Skip to comments.The Anti-Catholic Who Predicted American Catholicism’s Rise
Posted on 06/10/2021 3:56:41 PM PDT by MurphsLaw
Often, prophecies come from the most unexpected of places: a talking donkey, an old man in the Jewish temple, three poor Portuguese children. One can add to that list a prominent Southern Presbyterian theologian, Confederate army chaplain, and virulent anti-Catholic by the name of Robert Lewis Dabney. For it was Dabney who discerned (and feared) that Catholicism would ultimately be the strongest, most stubborn bastion of conservative, religious truth in the United States.
Dabney was a remarkable man of many talents, though his support for both slavery and the Confederacy have led him to be overlooked, if not condemned, by contemporary historians and woke activists. He had degrees from Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Virginia, and Union Theological Seminary. He was a missionary, pastor, theologian, seminary professor, architectural designer, chaplain to Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War, and founder of the philosophy department at the University of Texas.
He also felt especially strong about Catholicism—he preferred to call it Romanism or popery—which he viewed as a perversion of the Christian faith. For example, in his short treatise “The Attractions of Popery” (1894), he declared:
[Catholicism’s] destructive power has resulted from this: that it has not been the invention of any one cunning and hostile mind, but a gradual growth, modified by hundreds or thousands of its cultivators, who were the most acute, learned, selfish, and anti-Christian spirits of their generations, perpetually retouched and adapted to every weakness and every attribute of depraved human nature, until it became the most skillful and pernicious system of error which the world has ever known.
In other words, Dabney believed one of the most diabolical things about the Church is that she is made even more evil with each succeeding generation. In his own words, she adjusts to “every superstition, every sense of guilt, every foible and craving of the depraved human heart.”
Nevertheless, Dabney was wise enough to recognize that the character and qualities of the Church—however pernicious he might view them—were attractive to many people, including American Protestants. To wit, Catholicism’s traditionalism, sacramentalism, internal intellectual coherency, and dogged defense of objective truth served as a bulwark against the same liberalism and secularism that Dabney identified as destroying Protestantism from within. The disgruntled Dabney begrudgingly admitted: “To the shame of our damaged Protestantism, popery remains, in some essential respects, more faithful to God’s truth than its rival.” Thus, the Presbyterian divine feared: “When they tire of the banality of modern evangelicalism, North Americans will become the ripest of prey for Romish ritualism.”
Consider Dabney’s thoughts regarding theological liberalism, which expressed skepticism toward miracles and traditional orthodox teachings on God and man. He writes: “When the atheistic doctrine begins to bear its natural fruits of license, insubordination, communism, and anarchy…democratic Protestantism does not know how to rebuke them.” Indeed, already recognizing the fruits of liberalism, Dabney rightly saw that “rationalistic and skeptical Protestantism” was giving “license to dogmatize at the bidding of every caprice, every impulse of vanity, every false philosophy. The result has been a diversity and confusion of pretended creeds and theologies among nominal Protestants which perplexes and frightens sincere, but timid, minds.” One need look no further than mainline Protestantism’s embrace of the sexual revolution to see this in action, as churches accept homosexual and transgender bishops; or their rejection of the traditional trinitarian dogma; or their “feminization“ of the word “amen.”
In contrast, Dabney observed, “Rome proposes herself as the stable advocate of obedience, order, and permanent authority throughout the ages.” Catholicism, despite its theological infighting, remained faithful to the historic, conciliar teachings of the magisterium. Despite its abuses, the Presbyterian could appreciate that it retained “a strong organ of church discipline, and is employed as such in every Romish chapel.” Moreover, unlike the emotivist individualism of Protestantism, and especially evangelicalism, Rome “works her system with the steadiness and perseverance which used to characterize pastoral effort and family religion among Presbyterians.” How ironic to read a Presbyterian bemoaning that Catholics are acting the way his co-religionists used to act! O tempora, o mores!
A similar phenomenon is at play in Catholicism’s prayer and liturgy, argues Dabney. “The Romanist’s machine prayers and vain repetitions have, at least, this tendency to sustain in the soul some slight habit of religious reverence, and this is better than mere license of life.” Though he viewed the Mass, the rosary, and other formulaic prayers as repetitive vanity, the Presbyterian acknowledged that these still inculcated piety. Similarly, the Catholic liturgy appealed to the human “craving for sensuous objects of worship,” and a “visible, material object of worship.” In the pejorative “smells and bells” of Catholicism and her “relics, crucifixes, and images of the saints,” the Church appeals to man’s inherent desire for the tactile and visual.
Catholicism’s teachings on sexuality also offered an effective rebuttal to growing laziness and libertinism in Protestantism’s rank-and-file. Though Dabney believed Rome had erred in defining marriage as a sacrament, he recognized her superiority in maintaining it as a divinely ordered, inviolable institution, whereas “Protestant laws and debauched Protestant thought tend all over America to degrade it to a mere civil contract…the divorce laws in our Protestant States provide so many ways for rending the marriage tie that its vows have become almost a farce.” (Sadly, one must note that annulments have become increasingly accepted by the Church.)
