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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday

  • Mass: 26th and Last Sunday after Pentecost. Dicit Dominus yet one more time. St Catherine drops out this year according to ’62. The Christmas stuff isn’t going up at home until after I Vespers of I Advent, the great switch from Salve regina to Alma redemptoris mater.
  • ‘I really do think the dream of a non-papal Catholicism is just that: it’s a dream’, Anglican Bishop John Hind apparently said. The Eastern churches come close to making it work, a reason Protestant ecumenists like them (click Modestinus’ first post below for more on that), but yes: a folk Catholicism that works very well, considering, but relatively small and contradictory (contraception). It’s even more obvious with the Old Catholics: seems self-evident the true church in the West wouldn’t be a central European rump sect in sync with the Anglicans. Liberals started the Polish National Catholic Church; at its best it’s a folk Catholicism that only Polish-American cultural conservatism keeps going, and it’s small and shrinking. (The last two parts are like Slavic-American Orthodoxy, whose ancestors were pushed out of the American Catholic Church for no good reason. Most Polish-Americans of course remained Catholic.) The old high churchmen meant well but history proved them wrong: a Protestant and, in England, Erastian institution. The Continuum is a little gaggle of squabbling sects: contrast that to the conservative Presbyterians, who, with no ‘Catholic order’, have their act together (the PCA) while the conservative Anglicans don’t. (As do conservative Lutherans: the Missouri Synod.) The biggest case against Catholicism is the use of central power with Vatican II to demolish Catholic culture (Orthodoxy’s folk Catholicism’s approach is better here) but that wasn’t doctrine, just a mistake this Pope is starting to clean up. The doctrine stands: the Pope’s the only one who makes sense, and he has a world presence, teaching all nations.
  • By the way, in practice the church has never been monolithic: different cultures so different rites including the Eastern ones many Westerners forget about. (Most of which of course is now Orthodox but corporate reunion’s possible though unlikely.) We’ve always been about localization, as in family, ethnic and national custom; it may surprise you that my traditionalism is based on that and I’m actually a ‘papal minimalist’. We’re not the cult of one man other than Christ. Which leads to the matter of the Pope apologizing for something. Lots of people in and out of the church don’t understand what papal infallibility means: his office, only under certain circumstances (when he intends to define doctrine), is infallible; the man and his opinions are not. I can believe in limbo if I want to (I don’t necessarily); the reigning Pope happens not to.
  • Modestinus: There is a part of me that wants to summarize (contemporary?) Orthodox readings of Aquinas with one word: Childish. But, of course, that accusation could be extended to most Orthodox readings of any Catholic theology that was penned after 1054. (Oh, heck, it could be extended to most Orthodox readings of St. Augustine, too.) Catholic (even Protestant) readings of Orthodox thought has been, to put it mildly, exponentially more sympathetic.
  • Religious liberty redux: Like them or hate them, the SSPX’s conception of “Tradition” and “the unbroken Magisterium” begins roughly around 1789 and ends somewhere in the mid-1950s. Instead of 2,000 years, it’s about 200 years. That’s not to say, of course, that some—even much—of what was iterated by the Church during that period didn’t have earlier antecedents. Rather, people should realize that some of the formulations of Catholic teaching that the SSPX consistently cites may, in fact, have been more informed by a temporal period in which the Church was struggling to survive political, social, and religious upheavals than what was normative during the heyday of Christendom. When you’re effectively the only (politically relevant) game in town, there’s room to reflect on Christian principles and conclude that it’s far from proper to go busting up the local Synagogue; when the Enlightenment barbarians are at the gates, I suppose that’s the time to dial up the pro-Catholic rhetoric to 11.

20 comments:

  1. The biggest case against Catholicism is the use of central power with Vatican II to demolish Catholic culture

    I think not. The biggest case against Catholicism, and the only one that matters, is the assertion that Papal supremacy is heterodox. And the biggest bit of evidence that this is so is the continued robust existence of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the preservation of orthodoxy and orthopraxis within them. That demonstrates that the Papacy is, strictly speaking, unnecessary for the maintenance of orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

    As a Roman Catholic, you will of course disagree with me as to the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of Papal supremacy. But I do not think there can be any doubt that that is what the issue is, when it comes to any "case against Catholicism."

