Friday, March 26, 2010

From Catholic to Democrat

Back when Bart Stupak was blocking the Federal funding of abortion, Catholic organizations were happy to claim him as one of their own and tout his Catholic credentials:

Bart Stupak: Catholic

Health Care Reform Passes: Catholic Democrat Bart Stupak Protects Life

Before the determined and courageous efforts of Congressman Bart Stupak, a Pro-Life Catholic Democrat whose name along with Republican Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania of the 16th District of Pennsylvania is on the now historic amendment, the legislation would have funded more abortions with tax dollars. The “Health Care Reform” legislation which passed last night as HR 3962 - by a vote in the House of Representatives by a vote of 220 – 215 - would have had a lethal effect, resulting in the intentional killing of potentially millions more of our first neighbors. Thank God for the courage and perseverance of faithful Catholic Democrat Bart Stupak!… Congressman Bart Stupak is a faithful Catholic and a Democrat from the first Congressional District of Michigan…Congressman Stupak is an example of how a faithful Catholic can be – indeed must be – morally and politically consistent and never compromise of the inviolable dignity of every human life [emphasis mine].§ion=Cathcom

But after he caved, a funny thing happened: He ceased to be a Catholic politician and suddenly became merely a Democrat:

Bart Stupak: Democrat

Bart Stupak: Yet Another Two-Faced Pro-Life (?) Democrat?

Very disappointing. Pro-life Democrats in Congress are already nearly extinct or an oxymoron, as it is. I was naive enough to think that Stupak had enough pro-life principles to actually not vote for the health care bill if it funded abortion [emphasis mine].

Now you’d never know that Stupak is Catholic. All at once that aspect of his identity disappears from view.

BTW, while Catholic bloggers are assailing him, what does his bishop have to say?

There ain't no rules here!

"There ain't no rules here, we're trying to accomplish something. . . .All this talk about rules. . . .When the deal goes down . . . we make 'em up as we go along."

Q: A final question: is there any statue of limitation for "delicta graviora"?

A: Here you touch upon what, in my view, is a sensitive point. In the past, that is before 1889, the statue of limitations was something unknown in canon law. For the most serious crimes, it was only with the 2001 "Motu Proprio" that a statute of limitations of ten years was introduced. In accordance with these norms in cases of sexual abuse, the ten years begin from the day on which the minor reaches the age of eighteen.

Here’s an institution that claims to be 2000 years old, indefectible, superintended by the Holy Spirit.

So why does it not have a consistent policy on clerical sex crimes? Surely the kinds of sex crimes which a priest is tempted to commit are both few and familiar. There’s nothing especially innovative about sexual immorality, is there? It’s not as if we’re discovering new-fangled types of sex crimes.

Where a priest is concerned, doesn’t it come down to fornication (with a woman), adultery (with a married women), and sodomy?

So why, after 2000 years, is the “one true church” still is the process of hammering out a consistent and principled policy?

Isn’t this exactly how you’d expect a merely human institution to behave? There ain’t no rules here! We make ‘em up as we go along!

Guilty silence

“In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities.”

Notice, under this principle, that any sex crime which a priest might admit to his confessor is automatically exempt from criminal referral. Given the “seal of the Confessional,” not only does the confessor have no duty to report a sex crime by a fellow priest to the civil authorities, but he has a duty not to report such a crime to the civil authorities.

Just following orders

Catholic epologists have been attempting to let Benedict XVI off the hook by claiming that he didn’t have the authority to prosecute cases of priestly abuse. Some commenters have challenged the factually accuracy of that claim.

But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that he didn’t have the authority to take direct action. Does that absolve him?

First of all, there’s an elementary difference between moral responsibility and professional responsibility. Even if a certain duty is no part of your job description, that doesn’t automatically mean it ceases to be a moral duty.

Suppose a banker knows that higher-ups are defrauding their investors. The first thing he ought to do is notify the internal division of the bank that’s responsible for handling these cases.

But suppose, having done that, he sees the abuse continue apace. Does that absolve himself of further responsibility? Is he entitled to remain silent? No.

Several courses of action are available. He could become an anonymous source for a news outlet. Or he could become a confidential informant for the police or FBI. Or he could resign, keep copies of the incriminating evidence, then become a public whistleblower.

But Catholic epologists act as if Ratzinger’s ethical obligations begin and end with what is written down in canon law. As if Vatican policy demarcates his moral obligations.

But what if Vatican policy is the problem? What then? Is it sufficient to say, “I was just following orders” and leave it at that?

Let’s also keep in mind two other things about Ratzinger. As I recall, he had weekly meetings with his predecessor (John-Paul II) for 24 years. Surely he had ample opportunity to raise these issues directly with the pontiff.

And, of course, Ratzinger has been the pope for five years now. What priests and bishops have been defrocked? What priests and bishops have been excommunicated? What priests and bishops have been referred to the civil authorities for prosecution?

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 1): Introduction
The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 2): Irenaeus
The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 3): An Overview Of Augustine On Authority
The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 4): Augustine On Tradition And The Papacy
The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 5): Augustine On Councils
The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 6): Conciliarism

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 6): Conciliarism

In an earlier response to Dave Armstrong, I cited a recent book by the Roman Catholic scholar Joseph Kelly, in which he presents a view of church history significantly different than Dave's. What I want to do here is quote some of Kelly's comments on an issue related to medieval Western ecclesiology. People often think of post-patristic and Western ecclesiology as more unified and consistent than it actually was. Even as late as the post-patristic medieval era, and even in the West, such a foundational element of Roman Catholic ecclesiology as the papacy was widely questioned and sometimes rejected.

Kelly writes:

Codes of law always allow for all sorts of possibilities, no matter how seemingly minute or absurd or unlikely. In the early thirteenth century canon lawyers had speculated about what to do if a pope fell into heresy. Slowly but surely some canon lawyers constructed the view that the pope does not have absolute rule over the church because the power of the church is greater than his. They speculated that the ultimate power in the church resided in the ecumenical council. These few sentences summarize decades of very complex developments. The superiority of the council to the pope is the conciliar theory; its practical application is conciliarism. (The Ecumenical Councils Of The Catholic Church [Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2009], p. 107)

Conciliarism sometimes had popular support in the West:

Pushed by the rulers and the nobility [during the Great Schism], in 1409 the cardinals of both popes largely deserted them and met in the Italian city of Pisa, where they proclaimed the need to go above the popes' heads to a general council, citing the consequences of the schism for this clear violation of canon law. With some major exceptions (Germany, the Spanish kingdoms) Catholic Europe supported them....

Many in Catholic Europe, both clerical and lay, believed that the papacy would never reform itself and that only a council could truly reform the church....

The belief in the curative powers of a reforming council never died out until the Reformation....

Conciliarist traditions ran strong in northern Europe. (pp. 107, 121, 123)

There were multiple medieval councils that claimed authority over the papacy, which is a contradiction of modern Catholic ecclesiology. Kelly writes:

This [the teaching of the ecumenical Council of Constance] is conciliarism at its most basic. The council asserts that it meets under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that it represents the Catholic Church and thus has the supreme authority in the church, and that its authority derives from Christ and even the popes must obey the council....

But no scholar doubts that Constance meant what it said because in 1417, before choosing a new pope, the council passed a second monumental decree, Frequens, which asserted that the new pope must call another council five years after Constance closes, then another one seven years after that, and then a council every ten years so that there would be, in effect, a council in every pontificate. The leaders of Constance truly wished to change the governmental structure of the church....

Many Catholics, including rulers and bishops, favored conciliarism, and so Martin [Pope Martin V] obliged and obeyed the decree. (pp. 111, 114)

He also discusses the conciliarism of the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence-Rome (pp. 114-119). He notes that the cardinal chosen by Pope Eugenius IV to open the council and preside over it was himself a conciliarist (p. 114). Even as late as the Council of Trent, the "specter of conciliarism" was still on the minds of the Catholic leadership, and a revival of conciliarism at Trent was feared when Pope Pius IV seemed to be nearing death (p. 145).

What's the significance of medieval conciliarism?

For one thing, it undermines the popular Catholic appeal to pre-Reformation unity. The sort of diversity of belief I've outlined in this post and in this series is much different than the picture that's often painted by modern Catholics.

Secondly, the conciliar and papal support for conciliarism is problematic for Catholic authority claims.

Third, the widespread doubt about something as simple and foundational as papal authority, as late as the post-patristic medieval era and even in the West, illustrates a point I made when responding to Dave Armstrong earlier this year. Scripture has better evidence supporting it, and has been more widely accepted, than Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Parable of the Good Anabaptist


“It is obvious that Cardinal Ratzinger had no authority to defrock anyone, nor was that his area of authority. He was the head of the CDF, which deals with doctrine, not canon Law or the canonical defrocking of priests. The Apostolica Signitura is usually responsible for those issues.”

