Friday, December 26, 2003

"Feliz Navidad" Dept.  -A Puerto Vallarta Special Report:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

For part one of the Puerto Vallarta report, please click HERE.

I did not intend to blog again until my return to Estados Unidos but as I have thirty minutes to kill waiting for my laundry to wash, with an internet cafe next door to the laundromat I figured...why not??? I certainly should be able to handle this keyboard easier than last time where adjusting to some of the variations from the Norte Americana keyboards is required. But enough on that and on with the updating.

As far as the "pride goeth before a fall" reference from earlier, well on the night of the twenty-fourth it applied to me in spades. For the first time in about fourteen years, I actually was unable to hold my liquor down. The time after it happened last, I instituted certain "drinking prepatory" rules which I have zealously followed since. (Which has enabled me to hold my own with those of higher tolerance levels by compensating for stature disadvantages which -after I got significantly larger due to training- were even more to my advantage if you will.) However, on the night of the twenty-fourth for some reason (maybe the heat down here) I broke every single one of them inadvertently and paid dearly for it.

First of all, I did not fill my belly with food in the hours before going out. {1} Secondly, I generally drink between 10 and 12 cups of water a day anyway and when I plan to go out for drinking, I add 4 cups or more to the preparation if you will. Well, on the twenty-fourth, I had at the most about four cups of water that day. Virtually no water and no food -and consuming alcohol throughout the day including four beers before catching the bus for old town- and then we drank a lot in old town too. Let us just say that after all these years, the streak is broken now and I have been significantly humbled. The clothes I wore that night are being laundered and I sit here updating you all on this because it would not be right to only speak of the triumphs without the tragedies. And that my friends was quite the setback.

The affects of the night of drinking carried over into my day and I absolutely stunk it up on the beach volleyball games. However, I did get some food in as well as a lot of water and a lot of walking and tanning too so that compensated for it a bit. Today, I tanned in old town, visited a tequila making plant -and was educated in the ways of tequila beyond my previously meager knowledge of the situation.{2} The workout in the gym today was excellent -indeed some of the old time intensity was there and I moved some decent weight in strict form today training upper arms with one set of French presses for the triceps and one set of Nautilus curls for the biceps.{3} Again I found myself shocked at the way so many people waste valuable time training inefficiently but my friends, I have no room to boast since I had my own falls on the night of the twenty-fourth -literally.

Tomorrow I plan to tour old town a bit, tan some more, and of course drink. (Pete Vere would probably disown knowing me if I did not do the latter.) And if I do not blog again until my return, may everyone have a wonderful second day of Christmas if they are western. (My eastern brethren may your Christmas when it arrives be a blessed one as well.)

Feliz Navidad!!!


{1} I had one small plate of nachos and a handful of potato chips all day -the former being eaten about 5pm. Without food to absorb the alcohol, one cannot drink as they can when they have eaten decently before going out.

{2} And yes, there was a lot of sampling done as well as many margaritas during the all you can eat lunch that accompanied it. All of my eating down here has been authentic Mexican food. As one who was quite the Taco Bell aficianado for years -as well as other Mexican food made American style-I will never look at tacos the same way again.

{3} Since the arms are indirectly worked with chest and back (which were worked two days ago), they did not need much to finish them off.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"Feliz Navidad" Dept.  -A Puerto Vallarta Special Report:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Yes my friends, this is actually me at an Internet cafe checking my mail and deciding to post a brief note to you all..{1} I also had to fix that nagging glitch of the Ottaviani post from the other day. But first of all, it must be noted that my body is not used to this kind of warmth in December. Considering how cold it was when we left Sea-Tac Tuesday morning -approximately six hours after my last blog post- the turn around in temperature took a bit of adjusting to. But as I am sure no one reading this feels the slightest bit sorry for me in that endeavour, that is all I will say on this matter.

After over 40 hours straight of no sleep -or at least no solid hour of it as I could not sleep on the plane- I finally after a few bars and numerous drinks had to walk about 2-3 miles of beaches and the district at night with a water bottle and a Churchill in hand. Even then though, my feet were aching but I was wide awake. So I decided to drink a few more beers and soak in the hot tub for a while. That helped the feet but I was still not tired.

I decided at that point to go back to the room and watch some TV. It took about two hours of TV before I was able to sleep at least a little bit. Odd since my food intake the previous two days was so light for the most part.{2} They had "Stir Crazy" on in English with Spanish subtitles so I brushed up on my broken Spanish a bit in that respect. I would not hesitate to use it if not for the fact that most of the dialogue -if not almost all of it- is not the kind of stuff that will work well down here without the federales suspecting me of being a criminal. But I digress...

If you can indulge me a "Grandmaster of the Obvious" moment here: this place is lovely. In virtually every possible parameter. Gotta love a place where many of the bars are open until 0600 and then open again very early. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, a clarification is needed at this point as it has been many moons since I drank as I have been doing proportionately speaking (at least thus far). One would have to go back to the six-eight weeks after my father's passing in June of 2001 to find such a period.{3} Prior to that, one would have to go back to the mid 1990's at least probably 1996 at the latest.

The difference of course in this time vs. 2001 is that this is not drinking to numb the senses but instead drinking for festivity and because...well...why not??? Peace Incarnate will be born tonight at midnight and we will be attending mass at a cathedral in town that I have been told is beautiful. As far as drinking goes, my sister -who tends to drink a lot more than I do generally speaking{4} issued the challenge the first night to go out to the bars with the slogan "I want to party until the paper hits the front porch." I immediately thought of the proverb "pride goeth before a fall" and surely enough, she was too tired to even go out after dinner and some minor drinking. None of us had slept in over a day so in that respect it is understandable. However, if she is going to boast then she had better "bring it" if you know what I am saying.

I will not say anything about it except that I approach drinking analytically to some extent so if there is any disadvantages physiologically viz. tolerance I more than compensate for it in various "tricks" I devised over the years. Not that I need them of course but they are nice to have. And some degree of pacing is soooo vital in such enterprises. But I digress.

Friday we will be going to one of the few tours we have decided to go on: a "tequila making expedition." Whether or not that one can be written off as "research and development" expenditure I am not sure ;-) I also came up with another idea for a much-needed practical item for the traveller to foreign countries.

Earlier today, I went into the gym and did an whole upper body workout for the first time in probably twenty years{5} the only difference being that it was a total of five sets. I could never have trained my upper body with the full workouts that I give individual muscles when I train{6} but five total sets and twenty minutes later, the muscles were blistered and I was out of there while most people still training when I showed up were still training after I left. I almost muttered "amateurs" under my breath but surely if God can have compassion on my areas of ignorance then I must act likewise with them -particularly on the eve of Feliz Navidad.

As I am not sure how much time is left on the time I bought, I had better post this now. I may update the blog again on this trip but do not bet the farm on it. After all, the beach and the bars call me. (And I have not played beach volleyball yet either.)

Feliz Navidad!!!

For the second installment of this thread, please go HERE.


{1} It also affords an opportunity to get out of the blazing sun after lots of tanning time. One who has seen my complexion the past seven years would never guess that I tan easily. My sister has certainly forgotten and she challenged me to a "tan-off." I am not sure I can actually win-since she began the race 100 laps ahead of me. However, this is the "Mexicali 500" and my goal today was only to reduce the gap by 25-30%.

Tomorrow I will aim to do so again with another 20-30% and then on Thursday aim to be in contention if you will. If she does win this one (and she is the heavy favourite to) I will at least go down in a blaze of glory if you will. But I never aim to place or show in anything so...we shall see :)

{2} This is not the time to talk about the "Metabolic Momentum" physiology thesis so I will spare you the details on that one at this time. (Maybe another time perhaps if I feel like talking about it.)

