Friday, December 9, 2016

Hiroshima, mon Amoris? (Updated 12/16)


Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia has been something of a bombshell.  And its critics worry that it will have something like a bombshell’s effect on the Church.  Most readers are no doubt aware of the four cardinals’ now famous dubia (“doubts”), requesting from the pope clarification on certain doctrinal questions raised by the document.  This was preceded earlier this year by a statement from forty-five theologians and clergy asking the pope to repudiate theological errors they take to be apparent in the document.

Some defenders of Amoris have been decidedly heated in their response to these developments.  Fr. Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Roman Rota, alleges that the cardinals have caused “a very grave scandal, which could even lead the Holy Father to take away their red hats.”  Retired Bishop Frangiskos Papamanolis accuses the cardinals of “sin,” “apostasy” and “sacrilege.”  Papal advisor Fr. Antonio Spadaro opines that Amoris is “very clear” and that “a questioning conscience can easily find all the responses it is seeking, if it is seeking sincerely” and criticizes those who “pose questions in order to place another in difficulty, provoking divisions.” 

So far, however, the pope himself has not responded, either to the four cardinals or to the forty-five theologians.

But the controversy is evidently just getting started.  This week, twenty-three prominent Catholic academics and clergy have issued a statement in support of the four cardinals.  Philosopher Robert Spaemann, a friend of Pope Benedict XVI, also supports the cardinals and calls on others to join them.

At First Things, “new natural law” theorists John Finnis and Germain Grisez today summarize their own letter to the pope urging him to condemn certain errors being propagated in the name of Amoris.  (E. Christian Brugger, another “new natural law” theorist, has also been critical of Amoris and of the pope’s endorsement of the Argentine bishops’ interpretation of the document.)

At Crisis, Fr. James Schall notes that “to avoid giving answers, when giving answers is your job, seems odd.”

The Catholic Thing warns of “the dangerous road of papal silence.” 

Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture notes what the pope cannot say if he does decide to speak.

At Crux, even veteran liberal Catholic journalist John Allen rejects the glib assurances of the critics of the four cardinals that the meaning of Amoris is perfectly clear.

At Catholic World Report, Carl Olson asks: Can Amoris Laetitia be reconciled with Pope St. John Paull II’s Veritatis Splendor

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Church’s chief doctrinal officer, refrains from answering the dubia, but does insist that the teaching of John Paul II remains binding.

The Catholic Herald worries about the “intemperate and angry,” “emotive,” and “sentimental” reactions of some of the critics of the four cardinals, about the “anti-intellectualism” and “contempt for rationality and logical discourse” these critics exhibit, and about the “cult of personality” they have built around the pope.

The Herald also marvels that, interpreting Amoris, “a papal adviser has [in effect] said that extramarital sex could be a moral duty.” 

Canon lawyer Edward Peters demonstrates the theological muddleheadedness of some of the remarks made by critics of the four cardinals. 

Bishop Athanasius Schneider compares the abuse the cardinals have received to the treatment of dissidents under the Soviet regime.  He has compared the current situation to the Arian crisis.  Two other bishops also defend the four cardinals.

The National Catholic Register reminds Cardinal Cupich that the synod on the family in fact did not approve communion for the divorced and “remarried.”

Ross Douthat at The New York Times weighs competing interpretations of Amoris Laetitia and warns of “the end of Catholic marriage.”

More dueling interpretations: Philosopher Rocco Buttiglione attempts to answer the dubia and argues that Amoris can be reconciled with past teaching.  In sharp contrast, at Rorate Caeli, philosopher John Lamont argues that we are essentially in a situation like the one which faced the Church in the time of Pope Honorius.

Both defenders and critics of Amoris Laetitia fear that schism will be the sequel. 

Nor is Amoris the only statement from Pope Francis to have raised questions about continuity with traditional teaching on marriage and related matters.  The remarks the pope made this summer about the validity of Catholic marriages and cohabitation are problematic in ways noted by Fr. Gerald Murray, Robert Royal, Ed Peters, and others.  There are also problematic aspects of the pope’s reform of the annulment process.  Brugger, Christopher Tollefsen, and others have noted the problematic character of some of the pope’s remarks about contraception.  And so on.

Whatever happens next, both the pope’s actions and those of the four cardinals and forty-five theologians should be kept in theological and historical perspective.

UPDATE 12/11: Regina interviews influential Vatican-watcher Edward Pentin about what is going on in Rome.  I will add further new links as the occasion arises. 

UPDATE 12/15: An Australian archbishop denounces “absolutism” and the four cardinals’ “false clarity.”  At Crux, Austen Ivereigh accuses defenders of the four cardinals of being “dissenters” comparable to those who argue for “women priests, an end to mandatory celibacy and an opening in areas such as contraception.” 

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, another cardinal comes to the defense of the four.  Bishop Schneider defends Christ’s teaching on marriage.  And at First Things, Prof. Joseph Shaw explains why Catholic academics are supporting the four cardinals.

UPDATE 12/16: Canon lawyer Edward Peters on popes and heresy.  Cardinal Burke is interviewedHistorical parallels to the four cardinals.

Some commentary of my own forthcoming soon. 

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you considered adopting the sedevacantist position?

SK said...

The Pope's statements within Amoris Laetitia are not invoking papal infallibility are they?

Ivan Knezović said...

They are not infallible of course, it's only an encyclical. They also never could be infallible as they very clearly contradict the teaching of John Paul, Benedict XVI and well the entire history of the Church.

But the comments on how the defenders of AL are essentially anti-intellectual and do not provide any actual arguments are completely true, nothing but vague notions of mercy, of course completely separated from justice. They only offer contempt and accusations of rigidity and failure of recognising, something which is impossible not to recognize, that people are in fact sinful and often reject God.

Greg said...

@ Ivan

They are not infallible of course, it's only an encyclical.

Amoris Laetitia isn't even an encyclical. It is an apostolic exhortation.

Scott W. said...

Both defenders and critics of Amoris Laetitia fear that schism will be the sequel

Well to be precise, there is already significant de facto schism. Clarity on AL risks making it de jure which, while certainty a painful prospect, can't be punted on indefinitely.

George R. said...

The notion that any papal teaching that defines Catholic doctrine on faith and morals can be in any way fallible or erroneous is completely foreign to the mind of the true Church. However, many modern theologians fell into the error of denying this, ironically enough, because of the Vatican I teaching on papal infallibility. For, seeing that Vatican I taught that when the pope speaks ex cathedra he is infallible, many commenters concluded from this that when the pope is infallible he must be speaking ex cathedra. But this does not at all necessarily follow; for it is a blatant case of the fallacy of affirming the consequent. For if it's raining, it must be cloudy. But if it's cloudy, it's not necessarily raining.

Btw, nothing Bergoglio says is infallible. For he is not Catholic and, therefore, not the pope... and neither was JPII, for that matter.

Ilíon said...

The Herald also marvels that, interpreting Amoris, “a papal adviser has [in effect] said that extramarital sex could be a moral duty.”

That sounds oddly familiar -- for, after all, were it true that *both*:
1) lying is intrinsicly immoral;
2) morality may require one to lie in some rare circumstance (*)
then we would have the very odd fact that morlaity may require one to act immorally. That is to say, IF one holds that bot those propositions are true, THEN one is holding that morality is self-contradictory, and thus incoherent.


(*) such as when one is hiding someone from someone else who wishes to murder him, and the would-be murder asks one, point-blank, if one has any knowledge of where his intended victim is.

Rory said...

This episode in the history of the Church will hopefully give further clarification regarding the limits of papal authority and infallibility. There is a good article in the latest The Remnant about this. I don't claim to have done the research but it seems to establish that popes may be guilty of heresy, but at the same time they remain pope until they are formally charged and fail to adhere to the teaching of the Church.

Using authorities such as Sts. Clement of Rome, Thos. Aguinas and Rob't Bellarmine, the author of the article suggests that the deposition or removal of the pope corresponds with his election. In the same way that a double consent is necessary for a bride and groom to become man and wife, so it is when a man becomes pope. One of the comments that struck me was about how God does not make a man pope without the consent of man. Likewise, God does not depose the pope without the consent of man. This seemed compatible with the Fathers, Doctors of the Church, and theologians that were cited.

Traditional Catholics probably cannot help ourselves if we begin to question whether Pope Francis has the Catholic faith. But there is nothing in Catholic Tradition to make us believe that it is impossible to have a pope such as Francis. Saints and doctors of the church have even anticipated a pope such as we now have. The article says it better than I do...even though they regrettably have a few typoes...

The article doesn't seem to be online yet. I will give you one quote for sake of space from St. Bellarmine: "Jurisdiction is certainly given to the Pontiff by God, but with the agreement of men [who elect him], as is obvious; because this man, who beforehand was not Pope, has from men that he would begin to be Pope; therefore, he is not removed by God unless it is through men." (De Romano Pontifice, ch. 30)

Lazarus said...

A very helpful summary of the various positions, thank you.

Tony said...

Btw, nothing Bergoglio says is infallible. For he is not Catholic and, therefore, not the pope... and neither was JPII, for that matter.

Whether one believes that the chair of Peter is vacant or not, this is not quite accurate: the Church calls all those baptized into the Catholic Church as "Catholic", even if they are heretic, schismatic, or apostate. All of these are bad Catholics, having left behind the practice of their religion. But since baptism makes an indelible mark on the soul, a stamp that can never be erased even by heresy, schism, or apostacy, they remain Catholic. They remain bound by Catholic juridical rules, for example: an heretic or apostate is bound to observe the canons about marriage, even though they refuse to recognize them. They remain Catholic.

