This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Biblical Principles In the Workplace - A Study on Ephesians 6:5-9

This article is actually a chapter of a book I am finishing up which consists of a series of Bible studies on the Book of Ephesians.  The original context of the passage under discussion was dealing with slaves and masters, but in this case I have appropriated it to the modern workplace.  I hope this will help you and encourage you in your daily lives.

 Now that we have dealt with the family relationship, the focus of the study now will be on an area that is significant to many of us because it takes up a significant portion of our daily lives - our jobs. 
Work is vital to live.  Everything this day and age costs something, and in order to acquire the currency that the cost entails, we have to invest our own resources to generate that income.  That is the fundamental principle as to why we are able to bring home our paychecks every week; the money represented by that rectangular piece of paper represents what we have invested out abilities and strengths into in order to assure the acquisition of basic provisions for our survival.  Work of course is not a pleasant subject - to be honest, it's the last thing I personally want to think about after doing it all day long, especially if it is a job in which you feel doesn't really showcase your talents and abilities God gave you, and at times it doesn't pay what it should either.  My own work history, honestly, has not been ideal - in order to support my family and pay my bills, I've had to take some rather - pardon me for saying it - crappy jobs that either paid inadequately or the work environment was such that at times I could not stomach it.  Frankly, there have been times I have actually dreaded the day dawning, especially at times when we were without our own transportation and had to rely on the city bus.  Many who have been in that situation can understand what it is to arise at 5:30 AM just to be at work by 9:00 AM.  With the sour national economy in recent years, many of us have also found ourselves on occasion being herded by groups into conference rooms, where after everyone is seated we are all handed these yellow envelopes and told we are being let go because of a fiscal downturn.  In working many years in the secular field as a mortgage professional, I have been there a few times on both counts.   Back in November 2003, for example, I worked for one of the largest banks in the country when the real estate market took one of the worst downturns it had experienced in years.  On that particular autumn day, about 100 of us were called by the two VP's of Operations into a conference room, handed those big yellow envelopes - which to be fair did contain very generous severance packages for the time, which was a blessing - and then told the company could not afford to keep us anymore, and thus we were being let go.  Corporate America, a behemoth entity that operates on what could be called a Darwinist "survival of the fittest" form of economics (also called greed) has depersonalized many workplaces in the past 50 or so years to the degree that both the average employees and management often merely "go through the motions" on a daily basis just to do what is minimally necessary to keep their jobs.  In 1999. a movie producer/writer by the name of Mike Judge created a cult classic film called Office Space which vividly portrayed that conundrum, and Judge made a fortune off that film due to the fact it touched a nerve with people - many of us who have seen it multiple times saw ourselves in it, and unlike much of the Hollywood fluff you see today, Office Space was a brutally realistic movie.  If Judge were a Christian (and I pray maybe he does find Christ one day) he would actually be a prime candidate for a gift of prophecy to be honest.  The main accomplishment of this cult-classic movie was that it gave a voice to the frustrations many of us - myself included - feel at times; it's as if we are wasting our lives away without really achieving much of significance.  Add to that then our consumer-driven society - 90% of America is in debt to some degree, this forcing a lot of talented people who could do greater things into a corporate prison, languishing behind the dull, grey, carpeted walls of tight cubicles.  Thing is though, for what??  To get that big screen TV that they probably charged to the yazoo on a credit card which has a credit limit significantly higher than the annual salary the corporation gives them?  Honestly, much of this is a complicated bi-product of the so-called "Industrial Revolution" which occurred in the early 19th century, which in turn led to the rise of an elite group that many writers called the "Robber Barons" (Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, and others like them).  The worldview of this new system was incompatible with the Judeo-Christian ethos, and instead had more in common with social Darwinism (many of these "Barons" were, interestingly, committed evolutionists), and that mentality set in motion a great upheaval to the order of things as they had been for centuries.  However, the word of God, in particular this passage we will be discussing in Ephesians, does actually address this very issue.  In the context of the day - St. Paul wrote this at the height of the classical Roman Imperial period - the verses in this pericope were addressed primarily to masters and their servants, but they are by all means applicable to 21st-century America as well.   All we need to do is replace the words "slave" and "master" with "employee" and "employer," and there you go!  Therefore, focusing on Ephesians 6:5-9, we are going to deal with this important issue, due to its connotations for today's society.

