Tuesday, September 11, 2012

D.G. Hart: “Maybe Called to Communion should be renamed Called to Confusion”

I think he’s wrong about this, but only in the “maybe” part. They definitely are a call to confusion. They definitely have gotten themselves into something they don’t fully understand. And they’re treating it as if they do.

In their call to find infallible certainty over “the proximate object of faith”, and in their enthusiasm to proclaim that they have found such infallibility, the Called to Communion gang have embraced their own worst nightmare – the fact that there are multiple “Roman Catholicisms” that have existed over time and across the religious spectrum today. Hart has isolated one, but there are many. The claim is that these are all “under” the same authority structure, but many of them mock it and are still called “Roman Catholics”. They all hold to the “same Catechism”, but how many of them pick and choose (and the Pope says he’d rather these would leave), whereas, how many hold to the Catechism with the same “correct interpretation” and with the same purity that the Called to Communion gang hold it?

Since Hart is talking about councils in conflict, some time ago, I wrote about some other councils that are in conflict: Vatican I and Vatican II.

Consider Michael J. Buckley, S.J., “Papal Primacy and the Episcopate: towards a relational understanding,” New York: Crossroad Herder, © 1998, from the “Ut Unum Sint” series. Some comments from Buckley:

The development from Pastor aeternus (Vatican I) to Lumen Gentium (Vatican II), from speaking of the bishops as the episcopate to speaking of the bishops as “a college...or a college of bishops” (collegium ... seu corpus episcoporum), is far more considerable than a simple semantic shift. “Episcopate” is somewhat more abstract than “college of bishops,” and it fails to express the dynamic relationship of the bishops among themselves… (pg 77).

Then there are the vital relationship between the bishop and the local church within which he is to represent the leadership and the sanctifying presence of Christ (81) … and the Apostolic Tradition which insists that the bishop is to be chosen by all of the people and that this selection is to be approved by the assembled [local] bishops and elders (86). Buckley writes, in summary:

Two questions arise in this context. Whether the present settlement actually detracts from the full vigor of the episcopate and whether papal restoration of ancient legislation on the selection of bishops and their stability within their sees could contribute significantly to the strengthening of the episcopate and the local churches today. Could the apostolic See further effectively its responsibilities simply by restoring what has been taken [or, what the papacy has usurped for itself] over the centuries? This would be to retrieve in a very different way that papal leadership whose bent was the strength and freedom of the local church. Neither problem is an easy one to resolve, but both merit serious study and each touches upon both components of this essay (94).

After 1800 years, they still cannot agree on what the definition of a bishop should be. But believe with the assent of faith any way, because whatever it is they do agree on surely must be infallibly so. 

In reality, these guys are not called to communion with the one true faith that was preached by the Apostles. They are called to share the communion of noumenality that exists between Bryan Cross’s ears, under that fine-looking hat that he wears. It is not the communion of Paul and the martyrs and the untold masses of saints who have existed in union with Christ through the ages. It is the call to the communion of a faith that’s shaped by Bryan’s made-up definitions of monocausalism and ecclesial deism and whatever new concepts he can dream up.

They are not “called to communion”. What they are called to is quite different. They are called to a cult.


  1. The comments at Old Life have gotten into a discussion of "what caused these men to head toward Rome?" I posted this comment over there:

    I know a lot of folks have put forward a lot of valid ideas as to why these individuals see the call to Rome as a positive thing. I think Jed has touched on the common thread when he says "Each of these guys seem to be craving the certainty and stability that Rome claims".

    In my own trip, from cradle Catholic, out from Rome, back to Rome, and then back out, the reason I went back was because of infighting Protestants -- almost all good friends of mine who couldn't figure out how to start a church. Who was to be in authority: the church council (which controlled the purse strings), or the pastor. Or in what proportion.

    I went back, thinking, "the early church has worked through all of this". But what I missed was, "did they get it right?". I think that is the fundamental question. No, Rome is not "the Church that Christ founded (TM)". But they've been able to back-fill the story with an excuse for everything.

    In that respect, I think the "authority" issue among Reformed churches was a stepping stone toward Rome. Reformed churches promise some form of authority, but they don't have the rock-firm authority and stability that Rome promises.

    But again, an investigation into Roman Catholic history will show all of the flaws (and then some) of that "unbroken succession" that they claim to have. Merely how they maintain the illusion of "unbroken succession" has changed radically over the centuries.

    In the end, as Jack says, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but in reality, with respect to Roman Catholicism, it's just an illusion. There is some "prettiness" affixed to it, but it's a pornographic kind of prettiness. These men who have gone over toward Rome have fallen for an ecclesiastical pornography.

    The one true church that we all know exists will continue to have problems. There are some things we'll all be discussing -- and not agreeing on -- till Jesus comes and sets us all straight.

    But the attraction of Rome is very much akin to the attraction to pornography. Rome is a parasite on the church. Calvin was straight about the papacy having sullied every good gift that God has given to us.

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your continued good work. I wish I could keep up but time is a scarce commodity so I pray for your continued work.

    The issues of the bishops in the Catholic Church is fascinating. I don’t know if you had a chance to read my review of (Bireley, Robert S.J.:"Refashioning Catholicism 1450-1700” but one of the highlights of that work is the history of the antagonism between the bishops and Rome. Two issues Trent was forced to deal with was “pluralism”, the holding by one man of several benifices, or bishoprics; a second was the abuse of absentee bishops. This necessitated the rise in influence of the Friars as they worked in the parishes independently of the local bishop – absent or not.

    And, of more interest, the pope often did not support the local bishops in these conflicts but rather itinerant friars.

    One of the more fascinating discussions came from the Spanish church of that era. It maintained that if the local bishop was an office instituted by Christ, then it existed by Divine Right. If it did not exist in that manner, then the office was simply the result of historical development. In the former case, Rome had little or no authority over it; in the latter, the bishop was simply a local functionary of Rome.

    It seems that Fr. Buckley would favor the former.

    As for Trent, Fr. Bireley has this to say:

    “In the end-result the Council of Trent never did establish a Catholic position on the role of the papacy in the church or its relationship to the bishops…But the developments at the end of, and in the wake of, Trent made it possible for the papacy to seize the initiative and so to emerge more clearly than ever as victor over the bishops.”

    Of course, Trent was the context for Vatican I which took the latter position. And Vatican I was the context for Vatican II which took a position closer to the former.

    I don’t know by what right the guys at C2C can claim certainty in any case when their very ecclesiology is so very, very hazy.

    Keep up the good work, John.


    1. Thanks Constantine -- I knew you wee reading the Bireley work, but I hadn't seen your review. It's on my list of things to get. But you are right -- the relationship between popes and bishops has been in a state of flux, shall we say, probably since the beginning of the papacy in the fourth century.

      Hope you're keeping safe in your travels.