Michelle Bachmann's former church, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) has officially weighed in on the recent controversy surrounding their teaching that the pope is the Antichrist. The church's president, Rev. Mark Schroeder, writes:

WELS holds to the historic Lutheran position that the Roman Catholic papacy fits the biblical characteristics of the Antichrist. We do this without reservation and without apology. We believe that our doctrines cannot be tempered by political correctness or modified to align with changing culture or public opinion.

Schroeder then goes on to give a theological justification for the view, maintaining that labeling the pope the Antichrist is really an act of "love." To wit: "Testifying to the errors that still exist in Catholic doctrine is itself an expression of love; remaining silent or glossing over doctrinal differences would express the opposite."

Despite these rather, well, emphatic views, Schroeder maintains that neither Bachmann nor WELS can be taken as anti-Catholic. Hmmm. 

Somehow I don't think this is going to resolve the issue.

Timothy O'Brien, SJ

Comments

Kathryn Anderson | 7/29/2011 - 1:07pm
@JR_Cosgrove, the Church's thinking on this has evolved.  First, heresies and schisms aren't the same as the singular Antichrist with a capital A.  Heretics and schismatics aren't in full communion with the Catholic Church, and can be seen as in opposition to (anti-) the Body of Christ (as has long been the case), but aren't THE Antichrist.

  It's worth noting that there's a difference between a Catholic leaving the Church, and removing him or herself from full communion, and people of faith who simply belong to other traditions.  The church doesn't teach that followers of other religions are outside of God's salvation. Non-Christians of goodwill who seek God and non-Catholic Christians can also be saved, though all are saved by the work of Christ through the Catholic Church. In other words, the official Church teaching is that the Catholic Church is the fullest, truest expression of God's love, salvation, and revelation for God's people, but other traditions are also blessed with many of God's graces.  I won't quote it all, but the Catechism #s 813-822 really say it well, and check out the Cathechism #776 for some beautiful words on the Church's role in salvation.
Inigo Hicks | 7/29/2011 - 11:35am
Aren't all Protestants anti-Catholic?  Otherwise, Protestantism wouldn't exist.
Anonymous | 7/29/2011 - 11:33am
Is the Catholic Church, anti Protestant or anti Muslim.   What if the official position of the Church towards these religions?   I realize that each emcompasses many variants.  Somewhere in the not so distant pass these were classified as heresies and if so is that just another way of calling them anti Christ?


Is this post a political one or a religioius one?  I am not a major proponent of Michelle Bachmann but Lutherans seem mild compared to what the Southern Baptist say or have said about Catholics and did we not have some Southern Baptists as presidents?
Vince Killoran | 7/30/2011 - 10:08am
Brendan hit the nail on the head when he wrote "[I]n college at Georgetown, when I observed many gay and lesbian people being hostile to the Church (though understandably), I felt... well, "betrayed" is too strong a word, but I felt very defensive.)."

"Understandably" indeed-I still can't figure out how you would feel "betrayed" when a group condemn as "disordered" took offense at Church teaching.  The Church can certainly be criticized;that's not being anti-Catholic.  The criticism I hear coming from the left side of the political spectrum goes to specific teachings on reproductive rights and sexuality.

Let's not distract from Bachmann's church's totalizing anti-Catholicism
Barry Moorhead | 7/29/2011 - 9:17pm
Sounds much like the verbal gymnastics of the church on LGBT issues.  We love you even though you are "objectively disordered".  And when it comes to basic human rights we will do everything to stand in your way because, deep down, we don't really consider you to be fully human.
Anonymous | 7/29/2011 - 7:10pm
For about 100 years, the Democratic party was mainly Catholics from the north and fundamentalist anti Catholics from the South.  Somehow they got along but now that Michelle Bachmann can be associated with a Lutheran Church that lists a proviso that had its origins from the 1500's we are ''shocked, shocked.''


Why has there been three threads on this?  Especially since as I pointed out that Southern Baptists have been far worse on the anti Catholic front for a long time.  Wait till Rick Perry gets into the race and it will be interesting to see what the authors do here with his very outward Evangelical identification. 


Brendan,

When I prepare something in a text editor, I use an extra paragraph return when I remember for the reasons you cited. 
Brendan McGrath | 7/29/2011 - 5:31pm
Darn; it lumped together all the paragraphs - sorry about that.
Brendan McGrath | 7/29/2011 - 5:30pm
I'll copy and paste below what I posted the last time this issue came up; perhaps it'll get more of a response this time:

