Retrospect and Apologia




     To explain why I am no longer a Mennonite I must begin with whether and to what degree I ever was a Mennonite. Although I am descended from David Martin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Mennonite immigrant of 1727, who was, with his three brothers, ancestor to most of the Mennonite Martins, I did not know I was his descendant until curiosity led me to spend an afternoon in the Mennonite Historical Library in Goshen, Indiana late in my college years. I spent my first ten years attending the Elkhart Valley Church of the Brethren and had just begun to make up my mind to request baptism when my family left to join the local Grace Brethren Church. I grew up surrounded by things Mennonite, as a resident of rural Elkhart County and the son of a Goshen College alumna. Four years at Bethany Christian [Mennonite] High School in Goshen introduced me to the Mennonite world more directly, though I remained always something of an outsider. At the time I knew only vaguely that my mother?s cousins were still Old Order Mennonite and that my great-grandfather had been a member of the preaching bench at the (Elkhart-St. Joseph) County Line Old Order Mennonite meetinghouse. My afternoon in the Historical Library in 1973 or 1974 showed me that my direct paternal ancestors in the Yellow Creek area of Elkhart County had married into Dunker (Brethren) families after their arrival in the late 1850s.[1] 

     The martyr heritage preserved in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Martyrs? Mirror that I encountered at Bethany High School resonated with me because, among the Grace Brethren, I had become familiar with Foxe?s Book of Martyrs, but only as a set of tales from a long-distant past. Though I did not realize it at the time, I now realize that I was looking for recognizable and tangible historical ancestors in the faith with whom I could identify and who could give me an identity. The accounts in Martyrs? Mirror resonated with special force because the hymn that had stirred my emotions most, both musically and devotionally, during my childhood in the Church of the Brethren was ?Faith of Our Fathers.? At Bethany High School I discovered that Mennonites, unlike the Grace Brethren, viewed their martyrology as in some sense still actively forming their identity, much as the Brethren did when they sang ?Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword . . . how sweet would be their children?s fate, if they, like them, could die for Thee.?

     I had long assumed that Frederick W. Faber (1814-1863), the author of these words, was a typical English Protestant hymn writer like William Chatterton Dix or Augustus M. Toplady. Nearly forty years later, after I had been a Catholic for several years, I suddenly realized that the F. W. Faber in the Brethren, Evangelical and Mennonite hymnals was the same F. W. Faber?Anglican convert to Catholicism and author of well-known works on spiritual theology?to whom Peter Erb had introduced me as a graduate student. In a flash I understood that the prisons referred to in ?Faith of Our Fathers? were in England and Ireland, and the martyrs and confessors were Catholics suffering under the penal laws of Henry and Elizabeth, not Anabaptist inmates of German, Tyrolian and Swiss castle dungeons. All these years the lives of my suffering Catholic predecessors in the faith had, unwittingly, actually been forming my martyr consciousness. Moreover even later I realized that the third (originally fourth) verse, ?. . . we will love both friend and foe in all our strife, and preach thee [faith] too, as love knows how, by kindly words and virtuous life. . .??interpreted undoubtedly by Mennonites and Brethren as embodying Anabaptist principles of rejection of warfare, love of enemies and discipleship?in fact expressed classic Catholic principles: Augustine?s insistence that even in justified warfare one may not kill out of hatred; that one is obliged without exception to love one?s enemies[2] ?even if one is dying at their hands; and that the Christian gospel is communicated as well as, or better, by example than by propositional preaching. Only recently did I learn that the original third verse read, ?Faith of our fathers, Mary?s prayers / Shall win our country back to thee; / And through the truth that comes from God, / England shall then indeed be free.?[3] 

     Always searching for a church rooted in history, I had noticed that whenever I asked Grace Brethren leaders about the origins of that denomination, their answers were evasive. My first full-scale historical research project, carried out as a book-length senior project at Wheaton College in 1973-1974, was an oral-history-assisted study of the fundamentalist Grace Brethren division of the 1930s, the first detailed historical research into that sad story ever undertaken. This research was at least in part an attempt to find out what it was that no one wanted to talk about.[4]  It led to my first published work as an academic historian.[5]  In the story of that division among the already deracinated Progressive Brethren, who left behind Dunker tradition for assimilation to mainstream American Protestantism, I found little to satisfy my thirst for rootedness?for a tradition worth believing in, worth dying for, worth living from.

When, about the same time, I discovered that my own family heritage was part of the Anabaptist-Mennonite martyr tradition?for instance, the unverified claim that David Martin?s father Christian Martin had been imprisoned in Canton Bern, which allegedly contributed to the decision of his sons to emigrate[6] ?I began to feel relief that the rootlessness of the Grace Brethren world, the evasiveness that arose whenever the group?s history came up for discussion and that so oppressed me, need bother me no more.

     I now know that a deep sense of history and tradition was ineradicably yet subconsciously part of my childhood; that the Old Order Mennonite world of my mother?s father William Schrock had not been entirely lost when he married Ethel Van Scoik of revivalist River Brethren and Mennonite Brethren in Christ (United Missionary) commitments.[7]  They only briefly tried to bridge their two worlds by attending an [Old] Mennonite congregation (Olive) before my grandmother, upset with Bishop David A. Yoder?s threat to deny communion to women wearing short-sleeved dresses, reverted to the Bethel United Missionary congregation. My mother?s contacts with her Old Order Mennonite cousins and her college experience at Goshen College did throw something of a bridge over the gap between the disintegrating traditional Mennonite (and Dunker)[8]  world of a ?plain? and agricultural people that we left behind (part of the larger process of the disintegration of rural culture in America after World War II) and the Evangelical-Fundamentalist Grace Brethren world we entered in the early 1960s. I now realize that in hindsight. At the time I had as little sense of the larger socio-cultural changes of postwar rural America as I did of the way they were affecting the Mennonite and Dunker subculture. Compared with the Grace Brethren, these groups seemed very rooted and traditional.

     Since I was five years old, I have lived with a deep and unshakable love affair with history, directed at first toward generic American and continental European history, but shifting to church history in the wake of four years in a Mennonite high school and my research into Brethren, Anabaptist and Mennonite history, ultimately as a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo. At Waterloo I discovered that some of my maternal ancestors, Wengers from Pennsylvania, had pioneered in Ontario before one of them moved to Indiana in the 1850s as the widow Magdalena Wenger Schrock (Schrag). At Waterloo I also discovered medieval history, medieval monasticism and, through the lens provided by Peter Erb, learned a Catholic rather than Protestant perspective on the Catholic Middle Ages that my Doktorvater Kenneth Davis had appropriated to explain Anabaptism?s ?intellectual origins.?[9]  At Waterloo?s Conrad Grebel College, John Rempel introduced me to the history of liturgy, especially to the work of Gregory Dix. At Waterloo, too, after approximately ten years of disaffection from the Grace Brethren and all other denominations, I decided to cast my lot with my ancestors? witness and join the Mennonites, though I formally did so only after moving in 1979 to Oak Brook, Illinois to work on the Brethren Encyclopedia. The Mennonites seemed by far to have held on to an authoritative tradition better than any of the denominations on my horizon (evangelical and liberal Protestants), including the Church of the Brethren.

     My search for rootedness, despite its origins in my having been uprooted from the Elkhart Valley Church of the Brethren just when I had decided I wanted to be baptized and become a member, undoubtedly arose in large part from the intuitive perception that the world my parents knew in rural Elkhart County, the world of my very earliest memories, was disintegrating before my eyes in the wake of the automobile, television-driven consumer culture and the consolidation of local, rural township schools into regional educational districts. The intuition became thematized in my mind only years later, but certainly was operative from the beginning. I knew vaguely that something was disappearing but, in light of exposure to evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism, assumed that Mennonites, by comparison, remained more rooted in tradition.

     In the wake of the social and political upheavals of the late 1960s, I saw in Anabaptism a possibility both for rootedness in a tradition and for embracing a legitimizing radicality. Indeed, as a Wheaton undergraduate spending a ?junior year abroad? at the ?Rote Uni? (the ?Red [Marxist] University?) at Marburg in 1971-1972, I first turned my attention to Reformation history and specifically to the Anabaptists, having been told cursorily by academic advisors that one could not possibly study medieval history?my original goal?without knowing Latin. Having discovered the indispensability of Latin even for Reformation studies, I returned from Germany and taught myself Latin from Wheelock?s famous textbook, memorizing my paradigms while pulling a drill press lever in a factory to pay off my debts before finishing my BA at Wheaton. But the die was cast, or so I thought, toward Reformation and Anabaptist history. The point relevant here, however, is that I was constantly looking for a tradition worth believing in.

     What then have I come to see as the dominant themes from my rather checkered but nonetheless very real ?Mennonite upbringing?? First and foremost, a valorization of Tradition, especially a martyr tradition, both of which are bound up with an unshakeable belief in the True Church handed on and worth suffering for. My exodus from the Mennonite world followed necessarily upon the realization that these interrelated principles?once not merely discoverable among Mennonites but actually forming the weave of an integrated Mennonite tapestry?were, just as I set out to embrace them deliberately and voluntarily as a young adult, no longer really central to Mennonites in the late twentieth century. The Mennonite tapestry was unraveling, not merely at the periphery but even in Mennonite centers like Elkhart County.

