"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." — Through the Looking-Glass
The aforesaid was brought to mind while reading a post from Mark Shea's blog earlier this week:
You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.
In this case, the word is "Catholicism" and the users are the folk over at ReformedCatholicism.com.
It's kind of odd really. I've encountered the phenomenon before: Protestants who are pretty uncomfortable with what "Protestant" refers to in ordinary parlance these days: namely, the huge variety of Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, therapists, get rich quick, Contemporary Christian Music, Youth for Christ, Athletes for Christ, Joel Osteenified, Oprahfied, Cawfee Tawkish, Emergent Churchish, Purpose-Driven, megastar-megachurch, Seeker-Sensitive, Buddy Jesus, all-over the mapness that dominates so much American Protestant discourse. They long for the days when Protestants where (sort of) rooted in history, smoking pipes and Talking About Doctrine and Serious Things of the Mind as they quoted Augustine to prove that Luther and Calvin were right, especially Calvin. They miss men with long Dutch and Germanic names who could explain with geometric logic why Papists were idolatrous perverters of the gospel, yet still appeal to the Catholic tradition when it was useful for cuffing the young pups of pop Christianity and showing them what ignorant upstarts they were.
So they start sites with names like ReformedCatholicism, ostensibly with the purpose of trying to seriously engage Magisterial Protestantism and open some sort of "conversation" with Romanists. However, pretty soon it becomes clear that "Reformed Catholicism" means "Protestantism" and the Catholics who thought they were there for dialog are actually there to be told what they *really* think, despite their repeated declaration that they believe no such thing. We "really" worship Mary, doncha know, even though we reiterate that we do no such thing and that the Church forbids worship of Mary as idolatry. One guy, who fittingly arrogates to himself the name "Kepha" informs the willing believers in the crowd of Reformed Catholics that he is a "Protestant convert to the Catholic Church" and he has the inside scoop on how horrible it really is. Only, when you press him on what he means, you discover that he refers to his fellow parishioners and people who believe the ordinary teaching of the Church as "Papists" who are against "us" and he further adds that he refuses to receive communion and, in fact, reject the proposition that the Catholic Church is catholic. No, he is the definition of Catholic, because he, Kepha, will have it so. What the Church actually teaches does not enter into it. He maintains his "Catholic identity" even if it involves denying everything the Church teaches and nobody will say otherwise.
So, by "Catholic" he evidently means "Protestant".
And the bulk of the readers on the site mean the same, through of course, their devotion to Private Judgment means they have the right to call kepha a heretic if he happens to say something that disagrees with what they mean by Catholic. But all are happily agreed that somebody who simply believes and practices what the Catholic Church in union with the Pope permits and/or commands with respect to Mary is an idolator if it doesn't suit what the denizens of Reformed Catholic deem to be orthodox.
And when you point this out and laugh, they threaten to kick you off. Huh-larious.
This, in turn, prompted me to recall this scene from The Blues Brothers — arguably; yea, very arguably, the funniest in the movie: