Back in the day, public penance was a fairly common occurrence. Sackcloth, ashes, public beatings, you name it. We're all far too enlightened for that now, but you'd figure that we could at least get a public acknowledgement from the involved party that they did wrong.
Even Jimmy Swaggert managed that much. And if you think you're too good for some public chastisement, ask King Henry II about what happened to him when he got Thomas Becket killed, which was probably an accident on his part anyway. Being royalty didn't get in the way of a sound public beating for his role in the incident.
I'm sure St. Thomas would agree that his own life is a paltry thing next to millions of dead babies. By anyway, just an admission of guilt would be a nice start.
Archbishop Burke thinks it's a good idea, per CNA.
At the 14th Annual Partnership Dinner of InsideCatholic.com, Archbishop Burke said that those who have publicly espoused and cooperated in gravely sinful acts lead people into confusion and error about “fundamental questions.” Just as their dissent was public, their repentance must also be public.
“The person in question bears a heavy responsibility for the grave scandal which he has caused. The responsibility is especially heavy for political leaders,” the archbishop added.
Repairing the damage done by such scandal “begins with the public acknowledgment of his own error and the public declaration of his adherence to the moral law. The soul which recognizes the gravity of what he has done will, in fact, understand immediately the need to make public reparation,” Archbishop Burke said.
Of course, the ultimate problem here is in that last sentence. Not to much sense of sin out there anymore. Great saints used to say that death was preferable to a single mortal sin. Now, Catholics have difficulty even ciphering what a sin is. Surely nothing that they happen to be doing.
His Excellency takes this idea and puts a marvelous spin on it, though. We live in a society that excoriates the notion of "blaming the victim." You see this all the time on talk shows and Law & Order. For Catholics who express concerns about public dissent and the resulting scandal caused by such behavior, though, this is exactly what happens:
In the archbishop’s view, it is ironic that those who experience scandal at the “gravely sinful” public actions of a fellow Catholic are accused of “a lack of charity” and of causing division within the Church.
“Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church's unity is founded on speaking the truth with love,” he remarked.
The contrary attitude is characteristic of a society governed by the “tyranny of relativism,” one in which “political correctness and human respect” are the ultimate criteria, he said, warning that Catholics’ consciences have become “dulled to the gravity of certain moral issues.”
Division is the fault of the orthodox. We're back to the 1984 stuff again. War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery. Fidelity is Rebellion.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Back in the day, public penance was a fairly common occurrence. Sackcloth, ashes, public beatings, you name it. We're all far too enlightened for that now, but you'd figure that we could at least get a public acknowledgement from the involved party that they did wrong.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Jesus went to a football game between the Protestant Punchers and the Catholic Crusaders. The Catholics scored. Jesus cheered wildly. Then the Protestants scored. Jesus cheered wildly. This confused a man sitting behind Jesus, so he nudged Jesus on the shoulder and asked, “Which team are you rooting for?” “Me?” said Jesus. “I’m not rooting for either team. I’m just enjoying the game.” The questioner turned to his neighbour and sneered, “Bah! An atheist!”
Or something like that.
I despise this joke with every fiber of my being. Mostly because I can't figure out how it isn't blasphemous, especially in the context of which it's always (ALWAYS) told.
The point the ersatz comedian is trying to make is that it doesn't matter if one is Catholic or Protestant. Jesus likes both equally and is glad that they are both there to compete with one another. Of course, when we consider this in a practical sense, this means that Jesus is glad that there are rivals to His Mystical Body and proud of the fact that there are those who reject His Truth.
In fact, when we consider that Christ is THE TRUTH, this rejection must be regarded as a rejection of Himself. After all, He was quite clear to those original shepherds that He chose:
He that heareth you heareth me: and he that despiseth you despiseth me: and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
Oh, but what about today's Gospel? Doesn't that mean that all these separated groups are really ok and just as "true" as Catholicism?
Let's take a look at that.John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, who followeth not us: and we forbade him. But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name and can soon speak ill of me. For he that is not against you is for you. For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in my name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
A lot of people with ecumenical hang-ups love to throw this verse around as showing that Christ endorsed indifferentism. Ok, let's slow-play this and see what actually happens.
John, who we know may be somewhat hot-headed given he has a thing for calling down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54), tells Jesus there is a guy casting out demons in His name. John tells the guy to stop. Jesus tells John to back off because the guy is doing the right thing and in the right manner (in His name) and that folks who do such, regardless of their status AS AN APOSTLE, is ok. It doesn't even have to be a miracle, just charity is enough.
The analogous event in the first reading is demonstrative of this. It's not like Eldad was a Gentile or something. He just wasn't with the main group who received God's Spirit.
Sure, you might say, but most Protestant groups aren't really "against" the Church. So they must be "for Jesus," right? Not according to Jesus:
He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.
Puts a different spin on the guy casting out demons, huh? The problem is that so many are willing to junk the Truth in exchange for hand-holding Kumbayaisms that they just assume the exorcist John reprimanded was of an unlike mind with the Apostles. Is he scattering? What evidence is there of this in the text? Do we have anything to demonstrate that this man was a pagan or Pharisee or scribe who rejected Christ's teachings on something?
Of course not. It makes for a jolly good ecumenical delusion, though.
Heretics are a different story. They are defined by scattering and their rejection of Christ's teachings. Did Jesus call the folks back who left in John 6 to say, "Hey, you can go ahead and leave. As long as you aren't against me, it will be alright"?
Consider Jesus's own words about a group of miracle-workers-to-be-named-later:
Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
Working miracles is nice, but doing the will of the Father is more important. You would think this means no scattering and no rejection of those whom God has appointed to lead His Church.
Keep all this in mind the next time you hear the above joke.
It's a supreme irony that so much can be said about Catholics and non-Catholics joining together to fight evil in the world, without bothering to evangelize those separated from the Church. Their separation is one of the gravest evils in the world, if not the gravest. Or to hear comments that Jesus is the unifying factor amongst all Christians, when such statements are completely bankrupt of reason when taken in light of the Eucharist, which is Jesus and which divides Protestants from Catholics and from each other.
Nutshelling all this, I can only say that it is difficult conceive of loving one whom you do not know. Love proceeds from Truth, from knowing the beloved and committing one's will to them. You don't start off with a commitment of the will towards someone that is amorphous, unknown, or fuzzy. This is the plot for a Lifetime movie, not the foundation of a relationship with the Almighty.
There is one Lord, ONE FAITH, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Not many faiths. Just one. There is one Bride (Cant. 6:8). There is one Church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Timothy 3:15). Pretending that this isn't the case helps in nothing, especially preaching the Gospel. Somebody is right. Somebody is wrong. Patting ourselves on the back about all the stuff we might agree on doesn't do a hell of a lot in getting folks to hear, accept, and believe the Truth.
Pius XII, with his typical awesomeness, presents the end game for those looking to shelve evangelical conversion for co-existence or promote Kumbaya over orthodoxy:
But some through enthusiasm for an imprudent "eirenism" seem to consider as an obstacle to the restoration of fraternal union, things founded on the laws and principles given by Christ and likewise on institutions founded by Him, or which are the defense and support of the integrity of the faith, and the removal of which would bring about the union of all, but only to their destruction.
So says Joaquin Navarro-Valls, per CNA. This is pretty high praise. Get this, though:
Speaking about Benedict XVI, he said he considers him "the Pope with the largest and most brilliant personal bibliography in all of Church history. His conceptual wealth is fascinating. And I think people also outside the Catholic circles are aware of it. "
Wow. I'm not one to go overboard on superlatives, but I'm not sure how one can make comments like that lightly.
Not sure who I would put on the "smartest pope" pedestal. I know it's a BS concept, since most of us probably couldn't agree on what "smartest pope" would even mean. If we're just talking about book-learning type stuff, some of those guys in the Middle Ages were pretty smart. Boniface VIII comes to mind. Take into account that I would take Isidore of Seville as probably the smartest saint ever in this very poor and ill-defined contest.
Maybe a better label would be "best teaching pope." I think I've said before that I'd go with Leo XIII, but that is an admittedly biased call on my part.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Something else I've gotten emails about is this report from Rorate Caeli from about a month ago. Lots of questions have come in about why I haven't addressed it. For those who haven't heard:
The document was delivered to the hands of Benedict XVI in the morning of last April 4 by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is the result of a reserved vote, which took place on March 12, in the course of a "plenary" session of the dicastery responsible for the liturgy, and it represents the first concrete step towards that "reform of the reform" often desired by Pope Ratzinger. The Cardinals and Bishops members of the Congregation voted almost unanimously in favor of a greater sacrality of the rite, of the recovery of the sense of eucharistic worship, of the recovery of the Latin language in the celebration, and of the remaking of the introductory parts of the Missal in order to put a stop to abuses, wild experimentations, and inappropriate creativity. They have also declared themselves favorable to reaffirm that the usual way of receiving Communion according to the norms is not on the hand, but in the mouth.
Those who know Cardinal Cañizares, nicknamed "the small Ratzinger" before his removal to Rome, know that he is disposed to move forward decisively with the project, beginning in fact from what was established by the Second Vatican Council in the liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, which was, in reality, exceeded by the post-Conciliar reform which came into forceat the end of the Sixties. The porporato, interviewed by monthly 30Days in recent months, had declared regarding this: "At times change was for the mere sake of changing from a past perceived as negative and outdated. Sometimes the reform was regarded as a break and not as an organic development of Tradition."
"Isn't this awesome news?" and the like is what I've been hearing. Here's the problem. We've been through this before. Remember Redemptionis Sacramentum? That was five years ago. I heard all the "reform" stuff then. It was completely brushed off, buried, and forgotten.
Remember Ecclesia de Eucharistia? That was six years ago. Rome was going to get serious about liturgical abuse then, too.
In fact, we can go all the way back to Dominicae Cenae from 1980. Remember that one? It's John Paul II's apology that nobody likes to talk about.
As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness-in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate-for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.
That was supposed to herald a new era for the liturgy as well.
My point is that we've seen all kinds of optimistic portents in the past. Every one of them has resulted in a big load of nothing. I know what you are thinking. "Yeah, but this is Pope Benedict. He's not the kind of guy that will let this stuff fall by the wayside."
Consider Summorum Pontificum itself. How many bishops are still in disobedience on the Traditional Latin Mass or looking for bizarre rationales for why this document does not apply to them? I'm guessing more than a few. Has anything been done? No. Same as with the above-mentioned pronouncements.
