Thursday, April 24, 2003

More From the Mailbag" Dept.

Dear Mr. McElhinney,

Hello Mr. XXXXXX:

I apologize for the delay in responding. I hope your Lent was a fruitful one and that you have a very blessed Mercy Sunday.

I just finished reading you article entitled "The Red Herring of Communion in the Hand.".

I fixed a link on that essay last week. The first link of the "notes" section went to the wrong article. It goes to the right one now.

I think that you make some good points in the article. What I wonder, however, is how you would handle the following quotation from the Council of Trent's Decree on the Holy Eucharist:


On the use of this admirable Sacrament.

Now as to the use of this holy sacrament, our Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving it. For they have taught that some receive it sacramentally only, to wit sinners: others spiritually only, those to wit who eating in desire that heavenly bread which is set before them, are, by a lively faith which worketh by charity, made sensible of the fruit and usefulness thereof: whereas the third (class) receive it both sacramentally and spiritually, and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves beforehand, as to approach to this divine table clothed with the wedding garment. Now as to the reception of the sacrament, it was always the custom in the Church of God, that laymen should receive the communion from priests; but that priests when celebrating should communicate themselves; which custom, as coming down from an apostolical tradition, ought with justice and reason to be retained. And finally this holy Synod with true fatherly affection admonishes, exhorts, begs, and beseeches, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the Christian name would now at length agree and be of one mind in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that mindful of the so great majesty, and the so exceeding love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship as to be able frequently to receive that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul, and the perpetual health of their mind; that being invigorated by the strength thereof, they may, after the journeying of this miserable pilgrimage, be able to arrive at their heavenly country, there to eat, without any veil, that same bread of angels which they now eat under the sacred veils.

I draw your attention to the sentence which reads "Now as to the reception of the sacrament, it was always the custom in the Church of God, that laymen should receive the communion from priests; but that priests when celebrating should communicate themselves; which custom, as coming down from an apostolical tradition, ought with justice and reason to be retained." It would seem here that the contrast between the priests communicating themselves and the laymen receiving from the priests would indicate communion on the tongue for the laity.

It may appear that way; however I assure you that is not the case. We know from historical records that the laity in many areas received communion in the hand from the priest at mass. The reception was with the hands in the shape of a cross and then they would lift both hands at the same time to the mouth to receive the host. I documented patristic evidences that directly substantiate this notion and it was not condemned by the Fathers in any way.{1} So it cannot be a statement about communion on the tongue since this practice of reception originated very late. It was not as late as communion under one kind but it was still very late in the first millennium. The instruction in one of my missals for the communion in the hand option stated that "this was the only way communion was received in the first millennium". As usual, church history is much more complex than partisans of either position want to admit to.

I did not refer to the Tridentine quote above in the essay because (i) my intention was to sketch out the early pedigree of this custom and (ii) I did not want to appear to be calling into question the veracity of Trent. Because of the early witness being substantial and also broad - having witness in Africa, Rome, Palestine, and Asia Minor as well as plenary synods of the Orient - either Trent erred or those who interpret Trent's decree to sanction universal custom for communion on the tongue would be misunderstanding the council's intention. I always prefer to err on the side of the individuals to avoid casting aspersions on an ecumenical council.

Even though Trent could be wrong about this and it would not be a big deal (as church infallibility does not touch on matters of history), I still prefer to give the synod the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. And with Trent on this decree that is very much possible. For what Trent appears to have been referring to here is the Nicaean eighteenth canon that forbid deacons from giving communion to the priests. Here is that canon circa 325 AD:

It has come to the attention of this holy and great synod that in some places and cities deacons give communion to presbyters, although neither canon nor custom allows this, namely that those who have no authority to offer should give the body of Christ to those who do offer. Moreover it has become known that some of the deacons now receive the eucharist even before the bishops. All these practices must be suppressed. Deacons must remain within their own limits, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and subordinate to the presbyters. Let them receive the eucharist according to their order after the presbyters from the hands of the bishop or the presbyter. Nor shall permission be given for the deacons to sit among the presbyters, for such an arrangement is contrary to the canon and to rank. If anyone refuses to comply even after these decrees, he is to be suspended from the diaconate.

In short "those who have no authority to offer should give the body of Christ to those who do offer". And the practice at liturgy was for the celebrant to give communion to others, not receive it from others - particularly from those who could not offer the sacrifice. The same principle would apply today if an extraordinary minister were to give communion to a deacon. Though not directly forbidden it would nonetheless be condemned at least in spirit by Nicaea and Trent. For the basis of the Nicaea canon is that those who do not offer cannot give the Eucharist to those who do offer. (Remember, it was customary in the early church for all priests present at a mass to concelebrate.) In like manner with the extraordinary minister giving communion to a deacon it would be a member of the clergy receiving from non-clergy. If not directly than at least indirectly this practice would not be allowed under canon or custom. (And of course a deacon or extraordinary minister giving communion to a bishop or priest would be an explicit violation of this Nicaean canon.)

Furthermore, the Council states unequivocally that such a practice has come down from an apostolical tradition.


If so, it would seem that communion in the hand is a departure from apostolic tradition and ought to be either abandoned or, at the very least, discouraged.

I'd appreciate hearing your views on the above passage.

Well if communion in the hand is a departure from apostolic tradition then we have saints and doctors of the Church sanctioning such departure. This list other than the ecclesiastical writer Tertullian (if memory serves me) St. Justin Martyr and St. Cyril of Jerusalem. It also includes St. Cyprian of Carthage who is mentioned in the Roman Canon. It also includes St. Basil the Great and St. John Damascene who are Doctors of the Church. It was sanctioned as apostolic by a plenary synod of the Orient - the easterns going so far as to rebuke Rome for contradicting early custom. And finally, it is sanctioned by the Apostolic Constitutions which were once believed to have been handed down by the Apostles themselves.{2}

So whatever arguments someone wants to advance for the allowance or non-allowance of this practice, it cannot be discouraged on the basis of either early practice or the false notion that the laity touching the sacrament is "sacreligious" as some radtrads claim. If it was then the Church sanctioned sacrilege for at least the first millennium and at a near universal degree. No Catholic worth their salt would want to make that assertion.

I have become more tolerant of communion in the hand since that piece was written. (It was written in February of 2001.) When I mean tolerant I mean overcoming my scruples and submitting to the Church. I personally have never have received communion except on the tongue. And while this is my personal preference (as well as my essay coauthor 'Matt1618'), I do not believe personally that any arguments against communion in the hand are persuasive ones except (perhaps) the argument that this custom was reintroduced on basis of certain ordinaries and local churches (particularly in the Netherlands) going against the Church's sanctioned practice.

For Rome making an allowance for this later on could conceivably be said to have contributed to the dissent that would explode with Humanae Vitae and Missale Romanum. (Though the allowance came in 1969 between these two events, it can be plausibly argued that this concession to dissidents may have strengthened the resolve of the 'liberals' opposing Humanae Vitae and given the 'trads' who opposed Missale Romanum the notion that if they acted in like manner, Rome would eventually capitulate to them as well.)

I believe if someone approached the subject from that angle, they could make a very good case for communion on the tongue to be reimplemented as the reception policy. However, appeals to history or other sources would not seem to me to carry much weight. The Magisterium after all did loose this policy. It therefore remains loosed until they choose to bind it again if they ever do. To my way of thinking, that someone is able to receive communion is much more important than whether they receive by tongue or hand.


{1} A friend actually sent me a link to a file of his excerpted from a mid twentieth century book on the Mass where there it refers to Pope Gregory the Great giving a woman communion in the hand from the loaf he consecrated on the altar. There is no shortage of such evidences which corroborate what I outlined in that essay.

{2} It is now believed that the Apostolic Constitutions were primarily compiled in fourth century Rome. While they attest to the earliest practices of the Church in many areas, there are nonetheless a few clear redactions from the mid fifth century or later in a few parts of them as well. The latter are mainly (to my knowledge) in the precise trinitarian language ascribed to early saints such as St. Hippolytus who lived in a period before such precise distinctions had been worked out and systemized.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2003

On Weblogs and Message Boards - the Fisking of a Self-styled "Traditionalist"

[Prefatory Note: This post was written approximately three and a half weeks ago and stored at my developmental weblog. It was lightly retouched shortly before posting. Additions to what was written almost a month ago were added today in purple font.]

I start off with an apology to anyone I have promised to respond to who has not received a response. We at Rerum Novarum are very backlogged. Along with finishing refinements and light restructuring of the last of our old writings - which is taking most of our allotted time for evangelization at the present - there is also a backlog on responding to any emails that need more than a quick response to them.

