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“We are the Protestants! But our traditions are equally valid!”

Lutheran satirist laments the disunity the Reformation has caused.

Screen shot from LutheranSatire.org, operated by Lutheran pastor and satirist Hans Fiene.

The Rev. Hans Fiene has a knack for addressing Christian teachings and events in a humorous way, and he’s honest enough to poke fun at the divisive nature of the Protestant Reformation, even if he can’t bring himself to become Catholic.

As a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, Fiene takes on Christian controversies and characters in cartoon form, typically spending two to seven minutes on a subject at his Luther Satire website. That he has more than 57,000 subscribers testifies to Fiene’s skills in “teaching the orthodox Lutheran faith through the use of humor,” and he has more than a few Catholic fans, as comments on some of his animated satires show.

Fiene ranges widely in his subjects, including addressing the non-Christian doctrines of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses; and, in another satire that may both amuse and offend Catholic charismatics, he presents C-3PO—the robot of “Star Wars” film fame—as taking issue with Pentecostal Christians on the spiritual validity of praying in tongues.

His most popular satire is on “St. Patricks’ Bad Analogies” in teaching the Trinity, the central mystery of the Christian Faith (CCC 234; 261). Fiene depicts the Apostle of Ireland as attempting to explain the Godhead to two ancient Irishmen, Donall and Connall, who say they lack Patrick’s “fancy education, and books, and learnin.’” However, the pair go on to frustrate Patrick, accusing him of teaching modalism and Arianism through his faulty analogies.

Patrick then employs the classic Trinitarian analogy of the cloverleaf, but Donall and Conall object that he’s confessing “partialism,” a heresy that professes that the Triune persons “are not distinct persons of the Godhead, but are different parts of God, each person composing one-third of the divine.” This heresy, Donall adds, was espoused “in the first season of the cartoon program Voltron.” When Patrick says he’s never heard of Voltron, Donall replies, “Of course you haven’t! It’s not gonna exist for another 1,500 years now, Patrick!”

Finally, when the Irishmen object to two more analogies, Patrick simply professes the Athanasian Creed (see CCC 266). Despite their initial feigned ignorance, Donall and Conall reply that Patrick should’ve simply opened with that precise, erudite exposition on Christian doctrine! And then Conall concludes with a dig at the excesses of Irish and other Catholics: “Now let’s all put on some giant green foam hats, get riotously drunk, and vomit in the Chicago River to celebrate our conversion!”

Of greater apologetics interest is Fiene’s “Reformation Piggybackers,” which has more than 236,000 views. Credit the Lutheran pastor for honestly—and hilariously—grappling with Martin Luther’s decision to break with the Catholic Church, and the related fallout when others followed his religious lead. Indeed, despite the doctrinal claim of “sola Scriptura,” someone has to replace the Pope in particular and the Magisterium in general in authoritatively interpreting Scripture, whether that person be Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin or King Henry VIII.

Early on in Fiene’s satire, all seems to be going well until Luther discovers Zwingli doesn’t believe the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Jesus. (While not confessing the Eucharist as the sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s one Sacrifice of Calvary, Luther did vigorously argue for consubstantiation, which affirms the Real Presence in a different way.)

Luther admonishes Zwingli that true reformation requires fidelity to God’s biblical word, “not to just be as un-Catholic as possible.”

“Well that’s the point of my Reformation,” a defiant Zwingli responds. Then John Calvin comes on the scene, and Zwingli tells him that Luther “wants to join my Reformation, but he still wants to be a little, halfway, papist sissy-baby.” Calvin rebukes Zwingli for his purely symbolic view of the Eucharist, yet also disappoints Luther in arguing for a divine presence in the sacrament that is simply spiritual.

Enter Henry VIII, who, though not historically considered a Protestant Reformer, and despite in real life having called Luther a heretic, is cleverly depicted as needing Luther to rationalize his own break from the Pope, which for him was based on his adulterous remarriage to Anne Boleyn.

“That’s not a good reason for leaving the Church of Rome,” Luther chides Henry regarding his marital problems. No matter, replies Henry, who then adds—fictitiously, though humorously—that Luther’s “shortsighted attitude is precisely the reason why the Church of England has chosen Mr. Calvin here to be the chief theological advisor for our ecclesiastical brexit.” But Calvin and Henry’s solidarity quickly dissolves over Calvin’s doctrine that Jesus died only for a limited number of people, which means God predestines some to hell.

