In the various Protestant-Catholic rumbles that happen on this and other blogs I often find myself wondering what view most Protestants today actually have of Roman Catholics. When I was growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota all of my friends were Catholic except for the people I knew from the Baptist church my family was part of. I was never raised to think that Catholics are not Christians, but just that you could never be sure. I remember one time talking about Pope John Paul II with my Mom and her making that comment that she definitely thought he was born again. The implication being that the born again status of a pope is certainly not something we should assume. I also remember, at the height of the Left Behind craze, a number of evangelicals speaking out in outrage about the fact that in the book the Pope is raptured, thereby confirming his true Christian status.
My point in all of this is simply that for the most part, I think that Protestants assume that Catholics are a remnant of the church that has persisted in apostasy since the Reformation, while the real church is constituted by the various Protestant churches (they generally haven’t even heard of Eastern Orthodoxy). My real wondering, especially for the more vocal Protestant interlocutors is what they make of Catholicism today. I wonder, do we really just see Catholics in a way that isn’t really any different from my childhood memories of them as maybe, possibly saved, but their church as whole as some lumbering falsehood? For myself, I cannot do other than think that Protestant, Anabaptist, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox churches alike are all a corpus mixtum, none of them bearing any inherent lesser degrees of Christian-ness. But I feel that for most Protestants, at least in America the same sort of basic anti-Catholic suspicion persists: maybe some are “saved”, but if you are you should get out of that apostate church! I genuinely hope that isn’t really the case, but I fear that among the Protestant churches in America such a mindset is pretty deeply ingrained and would take a long time to unlearn.