{3} Barring the stray evening or so of course. (I am referring to sustained drinking.)

{4} Her job as a bartender nothwithstanding.

{5} I learned early on that this was generally an ill-advised thing to do yet we see personal trainers who recommend this sort of thing -or even whole body workouts- quite often. See the dictum of Arthur Jones in the margin to ascertain my view of such "experts."

{6} As I noted earlier (see "Turn Back the Clock" Dept.) I have in recent months been training again after over seven years of virtually no training.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Aggiornamento of Rerum Novarum:
(Via Ressourcement of Course)

In this update the following links were added to the side margin by respective categories.


The 12/22-28 archive link was added.

My Writings and Reviews:

On the Intricacies of Dialogue - A Commentary

General Political/Social Subjects:

The Teen Smoking/Teen Sex Double Standard

Saddam Hussein and a Political "See I Told You So"

Political Election Issues:

Briefly on President Bush's "Thanksgiving in Iraq" Trip

A Dialogue On Hillary and Politics in General

Some Analysis on the Al Gore Endorsement and the Democratic Party Situation

More on Hillary's Political Future in 2004 and Beyond

Commentary on the Democratic Candidates' Political Stock (In Light of Hussein's Capture)

On the Recent War and War in General:

A Public Service Announcement (For the Soldiers in Iraq)

General Theological Subjects:

An Outline of Various Church Models Throughout History (Parts I-V)

On Church Authority:

On Principles of Interpretation

Piercing the Catholic Veil

On 'Traditionalism' (Falsely So-Called):

Briefly on Michael Davies

Dialogue On Liturgy

On 'Traditionalism' (Properly So-Called):

A Case Study in the Traditional Catholic Maxim of "Unity-in-Diversity" (Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ vs. Rerum Novarum)

Dialogue on Liturgy and "Restoration" (El Camino Real vs. Rerum Novarum)

On Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and Fidelity On Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani and Fidelity

The title on that one accidentally repeats itself but I do not have time to fix it in the next week. (So please bear with that minor irritant in that interim.)

Briefly to Jeff Culbreath

On Communion in the Hand and Church History

On 'Progressivism' (Falsely So-Called):

The 'Insensitivity' of Fisking Idiotarians

On Controverted Subjects:

On Polarizing Views

A Dialogue on 'Balance'

On "Traditionalism", "Antisemitism", and Mel Gibson: (A Response to the Constant Criticisms of Bill Cork)

Miscellaneous Musings (On Church Architecture)

"Ecumenical Jihad" Dept.

An Argumentation Fallacy

More on the Death Penalty (Dialogue With Greg Mockeridge)

On Ecclesiology and Church History With Tim Enloe (Parts I-II)

The last link I intended to add and was unable to was the following one:

On the Liturgical Movement (A Society of St. John Mini-Series; Prologue by I. Shawn McElhinney)

It was to be added to the Other Approved* Sites or Links of Interest category and will be when I return.

Normally I do the solemn language here for those who like medieval pomp but I do not have time to do so right now. So simply consider these to be promulgated in the same sense as the last update's links were.

With God's will and your readership, I will blog again though if it is a longshot that this will happen in 2003. So until nexttime, may all of my readers have a happy, holy, and safe Christmas season as well as a blessed new year.
Briefly on Colonel Muammar Khadafi's Situation:

With the capture of Saddam Hussein, the last thing the Democrats needed was the kind of agreement reached between the US/Britain and Colonel Muammar Khaddafi. Alan King once said that "compared to Khadafi the Ayatollah Khomeini is a choirboy." So this agreement being reached with Khadafi and the US/Britain alliance is significant.

Some commentators are claiming that this is because "after long reflection, Khadafi wants Lybia to rejoin the international community." Let us be honest folks: the one thing that brought Khadafi to the table was not some irenic desire to "rejoin the world community" or platitudes of that sort. It was how the US made short work of Al Queda's stronghold in Afghanistan and Iraq's pretense as a military power in the Middle East and Colonel Khadafi did not want Lybia (with its stockpile of WMD's) to be a potential future target.

As I once noted on this weblog, a quote from former President Ronald Reagan on peace through strength which directly applies to this situation, I will post it anew here:

The purpose of our military is simple and straightforward: We want to prevent war by deterring others from the aggression that caused war. If our efforts are successful we will have peace and never be forced into battle. There will never be the need to fire a single shot. That is the paradox of deterrence". [Radio Address to the Nation; Armed Forces Day May 21, 1983]

Obviously deterrence did not work with Al Queda or Hussein. But wait and see how many more rogue nations like Lybia do not look at a determined America to engage the terrorists militarily and go "hmmmmm, maybe we should do what Lybia did." And that my friends is why a country that values a strong military and has the fortitude to use it when needed will always achieve much more of their objectives than a country without the will to use their military might.

The bottom line is this: when you have the force and the will to use it, it is amazing how other nations even if they do not like you will at the very least respect you.

More on the Papacy and Ideas:
(Societas Christiana vs. Rerum Novarum)

[Note: This piece was written back in early November. Therefore, it is recommended that this post be read in light of one blogged since that time which touches for the most part on the same subject matter. - ISM]

In responding to my previous thread on this subject, Tim covers a fair amount of ground in his response to me. I do not have the time to go over everything he said at this point -particularly about Platonist views of which I previously discussed in reasonable detail in this earlier post.{1}

For the aforementioned reason, I will at this time bypass the parts of the post on Platonist philosophy and focus only on what Tim noted about references to Brian Tierney and to some degree touch on the subject of the methodology of historical study in general. Tim's words will be in purple font.

Shawn complains that I call the historian Brian Tierney a “Catholic”, for in Shawn’s estimation Tierney has no right to the term “Catholic” at all because “ I however highly doubt that Brian Tierney could honestly make any of the Church's Professions of Faith.”

If Tim is attempting to claim that Brian Tierney is Catholic in the same sense that I am Catholic, then yes, I take issue with this. Hopefully I can briefly set out my reasons here for his consideration as well as the consideration of other readers of this humble weblog.

Here again we see the problems that BPism causes in terms of providing epistemologically-humble responses to criticisms.

For those not aware, BP is Tim's shorthand for "biblical Platonism." I note this so that his abbreviation is not confusing to those who have not read his response to me before reading this response to him.

For BPs like Shawn the term “Catholic” is a simple synonym for “the Church’s Professions of Faith”, and so much the worse for the historical witness.

Allow me to clarify this briefly. To me, "Catholic" as denoted in capital C denotes those who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. And those who are "Catholic" as they profess the same faith must be able to make a timely profession of it. The currently prescribed form for this -as all forms since 1870 have contained either expressly (as in the post-Vatican I Professio) or tacitly (Pope Paul VI's 1967 Professio){2} require acceptance of the dogma of papal infallibility. Thus, any Catholic is required to profess this dogma or else they have no business claiming the moniker whatsoever.

Therefore, if Tim by referring to Brian Tierney as a "Catholic historian" means to say that he is a "Roman Catholic historian",{3} then my concern here is not unjustified. Again, I do not refer to people like this as "Reformed theologians", or as authentic voices of the Reformed tradition. Therefore, I simply request the same treatment on Tim's part for those who could not in good conscience make a Roman Catholic profession of faith to please do not refer to them as "Catholics" if by saying this he means in communion with the pope.

To be a faithful Catholic, one must accept the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church. There is no way around this and those who cannot or do not -as I strongly suspect Tierney cannot on the dogma of papal infallibility- have no business being classified as Catholic. It is that simple really.