     Here is scarcely the place to offer an extended explication of these three themes, which are familiar to all students of Mennonite history and life, though a few comments are in order. True, the Anabaptists rejected a continuous historical tradition in favor of discontinuous restitution and a mere ?spiritual continuity? with the immediate medieval past, but their conviction that they represented the True Church helped them to develop their own second-generation traditionalism.[10] 

     My parents belonged to the post-World War II generation that had little choice but to make a nonfarm livelihood, and, without being aware of it, forfeited for their children the natural channels by which traditional rural culture[11]  had been transmitted to them. Nevertheless, enough remnants of that traditional culture still survived in their mental habits[12]  and in the life of the Brethren, Mennonite and United Missionary folk who made up their circle of relatives and acquaintances (essentially coterminous with most of the rural population of Harrison and southern Concord townships of Elkhart County) that I at least was able later to recognize what had been lost and resonate with George Grant?s vale (farewell) in Lament for a Nation.[13]  A strong bias in favor of conserving the handed-on?the ?tradited??in the church as the obviously life-giving source of one?s identity was thus my birthright.

     What joined first-generation martyrs and confessors to the tradition of a Mennonite subculture that flourished under religious pluralism in North America and in the privilegium colonies of Russia was this faith in the true remnant, revived by the subcultural markers of language and dress in the nonassimilating Mennonite groups and by the pressures of universal military service from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Some of the once mainstream pietistic and evangelical Protestants in North America found themselves in something of the same counter-cultural mode in the early twentieth century, under the pressure of the new Darwinian religion and historicist modernism characteristic of liberal Protestants, much as the Puritans and continental Pietists of the eighteenth century had become countercultural in relation to Enlightened and rationalized Protestant elites. From both sides of my upbringing, Mennonite and the Fundamentalist-Evangelical, came a common thread: standing as the True Church over against the nominally Christian.

     From the Brethren and Mennonite churches of rural Elkhart County I inherited the conviction that, over against the apostasizing mainstream, a faithful witness to an identifiable True Church had been providentially preserved throughout the centuries by the little people, the plain people, the seldom-understood community of the faithful. Yes, things were going seriously wrong in the Church of the Brethren?s flirtation with the National Council of Churches and in Goshen College?s liberalism, but that the True Church existed and had to be sought out was beyond question. Unknown in my world was the nominalist denominational theory (in some ways the first expression of postmodernism!), according to which each Protestant group denominated an incomplete expression of the fullness of the Church. Advanced as a solution to the embarrassing divisiveness of Protestantism by the seventeenth and eighteenth century, this nominalism really triumphed only among mainstream Protestants in the twentieth century. Nor did I know much about the nineteenth-century Plymouth Brethren denunciation of all efforts to form even nominal denominations, but instead locating the concrete historical reality of the church in local assemblies that participate in a spiritual, universal church that is unrealizable concretely on earth before the eschaton. What both have in common is the abandonment of the search for the universal True Church existing in history yet also transcending history. From the conviction that Christ established firmly on earth a called-out body against which the gates of hell could not prevail, the Christian world (traditional Catholics and Eastern Orthodox excepted) had come to accept fully the apostasy of much of the Church, now understood as some sort of aggregate of believers or denominations. Naive Christians of earlier centuries had misjudged badly the human capacity for messing up God?s best-laid plans. We shall simply have to wait for the eschaton before God puts Humpty-Dumpty together again.

     When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, most Mennonites still accepted the principle of ?we the True Church over against the rest,? at least in some sense, even if some Mennonite intellectuals no longer did. By the 1980s, most Mennonites had made their peace with the principle that ?most of the denominations are at least partly right, though we do wish they?d see the light on warfare??but then by that time most of the leaders in the mainstream churches (including many deracinated Catholics) had indeed ?seen the light? on warfare and become modern mainstream liberal pacifists, rather than nonresistant Restitutionists or just-war advocates.[14] 



     So why am I not a Mennonite? To a large degree because the Conserving Tradition, the Martyr Tradition and faith in a True Church had largely disintegrated among Mennonites by the 1980s. The very themes most important to me as I sought to become a Mennonite and recover experientially my notionally rediscovered heritage were slipping away even as I tried to embrace them. It was like trying to put the wind in a box.

     I did not realize this initially. As long as I merely perceived the tradition to be disintegrating, I thought I could offer ways to begin to restore it?in a typically restitutionist move! As I set about trying to salvage this fleeting Mennonite vision I still believed in, I began to realize that it could not sustain itself, that the very elements of Anabaptist theory and even second-generation Mennonite catholicizing traditionalism[15]  were truncations of genuine Holy-Spirit-sustained Tradition. The ultimate disintegration even of the most traditional Mennonitism was programmed into its very origins. Some of this I set forth in an article in Conrad Grebel Review in 1987.[16] 

     Mennonites had once had an unwritten liturgy (i.e., a customary regular pattern of worship from week to week). They had had an unwritten sacramental and mediatorial understanding of the priesthood and bishop?s office (backed by divine election via the lot) and the Lord?s Supper.[17]  They had had an unwritten canon law in the form of customary ways the elders of the region met, considered and ruled on a variety of potentially or actually divisive matters. All this began to fade as the rural subculture in which all this customarily took place disintegrated. The Mennonite church community I sought to come home to, while also seeking personal family roots in the soil of Elkhart County, had already ceased to exist, except notionally.

     As Mennonites moved into the cities and suburbs and pursued careers in business, as they undertook urban mission and then civil rights work, they sought to bring ethnic minorities and ?English? newcomers (from Evangelical or Liberal Protestant circles, attracted by peace activism, etc.) into the Mennonite ?family??which made perfect sense, given their centuries-old conviction that they represented the best, most complete reform of the Church, the completion of what the Magisterial Reformers cut short. A conversation with an ethnic-minority Mennonite sitting on the boards of several Mennonite national organizations revealed that she frequently found herself wondering: Am I really a Mennonite? Am I really integrated into this group? That resonated with my own experience. We noted that a group operating under an unwritten set of customary rules has particular difficulty absorbing and fully integrating outsiders because the markers for belonging are not spelled out in writing or codified in any objective way such that a newcomers could learn them, conform to them and be assured they were fully members. Instead, ?cradle Mennonites? learned these rules by socialization as they grew up among the subculture. An adult entering the group has to pick up the rules in a similar fashion but finds it much more difficult than a child. It occurred to me, as I pondered this conversation, that Catholicism, in contrast, while possessing a full range of ethnic subcultures, had codified liturgy, sacraments, priesthood, doctrine and law, permitting adult converts faithfully adhering to these structures to know that they belonged, whatever ethnic or social or familial gaps might open up between themselves and other Catholics?as long as they cultivated loyalty to and appreciation of these structural markers.

     The next stage in my thinking led from the disintegrating rural subculture and socialization process to the more fundamental question of church polity. Armed with insight about the need to provide newcomers with objective markers of belonging, I concluded that if Mennonites could codify a liturgy, for instance, it could aid in integrating outsiders. I constructed a liturgy, based on the structure of the Roman, or Western, Rite but employing hymns from The Mennonite Hymnal (1969) in place of, for instance, the Kyrie/Confiteor (inserting a hymn that expressed repentance and forgiveness) or the Credo (inserting a hymn that expressed fundamental beliefs or the truncated Te Deum known as ?Holy God, We Praise Thy Name?).

     When I offered this for use at our congregation (Belmont Mennonite in Elkhart), the committee planning worship for a given month or season made use of it or parts of it, but the next month?s or season?s committee did not. I realized that we would never find out whether it was good, because a liturgy needs to be used consecutively for at least six months until the newness fades completely and people experience it intuitively, at a deeper level of consciousness. Yet I suddenly also realized that it could never be employed that way because if anyone, whether the pastor or a worship committee, proposed its use for such an extended period, to the exclusion of other forms of worship, at least some members of the congregation would be disappointed, if not disaffected. At that point, the pastor (or committee, ultimately, with the pastor?s backing) would have had to offend at least some of the congregation and force the liturgy?s use. But the pastor (or committee) had no authority to do any such thing because the pastor (or committee) served at the pleasure of the congregation, the congregation no longer had any agreed-upon ways of worshiping, and thus achieving consensus on a single pattern was next to impossible. Once one destroys authoritative patterns that have developed slowly over time, one simply cannot put any single pattern that enjoys authority and wide acceptance in their place without driving away those who disapprove. In such circumstances, variety (chaos, divisiveness) in worship is crucial to avoid lasting division, and necessary to keep everyone at least partly satisfied. The pastor?s role becomes that of salesman: he constantly has to convince his congregation that he has earned the right to lead them, and to do that he has to avoid offending any sizable portion of the membership. A ?little of this and a little of that? becomes the only real solution. The pastor cannot lead on the basis of his authority but, rather, has to persuade dissenters to go along with the vague consensus and thereby keep the various tastes and conceptions of different portions of the congregation from leading to serious and lasting divisions.

