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Catholics not allowed?
Please see WARNING at the beginning of Section 6.2.
The Christian Heritage Party of Canada requires all its members to sign the CHP Pledge, which we've already started to scrutinize in "The CHP Pledge: Good Or Bad?" This is a continuation of that first text, in which we try to find out whether this Pledge (and the Christian Heritage Party) is anti-Catholic.
Normally, if my sources of information are uncertain, or if I'm in a conflict of interest, etc., I try to add a "Disclaimer" at the beginning of my text. Except in this case, it could almost qualify as "Joke of the Year"!
Think about it: here I am, asking whether the CHP Pledge is "anti-Catholic", and I'm the one who almost claims the Pope is the Antichrist, who publicly criticizes my local Bishop, who screams insults at my own Parish Priest during Mass, and who claims many Canadian Catholic Priests are fundamentally responsible for divorce, abortion and sodomy!
Seriously, I do take potshots at Catholic leaders whom I consider to be suboptimally faithful to the Magisterium. This must be placed in a more general context, since I have publicly made my Profession of Faith and Pledge of allegiance to the Pope. At least be aware that many people who consider themselves Catholics can't stand me, and that I've been described as "having the social graces of a belt sander".
In order to decide if the CHP Pledge, or the CHP itself, is anti-Catholic, we need sources of information. We can't just roll some dice or flip a coin to decide!
Here is what I've found out so far. (If I'm mistaken, or if things have changed, please contact me.)
3.1) The CHP was founded by two Christians, one Catholic and one non-Catholic. Mrs. Elaine Taylor from BC told me in an e-mail dated 2007-January-31 that: "The CHP was founded over a bottle of wine in the Herwig home, by a Reformed Dutch Canadian, Ed Van Woudenberg and a Catholic German Canadian, Gerhard Herwig, both dear friends of ours".
3.2) Official CHP documents say Catholics are welcome. For example, the official CHP website says: "There are no denominational tests for membership, and no church directs our efforts. CHP members include Anglicans, Baptists, Brethren, Catholics, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Mennonites, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Reformed - and probably many others: we don't keep track."
3.3) So far, I've always felt very welcomed by CHP officials. I've met for several hours with Mr. J. Thomas Sabourin, Interim Quebec Provincial President. I also met several Ontario members, like Mrs. Leslie Bartley, Vice President of the National Executive Committee, Mrs. Vicki Gunn, Mr. Dave Bylsma, etc. I've also spoken on the phone with Pastor Eric Pennings, PEP Director (Prayer, Ethics, Personnel), and played "voicemail ping-pong" with the Leader, Mr. Ron Gray. I also regularly correspond with several CHP members across Canada.
3.4) There were at least two Catholic CHP candidates during the 2006 elections. Mr. Frank Wagner and myself.
When I want to sign a Pledge that faithfully describes my beliefs, I sign the official Profession of Faith of the Catholic Church, not the CHP Pledge.
But the CHP Pledge is not a test to find out which church I'm a member of. It's a human (and hence imperfect) attempt to "filter out" people who would be bad members in the Christian Heritage Party. I think it could be improved, but I also think it's acceptable as is. (I admit if I had to design such a test today, I wouldn't precisely know how to improve the CHP Pledge. The more I think about it, the more I find a good test difficult to construct.)
It seems to me that all the clauses of the CHP Pledge can be interpreted in a way that doesn't attack the teachings of the Catholic Church. If the Pledge said things like: "The Blessed Virgin isn't a virgin", or "The real Pope isn't Benedict XVI in Rome, but Bob the garbage man who lives in Wabush", then I wouldn't sign!
Of the five clauses in the CHP Pledge, the only one that could be interpreted in a anti-Catholic sense is #2:
We believe the Holy Bible to be the inspired, inerrant written Word of God and the final authority above all man's laws and government.
Notice this Clause #2 says the Bible is the written Word of God. The orally-transmitted Word of God (i.e. "Tradition", see [2Th2:15] and CCC #74-93) is neither mentioned nor rejected. Is this just a coincidence, or a clever manoeuvre to find common ground between Evangelical Christians and Catholics?
Notice also that no mention is made of who has the final authority to interpret the Bible. Clause #2 says Biblical principles have final authority over "all man's laws and government". This is of course absolutely true, since human laws must be based on the Natural Law which comes from God (and which is well summarized in the Ten Commandments, etc.). No mention is made of who, between "Sola scriptura" and the Magisterium, is divinely authorized to interpret the Bible.
(If someone wants to know more about this mumbo-jumbo of "Tradition" and "Magisterium", I'll be more than happy to explain, but not in the "Politics" section of this web site.)
Do Catholics claim that Evangelical Christians are not Christians? No. (Warning to non-Catholic Christians: I'm now going to quote something which is not the Bible, but for Catholics it is nevertheless very authoritative, so if you meet a Catholic who claims you're not a Christian, you can quote this to him.)
20. Our thoughts turn first to those Christians who make open confession of Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and men, to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are aware indeed that there exist considerable divergences from the doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning Christ Himself, the Word of God made flesh, the work of redemption, and consequently, concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church, and the role of Mary in the plan of salvation. But we rejoice to see that our separated brethren look to Christ as the source and center of Church unity. Their longing for union with Christ inspires them to seek an ever closer unity, and also to bear witness to their faith among the peoples of the earth.
21. A love and reverence of Sacred Scripture which might be described as devotion, leads our brethren to a constant meditative study of the sacred text. For the Gospel "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and then to the Greek".
While invoking the Holy Spirit, they seek in these very Scriptures God as it
were speaking to them in Christ, Whom the prophets foretold, Who is the Word of
God made flesh for us. They contemplate in the Scriptures the life of Christ
and what the Divine Master taught and did for our salvation, especially the
mysteries of His death and resurrection.
[Unitatis Redintegratio, #20-21]
Now, what about the "other way around"? Do Evangelical Christians claim that Catholics are not Christians? I'm not the "Pope of Evangelical Christians", so I can't speak for them, but I've never met a non-Catholic member of the CHP who said that, on the contrary. See also the comment by Mr. Ron Gray, Leader of the CHP, at the bottom of The Caring And Feeding Of Your Catholic Constituents.
Personally, I think the worst bone of contention which threatens the union of Catholics and Evangelicals, is the same bone of contention that threatens the union of the CHP and Canada. In other words, if Catholics and Evangelicals are not able to come to an agreement on this point, neither will the CHP be able to come to an agreement with Canada. See Section 7 of Does The CHP Want To Establish A Theocracy?
Of course, this is Politics, and there is nothing inerrant and immutable in the way men organize themselves in order to achieve a political goal. So even if I were right, things could eventually change. But for the time being, in my opinion, Catholics are welcomed in the CHP, and they can sign the CHP Pledge without giving up anything in their Faith.
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