Saturday, August 16, 2003

Flattery can get you somewhere...sometimes.

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"The Kenotic Husband" - A Response to the "Wifely Submission" Subject:
(Rerum Novarum vs. El Camino Real)

Fellow Traditionalist Jeff Culbreath recently blogged on the subject of Wifely Submission. The following will be an interaction of sorts with his thread and also some of those who added comments to his blog on the subject. Jeff's words will be in shale font and his sources quoted in black font with italics. I will supply a citation source the magisterial reference that Jeff posits but other than that, it will read as he posted it. Other commentators on the thread will be in darkgreen font and my words in regular blog font with all sources in darkblue.

The submission of wives to their husbands has got to be one of the least popular teachings of the Catholic Church today -- and the case can be made that the Catholic Church isn't teaching this today at all. The folks at Heart, Mind, and Strength are busy finessing this doctrine into oblivion where it shall die the Death of a Thousand Nuances. For instance, Greg Popcak writes:

"BUT, when the man stops listening to the voice of God speaking through the needs of his wife and children, he becomes not a leader, but a despot. And obedience to such a husband would not be Christian obedience, but rather, idolatry ... A husband can only claim authority to the degree that he is aware of the specific needs God has written on the heart of his wife and children and spends his days finding godly ways those needs can be fulfilled."

What could this possibly mean in practice? That a wife whose husband doesn't understand her "needs" does not have to submit to his authority? That a husband's authority is contingent upon his spiritual awareness? (How does this square with Saint Peter's instruction that Christian wives should obey their pagan husbands?) I understand that submission and obedience issues are not always crystal clear, but the above formula is too easily translated "Wives, submit to your husbands when they are meeting your needs, but do as you will the rest of the time." And who better to define a woman's needs than the woman herself, right?

Oh, and then there is Kevin Miller's claim that wifely obedience can only be understood in the context of "mutual submission": i.e., "you don't submit to me, I don't submit to you, Buster".

How much more sublime and illuminating is the teaching of Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii:

"Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that 'order of love,' as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: 'Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.'...This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin.

For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact. With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: 'The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church.'" [Pope Pius XI: Encyclical Letter Casti Connubbi §26-29 (c. 1930)]

Their papal enthusiasm notwithstanding, the HMS crowd sometimes exhibts a strange aversion to the concepts of human authority and submission, as if these old-fashioned ideas were too horrible to contemplate in our enlightened age. This attitude also carries over into their ideas about child discipline. But the doctrine of male headship should not be reduced to a meaningless anachronism: instead, Catholics should be taught to embrace this doctrine in its fullness as it is unambiguously found in Casti Connubii.

Before quoting some of the other commentators to the thread, I want to reiterate at this time that We at Rerum Novarum have weighed in on Jeff's side on the corporeal punishment subject. I do not know if the positions taken at HMS on the spousal submission subject has any reflection on their views of corporeal punishment or not. However, just in case some presume that one logically leads to the other, I note here my stance on capital punishment because I do not agree with the two flowing in logical sequence from one another. Hopefully I will demonstrate it in this response at least in brief. Now without further ado, here are some of the comments to the thread. First there is Michelle from And Then?

As for your extract from Casti Connubii, how exactly does it differ from John Paul II's teaching on mutual submission? It clearly states that the submission is conditional -- "may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time," "the wife [may] take [her husband's] place in directing the family" if he neglects his duty, etc.

Just out of curiosity, how do you see wifely submission working out on a practical scale?

Then we have HMS' "Lord High Executioner" Gregory Popcak:


We don't say anything the Holy Father doesn't. If you don't get how the Holy Father's teaching doesn't undermine the concept of male headship, then perhaps you should study the issue a bit more. I suggest Mulieris Dignitatem as well as the many references we have cited on the blog.

In the end, if it comes to a choice between standing with you, or standing with Aquinas, Chrysostum, John Paul II, and the scholars at the John Paul II Institute (all sources which we have quoted extensively on our site) then I'll take my chances with Aquinas and Co.

But don't worry, we'll save a seat for you for the day you actually get it. ;-)

And no, no hard feelings at all.

Now in many circumstances I would side with Greg Popcak's approach here but not this time. For it is true that most who inquire in this manner are rebellious self-styled "traditionalists" who try to find ways of justifying disobedience. However, Jeff is not of this mould at all.

And for that reason, I believe someone who promotes "pastoral solutions" as HMS does with regards to marriage should show a little more pastoral sensitivity here with Jeff's honest inquiries. Otherwise we have a case of pitting two popes against one another where it is not warranted.

And as both texts have magisterial sanction, we must look for convergence not contradiction. (Magisterial texts are a lot like the Bible that way.) It is true that the current Holy Father does not emphasize the understanding that Jeff has brought up here. There is also a very good reason why in my opinion and we will get to that. But first, one final comment on the thread:

Casti Connubii discusses both the husband's responsibilities of the head of the family and the nature of the wife's submission. The HMS crowd was responding to people who apparently skipped the part where Pope Pius XI teaches that submission does not "bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife...."

Perhaps so, however Pope Pius XI *did* speak of headship as did Pope Leo XIII. So even if we explain the concept differently, the principle mystery must remain intact in any elucidation.

There is of course nothing wrong with referencing the earlier papal teachings on this subject. However, when only parts of these teachings are emphasized (i.e. "submission of wife") and complementary teachings about responsibilities of husbands are overlooked - as is the wont of most who focus on the wife submission subject - the result is an imbalanced perception of Church teaching.

Strangely, most people who focus on the wife submission subject are also ones who tend to try and justify their failure to submit to the Church. (Though I must once again note that Jeff is *not* among the majority referred to here.) And while I fully appreciate the tremendous insights into this subject that the recent pontificates - particularly the present pope - have made, at the same time consistency demands that I point out a key factor here often overlooked. The aforementioned factor is that general laws of theological interpretation require magisterial texts to be looked at with the subject matter they are declaring the intention of covering. Subsidiary matters - however important - must not be allowed to override the primary manifested subject matter of the texts.

Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Letter Arcanum was written on the subject of Christian Marriage. Pope Pius XI's Encyclical Letter Casti Connubii was likewise written on Christian Marriage. Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem was written on "the dignity and vocation of women." So while marriage is an important subtext of this thread certainly, at the same time since the previous encyclicals were specifically on Christian marriage itself, they would have to be seen as being more directly addressing of this subject in my opinion - at least in the abstract.

Pope John Paul II also wrote an Apostolic Exhortation called Familiaris Consortio which dealt with "the role of the Christian family in the modern world." It can also be seen as having an important contribution to this discussion - albeit as an Exhortation it has perhaps a bit less authority than the Encyclicals and Apostolic Letter already referred to thus far.

Nonetheless, the key difference in my view between Arcanum and Casti Connubii compared to Mulieris Dignitatem and Familiaris Consortio is that the former two for the most part more abstract and theoretical while the latter two are more personalist and practically applicable. Here is an example of the more personalist and practical teaching of JP II who is not hurting in the "sublime" department either. Observe:

Within the conjugal and family communion-community, the man is called upon to live his gift and role as husband and father.

In his wife he sees the fulfillment of God's intention: "It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him," and he makes his own the cry of Adam, the first husband: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh."

Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: "You are not her master," writes St. Ambrose, "but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife.... Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love." With his wife a man should live "a very special form of personal friendship." As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church."

Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance. As experience teaches, the absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships, as does, in contrary circumstances, the oppressive presence of a father, especially where there still prevails the phenomenon of "machismo," or a wrong superiority of male prerogatives which humiliates women and inhibits the development of healthy family relationships.

In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife, by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church. [Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio §25 (c. 1981)]

However, if we really want to talk about sublime Jeff, I suggest reading the Theology of the Body. But before continuing this point, I want to revisit part of Jeff's post:

Their papal enthusiasm notwithstanding, the HMS crowd sometimes exhibits a strange aversion to the concepts of human authority and submission, as if these old-fashioned ideas were too horrible to contemplate in our enlightened age.

I would argue that for the most part the HMS crowd actually defends these understandings - though generally as it pertains to the Church and her authority. And in light of the way that the subject of wives "obeying their husbands" is often so horribly abused by those who tout the "husband is the head" outlook - and I saw some very disturbing and downright idiotic applications of this when I was with the SSPX - in my view it should be taught along with the complementary teaching that the husband is supposed to love his wife "as Christ loved the Church."

For like Casti Connubii, St. Paul also taught two sides to the coin of which only one is often emphasized. But I realize how often dualism can creep into the equation whether one wills it or not so I will not harp too much on that. In short, I agree with HMS on this though not (ironically) from a pastoral standpoint ala Greg's response to Jeff at El Camino Real. I will try to explain the reason why in brief - and hopefully with a bit of a "change-up" from what readers might be expecting me to say.

In speaking of the headship theology, Jeff refers to a strange aversion to the concepts of human authority and submission, as if these old-fashioned ideas were too horrible to contemplate in our enlightened age. I would argue that there is probably a very good reason for some people not being comfortable with them - the dualist approach aside for a moment.

The first of course is that there is a recognized development in understanding with regards to the dignity and nature of women since Pius XI's encyclical was written. The very fact that Pope Pius XI had to reprove the notion that submission of the wife put her on the same level as minor children is a testament to the obscured notions not uncommonly propounded at that time. Remember, women only obtained the right to vote in most western nations at this time. And the notion that education for girls was a "waste of time" was not uncommon. (A ready example of which was my late maternal grandmother whose education did not go past the eighth grade as a result of such "traditional" outlooks.)

As far as the "old fashioned" notions Jeff speaks of, in many ways these are not as much "old fashioned" as they are quite western and Latin notions. As I noted recently when discussing these matters "Vatican II was a long-needed shot of eastern theological reflection into the predominantly Latinized Catholic Church." This is the very reason why some who claim to be "traditionalist" have so much trouble with it both conceptionally and also theologically. Or to quote my favourite academic orientalist Fr. Robert Taft SJ:

"The Oriental Catholic's religious point of view is as universal in essentials as the Westerner's. But he is unwilling to associate this with the fruits of human organization, of law and order and uniformity. Tending to emphasize the mystery of the Church rather than its earthly form, he is less concerned with the disciplinary and administrative aspects of its life. He sees the Church not so much as a visible society headed by Christ, than as His theophany, a coming of the eternal into time, an unfolding of the divine life through the deifying transformation of humanity in the worship and sacraments of Christ. Life in the Church is spoken of in terms of glory, light, vision, union, and transfiguration. The more juridical vocabulary of power, order, right, justice, sanction is less known to him."

This is why notions such as the ecclesiology of communion as expounded upon by Church leaders such as Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, and Cardinal Kasper are so problematical for those who have an overly western or jurdical mindset. (Jacob Michael's crusade against Fr. Neuhaus comes to mind here.) I would argue that it is not as much that the two views (Pius XI and John Paul II) are incongruent as much as they are different ways of looking at the same reality. And that brings up another subject worthy of touching on in brief.

While several of the pope's recent predecessors (i.e. Paul VI, John XXIII, Pius XII, Pius XI, Benedict XV, Leo XIII to name several) were in various ways open to the understandings of the eastern traditions, as far as the incorporation of these concepts into their magisterium this was not to be seen. Granted, there are some strands of it in Pius XII's magisterium (i.e. Mystici Corporis and Mediator Dei) and John XXIII and Paul VI even a bit more still. However, even with the latter two though they had pastoral experience in this area (especially John XXIII) they were still fundamentally western in mindset. With the current pope, he utilizes a good amount of the eastern outlook as he does of the western one in his teachings and directives. For this reason, should there ever be a reunion of the Churches, it will be as a result of this pope's ability to articulate the different outlooks into a common understanding for all.

For Pope John Paul II himself not only is open to both streams of the Great Tradition but he embraces them in his heart and his teaching contains a symbiosis of the two. One would have to go back to the Greek popes of the first millennium to find a similar integral understanding of these dynamics. Now in light of the excerpt from Fr. Taft, consider the outlooks on marriage as espoused between Leo XIII/Pius XI and by JP II.

With JP II married life and the marriage bond is spoken of in terms of "communion", with Pius XI and Leo XIII, they are spoken of in a construct of being "ordered" a certain way. (Hence the "head" and "heart" analogy.) Again, two approaches to the same mystery. And since the current pope's understanding of marriage is much more mystical and focused on "communion" and the icon of the Trinity, it is much less juridical and focused on western notions of "power" or "order" than that of Pius XI or Leo XIII.

Arguably in light of the development in the Church's understanding of the mystery of matrimony on a more personalist theology - as well as the woman being recognized as more of an equal today than ever before - the theological approach of John Paul II is more appropriate than the approach of his predecessors. Again, the emphasis is different but the same principle is outlined. And thus in closing the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians followed by the same Apostle's description of what Our Lord did for our salvation from Philippians:

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians v,21-33)

And how did Christ demonstrate His love for the Church??? Though an act of kenosis:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians ii,4-8)

In short, does the husband have headship??? Yes he does. But part of that headship is to empty himself and take the form of a servant to his wife as "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Thus, the husband who does not do this has no rightful claim of the headship. So in summary, unless someone wants to expound both sides of the coin, I find appeals to "wifely submission" to be rather hollow myself.

I have no doubt that Jeff strives to do his part with his wife and family. However, would it be too much to ask that any subject of "Wifely Submission to Husband Headship" also involve the complementary notion of the "the 'Kenotic Husband'"??? I also wonder if it would be too much for those who abruptly dismissed Jeff's comments to consider that they do encapsulate the same principle even if a different outlook than what is considered "in vogue" today.

"We lay a special injunction on you: convert the Latins." [Pope Pius XI: Allocution to newly ordained Oriental Catholic priests (c. 1934)]

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The piece published in the lead editorial of The Wanderer back on December 6, 2001 has been added to the web with a few minor tweaks to it. (And my usual bibliography/notes section.) Go HERE for details.

My response to the screed contra the Fr. Gruner piece is also completed but I had to resend the template with some adjustments made to it. When the corrected template is put up, I will post the link to it here.{1} (Hopefully by tonight if not earlier.)


{1} I also added a couple new paragraphs of segue stuff to it last night to tighten up the refutation of the "impossibility" of Fr. Gruner following the commands of his diocesan bishop and the Signatura.