Even the Rorate article itself promotes a slowing of our collective rolls on this one:
With a significant nota bene: for the accomplishment of the "reform of the reform", many years will be necessary. The Pope is convinced that hasty steps, as well as to simply drop directives from above, serve no good, with the risk that they may later remain a dead letter.
I cannot get excited about this right now. I probably should, but I just can't. Too many years of having the rug jerked out from under me, I guess. I don't think it's a secret that recent examples from Cardinals Mahoney and Schonborn show that irreverence at Mass is welcome in some pretty powerful circles. It's tough to be an optimist when you consider how many high-ranking prelates (some of whom could even be considered the papabile sort) are fond of disco liturgy.
So that's my thoughts on it. I really do hope that I'm wrong. The weight of recent history is against it, though.
Since I've gotten more than a couple of emails on the Vatican II series. This is actually about portraying the conciliar teachings as valid and orthodox. Searching for the hermeneutic of continuity, as it were.
We must ask ourselves, though, why such a search is even necessary. Why are parts of the Council so difficult to understand? Why is there a "spirit of Vatican II" to begin with? How is it that heretics can use portions of the conciliar texts to derive the teachings of said "spirit"?
These questions can't be answered without taking a look at the Vatican II proceedings themselves and looking for any wackiness. We have it on the testimony of our five commentators that shenanigans were in abundance and that the totality of these shenanigans hinged on the conflict between groups dedicated to changing and preserving the teachings of the Magisterium.
When a liberal Catholic reporter, a secular non-Catholic reporter, a Presbyterian theologian observer, a traditional Catholic theologian, and a somewhat liberal but overall unbiased Catholic priest reporter all come to the same conclusion on such matters, I think we have enough smoke to determine that there is a fire.
Hence the need to read the documents and their footnotes with sufficient background in mind to catch ambiguities and what-not when they arise.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Augustine receives the credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) for the doctrine of original sin, that every human being by virtue of his birth is tainted and destined for damnation without baptism. He is currently a point of contention in Orthodox-Catholic relations, viewed by some as one who sent Western theology off into its eventual heresy.
But Augustine did not invent the doctrine. As he himself makes clear in Contra Julianum, he is following St. Cyprian and St. Ambrose, whom he quotes approving his own position. It seems clear that he is following doctrinal trends in Carthage and Italy. But what of the East? Augustine attempts to enlist St. John Chrysostom as a witness to his position.
This will be difficult, since St. John says "We baptize even infants, though they are not defiled with sin, in order that there may be given to them holiness, justice, adoption, inheritance, and the brotherhood of Christ, that they may be His members." (quoted from Homilia ad neophytos by Augustine in chapter 6, Contra Julianum.)
St. John says that "Christ wept because the Devil made mortal those who could have been immortal," (Homilia de Lazaro resuscitato.) Augustine enlists this as evidence that all have a guilt of sin. "Why do even infants die if they are not subject to the sin of that first man?" If death is the result of sin, then by what right are infants subject to death if they do not somehow share in the sin?
But this isn't quite what Augustine is saying. To say that infants suffer the effects of sin is not to say that they share in the guilt of sin. Given John Chrysostom's statement about baptism, it seems that he doesn't view original sin as constituting a guilt deserving eternal punishment, but as a damage to human nature. John means mortality as that which enters the world with the sin of Adam. This is sufficient for Augustine's argument with Julian, but not to establish unanimity on original sin between Augustine and John.
The difference is whether infants inherit sin or death from Adam. Augustine agrees that they inherit death, but reasons that they therefore inherit death because of guilt, and therefore need baptism not to share in the deserved condemnation of Adam.
But, it is clear that Augustine is not an innovator. He stands in a long tradition, and it would be improper to blame for what is a legitimate and ancient Christian teaching.
Perhaps more on this as I continue reading Contra Julianum.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Back to our discussion of Vatican II.
Last time, we set up the two major forces at the Council, namely, the Rhine group of bishops, who were looking to change Church doctrine on not a few issues, and the Curia, who were wanting to preserve doctrine from change.
We had also previously mentioned the reactions to Pope John's summons to the Council and how Cardinals Lienart and Frings of the Rhine group developed a strategy for the opening session. Let's delve into that a bit more.
All of our commentators agree that a mammoth amount of effort went into the Council's preparatory work. The central preparatory commission, to which Amerio was a consultant, was organized in July of 1959 and worked pretty much non-stop until the Council opened in 1962. In a nutshell, they sent out questionnaires to the world's bishops, sorted and classified their responses, then set up lesser commissions to draw up schemas (drafts) that would be presented to the Council for consideration.
Moreover, the Roman synod, also convened by Pope John, and whose texts were promulgated in January of 1960, was meant in every way by the Pope to "prefigure and anticipate" the deliberations of the Council itself, per his allocution of June 29, 1960. Amerio describes it as being compared to the provincial synods held by St. Charles Borromeo prior to the Council of Trent. He points to the Pope's orders that the synodal texts be immediately translated into "all the principal languages" as an indicator that "it was intended to play an important exemplary role."
What did the Roman synod produce? A whole bunch of stuff that re-affirmed Catholic doctrine and liturgical practice at every level. Everything from a Tridentine-esque push for clerical discipline, to Latin in the liturgy, to condemnation of all liturgical creativitiy by the celebrant, to the necessity of baptism for infants was covered. How is it that such an allegedly important event was so thoroughly forgotten? Amerio himself had to get the texts of the synod from secular public libraries as there were no copies to be found in diocesan or curial archives.
