When I posted my first response to Jim's fair-minded questions about the Catholic understanding of saints a cynical Catholic friend of mine chided me: "It doesn't matter what you write. You will be misrepresented and it won't help at all. People really don't listen to one another."
I'm far less cynical. Having spent most of my life studying under and with non-Catholic Christian scholars I know that real dialogue is not only possible but fruitful. We may not fully agree with one another but at least we can better understand why we disagree. That's why I decided to try my best to answer Jim's questions.
Unfortunately, though, some people just refuse to open up the lines of communication.
How does Protestant-Catholic dialogue often get stalled out? Here's a perfect illustration.
Yesterday I tried to explain that Catholics understand that the holiness of the saints is the result of God's grace--as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, it is "pure grace" (no. 2011). Whatever holiness Catholics attribute to the saints is understood to be the result of the work of Jesus in their lives.
I essentially said: if Catholics are guilty of anything in honoring the saints it's not idolatry but it's that we "give Jesus too much credit". That, of course, was meant tongue in cheek, as I think any fair reading of my post would have made clear. Here's the immediate context:
"Do Catholics in fact give saints too much credit? Non-Catholics will say so. I understand the concern.The whole point of the post was that all of the honor, power, and glory belong to Christ.
But as a Catholic I think the concern is misguided. If we’re giving anyone too much credit, it’s Jesus. Whatever we believe about the saints’ holiness flows from our understanding of the power of the grace of Christ."
Clear enough, right?
Well, you wouldn't have got that from "Gerard", a commenter over at Jim's blog. Here's his comment on Jim's link to my post:
"Michael Barber’s claim that we give Jesus too much credit is bizarre."His terse comment may have even led some to think that I even suggested non-Catholic Christians give Jesus too much credit.
Thankfully, another reader, "Steve", chimed in with the following rejoinder:
"Clearly not his meaning looking at context actually I read it meaning the opposite of your interpretation."Thanks Girard for illustrating my point about how Catholics and Protestants continually misrepresent each other.
And thanks Steve for restoring my hope that we can engage in sincere dialogue. Before you commented I was working up a response which included the word "furious" and the phrase "bordering on libel". Your response was better.
I hope people will seriously look at what just happened here. It is a powerful example of what can go wrong in Protestant-Catholic dialogue.