COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | Uncategorized

The following should be read in conjunction with the post immediately below it.  Taken together, these illustrate why the Roman Catholic Church has a future while the Anglican Communion does not:

Facing the “plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks” associated with secularism, Pope Benedict XVI today urged Portuguese Christians to embrace the “nucleus” of their faith. The pontiff also hinted they should expect blowback, calling Christians to be ready for “the radical choice of martyrdom.”

Benedict hailed the secular separation of church and state for “opening up a new area of freedom for the church,” but also warned that the ethical pluralism can sow confusion about “the human meaning of life” and also “marginalize” the public role of religious faith.

During comments aboard the papal plane, Benedict nonetheless stressed the importance of dialogue with secular culture.

“The presence of secularism is something normal, but a separation of cult from life, a separation of secularism from cult and faith, is anomalous and must be overcome,” Benedict said. “The great challenge is for the two to meet and to discover their true identity … this, as I said, is a mission for Europe and a human necessity in our time.”

All in all, Benedict’s pitch vis-à-vis secularism on the opening day of his four-day swing in Portugal seemed a version of the ancient Roman dictum, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Benedict’s advice to believers making their way in a secular world was, “Seek dialogue, but be ready for martyrdom.”

And there it is.  Pope Benedict XVI thinks the Church has a message that the world desperately needs to hear.  But Benedict is realistic, not having forgotten this:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Or this:

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

My gracious lord of Canterbury, on the other hand, remembers neither of these verses.  The idea of western Anglicans like Dr. Williams seriously confronting and challenging the culture in which they live hasn’t been current for decades if not a good deal longer.

Oh, they’ll dash off sermons about racism, sexism, greed or not recycling at the drop of a hat.  And they’ll condemn fictional sins like “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” before anyone asks them to.

But suggest that maybe words mean what they say and that homosexual activity is a sin?  Suggest that sex before or outside of marriage is a bad thing?  Come right out and forcefully declare that without faith in Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross, you’re not going to make it to heaven?

Non-starters.  Because Anglicans like Rowan Williams fear a negative Times of London or Guardian leader more than they fear God.

Lots of things could happen, I guess.  Those American Catholic bishops who really wouldn’t mind being Episcopalians could gain more power and influence.  The next pope could be a lot more timid than the current one is.

But I’m not worried.  While it might be smaller than small, God always preserves a remnant of people who love and believe in Him.  As He told Elijah:

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

104 Comments to COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Floridian
May 11, 2010

Here is the Pope’s best statement about the persecution of the Church:

“…the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside but is born from the sin in the church,” … “The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice.”

Floridian
May 11, 2010

Forgot to add, the statement above was also made aboard the papal jet along with his remarks on secularism.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 11, 2010

“Taken together, these illustrate why the Roman Catholic Church has a future while the Anglican Communion does not”

Some former Roman Catholics prefer to serve in the Anglican Communion, eg., Bishop Herzog.

Not to mention the PBess.

;-)

Don Janousek
May 11, 2010

“Ethical pluralism.” Wow! Benedict the Hammer hit the Episcopo Gay Cult Nail squarely on the head with that one.

Whitestone
May 11, 2010

Actually, both groups have their feet equally to the fire in regard to secular and sexual/moral pollution…which is as it should be…the furnace is in Jerusalem, as Isaiah 31 says and judgment begins in the household of faith. Both groups have got a lot to answer for. Abuse of power is an ugly beast rooted in the one from whom pride and deceit emanates.

As for the future, only Christ knows what issues He will bring each group to reckon with, but hopefully the global and universal Church regenerate, (not just comprising the RC or Orthodox) will become the Church penitent before the Lord has to again use Assyria/Babylon to bring her to repentance. Babylon has been rising in the same measure that the Western Church has declined and disintegrated by having degraded and defiled herself. The Church has given place to evil.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 11, 2010

“The Church has given place to evil.”

Dat’s true. One way that it has done so is to lose the mark of discipline. Eg., the failure to excommunicate +Pike in the 60′s foreshadowed the loss of moral and spiritual backbone in ECUSA and vastly increased the growth of heresy and apostasy.

Despite the mealy-mouthed meowing by the Civil Charity Police, firm polemics is called for and required at times. See this excellent article by +Matt Kennedy titled “Soft Talk: Conditioning People to Reject Orthodoxy.

Another problem that’s worse than wolves donning sheep’s clothing is ….

Wolves donning shepherd’s clothing or vestments.

Compare and contrast the chief undershepherds of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. And with regards to the pedophile abuse and coverup scandal of all churches, it’s the wolves in shepherd’s clothing that’s been doing the horrific spiritual and ecclesial damage.

Steve L.
May 11, 2010

If it wasn’t for Papal Authority and excessive fixation on Mary I would be a Catholic if only to escape the Anglican mess

FW Ken
May 11, 2010

Steve L -

Twenty-three years a Catholic has taught me one thing: becoming Catholic is anything but an escape. The only excuse for converting is that you believe it, including the papal claims and Marian dogmas (the last two doctrinal areas for me, as a matter of fact).

Floridian
May 11, 2010

I tried to post this quote a few days ago, but the post disappeared and I
didn’t have time to repost it. These words could apply to both the the RC
and the Canterbury AC/TEC:

[This] “… is not fundamentally about sex. The phrase is a convenient tag
that has been applied to a deeper, ongoing problem that, at its core, has to
do with power and authority and how it is used in the church…..Perhaps it
could provide an example of the kind of serious and deep introspection that
will be required of the clergy, especially the hierarchy, to get to the root
causes of the scandalous behavior of the clergy culture and to discern what
reforms are necessary to make it a culture of service and compassion.

Catholics want to walk with their leaders, not beneath them. We want to be
deeply invested in the pilgrim’s search, not sent on a forced march. We want
to be the people of God, not cowed serfs.

We want our pastors back. We’ve had quite enough of princes.”

From here.

The comparison is this…

Today, Pope Benedict, bless him, came closer to naming the real problem than
he or anyone ever has done.

Archbishop Williams has not yet done so in regard to the crisis in the AC.
He continues to spew out words that coat and smother the real issues like
fire-fighting foam, hoping to coat the surface and prevent the flames from
spreading.

Lina
May 11, 2010

Steve L

Or you can try the Orthodox Church. This is where God has sent me after 72 years of being an Episcopalian.

On the otherhand, I read somewhere recently that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church has more power than the pope to change doctrine. The pope would never be allowed to do what General Convention has done in rewriting basic Christian doctrine.

Maureen
May 11, 2010

Funny you should mention the salt quote below. That actually appeared in B16′s homily in Lisbon today:

“…. the sacrament of Baptism, through which the Church gives birth to the ‘saints’.

“We know that she also has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features; it is in them that she tastes her deepest joy. They all share the desire to incarnate the Gospel in their own lives, under the inspiration of the eternal animator of God’s People – the Holy Spirit. Focussing her attention upon her own saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programs, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavor?

“In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ: the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. Therefore our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each one of us. A vast effort at every level is required if every Christian is to be transformed into a witness capable of rendering account to all and at all times of the hope that inspires him (cf. 1 Peter 3:15): only Christ can fully satisfy the profound longings of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions concerning suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and the life hereafter.”

Paula Loughlin
May 11, 2010

Maureen,

Thanks for posting that. You can have no idea how much I needed to read those words.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 12, 2010

Me: “One way that it has done so is to lose the mark of discipline. Eg., the failure to excommunicate +Pike in the 60’s foreshadowed the loss of moral and spiritual backbone in ECUSA and vastly increased the growth of heresy and apostasy.

Despite the mealy-mouthed meowing by the Civil Charity Police, firm polemics is called for and required at times. See this excellent article by +Matt Kennedy titled “Soft Talk: Conditioning People to Reject Orthodoxy.”

Eg., from comment #41 in the link above:

[24] Keith Töpfer,

without wishing to dissuade you on your journey across the Tiber I still want to point out that while Rome may have clear and unabiguous positions expressed in the Catechism and by the Magisterium, there are many clergy and even bishops on that side of the Tiber who hold and teach otherwise, and often without censure from their superiors.

An unwillingness to confront heresy is not the prerogative of TEC bishops by any means.

Wolf Paul
Vienna, Austria

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

The only excuse for converting is that you believe it, including the papal claims

Ahh, but that is precisely the problem, Ken. One cannot force oneself to believe. One must be compelled to believe by fact or reason. And my problem is that I can see no reason for believing in papal infallibility, or in any concept of ecclesial infallibility (which closes me off from Orthodoxy as well).

Belief in an infallible church does not seem to me to be an intuitive necessity, like belief in God. One cannot “prove” God’s existence because it is the basic starting point of one’s logical understanding of the universe. Once one sees God as the logical explanation for the world any other explanation seems impossible, illogical. Those who chose not to see this cannot be led to see it by chain of reasoning. It is a matter of faith, but not in opposition to reason and experience. It is what makes sense of reason and experience.

Yet an infallible church does not make sense of reason or experience, especially the experience we are dealing with now. How then can we expalin the existence of such a concept? Where does it come from? Why are some compelled to believe in it?

I’m seriously asking, because I can see no way to get inside this idea without turning my brain off and ignoring historical realities, which all my other Christian beliefs do not require of me. REASON does not testify to me the need for an infallible church. I can see no evidence of it in SCRIPTURE that would enlighten and correct my reasoning. I am left with TRADITION, but this itself is ambiguous because the east and west are divided as to who is the true infallible church.

Dr Tighe would argue that since both always claim such a thing to exist that it must therefore exist and that one of them must be it. But this is by no means logically valid. Both of them could false, which is perfectly fitting if no infallible church exists. Only a presumption that there is an ifallible church makes that argument valid.

Another problem with TRADITION as an argument here is that it makes an implicit acceptance of the conclusion in question a premise for the argument itself. Who says the church is infallible? The church does. How do we know the church is correct in this? Because it is infallible. It is a closed lope of logic.

How have people managed to penetrate this? I would love to know. I wish Rome had a lesser concept of its infallibility so that I could come inside and be within the bussom of Mother Church. The sins of Rome don’t bother me because I don’t need to see Rome as infallible, let alone sinless, for God to be working through her.

LaVallette
May 12, 2010

@Christopher Hathaway. This commentry may help answer your question, particularly the second part.

” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus creates and builds His Church (not “churches”) on Peter, the Rock. Notice also that even hell can’t stop the everlasting existence of His Church.

“And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. ”

In the following verse 19, Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom.

“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed, even in heaven.”

A.M.D.G.

The Pilgrim
May 12, 2010

Christopher:
“One cannot force oneself to believe. One must be compelled to believe by fact or reason. And my problem is that I can see no reason for believing in papal infallibility, or in any concept of ecclesial infallibility (which closes me off from Orthodoxy as well).”

I would submit it has nothing to do with fact or reason, and everything to do with trust and faith.

When I first started attending an Orthodox Church, there were some things that I could not see logically. But, I did have faith that this is where God wanted me to be, and so I trusted that God would make the process work if it was supposed to. I figured God had not brought me this far on my journey to start leaving me on my own this late in the game. The truth was that there was more in Orthodoxy that I liked, compared to the parts I had problems with.

I stuck it out, kept going, and s-l-o-w-l-y God has revealed more of His plan to me, so that the bumps in the road have been smoothed out, and what I thought were insurmountable obstacles have turned out to be quibbles on my part; beliefs that I insisted on holding on to so that I would still have the illusion of control in my life.

If you feel drawn to Rome; if you are truly walking TOWARDS the Tiber (as opposed to running FROM TEC), then trust God to work out the details.

Sibyl
May 12, 2010

There is only One infallible Truth. One model and source of perfect holy Love. One source of Holy Power for good. One righteous Man. Only One Mediator between God the Father and man, Christ Jesus. One Holy Spirit to spread that healing, redeeming Love and to discriminate that Truth from deception. One written Word and spiritual Light to discern that Truth.

