Saturday, October 04, 2003

I was going to comment on Rush Limbaugh and ESPN but fortunately Allen Barra of Slate did it for me. Here is the link:

Rush Limbaugh was right on Donovan McNabb

The moral of this story: if you are not willing to live in the land of make believe, then prepare to be assaulted by the mental midgets of the media machine.

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Points to Ponder:

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone. [Thomas à Kempis: The Imitation of Christ Book I, Chapter I (c. 1418)]

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"One From the Vault" Dept
(Dialogue on Mel Gibson's Movie --Part I)


The September 12 issue of the Boston Pilot (the archdiocesan weekly) has a letter to the editor which makes some points which bear consideration here. The letter is by Philip A. Cunningham, the Executive Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.

Responding to an earlier article by one Michael Pakaluk, Mr. Cunningham states that he reviewed a shooting script "at the request of an associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs" of the USCCB.

How about simply waiting for the movie to come out before deciding to talk about its relative merits???

He found "flagrant historical innaccuracies and an approach to the New Testament not according to current Catholic biblical principles, but from the perspective of a late 18th-century German mystic, Anne Katherine Emmerich."

I am a bit troubled by this notion of "current Catholic biblical principles" because there are many recognized ways of going about biblical study. Just because Mel Gibson does not go along with what is seen as the "in vogue" manner now does not immediately disqualify his work from consideration. There is such a thing as "artistic license" after all and Mel Gibson's movie is intended to be more devotional than historical. For those who are so keen on making the proper distinction between literary genres with Scripture (which is to their credit) they sure approach Mel's movie with a fundamentalist hermeneutic. This inconsistency does not speak well about their sense of objective fairness.

Cunningham objects to the following: "video clips showing Jesus shackled in chains (not merely 'bound' as in the Gospels), dragged to the Temple (rather than to the high priest's courtyard as in the New Testament), into a fanciful, non-existent 'Great Hall of the Temple' (one wonders about the archeologists that Pakaluk claims Gibson consulted) where he is brutalized by a rabble of over a hundred Jews (which does not appear in the Bible, but does in Emmerich). Moreover, Pilate is portrayed as intimidated and dominated by Caiaphas, although it is an undisputed historic fact that Caiaphas remained hugh priest only at Pilate's pleasure."

Again, is there no room whatsoever for artistic license??? I do not see why at the very least such critics cannot wait until there is a version of the movie that can be viewed before deciding to pass judgment on the film which is not even completed yet.

Besides, I can think of other movies which do a far worse hatchetjob on Catholic beliefs and practices than anything Mel Gibson's movie may possibly contain. Why are these same critics not as interested in going after those movies and their directors/producers???

Cunningham also notes that the U.S. Bishops' Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion say "that divergent scenes from the different gospels cannot simply be strung together for dramatic effect if the effect is to intensify 'Jewish' culpability."

I take it therefore that if there was no intention of the dramatic effect to "intensify Jewish culpability" that it would be okay. That leads to another important point of consideration: the judgment of the words and actions of another.

Why is there an immediate presumption that Gibson has sought to do this??? I harp on pseudo-"traditionalists" for showing the same lacuna in Traditional charitable interpretation of facts and events. Therefore, out of consistency I have to do the same in this case with the U.S. Bishops' Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion.

The instruction of St. Francis de Sales comes to mind for this as I have often used it against the trads:

Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbour, and never put an unfavourable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says St. Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable person will just as certainly choose the worst. [Fr. RP Quadrupani: Light and Peace quoting St. Francis de Sales (c. 1795)]

Frankly, I am disgusted that the same people who would justly decry the deicide outlook would uncharitably interpret Mel Gibson's actions here. They would apparently presume that just because (i) radtrads are often antisemitic and (ii) Mel Gibson's dad is a sedevacantist anti-semitic bigot that therefore (iii) Mel must be also. I have news for them: there are people who identify themselves as "traditionalists" who do not have an antisemitic bone in their body.

But of course to admit to this is to remove from the critics their largest cudgel with which to beat Mel Gibson with. Yeah his daddy is a bigot so Mel MUST be one too. This is a different form of "let his blood be on us and on our children" we are seeing here - but since it is a bunch of traddys it is okay right???

He suggests that that is what Gibson has done in the way he associates the scourging (only in John) with Pilate's hand washing (only in Matthew).

In my humble opinion this objection is beyond absurd. The two events are both well known to anyone who reads the various Passion accounts. Mel Gibson made it clear that he wanted to primarily follow the outline of the Gospel of John. However, "primarily" means that there would be secondary sources as well and what better sources to supplement the Gospel of John with than the Synoptic accounts???

Would these writers be denying the following teaching from Dei Verbum on the Gospels themselves:

It is common knowledge that among all the Scriptures, even those of the New Testament, the Gospels have a special preeminence, and rightly so, for they are the principal witness for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Saviour.

The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of the faith, namely, the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John {Cf. St. Irenaeus, AGAINST HERETICS, III, 11, 8: PG 7, 885; Sagnard Edition, p. 194}.

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1-2).

Indeed, after the Ascension of the Lord the Apostles handed on to their hearers what He had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed {John 2:22; 12:16; Cf. 14:26; 16:12-13; 7:39} after they had been instructed by the glorious events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of truth {Cf. John 14:26; 16:13.}.

The sacred authors wrote four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things in view of the situation of their churches, and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth about Jesus {Cf. instruction HOLY MOTHER CHURCH edited by Pontifical Consilium for Promotion of Bible Studies: AAS 56 (1964) p. 715.}. For their intention in writing was that either from their own memory and recollections, or from the witness of those who "themselves from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word" we might know "the truth" concerning those matters about which we have been instructed (see Luke 1:2-4). [Dei Verbum §19-20]

The same Dogmatic Constitution reaffirmed the freedom from error that the Church teaches as solemn doctrine (see DV §11 and Divino Afflante §1). So those who accept the teaching of Dei Verbum and then criticize the reliance on the Gospel narratives for a movie as Mel Gibson is doing are...well...not coming across as unhypocritical (to put it nicely).

In short, according to the U.S. Bishops' criteria it is not enough that "it's in the Bible." As ZZZZZ ZZZ ZZZZZ has pointed out, vicious anti-Semites quote the Bible to "prove" their points.

Yes but why are we seeming to presume that Mel Gibson is an anti-semite??? Is it because of Hutton Gibson's stances??? Again, do not decry deicide charges on the Jews (ala "may his blood be on us and on our children") and then utilize the same principle to tar and feather Mel Gibson for the errors of his father.

Furthermore, apparently what Gibson gives us isn't all in the Bible anyway.

Minor details (such as the wearing of chains) should hardly keep anyone awake at night.

Frankly, I haven't read everything that has appeared here, much less everywhere else, on the subject.

Nor have I.

But I think the discussion needs to get deeper than the level of "It's anti-Semitic." "No it isn't, and anybody who says it is must be anti-Christian."

According to a few Orthodox Jews whose opinions on this I trust (such as movie critic Michael Medved who attended an early screening of the work), there is nothing antisemitic about the movie. I have been a listener of (and occasional caller to) Medved's radio show for years and he has a tremendous amount of credibility with me on these issues.

In fact, Medved claimed that he has never seen a better visual epic of a biblical story than the cut he saw of the movie. He also noted that unlike other movies where Jesus and Mary and the Apostles do not look at all like first century Jews that the actors in this movie actually look the part.

