Monday, May 16, 2005

Rome's merry-go round

I said:
<< Indeed, you have now drawn the circle so narrowly that it is unclear that any book by a lay apologist would “bear on the formal education of the faithful, in the context of parish life (eg, textbooks)” or “catechesis.”>>

Jason said:
<< Correct, they don't. Unless someone is a Bishop, nothing they write represents the Church in a formal sense. Apologists speak for themselves (they speak for the Church, just not in any formal capacity). >>

I said:
<< So instead of saying that such books are ordinarily submitted to the local bishop for the imprimatur, you now seem to be saying that such book are not ordinarily submitted to the local bishop for the imprimatur. Which is it? >>

Jason said:
<< I stand by what I said. Most apologists submit their books for an imprimatur. Why a specific books doesn't have one, I can't say. For a book such as you mentioned (ie, Keating's), I can guarantee that it would meet with the approval of a Bishop for an imprimatur, if eligible. >>

This has not even the appearance of consistency. What “hard evidence” does Jason offer that “most apologists submit their books for an imprimatur”? Presumably, the only hard evidence would be the fact that their books have, indeed, received the imprimatur.

Yet he has already defined most-all books by a lay apologist as ineligible for the imprimatur inasmuch as their subject-matter fails to bear on the formal education of the faithful, i.e. catechesis. So, by his own criterion, most all of their books could not receive the imprimatur even if they were submitted for such approval.

<< There are plenty of Bishops who have shown their informal support for an organization like Catholic Answers. They have no need to be distrustful of their Bishop. They have proven to be friends. >>

Why informal support? Why not formal support? Because, presumably, they don’t wish to issue a blank check to such an organization for fear it might say something they’d disapprove of.

<< Well, I think herein lies the problem. You are analyzing Catholics in relation to the Catholic Church. To do so, you must employ the standards of Catholic theology, not loose personal definitions from an Evangelical perspective. >>

Actually, I went on to examine Catholic usage as well.
<< As far as someone's loyalty to the Catholic Church goes, we have nothing to consider except their outward conformity. >>

Really, questions of intent are irrelevant to Catholic moral theology and the sincerity of religious assent, i.e, “loyal submission of will and intellect”?

<< It's possible that all these Catholic apologists secretly hate the Catholic Church and its doctrine. >>

This is, of course, a straw man argument. The question is not whether Hahn, Armstrong and other suchlike secretly hate the RCC. Rather, the question is whether they suffer from divided intellectual commitments which logically compromise their allegiance. This is a common phenomenon, both in theology and ideology.

<< Again, I don't see how this bears on your charge of schism. The passage you cited is dealing with matters of doctrine. Most well-known Catholic apologists try their best to conform to Catholic doctrine. >>

I don’t doubt that they are doing their level best. But the dilemma is what to do when you’ve been dealt a losing hand? If the magisterium is inconsistent, then you can only be loyal to the magisterium on pain of inconsistency. You make the best of a bad deal, but this entails a certain about of arbitrary selectivity and special-pleading to keep up appearances.

Again, this is a not uncommon phenomenon. Consider, for example, the quandary of the loyal Mormon who must defend the “translation” of the Book of Abraham by Joseph Smith? A “translation” supposedly attested by Charles Anthon? And this is the same sort of gimmickry and ad hocery we see when a Catholic apologist tries to gloss former magisterial statements consistent with Vatican II and the like.

<< The topic of Protestants you raise is a completely different issue, which I would rather not go into here. Just to say that Trent and Vatican II are addressing two completely different historical situations. >>

A completely different issue? Jason had accused me, a little earlier, of using “loose personal definitions from an Evangelical perspective.”

Now what I had done was to compare Trent and Vatican II on the character of schism. In Trent, a Protestant is schismatic. But in Vatican II, he is held to be in some lesser, but real sense in union and communion with the true church. Were we to apply that same standard to a Catholic apologist who is to the right of the magisterium, he could be schismatic in some respects, yet united to Rome in other respects.

If, in fact, you consider the extent to which the Catholic church has vastly broadened its self-definition as, of itself, the sacrament of humanity, rather than the dispenser of the sacraments, then the distinction between Catholic, schismatic, heretic, Jew, Muslim, pagan, an atheist is one of degree, not of kind:

“As sacrament, the Church is Christ's instrument. "She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all," "the universal sacrament of salvation," by which Christ is "at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God's love for men." The Church "is the visible plan of God's love for humanity," because God desires "that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit (CCC 776)."

<< Just to say that Trent and Vatican II are addressing two completely different historical situations. >>

This statement is deceptively simple:

1.Trent consists of theological propositions setting forth Catholic dogma, on the one hand, while anathematizing the positions it attributes to the Protestants, on the other.

Now, to the extent that modern-day Protestants continue to adhere to some of those propositions, how do they escape the anathemas? Yes, the historical situations have altered, but the theological propositions have not. A Calvinist or a confessional Lutheran can certainly find some of his theology in the Tridentine anathemas.

2. The problem with historical relativism is it applies to the future as well as the past. The historical situation of Vatican II—framed in the ferment of the Sixties--is very different from historical situation of a Catholic living in 2005—not to mention a Catholic living in 2050, or 2105.