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Fr. Rob Johansen's musings on the Assumption of Blessed Mary are worth a read

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Friday, August 15, 2003

"Tales From the Crypt Mailbag" Dept.
(Musings on Atheistic Evolution)

My previous words in this thread will be in darkgreen font. The person I am responding to will be in black font.

No matter how they answer they are trapped because if they said "yes" they would be affirming that nothing could produce something. If they said "no" then you could segue into arguments about cause and effect.

Actually, they will give up the principle of causality for their justification of their belief. I know that some will say, "Yes, nothing can produce something."

Those people are either dishonest or stupid then. There is no logic behind the assertion that things "just happen" without some force behind them. And inanimate objects possessing no faculties of reason or logic cannot produce things or move themselves. If the atheist tries to argue that there are laws of physics, they presuppose a lawgiver whether they realize it or not. If they deny there is a lawgiver or that there is any intelligence behind the operations of the universe at least at its point of origen, then they are accepting the kind of arbitrary illogic that they would claim theists are involved in.

At least theists postulate the existence of Infinite Intelligence as the cause of all other causes and effects. The atheists may not like it but it is a thesis nonetheless. And rather than perform variations of the "Reformed Schuffle", they are better to formulate a thesis of their own. But of course they do not do this really, in essence nothing can produce something if we simply give it enough time. This is patently irrational because if you have nothing or no Infinite Intelligence than there is no logical reason to presume that you can with any length of time produce something from it.

What would change with time that would cause such an event to take place??? You have NOTHING. It is impossible therefore for this to create a SOMETHING regardless of the time factor involved. And the moment that you postulate that there is a mechanism that brings something from nothing, you have just postulated the existence of some kind of hidden intelligence. And that is suicidal for the atheist thesis.

So if you push them, they have to logically move to cause and effect rationale if they are to remain honest. And at that point the proofs of St. Thomas are useful - albeit adapted a little to avoid the atheist latching onto the medieval notions of "fire is maximum hot" and the like to avoid interacting with the arguments.

Or, they can say.."Yes..nothing cannot produce something **in time**."

However, we don't know what can happen before time began. So it is okay to assume that the universe can popped into existence from nothing since there was no "time" then.

This is logically fallacious. For they would be presuming that at some point time started. Again, if you have nothing you have nothing. And if you have nothing and no Infinite Intelligence, there is no rational argument that can be advanced for the starting of time. The simple "it just happened" is so absurd as to be laughable. Yet that is what they ultimtely have to resort to.

And that's why I don't use the kalaam argument as much anymore. The Thomistic proofs are better because 1) They prove a Trascendent Being and 2) they prove a Personal Being since it explains the existing.

The Thomistic arguments are precisely what I was referring to when I said "cause and effect." St. Thomas' five proofs are all based on that principle as you well know. So in essence the person is stuck saying "nothing produces something" or "nothing cannot produce something." With the former, they are intellectually dishonest or stupid, with the latter they are opening the door for cause and effect discussions ala "every event has a cause." And with cause and effect processes, it is a variation of "this cannot logically recede into infinity but at some point must have one cause that precedes all subsequent causes and effects." (Or if we go to the argument from design the simple observance of objects without feeling or sense following certain patterns which is impossible for objects of no such qualities to achieve.) As the logical extensions from both thread are ultimately the same, I do not see how we are on opposite sides of the divide on this subject my friend.

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There should be some additions to the web of some writings. One is a retype of an essay I wrote two years ago for The Wanderer (edited by Pete Vere), one is a piece I wrote last Friday night in about two hours. (It is a response to a piece primarily written by Pete Vere to which I made some contributions - and a complement to a piece Pete recently penned for The Wanderer.) Another is a couple of small glitch adjustments to the third template of my real presence essay. And the last two are revised "writings" lists - one in my treatise and one which I link to at this weblog. I also am feeling the need to go more into constitutional issues at this time so if you see me do that, do not be alarmed. Longtime blog readers know that I vary my discussions depending on intuition and also on what I want to talk about. Nonetheless, I also have planned two guest editorials for the coming week - a feature I have not had on this weblog since November of last year. (For details on the criteria for submitting such an editorial, I direct you to a blog I wrote last October which can be read HERE which details all of this.) Right now political and social issues would be ones I would be more inclined to run - the ones in the hopper now are political/constitutional and theological issues.

I mentioned back in early July that I wanted to have a series on excerpts from The Federalist Papers even posting one on July 1st. Other things have taken priority in that span but I want to in the coming weeks resume that intention. There will also be a response to the Secret One's comments on kneeling lest people think I have nothing to say on that matter. Also, long overdue Volokh and JYB Updates as well as more stuff that I have been pondering recently - including a thought on the kiss of peace before communion which I was rather shocked to find myself pondering. (As I have always found that rubric to be awkward at best and distracting at worst.) Anyway, stay tuned for details...same Bat time...same Bat blog :)

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Thursday, August 14, 2003

Points to Ponder:

The universe as it is requires an explanation for its existence. That explanation must be suffciently complex and robust to provide for everything that exists including human intelligence. The typical atheist canard is that the universe "just is". This is a cop out. Look how such an answer sounds when applied to other questions:

Q. "Why does the Sun rise in the east and set in the west?"
A. It just does.

Q. "Why do people get malaria?"
A. They just do.

Q. Why is 2+2=4?
A. It just is.

Q. Why did Hitler kill all those Jews?
A. He just did.

Man is the only creature in the material universe that can ask the question "Why?". Everytime you answer the question "Why?" you can still ask why that answer is correct ad infinitium. It is not a sufficient answer to say "Just because". Everytime you do that you are arbitraily refusing to pursue rational explanations to their logical end. When you do this it is the death of science, mathematics, history, morality and reason itself.

Ultimately, the question "WHY?" can only be answered by the most comprehensive answer possible. Thas answer can only be one thing: God. Thus, the question "Why?" is inherently theological. Since man is the only creature we know of that can ask this question and it is the pursuit of the answer that makes us distinctly human, man is inherently theological. God is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.

Meanwhile the atheist pundit who refuses to see this is arbitrarily deciding to be irrational at a point of his own choosing. He is in denial and willfully so. That is why atheism is not an intellectually defensible position. It is a serious sin agaisnt the First Commandment of the Decalogue. [Dr. Art Sippo (circa 8/14/03]


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Secret One was one of those whom I asked to write an appendix section for my seven part response to Kevin Tierney on true and false "traditionalism." Ultimately because Tim Oullette responded first and very economically at that, I went with his text. But The Secret One apparently elected to expand on his original draft and blog it. (Something I was kinda hoping he would do.) Here is the link to that piece:

Notes on Traditionalist Views of the Ordinary Magisterium

The most significant point in my view was the following ones:

Protestantism is zealously committed to the false but clear idea that since "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33), the true faith cannot give any occasion for mental difficulty. That is, in fact, one of the reasons why Protestants believe they can disprove Catholicism by insisting that we perform the task Mr. Palko has made an essential element of Catholic life -- showing how the "The Faith" has been universally present, in an explicitly-witnessed entirety, from the days of the Apostles. When a Catholic foolish enough to accept the challenge as a valid test struggles, as he must, on the high slopes of theological deduction and historical judgment, the Protestant claims vindication because the True Faith would not be so difficult, the True Faith would empower a man to leap to the mountaintop with a single verse. It is not to my point to rehearse the sheer foolishness of this sort of argument. But it is to my point that Mr. Palko has implicitly accepted the presuppositions of our Protestant critics (though not their conclusions) by proposing exactly that kind of universally-explicit, continuously-identifiable orthodoxy as the rule by which Catholics should regularly scrutinize "what the Pope says" in terms of "The Faith."