     And around none of this could a real hammer-and-tongs debate unfold. Observing how the decision to begin ordaining women took place among Mennonites in the 1970s and early 1980s, and watching discussions of women?s roles at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries during the 1980s, I realized that the vaunted ?consensus? model advocated by the Young Turks of the Concern movement,[18]  according to which Mennonites surpassed Evangelicals and others who operated by oppressive hierarchy or crass majority vote, actually precluded debate. If decisions were made by consensus, then those who held a former majority position that was shifting by consensus into a minority position had two choices: they could, in persistent debate insist on their position and risk lasting schism, or they could fold their cards and submit to the emerging new consensus. The harder one debated an issue, the more one risked permanent schism. For the sake of unity, wise leaders and members who saw the consensus shifting against themselves censored themselves, and the debate suffocated in the middle of its own birth.

     In contrast, I realized, if a group or society has decided in advance that an officeholder has the authority in the end to decide the controverted issue, the same loyalty and desire for unity would permit both sides to argue their positions firmly and fully, knowing that no matter how much they disagreed, the entire group had agreed in advance to submit to the decision of the judge, even if it went against their own position. Any credible judicial system operates upon this principle, the same principle by which a pope or Catholic or Orthodox bishop governs. Note that in both consensus and hierarchical systems, the minority must be willing to submit to the decision of the bishop, jury, judge or group consensus to avoid splintering. If the losers refuse to submit and take to the streets or agitate when the decision goes against them (e.g., in the Rodney King riots), the unity of the group will disintegrate. The presence of a pope or bishop does not guarantee unity?only respect for and loyalty to the office does, as the rejection of papal authority among Catholics, frequent today on the ?left? and occasional on the ?right,? illustrates.[19]  The difference between the systems is that, given loyalty and submission for the sake of unity, the consensus system encourages unity-minded minority members to exercise self-censorship, whereas the existence of a bishop, a pope, bishops meeting in council or duly recognized jury or judge permits healthy debate (hence diversity) because the decision rests with a concretely recognized person or office, not with the more nebulous group consensus.

     Realizing polity?s important role showed me that any effort to ?enrich? contemporary Mennonites with ?Catholic substance? from the past would, even in the doubtful event of ?success,? also cause further division. At that point I realized I had embraced a Catholic polity.[20] 

     All this time I was teaching church history as well as helping to edit the Mennonite Encyclopedia, vol. 5. As I probed more deeply into the patristic period I was teaching, I realized that the Mennonite tradition rested on some fundamental misreadings of history and theology. Here is where my incomplete Mennonite socialization surfaced: had I been a dyed-in-the-wool, fully assimilated Mennonite, I might have been able to read the patristic and medieval evidence through Mennonite-focused binoculars, as other Mennonite historians did. But I was not equipped for doing so. I simply could not see my way clear to massage the patristic and medieval evidence into a Free Church model.

     I?ve already alluded to the evidence that restitutionism simply cannot develop a unified reform and renewal: if one?s group has originated in an effort to repudiate the immediate, corrupted past by reaching back to a pristine golden age via historical reconstruction, what can one do when the initial vigor of one?s movement fades and turns into a traditionalism? The Concern movement turned against Mennonite traditionalism and sought to repristinize the sixteenth-century Anabaptist repristinization of the primitive church, but only succeeded, in my view, in sowing confusion about leadership and authority. By attacking the way Mennonites had done things for centuries, they undercut the Constantinian authority of the Mennonite elders and bishops in favor of a supposedly democratized consensus model of leadership.[21] 

     By the time I arrived at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in 1983, how much confusion this caused was dawning on a number of leaders. They began calling for a revalorization of the pastor?s authority and leadership in the congregation, but not for a return to the old pars sanior (?the healthier part?) system of giving extra weighting to the opinions and assessments of the elders, overseers and bishops.[22]  One of the most fundamentally destabilizing, even if unintended, developments for Mennonites in the World War II era was to accede to the understandable and heartfelt desire of the next generation?s best and brightest leaders to be sent overseas to do post-war relief work in order to prove themselves, after years of being branded cowards and shirkers. This took an entire generation of Mennonite leadership out of the apprenticeship ministry-training system, whether the older form practiced by eastern Old Mennonites or the more ?Protestant? mono-pastoral approach common among General Conference and more liberal Old Mennonites?both of these systems being more traditional than the repristinized sixteenth-century Anabaptist charismatic egalitarianism espoused by the Young Turk pamphleteers. They came back Concerned enough about hidebound traditionalism to disassemble, piece-by-piece, as much as they could of the traditional system and transfer leadership to an intellectual elite (priding itself on its egalitarianism) based at colleges and seminaries, not in the congregations.

     I had even graver doubts about the theological justification for Anabaptist-Mennonite pacifism. John Howard Yoder?s efforts to translate it into something that would avoid the centuries-old accusation that Mennonites were apolitical?and thus parasites on the larger society whose young men fought and died to preserve the freedom for Mennonites to be conscientious objectors?looked suspiciously to me like a very strict Augustinian ?just war? position. Yet Mennonites could hardly admit that fact without thereby abandoning the last and putatively most promising claim to Mennonite-Anabaptist distinctiveness. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Vietnam War, pacifists of all types, including many deracinated Catholics, were celebrating Mennonite pacifism, which seemed to be swelling naive Mennonite heads. Mennonites took this sudden popularity among liberal Protestants and Catholics as vindication, as evidence that they had been right all along, because their unfamiliarity with patristic and medieval history and theology[23]  blinded them to the degree to which those flocking to their standard were at the same time abandoning many Catholic sacramental and ecclesial principles. Mennonites also failed to realize that only their own shift from nonresistance to full pacifism made them embraceable by their increasingly self-uprooted former persecutors in the mainstream Christian groups.

     Studying Augustine, as I taught his life and writings repeatedly in both patristic and medieval church history surveys, was fundamental for me. I discovered his basic principle of use and enjoyment: only God may rightly be enjoyed fully for His own sake. No created thing is evil in itself, but any created thing can be used well (toward God, in self-giving love, or caritas) or it can be used badly, sinfully (away from God, in cupiditas).[24]  But this means that the human body and mind can be used well or badly in all sorts of ways. Warfare is one of those uses of the powers of the human mind and body (extended by weaponry). Human powers have to be capable of good use, even if using them well under some circumstances is fraught with terrible dangers. Although human powers extended, as a last resort, to the level of lethal force in order to defend the innocent are nearly always used badly, what is wrong is the use made of something God created good: human abilities. Much the same applies to sexuality: it can be used well, but because of the deep passions and powerful physical instincts involved, because of the deep mystery of human procreation, it is one of the most difficult of human abilities to use well. Still, one dare not demonize the human abilities involved, or one has become a Manichaean dualist and thus ceased to be Christian. Far from remaining a closet Manichaean all his life, the pacifists? favorite whipping boy, St. Augustine, showed both how difficult it is to use human abilities in warfare and in sexuality well, yet how excruciatingly important it is that one not declare them impossible to use well.[25]  Some uses of human abilities are always wrong: using one?s mind and body to take the life of an innocent person, using one?s mind and body to violate a person?s free choice (rape), manipulating by deception and thereby depriving someone of the knowledge required to give free consent (seduction, whether in selling cars or obtaining sexual favors). But other uses of human abilities are sometimes wrong, sometimes right. Warfare covers far too great a variety of acts to be added invariably to the roster of intrinsically evil acts.[26]  While the Mennonite response to the what-if questions about self-defense (to forfeit one?s life) might be plausible as far as one?s self is concerned, it never made sense to me that someone responsible for the safety of the innocent (parents, government authorities) could forgo the use, under certain circumstances, of lethal force.

     The introduction of Christian Peacemaker Teams in the mid-1980s, developing out of Yoder?s Politics of Jesus, made clear to me that Mennonite pacifism had ceased to be nonresistant suffering and had become a means of employing abilities of mind and body forcefully for a justified cause, for the cause of justice. If everyone agrees that nonlethal force may be employed in the cause of justice, then the debate becomes one of military/activist defense strategy: are there or are there not some instances in which one can defend the innocent only by resort to lethal force? As long as Mennonites lived in subcultures and left police and defense-work (both nonlethal and lethal) to the government, hoping the government would leave them alone, they could be accused of abdicating personal responsibility for the defense of the innocent but could also for the most part avoid becoming entangled in questions of civic (police and military) defense strategy. With the CPT development, it seemed to me, they had chosen to entangle themselves in this civic military/activist defense strategy. At that point I could not see how this sort of activist nonlethal (pacifist) ?defense? of justice and the innocent was any different in essence from the just-war tradition, strictly constructed, rather than abused (as it has been by ?Christian governments? down through the centuries).[27]  Certainly the details of just how human abilities of mind and body are used nonlethally and lethally in defense (police work and warfare) are complex and difficult morally, but so too is human sexuality, if one really wishes to avoid merely using another human being (which is always dehumanizing and always sinful).[28]  And so too is nonlethal activist ?defense? strategy.

     Gradually I realized that much of Mennonite and Anabaptist ?over-againstness? is rooted in justified anger at abuses, for no set of human abilities of mind and body has been more abused than warfare, with the possible exception of sexuality. Yet instead of embracing a good use by joining others in a search for ways to overcome the abuse, and recognizing the complex ways in which human abilities of mind and body are constantly being employed, the Radical Reformation and its repristinization in the Concern movement and the radical-revolutionary iconoclasts of the 1960s confused the abuse with the use and rejected one particular use of human ability (lethal force in defense of the innocent).

