THE CATHOLIC / EVANGELICAL
By S.R. Shearer
As evangelicals, we are faced with a kind of "chicken-and-egg"
situation in speaking about the origins of the Catholic / evangelical
rapprochement. "What came first? - politics or religion?
You ask, what do we mean? - well, let me put it another way. Did the
rapprochement between the Catholics and the evangelicals really begin
in the prayer meetings of Catholic and evangelical charismatics in the
United States, as most who are involved in the rapprochement claim,
or did it actually originate in the jungles and swamps of Central
and South America in the 1970s and 80s - with the Death Squads
and the CIA acting as midwives? Or more - do the origins of this
rapprochement reach back even further? - are they to be found in the
mist and haze which today conceal the real origin of the Central Intelligence
Agency and such other shadowy and obscure organizations as ODESSA, the
Gehlin organization, the Vaticans "ratlines," P-2, Opus
Evangelicals would do well to ponder this question - there is a great
deal at stake here! The origin of things makes a lot of difference -
i.e., whether or not the Catholic / evangelical rapprochement originated
really as a spiritual movement or as a callous political maneuver (stratagem)
by the CIA and the State Department? - a stratagem which has now spilled
out of Europe and Latin America and is beginning to bear fruit in this
country as a common strategy to "return the nation to Christ and
Politics or religion? The flesh or the spirit? - it makes a lot of
There have always been those - both Catholics and what we can only
refer to as very naive evangelicals - who have desired a closer
relationship between the two communities, and who have struggled
mightily towards that end.
For example, take the book, Evangelicals and Catholics Together:
Towards a Common Mission (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1995) by Richard
John Neuhaus, a Catholic theologian who heads the Institute on Religion
and Public Life in Manhattan and Charles Colson, head of the International
Prison Fellowship Ministry. The books stated aim is to promote
the growing ties between Catholics and evangelicals and to encourage
continued cooperation between the two communities with the aim of "taking
the country (and the world) back for Christ and the church." The book
reads in part,
"As evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not, by needless and
loveless conflict between ourselves, give aid and comfort to the enemies
of the cause of Christ."
Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which is popularly referred
to by its acronym, ECT, has become in recent years one of the movements
core "Statement of Principles," a document around which some
of this nations most prominent evangelical leaders (and denominations)
have rallied - either formally or informally, directly or indirectly
including the Assemblies of God; Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian
Coalition and president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Lou Sheldon,
director of the Traditional Values Coalition; Dr. Richard Land and Dr.
Larry Lewis, officers of the Southern Baptist Convention; etc.
Pat Robertson, in approving the document, believes that the moral crisis
facing the nation today mandates Catholic / evangelical cooperation.
The Rev. David Scoates, a Methodist, agrees; he says,
"I think it is about time we (all begin to) work together, particularly
against evil influences in our society."
Steve Sheldon, the political director for the Traditional Values Coalition,
"We are very excited about the programs that we can accomplish
together;" he continued, "We hope to work together (with
Catholics) to further our common goals."
Glen Cole, one of the leading lights in the Assemblies of God, concurs.
Mark Noll, a historian at Wheaton College, is also in agreement and
notes with favor the implications of all this: that as evangelicals
begin to work more closely with Catholics to affect political change
in the country, they must stop proselytizing Catholics and thinking
of them as "unsaved;" that evangelicals must no longer
"... consider Catholics as ogres or anti-Christs."
"In the best American fashion, activism has led to reflection
The Rev. Gregory Coiro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said
that the statement is the "fruit of the time in which we live."
Neuhaus and those who - like him - are pushing evangelical / Catholic
rapprochement exalt in this kind of thinking; he believes that the Catholic
Church must now "seize the moment" and take advantage of evangelicalisms
new attitude towards cooperation; he writes,
"This is the moment in which the Roman Catholic Church can and
should be the lead church ... This can and should also be the moment
in which the Roman Catholic Church in the United States assumes its
rightful role in the culture-forming task of constructing a religiously
informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered
Now all this is simply amazing! - all this talk about "love" and "harmony"
between Catholics and evangelicals. What happened? Ever since the Reformation
the Catholics and the Protestants - especially the evangelicals - have
been at each other's throats, and not just as a result of cultural concerns,
but because of DEEP theological differences. There existed
a deep theological divide between the two communities, and powerful
theological elements in both communities opposed any kind of reconciliation
between the two groups.
Suddenly, however, that opposition ended, and it ended essentially
in the 1970s and 80s - exactly that period of time when the United
States and the Catholic Church were facing defeat in Central and South
America as a result of Liberation Theology and an expanding communist
insurgency! There is a growing body of evidence which has surfaced in
recent years which seems to suggest that the ending of Vatican opposition
to the convergence of the two communities was no accident! - it was
"arranged;" and that the CIA and the State Department had
a lot more to do with it than is generally recognized!
And the reason for CIA and State Department involvement? - they saw
both the conservative Catholics and the evangelicals - especially the
burgeoning Protestant Pentecostal and charismatic community in Latin
America - as allies in the struggle against the left. But in order to
secure their practical cooperation in the war against communism, they
needed to prevail upon the two religious communities to lay aside their
theological differences - differences which the Protestant Reformers
had been burned at the stake to uphold (and which theologians like
J.I. Packer now say were only "misunderstandings") - in the
interest of winning what the State Department saw as the more important
struggle against communism, a struggle which the CIA and the State Department
warned would swamp them all if the Catholics and the evangelicals couldnt
start working together. Indeed, this is precisely the gist of a message
that Vernon Walters, the Catholic Deputy CIA Chief is reported to have
carried to the Vatican in the early 1980s. [And this is to say nothing
about how the CIA and the State Department have urged both the Catholics
and the evangelicals to work with the Moonies! - if not openly, then
under the table.]
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