Although some religious authorities have tried to reduce the Bible to merely a "religious book," (notably Melkite Archbishop Cyril Bustros, liberal Roman Catholic writer and Paulist priest Robert Rivers in his book From Maintenance to Mission, and Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren, as well as liberal Protestant theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas and Jurgen Moltmann) with no relevance to any other discipline, the fact of the matter is the Bible is a book that imparts wisdom to all areas of life - it addresses science, history, politics, medicine, and yes, even economics!  Rev. John Broome, the Assemblies of God minister who officiated Barb's and my wedding some 21 years ago as of this writing, once said in one of his sermons that for the Christian, every issue we face in life is a theological issue, and he was absolutely correct!  Being the Bible is God's revelation to us, it addresses all of these issues too in some way - the focus of the Bible is the legacy of the salvation and redemption of mankind, and part of that has to do with the complexies of human nature as well as God's created order of things in this world.  The Bible is the most perfect instruction book which deals with keeping God at the center of all areas of our lives, whether it be family, work, the worshipping community, etc.   And, while some would say that the Bible is not primarily a history book, or an economics text, etc. - and they are correct - what it does address in relation to those issues is 100% reliable, and it was inspired by God himself.  Therefore, if people would really open themselves up to the possibilities, the Bible could really govern a nation (not the book itself obviously, but the truth within it as applied and appropriated by leadership that believes and trusts in those truths).  The fundamental problem, however, is that sinful man rebels against God's ways, although God's ways are meant to be for our own benefit.  And, like all other areas of life, Biblical principles and truths can be applied in our workplaces as well.

The passage under discussion addresses both Christian employees and Christian employers, an in doing so it does something significant.  Essentially, here are the two fundamental lessons it teaches us:

1.  Employees need to respect and obey their employers, as God ordained the employer to be where he is and blessed the employee with the job to earn income to provide for his or her family's needs.

2.  Employers - meaning here specifically Christian employers - need to realize that their employees who may also be Christians are also their brethren, and should be treated with the dignity and respect due them.  The true leader is a servant to those he or she leads.

That being said, the godly way a Christian business should be run is this - the dignity of each man or woman being created in God's image plays a vital part in how both the employer and employee treat one another.  A solid Christ-centered atmosphere in the workplace does have results - the employees will exhibit a deep loyalty to their employer who treats them with said dignity, and the end result of that is the quality of the work or service will be superior.  There are even some non-Christian employers who understand this principle without even knowing where they got the understanding from in many cases.   A prime example of this was a title company I used to work for some years back, a small company owned and operated by a brilliant real estate attorney.  To be honest, it was one of the best gigs I have personally had the privelege of working, and it was due to the attorney's work ethic - he once said a happy employee is a productive employee.  Therefore, this attorney (who unfortunately passed away a few years back from terminal cancer) treated his employees (even temporary and contract people!) like royalty - for a period of time, as an example, the company even bought everyone in the office lunch everyday, and they paid salaries that were generous and far superior to the average salary of the geographic area.  The end result was that this small office developed a close-knit support grid among the employees, and many of us are still good friends today as we worked well with each other.  And, whereas in many companies people scatter when lunchtime rolls around, we would joyfully work through our lunch breaks without even an issue, and overtime when necessary was something we had no problem with either.  In short, due to the generous attitude and respect of this employer for his employees, the goals of the employer became the goals of the employees, and a strong cohesion resulted that is a rare find in many offices today.  As an extra measure, the office managers were always there for the staff too, and without hesitation help was extended to an employee who was going through a rough time at home or something.  Although many of the people I worked with in this title office were by no means what you'd call committed Christians (a couple were, but not many) they still stand out as a stellar example of the Scriptural principles we will be discussing, which is why I spent some detail sharing this.