     This provided the key to understanding the Catholic sacramental principle: that because God made everything, even when we sinfully misuse creatures, they can by the power of the incarnate Christ who united God and creature, once more be used toward God, as takes place most centrally in the water of baptism, the oil of anointing, the bread and wine of the Eucharist. But that means that the created matter of these sacraments has to be centrally and objectively (ex opere operato) involved, not merely an after-the-fact adjunct to the actually operative faith of the believer. In baptism the water, transformed by Word, really does change the person, objectively. It cannot be merely dependent on the recipient?s adult faith. Indeed, I realized, as I taught the first course at the Associated Seminaries to be titled ?Sacraments,? that reserving baptism to intellectually assenting adults is inherently a form of Pelagianism.

     The same principle, of course, applies to ecclesiology: one rightly denounces abuses of power by centralized episcopal and papal structures, but if ab-use has caused the problem, then one must remedy the ab-use and free the proper use from usurpation, not throw the deformed use out entirely. But both the Magisterial and Radical Reformers did exactly that with the ?papal church? and episcopacy and with a purportedly mechanical/magical abuse of authentically objective (ex opere operato) efficacy, to name only two aspects. Truly pacifist Anabaptists (if there ever were any) and modern pacifist Neo-Anabaptist-Mennonites went further, rejecting all use of force in defense of justice because of its frequent abuse. All the sixteenth-century Anabaptists rejected a proper sola gratia (grace alone) understanding of infant baptism because of its putative abuse as a mechanical means for Christianizing a population. The list could be extended.

     As long as I was teaching at AMBS I was still characterizing the Protestant Reformation as a ?tragic necessity??tragic because Christendom divided; necessary because it seemed to be the only way to push the Church into reforming herself?a reform that took centuries. But Cyprian?s insistence that schism is always wrong echoed in my mind. How could one ever use the depth of abuses to claim that corruption has ever reached the stage that it necessitates separation? If the main body of the Church (whether the ?Papal Church? from which the magisterial Reformers thought it necessary to separate or the ?Papal Church and the emerging infant-baptizing magisterial Protestant church? from which the Anabaptists wished to be separate) could fall into such error that hope of its reform must be abandoned, then Christ?s promise of indefectibility, his promise that the Church he founded would be preserved from apostasy, is hollow for all but at best a branch of his Body. And what kind of a God would permit the visible, historical manifestation of his Body to go so horribly wrong? Could not the Reformers have acted precipitously, giving up on Christ because his timetable for reformation seemed so inscrutable, because he seemed so slow to correct the abuses? If the Church of the patristic era so obviously (to me, if not to Menno, for whom the apostasy began before the apostles died) led by the Holy Spirit to preserve the faith against Gnostics, Arius, Marcion, etc., could nonetheless later fundamentally go off the track, then the Church in some sense was not indefectible, was not incapable of defecting from Christ. And a defectible Church seemed in the end not worth believing in. How could I trust the fundamental claims that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, claimed to forgive sins?that he was true God and true Man as worked out at Nicaea? But if the Church is indefectible and guided by the Holy Spirit to avoid apostasizing, then schism could never be a necessity, however tempting it might be in the face of horrific corruption. Instead, despite being provoked in all sorts of ways, Luther and the other Reformers lacked patience and faith in God sufficient to continue to believe that he was guiding and reforming his Church. Yes, one could try, with Luther and the others, to finger the Papal Church as the culprit and preserve an indefectible nonpapal Church. But the later record of the separated Protestants did not instill confidence in the indefectibility of the nonpapal church(es). Indeed, the more I studied nineteenth-century church history, the more I realized that the fundamental defects in the Modern Project that I had discovered through my own reading of history were recognized remarkably well by Pius IX and Leo XIII, while ignored, for the most part, by Protestants. This only added to my growing suspicion that both the decision by the mainline Reformers to abandon the ?Papal Church? as apostate and the Free Churches? rejection of the emerging Protestant Volkskirchen had been premature.

     Yet the process by which the ?Papal? Catholic Church was reformed in the four centuries following the Protestant Reformation had its own false turns and ambiguities. I had only begun to realize at the time I set forth the ?reform? approach as superior to Anabaptist restitutionism in 1987 that much of what I understood to be healthy reform in post-Vatican II Catholicism was driven by a version of the same restitutionism, in this case derived from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. This is particularly visible in the ?earliest-is-always-better? approach to recent Catholic liturgical reform. But that is only a surface wrinkle. The reforms mandated by Vatican II have only just begun to take root, after the bankruptcy of much of the restitutionist craziness that followed the council has become visible.[29]  Eventually a more traditional reform of the (misguidedly radical and restitutionist) reform will be undertaken,[30]  because, for all the restitutionist effort to cut off organic development between 1965 and 1985, the wildness lasted less than a generation and continuity remained unbroken.[31]  Truly Vincent of L‚rin?s and Newman?s concepts of faithful development rather than discontinuous change are among the most important characteristics of the Latin Catholic tradition.[32]  While the Latin tradition has much to learn from the East,[33]  the Eastern Orthodox, having never had to confront scholasticism, nationalism and Enlightenment, have never had to develop a theology of development and, now facing the modern world, might learn from the Latin Church on this point. Restitutionist Protestants could learn even more from it.

     The preceding pages by no means constitute a systematic and comprehensive survey of all the reasons for my becoming Catholic. Much has had to be passed over here, perhaps most notably the growing realization that sacramental confession could be a very effective path to spiritual growth, a truly fruitful way to confront one?s sins and overcome them, a means of solid spiritual direction for as many devout lay Catholics as chose to take it seriously. Nine years as a Catholic has shown me that this sacrament, although ignored today by many rootless suburban Catholics, far surpasses any of the main Protestant movements of spirituality (Wesleyan Holiness, Pietism, Anabaptist discipleship, etc.) in helping an earnest Christian grow spiritually.[34]  These and many other aspects of my decision to become a Catholic must, however, be passed over here.


     For all my critique of Mennonite and Anabaptist ab-uses, I am eternally and massively indebted to my Mennonite ancestry and my time among Mennonites and Evangelical-Fundamentalist Protestants.[35]  I miss the four-part a cappella congregational singing immensely, but one may doubt how well that will be preserved in coming generations. Anabaptist-Mennonite themes continue to inform my personal and academic perspectives as an evangelical Catholic (it may surprise some readers to know that John Paul II has made these two terms utterly inseparable[36] ) in a variety of ways.

     First and most important, the Mennonite martyr tradition and countercultural stance remains with me. Undoubtedly it was reinforced by exposure to the 1960s radicalism of my college years. Yet, for me, this Mennonite countercultural heritage has been taken up into an even richer Catholic tradition. Today, no one offers a greater ?sign of contradiction? than John Paul II and, even in death, Mother Teresa, yet no one lives or lived more radically Catholic lives than these and others like them. Christian holiness as a countercultural stance occupies an utterly central position in traditional Catholic faith and life. From the ancient desert monks[37]  through Augustine?s radical critique of the dying saeculum (world, age) and his high standard for genuine Christian caritas, from the Catholic martyrs of ninth-century Muslim Cordoba to modern saints like Maximilian Kolbe, Catholic faith, life and piety have always insisted on detachment from earthly things and yearning for heavenly things?facing martyrdom rather than give up the faith, as the Catholic hymn writer and convert F. W. Faber had taught me, unwittingly, as a child at Elkhart Valley Church of the Brethren when we sang ?Faith of Our Fathers.? This spirituality involves detachment, not rejection, in keeping with the principle that joins sacramental use with enjoyment. Thus, one may and must use created things, but one must use them in the service of caritas, use them as a means to reach God and enjoy God alone.[38]  However, since most people fail to do this, since most people live out of cupiditas, those who do diligently and fully pursue sanctity on earth find themselves sharply countercultural, even as they live in the world. We Catholics call them saints. This I learned initially from the study of medieval monasticism, more recently from the incredibly rich and vast body of stories of the saints.[39]  I found in Catholic tradition (including most especially the pre-Vatican II tradition[40] ) the very legitimizing radicality I had been searching for since Marburg?s Red University, but my attraction to it undoubtedly owes much to Mennonite counterculturalism.

     So too with martyrdom. My Mennonite background helps me embrace it as a Catholic, but what I find in Catholic theology of suffering[41]  is a much richer theology of the faith needed ?to endure to the end.? The temptation to a vindictive martyr-complex has been vexing for Anabaptist-Mennonites. I find the Catholic emphasis on daily mortification, abandonment, detachment[42]  a profound resource for beginning to understand how one might possibly have the courage to face martyrdom. Anabaptist martyrs may have understood some or much of this intuitively. Mennonites studying this tradition might find helpful theological tools for understanding Anabaptist and Mennonite martyr and suffering theology in a comparative study of Catholic piety, above all Catholic hagiography. However, this cannot entirely be learned from books. A few years? immersion in Catholic piety and liturgical/sacramental life in a traditional Catholic setting would be necessary. Yet to do that, one has to first become a Catholic, or the liturgy and piety will be experienced as an outsider and never really plumbed to its depths. (Such piety has largely but never entirely disappeared from many Americanist, suburbanized Catholic parishes but will return.[43] )



     In a very real sense, Mennonites today are victims of the disintegration of western culture. Precisely at the moment that their own subculture disintegrated and they entered the mainstream, the mainstream culture was losing its way. In the religious sphere, denominational nominalism?all Christian groups are partly right, none are entirely right, each denominates a strand of the whole Church, none is the True Church?triumphed among all but the most fundamental Fundamentalists and even among many Catholics and Orthodox. Two or three generations ago, cognizant of their historic roots and of unresolved past schisms, most Christian denominations restricted communion fellowship to those adhering to their own group. In that sense, Lutherans or Anglicans were just as much advocates of their own True Church as were Mennonites. Today, intercommunion is practiced by nearly all the mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations, out of a postmodern assumption that no one has a right to claim that his group has a greater share of the truth than another. This razing of the bulwarks around the mainline and evangelical denominations, coinciding with the breakup of the Mennonite subculture, permitted relatively easy Mennonite assimilation as one more denomination (or set of denominations) among many. Of course, the price Mennonites willingly paid for this was jettisoning their claim to be the True Church (or at least the truer church). Even Mennonite pacifism is no longer distinctive, as noted above.