A person can well be in the state of mortal sin, and still be pope, as is rather clearly indicated by medieval popes who had affairs with various women. I have never seen a formal teaching of the Church that states that a Pope, validly elected and seated, loses the office by becoming a heretic. (Since whether he is a heretic is initially known only in the internal forum, others could not know of it, or be certain of it, which would make the papal infallibility a precarious "protection" for the Church). Nor one that says a man who is a material heretic is unable to become Pope. Christ's promises to the Church to keep her free from error do not imply these notions: they imply, rather, that no pope can teach error dogmatically from the seat of Peter - which the Holy Spirit can enjoin on a heretic (material or formal) just as readily as on one who was no heretic when elected but came to hold an error through a simple mental mistake and without sin.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

George R is not Catholic. No Sede is a Catholic except during that brief time between the Death or resignation of the last Pope and the election of the New One.

Indeed Sedes are in the pickle of having to push back the line of valid Popes. Originally the lot of them claimed Pius XII was the last Pope but no Cardinal appointed by him is alive today & or allowed to vote in the Conclave. If there hasn't been a valid Pope since before 1950 then Jesus lied to us in Matthew 16:18. It is really that simple.

I hold with Michael Voris on laypersons criticizing the Pope(even if I disagree with him on other issues).
http://www.churchmilitant.com/main/generic/faq-public-criticism-of-the-pope

The cult of Francis hatred I have seem among the Reactionary RadTrad crowd (which Mirrors the JP2 bashing nonsense we see from old guard reactionaries like George R) if anything has been part of the problem and not the solution. It is terrible however principled and sober critics of Pope Francis have sometimes born the brunt of the extremists. I submit if the Pope really is the villain the reactionaries say he is (one jackarse over at Crisis openly called the Pope an "evil Man". Don't even get me started on Skojec.) then their wicked actions have done nothing but help his alleged "villainous" activity like the hysterical liberal media in America has helped Trump. The cult of Francis hatred is diabolical. Even if Francis is God forbid diabolical.

Anyway thought I am suspicious of even the sober lay critics (via Voris' argument) like him in principle I have no problem with any criticism leveled against the Pope by a Bishop or Cardinal. As far as I am concerned Cardinal Burke & his comrades are completely within their rights. Of course if the Pope can be criticized then in principle so can Cardinal Burke. A possibly minor criticism that can be leveled at Burke comes from Dr. Jeff Miras.

Driven by frustration, could some cardinals go too far? A caution.
http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?id=1431

But I should note Miras himself is often critical of the Pope and I believe wants Francis to answer the Dubia.

For the most part I want Francis to answer. Also I believe Amoris can be read in light of Tradition. Whatever is obscure in it must be interpreted by what is clear in Tradition.

OTOH Francis should stay silent if deep down in his heart he really doesn't accept the whole of the faith on this issue. Indeed if that is the case he really shouldn't speak. He should be quiet till he dies or resigns.

That is what I have to say about that.

BenYacov out peace!

George R. said...


Tony:
"the Church calls all those baptized into the Catholic Church as "Catholic", even if they are heretic, schismatic, or apostate."

Oh, really? Perhaps, then, you can give us some examples of the Church calling heretics, schismatics, and apostates Catholic.

Didn't think so.

Here's what somebody who actually knew what he was talking about had to say about the matter:
“Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith…"
[...]
"For not every offense, although it may be a grave evil, is such as by its very own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 1943)

Tony said...

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;

apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;

schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." [Code of Canon Law c.751]

...
c. 1364
1. With due regard for can. 194, part 1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication and if a cleric, he can also be punished by the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, part 1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.
2. If long lasting contumacy or the seriousness of scandal warrants it, other penalties can be added including dismissal from the clerical state.
.

As a preliminary, one might note that the "additional penalties" cannot apply to one who is not a member of the Catholic Church: "dismissal" from the clerical state cannot be a PUNISHMENT for one who cannot be a cleric because he is not a Catholic.

More to the point: Excommunication does not remove a person from membership in the Church, it removes one from licit receipt of the sacrament of Communion. Removal from membership in the Church would preclude receiving ALL the sacraments, but the remedy for such excommunication can be confession: canon 1355

§2. If the penalty has not been reserved to the Apostolic See, an ordinary can remit a latae sententiae penalty established by law but not yet declared for his subjects and those who are present in his territory or who committed the offense there; any bishop can also do this in the act of sacramental confession.

Since confession is not available to non-Catholics, the person excommunicated latae sententiae by heresy must still be a Catholic.

There is one baptism for a person, ever: they can never again receive the sacrament, even after mortal sin, even after heresy, which was settled in the 3rd century:

The controversy on rebaptism is especially connected with the names of Pope St. Stephen and of St. Cyprian of Carthage. The latter was the main champion of the practice of rebaptizing. The pope, however, absolutely condemned the practice, and commanded that heretics on entering the Church should receive only the imposition of hands in paenitentiam. In this celebrated controversy it is to noted that Pope Stephen declares that he is upholding the primitive custom when he declares for the validity of baptism conferred by heretics.

There is no rebaptism of a heretic, because once baptized they are always baptized.

Obviously, there are two available senses of "in the Church" present here. One sense, that which comes from baptism per se, is not ever removable under any circumstances and is just what we mean by "indelible". The other can be removed by sin; particularly, sins against the unity of the Church. Sins of this nature put one in an irregular position with respect to the Church: it is incoherent to act explicitly contrary to the unity of the Church and yet remain "in union" with the Church. Hence the three sins of heresy, schism and apostacy destroy unity with the Church; while they do not destroy the indelible mark of baptism, destroy one's unity with the Church so that one cannot participate in the sacraments while in this condition.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Two thoughts:

It seems to me some people say “this belief is catholic because a Pope wrote this here” but also “a Pope wrote that but I say that belief is not catholic”. I think this shows that they hold themselves to be the judge of what is catholic, and that they quote from Popes just as a means to an end. I think it's fine to be a free-thinker but then one should not pretend to follow others. And what's the point in having the Pope as *the* spiritual guide of the church if some learned flock know better and thus can judge the Pope?

Reading about a possible schism in the Catholic Church I thought that something rather enormous must be the matter. But then I found out that the problem seems to be that according to Pope Francis's recent Amoris Laetitia divorced Catholics who have had sex and did not repent are in grave sin, but priests are exhorted to nonetheless give them communion because the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”. Now I don't know what learned Catholics deem to be “eternal truths” which are violated here, but I wonder: Given the primary virtue of charity isn't Pope Francis's exhortation exactly right in Christianity? Could it be the case that people are missing the forest here?

Tony said...

Now I don't know what learned Catholics deem to be “eternal truths” which are violated here, but I wonder: Given the primary virtue of charity isn't Pope Francis's exhortation exactly right in Christianity? Could it be the case that people are missing the forest here?

Dianelos, the "eternal truths" that are violated are elicited from St. Paul's text:

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.

If a person is in the state of mortal sin (say, adultery), and is unrepentant for the sin (they want and intend to KEEP ON committing adultery), they would be receiving the Lord unworthily, and therefore sins again, gravely. It cannot be "charitable" to advise such that they can receive the sacrament while remaining unrepentant for their sin of adultery. It is not charitable to tell a person in a deep, deep hole "sure, you can do that" while thinking "it digs your hole even deeper, mind, but hey, it's all good. It'll be your own grave."

And apart from receiving the Eucharist: it is standard teaching that you cannot receive forgiveness of sins in confession if you actually intend to go right back to committing the same sins again.

Greg said...

@ Dianelos

Now I don't know what learned Catholics deem to be “eternal truths” which are violated here, but I wonder...

Of course you do.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

the "eternal truths" that are violated are elicited from St. Paul's text:

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.”


In the New Revised Version Catholic Edition the translation reads:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.”

So the sense here is not that people who are unworthy should not take the Eucharist, but that people should take the Eucharist in a devout manner. I checked on the Greek original and the key word strikes me as ambiguous in this respect, but I think there is general agreement that given the context this is the right meaning. After all St Paul is here writing an epistle to a particular church in Greece where as it seems people had started to make a feast out of the Eucharist. Knowing how my countrymen enjoy eating together I find this easy to imagine – and I can't exclude the possibility of some early Christian calling at the table “Hey, pass me the carafe with Christ's blood”. I can also well imagine some smart woman at the table getting embroiled in theological debates and actually winning them, scandalizing some of the men and causing a stern Paul to remind the flock that women should behave with modesty particularly when they are among men. Indeed Paul used there language and imagery that perhaps made sense in that culture but makes no sense whatever today. Now, centuries later that epistle was included in the Canon as were all of St Paul's, and that is of course very fine. But I don't think it follows that every sentence in that epistle is necessarily an “eternal truth”.

But ignore my understanding. If some question arises about how a verse should be understood or about some matter concerning the Eucharist or about anything that affects the life of the church - whose judgment should you follow, your own or the Pope's? I thought the whole idea in the CC is that the Pope is where all disagreements are ultimately adjudicated, no? And where the authority for all spiritual guidance ultimately rests. I mean there is not a kind of parliamentary democracy where the Pope suggests and the Cardinals take a vote, nor is it like it's OK if four Cardinals who disagree with the Pope make a public fuss about it. As you know I am an outsider but this is the impression I had.

And as an outsider I wish to express that I find the Pope's exhortation in this matter not only sound in respect to the Eucharist but also imbued with the love and consideration that is the fruit of true charity in a person's soul. (It was only recently by reading in the CC's catechism about hell and about mortal sin that I realized that charity is like the mother of all virtues – the mark of the soul that becomes more like Christ - and conversely the lack of charity is what is really really bad (I won't write “damning”). I have the impression that in Pope Francis the catholic flock is blessed with a shepherd in whom the spirit of Christ is especially strong. And it looks to me like some Catholics have become so lawyerly in their vision of the church, that they haven't noticed it.

”it is standard teaching that you cannot receive forgiveness of sins in confession if you actually intend to go right back to committing the same sins again.