This email is among the backlogged entries and is about two weeks old or so. I post it here because it serves as a representative of the sort of people we deal with in talking to self-righteous Integrists. (Also known as "radtrads", "self-styled 'traditionalists'", or "lidless eyes".) In short, they love to be insulting and then wonder why they are not treated with more than a shrugoff most of the time. (Or, when I do respond to these sorts, I can at times do so in a somewhat heavyhanded manner.) I should probably post this to the Lidless Eye weblog but I am in the mood to make a nice gesture here so I will refrain from that. My words will be in regular font. The email I am responding to will be in yellow font. Any sources I reference will be in darkgreen font. Having noted that distinction and without further ado, here we go.

I noticed that instead of replying to your "challenge" on the Envoy Encore website, you decided to take my statements (bits and pieces of them) and use them on your own blog.

I responded to this individual in detail back in December and only added one of the messages to the ancillary Lidless Eye weblog back in late January because I ran across it in my notebook. Let us reveal the full thread so that the readers can follow this sequence systematically. First we have the comments thread in its entirety which can be found HERE which includes the response at Envoy Encore that this individual claims I did not make there. (See post #65.) I suggest that the reader open that link in a separate screen to follow along with the sequence I am about to present. As usual with self-styled "traditionalists" such as this individual being fisked, they do not do their homework.

The readers if they follow the thread can note a progression of his snide and rather incoherent comments in response to Pete (#3), his incomplete familiarity with liturgical history and theology (as outlined in #8-#9), and his absolutely idiotic fantasy of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother singing the Psalms in Latin: a spectacle which was even beyond his witless condemnation of so-called "antiquarianism" (for both see post #11).

From there I responded to his broadbrushed treatment of Mediator Dei in two posts (#14 and #16). Rather than engage the arguments made, he proceeded to demonstrate in technicolour an intolerance of reasonable discourse and a marked fondness for shallow invective in a series of posts spanning from #19-#36. By that point, it was clear to me that the person was not interested in a discussion and were prone to labelling with the term "Gnostic" anyone who did not profess the Gospel According to Herr Mershon. I frankly could not see why on earth anyone should take him seriously by this point so I of course refused to do so.

From there he entered a state of recrudesce with his banschee-like shrieking about my being "a 20-something smart aleck." I am not sure what his perceptions of my age have to do with anything as (i) they are erroneous and (ii) surely Our Lord's dictum regarding beams and specks provides sufficient comment on his bad manners. For despite his attempts to utilize big terms like "antiquarianism", I took good measure to deal in detail with the misunderstandings of Mediator Dei he set forth in two posts to that thread (#41 and #44). My "mysterious source" in both responses: the encyclical letter itself. For someone who was so insistent that I respond to their so-called "challenge", this individual was again amazingly silent on my entries on Mediator Dei. Which reminds me.

I will deal with his ignorance of my work further down in this thread. (It is a post in and of itself.) However, I want to first address my reasons for responding on my blogs oftentimes and linking them to message boxes. (Though sometimes I write a message in a box and then blog it later with additions, subtractions, or modifications as I see fit.) Let this response serve as an instruction on the matter.

Message boxes do not tend to have the perminency of a weblog response as they fall off the screen as more of them are added. Blogging them therefore allows for the continuation of a subject weeks or months later. By contrast, comments box messages are archived with the main post. They therefore tend to disappear when the message is archived. Also, such messages are frequently at the mercy of software such as Haloscan, Enetation, and YACCS (to name a few) getting a glitch and erasing the message box contents. Because of this, I always consider blogging any response made in a comments box if I think it is a point that may repeat itself later on. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel after all and time constraints do not make repetition expedient if it means restructuring a point from ground zero time and again. I explain this principle in detail HERE.

Blogging is not like essay writing and working for economy of expression without leaving out anything that is essential is a constant task of balancing. (Except when writing for print publications where the same balancing act is called for.) If he feels that my response overlooked something that was an essential constituent to his argument, then a simple email pointing this out can work wonders. (The same applies to others whose emails are blogged.) Unlike certain "infallible 'trads'", I do not hesitate to correct potential misrepresentations of other people's viewpoints - even at times amending the parts used when quoting a source. Contrary to what this person would seem to imply in the tone of their email, there was (and is) no intention to misrepresent.

If there was an intention on my part to misrepresent him, he needs to ask why I would post the entire archive thread from December where I got the Lidless Eye post if I was "worried" about what I said there. I did not act as a juvenile on the thread as this individual did. And yes I will note that here since he has thus far pretended that he can insult people at will and that is somehow okay. I am a reasonable fellow but I have my limits like anyone else. One of those limits is how far I will go in tolerating people who act as he has established a track record of acting. Having noted that, I can now address his email here on Mysterium Fidei. The reference will thus shift from indirect to direct for the duration of this response.

[snipping the quote]

From Alfons Cardinal Stickler with the entire article attached.

Brian, I am amazed that you do not hesitate to insult me when you have not the slightest idea about what I have written. Your questioning of whether I had read Mediator Dei (noted earlier) is particularly egregious since I reference it heavily in at least three separate writings. And no, I do not use single line snippets but instead quote whole chunks of it and in doing so thus insure proper context and not prooftexting. You have a lot of nerve to call me names when you so clearly have either not read my work or you have only given it a cursory scan at best.

I will fill in for this shortcoming on your part here this one time and in the future will expect you to come to a discussion having some degree of knowledge about someone's position before you act like a typical lidless eye quack scholar.{1} I believe people like you are the biggest reason why the Ecclesia Dei indult is not of a much wider scope than it is. If I was a local ordinary, there is no way I would give an indult if most of those requesting it were people like you. I suggest you listen and learn and stop committing ecclesial hari-kari for those whose views may be similar to yours but whom have a thousand times the class that you do. Bad apples like you ruin the entire batch for everyone else.

As far as the article you sent, I read this article eight years ago. (I own the 1995 Latin Mass issue which it ran in initially.) After seeing it touted as some "masterful piece" at a number of websites, I re-read it in January of 2001 and wrote a detailed response to it paragraph by paragraph. And I put out my essay on the web in April of 2001 before Latin Mass Magazine re-released it. When retouching most of my older web writings back in January, I made a few very minor adjustments to it. (A couple grammatical quirks, fixing two broken links, and replacing one defunct source with a newer and better reference text.) Nonetheless, for one who debuted references to me with such self-assured "certainty" I note again: you sure are ignorant of my work. If anything confirmed this for me it was you sending this link to Stickler's essay. The Mediator Dei flubs are at least moderately excusable since most of the writings they are in are rather lengthy. (Prior to the January revision I would have to extend some leeway for this oversight but no longer.) But this is not as I have had that essay on the web for two years now. Unlike longer pieces which have been formatted onto shorter sectional urls for easier reading, this is not a very long piece either. (It is 36.25 pages if I recall correctly.) In this light, such recommendations are not a credit to your ability to pay attention. And paying attention is rather important if you propose to be critical of other people.

I wonder to whom should I listen. You, or a Cardinal who was a periti at the Council and served on the the Committee on the Liturgy.

No matter what I say, you will only listen to whomever tickles your fancy irrespective of whether they are right or not (cf. 2 Tim iv,3).

PS Do you mind explaining to me your theological credentials since you like to mock others so and esp. re: to "established theological norms of interpretation."

Brian, be honest with the readers. You really do not care what my credentials are. You are taking this approach for one reason and one reason only: to try and find a convenient way of avoiding my arguments which are more trenchant than you are willing to admit publicly. Let us explain to the readers why this request of yours is really not relevant to the discussion.

Let us consider the credentials Pope John Paul II has and also those of the other recent popes whom "trads" like to disobey. (Excluding Pius XII whom they selectively obey and conveniently whitewash the rest if it does not square with what they want to believe: see my treatise for details on this.) If "trads" do not consider the credentials of these individuals as adequate - their prerogatives as Vicars of Christ notwithstanding - why should I expect a different treatment from you to stuff I have written??? Let us review them at this time.

Excluding JP I whose reign was brief (and therefore whose credentials are not relevant to this discussion), every one of the recent popes had doctorates in either philosophy (Paul VI, JP II), theology (JP II, John XXIII), or canon law (Paul VI). And all three of the above popes were well-educated in Church History. John XXIII's specialty was the Council of Trent and St. Charles Borromeo's attempts to implement Trent in Milan. (And his intention with Vatican II was to follow a similar policy as St. Charles.) He was also very knowledgeable about Pius IX's reign and was personally devoted to Pio Nono wanting to if possible beatify him personally. (That was unfortunately not possible for him to do.)

Paul VI studied all eighteen volumes of Hefele's History of the Councils and knew inside and out what ecumenical councils historically had sought to accomplish and indeed had. Paul VI was also a formidable theologian and indeed was favourably compared to Pius XII in this area upon his election. (Not to mention in the field of canon law where both Pius XII and Paul VI were among the best canonists of the Curia before their respective elections.) Both John XXIII and Paul VI had reputations as excellent pastors as well as being saintly men. The same traits applied to the current pope who is next in this sequence.