Why do the people who raise the issue of anti-Semitism think it is a danger in this film?

I was originally going to say that it was probably because Mel prefers the Tridentine liturgical form and because his father is a bigot. Here are a couple examples though of actual "objections".

One of those on the Ad Hoc Scholars Committee (Amy-Jill Levine) apparently noted as follows:

"[A]ccusing him of being 'quite selective in choosing audiences'" to preview the film, Levine imagined how children of those invited would characterize Jews if asked, "'In the movie, who killed Jesus?' or 'Did the Jews in the film seem very interested in money?'" Levine added, "Every single response may be benign, but why take the chance?"

Translation: "No matter how benign the responses to such questions may be -not to mention the remote possibility that someone *may* ask children these questions- and even if the hypothetical responses were inoffensive; nonetheless, they *may* be less than benign and as a result it should be scrapped."

In short, this is pathetically fallacious slippery slope "what-if" reasoning.

Another Ad Hoc Scholars Committee representative (Sister Mary C. Boys) stated the following:

"We're not saying Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite, or even that the film is anti-Semitic," Boys said. "But rather, that by stressing the brutality, the torture, and by ascribing that visually to the Jews, the Christians seeing this will naturally conclude that the Jews carry the primary responsibility for the death of Jesus."

Translation: "It is not that Mel Gibson or the movie is antisemitic but the Christians are such dumbasses that if the movie goes to press, they will immediately blame the Jews as the killers of Christ."

What response can be made to the specific objections? Both sides need to make their case beyond slogans.

Agreed, however slogans unfortunately too often masquerade for substantive thought on these kinds of issues. Look at the idiocy of the above "objections" to the movie.

Furthermore, I think that Mel Gibson's reported rejection of Vatican II ought to raise a big caution flag for Catholics.

Your point is well taken if it is true; however at the same time, Mel Gibson may be an agnostic on the whole issue. I knew (and know) some self-styled "traditionalists" who were very agnostic on the whole subject; it is not improbable that Mel Gibson may be among them. But notice how they have to drag Hutton Gibson into the equation.

It is undeniable that Hutton hates Vatican II and is a kook but again, this has nothing to do with the views of Mel's father. Yet no one it seems can resist bringing Hutton Gibson into the equation. Apparently the elites think that anything to use as a cudgel against Mel Gibson is fair game.

I for one am disgusted by the whole thing and wish they would all shut the hell up until at the very least they see a rough cut of the film. Even that would not be as good as seeing the finished product but at the very least it would give them some credibility here.

For most of the nattering nabobs of negativism have not seen anything at all and yet they are going to tell us all how to think about it. Even if Mel Gibson does actually reject Vatican II, I cannot see how the actions of some scholars with a supposed "enlightened perspective" on these issues -who seem intent on condemning a movie that is not even completed yet and which most of them have not even seen a rough cut of- will in any way endear Mel to them or the views that they represent.


The following statements from one of Mel Gibson's respresentatives (Paul Lauer) are interesting:

Marketing director Paul Lauer responded that the committee's comments are inconsistent with the final version of the film. Eventually, the Catholic bishops apologized for what they described as an unauthorized critique. Critics from ADL, however, stood their ground in saying that without scholarly and theological understanding, productions such as The Passion could falsify history and fuel the animus of those who hate Jews...

Mel abhors anti-Semitism, a promotional website for the film quoted marketer Lauer as stating. In no way does his faith endorse hatred or bigotry or anti-Semitism or blame the Jews for the death of Christ.

Pardon me if I do not believe for a minute that there are any grounds for the assertions of antisemitism. The accusers owe Mel Gibson more than a mere apology. They should also make a few mea culpas publicly. But of course they will not correct an A1 mistake on A1 when it can be put on Q14 with smaller point type.

To be Continued...

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Friday, October 03, 2003

Today's Johnny Cash lyric is from Big River which was recorded on November 12, 1957...

Big River:

Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry,
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky.
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River.
Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die.

I met her accidentally in St. Paul (Minnesota).
And it tore me up every time I heard her drawl, Southern drawl.
Then I heard my dream was back Downstream cavortin' in Davenport,
And I followed you, Big River, when you called.

Then you took me to St. Louis later on (down the river).
A freighter said she's been here
But she's gone, boy, she's gone.
I found her trail in Memphis,
But she just walked up the block.
She raised a few eyebrows and then she went on down alone.

Now, won't you batter down by Baton Rouge,
River Queen, roll it on.
Take that woman on down to New Orleans, New Orleans.
Go on, I've had enough;
Dump my blues down in the gulf.
She loves you, Big River, more than me.

Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry,
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky.
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River.
Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die.


Thursday, October 02, 2003

"Oratory from the Oligarch" Dept.
(A Rerum Novarum Double Slam)

Our first link -an excellent musing on the subject of "marginally-involved Catholics"- was blogged by The Ancient One recently and is worth a read. To tempt you to click on the link below, your humble servant will supply a little appetizer...

I wish I could get inside the head of many of the people -- several of my family members included -- who are marginally religious, if at all, and yet they want the standard course of sacraments for themselves and their children. Hypotheses are welcome.

I suppose it's an objectified / commodified view of religion. Most I know can be fairly called "bourgeios." I can image them thinking of the Catholic religion like an odd garden tool and thinking, "Well, I don't want to get TOO involved with it, but there is a marginal utility to at least HAVING IT AROUND..." LINK

The second one consists of some fascinating comments from The Ancient One on his role of the lay theologian. (And by this I mean over and above the average evangelist/theologian.) Again, just a sampling, see the link for the rest...

The Insightful Hazards of Being a Lay Theologian

Fifty years ago it would have been very unusual to be what I am: A lay Catholic theologian. Not a minister. Not a priest. But a theologian. Most theologians were ordained.

Nowadays, we tend to look at the frequent intersection of the priestly and theological vocations as an historical accident, or luxury of the priest-abundant pre-conciliar era. Both the academy and the episcopacy seem to be comfortable with the idea of the non-sacerdotal, non-pastoral office of theologian. On a professional level, there is a comfortable, well-established division of labor between pastor and doctor. In theory, I do my academic work in the school room, and the clergy dispense the sacraments and serve as doctors of the heart in the parish.

The average layman usually casts this distinction completely aside...Click Here For More

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More Johnny Cash Lyrics:

Today's offering was recorded in August of 1958...

Don't Take Your Guns To Town:

A young cowboy named Billy Joe
Grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wanderlust
Who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out;

"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

He sang a song as on he rode,
His guns hung at his hips
He rode into a cattle town,
A smile upon his lips
He stopped and walked into a bar and laid his money down
But his mother's words echoed again;

"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself at last he had become a man
A dusty cowpoke at his side began to laugh him down
And he heard again his mother's words;

"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."

Bill was raged and Billy Joe reached for his gun to draw
But the stranger drew his gun and fired before he even saw
As Billy Joe fell to the floor the crowd all gathered 'round
And wondered at his final words;

"Don't take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don't take your guns to town."


Points to Ponder:

There are two reasons people ask questions. The first is to find things out. The second is to keep from finding things out. [Mark Shea]


"To Be Deep in Catholic Theology is to Cease to Be a (Pseudo) 'Traditionalist'" Dept.