The Apostle Paul, in verses 5-7, first addresses employees, and these are five primary things he stressed that should be hallmarks of a Christian worker:

1.  Obedience to the employer is a must, for he is paying for their services, and the employees owe him a quality service for the investment he is making.

2. It is important, as the Apostle writes, to be obedient "with fear and trembling."  Now, this in no way implies that we should be in fear of our employers, but we need to afford them a healthy respect that says "my job depends on how well I serve this company."  Remember, in this day and age, no one is indispensable in Corporate America, and no job is completely secure, even a corporate executives.  This would also fall under the Biblical principle of responsible stewardship.

3. Sincerity in our work is paramount.  We need to be able to sincerely do the best job we can, and be honest in our strengths and weaknesses.  A good employer respects that level of integrity.  Many professing Christians fall short of this, and we could even take a lesson from non-Christians at times - for one, the Jains, who are bound by a code of honesty in their religion and to be honest I would trust a Jain with my personal financial portfolio anyday! - although this does not give sanction for equating other religions with our faith - we serve the one true God, which is why even more we should exemplify that in our relations with society as a whole, in particular the workplace, where many of us do spend a significant portion of our time.

4.  We don't do things with "eye service" (meaning trying to "look good") or try to be manpleasers (in modern vernacular, rumpkissers).  An astutely observant supervisor can easily detect these false pretenses when an employee is trying to "kiss up," and it is not flattery, but actually insults the boss.  In that case, flattery will truly get you nowhere. (v.6)

5. Perfection is not so much the goal, nor should it be realistically expected, but especially as Christians in the workplace we do our best.  That is pleasing to both God and the boss, and will in time have its own rewards. (v. 8)

6.  Our jobs are a ministry - a nonbelieving employer can be reached by the witness of a diligent employee who knows the Lord.  The result then is that good service brings God's favor. (vv. 7-8)
Now, I need to stress here that even in the most adverse conditions - you may be underpaid, overworked, and just in a nasty job - a Christian can do this.  There are many times I personally have had to "suck it up" and do the job I was paid to do despite how much I personally detested my boss or workplace, or how inadequately I was paid.  If in that position, let me say to you there's no harm in looking for something better if it escalates into a serious issue, but as you do so don't burn your proverbial bridges - any hostile behavior due to frustration could come back to haunt you later, and I too have made that mistake, so know what I am saying.  The bottom line to all this, however, is about living up to personal responsibilities - remember, we all have bills to pay and many of us do have our families to consider.