And Jesus answering said, A certain five-year-old went wandering onto the highway betwixt Jerusalem and Jericho.

And by chance there drove by a certain pontiff that way: and when he saw him, continued on his way–saying to himself, That’s not my department. The Apostolica Signitura is usually responsible for those issues.

And likewise a cardinal, when he drove by, saw the child, but continued on his way, saying to himself, I don’t believe that contingency is covered under canon law.

And likewise an archbishop, when he drove by, and saw the child, continued on his way, saying to himself, That’s below my pay grade.

But a certain Anabaptist, as he was driving along, came to where the five-year-old was: and when he saw him, he stopped, got out of the car, and carried the boy out of harm’s way.

Which now of these four, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto the imperiled child?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys

Yet another example of Catholic corruption:
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest [Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy] who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.
Click here to read the rest of the article.

HT: John Bugay.

Easter Issues

Last year, I put up a post with some links to Easter resources (articles on the resurrection, reviews of debates on the resurrection, Steve Hays' e-book on the resurrection, an article about whether it's acceptable for Christians to celebrate such holidays, etc.). You can search the Triablogue archives to find more material we've written since then. Below are several examples.

Here's an article I wrote about the common skeptical objection that if Jesus rose from the dead, God should have provided more evidence for it. I wrote an article on some neglected evidence relevant to Paul's conversion after seeing the risen Christ. Here's my review of the second resurrection debate between Mike Licona and Bart Ehrman. In an article here, I argue for the strength of the evidence for Jesus' resurrection without the empty tomb. Steve Hays wrote about the guard at the tomb here, and I added a post of my own in the comments section. Steve Hays wrote about the spiritual body referred to in 1 Corinthians 15. There are other relevant articles as well in the archives.

In one of my articles last year, I mentioned a resource that some of you might be interested in. Timothy and Lydia McGrew have written an article arguing for the probability of Jesus' resurrection using Bayes' Theorem.

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 5): Augustine On Councils

Later in the passage in Augustine I've been discussing, he writes:

"But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity? Wherefore the holy Cyprian, whose dignity is only increased by his humility, who so loved the pattern set by Peter as to use the words, 'Giving us thereby a pattern of concord and patience, that we should not pertinaciously love our own opinions, but should rather account as our own any true and rightful suggestions of our brethren and colleagues, for the common health and good,' — he, I say, abundantly shows that he was most willing to correct his own opinion, if any one should prove to him that it is as certain that the baptism of Christ can be given by those who have strayed from the fold, as that it could not be lost when they strayed; on which subject we have already said much. Nor should we ourselves venture to assert anything of the kind, were we not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, to which he himself would unquestionably have yielded, if at that time the truth of this question had been placed beyond dispute by the investigation and decree of a plenary Council." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:3-4)

What are we to make of Augustine's comments, in which he speaks so highly of scripture, and refers to ecumenical councils correcting one another, yet also refers to how an issue can be "placed beyond dispute" by ecumenical councils? The Catholic patristic scholar Robert Eno saw some inconsistencies with Catholicism in this passage, but didn't think Augustine was denying the infallibility of ecumenical councils:

"Catholics, saying that ecumenical councils are infallible, conclude that Augustine, whatever he might have been talking about, could not have meant ecumenical councils. Protestants say: he was talking about ecumenical councils and taught that they could err....Were they [ecumenical councils] doctrinally authoritative in some unerring way? Ultimately, as Sieben concludes, this must remain an open question. Personally I lean to the view that Augustine believed that these universal councils did not err. He believed that Scripture was inerrant and that the universal Church taught the truth. The thrust of Augustine’s thinking points to support for the authority of these councils, under Scripture, to make decisions. Could Augustine envisage such a council making a doctrinal decision contrary to Scripture? It seems unlikely but it must be admitted that he did not say that explicitly....If a plenary council is the ultimate resort for decision making, it is not immediately certain whether he believed such a council capable of error in the strict sense or not. Even the decisions of such councils were subject in the long run to acceptance by the Church as the only means of judging the authority of one council over another." ("Doctrinal Authority In Saint Augustine", Augustinian Studies, Vol. 12 - 1981, pp. 163-164, 172)

I agree with Eno that we don't have much to go by, but I think the evidence we do have leans in the opposite direction of what he suggests. Before I explain why, though, here are some of Dave Armstrong's comments on the subject:

The truth of a question is "placed beyond dispute" by a council? How is that different from infallibility? I don't see any distinction. And this occurs in the passage that Jason brings out supposedly in support of a position supposedly "inconsistent with a Catholic or Orthodox view," as he claims. Later in this same chapter he refers to a doctrinal matter "brought to the full illumination and authoritative decision of a plenary Council."

In a later response to David Waltz, Dave wrote:

The Augustine quote I dealt with in my replies to Jason Engwer. My explanation was that he meant by "correct" not "correct what was dead wrong in earlier councils," but rather, "develop the thought of earlier councils." I suspect that if we were to examine whatever his word in Latin was for "correct" it would allow such an interpretation....

Even in English, "correct" can have such a meaning. Merriam-Webster online gives as a third definition for "correct":

"to alter or adjust so as to bring to some standard or required condition "...

We see that the various related Latin words that start with "emend" can carry the developmental meaning I have posited: "amendment," "improvement," "purifying," "perfect," etc.

Moral of the story: don't hang your argument on one word....

Moreover, I made two additional arguments: from the following context ("things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid") that strongly suggests development rather than contradiction; and St. Augustine's espousal of doctrinal development elsewhere....

What he states in the present citation under consideration ("correct" / Latin, emendari) is quite similar to what he wrote about development in other places.

I want to make several points:

- I wouldn't judge the passage by one word ("corrected").

- However, as far as that one word is concerned, our focus should be on its probable meaning, not a possible one. A development can be referred to as a correction, but that isn't the most natural reading of the term. The translators of Augustine could have chosen other terms that would have expressed the concept of development more effectively.

- I've read a few different English translations of the passage, and all of them, including the one Dave is using, render the Latin term with the English word "corrected".

- In the translation Dave is using, the term "corrected" is used twice just before the reference to ecumenical councils and twice just after. All four times, the term is used in reference to error, not development. The first two (in 2:1) and the fourth (in 2:4) refer to Paul's correction of Peter in Galatians 2. The third (in 2:4) refers to Cyprian's willingness to be corrected in the sense of being shown that his view of baptism was false. At least in the English translation Dave is using, the surrounding uses of the same term suggest correction in relation to error, not development.

- Augustine mentions that scripture is free of error. Then he refers to the fallibility of the writings of bishops. After that, he refers to the fallibility of local councils. He then says that "even" ecumenical councils can be corrected. If the previous two post-Biblical sources are being referred to as capable of error, and Augustine then says that "even" ecumenical councils can be "corrected", doesn't the context leading up to that comment suggest that he's extending the fallibility of bishops and local councils "even" to ecumenical councils?

- Does Dave agree that the writings of Roman bishops are fallible? Sometimes, but not always. He would have to add a qualifier to Augustine's assessment of bishops, a qualifier that Augustine doesn't suggest.

- As Robert Eno mentioned in my citation of him earlier in this series, Augustine didn't believe in the same ecumenical councils Catholicism believes in. The passage of Augustine currently under consideration refers to earlier ecumenical councils (plural) and later ones (plural). And it refers to corrections that "often" occur. Augustine was writing before what's commonly considered the third ecumenical council (Ephesus). The previous two councils, Nicaea and First Constantinople, don't explain Augustine's language well. It's likely that Augustine is defining ecumenical councils differently than Roman Catholics do. At a minimum, he included more in the category of ecumenical councils than a Catholic would.

- He refers to ecumenical councils correcting one another without arrogance, envious hatred, etc. Why would such things be mentioned if all that's being referred to is development without contradiction? If the councils are correcting one another in relation to error, then the references to arrogance, envy, and such make more sense.

- Augustine's next sentence begins with "Wherefore", then refers to Cyprian's willingness to be corrected in relation to error, not in the sense of development. Dave's interpretation would have Augustine giving multiple examples of correction in relation to error (bishops, local councils), only to then refer to correction without error (ecumenical councils), then return to correction in relation to error (Cyprian). It's more likely that Augustine was consistently referring to correction in relation to error throughout.

- Augustine would sometimes make comments such as:

"there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself." (Reply To Faustus The Manichaean, 11:5)

He places scripture above "all" later works, making scripture's authority "peculiar to itself". I agree with Robert Eno that Augustine was inconsistent on issues of authority. But passages like the one above suggest that a belief in the fallibility of post-Biblical ecumenical councils would be consistent with what Augustine sometimes argued in other places. It's not as though the passage Dave is responding to is the only one that suggests such a conclusion. There's precedent for my conclusion elsewhere in Augustine.