I have to say, I personally get much more annoyed/offended/disheartened by the "new" anti-Catholicism that comes from liberal/secular sources than the old anti-Catholicism that which comes from Protestant/"conservative" sources - perhaps because I tend to be more liberal (but not of course secular) myself, so when the anti-Catholicism comes from liberals, it's sort of "my own people" who are "betraying" me.  Even more importantly, most of my fellow Northeast U.S. Catholics tend to be more liberal/Democratic too, and the liberal anti-Catholicism is more likely to influence them away from the Church.  (I.e., Catholicism and the Democratic party used to be more aligned, with Catholics attached to both, at least in the Northeast - now with the Democratic party is moving away from Catholicism the past several decades, Catholics are being tugged in two directions, and unfortunately, what snaps is often the attachment to the Church.) 
To put it another way - I was raised Democrat (I'm 29).  And growing up in grade school and high school, most of the Democrats I knew were also Catholic, or at least not hostile to Catholicism.  Now that's changing - and I guess I feel betrayed, though that's too strong a word.  (A similar experience - in high school, I was very much against homophobia, etc.  I still am, of course, but in college at Georgetown, when I observed many gay and lesbian people being hostile to the Church (though understandably), I felt... well, "betrayed" is too strong a word, but I felt very defensive.)
Anyway, the point of these ramblings is that I'm not really bothered by anti-Catholicism that comes from a Protestant/conservative source - if anything, it makes me wish that that was what we were still dealing with, rather than liberal/secular anti-Catholicism, since the former is less of a threat, and its presence reinforces rather than erodes the loyalty of Catholics to the Church.
I have to say it also annoys me to see more liberal/secular sources point to anti-Catholicism on the right, as if we're now supposed to get dutifully outraged by that, while said liberal/secular sources don't seem to think there's anything objectionable about their anti-Catholicism, and indeed, we're made to feel like we don't really have the "right" to be upset.
In short, I'd rather have the pope be called the anti-Christ than be called homophobic, misogynist, etc.
Kang Dole | 7/29/2011 - 4:55pm
The actual statement from the WELS president is interesting. His point is that his church's views on the pope as antichrist are rooted in their foundational uses of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions

He says:

''WELS holds to the historic Lutheran position that the Roman Catholic papacy fits the biblical characteristics of the Antichrist. [...] WELS draws all of its teachings from the Bible. ''By Scripture alone'' was one of the major themes of the Lutheran Reformation, and WELS has not retreated from that core belief.''
He then goes on to reference the Lutheran Confessions as lending support to the labeling of the pope as antichrist.
It seems pretty clear to me that it's the latter (the Confessions) that are really what's at play here. It's interesting that Schroeder doesn't cite either the biblical or the Reformation texts (how often is it that a Sola Scriptura type doesn't litter his text with biblical citations?). Schroeder's failure to cite the actual Bible is striking, since I would argue that there is a huge disconnect between what the Bible actually has to say about the antichrist (really, antichrists) and the three points he makes in his statement.
The Bible says that antichrists deny the father and son, deny that Jesus is messiah, and deny that the messiah came in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:18-22, 1 Jn 4:3, 2 Jn 1:7).
Now, I suppose that the authors of the Confessions extracted from these passages some reading that fit their need to denigrate the pope, and I suppose that the WELS also has this in mind. The thing is, it seems as though there is no small amount of room available for them to revisit this reading and, looking to justification from their claims about the role of the Bible as primary, ditch their statements on the pope. 
I doubt that the WELS will do this, but this situation just draws out for me the shakiness of Sola Scriptura claims, and reminds me how much traveling a concept like ''antichrits'' can do between the 1st and 21st centuries.
Anonymous | 7/29/2011 - 3:58pm
Katie,

This is an interesting topic and one that should be explored more.  I was really commenting, tongue in cheek,  and that the only reason we are discussing this is so we can associate Michelle Bachmann with anti Catholicism.  
Adam Rasmussen | 7/29/2011 - 1:32pm
I don't really expect the general public and media to get the difference (sorry), but I think there is a difference between theological anti-Catholicism (as exemplified in an extreme way by Jack Chick, for example) and political or social anti-Catholicism (as exemplified by Nativism and such). The WELS is anti-Catholic only in the former sense. It doesn't follow that they are bigoted toward Catholics or hate them or anything like that. To me, from a political standpoint, it should be a non-issue. It doesn't matter whether political candidates believe that the papacy is the Anti-Christ, let alone that their church, but not they themselves, believes it.
Kathryn Anderson | 7/29/2011 - 1:14pm
''Testifying to the errors that still exist in Catholic doctrine is itself an expression of love; remaining silent or glossing over doctrinal differences would express the opposite.''

In fairness, this reminds me of the best explanation I've heard for why we don't offer non-Catholic Christians communion:  because to do so would be to pretend our churches are in communion and to ignore the legitimate differences that exist between our communities; i.e. to act as if the concerns, qualms, and consciences of BOTH sides aren't valid.

Still, I don't go around calling Thomas Monson, the president of the LDS church, or Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori the Antichrist.
ed gleason | 7/29/2011 - 12:41pm
Don't we ALL have problems with 'mouthy' hierarchs?  )-: