Book Critique of Return to ROME by Dr. Francis J. Beckwith

Return to ROME
By Francis J. Beckwith

5 – Wisdom of My Ancestors

Page 75: Her father, my brother Patrick, is seven years my junior. He is a Knights of Columbus Catholic, who, with his wife, teaches Natural Family Planning. He once actually wrote a letter to the Bishop of Las Vegas asking that a priest be reprimanded for allowing non-Catholics and divorced Catholics to receive communion at our nephew’s First Holy Communion. On several occasions prior to my return to the Church, Patrick would have The Coming Home Network (a group dedicated to bringing ex-Catholics and Protestants into full communion with the Church) send me a nice card with a drawing of the Vatican on the front and an inscription that said something like, “You’re always welcome in the Catholic Church.”
Note: In the Kingdom of God there are no second class Christians.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Page 75: This encounter with my niece marked the first step in our movement toward the Catholic Church. It seemed not to be such a big deal at the time. After all, this was an eight-year-old child unacquainted with the serious theological questions for whom someone in my line of work requires answers. Although that may be true, beneath Darby’s inquiry was a more fundamental question, one for which I should have had an answer: “Can I give a convincing account as to why I should permanently abandon the Church of my baptism?
Note: Why do Catholic apologists avoid discussing the heretic Pope Leo X?
Giovanni was elected Pope on 9 March 1513, and this was proclaimed two days later.[4] The absence of the French cardinals effectively reduced the election to a contest between Giovanni (who had the support of the younger and noble members of the College) and Raffaele Riario (who had the support of the older group). On 15 March 1513, he was ordained priest, and consecrated as bishop on 17 March. He was crowned Pope on 19 March 1513 at the age of 37. Early on in his rule he oversaw the closing sessions of the Fifth Council of the Lateran, but failed sufficiently to implement the reforms agreed. In 1517 he led a costly war that succeeded in securing his nephew as duke of Urbino, but which damaged the papal finances. He is probably best remembered for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica, which practice was challenged by Martin Luther's 95 Theses. He seems not to have taken seriously the array of demands for church reform that would quickly grow into the Protestant Reformation. His Papal Bull of 1520, Exsurge Domine, simply condemned Luther on a number of areas and made ongoing engagement difficult. He borrowed and spent heavily. A significant patron of the arts, upon election Leo is alleged to have said, "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it". Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Pages 76-77: After I delivered my paper, the audience asked questions. The first question came from Laura Garcia, a BC philosophy professor and a former Evangelical Protestant who converted to Catholicism while in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame. She asked, “Your paper seems to imply the necessity of creeds in the first centuries of the Church. But that assumes the necessity of a Magisterium that has the authority to issue such creeds and declare them normative for all Christians. So, why aren’t you a Catholic?” The question took me by surprise. After a brief pause, I gave her an answer – if I remember correctly – that first appealed to the chief doctrines of the Reformation as being Spirit-led correctives that reached back into the past to recover what the Roman Catholic Church had lost. By doing this, I tried to account for the church’s continuity as being connected to the Reformers and their descendants as well as to their orthodox predecessors in the Catholic Church. In this way, I could defend the Catholic creeds as Spirit-directed without conceding the present authority of Rome on these matters. Ironically, I would later discover that the Catholic theologian (and convert from Lutheranism) Louis Bouyer offered a similar argument. He correctly attributes Protestantism’s spiritual virtues to the Reformers’ recovery of, and reliance on, aspects of the Catholic tradition. However, unlike what I claimed at BC in 2006, Bouyer concluded that Luther and Calvin had unfortunately assimilated philosophical ideas that were deleterious to the Reformers’ noble intent for the proper restoration of the Church. For this reason, the task of proper restoration fell to thoughtful Catholic reformers that led to the Council of Trent and its successors.
Note: Why do philosophers rarely consult Scriptures as a primary source?
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:26-27.

Page 77: Though I believed I had escaped as an unscathed Protestant, the episode at BC piqued my interest in developing an understanding of the creeds that would not compel me to consider returning to Catholicism. I read several works including Truth and Tolerance (2004) and Introduction to Christianity (1990) by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Bendict XVI as of April 2005). Out of curiosity I also picked up David Currie’s 1996 book, Born Fundamentalist, Born-Again Catholic. I was not entirely convinced by Currie’s case, but he did raise some issues about the Early Church Fathers and the Catholic doctrines of the Eucharist and Infant Baptism that led me many months later to more scholarly sources that included J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines (1978).
Note: Does baptism or Jesus Christ save you?
Nicene Creed: we acknowledge One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
Note: Why do philosophers rarely consult Scriptures as a primary source?
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14.