The Church can help when her heart is motivated with a first love devotion toward Christ, but it can also hinder and obscure and become a synagogue of satan.

Here is a recent example of papal and ecclesial fallibility and lack of spiritual discernment.

Sibyl
May 12, 2010

Oops –
Here

Sibyl
May 12, 2010

That being said, both Pope Benedict XVI and the ABC are in positions to battle the same sensual evil within their respective churches and in Western culture.

Only the pope seems willing and equipped to face that sleazy Goliath.

Hope he cleans house like the Lord did the day he took up a whip of cords. Hope he is transparent, accountable, willing to humble himself and his institution to ask forgiveness for all his and her pride, posturing and sins.

Only then will she truly be the Bride Christ desires.

Sibyl
May 12, 2010

‘She’ in the last sentence, being ANY born-again baptised member of Christ’s Body, individual and collective, local and global.

I realize quite powerfully, that I am speaking to myself as well, because I am in the process of attempting an honest examen (or 4th step spiritual moral inventory) exercise. Please pray for me.

Ed the Roman
May 12, 2010

The sins of Romans don’t bother me because I am not depending on the Church to be immaculate but to teach the truth.

How a church can teach with authority and not be infallible has eluded me. If it’s not infallible then I must every day be comparing it to something else; and that puts ME in the Seat of the Apostles.

Ed the Roman
May 12, 2010

In other words, Christopher, you’re asking for a Church that says that you cannot count on it being Divine guided in what it says. And after all, who said that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are inspired Scripture and the Gospel of Thomas is not? This same Church did, and the only ways to dodge that fact are to put your ultimate faith in publishers or your own literary taste. Nobody claims that the Authorized Version came down from Heaven for us men and for our salvation. Although I have run into one or two people who seemed to treat it as if it had.

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

LaVallette, surely you must be aware that we Protestants read that verse as applying to the church without necessarily identifying that church solely with the apostolic heirs of Peter’s see. It rather begs the question to say Jesus is pointing to Rome’s magesterium there. It would be good to have validation from elswhere in Scripture that your interpretation is correct.

I would submit it has nothing to do with fact or reason, and everything to do with trust and faith.

Pilgrim, faith is not opposed to reason and fact. It rather depends upon them. We have faith in God because it is reasonable and based upon the facts of what he has done. Otherwise we could not recommend the faith to others. The atheists like to say that one could believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as much as in God because it is a matter of “faith”, but such is not the case. Faith needs to be premised upon fact or reasonable belief. It is a type of knowledge, but one which assumes a foundational role such that it requires overwhelming evidence to shake it and which can stand when many other beliefs are tested.

I have faith in God. This is reasonable. I have faith in Scripture, because it is reasonable to expect God reveal himself in an objective way. Scripture passes the test as the best candidate for that revelation and no experience has contradicted that. But I have not found in either of those two beliefs the evidence for faith in Rome’s or Constantinople’s infallibility, and I cannot make the leap for leaping’s sake. God must give me a reason. He has for everything else.

How a church can teach with authority and not be infallible has eluded me.

That seems logical, Ed. But it leads me to think that I also find elusive how a church can be seen to be infallible if it is not sinless. How is it that God can or would preserve the church from error in formal teaching but not in its witness?

If it’s not infallible then I must every day be comparing it to something else; and that puts ME in the Seat of the Apostles.

One might think that Scripture would be that “something else”, and that we ALL are in “the Seat of the Apostles” in the sense of being part of a royal priesthood.

If one cannot compare the visible church to something else to know what is right and wrong how can one then make judgments about its handling of the clergy abuse scandal now until the church formally declares what that conclusion should be. Until the Pope confessed that these sins were the fault of the church should not the loyal catholic presume that everything was being done properly? Seriously, how can one accuse the church of error without either compromising its infallibility or distinguishing between areas that are infallible and those that aren’t, which latter knowledge should require some infallibility.

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

In other words, Christopher, you’re asking for a Church that says that you cannot count on it being Divine[ly] guided in what it says.

Actually, I have a much more flexible faith in Prividence than that. I believe that God is capable of guiding his church inspite of the errors in deed that it commits and in spite of isolated errors of judgment.

Was Abraham guided by God? Yes. Was Moses guided by God? Most definitely. Did they both make mistakes? Yes. Scripture testifies to that. Is the church guided by God in a way far greater than Abraham and Moses? Yes. Does this make the church therefore incapable of error? No.

And after all, who said that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are inspired Scripture and the Gospel of Thomas is not? This same Church did

Again, I would put this down to God’s providential control over the church. But remember, that the church itslef recognized that the writings of the Apostles was in a category above the writings of all others, even later bishops of Rome. If the church was meant to be as infallible as it says what need was there to gaurantee the writings of other infallible men like the Apostles?

Perhaps this is subjective, but the tenor of sacred writings have a dirrefent quality than the writings of others in the church. I value the epistle of Clement, and those of Ignatius and Polycarp. But they are not like Scripture. I haven’t read any church teaching that reads the same way.

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

“Dirrefent”. ha ha. It’s a new word meaning “irrefutable evidence on non-infallibility”.

Allen Lewis
May 12, 2010

Chris -
What you are seeing is the difference between a real spiritual leader as opposed to a poseur.

FW Ken
May 12, 2010

Christopher,

I would put this down to God’s providential control over the church.

Much to say, not much time to say it.

First, I use “indefectible” more than “infallible”, and both are different from “impeccable”. I believe, yet I sin. I cannot expect differently in the community of the Church. Jesus tells us to not get too excited about the weeds among the wheat and left Judas among the apostles until the end.

Perhaps it’s fair to note the 19th Article (in part) as a basic tenet of Anglicanism:

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

The 21st Article say basically the same thing about Councils.

Given those statements, I have to ask: how does God protect his Church from essential error. Scripture alone has proved an inadequate tool, given the tens of thousands of “bible-believing” denominations out there today, who turn to the bible and see different things.

Sorry I don’t have time right now to respond adequately to your important question. But I am spending 8 hours in the car today and may come up with something more along the way. :-)

One cannot force oneself to believe.

It’s funny: Pilgrim’s first reaction was “trust and faith”. My first reaction was: of course we can’t. It’s all grace! Which may have to do with my Spurgeon shopping Monday. There was a volume on grace that tempted me, though I chose the one on prayer. My choice was partly because I’ve more or less settled that in God’s grace alone can I hope, and not in any effort of my own.

One must be compelled to believe by fact or reason.

Indeed, because grace builds on nature, as grace built nature to start with.

JC Fremont
May 12, 2010

Well, yeah. But what did anybody expect from the C of E? When you place the Sovereign at the head of the Church and then democratize the Realm, isn’t it inevitable that bishops will fear the press more than the Word? Just infuse the Church with Erastianism; the Pelagianism will follow.

The structure of the Church is ultimately either a Cathedral…remember that a Cathedral serves as both a church and a palace…or the proverbial “20 guys in a grove”; or, megaron (Mycenaean) or agora (Classical) in Greek terms. The tension between faith and politics is always there, and one’s response to it always has consequences.

Dave P.
May 12, 2010

Sibyl:

The Fr. Maciel affair is an error in prudential judgement, and nothing to do with doctrine. Maciel (God have mercy on his soul) was a consummate conman and sociopath.

Steve L.:

If you’d like a comprehensive work on the Church’s teaching on Mary, I recommend Mark Shea’s Mother of the Son.

diane in nc with a small d
May 12, 2010

“The Fr. Maciel affair is an error in prudential judgement, and nothing to do with doctrine.”

Exactly. Nice try, Sibyl, but no dice.

You have made the common error of confusing infallibility with impeccability. The two things are completely different.

diane in nc with a small d
May 12, 2010

Also, Sibyl: If you are Orthodox (as I surmise??), then I am surprised you do not believe in the infallibility of the Church. I had always thought that this was part of Orthodox as well as Catholic ecclesiology.

One final point: That stuff about papal/Catholic “pride and posturing” blah-blah-blah is not helpful.

Something tells me there’s plenty of “pride and posturing” in your own communion, whatever it may be. As I’ve said before, kindly clean your own house, whatever it is, before you take it upon yourself to point out the dust-bunnies in ours.

Thanks….

Robb
May 12, 2010

Ditto Dave P’s suggestion re: Mark Shea’ Mother of the Son. A trilogy and all three books are well worth your time. Another I would recommend is Scott Hahn’s Hail, Holy Queen. May not change anyones mind but in the least, it should open you to new perspectives about Mary.

Robb
May 12, 2010

Ken
Re your last comment. Agree with you words on grace, but, as I know you know, the Protestant theology teaches grace is imputed and we say grace is infused.
Big, big difference. But please don’t ask me to explain the difference. I am, after all, just a retired dogface soldier. Calling Dr Witt……

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

You have made the common error of confusing infallibility with impeccability. The two things are completely different.

But are they not related? Why is infallibility in doctrine more important than infallibility in judgment and moral witness, what you call impeccability? Is not the weakness toward sin in a Christian a “fallibility”?

Cannot God prevent us from sinning? Could he not at baptism give us a completely regenerate heart that does not fall away or stumble? He could, I suppose, but obviously chooses not to do so. And yet we do not claim that those who sin are not being led into righteousness. God does not overide our created nature and free will as he grows us into perfection. It is an uneven journey, but a steady one.

If God does not cancel out our sin-fallible will, our errors in moral judgment, why then should we conclude that God overides the human liability to errors in judgment concerning doctrine? Because we need to know what is true even if we are left free not to do it? Why then not make all Christians infallible in their understanding of the faith. If God can do it for the Pope he can do it for everyone else.

Is it because we only need the head of the church to be infallible? But if God is only going to supercede the natural human limitation of knowledge of one man and make the Pope supernaturally incapable of doctrinal error why does he not also make him supernaturally incapable of moral error?

Sibyl
May 12, 2010
Whitestone
May 12, 2010

The RC moved out and away from the rest of Christendom and has innovated doctrinally without submitting herself to the jury of her peers. That is because she declared that she has none and that she alone is the arbitor of Christian doctrine. The RC has operated for centuries in her own recognizance and self-declared authority.

Why isn’t that the same thing the pansexual agendites have done in the EC/CoE/ACoC, UMC, ELCA, etc.?

Sibyl
May 12, 2010

Pride and posturing = Bishops and cardinals covering up abuse, kissing up to big donors like Maciel and the Kennedys as well as generally, ie, pretending sole authority and infallibility.

I agree, little d, the other churches and shepherds are rife with pride and posturing (there really are other valid Christ-built churches that possess the Charism of the Holy Spirit and the anointint to save souls and fit them for heaven) but that does not excuse or lessen any other’s.

Paolo
May 12, 2010

Whitestone, you cannot postulate the existence of “peers” and then complain about Rome not submitting to them.
Simply put, Protestants didn’t exist before Luther, who btw declared that everyone is entitled to interpret his Bible. The only Church – in my (Catholic) opinion – who can have a historically reasonable disagreement with Rome is the Orthodox one, but her ecclesiology is very different from the Protestant’s.

Whitestone
May 12, 2010

Church exists where the gift of revelation of faith and first love devotion for Jesus Christ and for His Word exists. Merely consenting to rules and doctrines, pronouncing creeds, engaging in rituals and ceremonies does not constitute salvation…there must be faith and fruit.

Nowhere does Scripture tell us to put our faith in man (Ps 118:8-9) his or our own understanding or in forms or institutions. In fact, Scripture proscribes all of these.

Councils err. The RC and all other churches have erred. The RC and her princes are not infallible or without error in doctrine, interpretation of Scripture, motivation, practice nor form.

Jeanne Iovine
May 12, 2010

Isn’t this the difference between a hierarchal church and one that isn’t!?