After trading insults with Calvin, Henry asks Zwingli and Calvin to come together to thank Luther for providing each of them permission to go his own religious way. The other leaders oblige in singing “a rousing rendition of the Reformation Song,” an ode to Luther, because, as Henry says, “you set us free from the shackles of Rome, so we could follow your example—by quitting our Church bodies and starting a new one the second we don’t like the cut of someone’s theological jib.”

“We are the Protestants,” they sing. “We’re on the same team as Luther.”

“No you’re not Luther!” interjects.

“We are the Protestants,” they continue, “but our traditions are equally valid!”

“This is not true!” Luther protests further, even though Fiene is correct in showing the subjective basis for each leader’s break with Rome, and how they can thank Luther for blazing that religious trail.

At this point, you might infer that this is actually a Catholic satire, and an uproariously effective one at that, as Henry & Co. go on to sing that their differing views on fundamental Christian teachings like the sacraments and the atonement don’t matter. Rather, “the most important thing, is the common song we sing, ‘We all hate the Pope!’”

As they continue to sing, Luther laments, “I’m going home now,” realizing the divisive precedent his attempted reform has caused.

But just when you think it’s over, Fiene knows he needs to take on the Catholic Church and how she has allegedly contradicted herself in doctrine and related practice over the centuries, lest he alienate his core Protestant followers. To do so, he provides an addendum after the credits roll in which Pope Leo X, Luther’s contemporary, complains to Pope Francis that “this Luther, he make-a me so mad.” When Francis concurs, Leo responds, “Oh good. So you future Popes, you no change-a my teachings?”

In a liberal “Valley Girl” dialect, Francis then recites a litany of changes, including “hating on the Latin Mass”; giving Communion to the divorced (actually the divorced and invalidly remarried who aren’t living in “complete continence”); and how Vatican II supposedly changed the Church’s fundamental teaching on religious liberty in the 1960s (see CCC 1738 and 1747 in particular and CCC 1730–48 in general for a Catholic corrective). “Which is also,” Fiene has Francis add, “when we decided that people who don’t believe in Jesus at all can totally go to heaven,” and that “Muslims totally worship the same God as us and theirs is a religion of peace” (emphasis added; see CCC 841–48 and Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate 3 for an accurate Catholic view).

In response to what he would say to such a future pontiff, Leo tells Francis, “I say I’m gonna cutta offa his head. Why you ask?” “Oh,” Francis concludes, “a, no reason.”

Of course, Fiene doesn’t clarify, for example, that Francis’ encouragement to let the divorced and remarried receive the Eucharist is not a change in doctrine, but a disciplinary novelty of his own pontificate. And that the Church’s recent teaching on religious liberty exemplifies genuine doctrinal developments, while her recognition of Islam’s monotheism and Abrahamic roots is an interfaith effort to foster unifying dialogue, not codify religious indifference.

On the other hand, Catholics have to recognize that Fiene would’ve been in hot water with his Lutheran confreres had he not provided his papal putdown. In any event, as Fiene strives to “teach the faith by making fun of stuff,” Catholics can appreciate and agree on much of his funny forays into matters religious. And let us pray that he takes his insightful satire on Luther, et al., to its logical Catholic conclusion.


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About Thomas J. Nash 12 Articles
Thomas J. Nash is a Contributing Apologist and Speaker for Catholic Answers and a Contributing Blogger for the National Catholic Register. He is the author of What Did Jesus Do?: The Biblical Roots of the Catholic Church and The Biblical Roots of the Mass. He has served the Catholic Church professionally for more than 30 years, including as a Theology Advisor for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

17 Comments

  1. The development of the doctrine of religious liberty wasn’t as dramatic as many people think. In 1863, Pope Bl. Pius IX explained the true meaning of the extra Ecclesiam nulla salus doctrine, “outside the Church there is no salvation,” as it applies external to the Church and in civil society,

    “There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.” (Quanto Conficiamur, § 7.)

    Making himself even plainer, His Holiness concluded by saying, “God forbid that the children of the Catholic Church should ever in any way be unfriendly to those who are not at all united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. On the contrary, let them be eager always to attend to their needs with all the kind services of Christian charity.” (Ibid., § 9.)

    Pius IX was steering a middle course between radical liberals — the socialists and the modernists who promoted “the Democratic Religion” of the New Things (a “religion of humanity” in which God is a “divinized society,” as Ven. Fulton Sheen put it) — and the reactionaries who wanted to return the Church and its doctrines to a Medieval fantasy that never actually existed. The primary difficulty was and remains that modernism (which was not called that until the 1880s) and socialism — two sides of the same coin, as Chesterton noted — confuse natural and supernatural law, transforming objective knowledge into subjective opinion. This replaces justice with charity (really the opinion of whoever has the most power), and reason is twisted to support personal opinions under the heading of faith.