This post contains material posted to one of Mark Shea's message boxes earlier today. Though I may reconsider this later on, at the moment I have decided to change the names to protect the guilty. Their words will be in black font and mine in regular font with sources in darkblue font. Without further ado, let us get to it...

There is enough shoddy theology from Brian Mershon on this thread to write a book about. As I do not have that kind of time -and as these messages have limits characterwise- I can only briefly deal with various bits of Brian's comments here.

I believe the Holy Trinity is a required dogma of the reality of God. As such, since Judaism rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Islam regards the dogma of the Holy Trinity blasphemy, it is safe to say that they do not worship the same God we do, nor do we worship the same God they do.

If knowledge was *required* to worship the true God then no one prior to Nicaea worshipped the true God since all trinitarian notions in the ante-Nicene period were for the most part incomplete or fragmentary. Shall we therefore declare all ante-Nicene Fathers -all of whom had by later standards heterodox notions about the Trinity- to therefore be worshipping "another God"??? Of course not. The principle here is the same in the implication of the Jews as not worshipping the same God as us.

Further still, the complete hybrid nature of Jesus Christ as the God-Man would not be worked out for an additional three hundred years after Nicaea. So shall we draw the line at Constantinople III and declare that no one prior to that time worshipped the true God??? Of course not.

And if the principle applies to Jews it also applies to Muslims, albeit not as readily so. And the principle I am using here is the one which Our Lord noted to the Samaritan woman. For just as the pagan Samaritans "worship what they do not know", those who do not explicitly profess a belief in Christ "worship what they do not know." By contrast, we who profess the Trinity -beneficiaries of additional revelation about the nature of God that we are- worship what we know.

Please show me in any authoritative pre-Vatican II or Vatican II document.

This is like the Protestant assertion "show me that it is in the Bible." Whether it can be shown in the documents of any period is not relevant since (i) it has been taught in the Magisterium since the Second Vatican Council and (ii) generally it is not until a subject becomes controversial that it is addressed.

There is virtually no magisterial statements about the Jews prior to Vatican II except for papal legislation regulating what Jews could and could not do in society. (And of course decrees issued for their protection by various popes.) Other than those things, the number of actual magisterial texts on the Jews probably number less than three. (And there are even less in the case of the Muslims.)

When it comes to the relationship between the Church and non-Christian religions, there are none prior to the Declaration Nostra Aetate as the subject was never dealt with prior to that time. If you think this is a problem than consider what other areas of Church teaching are similarly "problematical."

If you want to demand pre-Vatican II magisterial statements duplicating what was taught by Vatican II and by the subsequent popes, you should acquire some consistency in your own position. And here is how you can do that.

Please begin by pointing to the magisterial statements prior to 1870 which treated on the infallibility of the pope. From there, please point us to the magisterial statements prior to 1547 (Trent Session VI) that treated on the subject of Justification. Thirdly, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 1215 that treated on the subject of transubstantiation. Fourthly, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 787 that treated on the subject of icons.

From there, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 649{1} that treated on the subject of the number of wills in Christ. Further still, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 449 that treated on the two persons of Christ. Also, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 430 which treated on the subject of Theotokos. Also, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 381 which treated on pneumatology. Finally, I want to see the magisterial statements prior to 325 which treated on the subjects of the consubstantiality and coeternity of Jesus Christ with the Father.

Do not claim that you are not so bound to prove such things while those you ask for proof are not. But as I recognize that I asked a lot of questions here, let us make it fair and reduce it to one proof for you.

It will suffice for you to produce the magisterial statements prior to 325 which treated on the subjects of the consubstantiality and coeternity of Jesus Christ with the Father. Remember, they have to be *magisterial* statements. Not that I am saying you could prove this doctrine by a consensus of the ante-Nicene Fathers{2} but since you seem to think that something must be enshrined in a magisterial text, let us see you prove two key points to what you have called a required dogma of the reality of God from pre-Nicene magisterial texts.

Again, this refers to Christ the Lord's consubstantial nature with the Father and also his coeternity. Show us the magisterial texts pre-Nicaea that teach these truths and then you have valid grounds to make these challenges to others.

It is also worth noting that the denoting of those who were recognized as not believing in God was that of "heathen." But the Church has never referred to Jews or Muslims as "heathens." Instead, the term they used was "infidel" - a term which in classic theology admits of three applications. (Not all of which is a sin.)

The "infidel" was one who though believing in the one God professed some incomplete or malformed notion of Him. Generally it was applied to the unbaptized though it could be said to apply to baptized non-Catholics as well. Nonetheless, an "infidel" is not one who believes in another God than Catholics, only one whose understanding of the one God is to some extent erroneous.

I do not have to PROVE to you what the Church DOES NOT teach.

This sounds like the Protestants who defend sola scriptura by saying "Catholics have to prove the infallibility of their Church or else sola scriptura stands." To make an affirmative statement or deny a proposition in philosophy or theology is useless without supporting the statement with evidences and argumentation.

You have made the claim that Jews do not worship same God as Christians. You have further asserted that those who say they do are making assertions that are contrary to what the Church taught pre-Vatican II. Then you have the burden or proof to demonstrate this supposed "teaching" Brian. This is basic "disputation 101" here: you have made the assertion so you must defend it. That is how it works outside of journalism school.

It is evident. Read the text and look for the words "same God as Christians" or "one, TRUE God." Nowhere to be found.

What idiocy. Here is the text from Nostra Aetate:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful, ###the Creator of heaven and earth who has spoken to men###...

Apparently, the "Creator of heaven and earth" is not the same God that Christians worship. At least not if we accept what Brian has to say. As far as the Jews go, the synod recognized that the foundations of the Church's faith are "found among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets" (NA §3).

It is called the Trinity, of whom Jesus Christ is man and God and the second person. This is the God of the NT, right?

Are you claiming that the God of the OT is not the same as the God of the NT???

As for allowing Catholics "theological speculation," I would recommend reading the condemned propositions in the Syllabus of Errors and the Errors of the Modernists prior to thinking this proposition is allowed Catholics.

And you will show us a condemned proposition in these sources that proscribes what is being asserted??? If so, where is it??? If not, then why bring these sources up???

Humani Generis and Mystici Corporis by Pius XII might also shed some light on worshipping the one, TRUE God.

Read them all and do not recall anything said about whether or not Jews worship the same God as Christians do. But then again, maybe Brian can refresh our memories on the matter. Where is this subject discussed in any of the sources you mention??? The answer of course is NOWHERE.

Have you actually ever read Newman's Development of Doctrine?

I have read it and also reviewed it for Amazon.

It says the germ of doctrine MUST be in the root of the tree (the Church), so it is VERY IMPORTANT to know where this so-called "doctrine" sprung from because otherwise it may be what Newman calls a "corruption" rather than "development."

This is for the most part accurate.

Something has to "develop" from a kernel that already existed previously.

Okay then, if Christianity is a true development of the Jewish religion, then there must be kernals in the Jewish religion. One of these kernals would have to be worship of the one true God since the claims of Jesus the Jew was that he came "not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill" (cf. Matt. v,17).

So if Christianity and the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old Testament, then if those who believe in the Old Testament do not believe in the true God, neither by logical extension do those of the New Testament. So according to Newman's understanding of development, Christianity would be a corruption of primitive Judaism rather than an authentic development. If we accept your untraditional view on the matter that is. Fortunately no Catholic on this thread is doing that.