At the end of the day it simply does not matter to a BP whether or not “the Church’s Professions of Faith” can actually be confirmed by history...

Tim seems to misunderstand the very notion of what "faith" is. As Newman in his discourse Faith and Private Judgment defines the term as well or better than I could, I will reference him now on this point:

[I]n the first place, what is faith? It is assenting to a doctrine as true, which we do not see, which we cannot prove, because God says it is true, who cannot lie. And further than this, since God says it is true, not with His own voice, but by the voice of His messengers, it is assenting to what man says, not simply viewed as a man, but to what he is commissioned to declare, as a messenger, prophet, or ambassador from God. [Faith and Private Judgment: From Discourses to Mixed Congregations (c. 1849)]

The Scriptures define faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews xi,1). This is the sense that I refer to when I refer to Tierney making a Profession of Faith as required by the Church of which Tim would claim he is a member.{4} Now whether or not he can do this is of course something that neither Tim nor I can answer definitively. However, based on what I have read of his work (which admittedly is not expansive), I have serious doubts that Tierney can do so anymore than the characters I refer to above who anathematize the Reformed divines can claim to be truly "Reformed" according to the criteria established by your divines for this.

We all have our pre-qualifications here and to my knowledge, every Reformed individual must be able to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith and must accept John Calvin as an orthodox Christian. Unless Tim would extend his classification of who is and is not "Reformed" to include those who would either (i) not accept the WCF as binding or (ii) who would affirm the proposition that John Calvin is unregenerate, he should recognize that I am merely taking the same principles here and applying them to who is and is not properly recognized as a faithful Catholic (i.e. one in communion with the Roman Church).

Brian Tierney in his work gives ample evidence to call into question whether or not he accepts papal infallibility as a dogma of faith. If he does not accept it, then those who refer to him as a "Catholic historian" -if by Catholic that term in the sense that I use that term (i.e. "Roman Catholic")- should not do so. I respect the conscience of Mr. Tierney as much as anyone else but the Catholic Church has certain standards which all believers must profess. If they do not do so, they are not reckoned to be in her communion. It is that simple really.

[F]or again, the only thing that “really matters” is the supra-historical Idea that lies behind the history so invoked.

I can just see the sarcasm dripping off of your words like fat off of my George Foreman Grill™ when I am cooking hamburgers...

Vatican I, a statement of a Church that in good BP fashion believes itself to have infallible access to immutable truths, explicitly states that “the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church” is Papal absolutism.

With a proper understanding of how "understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole Church" (St. Vincent of Lerens as quoted by Vatican I's Dei Filius) while at the same time doing so "in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding" (ibid.), then yes the theological convention of which you speak is properly understood.

Therefore, by the rigid deductive logic that is the BP hallmark (and indeed, the hallmark of all forms of Platonism, even ones that don’t reference the Bible), anyone who thinks that spacetime history could ever contradict “the Church’s Professions of Faith” is just flat intellectually unbelievable.

History is a complex mosaic. Furthermore, with the exception of dogmatic facts,{5} the Church lays no claim to infallibility as it pertains to history.

They are guilty of trying to get us all to believe that 2+2 actually equals 465, or that circles can be square, or that bachelors can be married men.

There is of course no agenda in Tierney's work I suppose. Or to state it differently: he is absolutely free from all possibility of interpreting evidences in a non-objective manner.

Apparently those silly "geometrically-challenged papists" simply *must* be using the historical record as Silly Putty™ but historians who take a position that support your a priori position -that Rome *must* be wrong- are above any and all criticism. (Or any and all evidence tampering or misinterpreting.)

Ergo, since Brian Tierney actually believes that the historical record does not support a Vatican I type of Papalism, Brian Tierney is not a “Catholic” and cannot be trusted in his historical research.

I did not say that. What I said was that if Brian Tierney does not accept the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, he is not a faithful Catholic. Whatever his personal views of the historical record are beyond that do not pertain to what I have said.

There are so many ways to critique this question-begging mode of approach.

I have seen no criticisms yet that I would argue are substantive ones. And since the very notion of a revealed religion -or even of a belief in deity- is seen by those who canonize as infallible the profane sciences as a "question-begging" enterprise,{6} one should be careful when hurling what appear to be merely bent pieces of wood at others lest they boomerang back on you.

For instance, we might attempt to historically argue that the notion that being "Catholic" is a synonym for "agreeing with the Pope" was an 11th century innovation foisted upon the Church by Pope Gregory VII, and not the ancient patristic principle that "True Catholics" like Shawn M. think it is.

It depends on what one means by "agree."{7} The pope does not tell me what car to drive, what time to eat dinner, what clothes to wear, where to live, what to do for a living, what parish to attend, what private devotionals to practice, how often to engage in physical exercise, where or when to take vacations, what books to read, or a whole cornucopia of subjects that come into my everyday life. (Nor does he tell me what schools of theological or philosophical thought to embrace.) I am afraid for one who does not care for simplistic and un-nuanced assertions that your comments in the above paragraph are exactly that: simplistic and un-nuanced.

We might point out that Shawn would need to provide us with a record that the Roman Catholic Magisterium, of which the layman Shawn McElhinney is not a part and for which he does not and cannot speak, has formally censured Brian Tierney for departing from "Catholic dogma".

I am not sure if they have or have not. However, the current Profession of Faith as of 1989 with the Oath of Fidelity can be read HERE. They are both required by anyone who would teach in the name of the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, Brian Tierney does not do this so he would only be bound to the Profession of Faith part - which for the record I have myself made on my Miscellaneous BLOG.

Strictly speaking, I am not required to make such a public profession as I do not teach in any capacity as a Catholic instructor; however I did so anyway. Part of the reason is that I am to some extent a speculative theologian and therefore want my readers to realize that I do not depart from the teachings of the Catholic Church.{8}

We might wonder why the prestigious Catholic Historical Review saw fit to publish numerous "pro-Catholic" articles by Tierney.

According to The American Catholic Historical Association -of whom the Catholic Historical Review is their publication journal- they are quite ecumenical in their membership as well as who can hold cabinet posts in their organization:

Amid the current concern for ecumenism and secular causes, the Association plays a positive role. It welcomes non-Catholics among its members and has elected many of them to its committees, its Executive Council, and even its presidency. As for its Catholic members, far from separating them from their colleagues outside its own ranks, it brings them into closer contact in the ways described below and at the same time helps them to preserve their religious identity, which is necessary for any meaningful dialogue among Christians and for any effective diffusion of truly human values in the world of today.

At present there are approximately 1,100 members. They live in almost every state of the Union and in many foreign countries. Some of them are specialists in American history and others in ancient, medieval, modern European, Latin American, and other fields. Some concentrate on ecclesiastical and others on political, intellectual, cultural, social, and economic history. Some are professors, writers, and students of history, and others are amateurs who wish to deepen their knowledge of history and to support the various undertakings of the Association.

In short, there is a broad range of members in this group. Presumably members can publish in the journal and Brian Tierney as a member of the Association -to say nothing of being a past president of the Association- would be allowed to do so.

...and why Tierney's "Catholic" opponent in the debate from which I cited, Fr. Stickler, chose to engage Tierney on the level of his historical arguments rather than on the level of him supposedly "not being Catholic".

I have not read that exchange so I am not certain. Perhaps Fr. Stickler thought he could debate the subject from history. He has been the Vatican Archivist for a long time so he has access to an enviable amount of information. Fr. Stickler -who is now a Cardinal btw- is an esteemed canonist with a doctorate in that field. (Hence it is the area where he would speak with the greatest of authority.) However, he is not a specialist in either theology nor history.{9}

And as one who has taken issue in writing with certain positions of Cardinal Stickler on theological, liturgical, and historical grounds myself -the latter pertaining to Church history to some extent and liturgical history in particular- I cannot say that I would necessarily endorse his methods of advancing arguments in either of those realms. But as I have not seen the articles you are referring to, admittedly I am merely speculating here.

