Very Challenging Words: A German Lutheran Minister and an Irish Catholic New York Archbishop

the greatest threat 
to the church is 
not heresy, 
not dissent, 
not secularism, 
not even moral relativism, 
but this sanitized, 
feel-good, boutique, 
therapeutic spirituality that 
makes no demands, 
calls for no sacrifice, 
asks for no conversion, 
entails no battle against sin, 
but only soothes and affirms.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, 
Archdiocese of New York

What wonderful and challenging words
many Catholics heard or read last Sunday. 
It brings to mind the thought-provoking words of
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
in The Cost of Discipleship.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. 
We are fighting today for costly grace. 
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. 
The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion 
are thrown away at cut prices. 
Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, 
from which she showers blessings with generous hands, 
without asking questions or fixing limits. 
Grace without price; grace without cost! 
The essence of grace, we suppose, is that 
the account has been paid in advance; and, 
because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. 
It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, 
the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. 
An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself 
sufficient to secure remission of sins…. 

In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; 
no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. 
Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, 
in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Cheap grace means 
the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner….

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. 
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, 
baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. 
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, 
grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; 
for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. 
It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. 
It is the kingly rule of Christ, 
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, 
it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.



About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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2 Responses to Very Challenging Words: A German Lutheran Minister and an Irish Catholic New York Archbishop

  1. Anne Comeaux says:

    Love the “Grace” post. I remind people that it is not easy to be Catholic. Blessed, life-giving, light, necessary for me…but not easy. If you need “FEEL GOOD RELIGION” this is not the one.

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