Consider Blanshard's evaluation of this "little council," as he called it. "If this was meant to be a dress rehearsal for the main council, it did not presage anything remotely resembling free speech." Not that free speech has anything to do with being Catholic, but Blanshard takes exception to the whole proceeding on the grounds that Pope John "instead of giving the clergy of Rome any real opportunity to discuss and revise their own . . . rules in an open assembly, imposed upon them . . . a new constitution of 770 articles, corrected by himself, regulating their conduct. . ."
Note Pope John's involvement there. Blanshard blasts him for these "trivial and traditional restrictions" and as a sign that he "clung to the old absolutist traditions that . . . give the priests in a synod no authority against their bishops." How much of this fits with the post-conciliar picture of Blessed John?
MacEoin is as bad as Blanshard in his view of the synod, which he was painted as an alternative to the Council in which bishops would be "maneuvered into rubber-stamping decisions made in advance by the Curia." The synod "tamely accepted a rehash of the long-sanctioned articles of war." Said war, by the way, being that between the Church and the post-Reformation world.
If you've read Vatican II's documents, you know that the synod is not cited even once. If you've been Catholic for the last 50 years, you also know that nobody has paid any attention to what it said. Between it and Veterum Sapientia, what do you get? Lots of pre-conciliar stuff, sponsored by The Good Pope, that was relegated to the dustbin of history.
How did this happen?
Well, it all goes back to the strategy of Cardinals Lienart and Frings. See, the first things that were distributed to the Fathers at VII were two lists, one of all the participants and the other of all those who had been part of the original preparatory work. The Fathers were then given a ballot to write down their choices of candidates for the ten major commissions that would to the actual drafting at the council now that all this preliminary stuff was over. The list of the preparatory commission members, though, didn't go over well in some circles. As Wiltgen describes the situation, "But since all preparatory commission members originally had been appointed to office by the Holy See, some Council Fathers resented this list." The bitterness over the so-called "Curial list" is odd for anyone paying attention since, as Amerio says, "nobody can better present a document other than those who have studied, refined, and finally drafted it." Everybody was still free to vote anyway, so it wasn't like there was some kind of restraint on the voters.
When the time came for folks to actually cast their votes, things got weird, courtesy of Cardinal Lienart.
Per Mr. Brown:
As soon, therefore, as the first session was called to order, Cardinal Lienart of France moved a recess so that the council fathers could meet in national groups, discuss possible candidates, and agree on those whom they wished to represent them. Cardinal Frings . . . immediately seconded the motion, which was overwhelmingly adopted, and no sooner had the council begun than it recessed for a long weekend. Over that weekend, the various national groups of bishops met, submitted their own nominations for a revised slate of commission members, and were thus able to secure representation on commissions which, even though still dominated by conservative chairmen and vice-chairmen (basically irrelevant given the resulting commissions' make-ups), now had membership representing currents of opinion from all parts of the world.
(B)ecause the motion succeeded, the council was able to become a genuine council of the whole church, rather than reflecting viewpoints regnant only in the southern portion of the Italian peninsula.
Just as an aside, we've already mentioned, and we'll see more later, as to how Brown's last sentence here is a complete lie, given the large support that the International Fathers would get from non-Italian groups, especially Latin America.
Anyways, Brown's account of these events, differs a bit from what Amerio recalls. He relates Lienart, after being refused permission to speak, as having "seized the microphone, thus violating due legal process." This really doesn't matter. It happened. The commission votes were delayed. Once the Rhine group had the chance to block vote their candidates and do a little politicking among the other bishops, it was all over. Per Wiltgen, "Eight out of every ten candidates put forward by the European alliance received a commission seat."
How much negotiating went on in all this is open for speculation. We do know from Wiltgen's book that at least one African bishop had felt duped. He stated that "(I)n exchange for African support for all alliance candidates to the Theological Commission (the most important one of all and upon which the alliance gained 50% of the elected representatives), the alliance would support all African candidates to the Commission on the Missions." Somehow, though, only three of the nine African nominees made it on.
Wiltgen sums up these two major preliminary victories by the innovators thusly, "After the election, it was not too hard to foresee which group was well enough organized to take over leadership at the Second Vatican Council. The Rhine had begun to flow into the Tiber."
With all these shenanigans, it's difficult to understand MaEoin's complaints about conciliar procedure and his portrait of the Curia as well-nigh Masonic in their machinations. He spends about six whole pages griping about "procedural defects" and "inadequate machinery," with all kinds of "elements that were manipulated to thwart its (the Council's) purposes." Of course, he has to admit that these "elements" and such are long-standing items in conciliar history and aren't new to the picture at all. That doesn't really matter, though, as we see that anything that serves to promote innovation is good, while anything belonging to the Church's traditional practices is bad.
We see then the full blossoming of the Rhine strategy and how it shifted the axis of the Council towards the Rhine group. With considerable, often majority, membership on the commissions that controlled the drafting of the documents, they had essentially locked down the Council itself.
Next time, we'll discuss the third major victory for the innovators, which will lead us into our discussion of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy. We close now with the following item from Amerio, who relates a story from Jean Guitton. Apparently, Cardinal Tisserant, a Rhine group member, had showed Guitton a picture of His Eminence and six other cardinals. Tisserant commented, "This picture is historic, or rather, symbolic. It shows the meeting we had before the opening of the council, when we decided to block the first session by refusing to accept the tyrannical rules laid down by John XXIII."