We might point out that Shawn is treating the word "Catholic" exactly the way he treats the word "Papacy"--that is, as an immutable Idea standing outside of space and time and to which space and time are held accountable by human minds that infallibly grasp those Ideas and cannot err in applying them. And so forth.

Tim it seems that you are not presuming that there are qualifications for the proper usage of the term. Would you accept someone who denied the divinity of Christ as a Christian??? Would you allow me -someone who rejects Calvin's Institutes, the Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as sola scriptura, sola fide, a Calvinist understanding of TULIP, and who affirms all Catholic dogmas- to refer to myself as a "Reformed Christian"??? For some reason I highly doubt it.

My guess is that you would see my rejecting benchmarks of the Reformed tradition as the very litmus test to deny me the usage of that moniker. Therefore, how difficult is it for you to recognize the same principle with the Catholic Church: that whatever one thinks of her she has certain guidelines which are required for being able to claim that one is a faithful Catholic???

But let us dispsense with the complicated philosophical and historical-theological critiques and note merely the fact that all such criticisms as Shawn gives totally ignore the realm of spacetime history in favor of the alleged supra-historical “timeless truths” that are supposedly self-evident as “the divinely-willed order of things”.

Again, Tim is really making more of what I have said than what I actually said. If he wants to refer to Brian Tierney as a "historian" then fine, I have no objections to that. (Because he is.) But to assert that he is a "Catholic historian" is another subject altogether.

This is not an answer to the work of a man such as Tierney, who has spent hundreds of hours poring over actual Medieval manuscripts from the relevant periods of Church history and has advanced numerous lines of argument against Vatican I’s dogmatic declaration about what history reveals.

And of course there have been lines advanced against Tierney's propositions as well. I have frankly not been impressed by Tierney's theological acumen in the slightest from what I have read of it. But that is beside the point.

Tim, you and I both agree that history is a complex subject. However, we seem to disagree on the concept of who can or cannot be properly called a "Catholic historian." I assert that Tierney cannot because -based on what I have read of his work- he quite obviously does not accept the dogma of papal infallibility.

Again, it does not matter what his personal views historically are -as history is not an area that the Church claims infallibility in except for very rare instances.{10} What matters is if he accepts what the Catholic Church teaches must be accepted de fide. To my knowledge he does not; however if you have evidence that sufficiently calls into question my presumption here, I will gladly look it over. Until then, I can only go based on what I have read of Tierney's work.

Of course, what the sources say simply does not matter...

I did not say this Tim. You are presuming it seems that Tierney somehow has some superior understanding of these sources that merits my consideration and that of others. Again, his theological arguments on supposed magisterial "errors" that I have read are very unconvincing to someone such as myself who has read extensively on those subjects and is reasonably capable of making certain key distinctions that he apparently is not able to (or does not want to) do.{11}

because for BPs like Shawn “True Catholicism” subsists in agreeing with whatever the Church professes to believe and then going to the sources to find confirmation for what has already been accepted.

I am wondering if Tim understands what the notion of "faith" in a proposition really entails. He sounds too much like the Apostle Thomas here whether he realizes it or not.

A priori epistemology trumps a posteriori examination every time--and as Tierney noted with regard to Fr. Stickler, the result is a fundamental confusion of "apologetics" with "doing history".

Again, there are historians of every stripe who take wildly contradictory positions on the evidence. I am sure that Tim would not disagree with the notion that everyone interprets whatever evidence they come across through a particular hermeneutic. I am not about to deny this - indeed to my knowledge I never have. Nor as far as I can tell has Tim --whose entire epistemology thread which he focused on in the two year interim between our dialogues depends for any effectiveness whatsoever on this very principle.

I have maintained and continue to maintain that history is not a supernatural science but purely a natural one. Further still, philosophy is also a natural science as well. Theology though as a science of the supernatural is a bridge between the natural and the supernatural and is at heart a supernatural science as well. Understanding of theology of course relies to some extent on elements of the natural order. There is no denying that fields such as philosophy, science, history, archeology, and the like all have their roles to play in this endeavour. However, a Catholic does not -indeed cannot- approach these subjects from a purely naturalistic plane of inquiry.

For that matter, no one who adheres to a religion that claims to be a revealed religion can do this. But it seems that Tierney -much like Tim- does not realize this. Catholics do not believe that the doctrine of the Church can be reasoned out of the historical record. All that we do believe is that the historical record attests to various Catholic doctrines in varying states of clarity.

Catholics have a healthy respect for Church history certainly. However, we do not form our beliefs from the records of history. Until Tim recognizes this, it is difficult to see how we can avoid talking past one another to some extent. Tim does not have to agree with this outlook of course; however, those of us who hold that those claiming to be Catholics should be faithful to certain core principles that are required for Catholics to profess have not only the right but also the duty to do our parts to make sure that this distinction is maintained. Otherwise, we would be not be true to our principles any more than Tim would be to allow anyone and their Bible (or even those who rejected the Bible) to claim to be "Reformed" who rejected key Reformed distinctions and beliefs.

The Church has spoken and cannot be wrong; the "True Catholic" cannot be wrong in how he understands what the Church has said; therefore, the True Catholic does not have to engage his critics on ground that does not beg all the questions in advance, for his critics are not in the Church at all and are therefore axiomatically wrong.

Where have I ever refused to engage critics of Catholicism on philosophical, theological, historical, or any other grounds Tim???

This is precisely how BPs like Shawn operate, for do they not have explicit Papal approval for this self-referential mode of approach?

I have already commented on the reference from Humani Generis which I might add was a reference to theologians and their role as scientists of the divine science in the Catholic Church. Apologetics is its own discipline and has its strengths and weaknesses as any discipline does. However, as Catholic theologians do nothing with Catholic teaching that Reformed theologians do not do with the various Reformed confessions and "reformation" era principles -using them as the frames of reference for theological expounding and/or inquiry- I fail to see why Tim is trying to make this appear as if it is a one-sided situation.

Do you not have recourse to the Bible to attempt to prove sola scriptura and sola fide Tim??? Of course you do. Do you not appeal to the Bible to attempt to demonstrate TULIP??? Again, of course you do. I doubt you are going to criticize me or anyone else for being axiomatic while you accept sola scriptura and sola fide -not to mention TULIP- as axioms to your particular weltanschauung.

Again, Roman Catholics are welcome to approach the history of the Church in this self-referential manner if they so desire. What they are not welcome to do is pretend that promulgating axioms as if the Christian religion is a type of Euclidean geometrical system that all “reasonable” people will just see if their faculties are operating properly is anything other than a highly debatable way of thinking.

I will avoid the temptation to point to the "inward testimony of the Spirit requires no proofs" kind of references in your own Reformed tradition viz the Scriptures.{12} The principle is the same (i.e. that there are certain points which transcend the natural sciences), the difference is only in its application. And of course recourse to the various "solas" of the "reformation" are in and of themselves the very sort of axioms that your divines promulgate as if they are "self-evident" to anyone with a "proper understanding of the Scriptures."


{1} Where I go over presuppositional paradigms of philosophical thought in general.

{2} Promulgation of one symbol does not annul previous symbols. Nonetheless, if one needs more proof than that I can supply it.

