THE CATHOLIC / EVANGELICAL
RAPPROCHEMENT

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 Vatican’s "ratlines," P-2, Opus Dei, etc.?

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 the church."

Politics or religion? The flesh or the spirit? - it makes a lot of difference!

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 book’s 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 movement’s core "Statement of Principles," a document around which some of this nation’s 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, adds,

"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."

Noll continues,

"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 evangelicalism’s 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 liberty.".

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 couldn’t 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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