Make of that what you will, dear reader.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
So, I'm poking through Augustine, and he makes an interesting argument against Pelagians, who taught that the grace of God working in us was merely the knowledge, the intellectual enlightenment that makes us good, once we acknowledge it. As for God giving the grace for us to accomplish that which he commands, that seems to the Pelagian to annul our free will. So much for Church history.
Augustine argues against him by saying that if Pelagius is right, our prayers in the churches are in vain:
Destruunt etiam orationes, quas facit Ecclesia, sive pro infidelibus et doctrinae Dei resistentibus, ut convertantur ad Deum; sive pro fidelibus, ut augeatur in eis fides, et perseverent in ea. (Ex Augustini Libro De Haeresibus ad Quodvultdeum, Haeresis 88)
Translation: (By their doctrine) prayers indeed are done away with, which the Church makes, either for the unbelievers and those resisting the doctrine of God, that they be turned to God, or for the faithful, that they may be increased in their faith, and persevere in it.
The key interest: he argues from the liturgy to the theology. The Church has always prayed for these things, and therefore they must be good. Any doctrine that conflicts with the ancient liturgical traditions of the Church must be wrong. The liturgy serves as a rule of faith.
All the more reason, I think, for us to be conservative in things liturgical.
In Orthodox theology, there is currently a trend to blame Augustine for everything that has gone wrong in the west. I am not exaggerating: I recently heard a lecture where this point was made repeatedly. Augustine was the villain, who, by saying that sexuality was bad, caused the entire fall of the West. I pointed out similar passages from St. Gregory the Theologian, and the lecturer dissembled, saying something about how Gregory didn't really mean it, but they meant it in the West. It was a pitiful polemic disguised as an academic lecture, and so I will refrain from naming the man so as not to embarass him.
The exemplar of this sort of theology is John Romanides, who makes Augustine out to be a rogue, whose theories on original sin and denial of the Palamite essence-energies distinction has led to a destructive rationalism where we have tried to think our way to God, and, having failed, have become secularists. Augustine fails to acknowledge the proper apophatic nature of any approach to God. Never mind that apophatism is rife within the mystical writing of Western saints, or that St. Thomas Aquinas says, immediately after proving that there is a first cause, that we can not say what God is, but only what God isn't. Any stick will do for those who are engaged in polemics.
That's why I was fascinated to discover that St. Gregory Palamas, the 14th century bishop who is the rallying point for theologians crying "Difference!" to the West, was substantially influenced by St. Augustine. This fact was obscured by Palamas' failure to attribute his quotes, but there are substantial passages from the Chapters which are identical or nearly identical with passages from the Greek translation of De Trinitate, written by St. Augustine. See the article by Flogaus in Orthodox Readings of Augustine, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
This is not to say that there aren't significant differences between Orthodox and Catholic theology. I think there are convergences, others think there are divergences. But nobody is served by taking potshots at foundational figures in a religious tradition simply to prove a point. Oh, and by the way, the most problematical elements of interpretations of Augustine were condemned by the Church in the person of Cornelius Jansen. Perhaps he needn't be such a polarizing figure.
Anyway, the lecture by the unnamed lecturer, the awful, partisan, polemic trashing of Augustine, has motivated me to dig up Contra Julianum and read it again.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tonight, I learned that St. Jerome preached about the Rapture. That's so awesome that I can't find a single source backing it up (other than his translation of the "caught up" passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 as "rapturo").
I also learned that space aliens are actually demons and that they will start dropping like flies from heaven so that Jesus will have clear sailing when he returns. Didn't Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neill already go through this?
Television can be so educational.
By the way, I know a lot of you are waiting for the next installment of the Vatican II series. I am working on it. My employment has been something of a madhouse lately, so things are progressing a bit slower than I would like. I apologize and will do better.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
So I'm watching DayStar last night, and the "Fall Sharathon" is in full swing. I turned it on just in time to hear the latest Judaizer-du-jour talking to Joni and Marcus Lamb (the network founders) about his new book. I'm not going to mention his name or the name of the book simply because I don't want to give this shmoe any more free pub than he's already getting.
His whole point was, and I quote, that "Jews and Christians weren't separate groups until the Council of Nicea in the year 325."
That's weird. I wonder if anybody told St. Stephen that before he was stoned to death. If he would have known that they were all just one big group, he might not have worried about all that Jesus talk.
Or St. Paul. Didn't he get the memo that Christians and Jews were one group? Just what was his malfunction with all that persecution business? It must have been some kind of misunderstanding. I can only imagine what happened when Mr. Roper showed up.
St. Justin, who was writing around 150 or so, apparently didn't have a clue either. Hell, he was writing the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew for nothing. You wouldn't think you'd need a discussion of the sort that Justin envisions if the opposite party is part of your own camp. Something about preaching to the choir comes to mind.
All facts aside, let's consider the rationale promoted by our Judaizing colleagues for all this.
Basically, Constantine convoked Nicea I because he was trying to Christianize all these pagans and none of them could do so because they weren't familiar with Judaism. It was therefore necessary to separate Christians from their Jewish roots so that the pagans wouldn't have to learn stuff about Judaism AND so that nobody would think Jerusalem was important and instead "look to Europe as the home of Christianity."