Pope John Paul II is particularly brilliant in both theology and philosophy. There is not a single "trad" or "trad" sympathizer whose pitiful candle of pseudo-theology or pseudo-philosophy can stand next to his blowtorch acumen. His understanding of the human person is to my knowledge without rival. Since you are making such a big deal about my credentials, how about we ask if you consider the aforementioned credentials of three popes who are commonly disobeyed and treated with disdain by "traditionalists" (falsely so-called).

If disobedience to them is considered a virtue by you trads - and if you would only obey them because they have degrees - then you are a fraud and not a faithful Catholic. If you feel that you have some right to criticize and question them at whim and then act offended when someone like me destroys the sacred cows to which you adhere to {2} then you are in need of some serious spiritual direction. If on the other hand you are obedient to the magisterium then I fail to see what your beef with me is.

Further still, if I was such a "traditionalist basher" then you need to ask yourself why do I promote Tridentine apostolates at my weblog, in my writings, and in correspondence. I have done this for years and indeed continue to. But you do not appear very interested in what I really have said because that might cause you to step back and actually interact with viewpoints which are not only well-researched but perhaps directly challenging of your religious weltanschauung. But let us consider another aspect of this mania for "scholarship" that you are putting forth.

Since you want to discuss scholarship - and in this email have "proposed" Cardinal Stickler's deficient essay - how about we discuss His Eminence's essay for a moment. Indeed, let us make this a double-slam since you have also raved on other Envoy message boxes about Fr. Chad Ripperger's very theologically faulty essay Operative Points of View. How about we consider my scholarship compared to these two prelates on the subjects we have covered. I could choose any of my writings but as I have written in response to essays by Stickler and Ripperger; therefore let us contrast these shall we - starting with Cardinal Stickler.

To start with, Cardinal Stickler is to my knowledge neither a theologian or a philosopher in the sense of having any noted degrees in these fields. He has a doctorate in Canon Law but that does not give him a special competence in the areas of theology, philosophy, church history, and liturgical history. And I am critical of the Cardinal's essay on all four of these fronts. Unlike the Cardinal, I sought to use as many accessible sources as I can. My critique of His Eminence was 70% sources that are in some form or another on the web. I do this so that my use of citations in their context can be verified. In my essay contra Fr. Chad Ripperger, all of my sources except one are available on the internet. (To the tune of 96.1% online sources.) Let us now consider Fr. Ripperger's "credentials" before delving further into the issue of sources used.

To my knowledge Fr. Ripperger has a Ph D. in philosophy. As I noted in my critique in the introduction "Father Chad Ripperger teaches moral theology for the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP) at their seminary in Nebraska." Just because someone has a philosophical degree does not mean they know all that there is to know about philosophy. For philosophy has as many divisions within its realm as does theology or science. Therefore, if we really want to get technical about it, a degree in philosophy is not an asset if the individual is discussing a philosophical matter which falls into a realm that they are not specialized in.

Indeed I point out a very crucial philosophical and theological distinction on the subject of immanence that Fr. Ripperger completely misses and I do so with the support of old Catholic sources. (Including the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia and Pope St. Pius X's Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis.) That is not the least of the difficulties that his essay has in squaring his presumptions with reality but it is worth noting since unlike other criticisms this to an extent reflects upon a realm that he is credentialed in.

Most of my criticisms of Fr. Ripperger's essay are in the areas of dogmatic theology, church history, norms of theological interpretation, and ecclesiastical practice historically. (I am unaware of any special competence that Fr. Ripperger has in any of these areas.) As far as traversing philosophy, as I noted already there are several branches of that science and it would seem to me that the area I was discussing is not one that Fr. Ripperger is accredited in. If he is than the error I outlined in detail would really give me cause to wonder. Out of charity I presume it simply is not in his area of expertise.

Theologically, Fr. Ripperger's special competence would appear to be moral theology as he teaches it at the seminary. None of my critique touches on this realm at all except (perhaps) in a very indirect manner. As far as sources used, I have in fact tallied the number of pages I have written, the number of sources I have used, their diversity, and the ratio of online to non-online sources per piece of writing. It was done precisely to deal with questions such as these.

You see, I know the kinds of sophisms that "trads" use as I used to use them myself. They are indeed the same kind of sophisms that are common to contra-Catholic polemicists of the Orthodox or Protestant realm. And I have therefore accumulated the hard data on these subjects because it is easy to demonstrate that by far and away and without a shadow of doubt, no "trad" or "trad sympathizer" can remotely approach me when it comes to (i) the quality of the scholarship I have drawn on (ii) the care and concern for proper context in citing sources (iii) the diversity of my sources, as well as (iv) accessibility of the sources used.{3}

After all, it is real easy to make grandiose pronouncements when your readers cannot verify your sources.{4} With the exception of a couple of my earliest post-treatise essays {5}, I have always tried whenever it is possible to use sources that can be easily examined by my readers. Those sources that cannot be thus verified - such as the rare inparagraph short citation here and there from my library or other sources - can be judged as to the basis of their accuracy of citation by my faithfulness to the sources which can be verified. I have nothing to hide and I am not afraid of people checking up on my sources.

Also, I make it a policy to use quality sources and not radtrad hack scholarship and sources produced from a Counter-reformation polemical mindset. With these sources, the truth is viewed as a casualty and to be glossed over if it tells against "the cause" - whatever it happens to be. Such sources when used by me are only used or referred to either to (i) point out nuances that they contain which their users often overlook or (ii) to debunk the veracity of the source as exhausting the franchise on the acceptable views on a subject that a Catholic can hold. (And it is seldom difficult to do that at all.)

That is the difference between me and the radtrads you appear to align yourself with. While they reference sadsack sources like Wathen, Davies, Coomerswamy, and others I discredit the veracity of their sources and (by logical extension) their arguments. I can do this without worrying about the same thing happening with my work because the overwhelming majority of the sources I use cannot be discredited by them without them cutting their own throats in the process.

So at the very least, they have to admit even if implicitly to the credibility of my sources. But it is easy for me to show that your allies do not cite their own sources accurately most of the time - particularly when they use the same sources I do. And when they do cite their sources correctly, the sources cited are usually quack scholarship sources of dubious quality of the sort no one concerned about the truth would deign to use. (Such as Michael Davies books, James Wathen, Atila Guimaraes and the Remnant crowd, etc.) So it is never an even playing field in short because while I do not have to be selective in my sources, your allies often do.

Further still, I do not generally have to use non-web sources. But as I know how lacking in charity and overly suspicious that trad types can often be so I go the extra mile to accommodate them. That way they have no excuses and cannot claim that I am misrepresenting a source as is their wont to do and do frequently. (Particularly when they run across an argument that they cannot cogently respond to.) In that light I find pompous individuals such as yourself particularly tempting to deflate.

I can think of no one who has used a larger proportion of web sources to total sources than I have. (In part because I do not have the kind of extensive library of a Dr. Scott Hahn or a Dr. Art Sippo so I have to compensate for that - as well as being a subpar typist though I have recently started working on the latter deficiency.) Because I use so many web sources, in that sense I am perhaps the most "exposed" of apologists because my sources can be verified as to their usage with a click of the mouse to the tune of 86% of the time on average.{6} Obviously I cannot supply the same service in my essays written for periodicals but at the same time virtually all (if not all) of my resources in periodical essays can be found on the web with a simple search engine.

There is virtually no one that I am aware of who has taken the approach I have in my writings viz the sources used. (And certainly no Integrists.) Not only that but with regards to the subjects I tend to write on which are more than "traditionalist" subjects. (Much more in fact.) "Traditionalist" subjects are not and do not define me as an evangelist or as a writer. And I have refused to allow people to pidgeonhole or typecast me in that manner by writing on a wide forest of subjects including Orthodox and Protestant objections to the faith, Christian unity, Mariology, and the pieces I intend to write on this year are primarily magisterial and also on the respective weltanschauungs of western and eastern outlooks. (A sequel to my essay on Christian unity in essence though it will not be as comprehensive as the latter.)

That is the difference Brian in that Remnant and Latin Mass sorts write very sophistically on a narrow construit of issues which they are as ignorant of as they are narrow-minded. They love to focus on ancillary subjects because they know to focus on primary issues is to insure their discrediting. By contrast, I have sought to write to either fill an existing lacuna in subjects covered or (if the subject was already covered) I have sought to approach it from an angle that to some extent was unique. If I do not feel I can do at least one of those things, then I tend not to write on the subject at all. I focus on primary subjects and theses which are supplemented with ancillary issues only to the extent that they are relevant to the main issue. My treatise alone contains seven such theses {7} - six of which stand alone in the sense that only one of them is needed to sustain a direct refutation of false "traditionalism".