Now that we've talked about employees and their expectations, let us now turn to employers.  In the past 100 years or so, the business world has changed drastically.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, most businesses were largely of what is called the "mom-and-pop" variety, which meant they were usually small, family-owned and operated, with maybe a few trusted hired community people to help out.  Many unrelated employees worked for these businesses for years, in many cases becoming close friends to the family who owned the business.  The result of that was quality goods and services, as quality was prioritized over quantity of production.  These family-run businesses often depended on the revenue of the businesses for their livelihoods, and the business ethic which made such enterprises click was largely foundated on Judeo-Christian principles, which didn't allow for the greed and obsession with wealth many large corporations today are characterized by.  However, with the "Industrial Revolution" of the late 1700's, and the rise of a greedy elite class of "Robber Barons" in the ensuing years, a radical change transpired.  Base human greed and selfishness came into the picture, and with the popularity of a new mindset which had its genesis in an 1879 book by naturalist Charles Darwin entitled Origin of the Species, the attitude of self-gratification became a new religion, and as a result the Judeo-Christian ethic of the small local businesses became passe.  Rather, the new goal became the acquisition of wealth at any cost rather than the provision of needed services.  Quantity, therefore, began to usurp quality, and it only took less than a century for this new selfishness to permeate the American business establishment.  Now, many years later, the days of the "mom-and-pop" establishment are practically over (those businesses, many now called "cottage industries," are still out there, but Corporate America, with bankrolled politicians in its back pocket, is slowly rubbing these out), and many good "mom-and-pops" have been swallowed up by larger, richer corporations who promised the public the mantric "more for less" (more supply at cheaper prices - also inferior quality as a side effect - to meet a greater demand).  However, in that process, we have lost something precious - the close community that existed betwen small business owners and their employees has been replaced by a corporate elite hidden away in the "ivory tower" seclusion of skyscraper penthouses, pontificating from their opulent thrones monotonous policies and procedures to a grossly underpaid working caste who go about their duties robotically on a daily basis, many losing valuable time with their families.  This has produced dire results on society as a whole - high divorce rates, substance abuse, an increase in suicides, etc.  (not to mention mountains of hopelessly-entangling consumer debt).  Average workers are viewed often by the management as numbers and statistics, and these corporations spend millions of dollars on "motivational seminars" and other nonsense to supposedly make workers more of a "team."  I have in our back storage room here at the house a box of books I have received from companies I have worked for talking about "right attitudes," "address to impress," and so forth, but is all that really necessary??  Now even churches are playing these games, and the tragic result of that is that the truth of the Gospel is either being diluted or outright suppressed in order to make room for the "effective programs."  This stuff personally sickens me, because as I have found out, they are mere fads that a company uses to brainwash its employees into submission, but often things like this backfire.  For instance, a few years ago, companies were big into all this ""life coaching" stuff, and the large bank I worked for at the time even had me take a course on that.  However, I learned something - the coaching class, rather than being a tool for increased production, became a weapon that wise employees like myself utilized to call management on the carpet and to accountability, and of course, management hated that and as a result such programs fell by the wayside, and thousands of dollars got flushed down the crapper.  Here's a thought - instead of investing in those fads, why doesn't the company start treating their employees like human beings instead of machines, and maybe - just maybe!! - if the employees felt like management respected them, production and quality of work could be improved and that money which would have been wasted on stupid seminars and such could be disseminated as raises and bonuses for the employees!  I am really not against these things like "life coaching" either, believe it or not - some of these things can be appropriated with Biblical principles, and they can be quite helpful.  However, corporations often use such things as a manipulation tool to bleed their workers dry.  Christian employers thankfully don't have to resort to that.  In Ephesians 6:9, God inspired the Apostle, St. Paul, to pen some very effective and basic principles that, if taken seriously, will revolutionize a workplace.  Here are some of those admonitions in this passage that provide Christian businesses with principles to follow:

1. Do Not Threaten!! Just as employees are dispensable, the employer is advised that the door swings both ways.  An employee always working under intimidating threats of losing their job, "being written up," etc., will be too cowed to do a good service. Threatening and aggression always makes things worse.

2. Don't Show Partiality!! A boss who gives into "kissing up" and flattery is not a genuine leader.  And, that type of favoritism creates a very hostile work environment.  That is a lesson that Corporate America really needs to get beaten into it.  In my experience of interviewing for jobs, I have picked up some things, and here they are:

a. A lot of employers do not actually read resumes, and as a result good people are often looked over for jobs they are more than capable of doing well.
b.  There seems to be an unwritten code as to who gets jobs these days, as I have found out the hard way.  Basically, there are three requirements with most (although there are exceptions) corporations that have absolutely nothing to do with one's skills or experience, and here they are:

  • i.    What you look like
  • ii.   Who you know
  • iii. How well you kiss up and flatter

3.  Respect Your Employees!!  A boss over a department in a large company, or a corporate executive for that matter, needs to realize that the people populating that vast monolithic, monotonous sea of cubicles outside their office door are people - many are highly intelligent, sufficiently skilled individuals who work hard, but also have limitations.  The boss often demands respect, but fails to understand that the law of reciprocity comes into play; a boss has to respect to receive respect!  A Christian manager or executive is held to even a higher standard than that, for his or her employees who are fellow Christians are their brothers and sisters in Christ, and that involves a whole other set of Biblical principles which come into play.

4. Lead By Being A Servant!!  The best leaders are those who serve the best interests of those they lead.  A boss is on the payroll of his or her company, bu that does not dismiss their responbilities to those whom they are charged with leading.  Often, the boss is an employee's only source of justice, and the boss does a tremendous service by voicing the workers' concerns to the management.  If more supervisors in certain industries would have thought like that in the first place, then labor unions would never have been necessary (Unions often do more harm than good anyway, so the world would do better without them).  Ultimately though, the best boss is a godly boss, for a boss who knows the Lord has the example of Christ to draw from.  E. Truett Cathy, the head of the Chik-Fil-A restaurant chain, is an excellent example of godly corporate leadership.  Also, my former boss, the late John Ritter of Royal Title and Escrow in Miami, FL, was as well although I am not totally sure of his religious commitments. 