Fr. J.
May 12, 2010

Since it seems so difficult to mention Catholicism these days without descending into commentary about pedophilia and cover up, I would like to just ask a couple of questions.

Clearly there were pedophile priests in some numbers in the Catholic Church. Which human organization of any size and duration that works with children has not ever had pedophiles work their way into its ranks?

Clearly, the Catholic Church mishandled the pedophiles among its priests. Which organizations that worked with children prior to the 1980′s did not attempt to cover up cases of pedophilia? Which organizations did not consider pedophilia a vice that could be corrected by discipline of the will and a change in circumstances?

My fourth grade teacher at a very good public school was a pedophile. I was lucky and had enough intuition to avoid him when his advances made me uncomfortable. Other children were not so fortunate. This was in the mid 70′s. What did the school do? They moved him to another school.

So many and such large law suits have given us a distorted image of this scandal. If it were legal to sue government institutions and every suit were given as much attention as the Catholic cases, every daily paper would have to be as thick as a phonebook and still have room to report nothing else.

So, if every time you think “Catholic” or “priest” you also think “pedophile,” it is because you have succumbed to the exact distortion the enemies of the Church have infected our society with. The Church’s enemies are varied and numerous from the old Protestant anti-Catholicism to the new anti-Catholicism of the secular world which sees the Church as only an obstacle to the advance of their culture of hedonism and death.

But as St. Paul wrote, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) All anti-Catholicism has its origin in the one Enemy who prowls the earth for the ruin of souls.

As Pope Leo XIII wrote and urged us to pray:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

I do not defend the Church at all in these matters. A great purging ought to be done if most of the perpetrators and bishops involved were still living, but they are not.

But, it must be said that all of this is a kind of distraction from the work of proclaiming the Good News, work which when done with fervor will make martyrs. We are returning to the situation of the Church in the first centuries when being a Christian is a dangerous thing. Perhaps one fruit of the coming hardships will be the Christian unity for which Christ prayed and to which we all must be committed.

Paolo
May 12, 2010

Whitestone, why the Gospels do not err? They are written by men.

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

Paolo, do you not recognize a distinction between the writings of the Apostles and of those that came after them? Because the church that recognized the Canon certainly did, which is why the letter of Pope Clement I was not included, important and edifying as it may be.

Lina
May 12, 2010

Whitestone

Could you please list, explain, whatever, the additions you are referring to when you write that the RCC has added into/onto Christian belief that shouldn’t be there? Thank you.

Fuinseoig
May 12, 2010

Christopher, I’m not competing to drag you through the doors of the church, but on the issue of infallibility, what helps me is that this does not mean impeccability.

In other words, you can have (and God help us, we certainly have had) priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who were next door to atheists (or even functional atheists; for instance, Dante mentions the infamous Cardinal Ottiaviano degli Ubaldini who died in 1273 and is supposed to have said: ‘If I have a soul, I have lost it a thousand times over on behalf of the Ghibellines’) being more interested in worldly power, pomp, wealth, influence and the sins of the flesh than the state of their souls and those in their care.

However, Our Lord never promised to preserve us from sin. He did promise that error would not be taught, and that’s as much as we can expect. The rest we have to do for ourselves. So, for instance, we may have a poisoning Pope of the Renaissance (if that popular character did indeed exist exactly in that fashion) but so long as he never made it doctrine that Jesus Christ is not both God and Man, or never denied the Trinity, or the necessity of grace, then that will preserve the teaching of the Gospel.

That probably doesn’t help all that much, but I was struck by something in the reading from Matthew 28: “16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.”

So even amongst the apostles, faced with the direct experience of actually seeing the resurrected Lord, there were still doubts and uncertainties. But the Church was there, in all its infallibility and all its peccability both.

:-)

William Tighe
May 12, 2010

Christopher Hathaway wrote:

“REASON does not testify to me the need for an infallible church. I can see no evidence of it in SCRIPTURE that would enlighten and correct my reasoning. I am left with TRADITION, but this itself is ambiguous because the east and west are divided as to who is the true infallible church.”

I would say, rather

HISTORY testifies to me that before the Reformation the Church always claimed to be both visible and indivisible (as did every “counter-church” which has left its record in HISTORY). I can find evidence in SCRIPTURE to corroborate and confirm this belief, even if I could come to other and opposed conclusions by reading Scripture divorced from HISTORY with a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” and thus HISTORY enlightens and corrects my reasoning. These are thus wholly congruent with TRADITION, and even if this is all by itself insufficient to identify which of the three claimants are the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic” Church, belief in which is confessed in the Creed, it does suffice to exclude any and all bodies professing a mere Protestant denominational ecclesiology, as well as any which postulate “the Church” as an invisible divisible body.

Let us start with the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” (OHCAC) of the Creed. Numerous historians, Protestant as well as Catholic and Orthodox (e.g., the Anglican JND Kelly, whose *Early Chrustian Doctrines* I just glanced through to confirm what I am writing here) have demonstrated that those who framed that Creed in its final version ca. 381 meant one only visible body (in the early manuscript tradition the word “mian,” or “one,” often has “monen,” or “one only” in its place) — in other words, “us who are united in the true doctrine and eucharistic communion, and not anybody else.” Bodies as perfectly orthodox on doctrinal matters as the Novatianists, whose breach with the Church in the 250s concerned only disciplinary matters, and who even adopted the Nicene Creed as their own profession of faith and who adhered to it pertinaciously therafter, were regarded without dissent by “the Catholics” as “outside the Church,” and were treated as such in the fourth century and ever thereafter.

Some honest Protestant scholars admit this, even if they dislike it. The Lutheran scholar Werner Elert (1884-1954), whose last book *Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries* (1954; English trans. 1966) was written against Liberal (and Evangelical) Protestant notions that denominations divided by serious confessional and doctrinal differences can nevertheless practice “sacramental sharing” (nowadays sometimes termed “eucharistic hospitality”) and who demonstrates, wholly successfully, that such views were rejected by orthodox and heretics alike in the first four centuries of Christianity, has to go further and admit that the 4th Century Catholic Church believed that the borders of the OHCAC which it confessed in the Creed were coterminous with its own borders. This is set forth very clearly in Ch. 5 of that book, even though he goes on to state on p. 56 that from his own Protestant perspective those schismatic groups like the Donatists, Nestorians, Monophysites and Novatians whom the 4th Century Catholic Church regarded and treated as outside the Church have to be regarded as “in the church of Christ.” Elert, in brief, wants to retain the “sacramental exclusivism” or “closed communion” which the Early Church practiced on the basis that it was the ONE and ONLY Church, for all dogmatically-grounded “Church Confessions,” while repudiating the Patristic ecclesiology on which it was grounded.

Another such scholar was the Church of England Evangelical-moving-towards-Liberal scholar S. L. Greenslade (1905-1977) whose book, *Schism in the Early Church* (1953) I found of such great interest when I read it for the first time years ago. Greenslade (who was Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford from 1959 to 1973) demonstrates in full and complete detail (but with few words and a light style) that “the Early Church” unquestionably and without a doubt embraced fully the view of OHCAC (and “closed communion”) that I have adumbrated here and elsewhere (and which “Whitestone” constantly criticizes without ever producing an iota of historical evidence for his own sectarian views) — but his view is that “the Early Church” was absolutely wrong and mistaken in its ecclesiology, and that such an ecclesiology is “simply incredible” today, and ought to be abandoned in favor of one which sees all Christian bodies that embrace “basic Christian teachings and the authority of Scripture” as constituting when taken together (regardless of differences of church polity) “the Church.”

LOGIC, after all, will take you only so far. “Baptist logic” will rule out paedobaptism, and even if the rare Baptist might be willing to admit the Joachim Jeremias successfully demonstrated, in his controversy with Kurt Aland 51 to 48 years ago, that the Early Church from the apostles’ time onwards almost certainly baptized children and infants, they will wave it aside on the grounds that “historical probabilities” prove nothing, when the “clear meaning” of Scripture prove otherwise. You disagree with your own closest kin about the matter of WO, and will you regard it as unimportant? Whitestone insists on calling himself “catholic” despite the fact that his ecclesiological pet notions were unknown to the whole Early Church. (He writes above that “The RC moved out and away from the rest of Christendom and has innovated doctrinally without submitting herself to the jury of her peers,” but will he argue that the 4th Century Church was wrong not to “submit herself” to a “jury” of Donatists, Novatianists and Montanists — and, if not, why not?)

I marvel a those folk who like to preen themselves on their “catholic orthodoxy” when at the same time they embrace (or invent) ecclesiologies which were wholly unknown among any orthodox (or “near-orthodox”) Christians of the First Milennium.

But don’t believe my say-so. Read Kelly:

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=kelly&bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=early+christian+doctrines&x=74&y=15

read Greenslade:

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=greenslade&bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=schism+in+the+early+church&x=90&y=15

(there are dirt cheap copies of each of them at Abebooks.com), or read Elert:

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=elert&bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=eucharist&x=61&y=12

and judge for yourselves what the Early Church believed and proclaimed on these matters.

Christopher Hathaway
May 12, 2010

Our Lord never promised to preserve us from sin. He did promise that error would not be taught

Where do you find this?

Whitestone
May 12, 2010

- The claim to be the OTC.
- The claim that the RC papacy began Peter.
- That the RC is superior to the other patriarchies.
- The sinlessness, perpetual virginity and assumption of the Virgin.
- The traditional stations of the Cross that include Veronica’s veil.
- That the Eucharist is only to be served by ordained priests within the walls of the church. The Eucharist is the Passover meal, a feast that was traditionally served with lessons taught by fathers who were the priests and teachers of their families. The early church served the eucharist and other communal meals in various homes. Note the Emmaus Road eucharist was served in a home. The church has claimed the bread/wine franchise and thus has stolen the children’s bread, the children’s teachers and the children’s priests.

Let the renting of clothes and the gnashing of teeth begin….along with cries of heretic and worse.

William Tighe
May 12, 2010

“The claim to be the OTC.”

All “Early Church” bodies made this claim. If you reject it, your beliefs are neither Catholic nor Patristic.

“The claim that the RC papacy began Peter.”

As it stands, and incoherent statement. But if you mean that “Peter began the Papacy,” then it is an affirmation with abundant support in the Latin, Greek and Syriac Church Fathers, regardless of their disagreement over what an Orthodox friend of mine terms “the scope of the pope.”

“That the RC is superior to the other patriarchies.”

Another incoherent statement. But if it means “Rome is superior to other patriarchates,” then again, there is universal testimony to this in the Church Fathers, even if there is disagreement about both “the scope of the pope” and the basis of that “superiority” (the pope as, in Leo the Great’s pithy phrase, the indignus heres Beati Petri vs the idea that the Early Church conferred that primacy upon Rome).

“The sinlessness, perpetual virginity and assumption of the Virgin.”

All three of them beliefs universally embraced in the Early Church (by “sinlessness” I don’t necessarily mean “the Immaculate Conception;” the Orthodox generally reject the latter but among the most frequent terms they use of the Theotokos is “achrantos” [without sin] and “aeiparthenos” [ever-virgin]). The Council of Ephesus in 431 termed the Theotokos “aeiparthenos,” as do subsequent councils when they refer to her. Were they “joking” when they did so? Or do you reject those councils, too, when their conclusions don’t fadge with the council of your own wits? What Church Fathers denied the perpetual virginity?

“The traditional stations of the Cross that include Veronica’s veil.”

Say what? These are pious devotional practices; nothing dogmatic about them. I never heard of anybody being excommunicated for denying the authenticity of Veronica’s veil.

“That the Eucharist is only to be served by ordained priests within the walls of the church …”

I never knew that the Eucharist could not be celebrated outside churches, although it is normally a good idea that it not be.

“The Eucharist is the Passover meal, a feast that was traditionally served with lessons taught by fathers who were the priests and teachers of their families.”