Page 78: Things had settled down by the fall of 2006. In late October, I lectured at the University of Dallas for the annual meeting of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. I was asked to reply to a plenary address by J. Budziszewski, a friend who had been received into the Catholic Church three years earlier. J. is a professor of philosophy and government at the University of Texas in Austin. The morning after the lectures, my wife and I had breakfast with J. and his wife, Sandra. It must have lasted three hours. Although both of us asked J. and Sandra a lot of questions about Catholicism, it was Frankie who initiated the conversation and seemed far more animated than me in seeking answers.
Note: Should not philosopher Francis J. Beckwith be the head of his household?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24.

Page 79: Our questions focused on several theological issues that prevented us from becoming Catholic and seemed insurmountable: the doctrine of justification, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the teaching authority of the Church (including apostolic succession and the primacy of the Pope), and Penance. The other issues that most Protestants find to be stumbling blocks – the Marian doctrines and Purgatory – were not a big deal to me. That was because I reasoned that if the Catholic views on Church authority, justification, the communion of the saints, and the sacraments were defensible, then these other so-called “stumbling blocks” withered away, since the Catholic Church would in fact be God’s authoritative instrument in the development of Christian doctrine.
Note: Mary was sinful since she admittedly needed a Savior.
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47.
Note: Why do philosophers rarely consult Scriptures as a primary source?

Page 79: One may wonder where the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (or “scripture alone”) factored in all this. To be blunt, it didn’t, primarily because over the years I could not find an understanding or definition of sola scriptura convincing enough that did not have to be so qualified that it seemed to be more a slogan than a standard.
Note: Why do Catholic apologists avoid using Scripture as a primary source?
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Page 80: But as I slowly and unconsciously moved toward Catholicism in the early 2000s, I began to even find the sola scriptura of the Magisterial Reformation not entirely satisfactory. It seemed to me to subtly and unconsciously incorporate into its theological framework all the doctrines that sola scriptura, without a settled canon or authoritative creedal tradition, could never have produced out of whole cloth without the benefit of a Holy Spirit – directed ecclesiastical infrastructure. It brought to mind what the philosopher Bertrand Russell said of the advantages of “the method of ‘postulating’”: “they are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil.”
Note: The Holy Spirit directs individuals not organizations.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26.

Page 80: Many of the contemporary Evangelical Protestants I read offered understandings of sola scriptura that were based on less than convincing biblical exegesis, or implicitly or explicitly relied on extra-scriptural support to justify either the scope of the biblical canon or essential doctrines that are not easily derived from scripture without the necessary assistance of philosophical and theological categories arrived at through the development of doctrine that arose alongside, and in accordance with, the formation of the canon.
Note: Why did the Magisterium insert a fictional book into Catholic canon in 1546?
It is generally accepted that the Book of Judith is not historical. The fictional nature "is evident from its blending of history and fiction, beginning in the very first verse, and is too prevalent thereafter to be considered as the result of mere historical mistakes." Thus, the great villain is "Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians" (1:1), yet the historical Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylonia. Other details, such as fictional place names, the immense size of armies and fortifications, and the dating of events, cannot be reconciled with the historical record. Judith's village, Bethulia (literally "virginity") is unknown and otherwise unattested to in any ancient writing. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Page 81: In any event, I had for some time accepted a weak form of sola scriptura: any doctrine or practice inconsistent with scripture must be rejected, though it does not follow that any doctrine or practice not explicitly stated in scripture must suffer the same fate, for the doctrine or practice may be essential to Christian orthodoxy. This seemed to me to be the only defensible understanding of sola scriptura, though it certainly left much to be desired.
Note: It appears that philosopher Beckwith has a weak definition of sola scriptura.
Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, "by Scripture alone") is the Protestant Christian doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. Sola scriptura does not deny that other authorities govern Christian life and devotion, but sees them all as subordinate to and corrected by the written word of God. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Page 82: While at the 2006 conference in DC, I visited a bookstore by the hotel and purchased three small books authored by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI): Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures (2006), In the Beginning (1995), and Values in a Time of Upheaval (2006). I bought them because I was working on a new book on politics and Christianity and I wanted to glean from the Pope’s insights on Christianity and culture. I read two of the three books on the flight home to Texas.
Note: Christians will preach Jesus Christ as philosophers mock them.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Acts 17:16-18.