    That is why in the First Vatican Council affirmed as infallible that knowledge of God’s existence and of the natural law written in the heart of every human being can be known by reason alone. This was reiterated in the first article of the Oath Against Modernism and § 2 of Humani Generis.

  2. Hi Thomas. I understand the need to bash Protestants. After all, it is how we promote our being Catholic. Like singling out white people for being racists, or parents against CRT in schools for being domestic terrorists, it is in our fallen nature to demonize one group in order to promote our own positions and agendas, however right they might be. While Protestants struggle with division, especially these days along the lines of conservative/orthodox versus liberal/modernist, there is an equal amount of division within the Catholic Church. And, it seems, like among Protestants, the leadership of the Catholic Church is dominated by those promoting liberal and modernist views/opinions/teachings. I think it is in the best interest of the Catholic Church (and the Protestants) that we all focus on the stains on our own garments before trying to clean the stains on the garments of the other. Would that we all repent, for we are at a precipice. Truth is exchanged for the lie that denies there’s only one name under heaven by which men shall be saved, only one way to the Father – Jesus Christ. The Faith is hijacked by false apostles, false prophets, false teachers – false shepherds. The institutional Church is a vehicle of humanism and even socialism with little resemblance of the power and world-changing influence of the early Church. So, while we bash Protestants for their mistakes, their flaws, their divisions, we, the Catholic Church, continue to spiral into further chaos, division, confusion, compromise, liberalism, modernism, and gross sin.

    • Where is this ‘big movement’ to bash Protestants?

      How we ‘promote’ Catholicism? Who are these Catholics and where en masse are they proclaiming such a notion?

      Your attempt to make equitable the Protestant associations because of the sins of people in the Catholic Church smacks of desperation and not a sober analysis of doctrinal truth.

      • Thanks Todd for THE universal truth (for Catholics, Protestants, and for everyone else, even though they might not know it, yet): “. . there’s only one name under heaven by which we shall be saved, only one way to the Father – Jesus Christ.”

        The beloved apostle, John, recalls Jesus teaching:

        “All those The Father gives Me will come to Me, and anyone who comes to Me, I will by no means turn away.” (John 6:37)

        “If you make My word your home, you will indeed be My disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

        “All who love Me will keep My word, and My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them.” (John 14:23)

        Unlike any other religion or philosophy, we are addressed personally and are able to experience the truth of these promises. a) Once we have truly given our lives to Jesus, He never turns us away (no matter how far we run!). b) If we habitually reside in the words of Jesus Christ, we will experience our minds and hearts opening to the beauty of eternal truth that frees us to live an entirely new way of life. c) When we love and obey Jesus Christ we will effortlessly experience what so many religions endlessly strive for – the glory of the one true God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit dwelling with us. [we might think of that as ‘ideoentheism’, in contrast to today’s popular pagan error of ‘panentheism’ – for more see: ‘Ethical Encounter Theology’, free on the web]

        The beauty of that ‘One Saving Name’, as you say, Todd, is that it leads us into the most wonderfully rich treasure chest of divine promises. Far from the pie-in-the-sky of humankind’s buckets of religious myths, Christ’s promises are given for us to experience right now, in an almost scientific sense.

        God’s eternity is then the logical extension of what we are being graced with, even in this temporary world.

        Why so many (inside & outside the Church) are blind to this uniquely lovely grace is a grief-filled mystery that only God understands.

        Thanks, Todd. Blessings upon all who love & obey King Jesus Christ; from Marty

        • Thanks for taking the time to respond, Dr. Rice. And I apologize for my delay in responding.

          In short, we need to follow Jesus on His terms, not ours. Consequently, as you note well, Jesus begins His words in John 8:31-32 with “If. . . .” That is, we can willfully turn away from Jesus after initially saying “yes” to Him, whether we’re the rich young man (Matt. 19:16ff.), the rich fool (Luke 12:13ff.), or those who take the wide road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).

          Indeed, Jesus makes very clear that our salvation is not a one-time event, and therefore mortal sin is a genuine reality (see e.g., Matt. 6:14-15 and the Sermon on the Mount generally in Matt. chs. 5-7).

          You also assert that “when we love and obey Jesus Christ we will effortlessly experience what so many religions endlessly strive for – the glory of the one true God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit dwelling with us.”

          “Effortlessly experience”? Jesus says something quite different. He calls us to pick up our crosses (e.g., Matt. 16:24-26). As Jesus affirms elsewhere, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:14); “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21); and “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).

          Jesus Christ will indeed set us free, now and forever, but we need to repent and follow Him in a childlike way (Matt. 18:1-4).