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    1. I was trying to say the same thing in presenting their argument: 'central power used Vatican II to demolish Catholic culture' so in principle 'papal supremacy is heterodox'.

      Defined Orthodox doctrine isn't heresy. It IS Catholicism circa 1000. Which is why most of the practice (such as the Mass, and traditional at that, the invocation of Mary and the other saints, prayer for the dead, etc.) is the same or equivalent. Post-schism Orthodox opinions are another matter but because Orthodoxy's never elevated those to doctrine, and arguably it has no mechanism to do so (in theory another Orthodox ecumenical council, which seems unlikely), the church gives born Orthodox the benefit of the doubt: not Protestants nor personally guilty of schism but Catholics who historically became estranged.

      The church seems to see the widespread Orthodox sellout on contraception that way. As you know, before the middle of the last century, all the teachings on sex that people now think are 'Catholic things' were common Christian things. Orthodoxy's never elevated its recently adopted error on contraception to doctrine so... they get the benefit of the doubt. That said, in my opinion it refutes their claim of preserving orthopraxis. By the way, I've read Gillquist and asked him in person, nicely of course, about the sellout on contraception. The late convert apologist, nice man, didn't give me a straight answer, instead evading and falling back on our common opposition to abortion. On this matter, modern Orthodox sound just like Protestants, both the mainline when it was still culturally conservative in the ’50s and evangelicals today. Cautious, conservative and plausible.

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    2. Re: Orthodox (dis)engagement with Catholic theology (including Aquinas)

      As a RC I have admired Orthodox liturgy and spirituality for many years. Nonetheless, whatever intellectually honest and legitimate differences the Orthodox have with Western theologians, specifically St. Thomas A., it seems to me the Orthodox general adverse response to Western theology can be described as "not invented here" syndrome. I know this oversimplifies the complex issues between the two Churches, but things I have read on-line and in print suggest this to me.

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    4. Catholicism circa 1000 versus the widespread Orthodox sellout on contraception

      I think "Catholicism circa 1000" is about right, which raises the question, why isn't Catholicism "Catholicism circa 1000"? And if it isn't, how does one explain and justify the change?

      I think there is less to the so-called "sellout" than meets the eye. Calling it a "sellout" is predicated on the idea that the mid-twentieth-century Papal teaching on the subject is a legitimate and accurate distillation and explication (and further, the only legitimate and accurate one) of a rather inchoate tradition on the matter. For non-Catholics, at least, that is at best an open question. It is not clear to me that contemporary Orthodox practice is not an equally legitimate pastoral application of orthodox doctrine.

      To put it another way, I'm not sure the Orthodox practice on contraception isn't truer to "Catholicism circa 1000" than Humane Vitae. You have to show that I am wrong about that if you are going to call it a "sellout."

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    5. Sounds like bait but here goes: Catholicism in 1000 = Catholicism in 2012. Development of doctrine. (And when you base your practice on circa-1000 defined doctrine or the Vincentian canon, it's virtually the same as the Catholic Church's: the East and non-papalist Anglo-Catholics.) The difference between us and the mainliners, who claim their changes in essentials by vote are development, is we can't rewrite past doctrine. That goes for morals too. So... Orthodox say they reject development yet mid-century turned turtle on contraception right along with the Protestants. Mainstream society thinks the church's weird (America's Protestant so anti-popery's always been here but still)... for remaining what all Christians once were on this.

      An Anglican priest on Facebook remarked today: how did a movement seemingly so conservative — Old Catholics claiming they were the true faith versus the 'innovation' of defining papal infallibility — end up so liberal? (The answer in that case was it wasn't really conservative: there was always a Modernist element.) I've said the same of the old high churchmen: amazingly 'conservative' wanting to stick with the church fathers instead of later definitions of Catholic doctrine. On paper, just like the Orthodox. But you and I know how that worked out in Anglicanism. Again, ending up so liberal. In that case you can blame the Erastianism at the heart of it but again development of doctrine is true. Newman figured that out.

