conservative Biblical scholarship is decimating “The Jesus Seminar,” for example.] Second, I know that Shea has written other books, which I haven’t read, which may provide some of that “final analysis.” But these are at a point at which he’s “preaching to the choir,” selling books as a convert-celebrity, to fellow Roman Catholics, and not, as Turretin said, proving his doctrines from the Scriptures. I’m happy to discuss any Roman doctrine on a point-by-point basis – from Scripture AND history – but this post isn’t about individual doctrines, or even the sum total of “Big-‘T’ Tradition”. It’s about the Roman Catholic Apologetic Method.
Michael Liccione puts it this way:
How to locate and identify “the Church,” and what kind of teaching authority she has, are questions to be answered by divine revelation. Following Aquinas, Newman, and others, the thesis I’ve long argued for is that in order to distinguish “the propositional content of divine revelation from mere human opinions about the data taken as sources,” disputes about how Scripture and Tradition answer the above questions [can] only be settled by a living, dominically instituted authority that is divinely protected from error under certain conditions. Otherwise all we’re left with is opinions, such as yours and countless other, different ones.First find “the Church,” “the Authority,” and all else will fall into place. ”Just trust us on this one … wink wink”
In the last 20 or 30 years, plenty of ecumenically-minded statements have come out that seek to find “unity” not by clarifying issues, but by blurring the differences. It takes not only a theologian, but a lawyer, to understand some of the “Joint Declarations” – and to understand just precisely what is being given away, and by whom.
I’ll reiterate, I don’t know Addison Hart other than that I recognized his name from Touchstone Magazine, and I stopped reading Touchstone because it leaned too far toward Rome. Rome doesn’t sell its own doctrines. It sells an image. And like Hart, too many people buy the image before reading the fine print.
It is quite likely Addison Hart did not know what he was getting into when he "poped". But he knows it better now, and he knows why he must leave. I'm grateful that he has come to his senses, and that he chooses to tell people about it.