     In the quasi-rural areas (virtually no truly rural culture remains in America today), Mennonites will undoubtedly hold on to faded remnants of the patterns of two or three generations ago for a while longer. The Amish, and perhaps the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, will hold on to more and do so longer. But in what sense is the rest of the Mennonite world Mennonite? Even the efforts to build an MCC-Mennonite-World-Conference global Mennonite identity are governed largely by the politically correct criteria of disintegrating Western European and American elite culture, with even a Yoderian peace witness becoming homogenized into generic social welfare activism or generic Leftist-Green political activism. Of course, that political correctness holds as an Article of Faith that African and Asian and Latin American Mennonites should discover their own indigenous ways of being Mennonite.

     But what in the world can that mean? To the degree that ?Mennonite? and ?Anabaptist? mean anything, they are incomprehensible apart from the world of early modern high and low German cultures, as developed organically in Russian or Paraguayan or American or Canadian Volksdeutsch enclaves and subcultures. Apart from Paraguay and the Amish and Old Colony Mennonite minorities, these enclaves and subcultures are now all gone. The efforts to translate these historically rooted and real cultures into general principles, exportable to nonWestern settings, bear all the marks of Western European and North American liberal intellectual currents of the twentieth century. One could resort to a sort of apostolic succession principle whereby nonWestern Mennonite groups are Mennonite solely because they were founded by Mennonite missionaries. But apostolic succession is scarcely a historically Mennonite theological principle, and eventually memory of the European and North American Mennonite founders of nonWestern Mennonite bodies will fade away.

     Will anyone mourn that? Who really cares, except those who are old enough to remember growing up in one of those Mennonite enclaves or subcultures? A culture or religious tradition that cannot maintain itself by continuity of development over time will eventually cease to be missed because those who nominally belong to it have no experiential recollection of what it means. This applies to the coming generations of Mennonites, indistinguishable as they will be from the mainstream culture, even in their pacifism, since the mainstream ?New Knowledge Class?[44]  has become pacifistic. One has to believe in something rather strongly if one is to bear ultimate witness (martyrdom) to it, and the Western elites, including too many Mennonite elites, today believe Truth certainly cannot truly be known with certainty, and that those who claim otherwise are dangerous fanatics who cause the world?s violence.

     Having come of age and been enlightened, mainstream liberal Christianity no longer believes in supernaturally revealed truth, no longer believes in Christ as God-incarnate, but has settled for a mess of pottage in the form of the social construction of belief. Christianity thus becomes merely an expression of the contemporary culture, floating along with it. Without belief in Christ as the transcendent Creator incarnate and in a Church founded by and indefectibly guided by him in concrete historical development, one has no way to know for sure that the historic belief in a transcendent Creator God incarnate was anything more than a pious projection by misguided but well-intentioned Christians of a primitive era.

     Once upon a time Mennonites appealed to Scripture as the proof of their beliefs about Church and Christ. But except for those who have been assimilated into Evangelical Protestant and Fundamentalist frameworks, Mennonite intellectuals no longer really believe that, because no intellectual today is permitted by the academy to believe that, if he wants to be credentialed by the academy. Many Catholic intellectuals are similarly rootless, but the difference is that Vatican II?s Dei Verbum and other magisterial documents reaffirm unabashedly the authority and infallibility of Scripture, even if ?knowledge class? uprootedly progressive Protest(ant) Catholics insist on ignoring the literal meaning of Dei Verbum?s plain text in favor of mainstream postmodern critical-method glosses.

     I have concluded, therefore, that only something like the Catholic claim for an indefectibly guided historical and institutional Church can constitute a real defense against postmodern relativism. The corrosive acids of modernity ate away or are rapidly eating away traditional culture, including traditional culture in Catholic areas of the globe. All that is left is a postmodern theology: ?your guess is as good as mine since no one has the whole truth.? This has proved utterly disastrous for Mennonites and has severely shaken Catholics (and will shake the Eastern Orthodox, at least in the West and on the periphery of the Russian Orthodox center). One cannot translate a tradition into a new context unless the tradition is sufficiently formalized and existentially and theologically and philosophically defined so as to be distinct from, even while organically joined to, the old context. How to do this is the great struggle of Christianity, rooted as it is in a series of events in time and space and thus necessarily always having to be translated into new times and new contexts. The Anabaptists thought they had found the key to this with their New Testament primitivism (including nonresistance), and they also thought that both Catholics and magisterial Protestants were too rooted in Christendom?s culture. It would appear that their New Testament primivitism was embedded in the supposed kairos moment provided by sixteenth-century certainty of a God-given historicalizing recovery of the True Church. Its putative universal validity would thus forever be imprisoned in the parochial modern European culture in which it briefly flourished. The modern West dances with the postmodern ?naked-public-square? culture in which, since the 1960s, nothing can be known for sure. Of course, the exception is the dogmatically certain axiom that nothing can be known with certainty, a dogma to which one must assent with full subjection of mind and will unless one wishes to be labeled a Fundamentalist or a Rigidly Intolerant Dogmatist. Ironically, the intellectual leadership of the once purportedly countercultural Mennonites finds itself as politically correct and National-Public-Radio-mainstream as any Lutheran or Episcopalian would be,[45]  while the main voice against the nihilistic Culture of Death is the Church of Rome, which, with its stubborn insistence on an identifiable True Church, increasingly seems, even to many of its own putative adherents, to be arrogant and hegemonically inspired.[46] 

[1] . My great-great-grandfather Moses Martin (1845-1928), son of George S[ensenig] and Lavina (Louvina?) Stauffer Martin, was born in Lancaster County. After moving to Elkhart County with his parents ca. 1856-1858, he married Delilah Miller (1841-1901), who had been born in Elkhart County, the daughter of the Elkhart County pioneer, David Y. Miller (1809-1898), a leader in the Yellow Creek Brethren and, subsequently, Old Order Brethren congregation. His ancestors, going back to [Johann] Michael Miller, immigrant of the 1730s and member of the Little Conewago Brethren congregation of York County, moved with the frontier to western Maryland (1750s), western Pennsylvania (late 1780s), northern Kentucky (late 1790s), and southern Ohio (1801-1805ff). With his father John (1787-1856) and most of his brothers and sisters, David Y. Miller moved to northern Indiana in 1835. The extended family owned land in Harrison Township, Elkhart, Jefferson, and Union townships in Elkhart County, and in Marshall County. David Y. settled at C.R. 9 and 40 of Harrison Township. In the move to Indiana, John Miller and his children were associated with John?s uncle Daniel Cripe, who led some of the earliest settlers to Elkhart County in 1829ff, coming from the Wolf Creek Brethren congregation west of Dayton, Ohio. (Cripes, Stutzmans, Bechtels, Garbers and Millers were already neighbors in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1740s and appear to have known each other already as Swiss Reformed emigrants to the Palatinate in the late seventeenth century). See Gene Edwin Miller, As a Good Soldier of King Immanuel: A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller, 1809-1898 (Irvine, CA: the author, 1989). These families may have known of the Dunker/Brethren movement before moving to Pennsylvania, since the Dunkers emerged in the first decade of the eighteenth century among German Reformed Pietists in the Palatinate. Moses Martin?s parents remained with the Yellow Creek Mennonite congregation, while Moses presumably was associated with his wife?s Yellow Creek Brethren congregation. His son Daniel F. Martin married Lula Stealy, daughter of Franklin and Christiana (Landis) Stealy, who were also Brethren. Return to Text

[2] . Aelred of Rievaulx, Speculum Caritatis (Mirror of Charity), III.4.10. Return to Text

[3] . My thanks to Peter Erb for pointing this out to me twenty-five years after first introducing me to Faber. Return to Text

[4] . The Grace Brethren had originated in a division among the ?Ashland Brethren? between 1930 and 1939. The ?Ashland? or ?Progressive? Brethren were roughly the equivalent among the Dunkers or Church of the Brethren to the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (Daniel Brenneman) schism of the 1870s and 1880s among the Mennonites. Return to Text

[5] . ?Ashland College versus Ashland Seminary, 1920-37: Prelude to Schism,? Brethren Life and Thought 21 (1976), 37-50; ?What Has Divided the Brethren Church?? Ibid., 107-19. Return to Text

