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Why the Reformation matters to Catholics: a deacon weighs in

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It’s my friend and brother Deacon Scott Dodge from Salt Lake City: 

Some Roman Catholics may blanch at the idea that the Protestant Reformation did Christendom any lasting good.

Scott Dodge is not one of them.

Sure, Martin Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses” to the Wittenberg Castle chapel’s doors five centuries ago eventually led to a prolonged, bloody schism in the Western Church, and the more than 30,000 Protestant denominations existing today — all asserting, to some degree, to be the “truest” expression of Christian faith.

But Dodge, an ordained deacon at St. Olaf’s Parish in Bountiful, insists the Reformation — still seen by some less-ecumenical Catholics as more of a “Protestant rebellion” — brought changes for the good from the Vatican.

Well, at least eventually, says Dodge, who will speak Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the topic at Blessed Sacrament Church, 9757 S. 1700 East, Sandy. His comments conclude a series of seminars commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

“When you look at the history of that, at first, the [Roman] church learned little to nothing,” Dodge says. “Even up to and including the Council of Trent, the church pretty much just reacted.”

The 18-year-long Council of Trent, beginning in 1545 (28 years after Luther’s church door posting), condemned Protestant heresies on one hand and made key doctrinal clarifications on the other.

Reacting to Luther’s insistence on “sola scriptura” (that the Bible is the sole and infallible rule for doctrinal truth), Dodge says, “the Catholic Church learned the importance of scripture, not just for doctrine and practice, but in the lives of Christian men and women on a daily, ongoing basis.”

The deacon, a respected religious scholar in his own right and a current ministerial doctoral candidate at Oregon’s Mount Angel Seminary, says a second major change out of the Holy See took longer to fully germinate.

The three-year Second Vatican Council, beginning in 1962, cleared the way for the formerly Latin Mass in local languages; allowed priests to face parishioners, rather than celebrating Mass with their backs to the pews; and eased restrictions on musical and art expressions within the church. It also permitted changes to prayers and the liturgical calendar.

“[Rome] found it important for Catholics to fully, actively and consciously participate in the liturgy,” Dodge explains. “The reforms [of Vatican II] gave us the Mass in vernacular, in forms the people can relate to and, more importantly, participate in.”

Read it all. 

Deacon Greg Kandra
The Deacon's Bench
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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