The rest of the thread is well worth the time to read as it builds on this paragraph to some extent. And if that paragraph does not encapsulate the entire point of dispute in a snapshot of text, it sure comes darn close to doing so in my view.

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"Tales From the Crypt Mailbag" Dept.

This was sent in regards to the weblog entry response located HERE.

[Kolasinski] writes, "Thankfully, most neo-Catholics acknowledge that Vatican 2 did not teach infallibly, but this acknowledgement is not reflected in the venom with which they often attack traditionalists. Often they accuse traditionalists of exercising protestant-like "private judgment," of believing that the Church has defected, of rebelling against the magesterium, and the like. Yet the questioning of non-infallible pronouncements cannot constitute any of these things."

Question -- is there an infallible pronouncement that abortion before quickening is sinful? Or that homologous in vitro fertilization is wrong? I don't think there is.

As usual one of my very astute readers latched onto one of the flaws in the "trad" slaw. I was going to write more but I think leaving this post as is will be best. (As sometimes absurdities are best laid to rest without being overly technical.)

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"Learn to Argue Like a Sophist in Less than Ten Minutes" Dept.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I readily admit that I developed a system for this when I was younger. A basic system to follow to argue like a sophistic timewaster -if that is your bag{1} - is as follows:

1) First you must pester people you view as a serious threat to your personal weltanschauung. Rather than debate on the actual issues, focus instead on other issues. (The more remote and disconnected from the substance of the real issues the better.) A good point of reference here is with regards to a particular person's "credentials" as this is an easy subject to manipulate.{2}

2) If they do not answer then continue to pester them.

3) If they respond with something that does your complaints a credit, then lord it over them. (No reason to take them seriously now after all right??? {3}) If they do not do your complaints a credit with their responses, then immediately shift gears to the tactic in point four.

4) Whatever the credentials given are, immediately posit a level of "acceptability" slightly higher than what they give you. That way, you can continue to try and evade actual interacting with their arguments. (After all, they are not "credible" now right???) However, if this approach is not feasible in a particular circumstance, shift gears again to the tactic in point five.

5) If the person's credentials are simply too high to be able to sustain the normal run-around, immediately segue into what can accurately be called "The Dollinger Objection."{4}

The "Dollinger Objection" is of course essentially one of claiming that "well, God hid Himself from the 'wise and prudent' and revealed Himself to the 'little ones'. So despite your high state of learning, without the aid of the Holy Spirit you are still quite incapable of truly understanding the teachings of the Church" or some derivative statement thereof.

Of course the inference being made was that the individual bugging everyone else to justify themselves is the one who has the "aid of the Holy Spirit"; ergo they can trump any and all "learned" sorts by lumping them in as "children of the world."

Is this methodology hypocritical??? Certainly it is. Is it disingenuous??? Of course. Should those who are serious about engaging on the issues resort to such tactics??? Again, no they should not. And hence you can judge the seriousness of an adversary by how far they strive to avoid this Pharisaical approach. (And the sophists who utilize it can be properly given the wide berth they deserve as unfit for discussion.)


{1} I initially developed this slant of the argument many years ago in non-theological circles. And of course when it showed itself to work nicely there, I then as theological subjects became an area of interest sought to apply it to religious discussions. And of course the "trad" can pepper undefined words like "modernist" into the mix. After all, it is only the other guy who needs to define their terms, not the radtrad polemicist whose mere assertions are defacto true regardless of what they are or what authority they are challenging. Welcome to the world of Orwellian "double-think" trad style.

{2} A good review of a book that deals with one element of this fallacy can be read HERE.

{3} The way the Gentiles lord it over one another: a comparison that strangely enough, never occurred to me as a "trad" when I was using these tactics.

{4} Named after the renowned historian and theologian Johann Dollinger who left the Catholic Church after the definition of papal infallibility. Essentially, this is the tactic these sophists will use in hard-to-crack cases. (They may not have been aware of all the contradictory strands of the method but this is ultimately what they are aiming at.) At bottom it is anything to defend what they want to believe and to justify their own unwillingness (or inability) of honestly interacting with the views espoused by others who are critical of their arguments.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

More Miscellaneous Musings:

I have been thinking for not a few months about starting a webring for fellow St. Blog's members who like myself are lovers of the leaf. I would call it the "St. Pius X Webring" in honour of His Holiness who was also a lover of the leaf. Partakers of the pipe would also be eligible for inclusion in this ring - provided that the only leaf being smoked in the pipe was tobacco. Among the members of St. Blog's, the following individuals come to mind whom I would like to include if possible:

The Curmudgeon - lover of the leaf
G. Thomas Fitzpatrick - lover of the leaf
The Mighty Barrister - lover of the leaf
The Secret Agent Man - lover of the leaf/partaker of the pipe.
Jeff Culbreath - partaker of the pipe.
Fr. Rob Johansen - partaker of the pipe.

Does anyone know of others who could be noted offhand???

Anyway, I just wanted to throw it out there in the blogosphere for musing.


"Counterfeit 'Traditionalism'" Dept.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Acts of zeal are like coins the stamp upon which is necessary to examine attentively, as there are more counterfeits than good ones. [R. P. Quadrupani (c. 1795)]

In like manner, there are more counterfeit "traditionalists" than true Traditionalists. A prime example of a countefeit "traditionalist" is one Brian C. Mershon. Since he asked me not to post his email, I will not do so. However, I will encapsulate its contents in brief. In light of the way he has lied about me and insulted me in public forums, I am being very generous in only doing this. This post actually belongs on the Lidless Eye weblog but I will throw out a small token of charity by including it here.

Basically, what Brian C. Mershon wants is for me to remove any references to him at my weblog. (He did not specify which one.) He then makes what are for him some boilerplate ignorant references to my work. I go into detail in the threads below just how well Mr. Mershon is acquainted with my work. Oh again, that is Brian C. Mershon folks. Write down the name and use it often ;-)

Getting back to Brian C. Mershon, he then claims that all I do is cut and paste from sources and refuse to engage in debate. This is of course a very disingenuous assertion as anyone who has actually read my work can tell you. Indeed I have already dispatched with this prevarication in the threads below and many others I could link to here. The one who is too scared to engage my arguments is the mendacious mountebanke Mr. Mershon.

Brian then accuses me of lambasting Pius XII of venerable memory. I have done nothing of the sort at any time whatsoever; however this ignorant statement is in line with the statements Brian C. Mershon has made over the months about me. I *did* note that Brian by apparently wanting to disobey the last four popes despite their credentials - their prerogatives as Supreme Pontiff aside for a moment - has revealed his hand and his agenda. But I do not want to reiterate here what I cover in the following sequence of links. In short, this whole thing is a facade on his part and he refuses to admit to it. Let us recap.

Brian C. Mershon and I had a very unpleasant exchange at Envoy back in December of 2002 where he acted like a compels me to omit the words that come to mind to describe his attitude. About a month later after launching the Lidless Eye blog, I found a few old correspondences in my notebook to put up - including one from the thread with the very same Brian C. Mershon from December of 2002.