If you just said, "Huh?" just trust me that you aren't alone.
And here I was thinking that it had to do with that Arianism business. Oddly enough, Constantine, the Pope, and everybody else who was at the Council seemed to think the same thing. For the sake of comparison, here are the canons from Nicea I. Jerusalem is mentioned a grand total of once, down in Canon 7. Jews aren't mentioned at all until the close of the synodal letter, and the reference there is about the date for celebrating Easter. Constantine and Co. must have been really crappy record-keepers if they couldn't even come up with a single note discussing the whole reason why they were meeting in the first place.
It was a sad sight to see the camera shots that cut away into the audience to show all these poor people being duped by these guys. It is quite striking to see how historical fact is abused by such folks with such impugnity. Pray for them and their victims.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Ok, what we’re looking at now is probably the most controversial part
of the encyclical. Catholics and Protestants alike are full-on
blasting the Pope for what he says here, though for very different
Before we get started, let’s call to mind our prior installments (here for example) in which we’ve reviewed what, to this point, seemed to be a recurring theme for the Holy Father: the inability of man and man-made structures to solve problems. Using that as a reference point, let’s proceed.
In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.
By itself, I think this is pretty innocuous. It’s the follow-up that freaks people out.
One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of
giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor
Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.
From an economic standpoint, didn’t von Hayek claim the need for a similar institution in The Road to Serfdom? I don’t have my copy handy, but I’m pretty sure the whole last chapter was about (a) the dangers of international economic planning and (b) the need for an international super-authority to help avert global calamities.
My point is that His Holiness can’t be labeled some sort of communist simply because he mentions an international authority.
Moreover, there is a bit of a blur here with regards to the need for this organization. Is the point that we need this sort of thing now and forever because of how bad things are or that it’s always been needed because things have always been bad or that we need it to help with these problems as long as they exist in their current form?
There’s been a big movement to historicize most Magisterial pronouncements of the last couple of centuries, hence we hear that Blessed Pius IX was just talking about the 19th century situation in the Syllabus of Errors, or St. Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism was just meant for the particular problems of his era, and so forth. In Pope Benedict’s case, he has surrounded this plea for a global authority with language that seems to isolate its need for the times and problems faced in our somewhat peculiar times. For that reason, I don’t really see this as some sort of break with past papal teaching, as he is clearly addressing our circumstances today. Sure, he references John XXIII in Pacem in Terris, but even then, Pope John was staring into the face of the Cold War. Given their respective circumstances, I don’t think it’s shocking then that you didn’t hear such a call from John Paul II (at least that I’m aware of). His way of taking on the Soviets was just way different.
Don’t buy into the historicizing take on things? That’s ok. I don’t think I do either. Let’s keep reading, though, as I’m about to get really wacky with my theories.
Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth.
So we see the Pope trying to put checks on the sort of entity he’s talking about. I know what everyone is thinking here because pretty much everyone from every angle has said it in commenting about the encyclical: It’s very easy to talk about this sort of thing, but realistically, such an organization will gradually slouch towards absolutism. Just hold that thought and bear with me.
What sorts of checks are we talking about? Law, subsidiarity, solidarity, the pursuit of the common good (and remember the Catholic definition of this term), and “authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth.”
I don’t know of any other way to take this, except that the Pope wants a Catholic world power. Otherwise, this section, not to mention the rest of the whole encyclical, makes absolutely no sense. Think about what the Pope has already said in this very document about human institutions. They can’t be trusted and they screw things up. Hell, it’s the reason he gives for the whole economic crisis in the first place. This is very much in line with his Augustinian view of things. Why would he suddenly shift gears and be clamoring for an even bigger human institution with more power to screw things up than maybe any other such group in the history of the world? It’s because he wants this thing to be run by what the Church says. When he talks about common good and integral human development, he’s consistently tied it to spreading the Gospel.
I’m actually going to get even weirder in a few sentences.
Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums.
Of course, or else this entity would not be an authority at all. This is the part that really worries people, though. All this “ensure compliance” stuff sounds really nice until it threatens national sovereignty. It’s a reason to be concerned, for sure, except that I truly think the Pope is talking about something that will take us back to old-school “line of demarcation” type Church authority over things. We aren’t talking about the Church replacing the State. Subsidiarity, after all, plus he’s already dealt with this in Deus Caritas Est. We’re talking about the Church being the final court of appeal on this stuff.
Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.
When it comes to the “moral order,” who is mankind’s teacher? Who can determine such conformity? The Church, of course. This is actually nothing new, as Dignitatis Humanae from Vatican II says that legislation must be in accordance with the objective moral order, which can only be translated as what the Church says.
I concede to my critics, and I know there will be many, that the last bit about the UN Charter is disconcerting, but even that is vague. Are we talking structurally, in the substance of its content, its scope, etc? I maintain that, given the full context of the encyclical (and this section especially), the Pope isn’t talking about some sort of secular paradise.
Which brings me to my last point- New World Order, One World Government, and the Rise of the AntiChrist. Lots of folks have brought this up. Once folks perceived the danger of absolutism in the Pope’s proposed organization, this was the next leap for a lot of religious people, especially Protestants who might be inclined to think badly of us papists anyway. Catholics are worried about it, too. For a good commentary about this, check Boniface’s stuff over at Unam Sanctam.