{1} I say 649 because there are magisterial statements prior to Constantinople III on this subject. (Specifically one from Pope Martin I.) Hence, I want to see magisterial statements before 649 condemning what Pope Martin condemned and what was later condemned by Constantinople III on the subject of one or two wills in Christ.

{2} Because I already know you have not a ghost of a chance to prove this.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Though I mentioned last month that I would soon be posting lyrics from the late great Johnny Cash (RIP) within that week. Well, obviously that did not happen but I did not forget the promise.

Instead, as can happen at times when one has many things to muse on and a limited amount of time for blogging them, things got sidetracked. So this will be the first of several posts in the coming days where we look at some of the writing of Johnny Cash. Let us start this all off with the groundbreaking song I Walk The Line recorded in April of 1956.

I Walk the Line:

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine,
I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine,
I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine,
I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine,
I walk the line


The Miscellaneous BLOG has been updated.

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Mark Shea's recent piece titled The Seven Virtues for Parents can be read HERE.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Miscellaneous Early Morning Notes from Rerum Novarum:

[Note: This response was written about a week ago at this time. - ISM]

I'm shufflin' thru the Texas sand,
but my head's in Mississippi.
I'm shufflin' thru the Texas sand,
but my head's in Mississippi.
The blues has got a hold of me.
I believe I'm gettin' dizzy.
{Help me now.}

Boy, it is not often that I am unable to sleep so I will try to tire myself out by responding to an email from a friend who works the graveyard shift. I apologize in advance if any of this sounds incoherent and (of course) I reserve the right to make revisions if needed when my mind is working sharper but here goes...



It is not often I get an email with this much variation to it.

In an e-mail message I sent you a while back, I had lauded Cardinals Ratzinger and Dulles as bright theologians.

And they are.

You had remarked that John Paul II is even brighter.

Yes. I read his encyclicals and other magisterial documents and wonder why I even bother writing anything period. But of course deflating the pseudo-trads and pseud-progs (the so-called "progressives") and their sad carictures of him of course make that to some degree necessary.

One of the brightest things John Paul II has done is tap Ratzinger to head up the CDF.

True. They complement one another in that the pope's specialties are philosophy, theology, and knowledge of the human person while Ratzinger is particularly well-read on issues pertaining to the "reformation". Breakthrough accords like the Catholic-Lutheran joint declaration would never have occurred without Ratzinger's astute insights. He saved that declaration from the scrapheap as even some of the non-Catholic theologians involved in the endeavour have attested to.

In addition to his brilliance, his life is a model of obedience. He had no desire to become a bishop and cardinal nor did he have any desire to be a curial prefect. If he had his druthers, he would spend his life writing scholarly books. But he accepted both the Archbishopric of Munich and CDF prefect out of a sense of duty. He is obedient, but he is not a yes man. He has no compunction about telling it like it is.


I think that's why John Paul picked him. He understood that he needed someone who didn't give damn about his "career" and who was going give him the straight skinny when it really counted.

I agree.

The interview he gave to German secular journalist Peter Seewald that became the book Salt of the Earth is Cardinal Ratzinger at his very best. He gave some answers that you wouldn't expect from someone so high up in the Church.

He did the same thing in The Ratzinger Report.

I believe that if John Paul II is the greatest pope of this century (a position I don't think I could refute even if I had wanted to) it is because is standing on the shoulders of the giants who were his predecessors, something I'm sure John Paul II himself would agree with.

This is true to some extent certainly.

If you read some of the things both John Paul II and Pius XII taught about issues like bioethics, sexuality, and even ecumenism, the parallels are striking, scholastic language of the latter notwithstanding.


As I have deciphered from some of your blog entries, you are something of a rock and blues buff.

Well, pre-MTV rock anyway but I find myself more and more of a blues, jazz, and classic country fan than of rock and roll. It is easier to make a list of what I do not like stylistically as it is a much shorter list.

You seem to have something of an affinity for Albert Collins.

Yes. He was one of those whose style I spent a fair amount of time practicing but cannot completely duplicate. The same is the case for Albert King who like Collins has a deceptively simple style that spawned a host of imitators trying to duplicate it with varying degrees of success. They are my two favourite electric bluesmen however there are other stellar lights such as Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, and Freddie King who are also worthy of both mentioning as well as listening to.

I've always wondered why he capoed up so high. I'm not all that familiar with his music.

He varied the capo from the third to the seventh fret most of the time. My guess is that since he used a minor tuning, the capo was to adjust the tuning to the song being played.

I'm not all that familiar with his music. In my opinion, Stevie Ray Vaughan was the greatest blues guitarist. He was certainly the most intense.

Depends on how one defines intense. We will have to agree to disagree on this one. There is no denying that Stevie was very good. However, if not for Albert King there would be no Stevie Ray. (Nor would there be much of a Jimi Hendrix.) I have never heard anyone who played the guitar with more authority than Albert King did - though Albert Collins came darn close quite often. The significant difference between the two was the material chosen.

Collins tended towards music with more of a sense of humour or which was easier to dance to. Not that King's stuff did not have the dancing quality of course - particularly when he had Booker T and the MG's or the MarKays as his backing band on the Stax albums. (Not to mention The Memphis Horns.) But his style was more Mississippi Delta blues based whereas Collins was more of a Texas style. They could both create so much tension with a sparse number of notes - and even at times a single note - that those who play dozens of them could never accomplish.

Stevie's best stuff in my opinion was when he was most noticeably borrowing heavily from Albert King - songs like Texas Flood and The Sky is Crying come immediately to mind here.

He combined the styles of other greats like Buddy Guy, Albert King, Al Collins, and Hugh Sumlin, packed it with muscle and created quite a sound.

He synthesized a lot of styles this is true. But all the greats combined the stylings of others before them. That applies as well to theology and philosophy as it does to music.

Plus, nobody did Jimi Hendrix covers like Stevie.

True but Clapton did a few really good covers of Hendrix tunes too - the Derek and the Dominoes version of Little Wing in spots is so beautiful that it almost brings tears to the eyes.

I like most all types of music, but folk and folk-rock is my favorite. I guess that's what happens when you are the second youngest of ten kids with older siblings who teenagers in the sixties.

I also play a little guitar. I'm actually more of a singer than a guitar player. When my voice is warmed up and I know the song, I can take off.

I am generally a better lead guitar player than singer in my opinion. But I have played my Gibson so sporadically in the past three years that I am not sure if that is the case anymore. (It does take a little practice to maintain one's proficiency after all.) Most of my noodlings these past few years have been on my acoustic guitar. Part of the reason is that my amp for the Gibson is not working right but at the same time it forced me to practice chords which with the electric I almost always avoided. (Instead focusing on lead phrasing.)

Due to breaking my hand about ten years ago, most of my focus for a long time was on string vibrato, bending/sliding/trilling and that sort of thing. Not that I am unable to let it rip but I have found that most players practice the virtuoso stuff first and then have to refine later on. Essentially I did it backwards in that regard. I also never play with a pick usually just my thumb and forefinger ala the two Alberts. (Though I do at times utilize my middle finger as well ala Jeff Beck, and Mark Knopfler.) Recently I have been working on fingerpicking a bit to play folk stuff with more than a thumbbrush approach. However, I still often instinctively go for the thumb brush and finger sweep for picking the notes individually rather than a fingerstyle pattern. (In short, a lot more practice is needed in this area.)