Approximately a month later (March 2, 2003 if I recall correctly), Brian emailed me wanting to resume a discussion thread from four months earlier. He apparently saw the thread at Lidless Eye and proceeded to accuse me of dishonesty. He refused to recant for the stream of insults he hurled back in December which basically was an embarrassment for those with similar philosophies and a thousand times the class that Brian has thus far displayed. (People like Jeff Culbreath, David Smith, and Mark Cameron come to mind here.) I feel that people like Mr. Mershon are the biggest thorns in the side of movements such as Ecclesia Dei so I do not suffer them kindly when they show a lacuna of authentic charity and refuse to act like a true Traditionalist. (All the while claiming to be a Traditionalist.)

Indeed Brian's very first contact with me he called me a "Gnostic" a "traditionalist basher" and hurled other insults. I decided that since he was begging to be fisked that I would do just that. I wrote a very torrid response in spare moments over the span of a few days shortly after receiving Brian's email. However, I initially saved it to my developmental weblog for blogging later. (A private weblog I use occasionally for the purpose of cultivating the Roman mindset.)

In the week before Easter, I reviewed the thread written a few weeks earlier and decided it was too rough. So I toned it down a bit and republished it to the developmental weblog. After Easter, I reread the thread again and toned it down substantially still. A prefatory note and an addendum to the piece were later added on April 23rd and the thread was then posted to Rerum Novarum. Three days later (April 26th), I emailed the link to Brian C. Mershon. The thread I refer to can still be read on this humble weblog. (The link being supplied in this sequence shortly.)

Initially I linked to the entire thread of the discussion from December and unpacked it piece by piece for the reader to follow without difficulty. Unfortunately, that thread is no longer up at Envoy - so much for them being my stooges as per Brian C. Mershon's assertions. Indeed if that thread *were* still available, it would do more damage to Brian's credibility than anything I wrote about the thread.{1} But some time later, the link was no longer working - an unfortunate development but one of course works with the hand they are dealt in these matters.

The piece still remains intact except for the appended note to reflect this which I added in June after someone notified me of the defunct link.{1} I figured that the issue was settled after a few months of no response from Brian. Instead, Brian apparently took up a crusade publicly and did not modify his attitude an iota. And thus in light of his public whining and monotonous myna bird routine, his accusation to me about "not engaging in debate" are frankly so absurd that I would have a laugh. And indeed if not for the fact that it was at the expense of someone whose logicians marksmenship was so bad that my sense of fair play was violated, this would be an amusing notion indeed. But I digress.

Apparently like a wailing child seeking attention, Brian C. Mershon reiterated the same sophistic catchphrases again and again. He would mention them whenever I was mentioned and even when I was not. (I have this on authority of witnesses of these events who emailed me asking in essence what the hell is this guy's problem?) Therefore, I decided a response to this individual in public was again in order - though I did not want to do so on my weblog again. So I opted for Envoy message boxes to do this so that there was no way what I wrote would be overlooked by the audience subjected to these antics. But before detailing that, let us reiterate what already transpired in this thread.

Not only did I respond to Brian publicly back in April but I emailed him with a response and a specific challenge. He has refused to take it up because he knows I will dress him down for his erroneous prooftexting of Dz if he does so. (Much as I disposed effortlessly with his "antiquarian" canard via his misreading of Mediator Dei.) So he would rather hang off in the wings and whine about "credentials" instead of respond to the arguments advanced. To use an apt analogy, he has chosen to flee the challenge like a vampire from a crucifix. I am of course not amused by this sophistry.

Since that time (April 23, 2003), I have publicly responded to Brian C. Mershon on Pete Vere's "traditionalist" Envoy threads over a half a dozen times. However I only saved the links to the last five of those responses. And I only did that because it became clear that Brian was either not getting the messages, "conveniently" missing my public statements or simply ignoring them. (I knew that eventually he would start up again and thus wanted to be armed for that occasion.) Here the most recent five Envoy responses and the two Rerum Novarum blogged responses in sequence by date and timestamp:

Fisking a Self-styled "Traditionalist" (circa 4/23/03)

Public link referencing previous weblog response (7/2/2003 3:43:28 PM)

Weblog reiteration of 7/2/2003 3:43:28 PM Envoy Response to Brian C. Mershon. (Posted on 7/7/2003 at 10:10 AM.)

7/11/2003 6:21:18 PM

7/13/2003 7:26:43 PM

7/17/2003 4:40:52 PM

7/18/2003 12:24:27 PM

For those interested in a snapshot of the sequence, the 7/11/2003 6:21:18 PM response works as a fine overview in and of itself.{2} From there if there is more interest the reader can look at the other links in this thread. I have already reiterated what is required for a continued dialogue with Brian C. Mershon. Until he meets that criteria,{3} I see no reason to expend more than a mere blurb here and there reiterating the trackrecord of the past eight months. My stances have been consistent and I will not waver on them. And until Brian actually starts being honest with the readers of Envoy and other sources, nothing on this front will change an iota.

So since the Envoy links remain unresponded to and Mr. Mershon is quite evidently not interested in being honest with other people when he talks about me behind my back, I post this thread to Rerum Novarum and will link it to the Lidless Eye weblog as well.

Honesty Brian: it really is the best policy. But of course a true Traditionalist would already know that and I would not have to be exhorting you to act like the genuine article (Traditionalist) and not like the many counterfeits ("traditionalists") which litter the landscape.


{1} Which for the most part merely recapitulated Brian's own outlook in a sequential flow. [Update: The thread previously lost has been retrieved and was restored to the original post. Readers who think that what I wrote previously was off the mark can peruse it and judge the accuracy of what I note for themselves. - ISM 10/3/04 9:38 pm]

{2} I even post there the email I sent to Brian on April 26, 2003 alerting him to my April 23, 2003 weblog response. (Sans the respective web links in accordance with Envoy's message posting policies.)

{3} See the post-Easter Addendum part to the April 23, 2003 response to Brian C Mershon circa this humble weblog.

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Miscellaneous Threads

I noted earlier that We at Rerum Novarum may weigh in on this humble weblog with a response of our own to complement a recent response Pete Vere penned for The Wanderer in response to the screed of a certain misinformed self-styled "traditionalist." The piece is finished now and by my web essay standards is pretty economical actually. It is however too long for print periodical. I have therefore prepared it as a web essay and hopefully will have it on the web by the Feast of the Assumption.

In other news, my recent response to Adam Kolasinski has a companion piece penned by my good friend Dr. Art Sippo which can be read HERE. Finally, I find an email from Brian Mershon in my email box today where at least he is moderately respectful for a change. I will respond to that next.

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Monday, August 11, 2003

Points to Ponder:
(On The Supposed "Perspicuousness" of Pope Gregory XVI's Encyclical Letter Mirari Vos)

The Encyclical, which certainly cannot be considered favourable to ideas that have since become the commonplaces of secular politics, aroused a storm of criticism throughout Europe. It is well to remember, however, that some of its adversaries have not read it with great attention, and it has been sometimes criticized for statements that are not to be found in the text. [Catholic Encyclopedia (c. 1913)]


Sunday, August 10, 2003

"Dogmatic Theology Five Cents, the Doctor is In" Dept.
(With apologies to the late Charles M. Schulz RIP)

Having been made aware of Adam Kolasinski's recent piece, I gave it a read through since (i) I generally find that compared to a lot of the self-styled "traditionalists," Adam's intentions are towards bridge building and not chasm widening and (ii) someone told me I was mentioned in it and my work was referenced.