Dabney also feared that Catholicism’s rejection of contraception would enable the Church to grow Catholics at a faster rate than Protestants. “Romish pastors also stand almost alone in teaching their people the enormous criminality of those nameless sins against posterity at which fashionable Protestantism connives,” he lamented. “Their houses are peopled with children, while the homes of rich Protestants are too elegant and luxurious for such nuisances.” (One must also here decry the dramatic decline in Catholic family size in recent American history.)
Finally, Catholic parochial education enabled the Church to preserve her unique religio-cultural identity in comparison to many Protestant denominations. In “secularizing our whole State education,” Dabney believed that “the bulk of the Protestants in the United States have betrayed themselves.” In contrast, the most outspoken protests against secularization in America were coming from the Catholic Church. “It is she who stands forth pre-eminent, almost single-handed, to assert the sacred rights of Christian parents in the training of the souls they have begotten, of Christ in the nurture of the souls he died to redeem.” At least in this regard, we can still find many contemporary examples of strong, faithful Catholic education, both at the grade-school and university level.
It’s not hard to perceive the prescience of Robert Lewis Dabney, whose opinion of the Catholic Church, according to Catholic historians Eugene and Elizabeth Fox Genovese, “bordered on the unprintable.” Protestantism, despite the efforts of men like Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, has continued its decline to the point of irrelevance to most Americans. Catholicism has grown to become the most dominant single church in the United States. Over the last two generations, its influence and evangelical witness have waned, thanks to the same liberalizing trends found in Protestantism, as well as her own corruption and excesses.
Yet, Dabney’s insightful thoughts on Catholicism, as he stood on the threshold of the twentieth century, remain true and valuable. Despite sexual abuses, liturgy wars, and episcopal malfeasance, the Church retains its magisterial authority and serves as a bastion of traditional, objective religious truth. There is not only aesthetic but true spiritual power in the sacraments. And Catholic teaching on sexuality offers an essential refutation of the excesses and destruction of sexual libertinism and LGBTQ confusion. If American Catholics want to save their nation, they must drink deep of the supernatural powers and objective realities found in our Church and her traditions. It is a mysterious irony of divine humor that even an anti-Catholic Confederate Calvinist seemed, however inchoately, to understand that.
And I have lived to see the Catholic Church, and Big Religion in general, decline in power and influence.
Everyone I know that was raised Catholic is now a proud ex-Catholic.
They seem totally embarrassed when they talk about their cultish Catholic upbringing.
It’s not going to move forward or even survive as long as the Marxist from Argentina is in charge.
That’s a problem in itself. That’s why we have the USCCB doing the Demoncrats’ bidding.
“Not proud, grateful..”
So you are an ex-Catholic as well?
My observation, from outside the RCC as a Lutheran, is that the one and only way the church has retained a conservative basis is in its adamant opposition to abortion, for which I am grateful. In every other area of Christian doctrine, the RCC is either the eqivalent of a liberal liturgical denomination, a Roman version of the Episcopal or ELCA, or hurtling headlong in that direction.
As I have written elsewhere, I long for the days when I could sit with a Catholic colleague and debate the five solis, or whether there is a purgatory, or should we pray for the intercession of specific saints in specific issues (e.g. St. Rita, who lived in the middle ages yet somehow became the patron saint of baseball). I despise sitting with Catholic colleagues and having to defend Biblical sexuality, refute green mandates, accept pagan rituals in God’s holy church, and hear them attempt to explain why I cannot share Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament, but every Marxist abortionist political and social leader can.
When the Catholic church becomes the bride of Christ again and not the prostitute of Hosea, then and only then will salvation begin once again to spread from Rome to the world. Until then, I will stay where I have found eternal life in Christ, and orthodoxy in Scripture.
I went from Protestant, to Catholic to Eastern Orthodox.
Have you not heard of the prediction by Francis Cardinal George?
“I will die in my bed.”
“My successor will die in jail.? (Cupich)
“His syccessor will put the Catholic Church in America back together.”
I am parphrasing the last quote — I lost it when I my old computer crashed.
And we also have the words of Jesus Christ, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (the Catholic Church which Jesus founded on the apostles — the first Bishops.
If they are a baptized Catholic they are still a Catholic, just not an active and practicing Catholic.
"Catholicism would ultimately be the strongest, most stubborn bastion of conservative, religious truth in the United States."
"Despite sexual abuses, liturgy wars, and episcopal malfeasance, the Church retains its magisterial authority and serves as a bastion of traditional, objective religious truth."
Which you can only wish was the case for the last 60 years, for in reality Catholicism is an admixture of mostly liberal and semi liberal members (as Rome manifestly considers them) and a minority of sects of conservatives, while those who most strongly esteem Scripture as the accurate and wholly inspired word of God, with its basic literal hermeneutic, have long testified to being far more conservative and unified in polled core beliefs and values than overall those whom Rome counts as members in life and in death . Which even includes proabortion prohomosexual public figures. And if you think those RCs who reject the pope or who call him a heretic are guilty of departing from the Catholic faith, then you could try to tell them.