Here’s where I’m going to get really weird, and you should all don your tin-foil hats. From my reading of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church about the End Times, and I readily admit that guys like Boniface know way more than I do, but it seems to me that the One World Government isn’t the problem. What happens is that you have a One World Government that is the height of awesome but then gets fractured into 10 parts with ten rulers. After that, the AntiChrist shows up and wipes out 3 of the 10. The other rulers surrender. All hell breaks loose.
Digging a little bit deeper, you find a lot of references to this One World Government as being run by the ultimate Catholic political figure, now commonly known as the “Great Catholic Monarch.” As an aside, there are also some items about a super-Pope that reigns at the same time, who is known as the "Angelic Pastor." My point in all this is to say that the New World Order is considered by many to be something that will be the Church’s finest hour. It’s the breakdown of that order that will herald the End Times.
Given my reading of the encyclical, my conclusion is that Pope Benedict is not setting the stage for the AntiChrist. He’s setting the stage for the Great Monarch. Make of it what you will, folks. I’m just calling it how I see it.
We’ll try to finish this up in the next couple of days and get to our next installment in the Vatican II series.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Our current Holy Father has said a lot of stuff about faith and reason and how they should get along. A lot of folks seem to try and restrict this to Regensburg and the whole Islam thing. The real target, though, is secularism, and this weird sort of neo-Kant-without-realizing-it desire to bifurcate the two into their own little boxes.
Christians are just as likely to pile onto to this as anyone else. The main thing here, I think, is the fundamentalist reaction against Modernism and all that entails, including hubris. What we've been given in fundamentalism is a conscious choice by many to reject stuff like philosophy and science in favor of one's own closed-system interpretation of Scripture. This goes for theology, too. I've mentioned the Protestant conversation of "Theology is dead" enough times to illustrate that.
The best example of this I've ever seen was in a recent production on SkyAngel2. It's one of those high-number preacher channels on your DishNetwork. It was called End of the Harvest and is probably one of the most embarassing things a Christian could ever promote.
Basically, it starts out with a Christian college student who has decided to speak to the campus philosophy club on the subject of "Is there a God?" Good subject for a philosophy debate, right? The movie decides otherwise by removing the entire notion of philosophy from the exercise. Not only that, but apparently you can't be into philosophy and believe in God, as all members of the club are snobbish atheists wearing Dockers and sweater vests.
Let me say right now that this was offensive enough. I was a philosophy major, and there were plenty of us that believed in God. Shout out to Prof. Will Ramsey, by the way, who is an atheist but taught a freaking awesome Philo 101 anyway. And no philosophy major wore Dockers and sweater vests. Most (if not all) of us looked like hobos.
Back to the movie. The "debate" that this Christian guy gets into consists of his whining a lot and yelling, "There is a God! You just can't see Him!" Follow this up with the atheist response, "How can you believe in something you can't see?" Add a little, "I just know," "How can you prove it?" and "I don't know," and you basically have the first quarter of the film.
This is all witnessed by a group of other Christian students who are content to stand idly by watching their mentally defective comrade get blasted. These mental defects must be part of some kind of contagion because the main character (who we'll call Dawson because he looks jsut like him) whispers under his breath things like "You can't see the wind, but you know it's there. You can't feel the planet's rotation, but you know it's there," as though these actually constitute legitimate responses to the atheist mockery.
Anyways, from the get-go, what we have is a huge insult to both Christians and atheists in that both are camps of idiots.
In the post-yelling commiseration between Christians, Dawson drops a bit about a 50-year old paper he read about the end of the world. One of his buddies decides that he's going to take this end of the world topic to the philosophy club for their next "debate."
No explanation is given for what is going to be debated. Most atheists I know believe in an end to the world, so this is just more movie jackassery.
Whatever he's going to debate, Dawson's pal is convinced he's going to give those nasty atheists what-for and tells them so. The atheists are so concerned about this that they begin their own research. Do they attempt to construct arguments to demonstrate some sort of atheist view of our annihilation? No. They start digging up dirt on Dawson's friend (he got a DWI, he dated a promiscuous girl, etc.) in order to engage in ad hominem attacks.
As an aside, ad hominems will usually get you laughed at in a real philosophical exchange.
Dawson tries talking to his friend about the upcoming club meeting and to warn him about the tactics the atheists will use but is basically given the brush off because his buddy "has some more verses to look at."
That's right. The Christian is going to go to a philosophy club meeting to argue against a bunch of atheists (about what, we don't know) using Scripture verses as his main resource. What a great idea! Thank goodness there haven't been Christians who actually used logical argument to convince atheists. What a disaster that would be! Using a book that the audience would regard as a joke and completely fictional would be much more convincing.
In all this, the friend realizes he's unprepared (no kidding), so he gets Dawson to tell everyone that he won't be showing up. Dawson is then berated by the audience to discuss the topic himself because he admits that he's "studied it extensively," meaning that old paper previously mentioned. The best part is that he admits he doesn't have an argument for God's existence or why the Bible is true, so the atheists, at the urging of an audience member, CONCEDE BOTH POINTS TO HIM.
In other words, Christians can't prove anything about the Faith, so we have to rely on the charity of the atheists to even be able to discuss it.
What follows is basically Dawson giving a sermon on death, judgement, heaven, and hell. No debate. Just his quoting Scripture while one atheist makes fun of him while the others look perplexed and nod a lot.