[6] . See Jason S. Martin, ?Christian and Ells Martin: Immigrant Patriarch and Matriarch,? Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage (July 1987), 13-24, at 13-14; cf. more recently, Darvin L. Martin, ?A New Look at the Origins of Mennonite Martin Family,? Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage 22 (July 1999), 2-15. Martin has discovered a 1669 baptismal record for a Christian Martin at Reggisberg, Canton Bern. Return to Text

[7] . The Van Scoiks had been closely associated with the Brethren family of John and Esther Miller (parents of David Y. Miller), perhaps already in Montgomery County, Ohio. Moses Van Scoik (1795-1869) and the wife and several children of his son Harvey D. Van Scoik lie buried in the Miller family plot on County Road 38, between C.R. 11 and 9 (Harrison Township); Harvey D. Van Scoik served as executor of Esther Miller?s estate in 1861-1862 and owned a neighboring 160-acre farm on C.R. 36, straddling C.R. 9. See Miller, As a Good Soldier, 91-103. But Ethel Van Scoik?s father Charles (grandson of Harvey D.) and his wife Faustina Simmons attended no church at all until they were converted in a River Brethren revival meeting, according to accounts by Ethel and Berlin Van Scoik. Return to Text

[8] . Had the Church of the Brethren remained faithful to its own tradition and preserved a healthy subculture, my family might have remained Brethren. The issue for us was the growing Church of the Brethren involvement with the National Council of Churches, acceptance of the Revised Standard Version, etc., developments which represented in some sense the Church of the Brethren?s deracination in its post-World War II flirtation with the mainline Protestant denominations with whom it had begun to associate in relief work and then formal ecumenical interaction to a much greater degree than Mennonites. The Brethren vision for integrating relief work with ecumenical efforts owed much to M. R. Zigler?s development during and after World War I. Zigler helped found a series of ecumenical relief organizations (Church World Service, CROP, Heifer Project, CARE, Inter-Church Aid and Service to Refugees), attended World Council of Churches assemblies at Oxford and Edinburgh in 1937 and, while directing Brethren Service Committee work in Europe, also sat on the WCC Central Committee, 1954-1960. See D. F. Durnbaugh, ?Zigler, Michael Robert,? in Brethren Encyclopedia (Germantown, Pa.: Brethren Encyclopedia Inc., 1983), 2:1398-99. Return to Text

[9] . Kenneth R. Davis, Anabaptism and Asceticism: A Study in Intellectual Origins, Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, 16 (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1974). Return to Text

[10] . Viewed as a Constantinian betrayal of Anabaptist origins by the post-World-War-II Concern Movement, whose members had come to dominate the Mennonite intellectual landscape by the 1970s. See below for details. Return to Text

[11] . By traditional culture I have in mind the world destroyed by la technique and technological society, as explored with penetrating insight by Jacques Ellul (whose iconoclastic response to the destruction I find unconvincing), George Parkin Grant and Wendell Berry (whose more iconic and catholic responses I find more convincing). Among the vast literature by and about these three writers, see as an entry path, Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. by John Wilkinson (New York: Knopf, 1964); Grant, Technology and Empire (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1969); and Berry, The Unsettling of America (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977), Standing on Earth: Selected Essays (Ipswich, UK: Golgonooza Press, 1991) and Recollected Essays, 1965-1980 (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981). In relation to medieval monasticism and the Southern Agrarians see my ??The Honeymoon Was Over?: Carthusians between Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie,? Die Kart„user und ihre Welt: Kontakte und gegenseitige Einflsse, Analecta Cartusiana, 62.1 (Salzburg: Institut fr Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1993), 1:66-99. Return to Text

[12] . Above all, a basic peasant, rather than bourgeois, mentality for which I remain ever grateful, even if it often fails to serve me well in the fundamentally urban and bourgeois university world, dominated as it is by a bi-coastal mentality that scorns small-town life in ?flyover country.? At conferences one incessantly hears academics exiled to remote regions like South Bend commiserating with each other over their sad fate and longing for their next trip to New York or Paris for research or a symposium. Return to Text

[13] . Grant concludes his plea for traditional culture with a quotation from Virgil?s Aeneid (VI. 314), in which Aeneas sees the shades who, wishing to be the first to be ferried across the River Styx, ?stretched out their arms toward the other side in love? (?tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore?)?See Lament for a Nation ( 1965, repr. Ottawa: Carlton U. Press, 1978), 97. To Peter Erb tendo tendamque manus meas amore (?I stretch forth and shall stretch forth my hands in love?) for introducing me to George Grant?s rich legacy and to so many other resources without which I now cannot imagine living. Return to Text

[14] . See, most recently, Paul Griffiths and George Weigel, ?Just War: An Exchange,? in First Things no. 122 (April 2002), 31-36, regarding a default pacifist view among Catholic intellectuals. For a more thorough account of Weigel?s position, see George Weigel, ?The Just War Tradition and the World after September 11,? Logos 5 (Summer 2002), 13-44. Return to Text

[15] . While I was working on the Mennonite Encyclopedia, Levi Miller wrote an essay for Gospel Herald titled, ?I Am a Mennonite, Not an Anabaptist? (July 7, 1987), 482-84, that captured much of what I had been thinking. My entry, ?Tradition,? in Mennonite Encyclopedia, 5: 889-91, represents a sketchy effort to articulate some of these principles. Return to Text

[16] . ?Nothing New Under the Sun: Mennonites and History,? Conrad Grebel Review 5 (Winter, 1987) 1-27, with responses pp. 147-53, 260-62. This essay failed to take adequate account of the degree to which both first- and second-generation aspects were present in Christianity from the start, since it originated in traditional Judaism; it also failed to perceive how much radical restitutionism had infected post-conciliar Catholic liturgical reform, subverting the much more traditional renewal mandated by the council itself in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the council?s main document on liturgy. Return to Text

[17] . The inclusion of Robert Baker?s ?My Good Bishop? as a feature article in ME 5:86-88 (originally published in Gospel Herald [Feb. 24, 1987], 126-27), was my effort to illustrate one aspect of this unwritten catholicizing in Mennonite life before the upheavals of the 1960s. Ironically, the good bishop Bob Baker refers to here was David A. Yoder, the same bishop whose very ?high church? principles regarding reverent reception of Communion helped induce my grandmother to leave Olive Mennonite Church in the early 1930s. Today, in the wake of widespread vulgarization in society (one of the marks of our culture is that elites now take their behavioral, sartorial and linguistic cues from entertainment stars and sports celebrities rather than the reverse), casual, even indecent, dress has become so common in Catholic parishes that even my own very traditionally Catholic parish finds it necessary to post reminders regarding appropriate dress at Mass. For unwritten sacramental and liturgical aspects of Mennonite Communion services, see John D. Rempel ?Communion,? Mennonite Encyclopedia, 5:170-72. Return to Text

[18] . See J. Lawrence Burkholder, ?Concern Pamphlets Movement,? ME 5:177-80. Reviewers have rightly noted the disproportionate length of this article. I take responsibility for its length, since my conviction that the Concern movement?s role in post-World War II Mennonite life had largely gone unnoticed and my belief that at least an initial assessment needed to be put into print sooner rather than later lay behind the amount of space conceded to it. Some important studies have appeared since indicating that my concern that it would remain inadequately studied was unfounded. Return to Text

[19] . Positing a simple moral equivalence here would be greatly mistaken. Dissent on the right has focused, in the case of the Lefebvrist schism, not on a rejection of papal authority per se but on a rejection of the legitimacy of Vatican II and hence of the actual occupants of the See of Rome since the council. It has led to open schism. More recently, some outspoken Catholics (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, commentator Patrick Buchanan) have rejected John Paul II?s prudential judgment that capital punishment virtually never is necessary. Scalia has also taken theological issue with Avery Dulles, insisting that restricting the justifying grounds for capital punishment to the defense of the innocent (abandoning retributive justice as a ground) constitutes a major development in Catholic doctrine. However, they are not rejecting papal authority in so doing, but disagreeing with the pope?s prudential and theological judgment, since he never declared capital punishment to be inherently wrong and, in voicing theological and prudential judgments, has not invoked ultimate papal infallibility on the subject. In my view, some of their arguments about the theological and prudential judgments are less than convincing (though I do agree with Scalia that the restriction to defense of the innocent is a significant theological development and deserves theological debate but am inclined to share the pope?s theological judgment on this matter) and I am convinced that the Holy Father intends that his theological and prudential judgments be taken very, very seriously. See Avery Cardinal Dulles, ?Catholicism and Capital Punishment,? First Things, 112 (April 2001), 30-35, with critics and responses in the Aug.-Sept. and Nov. 2001 issues. Scalia?s response to Dulles is ?God?s Justice and Ours,? found in First Things, 123 (May 2002), 17-22, with further responses in the Oct. 2002 issue (see From the left the situation is quite different?infallible confirmations of unbroken tradition on the question of priestly ordination for women, for instance, are routinely dismissed, unaccompanied by sufficient intellectual honesty to recognize the consequences of an open rejection of 2000 years of unbroken, Dominically-instituted Catholic belief, namely, de facto schism. Return to Text

[20] . Instances of floundering for a generation and subsequent correction are not uncommon, especially after a major event on the order of Vatican II, as is pointed out in Ian Ker, ?Newman, the Councils, and Vatican II,? Communio 28.4 (Winter 2001), 708-28. Return to Text