The proof that the 1967 Professio implied this dogma is found with recourse to Pope Paul VI's 1968 Credo of the People of God which enunciated all the dogmas of the Catholic Church. (And was proclaimed in the period where various people were making the wrong-headed assertion that Vatican II had abrogated previously defined dogmas or previously enunciated doctrines of faith.) For this reason, anyone who would interpreted the 1967 Professio apart from the 1968 Credo would show that they have absolutely no understanding of Catholic dogmatic theology.

{3} Though I do not like the term "Roman Catholic" and what it denotes, for this example using it in my response is unavoidable. (I ask therefore that my brethren of the Eastern Churches please excuse this recourse to Latinizing on my part.)

{4} It is also worth noting that by this understanding of "faith" -which I might add is quite biblical- that if someone can prove a proposition, then there is no faith involved.

{5} These are facts such as "X was a valid pope", "Z was a valid ecumenical council", "source A really does teach doctrine B", and stuff like this: comprising the most minute of historical events or situations.

{6} Need I remind you of the very "transcendental" theology of certain Reformed divines such as Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen: they are every bit as "question-begging" as you assert that Catholic positions are.

{7} And while it is not the earliest example I could give, the sixth century Profession of Faith referred to as the Formula of Hormisdas which concluded the Acacian schism (482-519) is as suitable an example as any. One translation of this text reads as follows:

The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," [Matthew 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied. From this hope and faith we by no means desire to be separated and, following the doctrine of the Fathers, we declare anathema all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius, former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscoros of Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which we follow and endorse. This Council followed the holy Council of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we condemn the assassin Timothy, surnamed Aelurus ["the Cat"] and also Peter [Mongos] of Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also declare anathema their helper and follower, Acacius of Constantinople, a bishop once condemned by the Apostolic See, and all those who remain in contact and company with them. Because this Acacius joined himself to their communion, he deserved to receive a judgment of condemnation similar to theirs. Furthermore, we condemn Peter ["the Fuller"] of Antioch with all his followers together together with the followers of all those mentioned above.

Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome. [Pope Hormisdas I: Formula of Hormisdas as Subscribed to By the Eastern Episcopate (circa 519 AD)]

Obviously, the idea of what is and is not Catholic -a concept directly pertaining to what is and is not doctrinally in agreement with the Pope of Rome- is hardly a novelty of Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085) except in some matters of application of that principle.

{8} As sometimes with more complex enunciations possible incongruities may present themselves; ergo I do this as a service to my readers.

{9} I have heard good things about his book on the history of clerical celibacy though. And I would not of course want to presume that he would necessarily handle that subject the same way he does liturgical history: after all we all have our areas of strength and weakness in these kinds of subjects.

{10} See footnote five.

{11} He seems to presume that his view is correct and tries to construe those who take issue with him theologically as being inherently dishonest in their methodology.

{12} To highlight a certain axiomatic principle that your divines propound under the presumption (it would seem) to exclude the Scriptures from the same kind of criticisms that you want to claim that Catholics do not allow viz history.
On the Meaning of Life:
(Dialogue With Albert Cipriani)

Albert's words will be in orange font and his foil's words in darkgreen. My words will be in regular font.

SSSSS wrote: "Give me your thoughts/arguments on the issue of the 5 senses."

I think an argument can be made that our intellect is our sixth sense, so to speak. It's ability as a pattern recognition machine and extrapolation device has led to more perceptions than have our rather poorly-developed 5 senses. Animals can sense this world far better than we can; it's our ability to perceive what we sense that enables us to sense far more than animals.

We could indeed say that intellect or cognition is the sixth sense. And by blending the 5 traditional senses and the intellect in a kind of intuitive gumbo can give us capabilities far beyond what any other animals have. (At least that we are aware of.)

For example, animals, like us, note the rising and setting sun. But unlike us, we perceive in that rising and setting the elapse of 1/365th of a year and extrapolate through calendars the changing length of each day and the height of the tides. Thus, we perceive far more than what our five senses detect.


"My atheist friend seems to be true to his belief in admitting that all of life has no real meaning. He is just living based on what can be perceived. If it can't be perceived then it ain't real/true. How should I deal with this?"

If he thinks that our life has no meaning, that it evolved by chance processes, then how does he explain our cortexes? Our cortexes are the embodiment of meaning in that they are the means whereby meaning is detected. Like how our eye balls are the embodiment of vision in that they are the means of vision.

Not only that but the very function of eyeballs with the numerous lenses involved is complex far beyond any computer. The idea that they would develop out of nowhere over billions of years is as fanciful of a notion as believing in flying reindeers and sleighs. Where is the rationale for this "something out of nothing" viewpoint???

Why would natural selection have selected for the evolution of our cortexes if those cortexes were not actually detecting what is meaningful? Isn't it a bit ironic that your friend can use his brain to disclaim the existence of what all brains detect? Your friend's attitude is analogous to someone claiming that air does not exist because behind his double-pane windows he can't detect the breeze that's moving all the trees.

Indeed. We know of the existence of many poisonous gases as a result of science and our technology which enable us to locate them. But did they merely come into being with our technology or were they there all along??? And if they were there all along even though they could not (in many cases) be tasted, seen, smelled, etc, why is it so difficult to conceive of Infinite Intelligence???

God is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. And atheism is essentially two things:

1) It is the notion that nothing can come from something if we simply factor enough time into the equation.

2) It is the person stopping at some arbitrary point of their choosing and refusing to ask further questions.

Those points outline atheism in a nutshell and the rest is just commentary.

Why did Nature evolve wings and feathers? Doesn't the fact that birds seem to be supported by the air prove that air exists? Likewise, doesn't the fact that humans seem to derive meaning out of thin air prove that meaning exists?

Plus, your friend's assertion is self-refuting. To assert that life has no meaning is to assert that all assertions regarding the meaning of life are meaningless... including the one that your friend is partial to, that life has no meaning. If his assertion is true, it is as meaningless a statement as its contrary.

Precisely. It is like the question "do the laws of identity and non-contradiction exist???" To answer the question is to presuppose the question. And if they do not exist then we have no way whatsoever of knowing if anything is true. Therefore, if we are to make any sense out of what is around us, we have to presume that those laws are real because we have no way whatsoever to prove whether they are or are not. And of course believing in something which cannot be definitively proven involves something anathema to the atheist and agnostic: it involves faith.

"He asserts that emotions, love, etc. aren't real."

Then why does he act as if they are real? That's nothing short of insane, or at least ironic. Like a guy who disavows the existence of extra terrestrials on the basis of his latest communications with the mother ship.

This is where instincts come into the equation which enable us and all creatures to survive in situations where we are not capable of exercising rational thought. For example, if you slip out of a tree, your first instinct is to grab at surrounding branches. If the person had to think about whether they should grab branches to break their fall or not, they would probably be dead.

Instincts exist for a reason. To say that they can "evolve" over time is as silly as saying that if someone flaps their arms they can eventually fly. For things happen so quickly in the wild that there is no basis for adaptation most of the time. And the very notion of adaptation involves some elements that cannot be empirically measured.

For example, instincts are linked to survival in some form or another. But why would that be the case if there is nothing worth living for??? Further still, reason itself is a matter of faith as I noted already. For how can we truly and objectively prove that any of our thoughts have any relation whatsoever to reality??? We have to presume that they do but we cannot prove it. Again, without faith there can be no reason.

But what use is faith unless there is something (or someone) to believe in which has the answers to the questions we ask. And the ultimate question we can ask is "why do we exist???" The ultimate answer to the ultimate question is "because God made us." Can we definitively prove this??? Of course not. However, we cannot prove either (i) the existence of certain laws that make rational discourse possible or (ii) that anything we can conceive of has any relation whatsoever to reality.