So you say — but I deny that the Last Supper was a Passover Meal, as it seems to have been held (cf. the Johannine account) a day earlier. And in any case, the Christian Eucharist is simply the preprandial blessing of bread that preceded any Jewish meal combined with the solemn blessing at the end of some meals over a cup of wine, extracted from the meal (which continues separately for some centuries as the Agape meal) and combined as the solemn “Sacrifice of Thanksgiving,” which, as the Misnah states, would be the only sacrifice to continue in the time of the Messiah. There is not the slightest shadow of evidence for any of Whitestone’s fantasies about the Eucharist being celebrated in homes by patresfamiliarum. He might just as well, and with as much plausibility, try to father on the apostles and the Early Church antipaedobaptism, woman presbyters or encratitism.

In other words, Whitestone shows by his own words, the more that he amplifies tham, that his views are neither “catholic” nor “patristic” not “apostolic” nor even “scriptural,” but a wild farrago of nonsense, fantasy and heresy. He stands more in the tradition of Sebastian Franck, Balthasar von Hubmaier and Caspar von Schwenckfeld than in that of the Fathers of the Church, and only by a weird inversion of terms (making “catholic” with a small c to mean “sectarian” or “idiosyncratic”) can ascribe terms such as “orthodox” or “catholic” or “biblical” to himself.

FW Ken
May 12, 2010

Interesting discussion to which I have little to add.

Sibyl

Hate to break it to you, but I posted the business on Cardinal Schönborn a couple of days ago, so your “nyah,nyah” sounds sillier than usual. In any case, one must hope his old professor, now the bishop of Rome, will have a little heart-to-heart with his old pupil and straighten him out.

Christopher Hathaway -

Because the church that recognized the Canon certainly did

So my question is this: if the Church that recognized the canon is not infallible, how do we know they recognized the right books?

Now I agree with you that the scriptures have a particular “ring” to them lacking in other writing, 1.) that’s just our subjective experience, not, properly speaking, a rational argument, and 2.) I, at least, have been reading and listening to scripture read as scripture for nearly 60 years. Am I really objective about the quality of what I’m hearing?

Why is infallibility in doctrine more important than infallibility in judgment and moral witness,

This is, perhaps, a very important point of disagreement, because, in my view, belief is always foundational to behavior, hence True Doctrine (capitalization not sarcastic) is critical to right behavior (the kind of right behavior pleasing to God, born in faith).

God does not overide our created nature and free will as he grows us into perfection. It is an uneven journey, but a steady one.

Absolutely, and from my perspective, True Doctrine is the map for the journey. No, that’s not the best analogy: my point is that believing falsely, while we might end up in heaven by the grace and mercy of God, impairs our path through life and blunts the graces God might give us here. Think of this: the opposite of True Doctrine is false doctrine. Is that of God?

And I always go back to the great question: if Christ doesn’t guard His Church from error in essential matters, what do we have? Billions of little popes running around spouting their religious opinions as absolute truth, thinking they are founded on scripture.

Ultimately, if the Church is not protected by God from essential error, does it not fall back on the individual Christian to determine truth? That seems to me a terrible burden to put on us. It is also, in my view, the ultimate works-righteousness.

People were recommending Mark Shea, so I should note his By What Authority, which addresses this issue more fully than a blog discussion.

If God can do it for the Pope he can do it for everyone else.

It’s probably not helpful to discuss how the Lord protects His Church from essential error when we don’t agree that He does, but it’s important to consider that the pope is not infallible in his person nor on every subject. When JPII spoke out against the Irag War, it was not an “ex cathedra” statement to which every Catholic had to give consent. Certainly, prudence requires careful consideration of a pope’s statements, but it was, finally, a prudential judgement on his part. Infallibility is a gift given not to a man, but to the Church (so I believe), through a man.

There is one more thing: it’s a fundamental fallacy (often committed by Catholics) to speak of the Church as an institution. It is, rather, the community of those baptized into Christ. Usually, I think, people speaking of THE CHURCH (cue: echo chamber effect) mean the clergy, or the Vatican (cue: Halloween organ music), or some such. When I was considering monastic life, my brother asked if I would be giving my money to “the Catholic Church”. That’s a good example of how meaningless the term can be.

Robb –

Were you maybe thinking of infused vs. imputed righteousness? I have never heard of imputed grace, although a google search turned up the term. By grace, I mean the pure gift of God which enables us to believe in Jesus and follow Him. There are more theologically sophisticated uses of the term, but they are generally above my pay grade, and that’s all I meant here.

FW Ken
May 12, 2010

Another take on the Schönborn business. I’m not entirely persuaded, but considering that the source is The Tablet (English dissenting journal), the argument is worth considering.

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2010/05/11/guestview-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished/

LaVallette
May 12, 2010

@ Christopher Hathaway:

“LaVallette, surely you must be aware that we Protestants read that verse as applying to the church without necessarily identifying that church solely with the apostolic heirs of Peter’s see.”

Now is that Protestant reading of a New testament Gospel passage a Protestant “infallible” against the previous, current and consistent Catholic Church “Infallible”?. After all it could not have existed prior to the 15/16th centuries when Protestantism came into being by a deliberate decision to break away form the Catholic Church. Is Protestantism claiming a greater infallibility then the old Church or just a merely a new Protestant “Opinion”.

On a simple interpretation of the words used by Jesus Christ, and I am presuming that there is agreement that Christ did found the Christian Church, how can one interpret the words “Thou art Peter (rock) and upon this rock I shall build my church….and I shall give YOU the keys etc” and say that it does not apply solely to “that church solely with the apostolic heirs of Peter’s see.” Were the various Protestant founders present too and were they all called Peter?

If a group or groups break away from an organisation in protest against what that organisation holds to and teaches and sets up an alternative organisation “in protest” which hold to and teach different principles from the original and even different from each other, can they, individually and/or collectively still claim to be the heirs of the original organisation particularly if the original organisation still persists and rows and gains strength while the the new “organisations” slowly whither away and are replaced by even newer ones with principles and teachings even more removed from the very original.

In the love of Christ.

FW Ken
May 12, 2010

LaVallette -

Protestants I’ve read say that it’s not Christ is not building His Church upon Peter’s person, but upon his Confession that Jesus is the Christ. It’s not the person, but the confession that counts.

Personally, I don’t accept that, since our God is a personal god and became incarnate in a person, Jesus of Nazareth, and has consistently acted through persons. To depersonalize at this point seems (to me, anyway) a retreat from the nature of God and the Incarnation.

LaVallette
May 13, 2010

So words no longer have their ordinary meaning anymore, and Jesus spoke in riddles. Its the underlying message that counts: something like Barbara Theiring’s weird theories on the gospels in her “Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls”: that the gospels are written at two levels. They are not an account of real events but are symbolic reconstructions of other underlying events. Where has Dr. Thiering derived these underlying facts and meanings? The answer is that she has developed a method for reading beneath the narrative surface of the Gospels with clues provided by the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is called the “Pesher method”. Thus Stephen was not really put to death and martyred but “he was “martyred” in the sense, again, of being excommunicated and deprived of his priestly position. Priestly? Yes, for he was really Annas the high priest.” More recent examples of underlying messages would be the theory held by many modern day exegetes, that Jesus did not literally feed the thousands but that he inspired the entire crowd with a spirit of generosity and they shared everything they had with one another. It was not about a miracle of the Divine Jesus and his compassion but about Him teaching generosity to the crowds. My example would be that when Jesus said to Dismas the repentant thief that “Tonight YOU will be with me in Paradise” Jesus did not mean that Dismas would join him in heaven that night, but that all repentant sinners would eventually go to heaven. It was not about Dismas at all, but about the general principle of repentance.

I gets it I thinks! I gets it????

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

Ken, is it really impersonal if Christ changed Simon’s name to rock to connect him as leader of the apostles with the rock of faith he just espoused, upon which Christ would build his church? That he clearly saw Peter as the leader does not necessitate that the headship Peter possessed would be passed down as an institutional inheritance to his successors.

God made promises to King David too that his kingdom would not end. From an worldly point of view that didn’t turn out to be literally true.

I’m curious. How do you look at the Donation of Constantine?

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

Dr. Tighe (it is Dr, right?)
I believe you are arguing against a position I am not advocating. I never have advocated a policy of open communion or a belief that the church (any premodern church) has ever seen communion with those not in doctrinal unity as an impossibility.

Of course every church believes they are the true church at least in the sense of being right in opposition to the errors of all the others. And it makes perfect sense that the early church would see the others as falling away through innovation and error.

This is the natural application of the doctrine of the church in the Creed, ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC.

I need to say that this whole thing is very difficult for me to explain because I am a bear of very small brain and am doing this on the fly while I have more important [for me now] things to right, like my dissertation, which I hope to finish next year. Also the position I am trying to hold and explain is tough [and I do't fully understand it yet]. It would be easier to take the simple extreme positions. Either there is ONE true church infallible in its teaching or there is NO true church and every individual must decide for himself on his own reasoning what is true. I don’t hold to the latter position either. Marking out some middle ground is complicated, like standing in the place between the simple determinism of Calvinism or the Free Will of Pelagianism, or, dare I say, between the idea that Christ is only divine and the contary idea that he is only human.

With that huge apology may I draw attention to this ONEness of the church that the Creed espouses?

Nothing makes us better so much as examining how much we have departed from the right. Until we make a mistake there is a natural tendency to think we are perfect. We are humbled not by a doctrine of Original Sin or Total Depravity but by our own actual sins.

It was easy for the church of the Creeds, the Chalcedonian orthodox catholic church to think that God had maintained the unity of the visible church as Christ intended when those bodies who broke off were smaller than the whole “true” church. But when that true church itself divided almost down the middle through thr Great Schism, how can God’s preservation of the unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church be understood without taking sides as to who was really the TRUE church and casting the other outside it? Thus the Catholics see the Orthodox as not the true church and vice versa. But what separates them is not really crucial doctrine. Neither of them see it that way any more, if ever (I am no expert on past East-West relations).

Does it not seem that the unity that Christ desired for his church has not been maintained in a very practical, that is VISIBLE, sense? Does the Oneness of the church not begin to seem somewhat ethereal, or SPIRITUAL, unless it is held that those outside are REALLY outside the Church and therefore of Christ?

I think on one side the position of Rome is easier because it has maintained a unity of leadership, a oneness expressed through a single ecclesial voice in a single heir of Peter’s primacy. Even the Orthodox recognize the Primacy of Peter’s see. So Rome has that strength going for it. Rome has always been Rome (except when it was Avignon :-) ) and its unity in a constant see gives it vitality flexibility. I really do value that, and envy it in the most Christian sense.

Yet Orthodoxy has this going for it. It has preserved the faith without alteration for centuries, since before the Schism. And Rome cannot accuse them of having substantially changed while they can point to many instances in which Rome has changed. Their lack of flexibility becomes a strength of constancy. Also, because they lack a dynamic headship they don’t have to explain historical division within that headship.

Let’s face it, the period of the divided papacy seriously calls into question the level to which the unity of the catholic church can be said to be preserved, VISIBLY. If God can allow a momentary visble lapse of that magnitude (and it cannot be emphasized enough how much the disillusion with the visible church created by that paved the way for the Reformation) why could we not expect a similar visible lapse of infallibility in teaching?

Let me address Ken’s idea that doctrine is more important than practice. As he says

belief is always foundational to behavior, hence True Doctrine (capitalization not sarcastic) is critical to right behavior

Let me respond that I agree, IN PART. But we must also recognize that the reverse is also the case many times. I have seen often orthodox men fall into heresy AFTER they have fallen into sin, because true doctrine opposes sin and a refusal to renounce sin will demand a consequent desire to renounce the doctrine condemning that sin. TEC!!!! anyone?

