Worth Revisiting: Development and negation: the struggle continues

May 7, 2011

Development and negation: the struggle continues

 

The latest installment in my “Development and Negation” series was about slavery. More specifically, the question was whether the development of Magisterial teaching on the moral status of slavery negates any previously taught doctrine that meets the Church’s own criteria for irreformability. My answer was, of course, no—as it has been in every case where dissenters of the right or the left charge the Magisterium with discrediting itself by contradicting itself over time. What I shall do here is illustrate the significance of the general topic by presenting what happened to the debate over the slavery question.
The critic against whom I have lately defended the Magisterium was theologian Joseph O’Leary, an unreconstructed prog of a kind all too familiar on ostensibly Catholic theology faculties. The original target of his criticisms was Avery Cardinal Dulles, who had addressed the slavery issue among others in his article “Development or Reversal?” In criticizing my own position on the slavery issue, which accords with Dulles’, O’Leary repeats a charge he has made in almost every debate he and I have had in the past: “Liccione has devoted huge intellectual effort to proving that the Church has never reversed its official teaching on any point of morality.” As anybody who reads my series can verify for themselves, however, that is not what I have devoted effort to proving. I have openly acknowledged cases in which Church authorities have reversed their application of moral principles to specific moral questions, such as how heretics may be punished, whether borrowers may ever be charged for loans beyond the principal, and when the death penalty can be justified. What I have instead sought to show is that no moral tenet taught by the Church in such wise as to meet her own criteria for irreformability has thereby been repudiated. Tenets that do meet such criteria are, to be sure, sometimes wrongly applied; others take time to be recognized and formulated for what they are. That is why development and refinement in Catholic moral teaching are both possible and necessary. But my thesis has been that such development and refinement do not entail negation of any tenet taught in the past with the Church’s full authority. Tenets so taught are infallibly taught and are thus “irreformable,” meaning “not to be contradicted.” So the Church does not contradict or negate them. What’s happened in my debate with O’Leary well illustrates the importance of that point.

In his last comment here on my slavery post, O’Leary proceeds in characteristic fashion by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. I had claimed, as an aside, that magisterial support in the Middle Ages for the physical punishment of heretics—such as the papal bull Ad Extirpanda—did not meet the Church’s own criteria for irreformability. I have made that claim before, and I’ve made it because AE’s subject matter was not any irreformable moral tenet, but rather a prudential judgment on the specific, very time-bound question whether the good of the body politic requires that heretics be physically coerced into confessing their heresies. Those who exercise magisterial authority, including popes, can be wrong about that without logically discrediting their own claims to teach infallibly, and thus irreformably, about “faith and morals” under certain conditions. In this case medieval ecclesiastics, including St. Thomas Aquinas, were wrong about the socio-political importance and necessity of torturing heretics. I’ve explained why before, but I don’t want to distract readers any further by getting into that again. Here, rather, is what O’Leary says in response to my claim that “Ad Extirpanda does not satisfy the Church’s own criteria for the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium”:

 

Do you refer to the papal teaching office or the universal teaching office of bishops, which is usually what people mean when they talk of the ordinary magisterium? As far as I know there are only 2 candidates for infallibility of the former, namely the dogmas of 1854 and 1950. I tend to follow G. Hallett SJ in thinking the claim of infallibility to be meaningless (thus neither true nor false), The infallibility of bishops is a Bellarminian thesis unwisely embraced, without disucssion, by the bishops at Vatican II and ruthless exploited since then to claim infallibility for Vaticanist doctrines on contraception, women’s ordination etc., at the very time as any autonomous teaching authority of bishops is beiing undercut.

Let’s leave aside the rather elementary point that the “ordinary” magisterium of the Church is not to be contrasted with the “papal” magisterium but rather with the “extraordinary” magisterium. Either the pope or the bishops can and do exercise either magisterium (though the bishops can only do so legitimately in communion with the pope). It’s bad enough that O’Leary, an ostensibly Catholic theologian, has missed that. But he’s actually suggesting that the dogma of papal infallibility is “meaningless” and asserting that the doctrine of the infallibility of bishops, authoritatively taught in Lumen Gentium 25, is “a Bellarminian thesis unwisely embraced, without disucssion [sic], by the bishops at Vatican II.” Again, let’s leave aside the irony that a theologian who signs himself “Spirit of Vatican II” is rejecting a very important ecclesiological doctrine authoritatively taught by the Fathers of Vatican II. O’Leary is out to end the game before it starts.