Roll credits. I confess that there's also a sub-plot where Dawson has been dreaming about a guy cutting wheat in a field and it turns out to be the guy who wrote the old paper, but it doesn't have any real bearing on the movie's message.
What is that message? That Christianity is an irrational faith. Reason has no connection to it whatsoever. When others make use of logic or reason to refute Divine Truth, the Christian must flee or perhaps sling a few Bible verses around and hope one sticks. The intellect is relegated to an inferior position to I don't even know what. Everything, I guess. Whatever you Christians do, though, don't try to actually reason with the unbeliever. It won't do you any good anyway.
How abysmal, especially from a movie that is allegedly promoting Christianity. What it instead promotes is this inherent fear of rational thought found in some fundamentalist circles. Despite the fact that God gave us our reason to use it, many see fit to shelve it when conversing about the most important topic there can be.
I wonder if total depravity plays into this. Maybe the bedrock concept that isn't beng recognized here is that we can't trust our reason because we're all just walking turds.
Regardless, it's a crappy movie and degrading to Christians. Avoid.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
We talked a lot about the utterly bankrupt call for "common ground" from Pres. Obama quite a bit, especially in our coverage of the ND fiasco.
A couple of bishops are revisiting that issue.
First, we have Archbishop Chaput from CNA:
"Common ground" is a phrase that President Obama and some of his supporters have been using to describe their efforts to work for health care reform. But Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is taking them to task for abusing the Catholic concept, calling any labeling of the current reform proposals as common ground "a lie."
"First, it proves once again that people don’t need to actually live in the United States to have unhelpful and badly informed opinions about our domestic issues. Second, some of the same pious voices that once criticized U.S. Catholics for supporting a previous president now sound very much like acolytes of a new president. Third, abortion is not, and has never been, a 'specifically Catholic issue,' and the editors know it. And fourth, the growing misuse of Catholic 'common ground' and 'common good' language in the current health-care debate can only stem from one of two sources: ignorance or cynicism."
"No system that allows or helps fund – no matter how subtly or indirectly -- the killing of unborn children, or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs, can bill itself as 'common ground,' Archbishop Chaput insists, adding that, "Doing so is a lie."
On another note, Bishop D'Arcy isn't going away either. From LifeSite:
Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and decisions-especially by a decision to confer its highest honor? If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith?" wrote Bishop D'Arcy. "And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?"
D'Arcy's column will appear as the cover story of the Jesuit journal America, which took a perspective favorable of Obama amid the scandal. D'Arcy touched briefly on the journal's bias, saying that the intense pro-life Catholic backlash to the honor was "not about what this journal called 'sectarian Catholicism.'"
"Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel. In Matthew's words, 'Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your heavenly Father' (5:13)," said the bishop. Over 360,000 petitioners and 80 active U.S. bishops voiced opposition to the honor.
Yeah, but you apparently didn't get the memo, Your Excellency. We're looking for common ground here. Faithfulness to the call of Christ is secondary.
"Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters (Matter #2 = The VM), both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop," said D'Arcy. The bishop said he was notified of both decisions only after the fact.
"The diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth," he said. "The bishop must be concerned that Catholic institutions do not succumb to the secular culture, making decisions that appear to many, including ordinary Catholics, as a surrender to a culture opposed to the truth about life and love."
"I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer," wrote D'Arcy. "They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment.
The BOT and administration have been missing responsibility and accountability for a while now. It predates Jenkins & Co. They just decided to go all-in.
It's what Bishop D'Arcy says in conclusion, though, that really gets at the crux of the matter:
"Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O'Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae?" he asked.
So true. Will Catholic universities be faithful to the vision of Rome or the vision of the world? Peter and his Successor or Hesburgh and his followers?
Why is this portrayed as a difficult decision?
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
These words were used to describe Fr. Stan Fortuna, who is going to make an appearance at an event my diocese is hosting for the youth.
I know nothing of Fr. Fortuna, but I was struck by the description.
Isn't this akin to crediting Freddie Mercury with being the greatest gay Zoroastrian rock star of all time?
So is wanting others to know the Truth according to these Jewish leaders, per Haaretz:
Major Jewish groups and rabbis from the three largest branches of American Judaism said Thursday that their relationship with Roman Catholic leaders is at risk because of a recent U.S. bishops' statement on salvation. Jewish groups said they interpret the new document to mean that the bishops view interfaith dialogue as a chance to invite Jews to become Catholic. The Jewish leaders said they "pose no objection" to Christians sharing their faith, but said dialogue with Jews becomes "untenable" if the goal is to persuade Jews to accept Christ as their savior.
So the Truth should take a back seat to stuff that we can all just agree on? What's the point of dialogue then? I guess it means that we all get together and congratulate ourselves on our mutual enlightenment and correctness.
The biggest deal here is that these Jewish groups are seeking to make Catholics deny core aspects of the Faith just to keep their feelings from being hurt. We are an evangelical faith. We are commanded to propogate ourselves by Christ Himself. Who are these folks to tell us otherwise?
Another question- Why aren't Jews trying to convert me? Even if they know with Divinely Inspired certainty that I'm going to heaven as a Catholic (which they don't), I would like to think that I am worthy of being brought out of my ignorance and blindness to the true nature of God. Am I not worth the trouble? Or is Truth something that they have some kind of monopoly on?
I'm offended. Jews aren't proselytizing me! Do they think they are better than me or something?