Advice on Discussing the "Catholic Church Teaches False Gospel" Claim from Presbyterian (PCA)

Hi all, this is my first post, and it’s a long one. Any thoughts or advice is appreciated.

First off, let me provide some background: I am a Roman Catholic engaged to a non-denominational protestant. We will be married in a Catholic church early next year, but my fiancé has no plans on converting at this time. My fiancé and I want her protestant faith heritage to be reflected in our marriage by having her brother, a Reformed [Orthodox – I think] Presbyterian minister of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), participate in the ceremony by offering an opening prayer. We have cleared this with the Catholic priest leading our ceremony who in turn cleared it with our diocese canon lawyer. The Church’s policy on a request like this is actually fairly liberal; basically as long as what he plans to say is scripted and approved by the priest, there’s no issues from the Catholic side.

Unfortunately, when we approached her brother about it, he eventually rejected us on the grounds that he felt it would be breaking the vows he took as a minister. Specifically his objection was that he vowed to be, “zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel,” and he feels he would be, “breaking that vow by participating in a Catholic wedding ceremony because the Catholic church teaches a false gospel”.

I have been a Catholic all my life, and have limited knowledge on Presbyterian/PCA beliefs. Searching via Google led me to these forums, and I was hoping some folks on here more knowledgeable on Presbyterians/PCA would be able to chime in on what specifically he means, and if there are any points that might be worth bringing up that may lead him to reconsider. As this is something that means a great deal to my fiancé, I’m very much interested in any advice.

When last I checked the Protestant gospels were the same as the Catholic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Perhaps you and your fiancé might approach him on the matter to narrow down what exactly he means. I’m fairly certain that he has a problem with the interpretations of specific passages within the gospels, but without knowing which passages he has a problem with it is really difficult to give any aid.

In the end however, perhaps you and your fiancé might consider a “plan B” and if she feels strongly about having a Protestant give an opening prayer, there is someone less hostile to the faith that can do this??? God bless the both of you and welcome to the forums!!! :thumbsup:

At this point I would say that for us to chime in with “suggestions” would be shooting in the dark.
We could perhaps examine some of the Presbyterian doctrines and how they differ from the Catholic etc, but this could, and likely would, get quite exhaustive.

Better at this point, if this is truly important to you and your fiance, to talk to him and find out his specific objections. Then if there are ones you cannot answer, bring them here.

Overall though I must say that, in all likelihood, overcoming his objections would take more time and effort than you have before the wedding, especially since you say that he “eventually” turned you down, which indicates to me that he gave the matter some thought.

The question I would have for you, and your fiance, is this. Does your fiance believe the Catholic Church teaches a false Gospel and if not why is she not coming into the Church?
This should be of greater concern to you and she before the wedding than what to do about her brother.

Peace
James

It might help to keep the big picture in mind. For the first 1000 years of Christianity, there was only one Church, the Catholic Church. Then, the Orthodox split off in 1054 A.D., retaining Apostolic Succession and all seven Sacraments. Only in 1517 A.D. did Protestantism get its start, and has been splintering ever since into literally thousands of man-made, doctrinally disagreeing denominations. Where do the Presbyterians suppose Christ’s Gospel was for the first 1500+ years after He ascended to heaven if not in the Catholic Church. And if it was, and isn’t now, ask them to point to a time when any Catholic teaching changed. They can’t.

This reaction could also be that of this minister’s denomination or his own personal reaction. There should be no problem finding a Presbyterian minister who would gladly oblige here.

The problem is, of course, that the minister is a relation and this impacts on the future relations of the husband and wife.

I will come across sounding quite backward here, but having worked with couples along these very same lines, I believe that it is always best for a man and a woman entering into holy matrimony to be of the same faith. It just solves a lot of future problems and this couple has already stumbled into one even before they have taken their vows.

Alex

The Church discourages marrying someone who isn’t Catholic, though it’s not prohibited. However, if the parents can agree on which faith the children will be raised in, then the problem isn’t as bad. This is why I’m Catholic; my mom is Catholic but my dad is a non-practicing Methodist, and he wanted me and my brother to be raised Catholic, since he never really practiced his religion.

I am very sorry to hear this! I’ll pray for you. I grew up in the PCA (and my parents are still there) and was nearly ordained in it, so I can probably answer this one as well as anybody around here. :slight_smile: Basically, there are three “camps” in the PCA: many will say that Catholics and Protestants are on the same team as far as the Gospel is concerned (Emerging wing of the PCA). Some will say that only Protestants get it right (PCA Evangelicals). Some will say that only ultra-Reformed Presbyterians are saved (Truly Reformed wing). He is probably in the Evangelical camp. (Any PCA readers: I know this is a bigtime generalization; just bear with me haha)

That camp has certain false assumptions about the Catholic Church. They tend to take everything “as written,” and are sometimes unaware of deeper meanings behind the words. For example, they hear about the Catholic focus on works of charity, they think “It’s faith alone, not faith plus works! You’re trying to save yourself through good works!” Or if they hear about the “additional” books of the Catholic Bible, they think “We know they’re not inspired! Any TRUE Church would know this! They must be a false church!”