The feedback I have received on various pieces overwhelmingly confirms that my intuitions on these matters were to a large extent correct. So frankly I do not give a damn about what you would or would not think are my "credentials". I will say this much: I have less credentials than the last three popes.{8} If you will not obey the popes then you are a hypocrite for basing the veracity of my arguments on whatever mythical "credentials" you think I should have. Besides, I already know what you would say.

If I told you I had a doctorate, you would want to see two doctorates. If I told you I had a masters, you would want to see a doctorate. Further still, if I said I had a bachelors, you would claim that I was only credible if I had a masters. And finally, if I said I had no degrees, you would claim that I needed at least a bachelors. Because you see Brian, you have made your mind up and do not want to be confused with the facts if they are at all detrimental to your nostalgic fairytale of what the Church should be or ever was. That is your right of course and I would defend your right to your wrong opinions here. But God is watching and He will not be mocked by this sophistic position that you are taking. And if you choose to remain ignorant about the stuff I write about, then it may well not bode for you at the Eschaton Judgment. At the very least if you are going to be critical than represent your opposition fairly. False witness after all is a sin.

Again, I would hardly expect better treatment than you are willing to accord to the popes I mention above - their prerogatives as Supreme Pontiffs aside for a moment. (Or Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and Franjo Seper the last two Cardinal Prefects of the CDF.) However, I DO expect people who are as snidely critical as you have been right out of the chute to either interact with my arguments or expect to be consigned by me to the scrap heap as irrelevant to the arena of debate. I suggest you approach these subjects - as well as those you presume are your "enemies" - with the same kind of deference that you expect to be treated. Otherwise I will not be as nice to you as I have been in this response.

As far as supposedly "mocking" others, you could not be further off base.{9} I point to the general norms of interpretation because (i) they are expected to be followed by those who would immerse themselves in the sacred sciences and (ii) "trads" and "liberals" by their prooftexting are notoriously guilty of not following them. I have discussed them before on discussion lists and message boards though I am generally inclined to let the terms stand as an indictment for the hack scholarship and constantly suspicious attitude that so-called "traditionalists" so frequently approach these subjects. I tire very quickly of explaining these things in detail to those who simply brush them off and proceed to posit yet more feeble and pathetic objections where such principles as are necessary to filter out so much of the "trad" bilge are ignored. Therefore, if I choose to leave a little homework for others to do, that is my prerogative. Either acquire the knowledge required to discuss these things intelligently or remain ignorant. The choice is up to you.

For my part, I expect those I dialogue with who claim to be faithful Catholics to either put up or shut up. I am willing to extend some leeway towards them if they demonstrate a traditional notion known as "charity". I also do this with non-Catholics who are unfamiliar with our conventions. And those who are my friends whom I disagree with are given a cut above that still. However, those who have the temerity to call themselves "traditionalists" and be critical of things that they do not remotely understand - while demonstrating an uncharitably snide tone and a childish comportment: these are frankly deserving of at least a rebuke.

By contrast, those who affiliate themselves with the term "traditionalist" who demonstrate a genuinely traditional Catholic attitude are responded to diametrically differently than those whose attitudes create unnecessary division (Gk. schisma). Surely the fact that you and Gerard {10} were treated differently by me at Envoy Encore than David Smith, Jeff Culbreath, or Mark Cameron should have been the tipoff if you were actually paying attention. (That the tone of response to you was not because of your arguments themselves but the way you were trying to advance them.) But then those who are interested in polemics and prooftexting as you seem to be seldom tend to be inclined to notice the more subtle substructures of dialogue. But I digress.

"The world has heard enough of the so-called 'rights of man.' Let it hear something of the rights of God." Pope Leo XIII, Nov. 1, 1900, Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus.

Yes but again there is context to that statement. (And context is one of the general norms.) Here is the text - I will divide it in parts to make it easier to read:

It is rather ignorance than ill-will which keeps multitudes away from Jesus Christ. There are many who study humanity and the natural world; few who study the Son of God. The first step, then, is to substitute knowledge for ignorance, so that He may no longer be despised or rejected because He is unknown. We conjure all Christians throughout the world to strive all they can to know their Redeemer as He really is. The more one contemplates Him with sincere and unprejudiced mind, the clearer does it become that there can be nothing more salutary than His law, more divine than His teaching.

In this work, your influence, Venerable Brethren, and the zeal and earnestness of the entire Clergy, can do wonders. You must look upon it as a chief part of your duty to engrave upon the minds of your people the true knowledge, the very likeness of Jesus Christ; to illustrate His charity, His mercies, His teaching, by your writings and your words, in schools, in Universities, from the pulpit; wherever opportunity is offered you. The world has heard enough of the so-called "rights of man." Let it hear something of the rights of God.

That the time is suitable is proved by the very general revival of religious feeling already referred to, and especially that devotion towards Our Saviour of which there are so many indications, and which, please God, we shall hand on to the New Century as a pledge of happier times to come. But as this consummation cannot be hoped for except by the aid of divine grace, let us strive in prayer, with united heart and voice, to incline Almighty God unto mercy, that He would not suffer those to perish whom He had redeemed by His Blood. May He look down in mercy upon this world, which has indeed sinned much, but which has also suffered much in expiation! And, embracing in His loving-kindness all races and classes of mankind, may He remember His own words: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself' (John xii., 32). [Pope Leo XIII: Encyclical Letter Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus §13 (c. 1900)]

The context of the statement is a plea from Pope Leo to clerics and other Christians to do their part to make Our Lord better known as He really is. For too many people "it is rather ignorance than ill-will which keeps multitudes away from Jesus Christ" (TFP §13). The first step in this was according to Pope Leo "to substitute knowledge for ignorance, so that He may no longer be despised or rejected because He is unknown" (ibid). Further still, Leo is referring to certain false notions which were masquerading in his time as "human rights". I recommend reading Claude Frederic Bastiat to get a good idea of the sort of false rights that were rampant in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I ran a series on his magnum opus The Law from September 30, 2002 through the first week of March 2003 at my weblog at intermittent periods. Go HERE to read that from start to finish. (I hyperlinked all the links of that series together.)

As far as the quote of Pope Leo XIII from the encyclical Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus, to each and every part of the above statements - indeed the entire text - I and my friends in evangelization who are faithful to the Church fully concur. And as in Pope Leo's time, the world of the twentieth century sinned exceedingly but also suffered in a magnitude never before known in history. And we have seen no abatement of either in our day and age. This is worth noting here as an outro to this response as it constitutes the chief difference between Catholics who can properly be called "Traditionalist" and those who claim the title for themselves who are by their statements and actions engaging in fraud.

For one of the truths of Catholicism is that it expresses one interior faith in a diversity of exteriors. Indeed true Catholics rejoice in the Church's diversity of expression of its one faith. True Catholics do not react suspiciously at every sneeze or hiccup that differs from others in their piety and practice that the individual is perhaps not accustomed to. Those who are not authentically traditional would prefer to see a return to the ghetto mentality which breeds a outlook which is zenophobic and smacks of partiality (cf. James ii,1-13).

Yet strangely enough, those who act this way tend to be the ones that blow their horns the loudest about supposedly being "traditional" while basing their claims for this moniker on superficial exterior trappings and ignoring the all important interior qualities that denote a person of true traditional character (cf. Matthew xxiii,23-28). And one of the flaws of these kinds of people is that they presume that others are necessarily as partial as they are. Thus you presume that I am as polemic or as uncharitable as you are by postulating that I sought to deliberately misrepresent you.

Of course if I was as partial as you seem to presume then you should consider my willingness to edit my post to the Lidless Eye weblog to correct what you claim are misrepresentations of your viewpoint. (I am serious: if you can demonstrate within reason that such an amendment is needed I will do it.) You should also consider the breadth of links at my weblog for apostolates and/or outlooks that I do not necessarily endorse in full. What matters in the case of the latter is that the Church allows for the views espressed at these apostolates and I submit to her judgment whether I like it or not.{11} That is the hallmark of what true Traditional Catholics do and there is no "gnosis" in that whatsoever notwithstanding the standard "trad" assertions that you regurgitate. Now let us summarize and end this response.

You recommended to me an article by His Eminence Cardinal Alphons Maria Stickler that you believe is if not magisterial then at least authoritative. I respond: I have already refuted that essay on theological, historical, and liturgical-historical grounds and I did so in detail. The essay was released in April of 2001. See this weblog for details as the link is not hard to find here. I have also refuted in detail that other essay you raved about at Envoy by Fr. Chad Ripperger. The essay was mostly written in April of 2001 even before it appeared in Latin Mass Magazine. (I read it in Christian Order after being sent the link by someone who asked me for an opinion on the piece.) That essay was finished in September of 2001 and released to the web. So you need not send me the link to that piece either.

You act as you do because you do not know. And it is only because of your insolent attitude that I take the tone I do here with you. Lucky for you, I have St. John of the Cross to rebuke me for my faults this Lent and he does a much better job of it than you ever could.