Plus, such a strong division between doctrine and practice runs risk of falling under the judgment of James 2:17 “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”. A belief that the church is infallible if only its doctrine is pure seems to feed the very sacramentalism that is satisfied with getting people baptised and formally accepting the church’s teaching regardless of whether their lives are transformed by the Gospel. Nancy Pelosi is but the tip of the iceberg that we all know exists within the church.

Bottom line: (And I really have to leave it at this admittedly inadequate statement and get back to work) Any concept of the Oneness of the church that can deal with the divided papacy of the mid 15th century, any concept of the Holyness of the church that takes in the pontificate of Alexander VI as well as the corruption within the papacy in the 9th and 10th ceturies when it was virtually up for sale, that takes in a general council that burns to death John Hus after offering him safe passage, any concept of holiness and oneness in the light of these realities must seem to me to be that depends in large part upon the fullness of those terms being imperfectly revealed within the visible church and only having their fullness existing spiritually in Christ’s headship, unlless we are to debase those terms so as to fit the reality we wish to represent them.

One more thing: Can a fallible church convey to us an infallible Bible?

I don’t see the problem here. Through God’s Providence even a pagan prophet can speak God’s truth: Balaam. And even an ass could be made to speak a true wrod to him. So, there is no problem in believing that God could use the greatest human institution ever created (because he created it and guides it) to see and recognize, and defend and pass on, the Scriptures he has preserved from false teaching without that church also being as equally infallible. If there were an example of a historically more trustworthy body than the church then my positing a fallible church would create an epistemic crisis. But as it is, the church is the only body in the world to credibly point to Scripture and recognize it. That doesn’t require the church having the same authority as that which it recognizes in Scripture. The lesser is capable of pointing us to the greater, as John the Baptist did to the Lamb of God.

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

Alright! Just ONE more thing. Seriously. After this I’m out of here…..I think….

There is a mediating position between infallible and unquestionable authority on one side and No authority on the other. We are all very familiar with it and so maybe take it for granted: it is our legal system.

When juries come to a verdict or a judge or court makes a ruling those decisions have authoritative status. Yet we have a system of appeals which are premised upon the idea that juries and courts can make mistakes. Yet in the appeals this fact is not allowed to be used as evidence against the ruling. The presumption going into the appeal is that the original ruling was correct and the appeal must prove otherwise. No no appeal would be possible if the courts refused to admit the possibility that an error might have been made, but admitting the possibility does not create legal chaos. Why could the same not work in the church?

Robb
May 13, 2010

Your right, Ken. Anti-biotics and prednisone tend to make me dingy-dingy.
As if I needed an excuse.

FW Ken
May 13, 2010

is it really impersonal…

It’s always tricky to report on someone else’s doctrine, so perhaps I misstated the position. In any

doctrine is more important than practice

I wouldn’t say “more important” (even if I did), but, rather, foundational, or fundamental. Anyway, I was responding to a very specific point, which seemed to me a discounting of the critical place of doctrine. If you are reading the map wrong (so to speak), how can you navigate properly?

I’ve never studied the issue of the Donation of Constantine. I’m barely aware of it, to tell you the truth. Dr. Tighe?

Can a fallible church convey to us an infallible Bible?

I would ask the question this way: can a fallible Church convey to us the Word of God infallibly? How can we trust the Church on this issue but not others?

BTW, I agree that falling into sin can often lead us to fall from sound doctrine. My only point was in response to this:

If God does not cancel out our sin-fallible will, our errors in moral judgment, why then should we conclude that God overides the human liability to errors in judgment concerning doctrine? Because we need to know what is true even if we are left free not to do it?

I would, for what it’s worth, answer the last question with a resounding YES. If we don’t know what’s true, how can we do the right thing? And yes, natural law can guide us (if you accept natural law). However, I am specifically talking about acting and living in such a way that pleases God, which is to say, acting in faith.

Good luck with the dissertation. I stopped at the master’s level, but well remember the horrors of my professional report (written before personal computers or even word processors, much less the internet). I paid the typist $1/page (serious money, then) and extra for illustrations. The good ol’ days…

Sibyl
May 13, 2010

No Nyah, nyah intended, FW Ken.

I grieve and pray for the Roman Catholic Church.

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

Thanks Ken. My thesis deals with God’s use of history in divine revelation, so I will continue to address this point:

I would ask the question this way: can a fallible Church convey to us the Word of God infallibly? How can we trust the Church on this issue but not others?

For me there are different levels of trust. I put absolute trust in Scripture to reveal to me the spiritual truths of God and man. I do not trust it to tell me things that are irrelevant to my spiritual life and salvation. It corrects my natural reason without replacing it. Thus I don’t use to to decide what meal to eat, as long as in the eating of it I do not violate those spiritual principles it teaches me about the body and slavery to the desires of the flesh, etc.

Thus my “trust” in scripture is not, in one sense, absolute. I am trust it for what it is purposed to do.

So I can trust the church, or rather, I can trust God to lead the church to perform a task which accords to its nature. One aspect of the nature of the church is as the historical witness of God on earth and the continual abiding connection to the apostles, who connect us to Christ, who is out connection to God the Father. The Scriptures are not divine artifacts found in a cave or the recesses of a temple. They are the wrintings of the apostles to the churches and held and read in the churches for centuries. The church is that body which has always possessed them. It does not require divine spiritual wisdom to discern the quality of divine revelation with the texts. All the church needed was the very simple yet crucial quality of memory and recognition.

If I ask a mother whether these are her children I trust that she is able to identify them. What mother would not recognize her children? Does that mean that I would put absolute trust in her to know her children might do ant any given time? I would put some trust in her knowledge, but not as great as the trust I had in whether they were her chidren.

So in the church, I trust the historical entity I know and see in the church, a body that exists today with an unbroken memory and connection to the past. I trust it to recognize those Scriptures it has always held and to know which writings were unfamiliar, alien, and therefore not of Christ, let alone of his apostles.

Is there any other entity in all the world whose authority as a witness can compare to the church? No, there isn’t. Would I be open to another “witness” coming forward to challenge that of the hisoric church? Yes, but that opening is less than the diameter of a hydrogen atom. An account must be masde for the absense of that new and “greater” authority for the last two millenia. That to all new revelations and works of the spirit.

But mark the quality of my trust. It is a natural and rational one. It is based upon evidence. It is not a divine trust. That I give to Scripture as a divine creation, not just a historical one. Scripture does not sin. It is incapable of changing. Thus it cannot be at odds tomorrow with the divine truth it reveals today. Men can sin as well as teach the truth. They can be piuous as saints and still make errors of judgment about the truths of God. The best of us are only trustworthy to a point.

I trust that God has given us something which guides us in the way of eternal life, which by its very nature cannot sin, cannot be less than its own perfection, and according to its purpose. And I trust that God has given it to us through that which by its nature is competent to safely deliever us, and once deown livered can be trusted, with the same qualified trust that a wife should have for her husband, to guide us in reading it.

This is a high level of trust in the church, but it falls short of the same level given to Scripture. Is this not enough?

But if it is not enough, if I need an infallible church to tell me what the Bible means then that infallibility I will need not just in reading the Bible but in receiving the teachings from the Infallible church. I will need an infallible priest to explain the meanings of those infallible teachings if, perchance, the Pope is not always around to explain them to me.

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

ahhh, horribly mistyped sentence. It should read:

And I trust that God has given it to us through that which by its nature is competent to safely deliver it, and once delivered can be trusted, with the same qualified trust that a wife should have for her husband, to guide us in reading it.

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

“It would be easier to take the simple extreme positions. Either there is ONE true church infallible in its teaching or there is NO true church and every individual must decide for himself on his own reasoning what is true.”

Once again, let me present a clear contrast between LOGIC and HISTORY. According to the former, it would probably be accurate to say that the two “Either … or” positions Mr. Hathaway sets out are “the extremes.” But according to the latter, the
“Either …” position is the dominant and traditional teaching: probably 70% – 75% of Christians today (counting RCs Os and OOs) belong to bodies that uphold it; it was the “broad mainstream” view of all Christian bodies (“church” and “counter-church”) in the Patristic and Medieval periods, and for all we know (and we know little, but that little had nothing to the contrary) the Apostolic and “sub-apostolic” periods as well — while any other positions (both Mr. Hathaway’s “… or” position, and any “via media” position he cares to postulate or invent) are themselves all “extremes,” historically speaking, and historically unknown in any time or place before the 15th/16th centuries (one would have to devise a “Vincentian Countercanon” of quod nusque, quod nusquam, quod ab nullis creditium est in ordere knowingly to embrace it — and why bother, when the advocates of WO and SS have already blazed that trail?). In my case, that suffices to dismiss them out of hand, “De Praescriptione,” as Tertullian might have written.

And, in any case, all this is in a sense a kind of “recycled Greenslade” — cf. my reference to Greenslade’s *Schism in the Early Church* above.

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

“I grieve and pray for the Roman Catholic Church.”

Spare me, Sybil. Seriously.

So, according to you, some churches are really truly sanctified and anointed and presumably pedophile free?
Balderdash.

I have asked you repeatedly to identify your church. Why will you not do so? Are you afraid that a two-minute Google will show how compromised and scandal-ridden your own communion is?

You say you acknowledge that other communions have problems, yet you NEVER EVER EVER so much as mention in passing which churches you mean or what their problems may be. Instead, you fixate, relentlessly and exclusively, on Catholicism and Catholic problems. If you can dish the dirt on us Catholics ad nauseam, why can you not say Word One about other communions’ issues? Simply conceding that other churches do have problems is not enough. You get pretty darned specific (not always accurately, BTW) about OUR problems. Kindly apply the same specific analysis to your own communion’s problems — which I am willing to bet are every bit as bad as ours or worse.

Again, I ask: What is YOUR communion doing to stop sex abuse and to halt episcopal coverups? My communion is doing a heck of a lot. What are youse guys doing? If it’s even a fraction of what the Catholic Church is doing right now, I’ll be most surprised.

And oh yes. If you seriously think there are no pedophiles or coverup bishops in your communion, then I sure would like to know what you’re smoking, because I want some.

Please stop “grieving” for us while oh-so-helpfully pointing out our flaws.

Please clean up YOUR house before you presume to tell us how to clean up ours.

Or does your church’s version of the Gospel omit all that stuff about beams and motes? Sure seems that way.

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

The Donation of Constantine??? Not *that* old chestnut–bwahahaha!! Man, that anti-Catholic playbook never changes, does it?

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

“[Orthodox] has preserved the faith without alteration for centuries, since before the Schism.”

Two words for you: artificial contraception.

Not to mention: divorce / remarriage.

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

Sibyl, sorry for heated language — although I stand by my basic points. I will certainly pray for you as you make your examen.

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

The Donation of Constantine is probably a forgery of the period ca. 750-775.

It may not have been concocted out of “whole cloth,” however — my colleague (when I was a Research Fellow in the History Department of the University College of North Wales some 25 years ago) Peter Llewellyn (author of the fascinating *Rome in the Dark Ages* [1971]) was developing the notion that the substance of the Donation pretty accurately reflected the alterations made to the government of the Byzantine-ruled parts of Italy outside the Exarchate of Ravenna, and particularly that of Rome and its environs, made by Constantine IV (ruled 668-685) after the failure of his father Constans II’s attempt to recover the interior of southern Italy from its Lombard rulers, alterations which made the Pope effectively the civil governor of Rome and custodian of imperial properties (including the imperial palace and the old government buildings, probably all in an advanced state of decay) there, as he had not been previously.

Dave P.
May 13, 2010

A website for you, Sibyl:

http://www.pokrov.org

Mites, beams, and all that.

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

So, Sibyl *is* Orthodox?

Motes, beams, and all that indeed!

Fuinseoig
May 13, 2010

Okay, I couldn’t find the Chesteron quote I was looking for, but in searching online I found another extract which I can’t resist. From his 1929 collection of essays “The Thing”:

“THE NORDIC HINDOO

I CANNOT, as some do, find Dr. Barnes a very exciting Bishop merely because he is an Evolutionist in the style of fifty years ago and a Protestant persecutor in the style of eighty years ago. His views are stale enough; but I admit that his arguments are sometimes amusing.