I slightly disagree, since I hold that the condition for repentance is stronger than that. Anyway I was thinking how much more profitable it would be to be discussing the nature of repentance. And indeed how to increase the charity in our soul.

Greg said...

@ Dianelos

I think there is general agreement that given the context this is the right meaning.

By 'general agreement', you mean to exclude the largest and oldest Christian denomination?

If some question arises about how a verse should be understood or about some matter concerning the Eucharist or about anything that affects the life of the church - whose judgment should you follow, your own or the Pope's? I thought the whole idea in the CC is that the Pope is where all disagreements are ultimately adjudicated, no? And where the authority for all spiritual guidance ultimately rests.

No, "your own judgment or the pope's" is a false dilemma.

Bishops and popes may be geniuses or ignoramuses, saints or extravagant sinners. They have been all of these things. As private citizens of the Church, so to speak—as disciples—they might be sublime or terribly confused. They might even preach theological errors. Across the ages, some have. They have received no special knowledge by some secret game of telephone from bishop to bishop across the millennia. Even their definitive teachings don’t have the status of Sacred Scripture, which is not only infallible but inspired. Bishops are only men, who must study and pray and discern, praise God for their gains, and seek His mercy for their sins.

I recommend the whole of Girgis' primer.

Catholics do not just shift their beliefs to what the present pope beliefs.

Anonymous said...

@ Ivan & Greg

>>They are not infallible of course, it's only an encyclical.

>Amoris Laetitia isn't even an encyclical. It is an apostolic exhortation.

The conditions for a Pope's statement to be infallible are not related to the document containing the statement, but to the statement itself. The document could be a motu proprio, an encyclical, an apostolic exhortation or some other kind. Specifically, John Paul II issued three infallible statements during his pontificate. Two were in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae:

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

The third was in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

And as an outsider I wish to express that I find the Pope's exhortation in this matter not only sound in respect to the Eucharist but also imbued with the love and consideration that is the fruit of true charity in a person's soul.

No doubt, then, you will agree with this from St. Thomas on the matter:

"[I]t seems that sinners do not approach this sacrament unworthily. For in this sacrament Christ is received, and He is the spiritual physician, Who says of Himself in Matt (9:12): 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.'"

When St. Thomas writes that, however, he is giving voice to a superficial objection to a more mature and thoughtful interpretation of the matter.

And as he can be expected to, St. Thomas responds to the superficial objection raised:

"The answer is that this sacrament is spiritual food, as baptism is spiritual birth. But one is born in order to live, but he is not nourished unless he is already alive. Therefore, this sacrament does not befit sinners who are not yet alive by grace; although baptism befits them. Furthermore, the Eucharist is the sacrament of love and ecclesial unity[.] Since, therefore, the sinner lacks charity and is deservedly separated from the unity of the Church, if he approaches this sacrament, he commits a falsehood, since he is signifying that he has charity, but does not."

Anonymous said...

Wait unit Francis publishes an economic encyclical that reverses JP II's "Centisimo Ano." You think "Amoris" rankled Dr Feser? If Francis tries to mess with what conservative Catholics think is their economic bible, Feser's head will explode.

Long may Francis reign.

Ilíon said...

^ "Long may Francis reign."

Isn't that equivalent to saying "May the bureaucrats of the Roman denomination destroy it via Marxist post-modernism"?

Ivan Knezović said...

It is for many supporters of Francis. I'm unsure if the pope is aware of what he is actually doing. Not only the communion statement, but the bizarre light show, publicly meeting and praising mass murderers (the Italian abortionist who claims to have killed thousands of babies), the statement that some Catholics breed like rabbits, the statement that youth unemployment is one of the most severe contemporary evils, the condemnation of people who wish to attend Latin mass (he might have spat in the face of Benedict XVI and it would be less of an insult to his whole papacy), meeting with people who through global warming advocate and according to some are already performing a genocide on the African people (recently the bishops of an African country accused the UN of mass sterilisation). There are so many itchy points about this papacy that it's hard to pick the worst move.
Also I thought that papal infallibility was invoked only twice, for the two Marian dogmas, I'll look into that Anon.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Greg

“By 'general agreement', you mean to exclude the largest and oldest Christian denomination?”

Ah, but mine is the oldest Christian denomination. After all mine includes the patriarchate of Jerusalem. Not to mention mine didn't play fast and loose with the second ecumenical council by inserting a word into it, seven centuries after the fact. - I am joking of course. I find there is nothing more ridiculous in our faith than the three great Christian denominations pounding on each other instead of trying to understand and learn from each other. Should we compete, we should compete in charity and beauty.

Coming back to the actual point, I used the NRSV-CE translation because on earlier independent study I was impressed by the quality of the RSV translation and because the NRSV-CE is approved by the Catholic church. Indeed I found this: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church in English, when quoting Scripture, quotes from either the RSV or NRSV.” If that's correct then the NRSV is as authoritative as it gets. But now I found out that the NAB translation is the one used in Catholic mass, and this version has your translation. Sorry, but this is a mess. I mean the two translations give a seriously different meaning.

In any case I stand by my claim that “in an unworthy manner” and not the dangerously ambiguous “unworthily” is the correct meaning, since it is the one that fits the context.

”Catholics do not just shift their beliefs to what the present pope beliefs.”

How do you know what Catholics believe – do you take a vote among the flock? Or do you take a vote about how Catholics believe some earlier texts should be understood?

Aren't Catholics bound in obedience to the Pope?

What is the Pope's authority in matters of the life of the church anyway? I ask because Pope Francis's particular exhortation to the priests is squarely such a matter.

Why do you stress “the present pope”? Is Francis a lesser kind of Pope?

Glenn above proves that Francis's particular exhortation contradicts St. Aquinas's opinion on this matter. Does the Catholic Church teach that St. Aquinas's writing is infallibly true in all particulars?

Greg said...

@ Dianelos

I find there is nothing more ridiculous in our faith than the three great Christian denominations pounding on each other instead of trying to understand and learn from each other.

Maybe, but who is advocating that? I wasn't saying Catholicism is better because it is bigger and older; I'm just saying that appeals to 'general agreement' can't ignore the largest and oldest denomination.

Indeed I found this: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church in English, when quoting Scripture, quotes from either the RSV or NRSV.” If that's correct then the NRSV is as authoritative as it gets.

I don't understand why you think that follows. On the one hand, the decision to use the RSV or NRSV may be a stylistic one. The Catechism is a teaching document and does not have authority beyond the sources it cites.

On the other, I am confused as to why you think the most authoritative version of the Bible should be in English at all.

Sorry, but this is a mess. I mean the two translations give a seriously different meaning.

In any case I stand by my claim that “in an unworthy manner” and not the dangerously ambiguous “unworthily” is the correct meaning, since it is the one that fits the context.


Especially since both are in translation, the idea that "in an unworthy manner" and "unworthily" "seriously differ" in meaning strikes me as rather artificial. Even if one thinks that these two expressions could be used to mark a distinction, their range of possible meanings overlap in ordinary speech.

How do you know what Catholics believe – do you take a vote among the flock?

Dianelos, you are equivocating, and you are doing so in order to put a misconstruction on my words. The original questions you raised were normative:

If [questions about the faith arise], whose judgment should you follow, your own or the Pope's? I thought the whole idea in the CC is that the Pope is where all disagreements are ultimately adjudicated, no?

My response was also normative. While I would obviously be correct were I to observe that "Catholics do not just shift their beliefs to what the present pope beliefs [sic]" as a matter of description, that clearly was not the intended meaning of that sentence. Because I was responding to your normative questions, I was providing a normative answer: the hermeneutic of the Catholic Church does not involve a requirement on the part of the faithful to believe whatever the present pope believes.

It is really unproductive for you to pretend that my remark was a descriptive one, and that I was arrogating to myself some authority to say "what Catholics believe".

I also don't understand why you address all of those questions to me, when they are answered in the article I linked. I'm not going to play gotcha with someone who's unwilling to put much effort into a conversation.

...

Greg said...

...

Glenn above proves that Francis's particular exhortation contradicts St. Aquinas's opinion on this matter.

No, he proves no such thing. Like much of what is controversial in Amoris Laetitia, paragraphs 185 and 186 never explicitly contradict Church teaching. Pope Francis says that 1 Corinthians 11 is "usually interpreted outside of its context or in a generic sense, with the risk of overlooking its immediate and direct meaning, which is markedly social." He does not say that a generic reading is illegitimate or incompatible, and he does not attempt to show false, or even disavow, a reading that, while the occasion of St. Paul's admonition was "markedly social", the scope of its significance is wider.

(Now, it's true that people who want to override the Church's teaching will grasp onto certain phrases in paragraphs 185 and 186, and they will feel very excited when they read them. But they don't suffice for a contradiction of Church teaching, and if you asked Pope Francis if he thought everyone should receive communion without exception, no matter what, you surely would not get a direct 'yes'.)

Now, to assert that Glenn has "proved" that AL contradicts Aquinas's opinion, when no one has even discussed the relevant paragraphs of AL here, is just plain misleading. This isn't how one ought to behave in dialogue with people with whom he disagrees.

Does the Catholic Church teach that St. Aquinas's writing is infallibly true in all particulars?

As you know, no, the Catholic Church does not teach that. And for you to ask this ridiculous question, as though the authority of what Glenn said rides on a positive answer to it, is dishonest. If you're going to continue shouting checkmate, then I'm through talking to you.

Greg said...

@ Dianelos

Also observe that, the English translation of AL uses "unworthily" rather than "in an unworthy manner".

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Greg is correct.

Nothing in my comment proves anything even remotely related to what you oddly and mistakenly claim.

Indeed, my comment was not even a response to something said by the Pope; rather, it was a response to something which you yourself had said.