To summarize, we have talked about various levels of relationship over the past few studies - the family, the Church, and here the workplace.  Ultimately, good relationships in all areas of our lives form a bulwark against the attacks of the enemy, and in essence those relationships are the fortresses of our spiritual battles.  They provide the reinforcement and support we need to overcome those attacks.  That being said, we will in the final chapter of these studies talk about the spiritual war we face every day of our lives, and as we do so, you will hopefully see how these relationships come into play as important standards against the onslaught of the enemy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On the Great Schism, the Reformation, and Other Church Divisions

I have studied Church History (and history in general) for many years as a personal interest, and in doing so I have come across a number of things that have revolutionized commonly-held versions of "history" of all sorts that we are often told.  I wanted to just share a few observations today, because they are some things that have been on my mind and I needed to talk about. 

First, let me say that I was chrismated in the Maronite Rite of the Roman Catholic Church back on Easter of 2000, and that being the case, I want to say that I view the Roman Catholic tradition as a valid expression of Christianity, and Rome is an integral part of the Church.  I am no longer in the Roman Catholic Church, being part of the Continuing Anglo-Catholic movement instead, but I still value much that our Roman brethren have to offer.  They have also produced some tremendously gifted scholars, such as Scott Hahn, that I reference extensively for my own research. Rome is still Christian, is still part of the whole Church, and as such she deserves proper respect and appreciation for her contributions to the Christian tradition as a whole. I said that because what I am about to say in no way invalidates Rome's position as part of Christianity, but it shows that all of us are still human and are prone to error, and that is why I felt the conviction to address this.

Although the Roman Catholics are an integral part of the Church, and many of them are fine Christian people, Rome as a whole has made some mistakes over the centuries, namely in some of its more distinctive teachings which are not in concord with the teachings of the Church as a whole.  For one thing, there is Papal primacy and infallibility.   This was the issue that caused the Christian East and the Western Church to split back in AD 1054, and it was largely due unfortunately to a misunderstanding of the office of the Bishop of Rome.  The Church, as I have read and understood it, was founded to be governed by a collegiality of bishops, without any having primacy over the others.   Rome violated that early on when all of a sudden the "Primacy of Peter" issue, based on a faulty interpretation of Matthew 16:18, which was when Jesus said to Peter, "Thou art Peter (in Greek petra, a feminine noun denoting a large slab of rock, as opposed to the masculine word lithos, which is used to refer to anything from a pebble to a bolder) and upon this rock I will build My Church."  Jesus said that to Peter after the famous confession Peter proclaimed a couple of verses earlier that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah (v. 16).   Theodore of Mopsuestia, in one of his writings, notes that this petra was the same faith and confession Peter made that would be the foundation of the Church - Jesus is God the Son, and that also is concurrent with John 1:1 as well.   Peter's role in this was that he would be given a leadership in the Church as an Apostle, but one of many, and the confession he spoke (which was from God himself, if one looks in verse 17) would be the discerning key of true faith and belief (Manlio Simonetti, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 1b - Matthew 14-28 {Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002}. pp. 45-46).  I see here a direct correlation between this verse and a parable of Jesus spoken in Matthew 7:24, which says that those who hear and believe (or do, as the Duahy-Rheims translates it) will be likened unto a man who built his house on a foundation of a solid rock.  It is not enough to accept Jesus, in other words, as merely a historical figure who existed, but rather belief in what He said and who He is constitutes building upon the petra, thus having a sound foundation of faith.   The basis of all Holy Tradition of the Church is in the personage of Jesus Christ, who is its Head, its Lord, and its Founder.  Peter was the first to acknowledge that with insight from the Holy Spirit, and thus his confession codifies the fundamental reason for Jesus coming to earth - as God in the flesh to save mankind.  Therefore, the rock it speaks of in Matthew 16:18 is not a person, and definitely is not the Papal office, but rather the ultimate wellspring from which the doctrine of the Church rests - the personage of Christ as God the Son and Savior of those who will believe in Him.  This by no means diminishes Peter's Apostolic authority though - he was instrumental in the founding and establishment of three of the major Churches of Christianity; Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome.  Where our Roman Catholic brethren err though is by saying that this makes the "See of St. Peter" the ultimate head of the Church, which it does not.  The ultimate authority of the Church and her witness are in the belief that Jesus is God the Son, come into the world to save mankind from their sins.  That is how the rest of the Church has viewed this for centuries, and that fact is the true rock of foundation for our faith as Christians. 