So essentially everyone has faith. The only real difference is that the theist is honest and admits to this while the atheist is like the liberals in the media who deny that they have any bias whatsoever.

No doubt, your friend would agree with you that unicorns aren't real either. But I bet he doesn't spend half as much time chasing down that species of unreality as he does chasing after certain emotions.

He perceives that such an enterprise would be futile. But why does he believe this??? And how can he prove definitively that this enterprise would be futile??? No he cannot. However, on an accumulation of evidences or grounds of credibility at some point he will conclude that chasing down unicorns (particularly the invisible pink kind) is futile. Otherwise his ceasing the activity is totally arbitrary. And since he cannot prove that there are no unicorns (invisible pink ones or otherwise) the assumption he is making is at some level an act of faith from which he grounds his reasoning on the matter.

Ask him why he buys his girlfriend chocolates, why he does anything to foster her love of him if he truly believes that her love of him is unreal?

Expressed in moral terms, if, as Saint Augustine says, all that is, is good, then all that isn't, is not good. In other words, morality involves our choice of what's more real over what's less real. If this is true, then your friend acts immorally when he gives his girl flowers and thereby fans the flames of unreal emotions.

Indeed. And in psychiatry those who talk to people who are not really there are recognized as psychologically unstable. So the atheist who believes that emotions are not real but who acts nonetheless as if they are is little different functionally speaking than the fellow at the funny farm talking to his invisible teal chicken. The only difference is that the guy at the farm does not know any better. The atheist who prides himself on being a "freethinker" not only knows better but by the very claims he makes (of being "smarter than thou") involves a tacit requirement that he be held to a higher standard.

Monday, December 22, 2003

An Outline of Circumstances and a Public Apology to David Palm:

Originally I intended to make this a detailed public apology but I am running behind in a project I want to finish before leaving the country -as well as updating my weblogs. (I also intend to post some final weblog entries before leaving.) For these reasons, the lengthy post will be a short one but what is important here is the principle.

My readers are not unaware that a lot of subjects are covered in the musings of Rerum Novarum and I try to provide a broad buffet of sorts for my readers to partake in. Among those areas is the occasional dissection of political, theological, philosophical, or social positions of others. The sources these can come from vary{1} and the tone or length of such posts can also vary of course. I try nonetheless to be both thorough as well as balanced in such responses.

The trackrecord of this weblog speaks for itself and I need not draw attention to it. However, it is possible to confute an argument and have all your ducks in a row except for the person you are addressing. This happened back in June of this year and I was made aware of it only this month. A brief digression to explain the circumstances is needed because I am sure some readers are asking themselves "how can he not know whom he was talking to." Well my friends, that can happen when you are on a discussion list controlled completely by the moderator.

Some time ago, after I accidentally mixed the email addresses of two separate circulars, the result was the forming of a couple of discussion lists. One of those who formed a list was my good friend Albert Cipriani. Before he formed the list there was an informal circular emailing of sorts that had about forty email addresses on it. Two of the email addresses were mine and David Palm's. (David was also on another list I was on at that time as well.) Eventually Albert set up a discussion list of his own and sent out invites to various people. After he had a list of twenty five or so, Albert set it up so that all emails went to him for posting to the list. My view of course was "hey its his list so he can do what he wants."

A few months later, there was a discussion on Vatican II and a certain "David" on the list who sent some emails on the matter -one of which I decided to respond to in detail. So I did this back in June and posted it to the weblog and sent the link to the list. The post was titled "Palm Desert" and I also posted it to the Lidless Eye weblog. Obviously I was responding to David Palm because he was the only "David" that I could think of among any of the various emails on the circulars that went into Albert's list.

The problem is that the David on that list was a certain "David Smith" -another very cordial Tridentine minded Catholic convert and (like David Palm) a very pleasant person to dialogue with. I have conversed with him over the years at message boards, message boxes at weblogs, and the like. But I had no idea he was on Albert's list. Nonetheless, as time went on, David Palm inquired many times in private about responding to an article he wrote for The Remnant. Generally I would not give The Remnant the time of day but I like David so I thought about it and decided against it for one key reason: David had not retracted the errors I outlined in the "Palm Desert" series. So I told David this and he reviewed the thread and asked to see the full text of what was being responded to. So readers to this weblog know that in November or so, I posted the full text to this weblog. A while later David emailed me saying that it was not his text. Being up to my eyebrows in various pieces for the weblog and some other projects, I put dealing with this on the back burner.

But David persisted in private sending a couple more emails. I sent an email to Albert asking for the names of everyone on his list with the first name "David." He told me there was only one and it was David Smith. So I went back and fixed that thread by removing David's name from the title and the reference in the post to him. That was done over a week ago. The next step was to post a public apology in the same medium in which the error was made.{2} Having explained how the error was made, all that is left now is to apologize so here goes.

David Palm, I Shawn McElhinney hereby apologize to you for the sin of inadvertently bearing false witness against you. I did not in any way intend to do this but nonetheless it happened. I am truly sorry if any anguish was felt by you as a result of this situation. The post has been corrected, reclassified in both weblog post lists, and all connection of your name to that material was removed.


{1} In relative order of priority they tend to be via (i) emails from readers (ii) other weblogs which I read (iii) topics on discussion lists (iv) material from media sources (v) message box posts.

Very rarely will I deal with anything on message boards anymore for a variety of reasons -primarily because I like being in control and in those mediums that is impossible unless you own the board or are a moderator.

{2} Unlike certain persons of an anti-Catholic nature who never apologize for their errors, your weblog host has always done this whenever it is reasonably shown to be a mistake made.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Brief Exchange With Tim Enloe:
(Part II -On Church History)

Part I can be read HERE. Tim's words will be in red once again.


Very sorry for misspelling your name! Usually I get it right. Mea maxima culpa!

No problema :)

Regarding your other points:

I wasn't saying that you have argued for a single model of ecclesiology or a rigid stratification. The individual I'm talking to essentially argues that "Roman primacy" on the order of Vatican I's definition was very clearly understood in the first 300 years of the Church, but that after this period the Papacy got very much sidetracked with all kinds of extraneous political tangents that caused it to develop itself into something it wasn't supposed to be. And what it was supposed to be--that "first 300 primitive years primacy" thing, was recovered, this individual says, with the late 19th century treaties that the Papacy made with various secular governments which stipulated that the Papacy would never again seek political / temporal power, but would confine itself to spiritual power.

Hmmmmmmmm...the only problem with this theory is to some extent the development of the papal primacy was affected by variegated cultural events. This resulted in a variegated application of the principle. It would be facile to presume that all such developments were corruptions as this Catholic implies. However, it would be equally problematical to presume that what was most efficacious or at the very least serviceable in certain circumstances constitutes a perennial claim on Catholic allegiance. I am aware that there are some foolish self-styled "traditionalists" who posit as "traditional" the form the papacy took after the Gregorian reforms.{1} But then again as I have noted many times "to be deep in history is to cease to be a self-styled 'traditionalist.'" However, enough on that point and onto the individual you refer to and their approach to Church history and the papacy.

It is impossible in my view to cut the line prior to Nicaea and point to a "self-evident" papal understanding as enunciated by Vatican I. There was a progress of development which entailed the first three hundred years certainly -and this period has its evidences of no small value of course- but the popes who contributed most explicitly to the papacy's more developed understanding all were subsequent to Pope Sylvester I (r. 314-335).

It was Julius I (r. 337-352) who was the first truly "post-Nicaea" pope in terms of governing style. How the person you refer to could go from pre-Nicaea to Vatican I without recognizing the significant contributions of approximately twenty-five popes in the long chain stretching from Julius I to John VIII -a period of about five hundred and fifty years which is essential to explicitly tracing out the essentials of the papal primacy- is a mystery to me. (To say nothing about the definitions of papal primacy at Lyons II and the all-important sixth session of Florence.)