Thus, he reached the last limit of wildness in one remark which he made in the course of explaining that the folklore of the Mediterranean had been forced upon the Nordic nations–whatever that may mean. He added abruptly that Indian and Chinese metaphysics are now much more important than ours. But, above all, he made the crowning assertion that Rome is thus stamped as Provincial. This seems to suggest to the educational mind the construction of an examination paper in elementary general knowledge. It might run something like this:

1. From what language is the word “provincial” derived?

2. To what provinces did it generally refer?

3. If Athens, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem were provincial towns,
what was their Metropolitan city?

4. What reasons are there for supposing that Birmingham occupied
this Metropolitan position from the earliest times?

5. Give a short account of the conquest of Southern Europe and
the Near East by the Emperors of Birmingham.

6. At what date did the Papacy rebel against the Diocese of Birmingham?

7. Explain the old proverb, “All roads lead to Birmingham.”

8. Discuss the following remark, “The most charmingly Nordic people
I know are those dear Chinamen.”

9. Why is the folklore of the Hindoos so much more reasonable
than that of the Romans?

10. When will the Bishop of Birmingham go touring in the Provinces?

Answers must be sent in before the time of the Disestablishment of the Church of England, and priests are forbidden to give their crafty assistance to the candidates.”

:-)

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

Ernest William Barnes (1874-1953), Bishop of Birmingham from 1929 to 1953:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_William_Barnes

was the John Shelby Spong of his generation, although without the latter’s streak of vulgar know-it-all-ism, in which latter category he resembles more his American predecessor, James Albert Pike (another “gift” of the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Pike

(I was surprised, in reading the latter, to see that a divorced-and-remarried man could be ordained in TE”C” even in 1946.)

Chris Jones
May 13, 2010

diane,

Against my better judgment …

If artificial contraception and divorce and remarriage are the best you can do in finding some way that Orthodoxy has strayed from the fullness of the Catholic faith, then you had better give up. The differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on those two issues are not differences of faith (i.e. “faith” as distinct from “morals” in the usual RC phrase “faith and morals”), and they are not really differences in morals either — not, in any event, at the level of moral principle.

What they are, are pastoral differences as to the strictness with which the Church’s moral principles should be applied in particular cases. Sometimes the canons are to be applied strictly (akriveia) and sometimes they are to be relaxed somewhat (oikonomia), as may be best for the salvation of souls. Both Churches teach that marriage is for life, and both Churches allow for some exceptions. The fact that one Church calls the exceptions “annulments” and the other one calls them “ecclesiastical divorces” does not mean that they are essentially different. The exceptions (whatever you call them) compromise the clarity of the Church’s teaching, but sometimes good pastoral care comes at the expense of “clarity.” That is just as true of Catholicism as it is of Orthodoxy.

In any case the Orthodox discipline as to divorce and remarriage pre-dates the Schism. It was not an impediment to unity in the first millennium and it will not be an impediment to reunion in the third millennium (or the fourth, or whenever it occurs).

As to artificial contraception, you are assuming that the 20th-century Roman Catholic formulation on the matter is more faithful to the Church’s teaching as it was before the Schism than contemporary Orthodox teaching and practice is. That may be true, but it remains to be demonstrated.

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

Chris, it is scarcely the “best I can do,” but it carries far more weight than you claim. Your arguments (which I have heafrd many times before) are specious. And your historical information re marriage/divorce is, quite simply, inaccurate. (Not until the 10th c. or thereabouts did the Eastern patriarchs “give away the farm” on the question of divorce/remarriage…and then only under heavy pressure from the emperors.

I have never bought the economy argument supposedly justifying divorce/remarriage up to three times for up to 20 reasons. Our Lord could not have made it clearer that He forbade divorce/remarriage. No one, not even a priest, can wish Our Lord’s commands away simply by invoking “economia.”Sorry; that dog don’t hunt.

Y’know, youse guys are forever telling us Catholics how we’ve supposedly changed our official Church Teachings over the centuries (although you cannot cite a single instance where this has actually occurred). But, when the shoe is on the other foot, and we point out crucial areas of moral teaching that have changed within Orthodoxy — critical departures from the Biblical and patristic witness — y’all have the proverbial cow. We are simply playing defense against the constant anti-Catholic smears. It’s as if it’s always Open Season on Catholicism–and y’all simply assume that’s jes’ fine, dandy, and fully warranted–but when the tables are turned…hoo-boy.

Man, does that ever get old.

But at least you aren’t claiming, as Sybil seems to be doing, that her communion can do no wrong, contains no pedophile clergy, and has no bishops who cover up sex abuse. LOL!

Chris Jones
May 13, 2010

… your historical information re marriage/divorce is, quite simply, inaccurate (not until the 10th c. or thereabouts did the Eastern patriarchs “give away the farm” on the question of divorce/remarriage…and then only under heavy pressure from the emperors).

You are mistaken. The practice of oikonomia with respect to remarriage is witnessed to at least as early as the canonical letters of St Basil the Great (4th century). The idea that the divorce practices of the Empire infected the Church is a total canard.

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

So, Mr. Tighe, which is the True church? Rome or the East Orthodox? One can’t have such a learned position that there must be one without knowing which one it is.

Christopher Hathaway
May 13, 2010

Oh, and diane, my question about the Donation Of Constantine was to elicit what Catholics think the motive might be for creating such a blantant forgery.

I can only think that the creator of that document thought that the claim of Rome’s headship over all the church could use a boost. Such a silly idea, no?

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

“I can only think that the creator of that document thought that the claim of Rome’s headship over all the church could use a boost. Such a silly idea, no?”

Actually, the intention seems to have been largely political. After the papacy threw its lot in with the Franks around 751, it took little unusual sagacity to anticipate that the Franks would seek to destroy the Lombard kingdom, as they did in 774 — and in that case, the question would arise whether Rome would come under the direct rule of the Frankish kings, or retain its effective “autonomy” under papal rule. In the end, the latter is what happened, and the Donation may have been an aspect an attempt to secure that end beforehand, or a sort of post-facto rationalization. of it.

“So, Mr. Tighe, which is the True church? Rome or the East Orthodox? One can’t have such a learned position that there must be one without knowing which one it is.”

Well, I opt for Rome, but I can see the point and strength of the Orthodox claim. However, in all seriousness I think that there are three claimiants, not two: the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox (aka “Non-Chalcedonian” or “Miaphysite”). I take the claim of the OOs as seriously as I do that of the Os*, and they certainly make that claim as seriously as the Os so. That they are perhaps as strange and inconceivable a choice for most Americans in the year 2010 as the Orthgodox were, perhaps, in 1910, doesn’t bother me in the least — since I think America and the American Empire are in no way central, or even relevant, to the definition of Christianity and the ascertaining of whaich claimant is (as Dr. Hutchens of Touchstone is wont to say) “the real Mrs. Jesus.”

* Maybe on the level of theory more seriously, as per my repeated question (to which I have never found a satisfactory answer) “If Chalcedon, then why not Florence; if not-Florence, then why not not-Chalcedon?” — and then there is my absolute preference for a strong “Cyrilline” or “Alexandrian” Christology.

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

And if you ask, why not FOUR claimants, given the continued existence of “the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of the East and of the Assyrians” (sometimes termed the “Nestorian Church”), I answer:

1. that church did indeed for centuries make the same claim to be the OHCAC that the Catholics, the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox did and do

2. but the main body of that church fragmented into 2 or 3 bodies in the period 1680 to 1780, and all of them had “submitted” to Rome by 1800, while the present “Assyrian Church” originated as a schism from the main body in 1553 which “submitted” to Rome in that year, but lost contact with Rome ca. 1610, and then repudiated communion with Rome in 1673 when, after the renewal of contacts a decade earlier, Rome demanded that they remove Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia as a condition of continued communion

3. and that remnant body, under heavy Anglican influence from ca. 1890 to the 1940s, seems to have adopted a version of the “branch theory” as its ecclesiologcal stance — a version which (as one of their bishops told me a few years ago) includes the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and themselves as “separated sections” of the OHCAC, but not Protestant bodies and not Anglicans, either.

William Tighe
May 13, 2010

“Rome demanded that they remove Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia”

from their calendar of saints

diane in nc with a small d
May 13, 2010

Chris: canard, schamard. When Justinian argued for divorce/remarriage, the Eastern hierarchy objected strenuously — as well they should, seeing that Justinian’s arguments were completely unbiblical and un-patristic!

The Basil argument has also been answered a thousand times before. As you well know. Links later.

But, hey, if you want to try to defend something as horrible as multiple divorces/remarriages, be my guest. This puts you squarely at odds with Our Lord Himself and with the Bible (“God hates divorce”). It also means you’re defending something that traumatizes kids and destroys lives. Yep, sure sounds like a mark of the One True Church to me. :-O

FW Ken
May 13, 2010

For me there are different levels of trust.

A very Catholic notion.

:-)

http://www.trosch.org/the/ottintro.htm

Note especially, part 8: The Theological Grades of Certainty

I put absolute trust in Scripture to reveal to me the spiritual truths of God and man. I do not trust it to tell me things that are irrelevant to my spiritual life and salvation.

While I wouldn’t accept that anything is not relevant to my salvation, I agree that scripture, nor the teaching authority of the Church, offers me direct guidance on what to have for dinner or which shirt to wear, all within the guidelines of prudence, modesty, and the like. Still, I simply can’t draw a line between the “spiritual” part of my life and “the rest” of my life.

I can trust God to lead the church to perform a task which accords to its nature.

Which I would posit includes True Doctrine. You asked where we have a scriptural witness to doctrinal indefectibility. I would say that John 16. 12-15 qualifies, since Christ has promised the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. Honestly, it boggles my mind that the Lord would let His Church wander around in error on essential matters.

The rest of your post from which I quote above is really quite Catholic. Time precludes a thorough analysis, but I’m especially taken with this:

All the church needed was the very simple yet crucial quality of memory and recognition.

Catholics call this (capital T) “Tradition”, which has a variety of applications. One of those applications is to provide a framework within which we read the scriptures and an authority which settles disputes on interpretation. Every religious community has “Tradition”, often unacknowledged, from which flow the common attitudes and ways of reading scripture. I’ve said before that there is no such thing as sola scriptura; it doesn’t exist. The Baptist church of my youth had it’s Tradition (and certainly small-t traditions), wherein clear words of scripture were simply ignored or explained away (“Jesus really meant this). Not to dog the Baptists, who have many wonderful things to teach Catholics, but it’s the truth. I’ve heard these things from Baptists and folks in all expressions of Christianity.

a body that exists today with an unbroken memory and connection to the past.

And which body woulld that be? :-)

I trust it to recognize those Scriptures it has always held and to know which writings were unfamiliar, alien, and therefore not of Christ, let alone of his apostles.

Which doesn’t answer my question: how can you trust the Church for this, implicitly infallible knowledge, but not a knowledge of other truths? That’s a rhetorical question of course. What I mean is: you posit infallibility for the selection of scriptures, but not for other matters of doctrine. That doesn’t make sense to me, remembering Ott’s levels

And, of course, the Church hasn’t always held the scriptures we have now. The canon wasn’t set for nearly 300 years (I think about 298AD).

I really did get tickled as to how really Catholic some of your ideas are. I keep reading and thinking: OF COURSE. :-)

Christopher Hathaway
May 14, 2010

you posit infallibility for the selection of scriptures, but not for other matters of doctrine.

Sorry, I must not have been very clear. Too much fluff in my brain.