- As Eno mentions, Augustine's opponents were citing conciliar authority against him, so it would have been in his interest to mention the fallibility of such sources, even ecumenical councils:

"He also scorned the overblown language of the [Donatist] council [of Bagai], especially its claim to speak with 'infallible voice' (ore veridico), a phrase he repeated constantly, as well as its 'divine inspiration.' He refused to take such councils seriously and advised Donatist correspondents that they should not be concerned with them either. If the number of 310 bishops at Bagai impressed anyone, that person should consider the size of the world-wide episcopate of the Catholica." ("Doctrinal Authority In Saint Augustine", Augustinian Studies, Vol. 12 - 1981, p. 160)

- On the other hand, Dave makes the significant point that Augustine refers to ecumenical councils putting things "beyond dispute". If comments like the "beyond dispute" reference were all we had to go by, Dave's position would make sense. But other evidence, like what I've outlined above, has to be explained as well.

What did Augustine mean when he referred to placing matters beyond dispute through ecumenical councils? That sort of language could be used to refer to something infallible, as Dave is arguing. But we sometimes use that type of language to refer to something highly probable or widely agreed upon, even if it's not considered infallible. Elsewhere in his writings, Augustine uses "beyond dispute" in that manner (Letter 65:1; Answer To Petilian The Donatist, 3:22). Augustine often refers to matters being "beyond dispute", "settled", etc. without any authority Catholics would consider infallible. Just after his reference to an ecumenical council placing a matter beyond dispute, he comments, regarding Cyprian, "so holy and peaceful a soul would have been most ready to assent to the arguments of any single person who could prove to him the truth" (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:4). Remember, in the previous section Augustine had referred to how a fallible individual bishop is to submit to the authority of a fallible group of bishops or a fallible regional council. Infallibility isn't needed in order for submission to occur or for submission to be appropriate. Augustine's comment that Cyprian would submit to an ecumenical council, even accompanied by his "beyond dispute" comment that follows, can reasonably be taken as a reference to submission to a source that's highly regarded, but fallible.

Later in the same work, Augustine appeals to not only an ecumenical council, but also a lesser council:

"By this witness he gives sufficient proof how much more ready he would have been to bear his testimony, had any Council been held to discuss this matter which either embraced the whole Church, or at least represented our brethren beyond the sea." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:9)

It seems that Augustine is appealing to the probable correctness of widespread belief represented in a council, not conciliar infallibility.

Later in the same section I just quoted, Augustine offers a practical justification for his reasoning:

"For both later Councils are preferred among later generations to those of earlier date; and the whole is always, with good reason, looked upon as superior to the parts." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:9)

Augustine does speak highly of ecumenical councils, and he refers at times to how God works through such councils. But we often make such comments about fallible sources. We refer to how God spoke to us through a sermon, how God worked in our lives through the efforts of a friend, etc. Near the close of his work under consideration here, Augustine refers to how God is speaking through that work (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 7:54), even though he didn't consider it infallible.

Even if we were to conclude that Augustine wasn't referring to the fallibility of ecumenical councils in the passage under consideration, the fact would remain that the passage does support an anti-papal ecclesiology and seems to define ecumenical councils differently than Catholicism does. Contrast Dave's ecclesiology with Augustine's:

- Dave believes that the bishop of Rome has universal jurisdiction. Augustine believed that no bishop has universal jurisdiction.

- Dave believes that there were two ecumenical councils prior to when Augustine wrote. Augustine refers to an ecumenical council that can't be identified as either of those two Dave believes in, and Augustine speaks of ecumenical councils elsewhere in a manner that suggests there had been more than two of them. (Even under the dubious assumption that the events of Acts 15 constitute a third ecumenical council prior to that time, Augustine's language is most naturally taken to refer to more than three as well, not just more than two. And we would still have Augustine referring to a council that can't be identified as the one of Acts 15, Nicaea, or First Constantinople.)

- Dave believes that ecumenical councils are infallible. Augustine believed that they're fallible.

- Dave doesn't think that concepts like Augustine's view of predestination, his view of infant salvation, and his view of whether Mary was immaculately conceived are part of the catholic faith. Augustine believed that the former two were part of the catholic faith, and he believed that the third was consistent with that faith. In other words, the doctrinal content of Dave's notion of the catholic faith differs from, and sometimes contradicts, Augustine's.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Inflated Self-Comparison to King David"


John Calvin's Inflated Self-Comparison to King David

Double Dave:

I rather like that. I love to play David over against a “Goliath.”

Purge the evil from among you!

1 Corinthians 5:6-13

6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

Catholics act as though it matters not how immoral their church becomes as long is their church is pure in doctrine. So long as their church condemns immorality on paper, the fact that it tolerates or even facilitates immorality in practice can never cast doubt on the claims of Rome.

Let’s compare this attitude with Paul’s ecclesiology. Here is what a Catholic scholar has to say about 1 Cor 5:1-13:

“The motivation for the remedy that Paul is applying to this situation in the Corinthian community is double: (a) eschatological: in view of judgment on the Day of the Lord (5:5); and (b) Christological: expressed in another metaphor, this time drawn from the baking of bread and the annual celebration of Passover. In the making of bread, a bit of leaven ferments the whole batch of dough. Immorality and other evil conduct have contaminated the community like ‘old leaven,’ because they have produced their evil effects in its corporate life. As Jews used to clear out their houses on the eve of Passover all leavened products, so Corinthian Christians must now clear out of their midst the ‘old leaven,’ that they may celebrate the Christian Passover, and also that they may become ‘unleavened,’” J. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians (Yale (2008), 230.

“The passage deals with what later came to be called ‘excommunication,’ for Paul recommends not only that ‘the one who has done this should be removed from your midst’ (v2c; cf. v13b), but that Corinthian Christians should not associate with immoral fellow Christians (vv9-11)…The roots of such exclusion are found in the OT…The reason for the exclusion was the corporate responsibility of Israel, if the wrongdoer were not cut off, as in the prayer of Moses and Aaron in Num 16:22, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, (if) one man’s sins, will you be enraged against the whole congregation?’” ibid. 231.

“[v5] In the long run, Paul is not so much concerned about the sin of the individual as he is about the smugness of community members in tolerating such a wrongdoer among them, which jeopardizes their status in God’s sight and will not be in their interest on the Day of the Lord; hence his recommendation of the exclusion of all that is immoral,” ibid. 240.

“[vv6-7] Paul’s rhetorical question quotes a common popular proverb [‘A little leaven ferments the whole batch of dough’], as also in Gal 5:9. The proverb suggests that it takes only one small instance of improper sexual conduct to contaminate the whole community; cf. the proverb cited in 15:33, ‘Bad company corrupts good habits.’ Christians of Roman Corinth are to clear out from their midst that which has made it impossible for them to be celebrating the new Passover. One corrupt member in their midst is enough to make the whole community unworthy,’” ibid. 240.

“[v13] Paul concludes this discussion of sexual immorality with a modified quotation of Deut 17:7…Thus, Paul uses the OT to bolster up his judgment already expressed in vv2c,5a,11a above, but not so bluntly as here. The Christian community is obliged to preserve its sanctity by excluding the wrongdoer from its mist, which is ‘the main point of the passage,’” ibid. 244-45.

By contrast, not only has the Roman hierarchy make no concerted effort to eradicate immorality from the priesthood, it has made a concerted effort to conceal and thereby propagate and perpetuate such immorality.

Rotten apples

One Catholic troll I’ve been responding to tries to deflect attention away from official malfeasance in the church of Rome by claiming that if I condemn the church of Rome on that score, then I should be prepared to condemn a Protestant denomination or some other organization (e.g. the BSA) if it is guilty of the same corruption.

What is odd about this argument is the assumption that I’m unwilling to call his bluff. But as a Protestant I have no hesitation to condemn or shun a Protestant denomination which I think is hopelessly corrupt or compromised. Indeed, to cite a few examples: CRC, PCUSA, ECUSA, ELCA.

I, as a Protestant, don’t regard any one denomination as the one true church. As such, no denomination claims my unconditional allegiance. As such, I can disassociate myself from corrupt ecclesiastical institutions–assuming I was ever associated with them in the first place.

Hence, it’s quite shortsighted for a Catholic epologist to try this tactic. For it will ricochet on contact.

By contrast, Catholics do regard their own denomination as the one true church. They do swear their unconditional fealty to the church of Rome. As such, no matter how vile their denomination may become (or has become), they must show it their unswerving loyalty.

By the same token, it won’t do for Catholics to drive a segregate the institutional church from a few rotten apples. For even if the rotten apples were few, they fall from the only true apple tree. The rotten fruit of a rotten tree. So Catholics can’t go from tree to tree and pick the good apples while leaving the rotten apples. For it all comes from the same tree.

The mercy of the wicked is cruel

Lawrence said...