Before I respond to what was said about me - and some problematical areas of the piece from a dogmatics standpoint - I wanted to note that for the most part the tone of the work was very good. While issue can be taken with some of his statements, I nonetheless believe he did try to walk a fine line and certainly that intention can be appreciated. So I note that up front lest anyone erroneously presume that I see no value whatsoever in Adam's commentary.

I also appreciate Apolonio making a defense of the statements that were taken from context in the response. I must note up front though that I am not sure this was done on purpose by Mr. Kolasinski. The Distinctions essay{1} is very technical compared to some of the other pieces I have done so misquoting is more likely with it than with most of my other pieces. Nonetheless, this response will touch only briefly on the points where I am mentioned personally. (And the arguments advanced against my stances.)

Adam's words will be in black font and previously enunciated stances of his will be in purple font.{2} My words will be in regular font with any sources used in darkblue font. I will distinguish between versions of my treatise in this response as someof what I will note here was newly written for the third edition - though most of it was materially in previous editions of the work.

Informed parties on both sides know that Vatican 2 did not teach infallibly, since it has been acknowledged by the papacy numerous times that Vatican 2 defined no doctrine,

Actually, Pope Paul himself indicated many times that the Council was part of the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium. However, this point seems to be conveniently overlooked by those who want to discuss the authority of the Second Sacrosanct Synod of the Vatican. With regard to someone ("A certain Michael Davies") who is widely considered a magisterial spokesmen for much of what passes for "traditionalism" - and one whom Adam once claimed that in my humble opinion, he has the sanest and most reasonable outlook of anyone on the whole post-Vatican 2 debacle, it is worth noting what this individual states since Adam has hung many a defenses on the assertions made by Mr. Davies in his writings. For this, I bring to the witness chair one Rama P. Coomeraswamy. Now it is true that I disagree with Coomeraswamy's sedevacantism and his theological positions. However, he has nonetheless correctly analyzed Davies' inconsistent stance as follows:

Michael Davies...states that "the Council comes within the category of the Church's Ordinary Magisterium which can contain error in the case of a novelty which conflicts with previous teaching," a statement which is both innovative and self contradictory. {Michael Davies, Archbishop Lefebvre and Religious Liberty, TAN: Ill, 1980. Xavier da Silveira in Brazil holds to a similar position.} These represent but "theological opinions", and those who accept the post-Conciliar "popes" must turn to them for definitive answers.

All the post-Conciliar "popes" have stated that the Council was guided by the Holy Spirit. Paul VI, in closing the Council stated that "the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements, has made thoroughly known its authoritative teaching." Still later he stated that the Council "avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility" but that it conferred on its teachings "the value of the supreme ordinary Magisterium" (Speech of Jan 12, 1966), and that "it has as much authority and far greater importance than the Council of Nicea".

Briefly, all that is important here is Pope Paul's verification of the authority of the Second Vatican Council as part of the Supreme Magisterium. His opinions on the importance of the Council are of course just that: opinions. We are only bound to accept his pronouncement on the theological qualification of the Council's teachings and nothing else here - lest some people presume that in accepting Pope Paul's judgment on the Council as Doctor of the Faith we must also accept his private theological opinions on the relative worth of the Council - as enunciated in the paragraph below - as well. (Obviously while the former is necessary, the latter is clearly not.)

Elsewhere he has called it "the greatest of Councils", and "even greater than the Council of Trent." {Quoted in L'heresie concilaire by Marcel De Corte, Itinieres, July-August, 1976. The statement is contained in a letter from Paul VI to Arch. Lefebvre dated June 29, 1976.} Perhaps the most clear cut statement is to be found in a letter to Archbishop Lefebvre demanding his submission to the post-Conciliar Church:

"You have no right any more to bring up the distinction between the doctrinal and the pastoral that you use to support your acceptance of certain texts of Vatican Council II and your rejection of others. It is true that the matters decided in any Council do not all call for an assent of the same quality; only what the Council affirms in its 'definitions' as a truth of faith or as bound up with faith requires the assent of faith. Nevertheless, the rest also form a part of the solemn magisterium of the Church, to be trustingly accepted and sincerely put into practice by every Catholic."{Epistle Cum te to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, 11 Oct, 1976, published in Notitiae, No. 12, 1976.}

It is clear then that Paul VI considers the Council as binding on the Catholic conscience, and as having no less authority than any of the previous 20 Councils called Ecumenical. To state that is part of the Solemn Magisterium is to give it the highest possible authority. However, if it is only the "supreme form of the ordinary Magisterium", it is equally binding upon the post-Conciliar Catholic conscience. [Rama Coomaraswamy, M.D: Vatican II (c. 2001)]

And of course those who are familiar with what Pope Paul VI himself said about the authority of the Council likewise cannot credibly take the position that Adam has espoused over the years on this issue:

The Council is a great act of the teaching Church, and those who adhere to the Council thereby recognize and honor the teaching authority of the Church. In view of the pastoral character of the Council, it has avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas carrying the note of infallibility. Nevertheless, its teachings carry the weight of the supreme ordinary teaching authority. This ordinary teaching authority, so evidently authentic, must be received docilely and sincerely by all the faithful in accordance with the intentions of the Council regarding the nature and purpose of each of the documents" (Allocution of January 12, 1966).

The "supreme ordinary teaching authority" (or "supreme ordinary magisterium") is of course a reference to the epicopate teaching in concurrence with the Successor of Peter. And properly educated theologians know that the Church is infallible in these matters which - while not directly dogmatic - nonetheless involve secondary truths which uphold the Deposit of Faith or which in some manner pertain to it. This is why Pope John Paul II's Catechism of the Catholic Church, his Code of Canon Law, and his Magisterium are suffused with copious references to the teachings of the Constitutions, Declarations, and Decrees of the Second Vatican Council. (Among other areas which could be noted.) So far from "the popes" claiming what Adam has asserted, they have in fact taught both explicitly and tacitly the exact opposite of what he is claiming.

[I]t is only when teaching definitively that councils (and popes) are infallible (c.f. Canon 749 of the 1983 Code, Vatican 1, Lumen Gentium, etc., etc.).

Oh brother, more misinformation. First of all, Lumen Gentium §25 states that [the] infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. [Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium §25 (c. 1964)] As I noted in my treatise on this point of LG §25:

This point also has a reference to the Schema of the planned (but unpromulgated) Second Constitution on the Church of Christ and a commentary from its Relator Bishop Kleutgen. (This source was also quoted in LG §22 as it was intended to cover the authority of the episcopate and hierarchy - doctrine that Lumen Gentium was completing that Vatican I intended in other words.) [I. Shawn McElhinney: A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' from the section titled Vatican II and its Authority Part I (c. 2003, 2000)]

And to quote that schema from the unpromulgated "Second Constitution on the Church" - as well as a textbook prologue on the matter:

The third session of the Vatican Council on April 24, 1870 dealt primarily with faith and reason (see Introd. to 58),but in the same place it dealt with the position of the Church as guardian and teacher of the revealed word (see 67, 80) and as a visible proof of its own divine mission (see 68). Originally the council...had planned to define much more on the constitution and nature of the Church, but there was not enough time to complete its work. The first draft of the constitution...contains no official teaching on the part of the Church, since it was never voted on by the fathers in solemn assembly. However, since it had been carefully prepared by theologians and presented to the fathers of the council, the draft may be said to reflect the mind of the teaching Church at that time...