Whether or not the Pope has intimated (or may be taken to have intimated) that it may be legitimate for a person in a state of sin to receive the sacrament of communion is not relevant to my comment.

What is relevant to my comment is that you seem to think it would be fine if they did, and the point of my comment was to encourage you to think about the matter a little more deeply than you thus far seem to have.

You apparently think there is more profit to be had from "discussing the nature of repentance" than to be had from first actually repenting of one's outstanding sins before receiving the sacrament of communion.

It is not difficult to grant that Christ may be seen, metaphorically, as a 'house' cleaner.

But it is also not difficult to see and acknowledge the value and necessity of our first doing our bit to tidy up the 'house' before inviting Him in and receiving Him via the sacrament of communion.

The original Mr. X said...

@ Dianelos:

In addition to what others have said, Pope John Paul II explicitly laid down that remarried divorcés could only receive Communion if they lived as brother and sister. So, trying to spin this as a situation of private judgement vs. the Pope is fundamentally erroneous; it's more like a case of one Pope vs. another Pope (plus two thousand years of teaching).

Tom said...

Fellow Catholic philosopher and friend of the blog Alex Pruss also weighed in on the issue, albeit before the publication of Amoris Laetitia: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2015/10/divorce-remarriage-and-communion.html

The details are in the post, but he concludes that the Kasper Proposal, whatever else may be said about it, isn't heretical or a change of doctrine.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Greg and Glenn,

Please forgive my pigheadedness. I am a quick and superficial reader, so I often misunderstand the issues; it's one of my many vices. Incidentally now I did read the article Greg linked to, and I liked it. So what I understood, I understood. Please don't waste any more of your time on me. It's not worth it.

I only wish to submit an exhortation (what a beautiful word) as well as two thoughts: So whatever you do in the Catholic church, do it sticking together. Only muttering about a potential schism is a bad and unfruitful thing in itself. Christ's commandment must never slip from our mind: First and foremost we are to love each other. Only be loving can one understand the other person, and only by understanding can any disagreement lead to a good end. And as people in another thread said, to love each other and to love God is really the same commandment; like the two sides of the same coin.

One thought I'd like to put down is that to understand what another person says it helps understanding where that person comes from. So Pope Francis comes from Argentina. I know Latin America well since I lived there for many years. So Latin America is a Catholic country. It is also a place where because of the influence of the Catholic church there is no sexual education class at school, where contraceptives are not used, teenage pregnancy and children growing up without a father runs rampant. And where the first cause of death of teenage girls is trying to get an illegal abortion. This is as tragic a reality concerning sex and family as it gets, and I think any good shepherd would feel responsible for that evil present in his flock and wish to help.

The second thought concerns the following comment: ”You apparently think there is more profit to be had from "discussing the nature of repentance" than to be had from first actually repenting of one's outstanding sins before receiving the sacrament of communion.”

I think that unless one understands what repentance means, there is no point in saying that one should repent one's sins before receiving the sacrament of communion. In my understanding repentance is not about regretting one's sins and intending not to commit them again. Repentance is the transformation of the soul in a way that raises it closer to Christ and in fundamental sense places it beyond the power of temptation. If this is the right understanding of repentance, then to say that people should repent of their sins before taking the Eucharist would be like saying that only saints may take it. Which is what Francis is saying in footnote 351.

Ivan Knezović said...

@Tom
That is one very weak defense of AL. Claiming that the situation is not "clear" is analogus to every other mortal sin in principle and claiming that the subjective ignorance makes it less obvious is opening the door to relativism about every other topic. One could make up any number of reasons why an abortionist isn't actually aware that he is doing something objecively evil and according to this logic one could be admitted to the Eucharist.

Anonymous said...

The implication by Amoris Laetitia is that on a case by case basis, the divorced and remarried who have not received an annulment, can receive communion. This reading is a breech of the marriage covenant, because it violates Jesus’s teaching in scripture and other papal doctrinal statements such as Veritatis Splendor.

And if it violates the marriage covenant, then it violates the covenant between Christ and his bride, the Church, which reflects the marriage covenant. If fact, the covenant between mankind and God is like a marriage covenant (Scott Hahn). This teaching has the effect of weakening these covenants. It weakens the idea of sin and repentance. That is why I believe there will have to be a clarification of this confusion.

I believe the problem with Pope Francis’s letter is that he has tried to codify prudential judgment. Prudential judgment has always been the realm of the confessor. But to codify all prudential judgment beforehand is to reject the idea that sin is an act against God and to state that sin is only a subjective mistake. The idea that there are subjective elements to actions which result in sin should not change the corrective action otherwise we are simply fall into relativism. For any sin to be forgiven, repentance, change of behavior, is necessary.

Tony said...

So Latin America is a Catholic country.

Well, it is about 20 countries.

It is also a place where because of the influence of the Catholic church there is no sexual education class at school,

Darn good thing, too. It belongs at home. That's according to Canon Law and about 10 Vatican documents, including "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality".

It has not been shown that a country benefits by having sex education taken up in schools if it is "not being done at home". No country that I know of does Catholic sex education in the schools, they all teach kids to commit mortal sins. That's bad.

where contraceptives are not used,

Excellent. Going great here.

teenage pregnancy and children growing up without a father runs rampant.

Uh Oh, not so great.

However, because there used to be MANY Catholic countries that had no contraceptives and no sex education in schools, and DID NOT have teenage pregnancy and fatherless kids running rampant, these conditions are not the effect of having a Catholic country without contraceptives and without sex education.

And where the first cause of death of teenage girls is trying to get an illegal abortion.

What a horrible situation! These girls need to learn how to respect their own selves, their right to innocence, and their right to be treated properly by the men in their lives. Those men need to learn to control themselves, and to respect the purity of their women, instead of treating them like objects. They all need better training for human development, which includes training in the truth and meaning of human sexuality. Luckily, there is a Vatican document on just that subject!

What they don't need is school sex ed, or contraceptives. WE have those, and we too have teen pregnancy and fatherless kids running rampant. School sex ed and the contraceptive culture make the problem worse, not better.

Tony said...

I think that unless one understands what repentance means, there is no point in saying that one should repent one's sins before receiving the sacrament of communion. In my understanding repentance is not about regretting one's sins and intending not to commit them again. Repentance is the transformation of the soul in a way that raises it closer to Christ and in fundamental sense places it beyond the power of temptation.

Well, OK, but I think that the Catholic Church ought to be allowed to say what IT thinks are the prerequisites for ITS OWN sacraments. Presumably, not being Catholic, you can get your own confession from a church that agrees with you on what their sacrament of confession entails.

Catholic Encyclopedia:

This interior repentance has been called by theologians "contrition". It is defined explicitly by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, ch. iv de Contritione): "a sorrow of soul and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future". The word contrition itself in a moral sense is not of frequent occurrence in Scripture (cf. Psalm 50:19). Etymologically it implies a breaking of something that has become hardened. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary on the Master of the Sentences thus explains its peculiar use: "Since it is requisite for the remission of sin that a man cast away entirely the liking for sin which implies a sort of continuity and solidity in his mind, the act which obtains forgiveness is termed by a figure of speech 'contrition'" (In Lib. Sent. IV, dist. xvii; cf. Supplem. III, Q. i, a. 1). This sorrow of soul is not merely speculative sorrow for wrong done, remorse of conscience, or a resolve to amend; it is a real pain and bitterness of soul together with a hatred and horror for sin committed; and this hatred for sin leads to the resolve to sin no more. The early Christian writers in speaking of the nature of contrition sometimes insist on the feeling of sorrow, sometimes on the detestation of the wrong committed (Augustine in P.L., XXXVII, 1901, 1902; Chrysostom, P.G., XLVII, 409, 410). Augustine includes both when writing: "Compunctus corde non solet dici nisi stimulus peccatorum in dolore pœnitendi"

I suggest that underneath all this, the foundation is that the sacrament by which sanctifying grace is restored to the soul cannot be received by a soul that is in itself OPPOSED to the having of such a grace. A person who, by an obstinacy of will retains an explicit intention to continue to prefer sexual pleasure as his ultimate good instead of God, is a person in whom God's presence is impossible (without God violating their free will). Hence, for any soul to receive the grace of absolution, the person must give up on such deformity of loves that he knowingly prefers anything else to God as his final end.

What this does NOT entail is that the person be perfect. A person can have all sorts of defects, imperfections, and latent weaknesses that mean he probably will sin again, perhaps in just the same ways. These defects are possible even though you have reformed the will so that God is preferred as your final end.

Ilíon said...

"[Latin America] is also a place where because of the influence of the Catholic church there is no sexual education class at school ..."

Or, to put in in more honest terms: "because of the influence of the Catholic church" in Latin American countries, the government indoctrination centers aren't in the business of sexually grooming the nation's children.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

I found the text from the catechism confusing. Sometimes it seems to say one thing, sometimes another. And why all the constant quoting of what others have written? The people who read the catechism are not scholars and they don't desire to know about what Aquinas or Augustine or Chrysostom exactly said. They want to know what the Church says, and by reading the catechism they implicitly trust the Church. Actually I found much clearer your explanation about the state of mind a person who asks for the Eucharist should have. Indeed I generally agree with you: It makes no sense for a Christian to ask for the Eucharist while intending to go on sinning.

Having said that, I'd like to point out that there are no sharp lines here. So, for example, all of us who follow Mammon instead of Christ are sinning. We all who hoard money and who do not share our fortune with our lacking neighbors are sinning. And we do not intend to stop putting money before Christ's wishes any time soon. Does this mean we should not ask for the Eucharist? If that were so the churches would go empty. In find the heart of what you are saying is that the person who asks for the Eucharist should be aware of her sins and of her weakness, and should desire truly desire to become a better Christian and to follow Christ in all. And that is why is asking for help from Christ through the church. If the Church should deny her that help then the Church would only demonstrate a very unseemly lack of charity.