IC XC {12}

Post-Easter Addendum:

As you titled your email "Mysterium Fidei", apparently you are hung up on the reference from Dz. However, I question the veracity of your citation. For taking one sentence from a source does nothing to show the context of the statement. In light of the care I take in revealing my sources, how about you typing out the full text of Denzinger 414-15 and sending it to me. I will gladly read and interact with it if you do this. But if you do not, then let it be known that you sought to hide behind an out-of-context citation of Dz rather then follow the general norms of interpretation - one of which is that a passage needs to be understood in its proper context. Anyone can prooftext. And in light of how quick you were to cast aspersions on my veracity - for which you have yet to apologize for btw - as I see it the weight is on you to provide the context.

I am tired of typing out these kinds of sources or doing the extra labour only so that people who scoff and are critical can lazily sluff them off. I therefore put the weight for the Mysterium Fidei discussion on your shoulders. I have already written plenty on this subject which you have apparently chosen to ignore believing that you have a trump card in your mangled citation from Dz. Well, I call your bluff.

If you are so sure you are right, you should not hesitate to send me the source typed out in full. And should you do this, I will post it in its entirety after checking it for accuracy. Then the readers can judge whose understanding of the text is correct yours or mine. The ball is back in your court Brian. Are you up to playing the game???


{1} By contrast, I should not be expected to see you any differently than the smattering of wiseacres who email me who are itching for attention. You certainly have provided no cogent reasons for me to do so thus far. So while the door is not completely closed that you will, it suffices to say that it is within a quarter-inch of being latched.

{2} I could have included a fair amount of very damning information in my writings which I chose to leave out due to concern about unduly scandalizing my readers. What is there already is adequately condemning so I resisted the temptation to throw some additional "bunker buster" facts into the equation.

{3} Indeed I have actually received some criticism with regards to the fact that I arguably do not draw enough on more modern scholarship in the formulating of my essay writings.

{4} This is not an accusation of either of these prelates of dishonesty.

{5} Referring to the essays on the Real Presence, Justification, and the first Mr. Critic piece which were written concurrently with my treatise's original version. The meticulous nature of my bibliography and notes construction in that large project did not carry over to a couple of the pieces written concurrent with and released shortly after it except the short Pauline Liturgy Restoration piece which used many of the same sources as the treatise did. [Note: The 'Mr. Critic' piece had a bibliography and notes section added in late 2001. The Real Presence essay was reformatted slightly and re-released on Good Friday 2003 with these elements included. The remaining essay is currently being reformatted onto multiple urls and when released will also have these elements. I hope to have it done before the end of April.]

{6} And yes I ran the numbers. If not for the giant exception of my Christian Unity essay, that figure would be around 95-98%.

{7} Seven if you count the refutation of sedevacantism: a thesis which also stands alone but (of course) does not refute all of false "traditionalism" - only the sedevacantists.

{8} But if this constitutes an indictment, I warn you that the same indictment applies to every "trad" writer out there and virtually every non-trad apologist as well. And I know as sure as the sun rises in the East that it also applies to you and your "heroes" too.

{9} One should always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of their neighbour, and whenever possible avoid putting an unfavourable interpretation upon their statements or actions. St. Francis de Sales noted that the same actions may be looked upon under many different aspects. The difference is that a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst. As tempting as it is, I am ruling out presuming the worst about you at this point. Whether I do or not in the future is entirely dependent upon you and your response to this response of mine.

{10} Not Gerard Serafin who is truly Traditional and not a counterfeit as the Gerard who hangs out at the Envoy Encore comments section is.

{11} Anyone who paid close attention would know (to name one example) that I had problems for a long time with certain elements of Opus Dei. I did not however, blow a trumpet and make these difficulties known but I instead practiced religious submission as Pope John Paul II had beatified Josemaria Escriva and had encouraged Opus Dei. I very seldom spoke about this publicly and when I did my tone was cautious and deferential.

It is one thing to practise religious submission and another to openly promote a position. All the way up to the canonization, I never did any promotion whatsoever of this position. However, within days after St. Josemaria Escriva was canonized, I added a link to Opus Dei at my weblog. The reason: canonization mandates veneration by the universal church and it served as a reminder to me that my concerns of days past are no longer viable. The magisterium of the Church has definitively spoken and I do not hesitate to heed her judgment.

{12} IC XC is not a "Gnostic" expression.

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Liberalism is a sin, and rock music is liberal according to this pro-liberal website.

Well my friend, the phrase "liberalism is a sin" is frankly a very broadbrush statement. It is akin to saying that "slavery is a sin". In both cases the term has many applications. I remind you of the benefits and dangers of syllabus style statements and point you to a recent post on slavery and usury posted to Rerum Novarum where the so-called "progressive" treated those terms as you are doing with "liberalism".

Jesus Himself was in some ways very "liberal". (This got him in dutch with the Jewish leaders of His time.) If liberalism is a sin then Jesus sinned. If Jesus did not sin then liberalism is not ipso facto sinful. And just as there are those who commit (and have committed) abominations under the mantle of "free speech", there are those who do the same under the umbrella of "liberalism". I suggest reading my multipart series on Claude Frederic Bastiat's The Law to thereby discern false (or sinful) liberalism from true (or acceptable) liberalism.

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I have decided to move all blogroll experiments to my Miscellaneous BLOG. See this link for more details on the matter.


As blogroller has announced the addition of "new gadgets" to the software, I think I will hold off on blogrolling anything until someone explains to me how to set up tables as I have in my margin already. Basically, I would like to set up twenty tables to categorize the stuff in the side margin as I have it now but I do not know if (i) that is possible and (ii) if it is, I would have no idea how to do it. Technophiles who know about these things, please email me on the matter. Until then, I will continue to toy with the program.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A Monitum For the Readers:

I have just added blogrolling capabilities to Rerum Novarum. This was done to expedite the frequency whereby this weblog is updated. Therefore, if things look a bit haywire for a time, it is me adjusting to this new method.

Updating my weblog is never a fun task. And while I have been subscribed to blogroller for a few months, I have hesitated to actually implement it without thinking carefully about all possible contingencies. Contingencies to consider such as (i) will this really make updating easier??? (ii) will it involve a restructuring of my template too much??? and (iii) if I do not install it properly, will I have to rebuild the whole darn thing???

I struggled to learn how to customize my own template and even then all I was doing was reorienting an existing basic template model. I could never actually build one from scratch so if I screwed this up, I would be "up on cripple creek" (to quote an old song from The Band.) Nonetheless, as I have more or less a duplicate of the template as it read back in January at another private blog, I decided to take the risk as if it messes up, I will not have to recreate the wheel. (Even if it would still be a hassle to correct.) Yes, my general scrupulosity however I have banished it from my psyche on some subjects continues to haunt me on others (sigh).

Some of it is probably because this software is new. I am hardly one to oppose new things - indeed my weblog title means just that. However, it is more a cautious and qualified acceptance. The dual tendencies I have consist of being open to new things but not indescriminately so - coupled with the hesitation to uncritically cast aside old things. It is a continual tension within me. In short, there is on my part some hesitation by nature. And with blogrolling programs this is no different. I mention it here because I am completely flying by the seat of my pants here with the blogroller and am thus in uncomfortable waters. So if there are updating problems as a result of this decision, I apologize for them in advance.


On Biblical Study:

This is a dialogue with a friend from a discussion list. His words are in black with sources italicized. My sources are in darkblue.

Since my original post about the Infancy Narratives didn't go over very well in the attention it received, I'll ask a much shorter and more direct question.


It is possible that people on the list were swamped when you put that one out. I for one have had very limited time as I try to ready one of my early writings for a Holy Thursday re-release.{1} In taking a break from the tediousness of that task, I am using this response as a reprieve if you will. It therefore will be reasonably brief but hopefully at the same time detailed and thought-provoking. I may even assign homework ;-)

What is the Catholic understanding of Biblical inerrancy and inspiration? What is allowed, what is not?

Two items I bring into question from this link.

Aah yes, the Living Tradition Forum :)

19. The definition of biblical inspiration. "In the reference to Providentissimus Deus (EB 125) made by the Second Vatican Council (DV 11) in the preceding paragraph, the following definition of biblical inspiration is given:

Hence, the fact that it was men whom the Holy Spirit took up as his instruments for writing does not mean that it was these inspired instruments - but not the primary author - who might have made an error. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write - He so assisted them when writing - that the things which He ordered, and these only, they first rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers (Prov. Deus, EB 125).

Translation: Scripture contains no errors. That is solemn Catholic doctrine.

The neo-Patristic approach accepts without limitation or equivocation this authentic and precise definition of biblical inspiration, and it excludes in the Catholic tradition every attempt to reduce its span of inerrancy, as explained in the great encyclical letters of Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII.

Frankly I think sometimes that the fellas at the Roman Theological Forum (who have written some very good stuff by the way) border on fundamentalism when it comes to how they understand the Bible. They come very close to extending inerrancy to cover areas where the Bible was never intended to cover.