Firstly, I precisely don’t posit infallibility for the selection of scripture, merely a the greatest reasonable trust in the church’s natural ability. It is possible that the church was in error as to what writings were apostolic, just as it is possible that I am hallucinating when I type this. But such possibilities are hardly likely. It is unreasonable to doubt the chrch’s knowledge in this area absent a more qualified witness. And there simply isn’t one.

Secondly, recognition is an entirely different kind of knowledge than understanding or wisdom. To say “these are my socks” is not the same kind of statement as “I should be wearing the blue pants”. The first is the kind of knowledge even a dog could possess. To remember the past is not the same as to imagine the future, to decide on a new thing. Scripture was not a “creation” of the church that required insight. It was a “preservation”.

You are correct when you say that “Church hasn’t always held the scriptures we have now” if you mean the complete omnibus edition we all are accustomed to use now. But each individual text was in possession of the church, at least part of the church, from the beginning. No third century eclesiastical Indiana Jones found a dusty manuscript in a crypt and said, “Hey, I think this is apostolic!” If the text wasn’t in use by a church whom the rest recognized as orthodox that text wasn’t recognized.

I simplify of course, because there was some analysis of the teaching in the texts in order to choose which texts of known apostolic antiquity were nevertheless left out of the canon while others were retained. Why did they keep Hebrews, for which there was no known authorship, and reject the Didache and Shepherd of Hermas? This required some element of recognition. They recognized the tenor of the writings of Hebrews to be more like the known apostolic writings then the others. But I must admit that this does involve a level of spiritual discernment.

This was a judgment call that had to be made, and there was on one else to make it but the church, nor does there exist any foundation upon which to critique the church’s judgment. One cannot reject a book in the canon simply because of a dislike for it, as Luther wanted to do for James. The scripture Luther prefered did not itself tell him what other texts were inspired and which weren’t. We cannot presume to substitute our own judgment for that of the early church’s as if they were of equal worth. I always operate by the principal that those closest to the source are best qualified to make the judgment about it.

So, am I trusting that the church had infallible judgment in this area? Perhaps. But there is a difference between saying that by God’s grace the church was preserved from making an error on a specific action in the past and saying that God will preserve it from all error in the future.

My rule of antiquity plays into this. In everything God has done in the world I see it starting out perfect then descending from that perfection, requiring repeated renewal. This is the case whenever the perfection of God is entrusted to the imperfection of man. This element is always present while sinful men remain in charge, and this side of the Parousia there are no other kinds. Look at every spiritual movement in church history and you will see a good beginning followed eventually by loss of zeal and increase of worldliness. The church is constantly in need of forces of renewal bringing it back too the high level of spiritual purity of its foundation, hence the monastic movements and the reform movemenst within that, the evangelical awakenings and charismatic revivals. No one movement retains it purity. Thus I look to the early church rather than the later to understand what the purity of faith should look like. Did not the church itself do this when it created the cannon? If the church saw itself as naturally infallible why would it elevate the early witness of the apostles above the thoughts of contemporary saints? Does it not suggest that the church recognized the need for the ancient witness as a touchstone and guide to keep it from error? And does this not imply that the church saw its recognition of the canon as a more foundational judgment than any judgment which would later be premised upon those scriptures?

My notion of a fallible church is not one that says that nothing the church did can be trusted. And in this I claim it is unfair to equate what I am proposing with the acceptance of WO or SS marriage. The support of those ideas come only by rejected the idea of original purity, by claiming that the church was originally imperfect lacking in true understanding and needed time for it to come into its perfection. Whereas I propose that the church was perfect from the beginning, that it was established on a sure foundation but that what came later is not to be trusted as what was before.

This is not a philosphical problem because the past is not unknown to us. It comes to us through the living witness of the church. Thus, if I critique the church it is only through the church’s own witness to its past. The church passes down through the centuries the means for its own correction in the Scriptures and it memory of the past. My concept of God’s providential protection of the church lies in the faith that God has preserved these tools within the church. No outside critique or new prophesy is needed. Scripture is the greatest objective witness to the ancient purity of the church as founded by Christ. No church that holds onto it and respects its voice can stray far or for long.

Unlike some Protestants my concept of fallibility does not entail the possibility that the church should err substituting a false Gospel for the true one. With the Caroline Divines I hold that the errors have always been in adding to the faith, not in subtracting from it. The church has preserved the Gospel but it has added some things as necessary consequences of it which I think are not necessary.

Let me be specific: I think the 7th council erred by going beyond the statement that the iconoclasts were wrong in forbidding icons to saying that use of icons was essential for the true faith. I believe the doctrine of Transubstantiation may have been helpful for the medeaval church operating under the influence of Aristotelian categories but I find it much less helpful without those categories, which are themselves not divinely inspired. I think it a mistake to try to clarify the Mystery and fix one way of understanding it as the only way. I think the idea of Mary’s Immaculate Conception not necessarily the best or only way to explain her sinlessness, or even if her sinlessness is a necessary catholic belief rather than just a universal one.

I think when it comes down to it, we are arguing over the edges of the faith, not the salvific core, but when you posit a doctrine of ecclesial infalibility any questining of even the periphery becomes a questioning of the whole. This is my central problem with it.

While I am at it I would like to pose this question to Mr. tighe, who is certainly more knowledgeable in this area thatn I: When has the idea of ecclesial infalibility been made a doctrine of the church before Vatican I? I seem to recall that there was some discomfort and even rejection of that action within the catholic church itself at the time.

Christopher Hathaway
May 14, 2010

This was unclear and needs clarifying: “I propose that the church was perfect from the beginning, that it was established on a sure foundation but that what came later is not to be trusted as what was before.”

I should rather have said that what comes later should not be trusted as much as what was before. Primary trust goes to the foundation of the church and becomes the guide for the qualified trust in succeeding eras.

Maureen
May 14, 2010

If anybody’s interested, the Pope’s given some other very nice evangelization homilies during his stay in Portugal, as is fitting for days around the Feast of the Ascension, and for celebrating Fatima’s message.

(There’s been a few strange mistranslations in the English versions of the sermons, though. So if you see anything weird, check the German or a Romance language version before freaking.)

Christopher Hathaway
May 14, 2010

I forgot. There is one doctrine not on the periphery of faith that I can find no way to even tolerate. Indulgences. I can’t see how the central concepts behind this (punishment for sin conditionally and piecemeal forgiven by Christ, and at the discretion of the church) are in any way compatible with the entire thrust of salvation and agape as Scripture presents it. I stand squarely with Luther on this: It represents another Gospel, and not a good one. I can understand why it may have seemed a good idea to some once. But it also seems clear that the church no longer thinks it as great an idea as it used to, because it seldom makes use of it, though it can’t deny it as it is enshrined in doctrine since Trent. Another reason infallibility is a bad idea.

FW Ken
May 14, 2010

Christopher Hathaway -

There is very little in your long post with which I disagree. I think you describe a process not unlike that by which a theological proposition moves up Ott’s grades of theological certainty (or don’t). It’s more or less the process by which a dogma ends up being defined (which has, remember, happened only once or twice since Vatican I).

I do have to challenge one thing, that being the notion that the early church somehow represents an ideal from which we have fallen. The process of renewal and decay you describe accurately. Read the history of the Cistercians sometime, or, if you prefer, the experience of the American Great Awakenings. But within those cycles are a larger movement of growth and development that is sometimes obscured.

Back to my basic point: the New Testament, like the Old, is concerned to a significant degree with the faults and sins of it’s members, including the leaders (Peter!). Think: the church in Corinth. The least we can say is that the doctrinal expositions of Paul were written to teach people who needed teaching. The Catholic Church teaches that with the death of the apostles, “general revelation” ceased, which sounds a lot like all Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation:. Catholics get off that train, however, because private revelation continues and must be judged. Theological disputes continue, and must be adjudicated. Temporal disputes continue, and must be settled. The early Church was a swamp of controversy – read Acts – as well as sin – Corinth. The OCA is currently enduring some terrible internal strife; if anything, I think that argues for them being The One True Church, or at least part of it.

:-)

I’m not doing indulgences before coffee, but they aren’t concerned with forgiveness of sin; that was gained on Calvary and gets applied through the sacraments. Indulgences (which are quite active in the Church today) concern the temporal consequences of sin and have an interesting history. For that, perhaps Dr. Tighe, who is a professional historian, can weigh in. I will saw, btw, that of course indulgences have been abused at times, as have everything else, including the Eucharist (in Corinth, again).

The Pilgrim
May 14, 2010

“I should rather have said that what comes later should not be trusted as much as what was before. Primary trust goes to the foundation of the church and becomes the guide for the qualified trust in succeeding eras.”

So the Apostles and scripture are absolutely trustworthy, the patristic fathers not so much, fifteenth century reformation types even less and today’s leaders not at all.

Got it.

Christopher Hathaway
May 14, 2010

Ken, I did not mean to imply that I saw no progressive development in the church’s history. There is certainly that dynamic as well, but I hold that it is not a growth into greater wisdom and holiness but the spread of that wisdom into greater areas of thought and the spread of that holiness and santification over greater areas of the earth. the kingdom is being expanded. But with that expansion always comes, in the baggage in sinful flesh, the continuing cycles of spiritual entropy and need for renewal. The unchanging perfection of Scripture is necessary to assist in those cycles. It is meant to remind us of our “first love”. I did have in mind the Cistercians above. The history of monasticism is fascinating. I tought a class on it in Sunday school a year ago. There is nothing new under the sun.

Re: Indulgences and temporal punishment. I don’t see why Christ did not pay for that as well on the cross. But if he did not, why would he still allow his righteousness to be used to let us escape it through indulgences. It seems to me that if Christ can lessen our sufferings that way he would simply do it for all his children and in total. Why would he hold out something good we desire that he is willing to give us anyway? Why would the church make us “pay” for it.

I can’t get around the idea that Indulgences either cheapen the idea of justice or the concept of the love of God.

Pilgrim, always keep the “Not at all” spot in reserve. Apart from that, well, “trust but verify”.

diane in nc with a small d
May 14, 2010

FW Ken and Christopher Hathaway: fascinating exchange. I admire y’all’s restraint and cordiality, two qualities I sorely lack. (Anent this, I apologize to Sybil and to fellow Wodehouse fan Chris Jones for the harshness of my tone in recent comments.)

“I do have to challenge one thing, that being the notion that the early church somehow represents an ideal from which we have fallen.”

Amen! IMHO, the “ad fontes” impulse is chimerical and even dangerous. That supposedly pristine “Primitive Church” ideal is neither attainable nor desirable.

I for one do not particularly want to run around in a toga, without access to the rich devotions and spiritualities that have developed over the centuries. I’m not even referring here to “Development of Doctrine” (although that is very apt) but to Catholic devotional life: the Sacred Heart; the Rosary; the Jesus Prayer and icons, for that matter. In the immortal words of the brothers Gershwin, “No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”

Re indulgences: FW Ken, that was an excellent concise definition of a very difficult-to-explain Catholic Thang. Thanks!!

diane in nc with a small d
May 14, 2010

Christopher Hathaway: Christ did pay for everything on the Cross. Nonetheless, there’s such a thing as restitution. Think of it this way: If I throw a rock through your window and then sincerely apologize for having done so, you will completely forgive me…right? ;) But you’ll still make me pay for the window. :)

I’ll leave the indulgences thing to my betters, including FW Ken and Dr. Tighe.

Christopher Hathaway
May 14, 2010

diane,
restitution to whom? To God? Where in the world, rather, where in Scripture do we find such a concept that we still have a debt to pay after Christ has payed for it on the cross? If I throw a rock through your window and apologize, and if Jesus dies on the cross to pay for its replacement, would you still require restitution from me?