And I say the priest represents Christ on earth, but it's not like the priest therefore limits Christ in any way. All the sacraments – baptism, communion, marriage, confession, and so on – are realized in spirit and are made by Christ. The priest and the church itself are but a visible manifestation of Christ's work. So it's not like if the priest refuses an honest soul, so will Christ. Nothing stands before Christ – the priest and the church are there only to serve Him in the guidance of His flock of souls, which includes giving when needed His sacraments. The priest has a very grave responsibility here and must make decisions, sometimes more difficult decisions than the medical doctor. But the priest should be guided first and foremost by the charity in his heart, for in that charity is Christ. And care only for the safety of the soul in his keeping, and not about, say, his career. The rules of the church should be there to help the priest, not to limit him in his shepherding. Christ trusts the church and so the church should trust the priest.

As for Francis, it's not for me to judge him for good or evil; after all I have not the grounds nor any desire to do so. But I want to state how I feel: From the little I saw of him - in how he speaks and even in his current silence - he reminds me of Christ. And it's highly desirable and a very great blessing to have a priest who reminds one of Christ - I kind of envy Catholics for having this Pope. As for those who loudly accuse him I am sorry to say they remind me of the learned scribes and Pharisees. If their heart or mind is troubled then they are entitled and indeed should question the throne of Peter, but do it only in humility and in the privacy that befits the soul that seeks understanding from her priest. For in the Catholic church (and correct me if I am wrong) the Pope is the priest of the priests.

Tony said...

So it's not like if the priest refuses an honest soul, so will Christ.

Actually, that's not quite right:

"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mt 18:18)"

Apparently, Christ told the Apostles that at least in some sense, heaven will conform to what the Apostles bind or loose. So even though Christ certainly can give his grace outside of sacramental rites, at the same time if a priests tells a sinner "I will not give you absolution because you are not disposed for it" then Christ apparently will honor that decision. If the priest is wrong about that, one thing Christ can do (so as not to be defeated in his mercy) is to so move the priest as so he realizes aright that the sinner is indeed properly disposed. Then Christ will mercifully forgive the sinner AND will conform himself to his promise (stated above from Mt.)

Having said that, I'd like to point out that there are no sharp lines here. So, for example, all of us who follow Mammon instead of Christ are sinning. We all who hoard money and who do not share our fortune with our lacking neighbors are sinning. And we do not intend to stop putting money before Christ's wishes any time soon. Does this mean we should not ask for the Eucharist?

You know, some people DO say that there are sharp lines. This is one such:

"If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask God, who will give life to those who commit this kind of sin. There is a sin that leads to death; I am not saying he should ask regarding that sin. 17All unrighteousness is sin, yet there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5: 16-17)"

This is nothing other than the same distinction Catholics intend when they distinguish mortal sin from venial sin. John appears to be saying that there is a kind of sin unto death, and a kind of sin that is not unto death: some sins are mortal, some not. In Catholic parlance, sins that are incompatible with the ongoing presence of God in your soul as sanctifying grace are mortal sins, and these are also incompatible with the reception of Communion, because you do not have the pre-requisite spiritual life to benefit from the spiritual food of Communion. It would be like surgically implanting a steak in a dead man's stomach, in the hopes of doing him some good: won't work, he needs life for that to do any good.

Glossing over the distinction of 1 John won't help matters.

I want to state how I feel: From the little I saw of him - in how he speaks and even in his current silence - he reminds me of Christ.

He reminds me of an aged uncle who, in his late 70's and early 80's, was very nice and kindly but also very muddled and short-sighted. Any time he stuck his finger into something, he tended to end up making it worse, but from the BEST of intentions. It wasn't that he was nasty or stupid, but he was very ineffective for achieving what he wanted to achieve.

If their heart or mind is troubled then they are entitled and indeed should question the throne of Peter, but do it only in humility and in the privacy that befits the soul that seeks understanding from her priest.

We should all yearn and strive for humility. And yet, even a follower can, in full humility, criticize the Pope if called by God to do so - as St. Paul did with St. Peter. The 4 cardinals are clearly exercising what they believe is an exactly parallel office or role as that displayed by Paul in correcting Peter, apostle correcting the leader of the apostles.

Tony said...

Except that the 4 cardinals are not correcting him as asking him to clarify himself. Which is surely not an offense against humility.

Tony said...

Dianelos,

One of the things that makes me not very ready to credit your driving a wedge between being careful with doctrine, and truly living faith with a full heart, with a lot of weight is that we have incredibly solid examples of saints, renowned and celebrated holy men and women, who heroically lived out the virtues of faith, hope and charity even while insisting on the full panoply of doctrines as taught by the Doctors, the Popes, the Council of Trent, etc.

For example, if you read the diary of Sr. Faustina, which I did a couple years ago, you will find her daily life and spiritual musings so completely interwoven with Catholic doctrine that discounting the doctrine as less than essential would be to eviscerate her account. And yet she was clearly a woman on fire with love of God.

Take St. John Vianney, or more recently St. Pio Padre. Both were great confessors, they had people coming from thousands of miles away for confession, they had hardened sinners weeping and converting and returning to the Church. Vianney heard confessions for 18 hours a day, sometimes. They apparently were gifted with even deeper insights into the soul of penitents than God lends to his priests as a standard model. And yet: Padre Pio was very well known for getting out of the confessional, walking down the (long, long line of waiting sinners), pulling a man out of line and publicly berating him, saying "Get out. Go away, you haven't contrition. Come back only when really are prepared for confession."

Or take St. Teresa of Avila. Her holiness and charity were profound. And yet her writings are so filled with elucidation of Catholic doctrine and distinctions that she is a Doctor of the Church.

Perhaps for some people, carefulness with "fussy" distinctions is not a primary element of their road to heaven. But for others, we have concrete evidence that it is their road to heaven. And we have also concrete evidence, in the examples of the heresiarchs, that the failure to attend to proper distinctions is a road away from heaven.

The Masked Chicken said...

Dear Dianelos,

You wrote:

"In the New Revised Version Catholic Edition the translation reads:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.”

So the sense here is not that people who are unworthy should not take the Eucharist, but that people should take the Eucharist in a devout manner. I checked on the Greek original and the key word strikes me as ambiguous in this respect, but I think there is general agreement that given the context this is the right meaning."

Not really. The original Greek reads (1 Cor. 11:27):

"hōste hos an esthiē ton arton ē pinē to potērion tou Kyriou anaxiōs, enochos estai tou sōmatos kai tou haimatos tou Kyriou."

The word, anaxios, is translated as an adverb in the NRSV meaning, in an unworthy manner, as you say, but the root of anaxios, is from a - axios, which means, "not fit for." It is clear that the manner of eating the bread is not the referent, but the unfitness of the person attempting to eat it. In other words, "in an unworthy manner," refers to the person. It does not mean that how they eat the bread is unfit for the nature of the bread. Indeed, this is shown because St. Paul follows up with:

1Co 11:28
Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1Co 11:29
For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

Notice, that in this passage that a man is to examine his conscience (discern the body) before he eats. Clearly, the unworthiness applies to the man, not the manner of eating.

The Chicken


Jonathan said...

Returning to the original Greek: the text says 'anaxiōs' which is an adverb ('unworthily') and not 'anaxios' which would be an adjective agreeing with 'hos'.

So it is not: 'Therefore, whoever, being unworthy, eats the bread ….', but rather: 'Therefore whoever unworthily eats the bread …'.

Incidentally the word 'anaxiōs' is missing from many of the oldest and most authoritative MSS, though it found its way into the Textus Receptus. One of its most important attestations is in Codex Bezae, which is well known for helpful interpolations.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

”"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mt 18:18)"

I am aware of that verse. I say perhaps it means that all we do on earth has an eternal significance. After all what Christ is teaching in Matthew 18 is valid for everybody and not just to those who would become priests, no?

But suppose somebody of great authority would come say “No, that particular verse means that what the priest does or doesn’t do on earth does bind Christ”. Would you believe it? Could you believe it?

”If the priest is wrong about that, one thing Christ can do (so as not to be defeated in his mercy) is to so move the priest as so he realizes aright that the sinner is indeed properly disposed.”

That could work, but, again, do you believe it? After all it implies that priests are made to always behave perfectly right towards their flock, which is clearly not the case.

1 John: ”There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.”

I am not bound by the idea that every word in scripture is true when interpreted correctly, for the simple reason that I hold that only God is perfect and that everything else is not. That said I find it rather clear that scripture as a whole (and at the brightest in the gospels) is a fruit of God’s revelation in history. As indeed is Christian tradition, again as a whole.

Now the passage you pointed me to doesn’t seem right to me. I mean what is one to do with it theologically speaking? It’s obvious that the more lost the sheep the more the shepherd searches, the more sick the patient the more the doctor tries. The best I can do trying to understand that verse is by reminding myself that the epistles are different kind of texts than the gospels. They had a different goal, namely the order of the church in its first steps in a very difficult world. The epistles then were written not only as theological discourse but perhaps mainly about church practice and administration, whereas I take it the gospels are exclusively about theology and indeed about atonement. So perhaps the author of that verse meant to give practical advice in the sense of triage, where in the battlefield doctors who are overwhelmed by the task have to choose and care only for those brought to them that they have a chance of curing. Priests in a nascent church swamped with sinners perhaps had to do something similar.

Incidentally I have no idea whether my interpretation above is the correct one; perhaps the author of 1 John meant something altogether different. But it is clear to me that Christ would never advice a priest “This one over there is hopelessly lost, don't waste your efforts on her.” I am not a priest and have no idea how it is like to be a priest. Even so I when I think of a priest who believes he should not pray for the most sinful in his flock, I kind of shudder.