As a Republican I'm not against what most people want Obama’s health care program to do, which is to give more people and especially poor people access to quality health care. But from an efficacy and practicality point of view and everything I view about it predicts failure.

We have a real problem with not enough medical resources and personnel to care for our needs. But Obama's program doesn't increase the medical care resources available, it just makes limited resources more accessible. (The government can force people to buy insurance but they can't force people to become doctors.)

In this the program attacks the wrong problem. We don't need more insurance to afford medical care. We need affordable medical care that doesn't require more insurance. We also need more medical care resources. This program doesn't make actual medical care cheaper, it doesn't increase available medical resources, and it doesn't increase incentive for more people to become doctors. The only thing this program does is give the government more control over telling doctors how to practice medicine, which is a significant disincentive to being a doctor.

The other medical problem is it doesn't help pharmaceutical companies generate the cash needed for researching new medical discoveries. The less money a drug company makes the less money goes into research. Since U.S. drug companies do 90% of the medical research globally, we end up footing the bill through higher drug costs. So, where will the money come from for new medical discoveries? Taxes? Government controlled insurance isn't going to support drug company profit margins. In this case, all we have done is shift the cost of drug research from private industry's pocket to the public tax payer's pocket.


When it comes to limited medical resources being applied to a significantly increased patient list, who decides the priorities of treatment among those patients? This program takes that decision out of the hands of doctors and patients, and parents, and puts it in the hands of government bureaucrats. And at this point the government can't magically make more medical resource in the same way they can magically print more money, the only real control government has at this point is to ration existing resources.

Tragically, as I noted before, the real problem we have in context of limited medical resources isn't addressed by this program. What it does provide incentive for is expanding lower quality medical care from a less trained and less skilled medical community who currently function at the cheaper end of the medical profession. And this lower end of the profession can't deal with the more exotic problems faced by many people who need true medical specialists and specialized care.


From a constitutional perspective this is one more step toward governmental tyranny. Our founding fathers fought a revolution against this very type of government control over society, and now we as a nation have effectively given a measure of that tyrannical control back to our government. From a federalist perspective this is a very dark thing for the gummint to force a system that takes away our rights to choose our own medical care, and dictates to doctors how we practice medicine.

Consider that the current medical insurance industry has to operate according to strict government rules. The government says the companies are failing, and the government is now taking over control of the insurance. So, if private industry can't be successful in following the government's rules, what makes us think that the government can be any more successful under its own rules?

We are placing an awful lot of faith in our government bureaucrats and politicians to be successful at something we are accusing our medical professionals and private business professionals of failing at.

3/24/2010 2:00 PM


I'm reposting some comments I recently left at two different blogs (Between Two Worlds, First Things: Evangel:


steve hays March 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm
A nonbinding executive order–which is trumped by judicial precedent.

Moral of the story, the Democrat party is a total loss. “Pro-life Democrat” is oxymoronic in practice. Same thing with the “conservative” Blue Dog Democrats. They all march in lock-step with the liberals.

steve hays March 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

“I guess God’s not sovereign anymore… Too bad, huh?”

Why did you bother to post a comment? Does this mean you don’t think God is sovereign anymore?

steve hays March 22, 2010 at 8:10 am
One Salient Oversight:

“As far as health care and Christians are concerned, the practice of the state taking a person’s wealth and redistributing it to the poor and punishing those who refuse can be found in Deuteronomy 24.18-22. This was when God required farmers to leave some of their produce behind so that the poor could ‘glean’ what they could from it. This command was seen in practice during the book of Ruth. You need to understand – this was NOT charity. It was a COMMAND from God. The verses in Deuteronomy that I have pointed to when taken in context quite clearly show that God expected Israel to obey his commands and those who did not were punished by the legal system that God set up (eg Deut 24.7).”


i) When passages like this refer to “aliens,” the term denotes legal immigrants.

ii) In addition: “It is noteworthy that with this statute the landowners did not harvest the entirety of their fields or groves and give a certain percentage to the local authorities or religious officials to redistribute. Rather those who qualified for this assistance actually had to go out into the fields or climb trees and work for their food,” J. Hoffmeier, The Immigration Crisis (Crossway 2009), 87.


“Can someone please help me understand how the pro-life democrat is a myth?”

Because they ally themselves with liberal Democrats who support abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, &c.

“That seems to be a wide sweeping generalization that is quite frankly untrue.”

Your sweeping denial is frankly untrue.

“However, their pro-life position does not just stop at abortion, it includes the sanctity of human life with regards to war, to poverty. to the orphan, to adoption, to the alien etc…”

As if conservative Christians ignore these issues.

steve hays March 24, 2010 at 8:57 am

“1) My statement regarding Christian democrats that I know having a robust pro-life stance which includes the sanctity of life with regards to war, to poverty, to the orphan, to adoption, and to the alien was simply to point out that it is untrue to say that a pro-life democrat is a myth.”

i) “Prolife” is an idiomatic label that refers to one’s position on abortion.

ii) I judge “prolife Democrats” by their actions, not their stump speech.

“I am currently working on a campaign for a pro-life democrat who is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.”

i) Well, Stupak seemed to fill the bill until he betrayed the cause at the last minute.

ii) There’s not much a “prolife democrat” can do in a party dominated by abortionists. It’s not the individual position that matters, but having a working majority. If you’re consistently outvoted, then you’re in the wrong party.

“As far as your statement ‘as if conservative Christians ignore these issues’ I must say that I never said conservative Christians do ignore these issues. That being said I would say that in general the republican party has not been as responsive to these issues as the democratic party.”

Democrats aren’t genuinely responsive to these issues. They have lots of responsive rhetoric, but their policies are counterproductive.

“While I do not think that all of the social welfare programs are implemented in the best possible fashion, it is much easier to extend grace to a failed program that has the right intention behind it.”

Democrats don’t care about solutions, just symbolism.

“I have heard too many conservative talk show hosts wine and complain that government is taking their money away to help the poor and marginalized with social welfare programs and yet I do not see a robust solution being offered. In light of this, I would have to say that with regards to these social issues the democratic party has come closer to expressing the heart of God in these areas.”

You’re deceived by feel-good rhetoric. Moreover, the “poor” are not all of a kind. The Bible distinguishes between those who are poor through not fault of their own and those who are poor due to their reckless lifestyle choices.

“Also, the response of the republican party to war has been absolutely heinous and far from capturing the heart of God. ”

What I find “absolutely heinous” is Obama’s policy of attacking those who defend us while defending those who attack us.

“There has been to much a sense of superiority and pride that has been communicated.”

Are you including yourself in that indictment?

“I am not saying the democratic response is necessary the right one, but please Steve be fair in the discussions. There is already too much polarity in government today and to say flippant things like ‘the myth of the pro-life democrat’ only adds to the discord. It would be more accurate and helpful to say that you are disappointed by the response of those democrats who claim to be pro-life that are currently in congress, than to say that there is a myth to being a pro-life democrat.”

I’m not disappointed by Democrats. They’re behaving exactly as I’d expect, given their party affiliation.

And there’s nothing “flippant” in my statement. Democrats are what Democrats do.

steve hays
March 23rd, 2010 | 8:06 am | #7
Steve Dawson

“Greed, Gluttony,Avarice come to mind. I don’t see too many churches lining up to help those who have had medical problems and need financial help. When was the last time that a church offered to cover the cost of a major medical procedure because the patient had lost their job and hence their insurance?”

When was the last time you offered to pay for somebody’s costly medical procedure?

The only money churches have is from donations by parishioners, most of whom are middle-class or working-class wage-earners, and many of whom are retirees on fixed incomes.

Of course, if the tax burden were lower, that would free up more disposable income to donate to Christian charity. Ever bother to consider that?

And it’s well-known that, despite the tax burden, Christians are far more generous with their disposable income than unbelievers.

steve hays
March 24th, 2010 | 8:40 am | #12
Steve Dawson

“I’d love to be able to sponsor a patient. Unfortunately, my own health care costs (including premiums) last year ran about $10,000. That for me, is more than I pay in property and income tax put together. That’s why we need to do something about health care and why Collin’s list of what’s wrong with government is so hokey. If churches actually stepped up to the plate (there are some who could afford NOT to build excessive facilities) then maybe the government wouldn’t have to step in.”

You seem to think the average church has deep pockets. Where did you get that idea?

You also disregard the issue of cost containment, viz. tort reform, interstate competition, customized health care plans (where you can buy the coverage you want rather than a state mandated package).

Obamacare will increase the cost of healthcare, not decrease the cost of healthcare.