Sigh. And so it goes, all the way down the list. The PCA does have some decent theologians who understand the issues, but in general, there is a fair amount of rank-and-file ignorance among their congregations in the area of Catholic subtleties. They’re not ignorant of Scripture, however. But many of these folks assume that Mary is worshiped as a goddess and that the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, is distorted beyond recognition in the CC. And the preaching of the true Gospel is one of their 3 marks of the True Church, so its absence makes one fear that the Church is not true. :frowning:

So…If I had to give any advice, I would seek to discover why he thinks that the Catholic Church does not teach the true Gospel. Not all PCA people think this way (though many do), and it is less common among pastors than among Joe Churchgoer :D. Find out what his concerns are, and try to find points of total agreement. Jesus Christ died to save sinners; you and he both believe that! That’s a great starting point. St. Augustine and the Nicene Creed will be your allies in this mission! :thumbsup:

Praying for ya!

I think he is using the term ‘gospel’ in a more generic sense than the four books. He most likely means it in the sense that he feels the Catholic church does not hold to the teachings of Christ in general.

At this point, there are two issues. Will he do the ceremony and how do you evangelize him…

The first part seems pretty easy. He won’t. Find a different PCA minister and invite him. This way your fiance’s wishes are filled.

Now, how do you evangelize him? That is tougher. Jesus said in John 4:44, ‘For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.’ Evangelizing family is tough, but you can do it if you handle the situation ‘with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.’ (1 Peter 3:15). I will often start a conversation off with that passage.

I say something like, ‘Discussing these matters can really stir up some emotion (as it ought to), but I will always treat you with “gentleness and reverence”, as it is written in 1 Peter 3:15. So if we get to a point where I feel that our feelings are getting the best of us, I reserve the right to call a time out.’

I’ll keep you in my prayers!

I want to sincerely thank everyone for the quick responses and offers of prayer and support.

To be clear, my fiancé is not Presbyterian, nor is anyone in her nuclear family except her brother who is an ordained PCA minister. My fiancé (like the rest of her family except that brother) considers herself to be a non-denominational protestant, and prior to dating me, she was involved with the church her parents belong to which is a Calvary Chapel (which in my opinion is a denomination, but that’s another thread…). Over the last two years of us dating, she has actually begun attending Catholic Mass on a regular basis (more than most Catholics). She doesn’t feel fully compelled in her heart to convert at this time, but we both believe that will likely be the case in the future. She has no objection to raising the children Catholic, and we are both very open and communicative on matters of faith and religion (we even scored a perfect on the communication portion of the FOCCUS test).

Some folks have suggested we look to a different minister than her brother serve the same purpose for our wedding. Unfortunately that’s a bit tough given the separate and congregation specific nature of non-denominational protestantism. Since my fiancé has been attending Mass, she has largely lost touch with her parents church. Likewise she doesn’t care for their minister, and doesn’t particularly want him as a speaker. She realizes that her brother isn’t the same faith as her, but she feels he is a better representation of her protestant faith than her parents minister or a random protestant reverend.

Regarding some of the points that have been brought up: I agree with Fermat that my fiancé’s brother is using “gospel” in a more generic sense, not specifically the Four Gospels that both faiths do share. Apparently the particular sect of Presbyterianism that her brother is a minister of is only popular in the South which is where he resides, and my fiancé and I are out in California, so I don’t have an opportunity to talk with her brother on a regular basis (in fact, we’ve only met in person twice over two years). From what I understand, he actually may fall into the “Truly Reformed wing” which Soldier X described, so I have little faith in actually changing his perspective on Catholicism.

At this point, I’m going to try and reach out to him myself (so far it’s just been my fiancé). I plan to point out to him that we’re actually not doing a full Nuptial Mass, but rather Liturgy of the Word. Any other thoughts or insights are still appreciated.

I am wondering if there is another way for your fiance’s brother to be a part of the wedding celebration that would respect his conscience and also make your fiancee happy. Are you planning a dinner after the ceremony? Could her brother say grace then? Or could you ask him to give a blessing to you as a couple for a happy and holy marriage before any other toasts are made? (This would mean that you might want to inform your buddies to keep their toasts within bounds that would not shock a great-grandmother if present.)

The true gospel is simply “Jesus Christ died on a cross for us all and rose again in three days.”

The RC Church definitely preaches the true gospel.

To be candid, I think he has serous issues about you getting married to a Catholic.

I’d spend some time with him discussing your choice. I liked the suggestion of having him give a blessing at the reception, or maybe the rehearsal dinner

Hey friend - if I can answer any questions or help in any way, don’t hesitate to PM me. :thumbsup:

As a former Presbyterian, but one who didn’t take much interest in Presbyterian teachings and whose main Presbyterian pastor was Methodist trained, with a Methodist outlook (including working his butt off), I can understand your problem. When I was there, the Westminster Confession of Faith, which was their dogmatic statement of belief, called the Pope “that son of perdition” or the “AntiChrist”. It goes back to the violence and polemic of the Reformation.

Frankly, unless you can become an expert in Presbyterian thought and doctrine in a couple of weeks, I’d give up on getting your fiance’s brother to offer the opening prayer. I think you’d have no hope of changing his mind in such a short time. What’s wrong with one of her Protestant friends offering an opening prayer, provided you vet it first, and there is a clear understanding that is all they do? Alternately they could read an appropriate Biblical Passage. The most inspiring Bible passage I ever heard was towards the tail end of my atheist period. I was at a cousin’s marriage, when the pastor read out Paul’s passage on love in Corinthians. We were standing on a hill overlooking Moreton Bay on a beautiful spring day, and it made an impression.

It’s your wedding. It’s not a showcase for religious differences.

I’d forget your future brother in law if I were you. You’ll have plenty of time **after **your wedding to work on his religious beliefs.

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