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    6. Sounds like bait but here goes ...

      Not intended as such. Just trying to tease out which issues are real and which aren't. I remain convinced that contraception is in the "not real" category.

      ... development of doctrine is true. Newman figured that out.

      That is why you are a Roman Catholic and I am not. Newman's version of development is elegant and attractive, but that does not make it true. In the end I don't buy it.

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  2. As do conservative Lutherans: the Missouri Synod

    Thanks for the props, but I am afraid this only shows how unfamiliar you are with what goes on inside the LCMS. Not that you should be expected to be familiar with it; you're better off.

    I suppose we "have our act together" compared with the Anglican Continuum, etc. But every Church body has its problems, and the LCMS is no exception.

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    1. I'm sure. Yes, compared to the Continuum.

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  3. Concerning the PNCC, this note I rec'd from an e-mail friend (a convert to Catholicism from the Episcopal Church nearly 40 years ago) a few days ago is rather "suggestive:"

    "I asked a prelate of the Polish National Catholic church how they continued to resist women's ordination and the other assaults of the modern world, and he said that this is how their people voted. I asked then, if their people had voted like Episcopalians, or if they did so next year, would the truth be changed? He didn't like my question."

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    1. Yikes. Not even lip service to the Vincentian canon 'always, everywhere and by all' or 'the ancient undivided church' like the old high churchmen. I knew their basis makes no sense (ex post facto rationalizations against the Pope after they left the church 100 years ago) but didn't know things were this bad. Again, all that's holding them up keeping them relatively Catholic (why they broke with the Episcopalians and the Old Catholics) is Polish-American cultural conservatism (different from their founder's Modernism), which I'm sure on the parish level still works in some places as a charming grassroots traditionalism/folk Catholicism. But... valid orders didn't stop their Old Catholic former parent church from going bad (they're Dutch Episcopalians now, literally: the Episcopal Church is their official American representative), so isn't heresy or apostasy only a vote away for them?

      Also, as you well know, despite their dominant cultural conservatism they have a liberal faction that tries to get Catholic liberals to join. They've actually had a small growth spurt amid years of 'stolid decline' as you say, thanks to Catholic decline in the form of parish closings in dying white blue-collar, Rust Belt cities. One closed parish simply regrouped as a new PNCC parish. Understandable.

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  4. Re: the SSPX & Religious Liberty Redux

    *******************************
    Where they [the SSPX] seem to get agitated is on DH’s apparent denial of the proposition that “[u]nder no circumstances is there ever any right of the human person (i.e., a natural right) not to be prevented by human authority from publicly manifesting a false (i.e., non-Catholic religion.”
    *******************************

    Responsio:

    I think we may have covered this before. Briefly, error may have no rights, but in the political sphere--or rather the public square--i.e. in the way American polity works, human beings have inalienable rights according to Natural Law. Unfortunately, error frequently attaches itself to these human beings with their rights, so this is why we have to tolerate error, but are not prevented from preaching against it as is our right to do so. IOW, it's part of the free market-place of ideas.

    A second thing to consider is the Dogma of Free Will. If we are free, then we are free to choose good or evil or right or wrong (error) despite socioeconomic and socio-politico circumstances. Thus, I must tolerate an error-ridden Protestant Church down the street, or even more challenging a Mosque! Doesn't mean I can't work to convert them which would be illegal to so do in other countries (e.g., most of Islam; even Israel vis-a-vis converting Jews to the True Faith).

    Finally, in my perception the SSPX promotes a certain European autocracy & political absolutism that should act as the enforcement arm of the infallible Church. Well, I come from German & Irish peasant stock (and shop-keeper Spanish stock from Barcelona). I like much of what the SSPX does--specifically traditional liturgy/sacraments--but they can take their autocratic politico-sociological ideology and shove it up their collective *****!