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 4): Augustine On Tradition And The Papacy

Some of what Augustine defined as catholic tradition is inconsistent with the tradition of Roman Catholicism. For example, he claims that the necessity of baptism for infant salvation is part of the Christian faith (On The Soul And Its Origin, 2:17). In contrast, Catholicism encourages people to "entrust them [unbaptized children] to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them" and "hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism" (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1261). Augustine approvingly quotes Ambrose's comments to the effect that Jesus is the only immaculately conceived human, and he writes that Ambrose's view is consistent with "the catholic faith" (On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:47-48). In contrast, Catholicism claims that Mary's immaculate conception is part of the faith always held by the church. Catholics often claim to agree with Augustine's principles of church authority, yet they reject some of the conclusions he arrived at through the application of those principles.

As the Catholic patristic scholar Robert Eno noted in his comments I quoted in my last post, Augustine contradicted Catholicism by placing the authority of ecumenical councils above that of Roman bishops. Yet, Dave Armstrong writes:

Rather than cite the numerous Augustine utterances concerning Roman primacy, J. N. D. Kelly's assessment will suffice for our purposes:

It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome.

(Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised edition of 1978, 412-413)

Here's what Kelly goes on to say, several pages later:

"At the same time there is no evidence that he was prepared to ascribe to the bishop of Rome, in his capacity as successor of St. Peter, a sovereign and infallible doctrinal magisterium. For example, when in his controversy with Julian of Eclanum he appealed to Innocent, his view was that the Pope was only the mouthpiece of truths which the Roman church had held from ancient times in harmony with other Catholic churches. Nor was he willing, in practical matters, to surrender one jot of the disciplinary independence of the African church which Cyprian had defended so stoutly in his day. The truth is that the doctrine of the Roman primacy played only a minor role in his ecclesiology, as also in his personal religious thinking." (Early Christian Doctrines [New York: Continuum, 2003], p. 419)

Kelly compares Augustine's view to Cyprian's, something I've also done. In my 2008 article Dave was responding to, I cited a passage in Augustine (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:2-4) that's inconsistent with Roman Catholic ecclesiology. In that passage, Augustine gives his approval to one of Cyprian's anti-papal comments:

"For no one of us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or, by tyrannical terror, forces his colleagues to a necessity of obeying, inasmuch as every bishop, in the free use of his liberty and power, has the right of forming his own judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he can himself judge another. But we must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the power both of setting us in the government of His Church, and of judging of our acts therein." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:2)

Just after what I've quoted above, Augustine comments:

"Now let the proud and swelling necks of the heretics raise themselves, if they dare, against the holy humility of this address." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:3)

Here's how Dave responds:

The same contra-Catholic argument is made about St. Gregory the Great's denial of being a universal bishop (that has a perfectly orthodox Catholic explanation), but the sense appears to be the same in both cases: a bishop has jurisdiction in his own domain, and is not merely an agent of the pope. The same Gregory who eschewed the title "universal bishop" also made many explicit proclamations of papal supremacy. And this is true of St. Augustine as well.

Dave doesn't demonstrate that Cyprian was saying the same thing he attributes to Gregory the Great. Rather, he just asserts that the two were saying the same thing. The qualifications Dave refers to aren't present in Cyprian's comments, and we have no reason to conclude that Cyprian was responding to a denial that "a bishop has jurisdiction in his own domain". Rather, the comments Augustine cites from Cyprian come from the context of Cyprian's dispute with the Roman bishop Stephen over heretical baptism. Cyprian and his fellow North African bishops were asserting their independence from the bishop of Rome. They weren't just saying that they had local jurisdiction under the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop, as if their possession of local jurisdiction was in dispute. Rather, they were denying that there is any bishop of bishops. For there to be a bishop of bishops, you would need to have "bishops" to begin with. Nobody in the dispute was denying that the North African bishops had local authority as bishops. Rather, the issue was whether they were beneath the authority of the bishop of Rome. Cyprian denies that they were. That's a contradiction of the papacy, which is foundational to Roman Catholicism. Cyprian was addressing "a necessity of obeying" another bishop, not whether he had local authority while having to obey the bishop of Rome. If the issue under dispute is whether you have local authority while submitting to a higher authority you must obey, you don't address such a dispute by denying that you have to obey any other bishop. Dave's interpretation of Cyprian doesn't make sense, which probably explains why he says more about Gregory the Great than he does about what Cyprian wrote. Both Cyprian's words and his actions are most naturally interpreted in an anti-papal sense. Dave hasn't given us any reason to read his qualifications into the text.

See here for some examples of modern scholarship's affirmation of Cyprian's anti-papal view of church government. That article just linked includes a citation of J.N.D. Kelly, the source Dave cited above concerning Augustine. I also cite some Catholic scholars on the subject.

Just before the passage Dave is responding to, Augustine wrote:

"Wherefore, if Peter, on doing this, is corrected by his later colleague Paul [in Galatians 2], and is yet preserved by the bond of peace and unity till he is promoted to martyrdom, how much more readily and constantly should we prefer, either to the authority of a single bishop, or to the Council of a single province, the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church?" (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:1)

But Augustine's approval of Cyprian's anti-papal ecclesiology is just the beginning of the problems this section in Augustine poses for a Catholic. In my next post, I'll address the remainder of the passage and its implications for the claims of Roman Catholicism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Peter Pike has already replied to Reppert, leaving me with precious little to say. But I will pick up on a part of Reppert’s statement:

“But I'm just skeptical of these ‘socialism versus capitalism’ arguments. We socialize some things and we ‘capitalize’ some things. No one wants to privatize the public education system (though we may want the law to protect homeschoolers).”

I’m in favor of privatizing public education. So much for that example.

“No one wants to privatize the police department…”

Actually, I don’t see why state or local authorities couldn’t hire private security firms to do police work. For example, security guards are sometimes hired as campus police. To be sure, we’d need to change the laws to confer the same rights and responsibilities private police.

“…the fire department.”

Once again, what’s the antecedent objection to a private fire dept.? To take a real world example:

“…the interstate highway system.”

Given that private industry built the transcontinental railroad, I don’t see why private industry would be unable to build or maintain an interstate highway system.

I’d add that John Stossel has argued for the privatization of the highway system:!?page=full&comments=true

“...or the military.”

i) Actually, private armies are nothing new, and our own military contracts out some dangerous assignments to private firms.

ii) However, the military isn’t comparable to business. To some extent the armed forces need to be inefficient. By that I mean national security requires a generous margin for error. We can’t afford to underestimate our security needs. So a certain amount of duplication is required. We need plenty in reserve for whatever contingencies may arise.

iii) Moreover, a national defense is just that. So naturally we’re going to nationalize our national defense–especially for a continental nation-state like the US. That’s hardly comparable to state and local police.

A fish rots head first


(Waiting to see when idiots like Steve Hays is going to publically [sic] condemn the Boy Scouts as a corrupt organization...but I still do not have much confidence in his ability to make the necessary logical distinctions regarding the Church and her membership in her)

So Steve, when are you going to condemn the Boy Scouts as a corrupt organization? Or is it that your condemnations only extend to Catholics?

1.While we’re on the subject of idiocy, it’s unintentionally revealing that a Catholic epologist defends the Roman church by comparing his denomination to the BSA.

The BSA has been corrupted insofar as militant liberals have insisted that the BSA accept sodomite Scout leaders into its ranks. So, by Alexander’s own argument from analogy, the Roman church and the BSA have both been corrupted by homosexual leadership.

(BTW, I don’t know the degree to which that subversive effort has been successful.)

And why does a Catholic epologist happen to think I’d have a problem with that comparison, exactly? Wouldn’t his invidious comparison be problematic for the Catholic position rather than my Protestant alternative?

2.Moreover, I’m on record condemning the corruption of the BSA by the coercive social agenda of militant liberals. But a brain-donor like Alex can’t be bothered to check whether or not I had a public position on the BSA before he trotted out his comparison–as if I’d blink in the face of his example.

Indeed, I used to receive regular updates from Hans Zeiger about efforts by militant liberals to subvert the BSA.

And I still receive updates from the American Civil Rights Union, with whom he’s affiliated.

3.As to distinguishing the Church from her membership, we’re talking about corruption from the top down. Benedict XVI can’t plead plausible deniability. To the contrary, he’s been a central player in this entire scandal, as he and other “princes” of the “one true church” colluded to stonewall the legal authorities. As the saying goes, a fish rots head first.

"Cruel Logic"

Obama's police state

"Obamacare Bill Turns the IRS Into the Secret Police"

Passing the buck

Hans Küng on the pope's scandals.

The spotless bride of Christ

The Church is the Bride of Christ

796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.234 The Lord referred to himself as the "bridegroom."235 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride "betrothed" to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.236 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.237 "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her."238 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:239

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many . . . whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? "The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church."240 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."241 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union, . . . as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself "bride."242


797 "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church."243 "To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members."244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church "the temple of the living God":245

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the "Gift of God" has been entrusted. . . . In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent to God. . . . For where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.246

798 The Holy Spirit is "the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body."247 He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity:248 by God's Word "which is able to build you up";249 by Baptism, through which he forms Christ's Body;250 by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ's members; by "the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts";251 by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called "charisms"), by which he makes the faithful "fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church."252

Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret. The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week.

Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a 'clear obstruction of justice'.

The letter, 'concerning very grave sins', was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.

It spells out to bishops the church's position on a number of matters ranging from celebrating the eucharist with a non-Catholic to sexual abuse by a cleric 'with a minor below the age of 18 years'. Ratzinger's letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been 'perpetrated with a minor by a cleric'.

The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years.

It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.

'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

The letter is referred to in documents relating to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a church in Texas and Ratzinger on behalf of two alleged abuse victims. By sending the letter, lawyers acting for the alleged victims claim the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice.

Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the two alleged victims who discovered the letter, said: 'It speaks for itself. You have to ask: why do you not start the clock ticking until the kid turns 18? It's an obstruction of justice.'

Father John Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, gave an oral deposition under oath on 8 April last year in which he admitted to Shea that the letter extended the church's jurisdiction and control over sexual assault crimes.

The Ratzinger letter was co-signed by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone who gave an interview two years ago in which he hinted at the church's opposition to allowing outside agencies to investigate abuse claims.

'In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offence of paedophilia is unfounded,' Bertone said.

Shea criticised the order that abuse allegations should be investigated only in secret tribunals. 'They are imposing procedures and secrecy on these cases. If law enforcement agencies find out about the case, they can deal with it. But you can't investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10 the priest will get away with it,' Shea added.

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 3): An Overview Of Augustine On Authority

The Roman Catholic patristic scholar Robert Eno wrote the following about Augustine's view of authority in the Christian life. Notice how different Augustine's view is than that of a Roman Catholic. Notice how much Augustine's views were shaped by practical factors rather than something like an apostolic tradition always held by the church. Notice his inconsistencies. Not only do we not see the oak tree of Catholicism in Augustine, but we don't even see an acorn:

In Augustine’s view, there was a definite hierarchy of authorities. For the determination of teaching Holy Scripture was assigned the highest authority. After Scripture came the tradition and practice of the universal Church. Finally there were authoritative organs within the Church which possessed decision making powers. The most notable of these organs was the "plenary council of the universal Church." Further, within any theological process, reason played an important, though subordinate, role....

The decisions of councils usually make certain clear assertions or condemnations which enable the Church to settle questions for the time being. Yet, ultimately, the acceptance or rejection of a given council becomes clear only after a longer period of time when it can be determined whether the universal Church has in fact accepted, rejected or simply forgotten a council. The Augustinian hierarchy of authorities, while of practical use for the short run, still fails to satisfy entirely the search for certitude. Moreover, one need look no further than Augustine himself to find evidence of the difficulties involved in his own theory....

Councils are also subordinated to Scripture....

In other places, the bishop of Hippo noted that both Catholics and Donatists were in agreement on the supremacy of Scripture....

Something beyond clarity of text or ingenuity of expositor was needed to make the supremacy of Scripture a reality in practice. Amidst the clamor of conflicting traditions each claiming scriptural warrant for its doctrines, Augustine felt the need to introduce other factors in his search for certitude....

What should be stressed is Augustine’s contention that the practice of the universal Church should be followed, even lacking specific confirmation from Scripture. "… Wherever this tradition came from, we have to believe that the Church has grounds for accepting it, even though no express authority of the canonical Scriptures is quoted for it." In general, "anyone who fears going into error because of the obscurity of the question, has only to consult on this subject that very Church which Holy Scripture designates without ambiguity."...

Augustine’s argument was basically the same as the Vincentian canon, an appeal to the semper and ubique of Catholic teaching against the distortion of heretics....

While Augustine was happy to support these customs, at the same time he conducted campaigns against other practices which were also customary, e.g. the uproarious celebrations accompanying the martyrs’ feasts and heavy drinking in the cemeteries. This brings to the fore another criterion: Is the custom edifying or not? Augustine could ignore the justifications alleged for these celebrations, both the Roman example and the antiquity of the laetitiae, and proceed against them as fostering bad morals. He was also negative about practices he considered to be superstitious, authorized neither by Scripture nor by councils nor by the practice of the universal Church. Even good customs and practices might become excessive in number. Christianity, unlike Old Testament Judaism, should be a simple religion. "Even if it cannot be proved that they are contrary to faith, they still weigh down with servile burdens a religion which the mercy of God wished to be free, with only a few and very well-chosen sacramental obligations."...

This then is the outline of Augustine’s picture of how the Church’s doctrine is derived: 1) from Scripture, 2) Scripture as interpreted by the Church’s tradition, 3) and the latter as verified by the universal teaching and practice of the Church, universal in both a geographical and historical sense. Tradition is exemplified in the teaching of the great Fathers. All of this, however, can be of questionable usefulness in trying to solve a concrete dispute. What little is left of the writings of Augustine’s opponents such as Julian shows Augustine’s contentions being rebuffed in almost exactly the same fashion and even in the same terms. Appeals to Scripture and tradition frequently raised more problems than they solved. They did not resolve controversies but raised more questions. As we are aware today, the study of Scripture and past tradition bring forth conflicting data. Both parties in a dispute have some evidence on their side. The continuing uncertainty meant that Church authority would be looked to increasingly for concrete decisions....

But Augustine, it must be recalled, subordinated everything to Scripture, not only the writings of influential bishops like Cyprian but also the Church’s universal customs. ("Doctrinal Authority In Saint Augustine", Augustinian Studies, Vol. 12 - 1981, pp. 133-134, 138-139, 141, 144-145, 149, 158)

Eno points out that Augustine is often interpreted in different ways by different scholars on issues of authority:

Herein lies one of the perennial points of difference and debate among scholars. Which was more significant in Augustine’s mind: the authority of Scripture or the authority of the Church as a guide to the correct interpretation of Scripture? (p. 137)

Eno repeatedly makes comments such as the following about how Augustine's conclusions were shaped by practical factors:

Something beyond clarity of text or ingenuity of expositor was needed to make the supremacy of Scripture a reality in practice. Amidst the clamor of conflicting traditions each claiming scriptural warrant for its doctrines, Augustine felt the need to introduce other factors in his search for certitude....

The Catholica [mainstream Christianity] not only by its numerical and geographical preponderance but by the very fact of the rapidity of its spread, constituted its own argument for its authority. It had reached the highest pinnacle of authority....

Augustine asked why he should believe the Manichaean version of Christianity expounded by a friend. Rather he believed the Church’s report. "This I have come to believe on the ground of a report confirmed by its ubiquity, by its antiquity and by the general consent of mankind." His opponents the Manichaeans were few, confused and of recent origin. (p. 141)

The standards Augustine proposed were sometimes used against him:

The other pillar of Augustine’s consensus argument dealt with antiquity, the claim that the belief he supported went back to the beginning and that the belief he rejected was a novelty. This argument predominated in the battle with the Pelagians in which he claimed that not only the practice of infant baptism but its corollary, his view of original sin, were the primitive faith and practice of the Church. The Pelagian denial of them was the innovation. Again and again he repeated this theme. The Pelagians were trying to undermine the ancient faith of the Church. As time went on in the Pelagian controversy whether because of his age or frustration, his tone became more strident. Superlatives abounded as Augustine defended the most ancient and most firm rule of Catholic faith against the new and perverse teaching. At about the same time, concerning his views on predestination, Prosper wrote to the aged Augustine that opponents charged that his ideas involved interpretations of Paul’s Letter to the Romans that were completely untraditional....

Writing to Augustine at the end of his life concerning problems felt by Gallic Christians because of his teachings on predestination, Prosper and Hilary complained about the difficulties of their position as his local defenders. Since the opponents were bishops, Prosper felt himself at a decided disadvantage. Hilary complained that people were inconstant, changing their minds depending on the reputation of the "experts." (pp. 146, 155-156)

Eno notes another problem with one of Augustine's arguments elsewhere:

Augustine argued that Cyprian was not to be blamed for making a mistake in a complex question [heretical baptism]. He lived before a plenary or universal council could decide the question; if such a decision had been made during his lifetime, there is no doubt that he would have accepted it since he, unlike the Donatists, was a lover of the unity of the Church. Augustine’s exculpation of Cyprian seems a little strained when one realizes that Augustine believed that the general custom of the Church before Agrippinus was not to rebaptize. Given his views on the authority of the Church’s universal practice, one can wonder indeed as Augustine himself does at the beginning of the third book of the De Baptismo how Cyprian could have followed another practice, without so much as the judgment of a regional council to back him. (p. 161)

In other words, not only was Augustine sometimes inconsistent with his own standards, but other fathers, like Cyprian, disagreed with him.

Eno notes some similarities between some of Augustine's arguments and those of Irenaeus and Tertullian (p. 150), which means that what I said of those latter two men on those points in my series on apostolic succession is applicable to Augustine as well.