We teach, therefore, that the object of infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of faith and as far as the office of guarding it demands. And so we teach that the prerogative of infallibility, with which Christ's Church is endowed embraces not only the whole revealed word of God, but also everything that, although in itself not revealed, is necessary for safeguarding the revealed word, for certainly and definitively proposing and explaining it for belief, and for legitimately asserting and defending it against the errors of men and the contrary oppositions of so-called knowledge." [Schema on the Second Constitution from Vatican I: From The Church Teaches - Documents of the Church in English Translation by Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's College pgs 86-87; 93 (c. 1955)]

This book though it bears the 1973 copyright of TAN Books was nonetheless originally published by St. Mary's, Kansas with a Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur, and original copyright from 1955. In short, we see that again Adam is misinformed on Vatican I and Vatican II's teaching. Vatican I in Pastor Aeternus (the "First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ") only taught what was to be held de fide regarding the infallibility of the pope and of the Church. (Both of which are inseparable.) Dei Filius the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith" preceded Pastor Aeternus and dealt with the issues of faith and reason. The "Second Constitution on the Church of Christ", which was never promulgated, explained what was to be held by ecclesiastical faith. The Second Vatican Council made this part of the corpus of Catholic doctrine and the CDF outlined it again in the 1973 Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae. All of this was dealt with in my treatise.

I also detailed in my treatise in a section added to the work in December of 2000 -and slightly retouched in January of 2003- why Adam's understanding of the Code is faulty as well. The relevant section of that work pertaining to Canon 749 was also utilized in a commentary I wrote on Canon Law 747-755 which can be read HERE. I also go over the subject of my use of the terms in differing versions of the treatise (and other writings) HERE as well.

In short, Adam is (i) wrong about the scope of magisterial infallibility, (ii) wrong about the teaching of Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, (iii) wrong about the teaching of Vatican I, and (iv) wrong about what the Code of Canon Law actually outlines. Oh and did I mention he is (v) wrong about Vatican II not teaching definitively in some areas (apart from reiterating past teachings) as well??? In short, not exactly a stellar trackrecord from one who would appear to want to instruct me on theology.

As far as "most informed people" thinking what Adam notes, if they think as he does they are not very well informed at all. As the theologian Richard Gaillardez noted in his article The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium: Unresolved Questions:

While the dogmatic manuals popular in the period between the two Vatican councils dutifully addressed the ordinary and universal magisterium, there was relatively little sustained theological reflection on this topic before Vatican II. This changed dramatically in the past twenty-five years, largely because of the appeal to this exercise of episcopal teaching with respect to controversial matters...

When a truth of divine revelation is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium, what results is, in effect, a "non-defined dogma." The fact that such teachings are "definitive" yet "non-defined" invites the question whether such dogmas are to be granted the same status as "defined" dogmas...

Vacant published in 1887 one of the rare monographs on the ordinary and universal magisterium...He wrote that the teachings of the ordinary and universal magisterium, although taught infallibly, could not be considered as dogmas of Catholic faith. He based this claim on his analysis of tradition. He could find no evidence of the negative theological note of heresy being attached to a teaching proposed only by the ordinary and universal magisterium. He specifically mentions the Immaculate Conception, the denial of which, in his view, had never been deemed a heresy prior to its formal definition, even though it had presumably been taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium." [Richard R. Gaillardez: The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium: Unresolved Questions from Theological Studies 63 pgs. 455; 456-7 (c. 2002)]

Note if you will that my Distinctions essay to which Adam refers was written a full year before Gaillardez' article for Theological Studies. (And released to the web about seven months before Gaillardez' article.) While I certainly do not agree with some of Gaillardez' conclusions, I nonetheless have seen nothing that would call into question what is referenced above from his article. (And not only because he happens to agree with me.) There is also this point worth noting about Adam's favourite canon of the Code 749§3:

This canon [according to the eminent theologian Germain Grisez] is concerned strictly with the formation of a dogmatic proposition. Since only solemn definitions have specific formularies, this canon could not apply to non dogmatic teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium." [Richard R. Gaillardez: The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium: Unresolved Questions from Theological Studies 63pg. 465 (2002)]

So Adam can make all the claims he wants about my so-called "confusion". In reality, I have not only plenty of credible theologians on my side in this dispute but also logic, reason, and also (and most importantly) the Magisterium of the Church.

I am reminded of another example of Adam's novel ideas about the magisterium from a few years ago. In an attempted "critique" of one of my writings, Adam stated that The standard meaning of "extraordinary magisterium" is as follows and followed that statement up with the following explanation:

The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely through formal and authentic definitions. {Tanquerey, Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae Fundamentalis, IV, para. 12}

All doctrinal definitions, i.e. definitive decrees, qualify as exercises of the extraordinary magisterium (a synonym for solemn magisterium), so it is absurd to claim that any definitive teaching of a pope or ecumenical council is part of the ordinary magisterium. Anyone making such a claim simply does not know what the extraordinary magisterium is. [Adam C. Kolasinski: Legitimate Protest and Criticism of Papal Acts (c. 2000; revised 2003)]

Of course I had in my treatise in all three editions a definition of "magisterium" and one for "infallibility." Adam apparently overlooked them in his skimming of the work for the above piece - if he even did that. Here are those definitions now - I will italicize the little bit that Adam quotes from the stock pre-Vatican II definition of "magisterium" from the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary. I realize he quotes Tanqueray but he is quite selective in what he cites. (Again, I will put in italics what he quotes.) Notice how much of the stock definition of "magisterium" that Adam actually omits to mention:

Magisterium (Lat. magister, a master). The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii, 19-20). This teaching is infallible: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.) The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or ecumenical council. The ordinary magisterium is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers (q.v.) and theologians, in the decisions of Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense (q.v.) of the faithful, and various historical documents in which the faith is declared. All these are founts of a teaching, which as a whole is infallible. They have to be studied separately to determine how far and in what conditions each of them is an infallible source of truth. [Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary: Donald Attwater General Editor, tenth edition, pg. 267 (c. 1941) as quoted in I. Shawn McElhinney's A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' from the section titled Vatican II and its Authority (c. 2000) and Vatican II and its Authority Part I(c. 2003)]

All the documents of the Second Vatican Council were solemnly promulgated. Hence, they comprise part of the solemn magisterium as enunciated above. And of course "infallibility" was defined by this same dictionary as follows:

Infallibility. Incapability of teaching what is false. It has always been believed that the Catholic Church of Christ is divinely kept from the possibility of error in her definitive teachings on matters of faith or morals, and this was expressed by the Vatican Council (sess. iii, cap. 4), "the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed as a philosophical discovery to be improved upon by human talent, but has been committed as a divine deposit to the Bride of Christ [the Church] to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted by her." This infallibility resides (a) in the pope personally and alone (see below); (b) In an oecumenical council (q.v.) subject to papal confirmation (these infallibilities are distinct but correlative); (c) In the bishops of the Church dispersed throughout the world: this is the ordinary magisterium, is now in practice and confined to the maintenance of the definitive decisions of (a) and (b). Infallibility does not involve inspiration (q.v.) or a fresh revelation; so the Church can teach no new dogma but only "religiously guard and faithfully expound" the original deposit of faith (q.v.) with all its truths, explicit and implicit (q.v.); nevertheless, infallibity extends to secondary doctrines and facts whose connection with revealed truths is so intricate as to bring them within its scope. [Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary: Donald Attwater General Editor, tenth edition, pg. 319 (c. 1941) as quoted in I. Shawn McElhinney's A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' from the section titled Vatican II and its Authority (c. 2000) and Vatican II and its Authority Part I(c. 2003)]

I could reference a litany of other sources but for the sake of brevity, will conclude with another pre-Vatican II source and finally with a modern magisterial authority. The former is the book Life in Christ: Instructions in the Catholic Faith which bears a February 7, 1958 Copyright, Nihil Obstat, and Imprimatur. On the subject of how is infallibility found in the Church, one of the answers given is as follows:

The bishops as a whole are infallible when they are gathered in ecumenical council or when they separately all teach the same doctrine. [Life in Christ: Instructions in the Catholic Faith pg. 115 (c. 1958)]

In short, the concurrence of the episcopate with the Supreme Pontiff at the Second Vatican Council meets this criteria unambiguously. Pope Paul's qualifications after the Council were to make it clear that no new definitions of faith were promulgated. The reason of course was one that any reasonably informed person can discern: to quell the kinds of questions that some theologians had as far as whether any of the Council's resolutions carried the mark of a solemn definition - with the countering penalty of heresy. There was no concern about the secondary and indirect elements of magisterial infallibility which were present because (i) the entire council was to be accepted and (ii) teachings of the supreme ordinary magisterium do not generally have particular forms of solemnity.

Anyone familiar with Catholic dogmatics knows that an ecumenical council represents the universal church and as such when a teaching is handed down by such a synod, it is binding on the universal church and the qualifications for infallibility of teaching are met. As Archbishop Bertone (undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) noted six and a half years ago in discussing the subject of magisterial documents and public dissent:

In order to speak of the infallible ordinary and universal Magisterium, it is necessary that the consent between the Bishops have for its object a teaching proposed as formally revealed or as certainly true and undoubted, such that it calls for the full and undeniable assent of the faithful. One can share theology's insistence on conducting careful analyses in researching the reasons for this consent or agreement. Nevertheless, there is no basis for the interpretation that the verification of an infallible teaching of the ordinary, universal Magisterium would also require a particular formality in the act of declaring the doctrine in question. Otherwise we would be dealing with a solemn definition of the Pope or of an Ecumenical Council. [Archbishop Tarcicio Bertone S.D.B Magisterial Documents and Public Dissent from the January 29, 1997 edition of L'Osservatore Romano]

The footnote of the text reads as follows:

In his commentary on the second schema on the Church proposed at the First Vatican Council, J. Kleutgen defines as doctrines of the ordinary infallible Magisterium those that "have been held or transmitted as undoubted" (tamquam indubitata tenentur vel traduntur). Cf. Mansi, LIII, 313.

If the reader notices a similarity in the names, the "Bishop Klutgen" I referred to above was the same architect of the Second Constitution and the schema's relator or official commentator that Archbishop Bertone refers to. Hopefully it is clear why there is a lot more to magisterial infallibility than the solemn magisterium in the sense that Adam seeks to apply the term.

In fact, if he read his Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary a bit more carefully under the heading Council, Oecumenical, he would see that the Dictionary itself states that The decrees of such a Council are infallible. But it must be noted that the authority is not distinct from the ordinary magisterium (q.v.), only a more solemn exercise of the same; The attempt to postulate an artificial dichotomy between different theological qualifications of magisterial teachings is ridiculously legalistic.{3}

As I have noted for the past five years in the public apologetics forum, the infallibility of a statement is not dependent on particular forms of solemnity. This very fact is why you can have what essentially constitutes a "definitive non-defined" teaching. There is no oxymoron here in the slightest. It is instead a definitive teaching pertaining to the deposit of faith which is handed on in the ordinary magisterium. Such teachings do not require a certain form. Indeed the only infallible teachings that generally have a certain form (or solemnity to them) are definitions of faith. These carry with them the penalty of heresy. For this reason, they are not to be presumed without some indication that this was the manifest intention of the synod.

All sides agree that Pope Paul VI made it clear that there were no extraordinary statements of dogma. So this possibility is effectively squelched. But since the Council's teachings despite this fact still carry the weight of the supreme ordinary teaching authority, the "truly informed" do not - indeed cannot - side with the claims made by Adam Kolasinski on this issue.

So despite the untraditional notion that [a]ll doctrinal definitions, i.e. definitive decrees, qualify as exercises of the extraordinary magisterium and that it is absurd to claim that any definitive teaching of a pope or ecumenical council is part of the ordinary magisterium in reality the only thing "absurd" is the claims Adam Kolasinski makes with no supporting evidence whatsoever except a stray prooftext or two absent proper context. No source I referenced above - all of which are authoritative sources most of which are pre-Vatican II btw - concur with this assessment. (Not even close actually.) So before I close this response, let me summarize the crux of the entire dispute - and further why some Catholics are hard on self-styled "traditionalists." (Even if at times to an excessive degree as Adam noted.)

In summary, Adam's claims viz dogmatics are so manifestly in error that hopefully the reader will see why I did not bother actually responding to what he had to say publicly a few years ago. (Though I did briefly entertain the idea of doing so.{4}) I noted this indirectly in the authors preface to the Third Edition when I stated [i]n putting out this third edition, I trust that those predisposed to be critical will actually read the work this time before deciding to pass judgment on its merits. I note this here because a few attempted critiques of the original version were clearly written by people who had not bothered to read the work first - and who probably did not bother with the even stronger and more cohesive second edition either. [Author's Preface to the Third Edition: January 26, 2003]

Frankly, I was content to let that suffice as a response and until recently that was my position. The only reason I changed my mind is because Adam made some recent presumptions that do not square with a proper understanding of Catholic dogmatics. Even there I would let my work stand as an ample refutation of them but he apparently brought my name up for some reason. (Probably figuring that enough "trads" will blindly take his view of me seriously.) Nonetheless, since he questioned my theological acuity, hopefully this response will suffice to lay to rest any doubts on the matter from those who have not bothered to actually read my work but instead uncritically trust the faulty assessment of others.

However, that fact and what I cover here aside, I did appreciate as I noted already the overall tone of Adam's response. I also appreciated what seems to be a manifested intention to build bridges in his piece. (At least that is how it appeared to me.) It would be pleasing if this can start a trend from the side of those who identify themselves as "traditionalists." And maybe Adam will help cultivate such an endeavour. I for one would welcome it.


{1} The essay Distinctions of Outlook was written mostly in April of 2001 and completed/released in September of 2001. It

{2} If he has changed his mind on any of the citations in purple, I will be glad to note this in an addendum to this response.

{3} Not even the theology manuals that Adam likes to reference sanction such an approach as he takes.

{4} Some of what I noted at the time is dealt with in this response in a more pastoral way than what was written then.

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