If the dogma of papal infallibility is “meaningless” and the infallibility of the bishops, as explained in LG §25, a mere thesis “unwisely embraced,” then the question whether the Church’s development of doctrine has ever negated an irreformably taught doctrine cannot be usefully debated. Before that question can be usefully debated, there must be some agreement among the participants both that there are infallibly taught doctrines and that there are consistently applicable criteria for identifying doctrines as such. For reasons I’ve given, the class of “infallible” doctrines is co-extensive with that of “irreformable” ones. Among Catholic theologians who care about teaching with and in the name of the Church, such agreement holds in substance, if not always at the margins. But between me and O’Leary, it does not hold in any sense at all. So, we do not even agree on the premises of the discussion. Perhaps that is why O’Leary consistently misrepresents what I aim to do.

The only useful strategy for the O’Learys of the world—and their name is legion—would be to argue that the historic development of Catholic doctrine precludes any doctrine of magisterial infallibility (ordinary or extraordinary, papal or episcopal) that could be (a) meaningful, (b) useful, and (c) definitively held. If there is no such doctrine of infallibility, then the question which tenets count as irreformable is purely a matter of opinion, and my “development and negation” project is not worth pursuing. That is roughly the tack Hans Küng took in his once-celebrated book Infallible? An Inquiry. A debate about his argumentative strategy is worth having because it can be settled by facts and logic. As I read Küng’s book and researched his sources three decades ago, my debate with him was gradually settled. I concluded his case was not compelling on either historical or logical grounds. More important, I soon realized that if he were right, then the claims of the Catholic Magisterium to be preserved from error under certain conditions are so much hot air. In that case, there would be no compelling reason to remain in full communion with Rome, other than to undermine her claims from within.

That, I suspect, is the real point of the O’Learys of the world.

Advertisements

When Did Catholics Add Books to the Bible?

December 3, 2009


Q. When did Catholics add books to the Bible?

A. They never did. The Jews and the Protestants removed books from the OT.
The Catholic Church simply received the Septuagint version of the Hebrew scriptures, from the Jews, at the time of Christ. This became known as the Old Testament. 70 years later, the Jews removed 7 Old Testament books from the Septuagint. The reason given for this was that they could no longer find those books in Hebrew.

Interestingly some of these books were being used to good advantage to make converts among the Jews. For example:

Read the rest of this entry »


Saint Basil The Great On The Necessity Of Confession Of Sins

September 24, 2009

5 bob to Taylor Marshall (ever the blogger to read!) who writes:

Saint Basil the Great on the necessity of confession of sins

Published Tuesday, September 23, 2008 by

All personal information that you provide here will be governed by the Privacy Policy of Blogger.com. More…


 


“It is necessary to confess our sins to those whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted.” Basil, Rule Briefly Treated, 288 (A.D. 374).

Basil is, of course, referring to the act of Christ whereby he endowed the Apostolic ministry with the office of remitting sins:

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23).


Why Celibacy?

April 5, 2009

Written by Rev. H.T. Burke

Our Lord was a priest (Heb. 4:14); He was also celibate and called others to do the same. “And Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left all and followed You.’ And He said to them, ‘Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or parents, or brothers, or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive much more in the present time, and in the age to come life everlasting.”‘ (Lk. 18:28-30) Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22); through celibacy the priest is called to sacrifice not just his son, but his wife. Our Lord teaches that not all can be celibate, but those who can should do so for the sake of the kingdom: “His disciples said to Him, ‘if the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.’ And He said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given -there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can.” (Matt. 19:10-12)

Celibacy is also a sign of the resurrection; we will all be celibate in the next world. Jesus says: “When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30) In imitation of Christ the priest is called to live this way here and now in this world. Elijah and John the Baptist, the two great prophets of the Old Covenant, were celibate. St. Paul even encourages celibacy among the laity. He writes: “It is good for the man not to touch woman. Yet for fear of fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband – For I wish that you all were like me; but each one has his own gift from God, one in this way, and another in that – Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be freed. Are you freed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you take a wife, you have not sinned. He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please God. Whereas he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.” (1Cor. 7)

A champion of celibacy for the priesthood, Vatican II said: “Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ the Lord. This Sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation so far as it concerns those destined for the priesthood, and feels confident in the Spirit that the gift of celibacy, so appropriate to the priesthood of the New Testament, is liberally granted by the Father. And the more that perfect continence is considered by many people to be impossible in the world of today, so much the more humbly and perseveringly in union with the Church ought priests demand the grace of fidelity, which is never denied to those who ask.”

Celibacy is not unnatural, it is supernatural. It is a special grace from God. Our Lord created manhood, and as a man he lived it fully and naturally, as a celibate male. Celibacy is a sacrifice of the good of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. It is not for men who have no attraction for women. It is for men who do like women. If they don’t then there is no sacrifice in giving up marriage. Celibacy is unpopular with the world today because it is a sacrifice, and sacrifice for God is not what a hedonistic culture wants. The opinions of this world do not worry Our Lord who said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn. 18:36)

5 bob to: The Catholic Defender

See also Celibacy of the Clergy


Chesterton Quote on the Church

December 15, 2008

chesterton

It is me or does it seem that Catholic blog comboxes have recently become more civil, thoughtful and sometimes as rich as the OP.