Now, if one were to describe Purgatory in terms of sanctification, as C.S. Lewis does, and I believe Pope Benedict takes a similar line, I could follow it, though I still question how much human beings can do to work out sanctification without a body. Actuallt, Benedict is better than Lewis in this regard, allowing that Purgatory may be practically instantaneous. this is actually very close to the official Anglican position, even if very few Anglicans know that such a position exists. :-)

But of course, if Purgatory were an aspect of our necessary sanctification, who in their right mind would want to curtail that. Surely the church should encourage us to pass through the necessary beneficial purgations of our sin that we may be spotless before the Lord. But if Christ can make me spotless quicker….why on earth, or in heaven, wouldn’t he?

FW Ken
May 14, 2010

…but the spread of that wisdom into greater areas of thought and the spread of that holiness and santification over greater areas of the earth.

A good point to summary:

1.) Indeed, that is the process, which raises the question (from history): as that spread occurs, and the Gospel encounters new areas of thought and cultural differences, how do the inevitable conflicts that arise get adjudicated. How have they been adjudicated? The bible gives us an example in Acts 15: the elders of the Church gathered and gave their ruling. Those who accepted that ruling remained in “the fellowship of the apostles”; those who did not were, I suppose, the first schismatics. How can the Church maintain it’s witness if we are constantly breaking fellowship instead of submitting to some authority?

2.) The only reasonable authority to which one can faithfully submit is an authority one believes to be guided by the Holy Spirit. If we are guided by the Holy Spirit (in essentials of Faith and Morals), then (and I realize we don’t agree on this) we end up with some sort of “indefectibility”. I suppose one reason that doesn’t bother me is that I grew up listening to Baptist preachers propounding their doctrines without a shadow of doubt; just as I don’t believe sola scriptura actually exists when we read the bible, I don’t believe any of us are without some authority to which we look when interpreting the bible. For too many of us (all of us in our sinfulness, truthfully), that authority is in the mirror.

3.) Over time, the Churches looked to Rome to settle issues, basically because Peter and Paul were both there. From the beginning, though, local Churches went into and out of Communion with one another, a process that continues today.

I really am going to have to get a copy of Newman’s Development of Doctrine and read it on my trip. I’ve never read it start to finish and what I did read was years ago.

Oh, my… purgatory and indulgences… what have I gotten myself into. :-)

The Church teaches that purgatory is for purification:

CCC

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

There’s a bit more, but to tell you the truth, I was surprised at how little the Church says about purgatory.

For myself, I fervently hope for purgatory – purgation – cleansing. And I do believe Lewis imaged purgatory as possibly an instant, or rapid thing: that point at which the dentist has finished his work, you rinse and spit – that is purgatory. My favorite analogy (Lewis, perhaps?) is that of coming in after a long day working in the fields. Your mother tells you “come in, sit down, all is well, eat”. But in your heart, you really want a bath first. The bath is purgatory.

As to indulgences, you are on your own:

CCC 1471-77

The heart of the matter is that by the grace of God we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, putting off the old man and putting on the new. Ok, here’s the central paragraph:

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.83

In any case, we are saved by God’s grace, opened to us in the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of the Son of God. Indulgences pertain to the part of our salvation that involves actual righteousness.

diane –

Christopher Hathaway raised a serious question in a serious manner and has pursued it with serious, cogent arguments. It’s not a matter of “restraint”, because principled disagreement with Catholic doctrine is not “anti-Catholic” any more than my disagreement with the 19th Article of Religion makes me “anti-Anglican”. You know I have small patience with anti-Catholic rhetoric, but Mr. Hathaway hasn’t come close to it. He’s not even playing in the same park.

Christopher Hathaway
May 15, 2010

Ken,

paragraph 1472: That seems entirely sensible to me. But I don’t see what it has to say about indulgence. :-)

As for your “rinse and spit” concept of Purgatory: I like it, and my reading of Benedict’s recent teaching on this (can’t remember what encyclicle it was) was pretty much just that. Lewis didn’t write much about Purgatory. The only thing I recall is found in his A Grief Observed. It semed to me that he was looking at a temporal experience. I think the gist of his argument would go thus: Just as Hell needs to exist to take sin seriously so Purgatory needs to exist as positive Christian experience and place of trial so that sanctification and righteousness may be taken seriously. For the righteousness to be ours we have to go trough the experience of working it in. No short cuts.

I find the argument only somewhat persuasive.

First, philosophically. In this life sanctification is achieved by mortifying the flesh and denying wordly desires. How can one do this without a body? We are not by nature spiritual beings. Our existence is meant to be corporeal. Without a body there are no tangeble worldly temptaions and no way for the deeper spiritual temptations to manifest. Put simply, in Purgatory there would be no work-out tools whereby we excercize our sould into shape, at least none that I can think of.

My theological quibbles would be these:

I think Lewis’s idea underestimates the purging potential that is involved in suffering physical death.

Secondly, it seems to play into the idea that the goal of Purgatory is to get us all to the same level in heaven. Yet I get from Scripture that there will be some greater than others due to the level of righteousness achieved in this life. We will all be saved (those who are saved) but some just barely, by the fire, getting through Purgatory with just the white robes on their backs, no jewels.

But this is all academic for me anyways. And as I’m studying to be an academic that suits me. :-)
Whatever the situation is I’ll find out eventually and I know Jesus will be there with me because without him there is nothing.

Pax vobiscum.

Christopher Hathaway
May 15, 2010

I forgot to address your VERY important question: How does the church make decision of new questions without risking splitiing into factions if there is no central authority?

I don’t think it can. And I’m all in favor of a central authority. And I think it should be Rome. This seems natural and logical to me.

But…I would like that authority to be…less dictatorial and more generous, and more conservative. In a sense, exactly as the Pope is just now, exactly as the Papacy has operated since I can remember.

You mentioned that there have only been two infallible proclamations since infallibility was declared. I can only think of one, Immaculate Conception, unless you are including the doctrine of papal infalibility. Didn’t most Catholics believe them anyways? My question is, what was gained by declaring them infalibly?

What if, going back to Luther’s break with Rome, there had been no threat to burn him at the stake, no worldly physical compulsion involved in the debate? What if the Pope had been more patient and trusted God to preserve the church if it was disciplined only with love and the withdrawal of that love. What if the Pope had responded, “Well here I stand, Martin, and until I here a better argument fromyou you are denied pool priveleges.”? Luther would be out of the Pope’s good graces but not out of the church, and the conversation would be left open, unless Luther stormed out.

I’m imaging of course. The 16th century mix of church and state didn’t really allow for that concept of religious tolerance to inspire any kind of stability in the church. But it exists now. I see the potential for a church with a clear sense of headship but a more relaxed applicfation of it. It resides somewhere btween an absolute authoritarian system and the relative anarchy of Protestantism. Most of us want to belong, and the pressure to remain in fellwoship is strong.

What if the Pope could make decisions without the declaration of infalibility that made it imposible for him to change his mind? Merely the thought that one could change the pope’s mind if one had a very good argument might be enough to make some would-be schismatics accept the “provisional” decison until they could prove their case. This would give the church the ability to make decisions but it would leave people feeling freer.

The emperor Augustus managed to rule very successfully not claiming to have all the authority, even though he actually did. He delegated decisons to the Senate, making them feel as if they had power. They felt respected, and so were content. Domitian ruked with exactly the same level of power, but he made sure the Senate knew he had the power, and they hated him for it.

I think the Pope is more powerful and when he doesn’t excercize infalibilty. It’s like the power of humility and the weakness of strength.

It’s been a good conversation. It’s helped me organize my thoughts a little more on this issue.

Have a Nicene Day

Christopher Hathaway
May 15, 2010

I meant I was imagining of course . That typo might have read new agey. Most of my other typos are obvious. ;-)

Robb
May 15, 2010

Christopher and Ken.
Thanks. Real theology for us all.
One of the best, if not the best, posts and comments, ever.

diane in nc with a small d
May 16, 2010

Robb, I second that. :)

IB Bill
May 17, 2010

I swam the Tiber in 2005-06. For me, the issues of Mary and papal infallibility were the last two issues. Mary resolved itself mystically. I’m not going to explain it. It wasn’t the first time. No, I didn’t see her, well, maybe I did … in any case, I simply received a gift of faith regarding her and haven’t worried about it since.

Papal infallibility was different — I didn’t accept it, but made a deal to myself to suspend my own judgment on the issue. The issue was only resolved after Easter, after I’d been received into the Catholic Church. You must affirm that you believe what the Church teaches to be received into the Catholic faith from TEC. I placed the Church’s teaching authority, based on the truth I had seen so far, ahead of my own understanding and made the affirmation with a clear conscience. I trusted the Church’s authority more than my own mind.

A few days, the answer became clear … and as so often happens since I have become Catholic, the answer was accompanied by spiritual consolations and great joy.

The answer was this: The pope can be pope or I can be pope. I had for at least one moment humbled myself, led by the Spirit, and laid down my self to accept the Church’s authority based on nothing but the Church’s word, and accepted what I did not fully understand, based on the partial evidence of what I could understand. In that fashion, I allowed myself to become part of God’s church.

To this day, I do not know how the journey was made. I could not give you directions through the thickets and paths — I was so protestant in some ways, and have said everything Christopher Hathaway has said. I wish I could tell you how to get there or how I got here — but all I can be is grateful.

Karl
May 17, 2010

Benedict is a good talker. That is all. He does not raise a finger to help those who ask him. His fellow bishops and priests, yes including the “good ones”, are a disgrace. Things will not improve much. He is happy to accept the destruction of marriage. We who have been abandoned by our spouses and the Catholic Church MUST DIE sooner or later. We seem to matter little to him, as little as our children. Present day Catholicism is a disgrace!

Robb
May 17, 2010

Karl
For heavens sake. If you have an issue with the one Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church make your bitch known. Be specific. Your post makes little sense.

c matt
May 18, 2010

One cannot force oneself to believe. One must be compelled to believe by fact or reason. And my problem is that I can see no reason for believing in papal infallibility, or in any concept of ecclesial infallibility (which closes me off from Orthodoxy as well).

But are [infallibility and impeccablity] not related? Why is infallibility in doctrine more important than infallibility in judgment and moral witness, what you call impeccability? Is not the weakness toward sin in a Christian a “fallibility”?

I put absolute trust in Scripture to reveal to me the spiritual truths of God and man.

This series of statements goes against reason. Infallibility (to teach without error) and impeccability (personal sinlessness) are not the same thing, and whether they are related (how?) is irrelevant. I can certainly teach someone the rules of basketball infallibly even though I cannot impeccably make a three pointer every time I shoot.

The Scripture in which you put absolute trust to reveal the spiritual truths was written by sinful men. If by your argument sinful men cannot be infallible, then there is no basis in reason for you to put absolute trust in the Scripture they wrote. In fact, it would go against reason for you to do so. If one need not be impeccable in order to transmit infallible truths, then there is no logical or reason based impediment to papal infallibility (which, by the way, is a very circumscribed concept).

c matt
May 18, 2010

Or, if by “don’t see a reason” for papal/ecclessial infallibility you mean you don’t see a need for it, I have to say history and experience is 100% against you. Thousands of denominational splits, even disagreement within denominations, not to mention the very existence of different religions/belief systems and plain old common sense tell you that some form of final authority – one that can actually speak/teach currently – is absolutely necessary.

Just think of secular examples – the US Constitution. Granted, our SCOTUS is not infallible, but even we recognized that we need at least a fallible final authority to interpret our Constitution, or else all would be chaos. Are you seriously suggesting that God, the Creator of the universe, Who knows our proclivities and limitations even better than we do, would leave us either with (1) no final authority for our moral/spiritual guidance, even though it is bleeding obvious we need it for our far less important secular guidance, or (2) a fallible one, which is probably worse than none at all? That just doesn’t make sense.

c matt
May 18, 2010

Infallibility is like radiation therapy – it really is used only as a last resort against truly egregious error. It is rarely used, but it is sometimes necessary (and it usually takes a long time before anything gets defined). But like medicine, it doesn’t create the body of doctrine, it only cures it, restores it, or gives a deeper understanding of it.

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