AND a stupid one at that.
I am referring to the “debate” between EWTN’s Fr Mitch Pacwa and Walter Martin. I found these audios on that wonderful repository of stuff for your MP3 player, Sonitus Sanctus. But they came originally from The John Ankerberg Show, an American Protestant apologetics TV show.
What possessed Fr Mitch to accept their invitation I have no idea. I mean, what a set up. Here are the topics of the debate, folks:
- Peter and Papacy
- Justification by Faith
- Marian Doctrines
- Confession and Penance
I mean, who’s setting the agenda here? Are these the topics you would start on to tell your friends about the Catholic Church? No, they are the favourite protestant topics when denouncing the Catholic bogey man.
Each topic begins with the host (the Protestant apologist) telling the audience what the Catholic doctrine is. His source? Guess. He quotes directly from the Council of Trent. Not once is Vatican II even mentioned. Not once is the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited. Trent. Only Trent. Nothing but Trent.
He rattles this stuff off with no understanding of what it is he is reading–he does it just because it sounds bad to Protestant ears. Then he gives his Protestant guest first bash at why these are such shocking doctrines. Walter Martin then compounds the issue by attacking the straw man they have imagined for themselves and ‘proving’ why Trent is wrong on the basis of Scripture.
Then they say: “OK, Fr Pacwa. You’re the Catholic expert. You’re the Biblical Scholar. You’re the Jesuit. Where does it say THAT in Scripture?”
Poor Fr Mitch. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot. He tries, but doesn’t succeed. How can he? The whole debate has been hijacked by the “hosts”. To make it worse, Ankerberg hardly remains an impartial umpire. He joins in the case against Fr Mitch!
The tone becomes more and more shrill, and the understanding level plummets. It ain’t hard to understand what happened in the sixteenth century judging by the high levels of misunderstanding going on in these “debates”.
What makes it worse, is that there is absolutely no intention of trying to find common ground. The aim of the exercise is to demonstrate just how far from the truth the “Roman Catholic Church” has strayed. If Fr Mitch agrees with anything his Protestant interlocutors say, they will turn around and tell him why he can’t be agreeing with them.
This is why I prefer dialogue, guys. The aim is to listen and learn. To understand. To seek the Spirit of Christ in what the other is saying.
As Papa Bear said to Baby Bear in the Berenstein Bears The Bike Lesson: “Let this be a lesson to you: That is what you must never do!” I am sure Fr Mitch won’t be doing it again in a hurry.