In a post you made regarding war and peace, you had said that lyrics say things that words couldn't.

That mere words cannot this is true.

This is something the Church has always understood. It has always had a special catechcatical meaning.


Having attended many a Byzantine liturgy, I think the East has better understood this than the West.

I have attended a few Byzantine liturgies myself and have to agree with this assessment.

When Augustine said "He who sings prays twice," he knew what he was talking about.

True. I think a lot of westerners who want the church to be a tomb of silence completely miss the boat. But at the same time, those who want continual singing or speaking need to be rebuked as well. Silence after all needs to have a role too as it allows for contemplation and thus can foster a more active participation by involving the entire person. Many parishes I have attended seem to be afraid of silence. (Or at the very least they look at silence as being awkward.) The Dominicans at Blessed Sacrament are very good at utilizing silence at pivotal points - a minor point maybe but it is one that I greatly appreciate.

As far as today's secular music is concerned, I think Country Western has, by and large, the most substance as far as lyrics go.

As far as contemporary music goes, I have to agree. But blues is hardly contemporary. And of course innuendo is a powerful device as is humour. Songs like Laundromat Blues and MasterCharge come to mind here but many others could be noted as well.

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It seems that my last "Points to Ponder" segment has to some extent achieved the purpose that I intend those excerpts to achieve: get people to utilize their musing capabilities. Among those esteemed St. Blog's members who commented on this over at SAM's site, were the following ones:

I don't think that it is Shawn's idea, it is one of the ideas Fr. Andrew M. Greeley advocates in his book. [Jeff Miller of Curt Jester]

How would you get around the fact that ordination, like baptism, is a indelible mark on the soul? [Maureen McHugh of Religion of Sanity]

Maureen, I don't think one would get around that fact. As I understand it, the indelible mark would remain but the life (including faculties) would last for 10 years.

The more I think about this idea, the less enamored I am of it. It makes some pretty significant inroads onto the idea of priest as alter Christus (alter Christus for 10 years?). Secondly, I think it's probably the Orthodox priesthood in by the back door. Nothing wrong with the Orthodox priesthood, but celibacy is, as Greeley says, a "strength and treasure of the West." I can't believe we wouldn't take just the point we were now discussing about indelible marks and come up with a "Semi-Retired Priest Corps" that goes on and on and on until it eventually takes over all parishes. [SecretAgentMan of The Dossier]

Allow your humble blog host to respond to all three points at this time.

I don't think that it is Shawn's idea, it is one of the ideas Fr. Andrew M. Greeley advocates in his book.

True it is not my idea in that I did not originate the concept. However, that does not mean that I or others cannot muse over the idea and refine it.

How would you get around the fact that ordination, like baptism, is a indelible mark on the soul?

There is no need to "get around" anything here. It is true that a priest is always a priest but he does not always have the faculties to exercise priestly ministry. (He can either be suspended or otherwise deprived of them by his diocesan bishop or other superiors.) And of course in the rare emergency situation, all priests are given faculties and all penalties - even excommunication - are temporarily suspended. But ordinarily the priest who had served for a certain time in the Greeley model (or variations of it) would not have faculties to celebrate the mass or sacraments.

Maureen, I don't think one would get around that fact. As I understand it, the indelible mark would remain but the life (including faculties) would last for 10 years.

Fr. Greeley suggested ten years but I would say fifteen to twenty would probably be better. I posted it as a "points to ponder" segment because it is worth thinking about.

The more I think about this idea, the less enamored I am of it. It makes some pretty significant inroads onto the idea of priest as alter Christus (alter Christus for 10 years?).

That was the way it used to be when lifespans were forty years of age or less. Figure that most priests would go through training either in their late teens or early twenties or would come to ministry after the death of a wife - possibly in their mid to early thirties or later. If the lifespan was, say forty five years, that would mean a span of ministry that would average ten to fifteen years - after say a five year period of study and advancement through the minor orders. (With the mendicant orders it would have been even longer time than this for study.)

So essentially yes, you end up with a ten to fifteen year "alter-Christus" most of the time in the eras of the shorter lifespans. So what is being proposed here does not differ from before except before it was ten to fifteen years on average of alter-Christus before being taken from service by death. Now it would be ten to twenty years of alter-Christus before being essentially "decommissioned" (in most cases) or being selected for an additional period either for higher orders or continued priestly ministry. There would be no disgrace in those who did not want to "renew" if you will - and of course those who did would be highly esteemed for doing so.

There are many possible applications but essentially this principle is one way of dealing with the fact that (i) there is a vocations shortage (ii) the traditional lustre of ecclesial ministry has more additional options opposing it today than the mundane peasant life of the past (iii) the longer lifespans coupled with more demanding pastoral work means a quicker burnout by the priests.

For those of us who see the problem of lay involvement in the church in areas where they should not be -and who would in accordance with tradition see those tasks as properly performed by the hierarchy- there is a need to deal with the unique situations of today.

Besides, as the priest functions as "another Christ" at mass and in the sacramental ministry, within the ministry of the domestic church, the father is supposed to be "another Christ" to his family. Thus, I do not see the problem here that Maureen does or you seem to. There is biological fatherhood and spiritual fatherhood. Both roles have an "alter-Christus" dimension to them albeit in a different way.

Further still, there would in my view be another valuable function for priests in the situation Fr. Greeley described other than being a priest in emergency situations after the period of service was up. And that is being trained as part time spiritual directors. Certainly after ten to twenty years of hearing confessions such men acquire a tremendous insight into the human condition. And there is a scarcity of spiritual directors probably because this is a specialized area of ministry. But with a corps establishment as Fr. Greeley suggested, there would be other functions perhaps that could be involved after the term of service was up. I just suggested one of them and perhaps others can think of more.

Secondly, I think it's probably the Orthodox priesthood in by the back door. Nothing wrong with the Orthodox priesthood, but celibacy is, as Greeley says, a "strength and treasure of the West." I can't believe we wouldn't take just the point we were now discussing about indelible marks and come up with a "Semi-Retired Priest Corps" that goes on and on and on until it eventually takes over all parishes.

SAM, first you say there is nothing wrong with the Orthodox priesthood and then you lament this idea as necessarily one that would "take over all parishes" and be "Orthodox priesthood through the back door." If there is nothing wrong with Orthodox priesthood then what you see as lamentable would not be a problem if it were to happen. (And I am not convinced that it would.)

Besides, since the priests even in Greeley's arrangement would be required to make vows of celibate chastity, they would be bound to them until dispensed. This is significantly different than the Orthodox priest who though he cannot marry after ordination can do so before ordination.

Further still, potential candidates for higher office in my proposed modification of the Greeley scheme would be those who served their terms with distinction. (And to which a permanent vow of celibacy would be required if they accepted higher orders as in the case of the Orthodox who select their bishops from amongst the celibate monks and not the regular presbytery.)

And of course there were three questions SAM posted in blog form which I will touch on now.

[H]ow do we keep these guys from becoming Mormon Missionaries, e.g. "uberCatholics" who are such prime candidates for marriage and future lay leadership roles that every Catholic male hungers to be one (and is that a bad thing?).

Please restate this question in an easier to answer format.

[W]hat will these priests' relationship with people be like in Years 9 & 10?