And as another poster delineated:
so-called traditional Catholics have split themselves into almost as many sects as Protestants have. There are:
1. Church Militant who chastise the Bishops but not the Pope
2. The Wanderer supporters
3. The Remnant led by the brother of the publisher of The Wanderer who now disowns The Wanderer
4. The SSPX
5. Those that believe the SSPX is a valid Catholic organization but aren't members.
6. Those who believe the SSPX is in apostasy
7. Those former members of the SSPX that believe Fellay is too deferential to the Pope
8. Sedevacantists who believe Francis is the first anti-Pope or non-Pope
9. Sedevacantists who believe John XXIII was the first anti-pope or non-Pope and that the Second Vatican Council is invalid
10. Those that believe in various conspiracy theories that the Church is now completely controlled by: The Vatican Bank, Gays, Masons, Space Aliens, the Illuminati or some combination of the above
11. Various groups of reasonable Catholics who either quietly or on record disagree with the Pope but are unwilling to go all the way and call him a heretic
12. Various groups of reasonable Catholics who are willing to call the Pope a heretic but are also willing to wait for the process of replacement to unfold in an orderly manner
(NOTE: Church Militant may have changed its position recently to be more directly in opposition to the Pope but I haven't kept track.)
And as another poster wryly summed it,
The last time the church imposed its judgment in an authoritative manner on "areas of legitimate disagreement," the conservative Catholics became the Sedevacantists and the Society of St. Pius X, the moderate Catholics became the conservatives, the liberal Catholics became the moderates, and the folks who were excommunicated, silenced, refused Catholic burial, etc. became the liberals. The event that brought this shift was Vatican II; conservatives then couldn't handle having to actually obey the church on matters they were uncomfortable with, so they left. ” - Nathan, https://christopherblosser.wordpress.com/2005/05/16/fr-michael-orsi-on-different-levels-of-catholic-teaching (original http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2005/05/fr-michael-orsi-on-different-levels-of.html)
Thus we have, Is Catholicism about to break into three?
"[Catholicism’s] destructive power has resulted from this: that it has not been the invention of any one cunning and hostile mind, but a gradual growth, modified by hundreds or thousands of its cultivators, who were the most acute, learned, selfish, and anti-Christian spirits of their generations, perpetually retouched and adapted to every weakness and every attribute of depraved human nature, until it became the most skillful and pernicious system of error which the world has ever known. "
Which would be consistent with the modern adaptations which TradCaths rail against.
"Nevertheless, Dabney was wise enough to recognize that the character and qualities of the Church—however pernicious he might view them—were attractive to many people, including American Protestants."
Well of course: every cults usually excels in areas in which generally doctrinal sound churches neglect. Mormons have their strong families and authorities., etc.
"“When the atheistic doctrine begins to bear its natural fruits of license, insubordination, communism, and anarchy…democratic Protestantism does not know how to rebuke them.”"
Actually while Rome and liberal Prots were engaging in liberal revisionism - which notes and helps in your official Bible for America has provided for 60 years - and promoting Marxism, the fundamental/evangelicals were at the forefront of exposing and combating such.
You are wrongly parroting prevaricating propaganda. The mostly spiritually dead RCC has actually become as the gates of Hell for vast multitudes, and while a relative remnant of simple pious humble faith within it are yet part of the body of Christ (as is true of some liberal Prot churches), neither the Catholic church nor any other organic fellowship is the one true church, and which is the church that the gates of hell will not withstand against it.
For the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) is the one true church to which He is married, (Ephesians 5:25) the "household of faith," (Galatians 6:10) for it uniquely only and always consists 100% of true believers, and which spiritual body of Christ is what the Spirit baptizes every believer into, (1Co. 12:13) while organic fellowships in which they express their faith inevitably become admixtures of wheat and tares, with Catholicism and liberal Protestantism being mostly the latter.
The degree that a church retains and preaches the convicting gospel of grace, of salvation by grave thru heart-purifying, justifying faith, then they are part of the church which the Lord promised would overcome the gates of Hell, that being
More delusion, which may be comforting to the RC, but it is still a lie, while "just" minimizes the importance your false church placed upon being a faithful member.
Both points apply to me too bro.
Daniel1212, your posts are always instructive, thoroughly thought out, and solidly backed with legitimate sources.
May God grant you a long life such that you may stand for Him ever longer into the future.
Thank you, brother.
Amen to that!
Thank you so much for your diligence Daniel.I read every ping you send my way and I’m grateful to God to have such an older and wiser brother in my life.
Grace and peace to you friend.
Hey Might ch, long time, no see. I hear from MR regularly. I think it’s winter in your neck of the woods. Where I am, it’s summer, 365 days a year, but April and May are really brutal. We just got over that, and now, it’s monsoon season. 🙃😂
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