I remain, even in these feel good days, a Protestant. What I protest is what my fathers protested—the folly of the Roman Catholic church. Such can get you in great deal of hot water these days. Everyone wants to go along to get along. Trouble is, Rome still teaches a false gospel, still calls for the damnation of people like me who preach the true gospel. Now I am happy to confess that explaining the nuances that separate infusion from imputation, distinctions between justification and sanctification can require a bit of theological training and historical understanding. I’m sorry to confess that Christians generally have precious little of either. If we can’t see what the big deal is with a little contemporary modalism, if we want to open the tent wide to welcome in those nice Mormons, what chance do I have for making the case that Rome is outside the pale?
Our ignorance is likewise apparent in how we look at the recent canonization of Popes John and John Paul (13th and 2nd respectively). I fear we think that what Rome did was merely to give them a super-duper merit badge. We cheer politely, even if we are a little fidgety about Roman theology, in the same way we would cheer politely if our crazy uncle won the big horseshoe tournament at the state fair. The craziness we’re not sure about, but he’s kin and did well.
These two forms of ignorance, however, come together. That we don’t understand the nuances on justification is why we don’t understand what just happened in the canonization. The church at Rome just determined that these two popes exceeded God’s expectations for obedience. These men not only were able to escape the punishment of purgatory, having no need to purge their sins, having already achieved the holiness necessary to enter heaven. Not only that, but all the merit they achieved which was beyond what was required was deposited, along with the merit of Christ, into the Treasury of Merit. This merit can become yours, via the purchase of indulgences.