Depends I suppose on (i) the length of the term of the service and (ii) whether these were potential priests for either continued ministry as a priest or possibly higher ministry.

Another advantage is that this idea would give us a much larger pool of potential episcopal candidates. And I believe it would better prepare those who would opt out of service after the term to be husbands and fathers biologically. And of course as there would not need to be a *requirement* to opt out after the term, those who truly had the drive to be an alter-Christus for life would be better discernible.

Just as there are temporary vows in the various orders of monastics (and particularly in the mendicant orders), the same would be the case here. I would however not recommend that the average diocesan bishop have the authority to dispense from the corps but instead have an advisory role to another authority who would have this faculty granted to them. (Say a Metropolitan Archbishop or a Cardinal.)

Three, what Bishop in his right mind would agree to the creation of a corps of priests who are much less under his control (because susceptible to only temporary "informal" sanctions) than his lifelong fellows?

Well, one idea is a special oath of fidelity to the diocesan bishop for priests involved in this corps concept. (Along with the usual Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity which those who have an ecclesial vocation in the Church are required to take.)

Anyway, whatever one thinks about Fr. Greeley -and Lord knows I do not agree with him too often- that does not detract from the fact that this is a concept well worth pondering. Hopefully others will chime in on it in the coming weeks or more - even if only to tell me that I am nuts for even lending credence to the idea at all.


On Papal Primacy and Church History (Part II)
(Societas Christiana vs. Rerum Novarum)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE.

If one denies metaphysical realism, as some Medievals beginning in the 11th century began to do (with many more following them as the centuries progressed), and chooses to emphasize the other parts of the Western tradition over the "Pope as principatus" part, one is going to see in Church history far different things than the Roman Catholic sees.

Obviously if one denies there are universal concepts and claims that terms to explain them are mere words, names, terms, or vocal utterances and only particular individual things exist (nominalism) or if they admit of theoretical universals but deny any possible practical application of such (conceptualism), they will not view matters as a Catholic does - of this I have no disagreement with you whatsoever.

This shouldn't be a point that makes the Roman Catholic go, "Well, you're just a rebel playing games with history, because the essence of the history is obviously papalist."

Agreed. But at the same time one who wants to espouse a nominalist or conceptualist outlook should not be too critical of those who believe that (i) there is no contradiction between faith and reason properly understood and (ii) who admit of universals in reality as well as the abstract.

For without the existence in reality of universals, there is no way to meaningfully solve any problems that exist since either (i) one can deny that the solution applies by undermining the very concept of objective truth by denying the meanings applied to the concepts used (ala nominalism). Or, (ii) one can simply deny that there are universals in reality though recognizing that there are in the abstract (ala conceptualism). This is another way of achieving what nominalism achieves by a defacto subjectifying of everything. And as a result, it is another route towards intellectual anarchy.

[B]ut this happens, I believe, because of the perfectionistic demands that things like Vatican I have placed upon the Roman Catholic apologetic.

What "perfectionistic demands" are you referring to??? I happen to be rather critical of a fair amount of what passes for "Catholic apologetic" because often it is not precise enough.{1} And this has little to do with Vatican I except in the frequent misunderstandings of papal infallibility which circulate amongst Catholics. (And I have yet to run across a Protestant who properly understands it; due I am sure to the way most Catholics misunderstand it.)

You have brought up the notion of "Roman perfectionism" many times over the years. I chuckle every time you do by my own admission :)

As a loyal Papal Catholic, Shawn, you're simply not epistemically allowed to think that Church history might reveal something different than Absolute Papalism as the Christ-mandated form of ecclesiastical government.

But I already do. And as I do not deny a single dogma or doctrine of the Catholic Faith - nor am I in schism from either the pope or my local ordinary - I am in full communion with the Catholic Church. So your presumption of what Catholics can and cannot believe on this matter does not withstand the scrutiny of real life example. However, it is important that I am not misunderstood here.

What I assert above does not mean that I do not see the primacy of the pope as a doctrine taught by antiquity both expressely as well as tacitly. Nor does what I assert above mean that I do not accept the teachings of doctrine promulgated by the Catholic Church on the matter. These two are separate matters from what I am asserting - and not incongruent with it however it may appear at first glance.

This doesn't make you dishonest (as many Protestant apologists wrongly charge); it just makes you a theological rationalist.

I would say that a lot of my view is theologically rationalistic.

And again, one kind of rationalism is easily countered either by another kind of rationalism or a simple denial of the legitimacy of thinking rationalistically about the Christian Faith. And again, I take the latter option.

A denial of the role of reason in understanding the Christian Faith - am I understanding you correctly here???

My objection is to the intrinsic rationalism of the concept, which from the outset, before any inquiry is done at all, simply propounds definitions and then, as with all rationalistic schemes from Plato to Newman, makes the data of the world fit the definitions.

And of course there is *no* possibility that what was propounded simply happens to most coherently correspond with the available data right???

It's a very tidy way of thinking, and one which can produce very impressive-looking historical reconstructions and lots of pretty polemic fireworks against other positions. But deny the rationalism that makes the thing go, and it really doesn't have much to say at all.

Of course I am sure you will agree that a denial without providing a reasonable counter-proposal should not carry any weight with people. (It certainly does not with me.)

This is proved by the fact that the consensus response I've received from a number of Roman Catholics to this basic line of criticism is the totally gratuitous incantation "You just have to have faith in the Objective Revelation, which is Papalism."

I cannot speak for the statements of others Tim, only for myself. And the truth -however askew the cogitations of others may be on this thread- is essentially that yes, there *is* an element of faith involved of course. This is particularly since the position has been dogmatically defined as being de fide. While strictly speaking a teaching that is de fide cannot be completely comprehended by the light of natural reason, at the same time the latter is not in opposition to the lights of the natural sciences when properly utilized according to Catholic teaching.{2}

So, in other words, it's not really history that matters, but a certain way of construing history, and if one doesn't contrue history that way one lacks "faith" and unfortunately skews the "objective" meaning of Divine Revelation.

The problem with the above outlook Tim is that it seems to presume that Catholics believe what they do by some kind of philosophical or historical inquiry. Whatever value the latter two have -and they certainly have value- they are not the *determiners* of what we believe.

That sort of circular logic may convince people who are already Roman Catholics, but it isn't likely to do much for those of us who aren't and who simply deny that entire mode of thinking.

Anyone can simply deny something Tim. (The atheists do it with any notion of Infinite Intelligence proposed by a theist.) My position with them is the same as what I espouse with you viz the notion of placing a value on simple denial: I do not do so. Indeed, I tend to reserve my disdain for those who act in this manner because criticism and deconstruction without offering viable alternatives or synthesis contributes nothing whatsoever to the arena of ideas.

It is also true that theologians must always have recourse to the sources of divine revelation; for it is their duty to indicate how what is taught by the living magisterium is found, either explicitly or implicitly, in Sacred Scripture and in divine "tradition".

I have had recourse to Humani Generis more than most Catholics for both sustaining theses of my own as well as refuting others who do not properly understand the manifested intention of that encyclical letter.{3}

And yes, it is the role of theologians to explain to the laity who as a general rule are not well informed on the manner whereby the magisterium draws on Scripture and on Tradition and exactly how the supernatural sciences cohere with the natural sciences. (For we hold that there can be no contradiction between them but that does not mean that every individual can properly recognize this.)

