Reformation Day, which until 2014 I did not know existed, is nearly here. This holiday (which coincides with Halloween, fittingly enough) commemorates perhaps the most consequential act of public vandalism ever, in which Martin Luther destroyed Christendom. Insofar as I can discern, today it exists mainly to give Protestants an excuse to pick at theological scabs, throw shade at Catholicism, and lament their declining attendance.
Such was the hat trick Anthony Sacramone managed in his recent ultimatum to Pope Francis. In brief: if within 30 days the pope has not proclaimed a return to the defunct Julian calendar and the restoration of 10 days of time, Sacramone will not stand in the way of the resulting violence—violence that would assuredly imperil what slim chance for ecumenical cooperation as exists in this age of threats to religious liberty.
While I deplore this reckless attempt to give my pope another crackbrained idea to promulgate (it’s all in good fun until Francis starts speaking to reporters on planes), I remain mostly convinced that if il Papa were to learn of it he would not be moved to action. It lacks not only moral force (as threats of violence tend to do) but also a convincing measure of Vox populi, Vox Dei, which helps a whole bunch when attempting this sort of bottom-up change.
Speaking of VPVD, one might recall the advice Alcuin of York gave to the Emperor Charlemagne: “Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit,” which is as apt a description of five centuries of Protestantism as ever I read.
One cannot help but agree that Sacramone simply lacks the standing to issue such a demand on behalf of Protestants the world over (and likely even the next street over). This is despite him probably carrying no-doubt impeccable credentials as an elder of Podunk Swamp Second Church of the Reformed Presbyterate (Wilmington Synod). But then, pigheadedness is perhaps the one doctrine remaining to our wayward brethren that approaches anything like universality.
How fortunate we are that at the time the calendar was fixed, there existed an institution with sufficient authority to disseminate it throughout the known world, establishing it so firmly that even the vaunted intransigence of the English gave way within 200 years. For a church such as mine, which will within my lifetime mark the two-thousandth year of its mission—a mission, it should be noted, undertaken with spiritual authority conferred upon it by Jesus Christ himself—that piddling century-and-change is as nothing. Would that the theological arguments which seek to remedy the sad divisions of Christendom had the irrevocable pull of mathematics, and were as readily accepted.
While Our Lord would no doubt admonish me for my weakness, I shall use the balance of my time to respond to Sacramone’s cheap shots against the liturgical dress of priests in the line of Melchizedek (from which even the most highly churched Protestants have, unquestionably, been severed).
The implication that wearing ornate vestments bespeaks a touch of the lavender is ground well-trod, and a writer of lesser talent than Sacramone would certainly have failed to get me to chuckle about it. I confess I succumbed to this temptation at several other points in his piece. I am compelled by that most inconvenient virtue of charity to acknowledge that he did not mean to insult, but to tease.
In that same spirit of taking the piss, allow me to encourage Sacramone to use the occasion of Reformation Day to emulate Martin Luther ever more closely—not just in pugnacity, but also in coprophagy.