Another area that has gotten Rome into some trouble is this idea of purgatory.  Purgatory is, in Roman Catholic dogma, an intermediate place for cleansing of the righteous dead before they enter the Kingdom.  However, in some Roman Catholic writings, purgatory looks an awful lot like hell, and its temporary state has been even taken to extremes by some mystics who have evolved a universalistic understanding of soteriology.  There is, interesting enough, some Scriptural support for this, as in Luke 16:19 there is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which described a place called "Abraham's Bosom" where Jesus eventually preached to the righteous dead and brought them into heaven.  Purgatory evolved out of this, but those who evolved a doctrine of purgatory from this idea failed to realize that Jesus did away with that once He died and was resurrected, therefore conquering death and the grave.  Any idea of purgatory ends with that, and the Roman Catholic version of this is not consistent with what the rest of the Church believes, although it has produced some bizarre variations among both Protestants and Orthodox.  On one extreme, for instance, you have late Orthodox theologian Fr. Seraphim Rose, who taught what is called the "Tollhouse Doctrine," which essentially says that even the righteous dead can be snatched as their souls ascend by demons at these specific places in the heavens called "tollhouses," and dragged into hell.   This is rightly called by Orthodox priest Fr. Michael Azkoul a form of neo-Gnosticism.   The best refutation of such heresy comes from the Church Fathers themselves, in this case the great St. John Chrysostom, who wrote in his Homily on Lazarus the following: "For if while the soul dwells in the body the devil cannot bring violence about it, clearly when it departs from the body, he likewise has no power over it." (Michael Azkoul, A Bad Penny: The Toll-Houses Again {Dewdney, BC: Synaxis Press, n.d} p. 1).  This would also refute purgatory as the Roman Catholics understand it as well.  The other extreme is this recent rise by "Emerging Church" proponents such as Rob Bell, in his controversial book Love Wins, which espouses a form of universalism that suggests hell itself is temporary and eventually everyone (including Satan and the demons) will be saved by Christ, due to the fact the overwhelming love of God will ultimately destroy hell.  However, Bell and his kind (including Carlton Pearson, the ex-Pentecostal minister who about 10 years ago began teaching something similar called the "Gospel of Inclusion") fail to realize that this contradicts orthodox views of hell, sin, and salvation by essentially taking away the need for a Savior, and ultimately erasing God-given free will.  For one thing, Bell forgets (or ignores) to realize that God is not the one that sends people to hell - fallen humanity has condemned itself there, and only belief in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins will save us - the Blood of Jesus is very important, but it must be accepted to be effective by us as individuals.  It is indeed offered to all, and Jesus loves all mankind and did die for all mankind, but mankind has to accept and believe what Jesus did on the Cross to find salvation.  Secondly, hell is eternal, and the Church has always taught that it was originally created for Satan and the fallen angels who will be doomed to spend eternity there once Jesus comes back, but humanity chose to believe Satan's lies and also by default inherited the curse of eternal damnation, which can only be broken by the shed Blood of Jesus for our sins.  The nullification of free will by Bell and others like him is due in large part to Calvinistic influence, but there is also a root of the same error that Roman Catholics often use to justify purgatory's existence.   Bottom line is, the Church as a whole has never taught purgatory's existence, and as a result the potential exists for heresy by those who do accept it. 