On the next page (p. 641), Pius XII interprets this to be the intent of Pius IX as well, when he states, "Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX taught that the most noble function of theology is to show how a doctrine defined by the Church is contained in the sources . . ."--all emphasis mine

And this is problematical exactly how??? *Obviously* if the magisterium claims to be defining a doctrine contained either explicitly or implicitly in either Scripture or Tradition (or both) that there would require to satisfy things in the natural order a demonstration of how this was done. Some truths are more primary and of an easier verification in these venues; however ones which are more ancillary and which to some extent build on more fundamental tenants may not to the casual observer be so easy to understand.

Again, you will simply have to excuse a great many conscientious, Christ's truth-loving non-RC Christians for thinking this is just a totally wrong-headed way of doing history.

Of course since history was not among the sources being referred to, I am a bit confused as to what you are inferring here. To quote from my favourite academic orientalist Fr. Robert Taft SJ:

"The work of the historian is to remove obstacles to understanding produced by a misreading of the past. Historical scholarship cannot tell the church what it must do. It can only help the church to see what it could do if those in the pastoral ministry deemed it feasible."

Does this mean that history provides us models for imitation? Not necessarily; for the church is never guided by a retrospective ideology. The past is always instructive but never normative. What its study, like all study, should provide is an understanding of Tradition, that essential continuity that can legitimately be labeled "Tradition" with a capital "T," riding above the ebb and flow of the shifting tides of "traditions" with a small "t," Tradition is not history, nor is it the past.

Tradition is the church's self-consciousness now of that which has been handed on to it not as an inert treasure, but as a dynamic principle of life. It is the church's contemporary reality understood genetically, in continuity with what produced it.

Hence while history has a role in this process, it is not in and of itself part of what we mean when we refer to Tradition. But that is all I have time to go over at this time. Hopefully this clarifies matters a bit.


{1} Due oftentimes to certain people passing off as Church teaching their own overly simplistic misunderstandings of Church doctrine.

{2} Since human beings are totally dependent on God as their creator and lord, and created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are obliged to yield to God the revealer full submission of intellect and will by faith.

[T]his faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church professes to be a supernatural virtue, by means of which, with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us, we believe to be true what He has revealed, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Faith, declares the Apostle, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. {Heb 11, 1.}

Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God's will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.

Hence Moses and the prophets, and especially Christ our lord himself, worked many absolutely clear miracles and delivered prophecies; while of the apostles we read: And they went forth and preached every, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it {Mk 16, 20.}. Again it is written: We have the prophetic word made more sure; you will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place {2 Pt 1, 19.}.

Now, although the assent of faith is by no means a blind movement of the mind, yet no one can accept the gospel preaching in the way that is necessary for achieving salvation without the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit, who gives to all facility in accepting and believing the truth. {Council of Orange II (529), canon 7 (Bruns 2, 178; Msi 8, 713).}...[Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius §3 (c. 1870)]

{3} A recent example of which can be read HERE.

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On Papal Primacy and Church History (Part I)
(Societas Christiana vs. Rerum Novarum)

The previous comments of this weblog can be read HERE. Tim's previous comments -from which this response will be addressed- can be read HERE and HERE. In this response, Tim's words will be in black font.

My objection is that the Roman Catholic "Pope as principatus" story about the stages that the live organism of the Church went through is a rather one-sided story, based on and progressing solely by means of emphasizing only one part of the multi-faceted Western tradition about authority matters in the Church. Note every word in that last clause...

I have. My interest is in highlighting the common thread - the one that can be shown to have existed in some form or another from as early as we have records: the role of guardian of the common unity. Or to quote from a rather rare (and in many ways refreshing) Orthodox source on the subject:

Rome's vocation consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition -- that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine -- and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome...

And it is in this function alone which can be shown to have been in effect from as early as we have records. I touch on this in my essay on Christian unity - the section from which titled The Development of the Papal Primacy was made into a short essay of its own. But I do not have time to go into the intricacies of the matter presently.

[W]e don't even have to speak about the East's tradition of "Petrine primacy", for in the West alone there was not merely one tradition, but multiple traditions.

I assume you are referring to conciliarism here. I would argue (and have) that it was the outgrowth of two key elements of the late first and early second millennium (i) the arguments about the limits of Church and civil power and (ii) the centralization of the papacy in the early Scholastic and subsequent Avignon period. This process resulted in a few polemical tracts being written to oppose the pope which resulted in essentially revisiting many previously proscribed errors - including the exaltation of the civil authority over the church and making the latter inferior to the former.

Or if you prefer, multiple strands of the same tradition, which strands worked out their contrary principles at various times in history in concert with the attempt to build and maintain a coherent, vibrant, world-conquering societas Christiana.

The same argument could be made for the Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians, or the Monophysites though. (To name a few of those who could be mentioned.)

The key to my objection here is the basic point I have developed at some length in response to SecretAgentMan regarding the philosophically Realistic way that Roman Catholics approach Church history.

If you are claiming that Catholics as a rule approach Church history in a particular manner, this is true. (I will readily admit to it here and now and without hesitation.) However, no one's philosophical or theological views are formed in a vacuum. And as history tends to be unavoidably approached from various presuppositional paradigms, the same situation you find fault with a Catholic doing is likewise present in how the Orthodox/Reformed Protestant/Jew/Muslim/atheist, etc all view history. So there is nothing earthshaking about a Catholic doing this as even you as a Reformed Protestant do this.

For indeed just as a Catholic would as a rule{1} be predisposed to some extent to give the papacy the benefit of the doubt when it comes to subjects which admit of many possible interpretations -as this is what traditional spiritual instruction on charity in our faith encompasses- the same is not the case for the Orthodox and the Protestant as a rule.

Indeed as a rule{2} the Orthodox and the Protestant are not so predisposed. In fact, they are generally predisposed to give the worst possible interpretation they can to anything that can admit of a multiplicity of interpretations - and to which a more positive interpretation might place the Catholic religion in a better light to the detriment of their own outlooks. The very fact that you would look favourably (at least for the most part) on what English history calls the "Reformation" and I would not do this is a clear example of how we are programmed to some extent by our religious outlooks to view a particular event of history.

That is but one event - albeit one of no small significance- and if we extend out over a period of say a hundred years, we could probably pinpoint enough events to spend the next five years on without ever leaving that single century of discussion. And in light of how we have two millennia of Church history to span{3} obviously there are a host of subjects to which we would approach from a different perspective. To try to opine that there is only a particular way of viewing Church history that is used by us Catholics is a rather one-sided view in and of itself.

I think Roman Catholics treat the doctrine of the Papacy as if it's an extra-mental, extra-historical Universal that controls the expression of the actual course of history. Thus, the entire Roman Catholic concept of "development" proceeds upon the gratuitous notion that Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholicism only has correctly identified the Universal that is called "The Papacy" and "objectively" explained its outworkings in the spacetime world.

I am unaware of any Catholics (except some of the "barely Catholic radtrads") who would take this view. I certainly do not.

The entire RC understanding of "development" is, thus, a massive, rationalistically-begged question which can easily be challenged by (1) proposing another, contradictory rationalistic scheme of explaining the Universal, or (2) by simply denying that "the Papacy" is an extra-mental, extra-historical Universal in the first place.