    Jim C.

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    1. OOOPS! I forgot to add this one:

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      I suspect, however, that the SSPX would respond by saying that it’s not only the “principle of the thing” which gets their goat, but the fact that DH, with its rather open-ended formulations on religious liberty, has fueled a great deal of self-destructive ecumenism and outright religious relativism during the post-Vatican II era.
      *********************

      The SSPX has a good point here! The problem with DH IMHO when I first read it so many years ago is that is is to loosely worded that you could drive a Mack truck through it. The Council Fathers should have been ashamed of themselves for allowing it to be published in its final version.

      Jim C.

      (originally posted above in the wrong place.)

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  5. On the subject of Dignitatis Humanae and "religious liberty," those interested would do well to read this article from the August/September 2012 issue of First Things:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/07/conscience-and-coercion

    Unfortunately, it does not appear to be available online to non-subscribers to FT. The author, Thomas Pink, is a Philosophy professor at King's College, London (and a 1990 convert to Catholicism from the Church of England). There is an extensive correspondence concerning his article in the letters section of the November 2012 issue of that same publication (including a letter from me).

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    1. I can't access the article because I am not a FT subscriber. Nonetheless, Professor Pink has published the following on the same subject: "What is the Catholic Doctrine of Religious Liberty?"--or is this essentially the same article, Dr. T?

      http://www.academia.edu/639061/What_is_the_Catholic_doctrine_of_religious_liberty

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    2. Also:

      http://www.academia.edu/639061/What_is_the_Catholic_doctrine_of_religious_liberty

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    3. Looks like the same link I provided!!!????

      BTW, I was able to access the FT article through my public library's research periodical service available to all patrons. Unfortunately, no access to the letters section.

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  6. In relation to the PNCC, yes, it is democratic in many respects, especially as it relates to parishioner ownership and control over properties, and management of Church finances (as long as they are members and in accord with the Church). That said, doctrine is under the sole control of the Prime Bishop and the clergy who are united with him. Women's ordination is a non-starter. Reference the Declaration of Scranton for specific language in this regard, and the Church's Constitution, Article VI, Church Authority:

    In matters of Faith, morals and discipline the authority of this Church lies in the hands of the Prime Bishop, Diocesan Bishops and Clergy united with them...

    In matters of doctrine, it should also be pointed out that when doctrinal matters are place before the General Synod they are presented for ascent, not for a "vote."

    As I have pointed out before, those researching the beliefs and practices of the Church should begin their inquiries by speaking with the Office of the Prime Bishop, the archives of the Church, and factual statements. There is so much "opinion" on-line, and in the private opinions of some. That does not make them true or accurate.

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  7. Anonymous8:56 am

    http://sarumuse.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/the-dream-of-non-papal-catholicism/

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    1. From the comment of Michael Frost:

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      "As for birth control, I love the fact that a RC married couple can intentionally and deliberately use “natural family planning” to remain childless and that would not be sinful (though it may annul their marriage if either spouse so requests of a tribunal, and the entire idea of annulment is morally repugnant to me when done on the new grounds of relative immaturity or psychological inability to be in the right state of mind on the day of the marriage)."
      *************************************

      Not quite the case. A Catholic marriage that has been entered into by man and woman in which they (or either person) never intend(s) to have children is invalid sacramentally whether or not a Marriage Tribunal so recognizes this. BTW, NFP is a very effective process and can be used to help couples to conceive when they have been having trouble conceiving. And it is not abortifacent as so many other artificial birth control methods are at least some of the time.

      I agree with Michael Frost about the modern Catholic annulment process and its use of psychology, a branch of philosophy IMHO more than a real science. It cuts the heart out of marriage because (again IMHO) if the couple or even one of them is incapable of giving consent to the marriage that meets the erstwhile requirement for sacramentality, then this should also mean that one or both persons were incapable under the secular law of contracting the marriage itself as recognized by secular authorities. What a mess we would have in the secular world if this were true!

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