[21] . The mid-1960s curriculum revision at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries represented perhaps the most significant institutional precipitate of the Concern movement. See Ross T. Bender, The People of God: A Mennnonite Interpretation of the Free Church Tradition (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971). Return to Text

[22] . See the description of the older models, the 1960s egalitarianist curriculum revision and the second, more professionalist curriculum review of the early 1980s in Leland Harder, The Pastor-People Partnership: The Call and Recall of Pastors from a Believers? Church Perspective, Occasional Papers, 5 (Elkhart: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1983), esp. 12-62. Note that Mennonites turned to a sociological survey to resolve the unease that had surrounded the question of pastoral leadership for a century. The results of Harder?s fine survey work show consistently that Mennonite pastors to a large degree and lay people to a lesser degree rejected any notion of sacramental or priestly ordination when questions were put in those terms but, when lay people were asked what they wanted in pastors, they more frequently than their pastors cited priestly and clerical functions. See, e.g., pp. 92-93. Note also (pp. 43-44) the anecdotal evidence from an AMBS student indicating a huge gap between the anti-clerical, egalitarian model presented in class by John Howard Yoder and the expectations of grassroots Mennonites as perceived by the student: ?I rationally lean in his [Yoder?s] direction and assent to the multiplicity of ministers based on charismata and exercised as equal members of the body of Christ; but within me I know most Mennonite congregations won?t buy this. They want a set-apart holy man, and maybe even a priest. This is definitely not New Testament, . . ? The same student notes significant difference between Yoder?s more radically egalitarian model and Paul Miller?s ?set-apart, ordained, financially supported pastor.? Return to Text

[23] . The few Mennonites who did become professional experts at patristic or medieval history or theology per se rarely remained Mennonite. Most Mennonite students who did doctoral level studies chose Anabaptist or Mennonite history itself?as part of Reformation era or American history or sociology?after Harold Bender, among others, legitimized the study of Anabaptist and Mennonite history, at least within the WASP Divinity School framework with his 1944 American Society of Church History presidential address. Or, if they did not choose an ?Anabaptist? or ?Mennonite? topic for a dissertation, they wrote dissertations that ran their more general topic through an ?Anabaptist? filter. With the rise of postmodern ?decentering? (which is really a replacing of the old center with the old periphery to create a newly hegemonic grotesquerie at the center) the old WASP establishment is gone and Mennonites can readily take a central place on the exotica wallpaper that passes for scholarship in the established academy today. See ?The Stillborn Rebirth of American Religious History,? The Journal of the Historical Society, 1.2-3 (Winter 2000 / Spring 2001), 57-65, a response to D. G. Hart, ?The Failure of American Religious History,? The Journal of the Historical Society, 1.1 (Spring 2000), 1-31. For all these reasons and more, most Mennonite intellectuals remain as unfamiliar with authentic patristic and medieval history and theology as they did in 1987 when I first pointed out this pattern. Return to Text

[24] . E.g., Tractates in First John, Homily II.11; IV.4-5; VII.5, 7-8; IX.10; On Christian Doctrine, I.20-21. Return to Text

[25] . See the insightful study of this thematic by Jean Bethke Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, 1995). Return to Text

[26] . See the list in Vatican II?s Decree on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes), #27, as cited in John Paul II?s encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (1993), # 80: ?whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons; all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the creator.? Warfare is conspicuously absent, though homicide?taking of innocent life (which includes abortion and euthanasia)?and all forms of dehumanization (using employees as mere instruments of profit, all physical and mental torture, and all denial of freedom to the innocent) are listed. Cf. John Paul II Evangelium Vitae (1995). Return to Text

[27] . In light of Margaret R. Pfeil, ?John Howard Yoder?s Pedagogical Approach: A Just War Tradition with Teeth and a Hermeneutic of Peace,? MQR 76 (April 2002), 181-88, I might note that one of the problems with Yoder?s call for just war proponents to set forth a ?just war tradition with teeth? and his insistence on the ?negative potential? of the theory, asking whether just war criteria have ever been used to prevent war rather than merely to bless war, is the failure to do the nitty-gritty historical work that would be required to answer that question. The Carthusian, St. Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, risked his life to face down Richard I over the justness or lack thereof of Richard?s wars in France in the late twelfth century, to offer one of a number of medieval examples. See Adam of Eynsham, Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis, ed. Decima L. Douie and Hugh Farmer (London: Nelson, 1961; Oxford, 1985), Bk. 5, ch. 5-6 (2:98-109), cf. Giraldus Cambrensis, Vita Sancti Hugonis, ch. 8, trans. by Richard M. Loomis as Gerald of Wales, The Life of St. Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, series A, vol. 31 (New York: Garland, 1985), 27-29. To my knowledge no one has ever undertaken such a study, though the theological critique of scholastic writers of the Crusades and other uses of war has been included in standard accounts of just war, e.g., Frederick H. Russell, The Just War in the Middle Ages, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 3rd Series, vol. 8 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975). Mennonite unfamiliarity with medieval history permits blanket generalizations to be made without any solid historical evidence. Return to Text

[28] . See Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, trans. H. T. Willetts (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993; first published in Polish in 1960, in English in 1981). Return to Text

[29] . Instances of floundering for a generation and subsequent correction are not uncommon, especially after a major event on the order of Vatican II, as is pointed out in Ian Ker, ?Newman, the Councils, and Vatican II,? Communio 28.4 (Winter 2001), 708-28. Return to Text

[30] . For the specific question of reform of vernacular translations, see Dennis D. Martin, ?Give and Take in Grail-Quest, Gawain, and Roman Missal: Why Perceval Just Doesn?t Get It,? Logos 4 (Fall 2001), 165-203. For centers of renewal probably unfamiliar to MQR readers, see (St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, with parallels in St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minn., Assumption Grotto near Detroit and St. Agnes in New York City) and, with additional links to further resources. Print resources include the journals Crisis, Communio, Logos and First Things, to name only a few. Recently the Congregation for Divine Worship has issued two remarkably strongly worded statements, in effect declaring the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) over the past thirty years fundamentally defective. See the Congregation for Divine Worship?s ?Observations? regarding the proposed revision and retranslation of the 1975 edition of the Roman Missal (March 2002) at Background on this document is found at For a more thorough treatment, see the Fifth Instruction for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council: Liturgiam Authenticam: On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy at or and other internet sites. Return to Text

[31] . One of the early alternative voices came with the founding of the journal Communio by Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger and others in 1974 as a counterweight to the increasingly restitutionist and historicist journal Concilium. The election of John Paul II and his appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith staunched the hemorrhaging. The publication of the Ratzinger Report (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, trans. by Salvator Attanasio and Graham Harrison [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985]) marked the first open recognition from the highest levels of the Vatican that something had gone seriously off the rails (more serious than the commonplace admission that, in the flurry of the first few years after the Council, a lot of craziness had taken place but things had soon settled down). On all these matters, see the biography of John Paul II by George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (New York: Harper-Collins [Cliff Street Books], 1999). Since most MQR readers may be more familiar with the distorted perception of things Catholic provided by National Catholic Reporter and the mainstream media (including the Religious News Service), I will point out here that John Paul II?s theology centers on a remarkable, even breathtaking, effort to make a natural law case for agapic love as lying at the heart of human personhood. Far from being an ethic for a small group of true believers as the persecuted Anabaptists imagined agapic love to be, John Paul II?as yet unknown in western intellectual circles as a Polish poet, playwright, philosopher and theologian?has mounted the most significant recasting of Christian teaching since Aquinas, drawing on the patristic vision of human dignity and destiny established in the hypostatic union of God and man in Christ. Mennonites who study the ?Christian Humanism? of John Paul II will find much of what they thought they alone had been advocating all these centuries, placed in a world-affirming rather than sectarian framework. But then this vision really differs little from that of Augustine or Gregory of Nazianzen or John Chrysostom. Return to Text

[32] . John W. O?Malley?s writings as a historian at the time of the Council and during the subsequent two decades offer a fascinating window into the rapidity with which Catholic intellectuals, for the first time earning doctoral degrees in establishment American universities, adopted a Whig view of history with its thesis of radical discontinuity (revolutionary change) as the motor of history, thereby effortlessly throwing overboard the hard-won Catholic doctrine of faithful development without radical change by grace of the Holy Spirit?s guidance. See my review essay on O?Malley, Trent and All That in Fides et Historia 34 (Winter/Spring, 2002), 141-45. O?Malley is, of course, merely typical of most Catholic historians in Western Europe and America today. For an alternative, see Martin Brske, ?Is Newman?s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine a Theory of the Development of Dogma? Suggestions for an Alternative Interpretation,? Communio 28.4 (Winter 2001), 695-707. Return to Text

[33] . See, e.g., John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (May 25, 1995), esp.# 50-51, and the Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen (May 2, 1995). These texts are available now, with most other Catholic documents, at a wide variety of websites, including,, and and /docs/jp02ols.htm. Return to Text