Interesting. Of course with a slight retweaking we get the following:

I think that Reformed Protestants treat the event of the Reformation and the subsequent doctrines as propounded in Calvin's Institutes as if they are somehow of a central necessity to Christian profession. (The "Reformation" as if it was a God-guided movement and the Institutes as if they were from God Himself.{4})

Essentially these are treated as extra-mental and extra-historical{5} necessities that control the expression of the Gospel. Thus, the entire Reformed Protestant concept of "the Gospel" proceeds upon the gratuitous notion that Reformed Protestantism and Reformed Protestantism only has correctly identified the "true Gospel" and "objectively" explained its outworkings.

Or, if we treat on the subject of the papacy for a moment:

I think Reformed Protestants and Protestants in general treat the doctrine of the Papacy as if it's necessarily an extra-biblical and extra-ecclesial non-essential that is "objectively" wrong in not only its various actions but also in its very conception as an element integral to church unity. Thus, the entire Protestant concept of "biblical" proceeds upon the gratuitous notion that Protestantism and Protestantism only has correctly identified the Universal that is called "the Gospel" and "objectively" explained it in all of its parameters.

And my examples above are no less valid than yours if the assumption is being made by you that *only* Catholics have a certain way of viewing Church history. Or to quote myself from the essay Christian Unity and the Role of Authority:

Environment, culture and other factors shape us all and mould our thinking in different ways. Because of the necessity of unity as an identifiable trait of truth, religious convictions in a large part depend on the social influences that shape us from the time we are born and throughout our lifetimes. It is foolish to claim that we are in any way free from these and other influences impacting our paradigms of thought...

And the same principle can be recognized in how you read medieval history my friend. While it is true that you take a position now that is diametrically different than a lot of those who are identified by that wonderfully revealing-yet-concealing broad expression of "Protestant", at the same time, one could argue that you are de facto interpreting any and all evidences that could be viewed as a support for the Catholic concept of primacy in ways to either detract from or downplay this view.

I am not saying you are doing this consciously of course as history in general is a complex endeavour to study. (And Church history is no different.) But at the very least you should recognize that the charge if applicable in one case (i.e. the Catholic one) likewise applies in the case of the non-Catholic as well.

[I]f one is not already predisposed to a Realistic conception of reality (whether Platonic, Neoplatonic or Aristotelian is immaterial at this point in the argument) through which one is filtering ideas such as "apostolic succession" and "Petrine primacy", one isn't going to read somebody like Pseudo-Dionysius coining the word "hierarchy" (hierus + archus) and explaining how all power and authority in the world flows downward through a gradation of lesser powers from the Absolute One, who alone guarantees their legitimacy, and go, "Ooh, I bet this is the Apostolic Doctrine about the Papacy!"

And if one is predisposed to a particular form of nominalism, they essentially model a given concept on its external object and (as a result) consequently deny the existence of universal concepts and the notion that the intellect has the power of engendering them. (Essentially collective terms such as "animal, "tree", "house", "city", "nation", and even "hierarchy" have no objective real existence corresponding to them. Instead, they are mere words, names, terms, or vocal utterances and only particular individual things exist.)

Or, if one is predisposed to a particular form of conceptualism, they essentially admit the existence of universal concepts but professes a form of agnosticism as to whether said universals actually exist in reality to the extent that they can be framed in the abstract. (Essentially the concepts have value but whether that value transfers from the realm of the abstract into the realm of reality is either denied or simply held as unknown.)

It would seem clear to me that nominalism and conceptualism are the other "strands" you are referring to.{6} And as they have no solid foundation that I am aware of prior to the tenth century, I do not believe it can be held against those who refuse to admit them as having an equal weight as the various forms of realism which either predate them or were developed from core realist outlooks in response to them. Whatever abstract value they may have, they are hardly able to be applied in practice without disastrous results.{7}

To be Continued...


{1} The failure of the so-called "traditionalists" to apply this with consistency is one of the soundest proofs that they are frauds and not authentically Catholic. The same is the case for the so-called "progressivists" who have their own agenda which differs in the end but utilizes the same means as the "trads."

{2} There are of course exceptions to this rule.

{3} Not including the preChristian Jewish faith which also makes up Church history and extends all the way back to at least Abraham. (If not to Noah or Adam.)

{4} "[We] pronounce and declare the said book of the Institutes to be well and saintly made, and its teaching to be the holy doctrine of God... and that, now and in the future, no one may dare speak against the said book, nor against the said doctrine." [Council of Geneva: November, 1552]

{5} Essentially virtually everything between the death of St. John and the sixteenth century except for selected parts of St. Augustine is not a factor in the arguments set forth in that compendium. Calvin even goes so far as to ridicule the Fathers when they do not agree with him in many spots. Hence the "extra-historical" tag being applied here.

{6} This is based on your reference to a Realistic conception of reality (whether Platonic, Neoplatonic or Aristotelian is immaterial at this point in the argument). As nominalism is the opposite of realism -and conceptualism is a functionally impotent version of a via media between realism and nominalism- by deductive reasoning you must be referring to one of these two principles of interpretation.

{7} The sages, it is often said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble with our sages is not that they cannot see the answer; it is that they cannot even see the riddle. They are like children so stupid as to notice nothing paradoxical in the playful assertion that a door is not a door. The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause.

Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.

That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’

There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own: and already Mr. H. G. Wells has raised its ruinous banner; he has written a delicate piece of scepticism called ‘Doubts of the Instrument.’ In this he questions the brain itself, and endeavours to remove all reality from all his own assertions, past, present, and to come. But it was against this remote ruin that all the military systems in religion were originally ranked and ruled.

The creeds and the crusades, the hierarchies and the horrible persecutions were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason. They were organized for the difficult defence of reason. Man, by a blind instinct, knew that if once things were wildly questioned, reason could be questioned first. The authority of priests to absolve, the authority of popes to define, the authority even of inquisitors to terrify: these were all only dark defences erected round one central authority, more undemonstrable, more supernatural than all -- the authority of a man to think. We know now that this is so; we have no excuse for not knowing it.

For we can hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne. In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved.And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it. [G K Chesterton: Orthodoxy Ch. 3 excerpts (c. 1908) as quoted in I. Shawn McElhinney's Christian Unity and the Role of Authority Part I (c. 2001)]

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Monday, September 29, 2003

Monarchists, Masons, and 'Trads' (oh my!!!)

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

"Ecumenical Jihad" Dept.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, President of Toward Tradition and among the allies of Rerum Novarum in the Ecumenical Jihad has weighed in with a balanced and cogent response to those who have been savaging Mel Gibson's movie The Passion. Here is just a taste:

As an Orthodox rabbi with a wary eye on Jewish history which has an ominous habit of repeating itself, I fear that these protests, well intentioned though some may be, are a mistake. I believe those who publicly protest Mel Gibson's film lack moral legitimacy. What is more, I believe their actions are not only wrong but even recklessly ill-advised and shockingly imprudent. I address myself to all my fellow Jews when I say that your interests are not being served by many of those organizations and self appointed defenders who claim to be acting on your behalf...LINK

For our part, We at Rerum Novarum have already weighed in on this subject in different formats though not on this weblog. (At least not yet.) Perhaps in the coming days that will change but as it stands now, Rabbi Lapin's commentary will suffice to give a macro view of how this weblog writer feels on this matter; ergo it has been posted here for your consideration.

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John Pacheco Campaign Update

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Carol McKinley dons the warpaint

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