I found this nugget which explains so much so well and felt the urge to share: Read the rest of this entry »


Interesting Deathbed Converts

October 29, 2008

I have been looking around the internet for some interesting converts to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I find that deathbed conversions are interesting. On one hand I am glad to see that they converted, and on the other I think “What were you waiting for?”

Anyway, here is a list of some of the more famous deathbed conversions or “reversions” that I found on the net. Caveat: this list is certainly not exhaustive and in no way, shape, or form is it inerrant. Here are the converts:

Constantine the Great- Surprisingly, the great Emperor who signed the Edict of Milan and did so much for the Church in Her early days only converted on his deathbed. He may have postponed his baptism to properly repent for the earlier murders of his wife and son first (he ordered their executions.) He fell ill, realized that he was at death’s door, and was actually baptized by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. He is honored as a Saint in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the Latin Church has no Feast for him and does not honor him as a Saint.

Charles II of England- He and his brother James II were the best hopes in restoring Catholicism to “Our Lady’s Dowry” (Non Angli Sed Angeli !) James, who would succeed Charles on the throne of England converted to Catholicism first. Charles was against James’ conversion for political purposes but later converted himself on his deathbed. His father Charles I was beheaded after one of the many Civil Wars England fought against itself for power over the Isle. Charles I was added to the Anglican list of Saints as a martyr after the restoration of the Monarchy in England by his son, Charles II. Charles I is one of the few post-Reformation (Revolt?) saints of the Anglican Church.

Oscar Wilde- For all his flamboyant and wild (pun intended) behavior and homosexual dalliances he still asked to be baptized in to the Church on his deathbed. He was a brilliant poet, playwright, and novelist.

John Wayne- I knew it! The Duke always reminded me of my grandpa! John Wayne had been married 3 times and was divorced twice. All of his wives were Hispanic women and I assume that their Catholicism rubbed off on him. I have always enjoyed his movies, especially the ones he made with Maureen O’Hara. Every year on or around St. Patrick’s Day, I make sure to watch The Quiet Man.

Buffalo Bill Cody- Buffalo Bill was baptized on his deathbed in Denver. He was given tribute by King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and of course President Woodrow Wilson when they heard of his death. He may have been influenced by the great Chief Sitting Bull who, according to the blog Roman Christendom, converted some years before.

Some note that John Henry “Doc” Holiday may have been a deathbed convert… It is noted “He struck up a friendship with the local Catholic priest, Father Edward Downey, and there were unconfirmed reports that Holliday was received into the Catholic Church just before he died. For the last two weeks of his life, he was delirious. Doc Holliday died on Nov. 8, 1887, age 36.” (Source).  Also “friend and first cousin Martha Anne “Mattie” Holliday, with whom he regularly corresponded throughout his life, had years earlier become a Catholic nun, and this may have been an influence. ” (Source)

There are many more, but it is getting late and I have to go to Mass tomorrow.


Defending Truth & Contending For The Faith?

October 28, 2008

I came across the following odd quote using WordPress.com’s “tag surfer feature”. I am not surprised by the content, per se… I have been dealing with non-Catholic and anti-Catholic apologists for over a decade. I usually respect them as sincere, and never take it personally.

But what I find odd… well first read it first for yourself…

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–> The Roman Catholic religion claims that the Bible does not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 72). Catholicism also says the Bible does not contain everything God taught about salvation (A Catechism for Adults, p. 52); is not clear and intelligible (The Faith of Our Fathers, pgs. 70, 152); is a dead book (Question Box, p. 67); and does more harm than good (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, p. 274). These, and many other comments against the Bible, reveal that Catholicism is not a loyal friend of the Bible but a forceful enemy that needs to be confronted. Roman Catholicism constantly seeks to undermine, weaken, oppose and nullify the Bible from its God-ordained place of authority.

SOURCE: http://defendingcontending.com/2008/10/28/quotes-404

The thing of it is, I HAVE read The Faith Of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons. In high school, it actually kept me Catholic when I was preparing to leave the Catholic Church. I have read it (and done so more than once) and didn’t recall anything of the sort being attributed to that text in the actual book.

But I haven’t read it for at least 10 years… so fair is fair, some due diligence to see what this gentleman is possibly referring to, I used Google Books (The Faith of Our Fathers is public domain) to check out the pages cited. You can do the same.

So having read the full text of each page cited (at least using the page numbers offered compared to the online edition which matches up with the TAN edition, as the TAN edition – that I owned – was a facsimile reproduction of the same…)  I am still just as befuddled.  In each instance, the pages offered aren’t even related to discussion of Scriptures.

So my question to Mike Gendron is, what are the exact quotes you found in The Faith of Our Fathers  that back up your assertions?  Have you read the book, or are you quoting from someone who claims to be quoting it?