The etymology of the word "Protestant" clearly demonstrates St. Paul's point about the need for interpretation. Protestant is, most certainly, a word spoken in an unknown tongue that cannot edify the Church without the addition of five words with the understanding. Speaking this word into modern ears, without the gift (though not necessarily the χάρισμα) of interpretation, cannot be done decently and in order. Doesn't Protestant mean un-Catholic? Doesn't it mean "protest?"
One of the ironies of etymology is that sometimes, over centuries, a word may be used to mean or imply the very opposite of its root. When people today say (using it in the fashionable way) "protest," my vicious addiction to etymology provokes me to respond: "They ought to say Contest." This is what happens when an addiction dominates you, and you cannot break free of it. A sober man could just accept that "protest" means you are against it, perhaps the way that Professor Wagstaff summed up what some might call the quintessential protestant attitude:
I do not care what they say
It makes no difference anyway.
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
No matter what it is or who commenced it;
I'm against it.
The habit of etymology, from which I cannot escape, sees the irony, recognizes horsefeathers for what they are, and protests loud and clear: That is not the way of the Protestant, but rather of the Contestant. You bet your life it is.
One of our critics, urging us to fore swear our Anglican patrimony and denounce our Fathers in favor of the Tiberian path, asked the hypothetical question: "what are you protesting?" My answer is, "I protest the Gospel." I certainly do not contest it. You see ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and cats, Jews and Greeks, pro means you are for it, and con means you are against it. To protest something in law was to sign a declaration of affirmation, that you were for the matter in a given document, or that you verified it, whatever the matter may be. I am for the Gospel, and for the Testaments of Scripture. This is pro-testamentism.
The Reformers of the 16th century used the word "Protestant" to declare that they believed in the Scriptures, and that they sought to be more Catholic than the Papists who obscured the Scriptures, failed to proclaim their meaning, and hid the Gospel under centuries of superstitious rubble. The phrase "more Catholic than the pope" may sound like an unfriendly challenge, a red flag waved in the face of a bull. But, the whole purpose of being a Protestant (and I believe the English did it best, by far) was exactly that: To be more Catholic than the pope and his religion.
Today we are more polite and ecumenical, and so are the people on the other side. The current Pope, Benedict XVI, the noblest German of them all, whose works I have long respected since the days when we called him Cardinal Ratzinger, is one of the finest Protestants to be published in modern times. Clearly he favors the Gospel and the Scripture just as we do (I wish I could say the same about his rather large denomination). Because he is such a Protestant, it is not easy to be more Catholic than he is.
I hope this gift of interpretation will help many to gain a historical perspective, opening that strange tongue we call English, and the language of that foreign country we call the past. The problem with too many Anglicans in our Continuing churches is the very opposite of the lady in Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much." We protest too little.