    • Actually, there is a bog movement by a smallish, but loud, group that call themselves Catholic and proudly b ash the Catholic Church. That has been the traditional way Protestants bashed the Church. In the past, protestant groups left the Church but this modern group are still in the Church but nevertheless are still bashing it. They too will not succeed.

    • Todd C., I apologize for my delay in responding. In addition, I invite you to reread my essay. I clearly affirmed the satirical work of Rev. Fiene. I also affirmed his satirical honesty to note that the Reformation engendered disunity, and that he did so quite humourously.

      I didn’t bash. I constructively took issue with him and not the basic problem with Church authority that lies at the heart of every Protestant movement. God bless you.

  3. Rev Hans Fiene is correct. Valley Girl’s totally heretical exclamations were implied in the original Dignitatis Humane authored primarily by John Courtney Murray SJ. And corrected by John Paul II in the 2nd edition 1998. Thomas Nash cites the significant correction (see CCC 1738 and 1747 in particular and CCC 1730–48 in general for a Catholic corrective). Key is the phrase taught by Saint Thomas Aquinas in De Veritate 17, 4 Ad 3 “An action can be indirectly voluntary when it results from negligence regarding something one should have known or done” exactly as cited in CCC 1736. Insofar as freedom Catholics cannot pick and choose, neglect whatever they cannot conform to their conscience as if conscience were the final arbiter of truth. Pope Francis will propose in Amoris Laetitia the Church cannot replace a man’s conscience, rather it must inform it, whereas the authority of revelation and the Church in the corrected 2nd edition Catechism clarifies that the Church does not replace conscience when it informs. Rather it corrects a falsely formed conscience. Implied in this doctrine on conscience is the knowledge [conscience means con scientia, that is, to act with knowledge] already inherently possessed the natural law within common to all men that we often tend to rationalize. That inherent basically intuitive capacity that anchors reasoning is the undergirding for the formation of conscience and individual responsibility for [especially] serious sin.

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond, Father Peter. I think the original text of Dignitatis Humanae can be understood faithfully.

  4. …giving Communion to the divorced (actually the divorced and invalidly married who aren’t living in complete continence)…

    …and how Vatican II supposedly changed the Church’s fundamental teaching on religious liberty in the 1960s (See CCC 1718 and 1747 in particular and CCC 1730-48 in general for a Catholic corrective.)

    Nostra Aetate 3

    These are but 3 such correctives from one paragraph alone that Mr. Nash presents on misconceptions abounding about the Catholic Church. Brings to mind what Fulton J. Sheen had to say on the matter. “There are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

  5. Added to my comment and Saint Thomas Aquinas in De Veritate on All Saints Day it’s the saints that often help us get things right.

  6. We read: “Francis’ encouragement [1] to let the divorced and remarried receive the Eucharist is not a change in doctrine, but a disciplinary novelty of his own pontificate. And [2] that the Church’s recent teaching on religious liberty exemplifies genuine doctrinal developments, while [3] her recognition of Islam’s monotheism and Abrahamic roots is an interfaith effort to foster unifying dialogue, not codify religious indifference.”
    Some second thoughts…

    FIRST, is it only a “disciplinary novelty” to admit the divorced and remarried (without a declaration of nullity) to the Eucharist, or does it also signal something false about the permanence of marriage (see also CCC 1665)?

    SECOND, is the teaching on religious liberty really a doctrinal development, or is it simply a clarification? Maritain said it, partly, this way: “All it means to us is that there is no salvation outside the Truth, which, explicitly [with knowledge of Christ] or implicitly, is freely offered to all” (this in “Ransoming the Time,” 1941, long before the “recent” Second Vatican Council).

    THIRD, as for the interfaith effort to “foster unifying dialogue,” this could have been done quite well without also asserting/insinuating a “plurality [equivalence, yes/no?] of religions.” Aside from Pope Francis’ pliable messaging on this part of “fraternity,” which at least will be misunderstood by some of the flock, Maritain had this to say:

    “I should like to dwell a moment on the inner law and the privileges of this friendship of charity, as regards precisely the relations between believers of different religious denominations (as well as between believers and non-believers). I have already made it sufficiently clear that it is wrong to say that such a friendship transcends dogma [!] or exists in spite of [!] the dogmas of faith. Such a view is inadmissible for all those who believe that the word of God is as absolute as His unity or His transcendence. I know very well that if I lost my faith in the least article of revealed truth, I should lose my soul [….] [and] would reduce faith to a mere historic inheritance [a mere “faith tradition”!] and seal it with the seal of agnosticism and relativity” (ibid.).

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