So how is one to know the truth in this matter, or any matter? What is the path to truth, and what is the path to certainty? These are truly fundamental questions.

” In Catholic parlance, sins that are incompatible with the ongoing presence of God in your soul as sanctifying grace are mortal sins, and these are also incompatible with the reception of Communion, because you do not have the pre-requisite spiritual life to benefit from the spiritual food of Communion.”

I think I understand what your argument here. Here is my confusion: According the catechism before physical death a soul in a state of mortal sin is not yet lost for it can repent, true? And it’s not like a soul in a state of mortal sin can repent by its own power - but God’s grace may still help that soul, true? But the church may not help? Indeed must not help? Isn't that incoherent?

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

Again: If the soul in a state of moral sin can still repent, how is it that it does not have the pre-requisite spiritual life to benefit from the spiritual food of Communion? It’s like saying that somebody almost dead from hunger (but who can still survive) is not in the condition to receive some food, and therefore we shouldn't give her any.

Again: Consider the account of the Last Supper (and the first communion) in Luke 22:14 ff. There were the twelve and Christ offered them His flesh and blood to all of them, including Judas Iscariot. It is not clear whether Judas took it, but the point is that as Christ offered the Eucharist to all so is the church to offer it to all present. Sure, the sacrament itself is there only for those prepared to receive it, and the church does well to teach people not to think that the Eucharist is some kind of magic potion. But when Christ died on the cross for the salvation of all, for the church to deny His offer to all seems wrong.

”He reminds me of an aged uncle [snip]”

Well, you certainly know much more than I about Pope Francis, but even so it’s kind of surprising how different our seemings are :- )

”as St. Paul did with St. Peter”

I don’t think that the relationship between St. Paul and St. Peter is anything like the relationship between a Cardinal and the Pope. But the main point is that Paul disagreeing with Peter had not the enmity and the public announcements among the flock, never mind dark mutterings about a potential schism in the church the current discussion has.

And what a huge dispute that was. Incidentally reading about it I find it was not so much between Paul and Peter but between Paul (the more modern Greek) and James (the more conservative Jew), with Peter perhaps giving the solution to the dispute. And how didactic the story is. The dispute was really about closing the church to those who in some sense did not conform or opening it up. Happily, as evidenced by the facts, opening it up won the day and thus Christ was victorious in human history.
I wish it were possible to actually sit there and listen to the discussion, or rather to look into the minds of James Peter and Paul. This was a dispute that concerned the very nature and future of Christianity. How did they find the truth in the matter? Clearly, it was *not* simple. They were Christ’s direct disciples, and yet the Spirit made the truth not at all obvious to them. But they found it.

My sense is that Christ was then and is now guiding His church. Not by an iron hand as evidenced by the many divisions and confusion in the Christian community today. But by the gentle pull of the Spirit and indeed through the natural multiplicity of views that lead to disputes. For disputes are good - enmity is bad. Disputes are good for though them the space is opened for the pull of Spirit to act and the light of Christ to be sensed; enmity is bad for makes people take their eyes off Christ.

Why wouldn't Christ use an iron hand to guide His church (and make life simpler for all of us)? Because to love *entails* the giving of freedom. If you find yourself trying to push your neighbor into a box (thinking it is for her own good) it is because of a lack of love. The way then Christ loves the church, the church should love her priests, and the priests should love their flock. It is true that somebody must lead. So the Pope should lead his priests, and the priests should lead their flock like Christ did: by setting the example. And like He did, by showing to them how beautiful the gospel is. By calling on them to be like children and to consider the lilies and the birds. Do so if you have faith. Others in the church should administer its everyday business; priests are there to to administer souls. Whether the priests the souls of their flock or the Pope the souls of his cardinals and of about everybody else.

Alphonsus Jr. said...

When even CatholiCucks (otherwise known as NeoCaths) are speaking out against Bergoglio's heresies, the situation is certainly serious.

Don Wachtel said...

Compliance with the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia vs the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapentia.

Could there be a better example of the sad decline in the Catholic Church than the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, where a pope attempts to change teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage with ambiguous statements and many bishops fall in line?

Compare this to the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, a decree much higher in authority, where Pope Saint John XXIII insists that Latin be retained in the Church, and most bishops ignored.

Excerpts from the Apostolic Constitution, Veterum Sapientia, promulgated 8 month before the opening of Vatican II. No ambiguity here.

1. Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall take pains to ensure that in their seminaries and in their schools where adolescents are trained for the priesthood, all shall studiously observe the Apostolic See's decision in this matter and obey these Our prescriptions most carefully.

2. In the exercise of their paternal care they shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, eager for revolutionary changes, writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the Liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely.

3. . . . We wish the same rule to apply to those whom God calls to the priesthood at a more advanced age, and whose classical studies have either been neglected or conducted too superficially. No one is to be admitted to the study of philosophy or theology except he be thoroughly grounded in this language and capable of using it.

4. Wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse through the assimilation of the academic program to that which obtains in State public schools, with the result that the instruction given is no longer so thorough and well-grounded as formerly, there the traditional method of teaching this language shall be completely restored. . . .

5. . . . Hence professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task.

8. We further commission the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities to prepare a syllabus for the teaching of Latin which all shall faithfully observe. . . .
Finally, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, We will and command that all the decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution remain firmly established and ratified, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, however worthy of special note.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the feast of Saint Peter's Throne on the 22nd day of February in the year 1962, the fourth of Our pontificate.

Tony said...

I am not bound by the idea that every word in scripture is true when interpreted correctly,

Yeah. I see that.

Well, Catholics ARE in fact bound by that: every single word in Scripture, when interpreted correctly, is true. Period.

And as a result, every Catholic document is to be interpreted in that way also. So, for example, if there is a Catholic Church document that could be interpreted with 2 senses, one in contradiction to the correct sense of a biblical passage, and one consistent with the biblical passage, a Catholic MUST interpret it according to the one consistent with the biblical passage.

So, since we are here talking about the correct interpretation of a CATHOLIC document, and what it is supposed to mean, we have to go with Catholic rubrics on such interpretation.

I don’t think that the relationship between St. Paul and St. Peter is anything like the relationship between a Cardinal and the Pope.

Right. You don't, but the cardinals and Popes do. They are "the successors of the Apostles."

Again: If the soul in a state of moral sin can still repent, how is it that it does not have the pre-requisite spiritual life to benefit from the spiritual food of Communion? It’s like saying that somebody almost dead from hunger (but who can still survive) is not in the condition to receive some food, and therefore we shouldn't give her any.

Will you please stop conflating things that are different, stop treating them as the same? A person who is almost dead is different from a person who IS dead. There's a big difference between almost dead, and all dead. A person in the state of mortal sin is in the situation where, speaking spiritually, they ARE dead. Their soul, without God's presence, is without the spiritual life-giving principle. The reason we don't give up on them is that, while still humanly (physically) alive, God can miraculously restore them to spiritual life through sanctifying grace, if they are disposed properly for it. That possibility remains right up to the moment of their (physical) death.

For a living person in the state of mortal sin, they CAN repent, but not solely and entirely through their OWN power. They can only do so because, in addition to the natural powers of the human person, God is also mercifully urging them with actual graces to reconsider their departure from him and return. If they cooperate with those graces, and are thus led to repentance, and thus led to the choice to go to confession, they can receive the sanctifying grace to become spiritually alive again.

But the condition of their being in mortal sin is not to be described as "they can repent" as if they could do this ENTIRELY without outside assistance, and restore themselves to the state of grace on their own steam. They CAN, with God's help, if they cooperate with God. And while their ongoing physical life is ONE of the pre-requisites for ultimately being restored to grace, this does not preclude that other pre-requisites must also be present, such as that cooperating with actual grace to become repentant and thus SEEK forgiveness.

The Masked Chicken said...

Dear Jonathan,

I quote the correct adverbial form, anaxiōs, from the Westcott-Hort source, while commenting on its origin. If the original had placed the adverb closer to the verbs, it would have emphasized the eating and drinking, but it places anaxiōs after the end of the parallel phrase, "Eat this bread...drink this cup," indicating that the focus was not on the manner of eating and drinking, itself, but on eating a specific bread and drinking a specific cup, so the adverb spreads over the entire clause, indicating a special attachment of worthiness in eating this bread and drinking this cup. There is a difference between, "worthily eat this bread," and "eat this bread, worthily." The first relates more to the action of eating; the second to the person making the action. This is reinforced by the follow-up sentences I cited from 1 Corinthians 11.

This has been the understanding of the passage from very early on. For instance, one reads:


Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord's Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure. (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70])

From Homily 27 on First Corinthians, by St. John Chrysostom:

"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord.

Why so? Because he poured it out, and makes the thing appear a slaughter and no longer a sacrifice. Much therefore as they who then pierced Him, pierced Him not that they might drink but that they might shed His blood: so likewise does he that comes for it unworthily and reaps no profit thereby. Do you see how fearful he makes his discourse, and inveighs against them very exceedingly, signifying that if they are thus to drink, they partake unworthily of the elements ? For how can it be other than unworthily when it is he who neglects the hungry? Who besides overlooking him puts him to shame? Since if not giving to the poor casts one out of the kingdom, even though one should be a virgin; or rather, not giving liberally: (for even those virgins too had oil, only they had it not abundantly:) consider how great the evil will prove, to have wrought so many impieties."

As for the earliest manuscripts omitting the adverb, this would render the passage not merely meaningless, but in contradiction to Christ, since it would read, "Whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.". This would forbid even celebrating Communion under pain of offending the Lord.

As far as I know, unworthily (anaxiōs) was omitted in some manuscripts in 1 Cor. 11:29, not 11:27. I think it is in 1 Cor. 11:29 in the Codex Vaticanus, for example.