There were of course ante-Nicene threads in this mosaic as well -indeed I wrote an essay which dealt in part with this matter about three years ago.{2} But the post-Nicene threads are the most developed and by ignoring them the case for papal primacy in the manner defined by Vatican I is significantly weakened.

So in essence what this individual does is to agree with me that the Papacy really screwed up in the High Middle Ages (e.g., by becoming an Absolute Monarchy conflating spiritual and temporal power), and so because he agrees, he then skips over the entire period from 300-1870 AD and says the stuff that happened then just isn't relevant to the authority claims of the Papacy. Those authority claims, he says, are best represented by a string of incidents (he's given me 10 or 12) of early Christians supposedly appealing to Rome for approval of their doctrines, adjudication of legal cases, etc.

If memory serves there are approximately eighteen or so of them in the ante-Nicene period. In a twelve odd page piece I wrote on the ante-Nicene period -which was extracted from my essay on Christian Unity- I used about a half-dozen of them. I have thought since then of going back and putting many more of them in for the sake of completion. However, then the virtue of brevity is compromised and the Christian Unity essay is already over a hundred pages long. But I digress.

These are all instances of the Roman bishop exercising his divine-right spiritual power, which is all he was supposed to ever have and, coincidentally, all he has now. That's his model, at any rate.

Well, it is an extremely simplistic one in my reasonably informed opinion. It seems like an attempt on this person's part to sweep history that is difficult to deal with aside and only focusing on what he likes. The fact is, the popes did exercise temporal power for better or worse for approximately twelve hundred odd years. Of course this raises the question viz. his model of this: if he can dismiss twelve hundred odd years of history -or fifteen hundred and seventy if his pointers are 300 AD and 1870 AD- what is stopping others from removing sections they do not like for their own reasons??? His whole approach is an arbitrary one.

What disturbs me about your model, though, is precisely that whenever the history doesn't fit it, it runs to "biblical Platonism" to fill in the gaps.

But of course whether history does or does not fit it is itself a matter of opinion. So that point alone challenges the first part of your assertion. I do not see an "either/or" with regards to Church history on these matters.

Platonism is notoriously NON-historical; that's just about it's entire point as a philosophy. The world of the senses CANNOT give accurate information, hence we must look to the higher world of the Forms.

If the view was one of Platonism as you suggest then why was fideism condemned by the Catholic Church??? The latter teaches the harmony of faith and reason and the principle that grace builds on nature. Part of nature is the senses and if they cannot be trusted then the result is defacto fideism. However, though the senses can be trusted, they do have their limits and it is not recognizing this which leads to rationalist errors.

If you're going to end up appealing to Platonism in any fashion as support for your ecclesiology, then as far as I am able to tell you're going to end up abandoning history at precisely the point where you invoke the Platonism.

The problem Tim is that with any religion that claims to be revealed, there are truths which are not fully discernable with the senses. That does not mean that the latter are of no value of course, only that they have limits and the theological virtue of faith fills the gap between what is known and what is not known. I go over this in the response on the papacy I wrote back in November but have not posted yet to this weblog.

I remember years ago on Steve Ray's board you argued against somebody who was using Unam Sanctam as a disproof of infallibility, and your argument was EXTREMELY historical based, arguing all kinds of things about the political situation of the day, etc.

You have a very good memory. Some of the arguments from that one went into a response to a certain Reformed apologist who sought to claim that the Catholic Church had contradicted the doctrine of Unam Sanctum with the teachings of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II. My point in making the historical sketch was to highlight why the sense in which that person was enunciating the doctrine in Unam Sanctum was erroneous.

If I recall, I also had recourse to the teaching from Vatican I's Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius about never departing from the sense of a teaching once it has been defined. And as the vast majority of people who discuss extra ecclesia nulla salus do this{3} -be they non-Catholic or self-styled "traditionalists", the use of history as a tool in addressing the issue is of no small value.

I didn't know beans about that stuff back then, but it seems rather odd to me that now that I do you prefer to argue with me about "biblical Platonism" rather than such things as all those political facts.

Well, one varies their approach depending on the particular subject at hand. If we were discussing the proper sense of a teaching then I would take the same approach as I did in the Unam Sanctum example. With the subject of whether or not there are universals or not, we are on a different playing field to some extent. It goes from being a dispute about the application of recognized universals to being one of whether or not there are universals to begin with and (if there are) what they are.

That's what concerns me about your argument, because I know that like me you're very concerned with Church history. And unlike so many sloganeering convert-apologists out there, you actually are very historically knowledgeable.

I am on par with many of my friends in this field even if we differ in how we approach these subjects.{4} And we all have our strengths and weaknesses subject-wise of course.

I just can't fathom all these arguments I'm running into for the Papacy that start out going "To be deep in history is to see how obvious our view is", but end going "No matter what you say about the history we're going to believe the Church's articles of Faith."

Essentially it boils down to the manner whereby people try to negotiate the chasm that exists between faith and unfettered private judgment. Some do so better than others do but all must do it if there is any pretense on their part to professing belief in a divinely revealed religion.

The field is set differently for a Catholic then for a non-Catholic. Cardinal Newman covers this well in his discourse on Faith and Doubt and I recommend going there for a treatment on this matter from the perspective of one to whom history played the dominant role in his becoming a Catholic.

I have a really hard time with that because what has been intervening between the two statements in my experience with various Catholics is a demonstration of their VAST ignorance of the historical contexts of most of the things they raise as evidences for the Papal dogmas.

And of course a Catholic does not study Church history in order to verify the truths of dogmas. This is a concept that is difficult to grasp for those not of our outlook admittedly.

As Newman once astutely noted:

[N]o doctrine of the Church can be rigorously proved by historical evidence: but at the same time that no doctrine can be simply disproved by it. Historical evidence reaches a certain way, more or less, towards a proof of the Catholic doctrines; often nearly the whole way: sometimes it goes only so far as to point in their direction; sometimes there is only an absence of evidence for a conclusion contrary to them; nay, sometimes there is an apparent leaning of the evidence to a contrary conclusion, which has to be explained -- in all cases, there is a margin left for the exercise of faith in the word of the Church. He who believes the dogmas of the Church only because he has reasoned them out of History, is scarcely a Catholic." [J.H. Newman: Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in Difficulties of Anglicans (c. 1874)]

In short, we value history but recognize that its study has both its complexities as well as its limitations.

They CLAIM these things are "historical" but then when they can't back them up HISTORICALLY they appeal to "articles of Faith". Perhaps this really isn't problematic within the Catholic worldview.

It is not actually. However, I concede that it can be a tremendous difficulty for those who are striving to weigh the motives of credibility viz the Catholic claims.

I think it's VERY problematic for any kind of Christian epistemology that wants its claims about the space time world to be taken seriously.

That's my perspective, at any rate. Tim Enloe @ 2003-12-14 08:32

I think approaching this from what the Catholic view of faith is will be of assistance. In my next response on the papacy topic, I will do just that. If you read the thread from Newman on faith and doubt, you will have an idea from how I will approach this to some extent. I just reviewed the text of that response and it reads a bit sharply in spots -due to sarcasm. I will try to tone that down before posting it though.


{1} Though I believe there are problems with drawing the line at Gregory VII as some have sought to do, at the same time Gregory VII did institute some novel applications which -however necessary they were at the time- are not intrinsic to the primacy claims and are therefore disposable. Pope John Paul II formally set the subject in the realm of discussion with his Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint but there were clear indications in Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam that this was on the horizon. (See my commentary on the intricacies of dialogue for examples of this.)