The following introduction may be of assistance in explaining the context of Providentissimus Deus and the problems that plagued Scripture study in the late nineteenth century:

On biblical study

It is easy to understand when the environment of the time is comprehended exactly why Pope Leo was unwilling to grant more than a limited and grudging acceptance of the methods such as historical criticism and the like. However, the Church has gradually allowed greater inquiry into these matters as the methods have become more specialized.

While it is true that Pius XII's encyclical letter was not the wholescale reversal of policy that liberals like to pretend it was, at the same time there is a lot in that encyclical and in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum that does not IMO bode well for the rigid approaches advocated by Fr. John McCarthy and Fr. Brian Harrison. These guys have done some very good work (I particularly enjoy Fr. Harrison's stuff) but on Scripture study it appears to me that in trying to trim the sails of liberal exegetes they are leaning too far in the other direction.

Also, I read from there, that in 1920, Pope Benedict XV wrote in one of his encyclicals: "Then there are other assailants of Holy Scripture who misuse principles - which are only sound if kept within due bounds - in order to overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible and thus destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers. If Jerome were living now, he would sharpen his keenest controversial weapons against people who set aside what is the mind and judgment of the Church, and take too ready refuge in such notions as `implicit quotations' or `pseudo-historical narratives' or `literary genres' in the Bible such as cannot be reconciled with the entire and perfect truth of God's word, or who suggest such origins of the Bible as must inevitably weaken - if not destroy - its authority (Spiritus Paraclitus, EB 461)."

Correct. But it is important to remember that Spiritus Paraclitus was written primarily to commemorate the death of St. Jerome, exalt him as the pre-eminent Scripture scholar amongst the Fathers of the Church, exhort scholars to strive to emulate St. Jerome, and to correct some misinterpretations of Pope Leo XIII's manifested intention. (And in doing these things benefit greatly the advancement of biblical studies.) Providentissimus Deus, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and Dei Verbum were specifically drafted to discuss and promote the study of Sacred Scripture first and foremost and the proper methodology of literary forms. They therefore should be seen as taking a primacy over Spiritus Paraclitus on the issue of Scripture studies if there is any controversion. I do not believe there is any though one reading uncritically may presume that there is.

A lot of the reason for that is the revisionist history put out by liberals that before 1943 there was some "repressed Scripture study period" which started around 1907 with Pascendi and Lamentabili. These same people overlook that the Biblical Commission only two years later issued a Responsum on the first three chapters of Genesis that allowed for a diversity of inquiries into the kind of history that was being set forth.

To deny that there are different genres in the Scriptures is naive. The Church has always recognized this - indeed the Medieval "4 Senses of Scripture" are based on this very principle. The magisterium through the Pontifical Biblical Commission had in 1909 issued a decree on the first three chapters of Genesis which recognized this principle explicitly.{2} Spiritus Paraclitus did not controvert this understanding. And both Divino Afflante Spiritu and Dei Verbum embraced and developed the principle of literary genres further.

Now, I read Fr. Most's work on Biblical inerrancy (well, parts of it), and he seems to rather like the idea that genres do exist, and indeed quite abundantly so (as much as even in the book of Daniel, which is not entirely historical).

Fr. Most I believe walked a good and tight line of successfully refuting Brown/Fitzmeyer, and others of that ilk while avoiding the kind of historicism that impairs the western post-Enlightenment mind. The extreme examples of this of course are creationists and dispensationalists. But there are other shades that are just inside of those extremes which need to be monitored.

My Catholic studies prof. would go as far as to say that it's ALL genres, and it's not intended as 20th century Western-minded history per se (not to say that key events didn't happen, as he isn't a heterodox liberal!).

Well, he is actually close to correct in my view. The problem is that emphasis on genres in the turn of the century disputes was seen as a way of undermining the manner whereby Scripture was understood. The proper way to do it is to take the approach that the Bible is free from error and presuming that any problems are that of the codex or the understanding of the exegete. However, the pattern in Leo's time (and even into Benedict's time) by some exegetes was to essentially put the burden of proof on the Scriptures and presuming a priori that any apparent incongruity was due to some "error" in the Scriptures. The popes were right and proper to condemn such attitudes and insist on the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

And today it seems that there are some exegetes like Fitzmeyer and company who construct a revisionist history of scriptural studies as if the "great Leo's encyclical" was somehow "freed up from the darkness of the previous nineteen hundred years" only to be "repressed by Benedict and the PBC" only to be "freed up and expounded further by Pius XII". As Fr. Harrison and Fr. Most have both noted and noted well, this is a fantasy of revisionists.

This approach allows more room for percieved "historical inaccuracies," but is it allowed? If one was to take what the popes have said, and what the document seems to say, this sort of method is utter heresy!

It is good that you say "seems to say" XXXXXXX because one of the truisms of theological study of magisterial texts is that they often appear to say things they actually do not. Let us take the quote you posted of Spiritus Paraclitus:

"Then there are other assailants of Holy Scripture who misuse principles - which are only sound if kept within due bounds - in order to overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible and thus destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers. If Jerome were living now, he would sharpen his keenest controversial weapons against people who set aside what is the mind and judgment of the Church, and take too ready refuge in such notions as `implicit quotations' or `pseudo-historical narratives' or `literary genres' in the Bible such as cannot be reconciled with the entire and perfect truth of God's word, or who suggest such origins of the Bible as must inevitably weaken - if not destroy - its authority" (Spiritus Paraclitus, EB 461).

A questions on the text for you XXXXXXX:

1) Does the text above completely outlaw the study of literary genres??? If you think so, explain why and if not, explain why not.

What is the orthodox Catholic understanding of this issue? For example, if one finds a situation that history doesn't support outright (example, the enrollment of Luke 2 under Quirinius), what is the "Catholic thing to do" in such a case?

It is to always give the Scriptures the benefit of the doubt starting out. To not presume that just because something you run across is not fully grasped as to how it reconciles to presume that you should be able to know all things. Many exegetes of a liberal bent are very quick to ascribe any difficulty to an "error" because they (i) do not have the necessary faith to properly approach these issues and (ii) despite priding themselves on being "scholarly" are nonetheless inevitably naive and presume that problems can be solved without difficulty.

Scripture studies are not akin to Ozzie and Harriet, The Brady Bunch, or The Cosby Show: where the problems of the show are solved before show ends. This did not bother exegetes such as St. Jerome and St. Augustine - who fully expected such things - but today's "sitcom mentality" does not deal well with unsolved problems.

No offense, but when reading declarations like those, I can't help but feel a little bit frustrated. It seems that they advocate a fundamentalist Protestant case of literalism (unless I misunderstood, but saying that "literary genres" have no place?!), that can get many people in trouble when skeptics come and tell you "hey, you know what, the book of Daniel is full of historical inaccuracies" or a Prot tells you that the "Apocrypha contradicts events in true Scripture," or the famous case of the Infancy Narratives I pointed out.

Pope Leo answers your question in Providentissimus Deus. But first I want to address point 20 from the link you sent. Fr. McCarthy quotes Pope Leo as follows:

But it is most unbecoming to pass by, in ignorance or contempt, the excellent work which Catholics have left in abundance, and to have recourse to the works of non-Catholics -- and to seek in them, to the detriment of sound doctrine and often to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and their labor. For although the studies of non-Catholics, used with prudence, may sometimes be of use to the Catholic student, he should, nevertheless, bear well in mind -- as the Fathers also teach in numerous passages -- that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt out side of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith.

In light of the way he quotes Spiritus Paraclitus, the appearance is given that studying literary genres is either forbidden or to be discouraged. But Pope Leo in reality says nothing of the sort.

A good rule of thumb is when you see someone start a quotation from a source with a word like "but", to track down the source and read what precedes it. Let us now do that with Providentissimus Deus. I will put in darkgreen the part conveniently overlooked by Fr. McCarthy. Key parts which nuance his quote will be marked [in bold]:

The Holy Fathers "to whom, after the Apostles, the Church owes its growth -- who have planted, watered, built, governed, and cherished it," the Holy Fathers, We say, are of supreme authority, whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith. The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight when they treat of these matters in their capacity of doctors, unofficially; not only because they excel in their knowledge of revealed doctrine and in their acquaintance with many things which are useful in understanding the apostolic Books, but because they are men of eminent sanctity and of ardent zeal for the truth, on whom God has bestowed a more ample measure of His light. Wherefore the expositor should make it his duty to follow their footsteps with all reverence, and to use their labors with intelligent appreciation.