The Didache, which was written (possibly) within a few decades of the Pauline Epistles, has the implication of worthiness of the man, not the eating, so the teaching was common.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken said...

That should be 1 Cor. 11:27 in the Codex Vaticanus.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken said...

I had a long comment to Jonathan about the interpretation of anaxiōs in 1 Cor. 11:27, but it got overwritten by a follow-up correction I made. I am not typing in all of that, again. Suffice it to say that:

1. this is a verb phrase, so eat this bread, unworthily, refers more to the actor than the action

2. the earliest sources, such as the Didachs (Ch. 14) as well as the Church Fathers (Chrysostom, Homily 27 on 1 Cor.) agree that the unworthiness is in the man, not the manner of eating

3. the earliest manuscripts omit anaxiōs in 1 Cor. 29, not 1 Cor. 27.

Sorry. I typed this all on a phone. I don't know why Blogger published, then overwrote mt longer comment. I did not know that one could edit or even erase comments. :(

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken said...

Never mind. My phone seems to be playing tricks on me. I see the original comment is still there.

The Chicken

Anonymous said...

Who is going to interpret every word of scripture correctly?

Assuming that the scriptures communicate the unvarnished Truth about the human, and Divine Condition, why do they even need to be interpreted?

The happening and communication of Truth is not through the mind - it is at the heart. Truth is not a proposition argued over against other propositions. Truth is self-evident, because the heart authenticates it in the moment of reception.

Truth is an embrace, just as love is. You do not get argued into love. It is self-evidently right.

One responds to truth as one does to love, simply through recognizing it. It is not about argument, not about the domain of mind, and its infinitely multiplied supply of dualistic oppositions.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ “The Masked Chicken”, Jonathan

I was thinking that something is wrong in the ways of Christian theology if the truth in an important matter is made to hang on whether a single letter in an epistle of Paul is the short or long version of “o”. What's more whether it was really written as an adjective (with a short o) or as an adverb (with a long o, or omega) the meaning remains ambiguous anyway, whether in Greek or in English.

It is better to consider the broader context. I understand Paul is here writing to a congregation where the Eucharist was being celebrated in rowdy feasts, and thus he certainly would have admonished people that the Eucharist must be taken with the seriousness the circumstance requires. And also admonish them that the Eucharist is not a sacrament unless the soul is desiring for repentance, and that this entails XYZ. On the other hand the bits he writes about how terrible a sin it is to take the Eucharist not properly prepared (he even appears to suggest that some in Corinth had died because of this sin), are over the top exaggerations. And unfruitful; I don't think that people should be terrorized by such ideas lest they be scared away from the Eucharist. I suspect St. Paul wasn't aware that centuries and indeed millennia later people would put so much importance in each letter he wrote, so he wasn't being careful. Not to mention it's not like the disciples were infallible in theological matters as proved by the famous dispute between St Paul and St Peter.

So I wonder. Why should the Church look into scripture to answer questions about the sacrament of communion? Isn't communion a living experience in the Church, arguably the very heart of liturgy? Doesn't the Church then have adequate direct knowledge in this matter, and doesn't the Church has the guidance of Christ? Why then doesn't the Church answer such questions on its own authority and is reduced into studying old texts, to the point of wondering about single letters?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Tony,

”we have incredibly solid examples of saints, renowned and celebrated holy men and women, who heroically lived out the virtues of faith, hope and charity even while insisting on the full panoply of doctrines as taught by the Doctors, the Popes, the Council of Trent, etc.”

Undoubtedly true. Now there are many different human conditions. Saints have repented and transformed their souls in Christ's likeness to such I degree that perhaps their condition in life is difficult for us in the average flock to imagine. We can only marvel at our saints. On the other hand it's not like saints are perfect either. And they are sometimes difficult to understand. I must say that in the Greek Orthodox tradition there are saints I can't fathom. And of course perhaps we may wrong in thinking who is a saint and who isn't. It may be most saints are not known about.

Perhaps the teaching here is that as there are many human conditions there are many directions from which one can enter the way that is Christ. The dogma of hell is a huge obstacle for me perhaps but not for others. Perhaps I have a mind that is analytical and questioning, whereas others are blessed with a simpler mind that is filled with faith and does not worry about theological thought but only about its closeness to Christ in character.

”For example, if you read the diary of Sr. Faustina, which I did a couple years ago, you will find her daily life and spiritual musings so completely interwoven with Catholic doctrine that discounting the doctrine as less than essential would be to eviscerate her account. And yet she was clearly a woman on fire with love of God.”

I take your word for it. On the other hand there is perhaps an explanation here about her visions of hell and the purgatory: She knew of the respective church dogmas and her great love for God and unsuspecting nature made her believe them to the point of having detailed and rather fantastic visions of them. We know how powerful the subconscious may become. Actually I can offer an example of my recent experience to elucidate what I mean: One day in which I had spent a lot of effort arguing against hellism in the context of a discussion in this blog, I had the following disagreeable experience: When at night I lied down to sleep and closed my eyes I saw demonic faces confronting me. The experience lasted only for a few seconds but was disturbing. Now I happen to believe in the existence of the spirits of deception, and even though I don't believe they are personal beings I try to remain alert about them and to respond to them as if they were personal – since I find this is a helpful practice. So my experience that night may have been an example, albeit much weaker of course, of how St Faustina's mind moved.

What I find not only embarrassing but actually damaging is that the Catholic church didn't explicitly distance herself from St Faustina's claim that Christ told her ”I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.” This is obviously false, and people who believe in it are being misled. So here we have a saint who was wrong in what she is now most famous for.

”Padre Pio was very well known for getting out of the confessional, walking down the (long, long line of waiting sinners), pulling a man out of line and publicly berating him, saying "Get out. Go away, you haven't contrition. Come back only when really are prepared for confession."

I am agnostic about public miraculous events for I don't see why God's special providence requires them. And my condition is such that I pray I will never experience any such miraculous events myself; for they would confuse me. But there is great variance in the human condition, and perhaps they play some useful role in the life of others.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues above]

”Or take St. Teresa of Avila. Her holiness and charity were profound. And yet her writings are so filled with elucidation of Catholic doctrine and distinctions that she is a Doctor of the Church.”

Yes, impressive isn't it? A great mystic and also a Doctor of the Church. Indeed just one sentence she wrote ”It is love alone that gives worth to all things” has more wisdom than many a theological book. An amazingly concise 10 words, or actually only 7: “Love alone gives worth to all things”. And theologically amazingly insightful, to the point one suspects it encapsulates God's foundational reason for creation. (See, that's an example of how great truths are there to be seen and not to be argued.) Not to mention she inspired Bernini to sculpt what is perhaps the most moving depiction of the human condition. An amazing saint indeed, and a proof of how good humanity can be. And how fruitful the Catholic church can be. Despite of the fact that (as I read) she was hounded by some of the all-too-proper priests of her time scandalized by her efforts for the improvement of her order. I say people of little faith think it's best that things should stay like they are.

On the other hand I read that she too had scary visions of hell. So what can I say. A hellist will probably think: there, even that great saint not only believed but even saw hell. A universalist on the contrary may think: oh my, the idea of hell is so powerful it can move even great saints to deception. At least St Teresa of Avila left us this testimony also: "I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.”

”Perhaps for some people, carefulness with "fussy" distinctions is not a primary element of their road to heaven. But for others, we have concrete evidence that it is their road to heaven.”

I think that's exactly what I've been saying above. There is one way, Christ, but many human conditions and thus many directions from which one may approach that way. And perhaps even many ways how to call that way. There are probably more ways to reaching Christ's way than we can imagine.

”And we have also concrete evidence, in the examples of the heresiarchs, that the failure to attend to proper distinctions is a road away from heaven.”

I am softhearted towards heresiarchs (and thanks for teaching me that new word!), since I have the impression that many of them were honest in their search for truth. To put in a different way; without their efforts the Church would have had a harder time discerning the truth. In any case we should all relax; salvation is not about belief but about repentance (actually the more truth you know without repenting the worse off you are). Since I believe quite firmly in universalism many a conservative Christian of all denominations might consider me a heretic. Not much rides on who considers whom a heretic anyway. I understand my own Greek Orthodox church used to consider the entire Catholic Church to be a heresy.

Glenn said...

Anonymous,

Truth is self-evident, because the heart authenticates it in the moment of reception.

Relying solely on, "The heart authenticates it, therefore it must be true," sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Mightn't the authenticating heart be impure, in which case there likely may be something not quite right about its authentication?

And shouldn't we be on the lookout for inaccurate authentications, lest we do what is wrong under the guise of acting in accordance with a misidentified or inapplicable truth?

St. Thomas gives an affirmative answer to the question, "Whether the reason can be overcome by a passion, against its knowledge?"

One objection under the question is as follows: [W]hoever knows the universal, knows also the particular which he knows to be contained in the universal: thus who knows that every mule is sterile, knows that this particular animal is sterile, provided he knows it to be a mule, as is clear from Poster. i, text. 2. Now he who knows something in general, e.g. that "no fornication is lawful," knows this general proposition to contain, for example, the particular proposition, "This is an act of fornication." Therefore it seems that his knowledge extends to the particular.

St. Thomas responds to that objection in this way: He that has knowledge in a universal, is hindered, on account of a passion, from reasoning about that universal, so as to draw the conclusion: but he reasons about another universal proposition suggested by the inclination of the passion, and draws his conclusion accordingly. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 3) that the syllogism of an incontinent man has four propositions, two particular and two universal, of which one is of the reason, e.g. No fornication is lawful, and the other, of passion, e.g. Pleasure is to be pursued. Hence passion fetters the reason, and hinders it from arguing and concluding under the first proposition; so that while the passions lasts, the reason argues and concludes under the second.