Some of the beliefs of Roman Catholicism were widely absent or contradicted for multiple generations of church history, and here's what Augustine believed about a consensus of the fathers:

But he had an interesting comparison which again reminds one of Vincent of Lerins, viz. the consensus of the Fathers can be compared to a kind of council. When a council is held, the average bishop in it is not of the spiritual and intellectual caliber of the Fathers. The consensus of the Fathers considered as a council presents the Church with a “council” made up of bishops of uniformly high quality. "You see them gathered from various periods and regions from the East and West, not at a place to which men are obliged to travel, but in a book which can travel to men." (p. 155)

Eno repeatedly makes the point that Augustine defined ecumenical councils differently than they're defined today by Roman Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox). He discusses an ecumenical council Augustine refers to that we today can't identify:

The usual candidates for this council have been Arles (314) and Nicaea (325). Augustine referred by name to these councils as well as to Ariminum (359) but he never identified his famous plenary council with any of them. He never identified it at all. Johann Ernst in an extensive article in 1900 argued convincingly that Augustine did not in fact know precisely what council he was referring to. Ernst’s article discussed and rejected both Arles and Nicaea. His argumentation presumed that Augustine had similar detailed knowledge of these councils. I would hold that Augustine did not have detailed knowledge of past councils. For example, when confronted by the Donatists with the claim that the council of Sardica (343) had communicated with Donatus, thus apparently giving him some modicum of recognition from the non-African churches, Augustine was at first puzzled but upon inquiry came to the conclusion that the council was in fact an Arian council and therefore no credit to the Donatists. It seems that he was unaware of the existence of an orthodox council of Sardica. One should recall as well the confusion surrounding the use of councils in the Apiarius affair. Rome put forward one of the Sardican canons as a canon of Nicaea. The African bishops correctly said that they found no such canon in their records but apparently they knew nothing of Sardica either, even though a number of African bishops, including Gratus of Carthage had been in attendance.

The source of Augustine’s assurance was simply this: Catholic circles in Africa believed that there had been such a council. This belief was neither a figment of their imaginations nor an invention of zealous propaganda. The factual basis may have been the eighth canon of the council of Arles. Over the course of the years, this modest basis had been expanded into the belief that there had been a clear decision on the question from a plenary council of the universal Church. Frequent repetition without documentary reference seemed to lend itself to an unconscious extension and broadening of claims....

As Sieben notes it is not clear whether for him [Augustine] Nicaea could be classified as an ecumenical council. His historical knowledge of earlier councils was frequently hazy. (pp. 162-163)

Eno explains that Augustine didn't believe in a papacy, but instead placed ecumenical councils above the bishop of Rome:

All in all it is clear that Augustine had a genuine respect for the position of the church of Rome in the universal Church. Indeed his views were probably more friendly than those of many of his African colleagues. Augustine, after all, had a personal acquaintance with the city as well as with some Roman churchmen. Nevertheless his actions in the Pelagian crisis did not alter his basic view of the plenary council as the last instance in Church disputes, nor his view of conciliar activity in general as the ordinary way for solving intra-ecclesial problems beyond the level of the local church....

Peter was the first of the Apostles, holding the principatus of the Apostolate. But any Apostle would be greater than any bishop as the Apostolate is greater than the episcopate. (p. 171, n. 118)

Monday, March 22, 2010

If you want to know what will happen to the health care system, just look at the streets

There’s a scene in the movie Fargo where our intrepid car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard, sits behind his desk while a customer berates him. It seems that they had worked out an agreement on the price of a vehicle, but when the customer came in to pay for the vehicle, Jerry informed him that it would cost more than originally stated. This scene ends with the customer angrily calling Jerry a liar before shouting: “Where’s my [expletive] checkbook? Let’s get this over with.”

I’ve come to realize that our government is Jerry Lundegaard. It’s always promising us a lot while delivering nothing. And we…well, we’re the customer demanding our checkbook so we can get this over with.

Taxes are a fact of life, more certain than death. And if we do not wish to live in anarchy, they are essential to the functioning of government. This is why Christ commanded His followers to “render unto Caesar.” Yet what happens when, after you render unto Caesar, nothing gets accomplished? What if you pay for services and they never materialize? In that case, you have the unjust theft of your money.

I live in Colorado Springs. Despite being a fairly conservative town, the Springs has recently gone through a budget shortfall. Not surprisingly, all the social services paid for with taxes are taking a hit. For example: snow plows are limited to “The Main Roads” this year (it took me a couple of snowfalls to realize that “The Main Roads” is apparently the proper name of a road somewhere and not the set of roads used most often in the city), potholes are going unfilled, streetlights are being turned off at night (and burned out bulbs are not being replaced), and the transit service cut over 70 jobs and reduced hours of operation, including cutting both evening and weekend service entirely.

So Colorado Springs tried to pass a tax increase late last year (it was defeated). Somehow, immediately after the bill failed, the city accountants “discovered” an accounting error—they had an extra $4 million they didn’t realize they had. I should point out that this was before winter set in, before the transit service was gutted, before the snowplows were sent off the road. The city had $4 million in funds that they had not expected. Obviously this would be a good time to pay for road repairs, or subsidize the transit service for another year, or any number of these social programs that government so touts before they take your money.

But of course this is the real world. The money was spent on a dog shelter, to restore trash pickup service in the America the Beautiful Park, and on the mayor’s “youth initiative” (which, apparently, initiates youths or something). Meanwhile, the snows came down and roads were not plowed. Large potholes formed. People hit these potholes and tore out the suspensions on their cars. But now they couldn’t ride the bus to work because service was cut, and thus firings commenced. But at least the unemployed can take heart knowing they can get a dog and trot around America the Beautiful Park with all the youths who are picking up trash. That is, if they risk hypothermia by walking there.

I suppose that the government misspending $4 million isn’t that big of a deal anymore. But the real kicker came last week when I turned on the radio and heard that the city was graciously allowing people to “adopt a streetlight.” That’s right, if you paid a measly $100 in a residential area ($210 for businesses), you could adopt your streetlight and the city would maintain that light for you.

I don’t know about you, but I feel honored to be allowed to pay for a service that I already paid for with my tax money. It warms the heart.

This, however, shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is the natural outcome of socialism. The problem with socialism, as Margaret Thatcher once pointed out, is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. And when you run out of their money, you have to cut your social services—the very justification you used to take that money in the first place. The only way to keep these services going is to resort to the free market: those who can pay for the services can have them.

Congress just passed the health care abortion of a bill. If you want to know what will happen to the health care system, just look at the streets of Colorado Springs. Services will be cut, but those who are wealthy enough to pay for their health care twice (once in taxes, and once on the open market) will be the only people who will still have those services. Everyone else will just have to deal with the darkened lights, potholes, and snow drifts.

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 2): Irenaeus

Here are some of Dave Armstrong's claims relevant to Irenaeus and church infallibility:

What we would expect to find is a notion of profound, binding authority, apostolic succession, and related ideas. These are certainly present [in Irenaeus]; therefore, exactly what Cardinal Newman would predict in a theologian of the second century, is present. Here are a few examples:

. . . carefully preserving the ancient tradition . . . by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.

(Against Heresies, III, 4, 2)

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, . . .

(Against Heresies, III, 5, 1)

And then shall every word also seem consistent to him, if he for his part diligently read the Scriptures in company with those who are presbyters in the Church, among whom is the apostolic doctrine, as I have pointed out.

(Against Heresies, IV, 32, 1)


And Cardinal Newman is correct in distinguishing between basic binding authority in the early Church and the later far more highly developed infallibility (just as Christology became far more complex as time went on: all the way to the seventh century or later)....

Why not let our readers see what St. Irenaeus states there?:

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father.

(IV, 26, 2)

Sounds like a big disproof of infallibility and Catholicism, doesn't it? In one sentence, we see binding authority in the Church, apostolic succession, the episcopate (bishops), and infallibility ("certain gift of truth") -- and Scripture isn't mentioned along with the four other varieties of authority. (sources here and here)

I've addressed doctrinal development and Dave's understanding of it in some of my earlier responses to him, such as here and here. Remember, he claimed that praying to the dead is implied by Biblical passages like Revelation 5:8 and that apostolic succession is "explicit" in Papias, for example. He claims that everything from papal infallibility to the assumption of Mary is found in seed form in scripture. As I've said before, Dave doesn't limit himself to acorns when seeking a justification for his Roman Catholic oak. An apple seed or mustard seed will do.

Of the four passages in Irenaeus cited by Dave above, the first and third are comments on the state of the church in Irenaeus' day. Apparently, Dave is assuming that Irenaeus must have expected the church to always maintain that status by means of its infallibility.