There are also some Marian doctrines that Rome introduced which do not reflect the consensual tradition of the Church as a whole, and those have caused a huge stink in particular with Evangelical Fundamentalists.  The Church has historically accepted four important Marian doctrines as orthodox, and those are the following:

1. Mary as the Theotokos, or God-Bearer
2. Mary as Ever-Virgin
3. Mary's bodily Assumption (or Dormition) into heaven upon her repose
4. Mary as part of the Church Expectant, and a prayer partner to those of the Church Militant but not more so than other Saints of the Church.

Roman Catholics correctly believe those along with the rest of the Christian Church (including many of the Reformers - more on that momentarily), and this is not the issue.  The main problem with Roman Catholic views of Mary are the two additional doctrines that they have added as official dogma.   The first of these is the Immaculate Conception, dogmatically defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854.  What this teaches is that Mary, like Jesus, was conceived without sin and some more extreme traditionalists would even maintain she didn't have a natural conception.  This is not accepted by the rest of the Church, and only one Immaculate Conception - that of Jesus Himself - ever occurred.  This almost deifies Mary, and of course this unorthodox viewpoint on the part of the Roman Catholics has caused a lot of issues for them with Fundamentalist Protestants, who use it as a platform to invalidate everything about the Roman Catholic Church, and by default others of us who are not Roman Catholic but still have a sacramental/liturgical Christian faith.  A second Marian doctrinal innovation added by our Roman brethren was the idea of Mary as Mediatrix.  This is a dramatic expansion of the orthodox teaching of Mary's intercessory prayer gifting, in that she is often viewed as aiding in the redemptive process (she is thus also called Co-Redemptrix as well as Mediatrix).   This is not a view that is accepted by the Church at large, in that only Jesus alone can redeem fallen humanity.  The saints and others can intercede for salvation, just like people living in churches do here, but they have no role in the redemptive process.  While Roman Catholics do rightly see Jesus as the only mediator between God and the human race, these particular views of Mary can be problematic.  It would do our Roman Catholic friends well to better define what they are saying, and to have a greater and more clearer affirmation of Jesus as the only Way to God for fallen humanity.

Now, I want to talk about the Reformers.  I wanted to say that much of what the Reformers addressed had little to do with orthodox teachings of the Church - many of the Reformers were actually very orthodox in their views of the correct Marian doctrines, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and other things  - but rather what they correctly saw as abuses on the part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.   The same could be said as well of the Eastern Churches - they were not contesting orthodoxy when they parted ways with the West in 1054, but rather abuses and extravagant claims that Rome made but wasn't entitled to.   Therefore, I say this with extreme love for my Roman Catholic brothers, but it is also going to be some strong medicine to swallow - many of the divisions in Christianity over the past thousand years - in particular the Great Schism and the Reformation - are solely the responsibility of Rome herself.  Had Rome not allowed for abuses, overextension of its authority, and bad politics, the Church may still be organically one today.  Also, the Reformers didn't depart the Catholic faith - many of the extremes of the Fundamentalists today cannot be contributed to the Reformers, but rather to some things their followers began to embrace that began to remove them from a lot of the orthodox teaching of the Church.   Fundamentalists and Emergents are both the result of this, although they appear to be on different spectrums.  Therefore, it is ultimately up to Rome to somehow clarify and redeem itself in order to bring its own teachings back into conformity regarding those areas it has strayed from historic Church teaching, and if it does so, perhaps the Fundamentalists and Emergents will begin to be won back to the Church.  Many Fundamentalists though are actually sincere in their belief, and I have no doubt they are Christian.  And, many Fundamentalists share the same concerns with what is going on in the world now that we as traditional liturgical/sacramental Christians do, but they are gun-shy about seeing it because they wrongly associate the rest of us with the excesses of Roman Catholic distinctives.  We are both Remnant people, but old biases, memories of abuses past, and other issues continue to blind us seeing that.  However, fortunately Jesus Himself knows who is faithful to His teachings, and ultimately when He comes back for His Church He will bring those of us of the Remnant together as one people in Him.  May our prayer be that we prepare ourselves for that in the interim.