Some of the things on Boettner’s List deserve clarification because the misrepresented version of Catholic doctrine leads to erroneous “knowledge” of the Catholic Faith. They are outright falsehoods, whether intentionally presented or not, that need to be addressed. Others however, as we will look at today, don’t seem to be so important as far as identifying them as a Catholic “invention”. In reading some of the items he presents, I can’t help but wonder, “why would that be a bad thing, even if it were true?”
Item #2, The Sign of the Cross: Boettner asserts it’s an “invention of Rome”. Well, even if it was, is marking ourselves with the symbol of Christ a bad thing? Let’s look at his claim here on the sign of the cross. He says it was invented near 300 AD. Wayne Ariss corrects this wrong date:
“Again we go back to Tertullian's The Crown of 211 AD: "In all the occupations of our daily lives, we furrow our foreheads with the Sign" . This makes Boettner's date 89 years off. Jurgens, pg 151.”.
So Boettner is wrong on his date in the first place. We see the Sign of the Cross being used at least as early as 211 AD. But what we also have to acknowledge is that we don’t have ALL the historic documents…only a fraction of them. So there is no real way to know for sure exactly how early the Sign of the Cross was being used. It very well could have been so common in the first centuries that it simply didn’t require written mention. But that’s beside the larger point, which is: why does that deserve mention as an “invention of Rome”? What’s wrong with signing ourselves with the symbol of Christ, by which HE chose to give us redemption? Why would we NOT want to do that?
Next on the list is “Item #3, wax candles”, the use of which was supposedly “invented” in 320 AD or so. Again, Mr. Ariss is able to find 3 sources which refute the date:
“The extant Roman record of the execution of Cyprian of Carthage (Acta Proconsularia) indicates that his funeral included the use of candles and torches; this occurred in September of 258, more than 60 years before Boettner's date . Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, "Candles". New York: Encyclopedia Press, Inc., 1907; pg 246.
Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, "Cyprian of Carthage", pg 588.
Patrick Hamell, Handbook of Patrology. New York: Alba House, 1968; pg 75.”
Yet again, why is using wax candles, even if it WAS an invention of Catholicism, an issue? What’s wrong with using wax candles? Is there some prohibition against using particular lighting sources that are available in any given time period? Is there some Scriptural passage that says we should NOT use candles made with wax? (Chapter and verse please.)
Boettner also tells us that the offering of Mass on a daily basis, Item #5, as opposed to weekly, was invented around 394. And in this case, his date seems to predate the earliest source that Mr. Ariss was able to find (and I was unable to find an earlier source as well). Mr. Ariss sums it up, however, with the same question as for the others here:
“The Mass, in the earliest years of the Church, appears to have been celebrated on Sunday only, but it was gradually extended to a daily celebration by the time of Augustine (d.430 AD). This, however, was by no means universal, being confined to specific geographical areas until the end of the 500's AD. In some places, priests began to celebrate multiple daily Masses, until Pope Alexander II (d.1073) decreed that priests should content themselves with one or at the most two Masses, one being a requiem Mass, and then only if necessary . What remains unclear is why Boettner felt this to be something sinister, to be labeled a heresy or an invention. Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 2; "Bination", pp 568-569.”
The Mass is a commemoration of Christ’s salvific Work and of His Eucharistic celebration which He obliged us to “do…in remembrance [in Greek - “anamnesis” = commemoration, a memorial sacrifice] of Me.” (Lk 22:19). Regardless of how you view Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist (literal or otherwise), this Supper is something we are obliged to “do” in Christ’s “commemoration”, as a “memorial”. Is there something sinister in commemorating Christ daily, instead of just weekly? What is Boettner’s point about going from a weekly celebration of Christ’s victory, to a daily one? And if the Mass were only celebrated weekly, would Boettner find no other fault in the Mass?
The last item I’ll look at for Part 2 is Priestly Dress (Item #7 on Boettner’s List). Boettner asserts that in 500 AD, “Priests began to dress differently than laymen”. And again, I can’t help but wonder why that would be an issue. Throughout history, people in differing areas of life have dressed differently. Businessmen tend to wear suits, while construction workers wear hardhats. In Jesus’ era, philosophers wore garments that were different from political officials, who in turn wore garments different than field laborers, etc… Now, in the Christian arena, so to speak, it was actually common practice for everyone to dress similarly…to avoid any person drawing focus onto himself. And Boettner ALMOST hit the mark here. Wayne Ariss explains:
“ Boettner here is half right. In the 6th century the manner of dress between clergy and laity was different; however, it wasn't the clergy that changed and began dressing differently, it was the laity.
In the early years of the Church, clergy dressed no differently from the people around them, and indeed, priests were chastised for dressing in any manner that brought attention to themselves (letter of Pope Celestine to the bishops of Gaul, 428 AD; Council of Gangra, 340 AD). This seems to have remained the case up until the 500's AD.
By then, the Western Roman Empire had collapsed, and the influx of northern Germanic tribesmen that came into Italy had begun to mix with the native Roman population. The clergy retained the common manner of dress that Romans had always worn---the long tunic and a toga or cloak; the laypeople, however, began to quickly adopt the style of dress of the Germans, being a short tunic, breeches, and a mantle.
A local council in Portugal in 572 and another in Germany in 742 mention clerical attire, but only insofar that clerics should be seemly attired and decently covered. The first actual indication of specific clerical dress comes in 875 AD, when Pope John VIII instructs the Archbishops of York and Canterbury to make sure that their clergy was wearing specific ecclesiastical attire. Universal enactments regarding clerical attire came in 1215, 1589, 1624, and finally 1725, when Pope Benedict XIII decreed that a cleric wearing lay garments was an infraction of the most serious order . Boettner is thus off by a margin of 375 years in the earliest example. Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4; "Costume, Clerical". pp 419-420.”
To be sure, one could rightly say that Priestly vestments are, well, rather dated (2,000 years old). I suppose they see no reason in updating their attire, and personally, I can’t imagine why it would be so important to mention it as an “invention of Rome”. Maybe it would have made Boettner feel better to know that Priest don’t go out to the grocery store, etc… in those robes, and instead wear a more plain choice of clothing?