If theological propositions don’t mean what they meant at the time they were promulgated, then your appeal to Vatican II or the Catechism has no more force than my appeal to Vatican I or Trent or Florence or Lateran IV or even Nicaea.

<< I was referring to published apologists. As I said, I don't even think internet writings are proper objects of an imprimatur. To repeat again, a book may not have an imprimatur for many reasons, whether it's not eligible to one to the author chose not to petition for one. Either way, most apologists DO choose to petition one. It would be upon you to demonstrate that a lack of an imprimatur indicates a nefarious plot by an apologist to write in contradiction to the Magisterium. >>

1.The business of the “nefarious plot” is just a lot of silly hyperbole.

2.Notice how Jason is redefining the burden of proof into an argument from silence. At the risk of stating the obvious, the only hard evidence that an apologist has applied for the imprimatur is if he has received the imprimatur. Is there any other record in the public domain save for the imprimatur itself?

I said:
<< Can you point me to a cumulative index of the “authentic” magisterium? Or does a Catholic have to sift through all the raw data himself and size up their relative authority. >>

Jason said:
<< Yes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. >>

No, this will not rise to the challenge.

1.To my knowledge (correct me if I’m wrong), the Catechism is an expression of the ordinary, and not the extraordinary magisterium. It is not an ex cathedra pronouncement from the Pope. It is not the text of an ecumenical council.

2.And even if, for the sake of argument, it were an expression of the extraordinary magisterium, one could apply to the Catechism the same historical solvents which, say, Shawn McElhinney liberally applies to Florence, viz.
“This does not mean that the text of the Catechism is either verbally inspired or that it necessarily states a teaching in the best possible way.”
“The Catechism was specifically directed to [fill in the blank].” “There is also the fact that the Catechism itself, while definitive, is not formally so. In that sense the exposition element of the teaching would not necessarily fall under the mantle of infallible teaching.”

I said:
<< If so, he is having to authenticate the church’s teaching rather than having the church authenticate his own teaching—in which case we’re back to the right of private judgment. >>

Jason said:
<< Yes, the Church doesn't micromanage her children's lives. She trusts them to learn the faith as best they can and communicate it. When they want to do so in a formal capacity, however, the Church tries to assure their suitability. >>

“As best they can”? “The Church doesn’t micromanage” their lives?

How does this concessive statement improve on sola Scriptura and the right of private judgment under the watchful providence of God?

<< I don't see any hard evidence that they, in fact, are. It would have to be demonastrated with hard evidence that they consistenly spurn the magisterium of the Church. If, for example, you could show me writings from Dave Armstrong that say, upon the release of a new encyclical, "this encyclical is nonsense. I'm not submitting to it", you might have a case. >>

Actually, I don’t have to demonstrate a thing. For, by Jason’s stated standard, the evidence that Armstrong is not schismatic is the fact that most Catholic apologists, himself included, submit their stuff to the local bishop for the imprimatur. Hence, the only necessary evidence that Armstrong is a schismatic would be the absence of the imprimatur.

That is where Jason originally set the bar. Now, however, he is backtracking and attempting to raise the bar.

<< You have basically taken non-magisterial celebrities (eg, Ray Brown) and decided that they speak for Catholicism, and so Catholics who don't like them are spurning the Magisterium. >>

Yes, that’s what Roman Catholics keep telling me. What they fail to see is that such a disclaimer is illogical, and repeating an illogical disclaimer ad nauseum does nothing to render it any less illogical.

If Ray Brown’s writings received the imprimatur (which they did), if he was twice appointed to the PBC by two different Popes, and if he was never removed from that post, then, yes, to any mind that does not already have a dog in the fight, then the promotion of a subordinate does imply the approval of his superiors.

To palter with technical distinctions over the non-magisterial status of the PBC and its members, even when its members are appointed by the magisterium, publish under the imprimatur, and even have a forward to one of their work’s by the Prefect, is to indulge in plausible deniability.

Such an insulating device exists for one purpose and one purpose only, the very purpose to which Jason and others put it, which is to distance the superior from the conduct of his subordinate, so that he cannot be held responsible for the conduct of his subordinate—even if he knows perfectly well what his subordinate is saying and doing, and was put in place by his superior to say and do what he does.

So a Catholic apologist can use Ray Brown as a handy fall-guy. The very reason which a Catholic apologist urges in defense of this distinction is the very reason which discredits it in the eyes of someone who does not have a vested interested in the reputation of Rome.

But suppose we waive all that, for we have larger fish to fry. It isn’t just Ray Brown or Joseph Fitzmyer. From what I can tell, Brown’s view of Scripture is not essentially different from the published views of the late Pontiff or the published views of his newly-chosen successor.

“Evangelical” converts to Rome may be in nominal submission to the magisterium, but to be consistent with an inconsistent system is to be a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

3 comments:

  1. Apologists like Dave Armstrong often critcize catholics who disagree with the pope over such things as kissing the Koran and the Assisi events. Yet there is nothing in the documents of Vatican II which require the pope to do these things & one could plausibly argue that these are non-inallible.

    Yet when two popes put Ray Brown on the PBC (as well as many others like him) they feel entitled to dissent.

    Of course, I find that once you point out to people like Dave Armstrong and Patrick that Brown's views appear to be quite in line with Benedict and JP II, they refuse to discuss it.

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