But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine -- not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. Neither should those passages be neglected which the Fathers have understood in an allegorical or figurative sense, more especially when such interpretation is justified by the literal, and when it rests on the authority of many. For this method of interpretation has been received by the Church from the Apostles, and has been approved by her own practice, as the holy Liturgy attests; although it is true that the holy Fathers did not thereby pretend directly to demonstrate dogmas of faith, but used it as a means of promoting virtue and piety, such as, by their own experience, they knew to be most valuable. The authority of other Catholic interpreters is not so great; but the study of Scripture has always continued to advance in the Church, and, therefore, these commentaries also have their own honorable place, and are serviceable in many ways for the refutation of assailants and the explanation of difficulties. But it is most unbecoming to pass by, in ignorance or contempt, the excellent work which Catholics have left in abundance, and to have recourse to the works of non-Catholics -- and to seek in them, to the detriment of sound doctrine and often to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and their labor. For although the studies of non-Catholics, used with prudence, may sometimes be of use to the Catholic student, he should, nevertheless, bear well in mind -- as the Fathers also teach in numerous passages -- that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt out side of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith. [Providentissimus Deus §14-15]

The teaching in a nutshell is to respect the Catholic patrimony and not presume that one needs to go outside of it to find answers to questions. This is not the same thing as reading the works of non-Catholic exegetes along with Catholic exegetes. Frankly I believe the quality of much of the ecumenical scholarship in recent decades is on the whole superior to the sort of confessional scholarship of Pope Leo's era. This is a component that I believe is not focused on very often unfortunately.

Further still, Fr. McCarthy does not properly represent Pope Leo's views when he mentions that Leo "Already in 1893...cautioned against the use of higher-criticism." Higher criticism as a method was in the early stages then. Many of these kinds of methods became refined with the passing of time and Pope Pius XII in 1943 was able to encourage a wider usage than his predecessors had for this reason. Hence he noted the following (key points emphasized by me):

In the accomplishment of this task the Catholic exegete will find invaluable help in an assiduous study of those works, in which the Holy Fathers, the Doctors of the Church and the renowned interpreters of past ages have explained the Sacred Books. For, although sometimes less instructed in profane learning and in the knowledge of languages than the scripture scholars of our time, nevertheless by reason of the office assigned to them by God in the Church, they are distinguished by a certain subtle insight into heavenly things and by a marvelous keenness of intellect, which enables them to penetrate to the very innermost meaning of the divine word and bring to light all that can help to elucidate the teaching of Christ and to promote holiness of life.

It is indeed regrettable that such precious treasures of Christian antiquity are almost unknown to many writers of the present day, and that students of the history of exegesis have not yet accomplished all that seems necessary for the due investigation and appreciation of so momentous a subject. Would that many, by seeking out the authors of the Catholic interpretation of Scripture and diligently studying their works and drawing thence the almost inexhaustible riches therein stored up, might contribute largely to this end, so that it might be daily more apparent to what extent those authors understood and made known the divine teaching of the Sacred Books, and that the interpreters of today might thence take example and seek suitable arguments.

For thus at long last will be brought about the happy and fruitful union between the doctrine and spiritual sweetness of expression of the ancient authors and the greater erudition and maturer knowledge of the modern, having as its result new progress in the never fully explored and inexhaustible field of the Divine Letters.

Moreover we may rightly and deservedly hope that our time also can contribute something towards the deeper and more accurate interpretation of Sacred Scripture. For not a few things, especially in matters pertaining to history, were scarcely at all or not fully explained by the commentators of past ages, since they lacked almost all the information which was needed for their clearer exposition. How difficult for the Fathers themselves, and indeed well nigh unintelligible, were certain passages is shown, among other things, by the oft-repeated efforts of many of them to explain the first chapters of Genesis; likewise by the reiterated attempts of St. Jerome so to translate the Psalms that the literal sense, that, namely, which is expressed by the words themselves, might be clearly revealed.

There are, in fine, other books or texts, which contain difficulties brought to light only in quite recent times, since a more profound knowledge of antiquity has given rise to new questions, on the basis of which the point at issue may be more appropriately examined. Quite wrongly therefore do some pretend, not rightly understanding the conditions of biblical study, that nothing remains to be added by the Catholic exegete of our time to what Christian antiquity has produced; since, on the contrary, these our times have brought to light so many things, which call for a fresh investigation, and which stimulate not a little the practical zest of the present-day interpreter.

As in our age, indeed new questions and new difficulties are multiplied, so, by God's favor, new means and aids to exegesis are also provided. Among these it is worthy of special mention that Catholic theologians, following the teaching of the Holy Fathers and especially of the Angelic and Common Doctor, have examined and explained the nature and effects of biblical inspiration more exactly and more fully than was wont to be done in previous ages. For having begun by expounding minutely the principle that the inspired writer, in composing the sacred book, is the living and reasonable instrument of the Holy Spirit, they rightly observe that, impelled by the divine motion, he so uses his faculties and powers, that from the book composed by him all may easily infer "the special character of each one and, as it were, his personal traits." Let the interpreter then, with all care and without neglecting any light derived from recent research, endeavor to determine the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed.

Thus can he the better understand who was the inspired author, and what he wishes to express by his writings. There is no one indeed but knows that the supreme rule of interpretation is to discover and define what the writer intended to express, as St. Athanasius excellently observes: "Here, as indeed is expedient in all other passages of Sacred Scripture, it should be noted, on what occasion the Apostle spoke; we should carefully and faithfully observe to whom and why he wrote, lest, being ignorant of these points, or confounding one with another, we miss the real meaning of the author."

What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use.

For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries. What those exactly were the commentator cannot determine as it were in advance, but only after a careful examination of the ancient literature of the East. The investigation, carried out, on this point, during the past forty or fifty years with greater care and diligence than ever before, has more clearly shown what forms of expression were used in those far off times, whether in poetic description or in the formulation of laws and rules of life or in recording the facts and events of history. The same inquiry has also shown the special preeminence of the people of Israel among all the other ancient nations of the East in their mode of compiling history, both by reason of its antiquity and by reasons of the faithful record of the events; qualities which may well be attributed to the gift of divine inspiration and to the peculiar religious purpose of biblical history.

Nevertheless no one, who has a correct idea of biblical inspiration, will be surprised to find, even in the Sacred Writers, as in other ancient authors, certain fixed ways of expounding and narrating, certain definite idioms, especially of a kind peculiar to the Semitic tongues, so-called approximations, and certain hyperbolical modes of expression, nay, at times, even paradoxical, which even help to impress the ideas more deeply on the mind. For of the modes of expression which, among ancient peoples, and especially those of the East, human language used to express its thought, none is excluded from the Sacred Books, provided the way of speaking adopted in no wise contradicts the holiness and truth of God, as, with his customary wisdom, the Angelic Doctor already observed in these words: "In Scripture divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use amongst men." For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, "except sin," so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error. In this consists that "condescension" of the God of providence, which St. John Chrysostom extolled with the highest praise and repeatedly declared to be found in the Sacred Books.

Hence the Catholic commentator, in order to comply with the present needs of biblical studies, in explaining the Sacred Scripture and in demonstrating and proving its immunity from all error, should also make a prudent use of this means, determine, that is, to what extent the manner of expression or the literary mode adopted by the sacred writer may lead to a correct and genuine interpretation; and let him be convinced that this part of his office cannot be neglected without serious detriment to Catholic exegesis. Not infrequently -- to mention only one instance -- when some persons reproachfully charge the Sacred Writers with some historical error or inaccuracy in the recording of facts, on closer examination it turns out to be nothing else than those customary modes of expression and narration peculiar to the ancients, which used to be employed in the mutual dealings of social life and which in fact were sanctioned by common usage.

When then such modes of expression are met within the sacred text, which, being meant for men, is couched in human language, justice demands that they be no more taxed with error than when they occur in the ordinary intercourse of daily life. By this knowledge and exact appreciation of the modes of speaking and writing in use among the ancients can be solved many difficulties, which are raised against the veracity and historical value of the Divine Scriptures, and no less efficaciously does this study contribute to a fuller and more luminous understanding of the mind of the Sacred Writer.

Let those who cultivate biblical studies turn their attention with all due diligence towards this point and let them neglect none of those discoveries, whether in the domain of archaeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing. In this connection Catholic laymen should consider that they will not only further profane science, but moreover will render a conspicuous service to the Christian cause if they devote themselves with all due diligence and application to the exploration and investigation of the monuments of antiquity and contribute, according to their abilities, to the solution of questions hitherto obscure.

For all human knowledge, even the nonsacred, has indeed its own proper dignity and excellence, being a finite participation of the infinite knowledge of God, but it acquires a new and higher dignity and, as it were, a consecration, when it is employed to cast a brighter light upon the things of God.