[34] . Space does not permit further discussion. I refer interested readers to a typical manual for devotional frequent confession, a genre that has fallen into neglect over the past thirty years but that will eventually be revived: Alfred Wilson, Pardon and Peace (1947; rpt. Fort Collins, CO: Roman Catholic Books, 2001). The questions for an examination of one?s conscience (pp. 95-116), if considered carefully, offer real insight into one?s motives in practical, day-to-day life, and uncover the ways we rationalize our behavior, deceive ourselves into self-righteousness and thereby ignore the root causes of our sinful behavior, which at the same time lies behind our social and interpersonal faults. I have never seen anything of this sort in contemporary Protestant devotional or spiritual writing?perhaps because of my own blindness, though something like it did occasionally surface in early Methodism, in the best of the Anglican tradition and among some Continental Pietists. Return to Text

[35] . I must also give much credit to the incredibly rich year I spent among Lutheran Pietists at the Albrecht-Bengel-Haus in Tbingen, 1976-1977. The glimpse Gerhard Maier, Eberhard Hahn, Werner Neudorfer and many others offered me of the combination, in the formation of ministers, of the highest standards of scholarship in Greek and Hebrew, church history and theology, combined with an evangelical and pastoral heart, has never left me. Return to Text

[36] . See Weigel, Witness to Hope. The first of the eight major accomplishments he attributes to John Paul II?s papacy (846-49) is to have returned it to its evangelical roots from a more managerial model of church government. In my view Weigel exaggerates, for understandable rhetorical effect, the captivity to managerial thinking and is thereby unfair to Pius XII and other popes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whose farsighted sociological and theological response to nationalism, socialism, eugenicism and other forms of modern dehumanization paved the way for John Paul II, as the Holy Father would be the first to acknowledge. Return to Text

[37] . See Peter Brown, ?The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,? Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971), 80-101, reprinted in Brown, Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity, 103-152, who argues, using Victor Turner?s liminality anthropology, that the marginalized play important, central social roles (arbitrating disputes etc.) precisely because they have detached themselves from the social networks by refusing marriage and integration into the family and clan structures of traditional society. Much of this material is further developed in Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Lectures in the History of Religions, n.s., 13 (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1988). Return to Text

[38] . To name only one example, the ?Act of Love? in preparation for receiving Holy Communion, printed in most Catholic missals before the iconoclasm of the post-conciliar era, strings together a series of Psalm texts and other Scriptures to read: ?As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God! My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? For what have I in heaven? and besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth? Let blind and infatuated worldlings content themselves with the false, transient, and fading happiness of this life; for my part, nothing besides Thyself can content me, either in heaven or on earth.? Note that this prayer, contrary to what many might think after a cursory reading, is not an exercise in world-denigration or flight from the world but rather a statement of the use and enjoyment principle. Even things of this earth are to be used in light of their source and destination: their Creator. We have nothing in heaven or on earth but God, which means that what we have on earth we have insofar as we have God. This valorizes earthly things in their true meaning, putting them in their place, so to speak, and thereby rendering to them their true dignity. For a fine restatement of these principles from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, see Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir?s Seminary Press, 1973). Return to Text

[39] . Not until after I became a Catholic did I discover the immense treasury of spirituality and miracle stories in the lives of the saints, an utterly scientific and empirical theology of miracles, and the sociological and popular religion saneness of phenomena like the apparitions at Fatima and Lourdes. Everything I had seen in mainstream press and in Protestant and self-loathing liberal Catholic circles led me to believe these were embarrassing excrescences of an otherwise sane Catholic piety. As I began to look at the evidence for them, including the overwhelming historical evidence for the Shroud of Turin as the very burial shroud of Christ (and the related sudarium of Oviedo), with its evidence of the miracle of the Resurrection, I realized how immensely I had been shortchanged in the historical and scientific and sociological data for my faith that had been withheld from me by anti-Catholic prejudice. On these topics see Louis Monden, Signs and Wonders: A Study of the Miraculous Element in Religion (New York: Descl‚e, 1966), esp. 177, 206-50; Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, Encountering Mary: From La Salette to Medjugorje (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1991); G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy The Romance of Faith (first American edition New York: John Lane Company, 1908), esp. ch. I, IV, IX; Stanley L. Jaki, Miracles and Physics (Front Royal, VA: Christendom, 1989); Joan Carroll Cruz, The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati (Rockford, IL.: TAN, 1977); Herbert Thurston, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, ed. J. H. Crehan (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1952). On the Shroud of Turin, see Ian Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World?s Most Sacred Relic Is Real (New York: Free Press, 1998) and the website, The contemporary fascination with saints? lives and hagiography among secular medieval historians, unfortunately, can only treat them as exotica to be explained away with the help of Foucault or Lacan or some other form of postmodern ?it?s all about power? ideology. Return to Text

[40] . For all the claims of progressive and radical breakthroughs on the part of ?spirit of Vatican II? liberal Catholics (what George Weigel calls ?Catholicism Lite? in The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Catholic Church [New York: Basic Books, 2002]), I find these trends since Vatican II to have been amazingly conformist?conforming, of course, to the Spirit of the Sixties under the guise of ?aggorniamento.? One will find an authentically ?in the world yet not of the world? counterculturalism (counter above all to the sinfulness of the present world) precisely where Catholics since Vatican II have preserved healthy continuity with and development of the pre-Vatican II tradition. The breathtaking theological and philosophical work of Karol Wojtyla offers us such a counterculturalism, building on the insights of a host of co-witnesses (de Lubac, von Balthasar etc.). Return to Text

[41] . As a starting point, see John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (1984), and his play, Job in Karol Wojtyla, The Collected Plays and Writings on Theater, trans. Boleslaw Taborski (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1987), 27-74, written when Wojtyla was nineteen years old, during the first months of the German occupation of Poland. Return to Text

[42] . To offer only two examples out of many, see Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year, 7 vol. (Princeton: Scepter Press, 1989ff), and Elizabeth Leseur, My Spirit Rejoices: The Diary of a Christian Soul in an Age of Unbelief (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1996; originally published in French in 1927); reissued in combination with Leseur?s Light in the Darkness under the new title The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002). Return to Text

[43] . See for a glimpse of how the tradition has been carried on in a manner fully compatible with Vatican II. Return to Text

[44] . The term is from sociologist Peter Berger. To find out what this class thinks like, one has only to listen to National Public Radio and read The New York Times for a week, comparing them to the The Washington Times and and Return to Text

[45] . This applies to such issues as abortion, war and peace, social welfare and the environment. Many grass-roots Mennonites in the various larger Mennonite bodies, as well as the leadership of the Mennonite Brethren, have embraced Evangelical Protestantism, which is behind the curve in assimilating to the politically correct mainstream but, via the seduction of church growth marketing technique and the seduction of psychotherapeutic fixes for spiritual ailments, will eventually make up the lost ground. For a glimpse, see Alan Wolfe, ?The Opening of the Evangelical Mind,? Atlantic Monthly 286 (October 2000), 55-82. Wolfe was surprised but pleased to find most Wheaton College students supporting a 1992 Supreme Court decision banning even nonsectarian public prayer at high school graduations; he was similarly pleasantly surprised to find how open-mindedly Evangelicals at Fuller Theological Seminary and elsewhere have embraced psychotherapy. The obscurantist Fundamentalists are finally catching up with and thereby earning the approval of the bi-coastal elites. Where have we seen this before? In the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberal Protestant embrace of the Enlightenment Rationalism that initially spawned the Evangelical protest movement. Return to Text

[46] . Where once anti-Catholic Protestants denounced a supposed Roman lust to rule the world (and some Fundamentalists still do), today denunciations of Roman lust for hegemony more frequently than not come from within purportedly Catholic circles: if only Rome would leave us alone, here in the United States or in Germany or in Australia, we could truly reform the church to bring it into conformity with the rest of the modern world. Such thinking, of course, disguises (barely) a call for breaking up the catholic (universal) Church into national churches, which has been tried before, in the sixteenth century, and which historically has led to a genuine loss of Catholic substance. Moreover, while it may seem that anti-Catholic prejudice has declined among Protestants, including Mennonites, as noted above, this applies precisely to those circles within American or Western European Catholicism that have accommodated themselves most to non-Catholic and non-Christian assumptions and abandoned the specific Catholic doctrines that historically so offended non-Catholics: the Mass as an expiatory sacrifice, a real authority and jurisdiction for the bishop of Rome, transubstantiation etc. Above all, since the sexual revolution that began with the Anglican reversal on contraception in the 1930s, the Catholic insistence on traditional sexual morality, reaffirmed from the center by John Paul II with erudition and insight, is widely perceived as sinister and hegemonic. As even evangelical Protestants begin to waver on such matters as homosexuality and divorce/remarriage, the Catholic Church increasingly becomes the bˆte noire for the global knowledge class. Very probably, as has already begun to take shape in Sweden, France,and Canada, this will lead eventually to the criminalization (as ?hate-speech?) of Catholic beliefs about the disorderedness of homosexual orientation, to say nothing of the sinfulness of homosexual acts, and the refusal to ordain women priests. Such court rulings and legislation will, of course, be directed in the minds of its proponents solely against the ?extremist? Catholics and ?fundamentalist? Protestants. All these benighted folk will have to do to escape any penalty will be to become ?moderate? and ?progressive,? abandoning such hopelessly outdated and petty beliefs about sex and gender. 190 The Mennonite Quarterly Review 191 Retrospect and Apologia * Dennis D. Martin is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Loyola University, Chicago. 167