Time for another visit to the doctrinal terrain of the infamous "tmatt trio" (cheers). For those who need a brief refresher course on this Sunday morning, here is the trio of questions that I have found -- as a journalist, not as a churchman -- yield me the most interesting information when I am interviewing leaders involved in conflicts inside mainstream Christian groups.
They are doctrinal questions that loom in the background and help define the various camps. Here we go.
(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?
(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)?
(3) Is sex outside of marriage a sin?
This brings us back to the big story from Rome that GetReligion has been anticipating for quite some time, and here is the lede in the Los Angeles Times. (Click here for a Google search of the mainstream media coverage in general.)
Pope Benedict XVI ... authorized wider use of the long-marginalized Latin Mass, a move that delighted Roman Catholic traditionalists but worried others who fear the erosion of important church reforms.
Revival of the old service, which had been largely supplanted by the modernizing spirit of the Second Vatican Council, also angered Jewish groups because it contains a passage calling for the conversion of Jews.
In a decree known as a motu propio, essentially a personal decision, the pope urged priests to celebrate a 1962 version of the 16th century Tridentine Mass when their congregations request it. Until now, priests could use the Latin Mass only with permission from their bishops, which was not always forthcoming.
There are all kinds of things hiding in there, from the much-discussed "spirit of Vatican II" to the tensions between bishops on the left wing of the church and the conservatives in their dioceses.
But my question is simple. If you were a journalist right now and you were covering this story, how would the questions in the "tmatt trio" relate to it? Which question is the most relevant and why? Which question does not seem to be relevant, but if you know anything about post-Vatican II Catholicism, it actually is?
Here is a more than obvious hint from the Los Angeles Times story.
Some of the strongest criticism Saturday came from proponents of interfaith dialogue and from Jewish organizations. Although references to "perfidious Jews" have been removed from the old liturgy, its Good Friday prayers contain a call for the conversion of the Jews and for God to lift the "veil from their hearts" so that they might know Jesus Christ.
"This is a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations," Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who is in Rome for meetings with Vatican officials, said in a prepared statement. "It is the wrong decision at the wrong time."
Clearly, this is an important issue, one linked to historic changes in Vatican II.
But what is the basic doctrine of Christian theology that is at the heart of this? Are there any mainstream stories today that even raise this "trio" question?