I have recently been reading Minority Report by Carl Trueman. This is a collection of essays, most of which have appeared on the Reformation 21 blog. Trueman has to be one of my favourite Christian writers. He combines a sharp wit with piercing insight.
There are too many things to highlight from this book, however one theme that recurrs is the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Trueman is gracious towards Roman Catholicism and acknowledges the many things we have in common (especially when compared with much post-modern evangelicalism) as well as pointing out the differences. However, one point he makes really struck me. It is that Roman Catholicism is the default Western Christian position. What that means is that you have to have good reasons to become a Protestant. In fact, the very nature of Protestantism is that it is a stance you take. You don't 'fall' into a state of protest. No, it is a conscious decision.
I think Trueman is right. There are strong Biblical reasons for rejecting Rome (on justification, on tradition, Mary, Papal infallibility etc. etc.), but if you do not hold these, or even do not think these matter all that much - why are you not a Roman Catholic? This is a question I often wonder when I think of Anglo-Catholics. Whatever you think of Newman, at least he followed both his convictions and the logic of his position.
I grew up in Northern Ireland, where the divisons between Protestants and Catholics were often political rather than theological. Someone once asked the famous Protestant/Unionist leader Ian Paisley what he would have done if he had been born a Roman Catholic. Paisely replied sternly, 'If I had been born a Catholic, I'd have become a Protestant'. Would you?