His second quote of Irenaeus refers to how the tradition of the apostles is "permanent among us". As I mentioned in my 2008 article Dave was responding to, Irenaeus could mean that there will always be people who will believe the doctrines he's referring to. He could mean that the apostolic tradition, considered in itself, will always be available. The apostolic tradition isn't identical to the church, and, as I documented in my series on apostolic succession, the apostolic faith Irenaeus was referring to was much different than the faith of Roman Catholicism. In that series I just referred to, I also documented that much of what Irenaeus says about the church of his day isn't applicable to later generations. Even if we assume that Irenaeus expected the apostolic faith to always be maintained by the church, he could be referring to the sort of church perpetuity I discussed in the introduction to this series. Dave needs to present more of an argument if he wants us to believe that Irenaeus was referring to something more.

The fourth passage Dave cited is the most relevant, because of the "certain gift of truth" reference, which Dave associates with infallibility. He doesn't explain how that phrase allegedly implies infallibility, much less the Roman Catholic concept of infallibility in particular.

What is Irenaeus referring to? Recall, first, that Irenaeus is distinguishing between church leaders who are to be followed and those who are to be avoided. I discussed the larger context in one of the posts in my series on apostolic succession. It's not certain that every bishop will have the gift of truth Irenaeus is referring to. What he's saying is that possession of the gift of truth is one of the characteristics a church leader must have if he's to be followed. Irenaeus doesn't claim that every bishop has it.

Everett Ferguson explains:

"The 'gift of truth' (charisma veritatis) received with the office of teaching (4.26.2) was not a gift guaranteeing that what was taught would be true, but was the truth itself as a gift." (Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 94)

Robert Lee Williams comments:

"K. Muller has shown that Irenaeus is referring not to Dix's 'sacramental charisma received in ordination' but to ecclesiastical doctrine." (Bishop Lists [Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2005], p. 136)

And Eric Osborn writes:

"Bishops have a certain gift of truth. The charisma of the spirit works in all true believers to give understanding of doctrine (4.33; 5.20.2). Bishops have no unique gift of truth but an assured, reliable commission to teach. 'Not only their ethical disposition and the succession, but also the spirit who already 'perfected' the apostles and since then is active in the church, equips them to hand on the truth intact.'...Certainty is linked with the truth of the tradition 'the veritas is the charisma', and not with presbyterial infallibility." (Irenaeus Of Lyons [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], pp. 146-147)

Notice Osborn's comments about the Spirit's guidance of all Christians. In the introduction to this series, I mentioned that advocates of church infallibility often fail to apply their reasoning consistently. Comments made about the church are interpreted much differently than similar comments made about Israel, all believers, the state, parental authority, etc.

Let's consider some other passages in which Irenaeus makes reference to gifts of God similar to the gift in the passage Dave has cited. In Against Heresies 2:20:3, we read:

"For the Lord, through means of suffering, 'ascending into the lofty place, led captivity captive, gave gifts to men,' and conferred on those that believe in Him the power 'to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy,' that is, of the leader of apostasy. Our Lord also by His passion destroyed death, and dispersed error, and put an end to corruption, and destroyed ignorance, while He manifested life and revealed truth, and bestowed the gift of incorruption."

Elsewhere, he refers to "the pre-eminent gift of love" (4:33:8). Jesus has "by means of His advent, poured upon the human race the greater gift of paternal grace." (4:36:4) God has given Christians "the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our Maker" (5:17:1).

Would Dave apply the same reasoning to such passages that he applies to the passage about the gift of truth? Should we conclude that Irenaeus thought every Christian would always have incorruption and communion with God, for example, meaning that justification can't be lost? Should we conclude that the church exercises its gift of love in a manner similar to how Dave thinks the gift of truth is exercised (such as when a Pope is speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals)?

Maybe Dave thinks that the qualifier "certain" before "gift of truth" makes his point. But how so? We could interpret Irenaeus as saying that it's certain that the church leaders in question will stay within the truth. The problem, for Dave's position, is that the term is broad enough to allow for other interpretations as reasonable possibilities, and his own reading can't be shown to be probable. Irenaeus could mean that the truth in question is certain, not that its ongoing possession by church leaders is certain.

He criticizes heretics for having "no fixed conclusion or certainty" (Against Heresies, 2:1:4). He criticizes the heretics because they "desert what is certain, indubitable, and true" (2:27:3). He refers to learning what's "certain and clear" from the churches (3:4:1). He refers to the church's "possessing the sure tradition from the apostles" (5:20:1). He frequently uses terms like "certain" and "certainty" to refer to high probabilities, including when addressing matters other than what Dave thinks the church has infallibly taught (3:12:12, 3:16:6, etc.). He refers to degrees of certainty ("more certain", 5:30:3). All Christians should "keep with all certainty" the faith they've received (Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching, 98). Was Irenaeus expecting all Christians to keep the faith infallibly?

Shortly after the passage Dave cites, Irenaeus writes:

"From all such persons [corrupt church leaders], therefore, it behoves us to keep aloof, but to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, do hold the doctrine of the apostles, and who, together with the order of priesthood, display sound speech and blameless conduct for the confirmation and correction of others." (4:26:4)

Most likely, "the doctrine of the apostles" is another way of referring to "the certain gift of truth".

Irenaeus goes on:

"Where, therefore, the gifts of the Lord have been placed, there it behoves us to learn the truth, namely, from those who possess that succession of the Church which is from the apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in speech. For these also preserve this faith of ours in one God who created all things; and they increase that love which we have for the Son of God, who accomplished such marvellous dispensations for our sake: and they expound the Scriptures to us without danger, neither blaspheming God, nor dishonouring the patriarchs, nor despising the prophets." (4:26:5)

He refers to gifts (plural). He mentions attributes like "blameless conduct", which he had referred to as "gifts" elsewhere, such as in the passages I cited above. Have Roman Catholic bishops, such as the Popes of the medieval era, had such gifts along with the gift of truth that Dave has singled out?

The church and faith described by Irenaeus aren't the Roman Catholic church and faith, as I demonstrated in my series on apostolic succession. Irenaeus nowhere mentions, or even implies, the papacy, papal infallibility, conciliar infallibility, and other elements of Dave's concept of the church. Dave dubiously reads a far more vague concept of infallibility into phrases like "the certain gift of truth". Irenaeus' church is about as relevant to Dave's denomination as an apple seed is to an oak.

Did Irenaeus believe in some other concept of an infallible church? My sense is that he did. But there isn't much evidence to go by, and the evidence we have is sometimes hard to judge. As Eric Osborn noted, even scholars who specialize in the study of Irenaeus have often found him difficult to understand on some issues and have accused him of incoherence and inconsistency (Irenaeus Of Lyons [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], pp. 9-12). Osborn himself refers to "the apparent confusions in his [Irenaeus'] thought" and how he "piles image upon image, thought upon thought", producing an "Irenaean jungle" (p. 251). One of the most significant passages in Irenaeus that I'm aware of with potential implications for church infallibility is the following:

"But it has, on the other hand, been shown, that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples— as I have proved— through those in the beginning, the middle, and the end, and through the entire dispensation of God, and that well-grounded system which tends to man's salvation, namely, our faith; which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also. For this gift of God has been entrusted to the Church, as breath was to the first created man, for this purpose, that all the members receiving it may be vivified; and the means of communion with Christ has been distributed throughout it, that is, the Holy Spirit, the earnest of incorruption, the means of confirming our faith, and the ladder of ascent to God. 'For in the Church,' it is said, 'God has set apostles, prophets, teachers,' and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth." (Against Heresies, 3:24:1)

Is the church "always renewed" in the sense that its future renewal is assured? Or is Irenaeus referring to something that's happened up to that point in time, but may not continue at all times afterward? (For example, we might refer to a man as always faithful to his wife without meaning that he's sure to be faithful to her in the future.) Is Irenaeus referring to something that will always occur if the conditions are met, but those conditions may not be met at all times? I think what he had in mind was the first meaning described above, given factors like how highly he speaks of the church in general, how closely he goes on to associate the church with the Spirit, and how highly other authors contemporary with Irenaeus spoke of the church. When Irenaeus refers to the church and the maintaining of the faith, is he only referring to a church hierarchy and its actions within particular circumstances, like an ecumenical council or the Roman bishop's ex cathedra teachings on faith and morals? No, there's no reason to think he had such qualifications in mind. He may be referring to some low form of church infallibility, like the concept of church perpetuity that I discussed in the introduction to this series.

Modern readers of Irenaeus often ask whether the church he's referring to is Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Both groups would claim to be consistent with what Irenaeus describes in the passage quoted above. (That tells you something about the vagueness of the concepts involved here.) But, as I documented in my series on apostolic succession, Irenaeus didn't define the apostolic faith as either of those groups does, and he disagreed with the beliefs of both groups on some issues. Even though some of what Irenaeus says about the church is consistent with Catholicism and Orthodoxy, partial consistency doesn't prove identity.