The progressive exploration of the antiquities of the East, mentioned above, the more accurate examination of the original text itself, the more extensive and exact knowledge of languages both biblical and oriental, have with the help of God, happily provided the solution of not a few of those questions, which in the time of Our Predecessor Leo XIII of immortal memory, were raised by critics outside or hostile to the Church against the authenticity, antiquity, integrity and historical value of the Sacred Books. For Catholic exegetes, by a right use of those same scientific arms, not infrequently abused by the adversaries, proposed such interpretations, which are in harmony with Catholic doctrine and the genuine current of tradition, and at the same time are seen to have proved equal to the difficulties, either raised by new explorations and discoveries, or bequeathed by antiquity for solution in our time. [Divino Afflante Spiritu §29-42 (c. 1943)]

Sorry for the long cite but there was too much good stuff to know where to cut off the citation.

Me and MMMM talked briefly about how the Catholic understanding is much different from the Protestant, and I sure hope so, but from what I gather from "official" statements, it seems woefully similar.

Hopefully what is outlined in Divino Afflante above is enough to assuage your discomforts. But lest there appear to be a discontinuity in the magisterial texts, Divino Afflante was clearly intended to build on Providentissimus Deus by the pontiff's own admission {3}:

"The first and greatest care of Leo XIII was to set forth the teaching on the truth of the Sacred Books and to defend it from attack. Hence with grave words did he proclaim that there is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order "went by what sensibly appeared" as the Angelic Doctor says, speaking either "in figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science." For "the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately -- the words are St. Augustine's -- the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things -- that is the essential nature of the things of the universe -- things in no way profitable to salvation"; which principle "will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to history," that is, by refuting, "in a somewhat similar way the fallacies of the adversaries and defending the historical truth of Sacred Scripture from their attacks." Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if "copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible," or, "if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous." Finally it is absolutely wrong and forbidden "either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred," since divine inspiration "not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church."

This teaching, which Our Predecessor Leo XIII set forth with such solemnity, We also proclaim with Our authority and We urge all to adhere to it religiously. No less earnestly do We inculcate obedience at the present day to the counsels and exhortations which he, in his day, so wisely enjoined. [Divino Afflante Spiritu §3-4 (c. 1943)]

In essence, the Scriptures are like the Lord Jesus who was fully divine and fully human. The Scriptures have God as their Author and therefore are free from all error. However, the Scriptures are also a material text and therefore can be studied with all the means appropriated by the scholar to seek to investigate and understand what they are conveying.

One can't admit error (interestingly enough, my prof. said that a concept of error in text is simply absurdly ambigious, since text cannot err!), so one has to say "it's some sort of genre" or that "the author intends something else in this case."

This is where the element of faith comes in XXXXXXX. Someone can find "errors" in anything if they do not properly understand it. Terms can often be used in different senses but partisans choose one sense oftentimes and then claim that differing senses are "errors" rather than potentially congruent approaches. Just because the Scriptures have no errors does not mean that we can expect to read them at face value and fully comprehend all of them. The presumption of those who act in this manner is egotism of the worst possible kind. To quote Cardinal Newman "what, is none their equal in wisdom anywhere?"

Raymond Brown would say the former in this case (it's error!), but he can hardly be called a standard for Catholic dogma.

I wonder sometimes if Brown is simply not misunderstood due to the manner in which he uses terms. The manner whereby he uses theologomenon is what caused the mixup in my understanding of MMMM's appropriation of the same term. If I did not know that MMMM was eminently orthodox, there would be a sea of red flags flying up rather than the yellow ones that cropped up in the other thread.

A Protestant would say the opposite, and that the Biblical books are strictly historical in all aspects. Then you get into Creationism and geocentrism (well, can you blame the fella, if he reads only stuff like that.

Indeed. If you read the link above you will see the sort of distinctions that creationists and geocentrists do not make.

Can a Catholic take an "easy way out" when problems arise in this sense? If not, then it really does feel at times that someone's telling you that there's a pink elephant in the room, when you very well know there isn't.

Well, a good rule to follow is one set down by Leo XIII and confirmed by his successors. I will close with it and one from Pope Benedict XV. First from Leo XIII:

"[One] must not...consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine --not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires."

And now from Benedict XV:

"We fully approve, of course, the project of those who, in order to help themselves and others find a way out of difficulties in the sacred text, are using new avenues and new methods of investigation, relying on every means of assistance that can be afforded by critical scholarship in the effort to clear up those difficulties. But we remind them that they will only come to miserable grief if they neglect our predecessor's injunctions and overstep the limits set by the Fathers."

There is just enough in those passages to allow for flexibility lacking to a fundamentalist and enough accompanying structure to allow for a stability lacking to many exegetes who do not focus on the literal and obvious sense first and foremost.


{1} Referring here to my essay on the Real Presence. I should have the text retouched tonight and the new version will hopefully be released tomorrow on the web.

{2} Basically the PBC affirmed that the text was historical and not a mere myth but it did not try to explain how this is so leaving that for exegetes.

{3} Or perhaps by Father Augustin Bea - Pius XII's confessor and considered to have assisted the pope in the role of primary drafter of this encyclical letter.

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On Liturgical Variarions, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Mark Shea, Etc.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

A good commentary on charity by my fellow Blessed Sacrament parishoner Mark Shea can be read HERE.

Btw, I met Mark Saturday Sunday after Vigil Mass with the Dominicans. Yeah we are down with the OP's :) It was a beautiful liturgy with rows of candles in that old dark architecturally impressive church. The smell of incense in the air and the echo of the readings and responses was atmospherey for lack of a better word. The start was at nine and the mass concluded about five minutes from midnight.

Mark and I met kinda by accident because I was talking with a Dominican friar and a parishoner about the RCIA program at the church. (It was a natural segue from the subject of the three baptized and half dozen odd confirmed from that night - one of the candidates was a man who had to be in his eighties.) The person I was talking to happened to say, "in fact that parishoner over there Mark Shea" (then he pointed towards Mark) was in a couple of RCIA programs. So after we concluded the discussion - where he, the friar, and myself were talking about the new encyclical and also Fides et Ratio, I walked over and introduced myself. Mark the longtime parishoner at Blessed Sacrament meets Shawn the started-attending-Blessed Sacrament-last-year parishoner.

During the week Mark goes to daily mass over at St. Pius X in Mountlake Terrace - the church I was attending most of the time since leaving SSPX and before attending Blessed Sacrament. There is some more coincidences in that as it was also the church I received first communion at and a few years of very poor catechesis before leaving in 1983 for a mixture of SSPX and not going to Church at all. (Only to settle into a routine at an SSPX chapel around 1986.)

The liturgies at St. Pius X in Mountlake Terrace are much better now in most parameters then they once were - as is the catechism program from all appearances. They have Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Like some of the churches in my once liturgical-wasteland diocese, they celebrate mass good. But they are not Blessed Sacrament, they are not the Dominicans. Let me explain the differences briefly as I am still on a bit of a high from the Easter Vigil.

St. Pius X does not have that optional Latin hybrid noon mass with incense and cantor for those days when I really want Latin in my ordinary mass prayers and most other liturgical songs. (Unlike Blessed Sacrament which does.) Until around December of last year that was almost the only mass I attended there. It is now option 2 but a very fine option 2 it is. I have weeks where I need it and it is available. (There is also the Saturday evening mass which is kind of a hybrid of the two with a cantor and no musical accompanyment - I go to that sometimes too.) What else does St. Pius X not have???

Well, they do not have a contemporary soloist liturgy in the evening with guitars tastefully played rather than folksy as is with some churches. (They have though gone to piano almost exclusively. Back before I left for SSPX they had folk guitars.)

They also struggle as many parishes do with silence. By contrast, the Dominicans welcome the silence. Even in the contemporary liturgy there are pauses for "digestion" if you will after the readings, the response psalm, the Gospel, the homily, to name a few spots. They never start the Offertory prayers until after the collection has been made. At both churches the choice of hymns is a good mix of old and new but Blessed Sacrament does a better job because they have two hymnal books: one from Oregon Catholic Press and one which is a red hardcover book called Worship II from 1975. (This is a book that should IMHO be reprinted and replace Oregon Catholic Press in every Latin rite Catholic Church in America.) Other differences could be mentioned as well.

The priests at St. Pius X as well as their deacon give good sermons with bits of meat to them. Blessed Sacrament is a parish community of Dominicans. No more really needs to be said then that as every priest or friar I have heard give a sermon at Blessed Sacrament is an excellent orator. They all quote copiously from the magisterium of Pope John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, St. Thomas Aquinas and other Dominican masters, the Church Fathers, etc. I frankly have never had it this good sermonwise in my life and I believe I have heard some pretty good priest orators in my time on the whole. (From the SSPX days my former pastor Fr. John Rizzo - who was my pastor from 1987-1993 gave really good sermons but not like the Dominicans.) Enough on that subject though for now.

In summary, St. Pius X celebrates the liturgy good. But Blessed Sacrament does so even better and in all the little areas that appeal most to me. All other things being equal though (which they are assuredly not), Blessed Sacrament and its thirty minute drive beats St. Pius X and its fifteen minute drive on the architecture alone. But I digress...

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