{2} Referring to my essay on Christian Unity which was released in January of 2001. The section from that work titled The Development of the Papal Primacy was made into an essay of its own titled The Ante-Nicene Development of Papal Primacy back around April of 2001.

{3} Much as they do in discussing the subject of infallibility.

{4} And I am actually not as knowledgable as some of them on certain particular subjects or (with one example that comes to mind) the scope of Church history altogether. But that is another subject altogether.
Brief Exchange With Tim Enloe:
(Part I -On Ecclesiology)

This is from the message boxes at Tim's weblog. Part two of this response will be to Tim's response to my response here. Tim's original post can be read at his weblog and his words here will be in red font. My previous words will be in darkblue with any adjustments or additions in regular font colour.

Ecclesiology is NOT a resident of a supra-temporal realm of "biblical Platonism" (as Shawn McIlhenny has recently told me).

Two points:

1) If memory serves you are referring to a "points to ponder" segment from August which referred to the idea of the papacy as transcending the mere vicissitudes of historical study.

2) Though it is probable that my father's family is related to the McIlhenny family of Avery Island, Lousiana (of the tabasco sauce fame), the precise relationship is one I am not sure of. And while at one time we spelled our name McElhenney, it has been spelled McElhinney for at least four generations now.

Strange that you seem to think that I have suggested some single model of ecclesiology. I have never done this and indeed with the idea of facilitating a thread for discussion for next year -with you as much as with anyone else- posted an outline on the models of the Church as they have presented themselves throughout history. Obviously it is from a Catholic perspective but nonetheless there is not the rigid stratification that you seem to think there is. Nor have I or most other Catholics who are knowledgable about ecclesiological issues said that there was.

Anyway, the five part series [can be located] here if you are interested. I will post a response written back in nearly November on the papacy as the last post to Rerum Novarum before my vacation sabbatical later this month.{1} In the meantime, you may find the ecclesiology thread of interest.

And here is a final point that may be of interest to you: presuming for a moment that you have represented their statements accurately -and I have no reason to believe that you have not- I side mostly with you in your discussion with the Catholic you are referring to (whomever they are). However, we do not agree on the papacy issue obviously. Nonetheless, give the ecclesiology threads a read. I think you may be surprised a bit at what you find there...I. Shawn McElhinney (e) (w) @ 2003-12-14 01:58

To be Continued...


{1} It may not be the last post but it will be among the last posts before I leave on vacation.
Brief Note to SAM:
(With a Monitum on the Kneeling Debate)

As SAM has manifested the intention of responding yet again to my last response on this thread. I find it intriguing that SAM needs to take four months and fifteen thousand words to respond. I know SAM well from message board battles in days of yore and he is aware of my tremendous respect for his talents.{1} So noting that, it seems appropriate at this time to issue a brief monitum to him on this subject.

My friend SAM needs to remember that any solution he offers that attempts to prop up some authority in the area of kneeling over and above the norms of IGMR §43 (in the US Amendments approved by Rome) essentially makes void the authority of the diocesan bishop -who governs their dioceses with ordinary power of their own and not as some legate of the pope.

Essentially SAM's only "escape hatch" in this dispute is what I noted in my last response with regards to whether or not the local ordinary in question has manifested the intention to pass an authentic directive on the matter of discussion. All of the legal rhetoric in the world cannot circumvent this so there is no point in making the attempt to -whether 15,000 or 50,000 words are used.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that SAM wants to post a response when your humble servant will be absent the country. The readers can take away from that whatever they will of course. If this was happening during my conspiracy theorist days I could spin quite a yarn on the matter but I digress. The rest of this post will be bits and pieces on what The Secret One noted about his end of the year agenda. His words will be in black font:

Because we try and implement Catholic social teaching (or at least the spirit thereof), my office regards Christmas week (and Easter week) as a paid holiday. So no secretarial staff will be around and, I also have a lot of work to do in the next 10 days or so. Blogging will be light to non-existent. However, by the first of the year I plan to have blogs as follows:

(1). to Shawn McElhinney -- the final, crushing blow in my offenseive on "Kneeling and Communion";

We shall see my friend...we shall see {insert evil maniacal laugh here}

(2) to a reader, some commentary on interpreting Church documents viz. obedience;

I look forward to viewing that one through the lens of my recent commentary on the intricacies of dialogue.{2}

(3) to a reader, some commentary on extra ecclesiam nulla salus and invicible ignorance;

Another good subject matter. I trust that our legal eagle friend will navagate the poles of the letter and the spirit of the law well in that one.

(4) to Tim Enloe, a dump-truck of stuff on the papacy and history;

Yeah I have promised a response on this too for some time. My reason for not posting it earlier is probably due to my desire to not partition this weblog into a kind of singleminded area or single approach. Nonetheless, I will strive to post the papacy response to Tim as one of the last ones to this weblog before vacation as promised.

(5) the final installment of Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops;

I thought you already finished this series.

(6) The rest of my commentary on Fr. Rohnheimer's article on the Church and the Holocaust;

An article which (for the record) I quite enjoyed. Fr. Rohnheimer was correct that most apologetics on this subject are not as well rounded as they need to be if the whole truth is to be expressed. And while the macro trackrecord of the Church with that situation was quite good, there were micro areas which were problematical. I am curious to see if SAM will comment on these in the remaining part of his commentary.

(7) Some thoughts on Antonin Scalia, the death penalty, and Evangelium Vitae.

Spurred on I am sure by Greg Mockeridge's guest editorial to this weblog and my dialogue on the matter with Greg. As always it is an honour to count SAM among the readers of Rerum Novarum.

I've been promising these (except #6 & #7) on and off for two months.

#1 has been mentioned since at least September on your part if I recall correctly.

The problem is that I want to be as thorough as I can, so I've had to write, pause, write and etc.

Thorough and the weblog format are not always ones which go well together. I try to negotiate this by breaking responses down into sections and linking them all together in sequence after they are all posted.

What I hope to do is work on them as "breaks" from the routine.

Excellent suggestion. The bulk of my essays were written as brief "vacations" from longer pieces{3} -much as message board stuff was often brief "vacations" from shorter more technical essays in years past. (And at times those message board posts became either essays in their own right or supplied material for later essays.)

If you don't want to keep checking every single day, subscribe using the Bloglet window above. You'll get emails when an entry is added. Your email will be kept secure, as I won't share it and I believe that bloglet doesn't share them either. I'm on that list too, and haven't gotten a single piece of new spam as a result. Have a merry and blessed Christmas!

Have a happy and holy Christmas also SAM (as well as all the weblog readers). Though I plan to blog again before Christmas, I wanted to get that sentiment out there lest I forget in last minute mad dashing (which will start tomorrow night) to note it on the weblog before departing for Mexico.


{1} I may be wrong but I think I played at least a small role in his development in this area.

{2} Again this writer would be remiss in not acknowledging a debt to SAM for reviewing the draft of that piece before it was made available and making a key suggestion in the section on dialogue and obedience. This is to some extent ironic really since the crux of our debate on kneeling revolves around that theme to some extent. I am sure that SAM will attempt to navagate betwixt the points I noted in that section in his rather encyclopaedic response but I am not too concerned really.

{3} The aforementioned commentary on dialogue -which I believe Tim Enloe will find of interest- was made known last week. However, a much larger project was started prior to it which has been taking most of my spare time to wrap up -and the dialogue commentary originated in an idea from the aforementioned project. Essentially, it served as a "break" from the larger project and an excellent example of a recent usage of this method by your humble weblog host.