Pages 85-86: When I got around to reading the Church Fathers, the Reformation doctrine of justification was just not there, as Geisler, McKenzie, and McGrath candidly admit. To be sure, salvation by God’s grace was there. To be sure, the necessity of faith was there as well. And to be sure, a believer’s “works” apart from God’s grace was decried. But what was present was a profound understanding of how saving faith was not a singular event that took place “on a Sunday,” to quote a famous Gospel song. Rather, saving faith, entirely the consequence of God’s grace, begins with one’s initial conversion, which incorporates one into the family of God. But at that point the journey is just beginning. For one then exercises one’s faith, itself a gift of God’s grace, in acts of charity, the spiritual disciplines, and prayer as well as in the partaking of the sacraments – all this in order to commune with God to receive his unmerited grace to conform one into the image of Christ. According to this view, justification refers not only to the Christian’s initial entrance into the family of God at baptism – which is administered for the remission of sins – but to the intrinsic work of both the infusion of that grace at baptism and all the subsequent graces that work in concert to transform the Christian from the inside out. It is in and through this ongoing transformation that one is made justified, in the same sense of being made righteous or rightly-ordered, and thus gifted to share in the divine life of Christ. Consequently, justification and sanctification are not different events, one extrinsic and the other intrinsic, as the Reformers taught. Rather, “sanctification” is the ongoing intrinsic work of justifying, or making rightly-ordered the Christian by means of God’s grace, the same grace that intrinsically changed the believer at the moment of her initial “justification” (i.e., at baptism) into an adopted child of the Father. For the Church Fathers, as it seems to me obvious from scripture, justification is not only a matter of you getting heaven into you. This, it turns out, is the view of justification taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It seemed to me that the chief distinction between Catholic and Church Fathers’ view on the other, rests on whether Christ’s grace is infused or merely imputed at the moment one becomes a Christian at baptism and/or conversion.
Note: Baptismal regeneration is heresy and is not the Christian Gospel.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 1 Corinthians 1:18-20.
Note: May God have mercy on Dr. Francis J. Beckwith.

Pages 91-92: My study of the Fathers led me to reexamine the Canons of the Council of Orange (AD 529), which, with papal sanction, rejected as heretical Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. Having its origin in the Catholic monk Pelagius (ca. 354-ca. 420/440), the first heresy affirms that human beings do not inherit Adam’s sin (and thus denies the doctrine of original sin) and by their free will may achieve salvation without God’s grace. On the other hand, semi-Pelagianism maintains that a human being, though weakened by orginial sin, may make the initial act of will toward achieving salvation prior to receiving the necessary assistance of God’s grace. The Council of Orange, in contrast, argued that Adam’s original sin is inherited by his progeny and can be removed only by the sacrament of Baptism. By the means of Baptism God’s unmerited grace is infused for the remission of sins. Then the Christian’s sanctification continues throughout his lifetime, entirely the work of the infusion of grace with which the Christian cooperates, for the Christian “does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it. Even though Protestant thinkers sometimes portray the Council of Orange’s canons as a sort of paleo-Reformed document, it is the Reformation notion of imputed righteousness that, ironically, puts the Reformers partially in the Pelagian camp. This is because the Reformers and Pelagians agree that God’s infused grace is not necessary for justification.
Note: People were saved and received the Holy Spirit before baptism.
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. Acts 10:34-44.
Note: The Catholic Church replaced heresy with heresy at the Council of Orange.

Page 92: Of course, some Church Fathers disagreed with each other on a variety of matters, and some of them in fact defended positions that were later declared heretical by Church Councils. But it is interesting to note that on the question of the correctness of the doctrines and practices over which contemporary Evangelical Protestants and Catholics generally divide – the Real Presense of the Eucharist, apostolic succession, prayers for and to the dead, penance, infusion of grace, etc. – one does not find in the Fathers warring camps with one risking an ecumenical council’s judgment of heresy, as in the Arian and Pelagian controversies.
Note: Saint Paul did not believe in the Real Presence as he used the word “bread.”
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Note: The Catholic Church promotes the material over the spiritual aspect of the New Covenant.

Pages 92-93: But what is not in dispute is that none of the Fathers either denies apostolic succession or unequivocally affirms Free Church understanding of church government. I mention this because I had thought for some time that if I could, for example, show that Church Father X asserted the primacy of Rome and Church Father Y did not do so, then the case for apostolic succession is weakened and I have yet another reason not to move Romeward. But, when I ceased reading the Fathers anachronistically, what I began to notice was the far more important fact that Church Fathers X and Y agreed that without apostolic succession there is no church, and that no Father implies or affirms that apostolic succession is a non-Christian view. Thus, one of the great ironies of my journey is that I would sometimes inadvertently draw conclusions that made the general case for Catholicism far more plausible in my mind than the particular Protestant doctrine for which I was arguing.
Note: Saint Paul did not believe in the infallibility of Pope Peter.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:11-13.
Note: Dr. Francis J. Beckwith should not rely on the fallible Church Fathers.