Another quick example might be based on recent events:

Suppose a man knows the commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness". Suppose further the same man, inspired by his passion for a belief he holds to be fruitful, thinks it self-evidently true that (most) any tactic is fair when seeking to propound that belief -- and so thinks there is nothing wrong with twisting or distorting what another person has said (because so doing further him in his end). Would we not have another case of a man whose reason has been fettered and hindered by passion to the extent that he does what he knows is wrong, while yet, thanks to the disordering sway of his passion, thinks is right?

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

”Or take St. Teresa of Avila. Her holiness and charity were profound. And yet her writings are so filled with elucidation of Catholic doctrine and distinctions that she is a Doctor of the Church.”

Yes, impressive isn't it? A great mystic and also a Doctor of the Church. Indeed just one sentence she wrote ”It is love alone that gives worth to all things” has more wisdom than many a theological book. An amazingly concise 10 words, or actually only 7: “Love alone gives worth to all things”. And theologically amazingly insightful, to the point one suspects it encapsulates God's foundational reason for creation. (See, that's an example of how great truths are there to be seen and not to be argued.)


1. If there is a reason behind God's creation then perhaps it is reasonable to infer that reason and God, or God and reason, are not necessarily antithetical, or at least not as antithetical as you seem to want to think (for some reason or other).

2. That St. Teresa wrote, "It is love alone that gives worth to all things" in no wise indicates that she herself did not make use of her reason. Indeed, she constantly gives a reason for what she has written, and frequently gives multiple reasons in substantiating a single point.

3. Lastly, St. Teresa herself made it clear that she felt sorry for "souls who cannot reason with the understanding": There are some souls, and some minds, as unruly as horses not yet broken in. No one can stop them: now they go this way, now that way; they are never still. Although a skilled rider mounted on such a horse may not always be in danger, he will be so sometimes; and, even if he is not concerned about his life, there will always be the risk of his stumbling, so that he has to ride with great care. Some people are either like this by nature or God permits them to become so. I am very sorry for them[.]

- - - - -

(In fairness, I think it could be argued that St. Teresa also felt somewhat sorry for those who can reason only with the understanding.

(That, however, is another matter -- and, even so, is not a mark against either reason or reasoning.)

PaoloP said...

"I was thinking that something is wrong in the ways of Christian theology if the truth in an important matter is made to hang on whether a single letter in an epistle of Paul is the short or long version of “o”. What's more whether it was really written as an adjective (with a short o) or as an adverb (with a long o, or omega) the meaning remains ambiguous anyway, whether in Greek or in English."

You know: there are only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. It's a pity you have to fathom the actual order of these symbols, especially if the resulting meaning do not conform to your preconception; and imagine that there are syntactic rules, as well: truly, Christian theology has to be an impossible thing.

Tony said...

So I wonder. Why should the Church look into scripture to answer questions about the sacrament of communion? Isn't communion a living experience in the Church, arguably the very heart of liturgy? Doesn't the Church then have adequate direct knowledge in this matter, and doesn't the Church has the guidance of Christ?

Because the Christian religion is a religion revealed to us by God through two aspects of revelation: it comes to us through the visible actions and audible words of Jesus Christ (meaning by "visible" and "audible", apprehended through the exterior senses, not interior) before the Apostles, and handed on by those Apostles from generation to generation in their explicit public witness to Christ in WORDS; in addition, we receive God's interior testimony to the truth of Christianity by grace received in the soul. But, as Paul says, "faith comes through hearing". The action of grace presupposes the explicit witness of the Apostles and their successors to Christ's own words heard by them with their exterior senses.

Christ established the Church as a visible institution, not relying alone on the internal movement of faith coming solely through grace, for many reasons which the saints state. The Holy Spirit inspired the Gospel writers, and also guided the early Church who received those writings as inspired, for a reason, which the saints make clear. The Gospels and other NT works connects the faithful of each generation to the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles, and thus provides for faith to "come through hearing" and not just through interior inspiration.

God could have chosen other pathways for salvation to be mediated to men throughout the world, than by Christ establishing the Church. But he didn't. And he could have chosen other pathways for revealing himself to men generally, but he didn't do that either. The salvific pathway God ACTUALLY chose is known to us through the NT books, not by searching in the heart.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

1) What is the path to truth?

This is easy: Christ is the truth, so the path to truth is the same path that leads to Christ.

In our discussions during the last weeks I have often been moved to the thought that all things considered the most effective path to the truth is to do what Christ commands to the best of our capacity, and then questions will probably fall away. And if one needs to ask, and truly asks in prayer, then Christ will guide us. What’s more: The greatest insight I got when reading the CC catechism in the context of our discussions was about the concept of “state of mortal sin” as the definitive lack of charity in the soul. (Here's the quote ye lovers of quotes: “1855: Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man […] Venial sin allows charity to subsist”) That was a huge eye-opener for me. I always knew that repentance means the transformation of the soul into the likeness of Christ, but this is a complex notion and it was not clear to me how it is like to be transformed in that manner. That sentence in the catechism gave me the insight that in the reality of the human condition repentance is the realization of charity in our soul - charity being the ground well of love Christ speaks of. Here then we have another path, indeed an empirical one, that leads to truth: Any belief, and any disposition, and any deed, that we find increases the charity in our soul, comes from Christ - for the simple reason that the ground well of love is Christ. Which in turn of course perfectly fits with the admonition we find in the gospels that from their fruit you shall know them.

So, in conclusion, to find truth is easy: We have not one but several paths. We have two thousand years of Christian tradition and the ongoing work of many who try to advance the general body of Christian knowledge. We have prayer. And we have the interior testimony of our soul not only in seeing the truth directly, but also in the sense of watching how charity in our soul ebbs end flows. We have reason by which we detect incoherences, which are very often the mark of falsity. We have our sense of beauty and of simplicity which are very often the mark of truth.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

2) What is the path to certainty?

The basic answer: There isn't such a path. We can't be certain, not even about theism and the premise that God is the metaphysical ground of all. Thus we can't be certain about any theological belief whatsoever.

In more detail: Suppose one has found what seems to be the truth. How can one be certain that what one found *is* the truth? Well, one can't. The human condition is religiously ambiguous. Even God is hidden, in the sense that trees and stones around us are not [1]. We find a great answer of why that is so in John Hick's Irenaean theodicy (I prefer the sound of “Irenaean” over “soul-making” for the former's etymology is “maker of peace”). But here's another thing which I just found in the catechism: There are three theological virtues, namely faith, hope and charity. Please consider that *none* of these virtues would be possible if God were not hidden. Neither faith, nor hope, nor charity would have any value and thus would not be virtues if God were as obvious as the stones and trees around us. Indeed if God were not hidden concepts like “faith” and “hope” would hardly mean anything.

In Christianity we have strong examples of how general the lack of certainty is. Christ Himself on the cross exclaims “My God why have you forsaken me”. Peter (the disciple who was so certain he was called “the stone” - Petrus is Greek means “of stone”), when he saw Jesus arrested by the Romans doubted and denied Him three times in short order. All doubted. None of the twelve, but one, was even there by the cross to keep Christ company in His hour of death. The greatest mystics in our tradition, those who appear to actually meet the divine, testify of experiencing long periods - years - where all natural sense of the divine entirely abandons them; as if God wants to make certain that they too should not lack uncertainty. I don't think that anybody, not one among us, is certain of God in the way one is certain of stones and trees. There was perhaps one exception made in the case of the disciples who experienced the risen Christ in the flesh – a rule bending act of charity by Christ. (Perhaps that's the meaning in the catechism where we read the God's revelation ended when the last disciple died, since that claim otherwise makes no sense.)

Is the lack of certainty a problem? Not at all, if one has faith. If one hasn't faith then one tries to construct certainty. In Christianity for example this works by considering that the Bible is inerrant in every word, or that the Pope is infallible in some pronouncements. And in general by considering that the church is a building of interlocking texts that shouldn't be corrected lest the whole building collapses. It is the same instinct of fear that moved primitive religions to construct idols.

Finally, the fact that there isn't any certainty does not imply that there can't be confidence. Both faith and reason bring confidence, as does repentance. In my case I find that the sheer beauty of theism and especially of the Christian story inspires great confidence in me. A confidence that increases when I consider how unreasonable non-theistic worldviews turn out to be when one examines them.

[1] I'd like to qualify this bit. From “God is hidden” it doesn't follow that “God is not visible”. In fact God is visible, and is visible in our everyday life. Every time we experience beauty we are directly seeing God. Every time we selflessly love we partake in God's life. In that sense God is more directly visible than trees and stones. But God is still hidden, for there can't be any certainty that what we see is God. God is hidden in plain view as it were.

Tim Finlay said...

If I may quibble, the quote should be "Quo Vadis, Petre." I am fairly sure that Petrus is 2nd declension rather than 4th, so the vocative should be Petre.

Edward Feser said...

Tim, you're so rigid! ;-)

Thanks, corrected.

Anonymous said...

Look at the answer given yesterday by Prof. Rodriguo Guerra Lopez in the semi-official Vatican Insider.
For the first dubium, he wrote :"I believe that in some occasions it will be possible and in others it will not. It would all depend upon whether there is an authentic mortal sin or if there are some factors that make a human action be a sin but not of that kind. "
Thus, adultery could sometimes be a venial sin... in direct contradiction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If it is the only game in town for supporters of AL, they have lost... What an abject failure!

http://www.lastampa.it/2016/12/19/vaticaninsider/eng/comment/dear-cardinals-nqI26jEHhKLjvA9pjPhAII/pagina.html

Highland Cathedral said...

Papal advisor Fr. Antonio Spadaro opines that Amoris is “very clear” and that “a questioning conscience can easily find all the responses it is seeking, if it is seeking sincerely”

That sounds awfully like those Protestants that claim the Bible is crystal clear to anybody who sincerely wishes to understand it. And we know the results of that particular view.