Thursday, March 30, 2006

Catholic Underemphasis on Justification by Faith: My Theory on Why This Is

Dr. Edwin Tait (Anglican Church historian and frequent past dialogue partner) wrote on the Pontifications blog (his words will be in green):

Of course the Fathers did not teach sola fide as taught by, say, Melanchthon . . . there was a diversity of views among the Reformers and that some of them were much closer to the Augustinian tradition than others.

Furthermore, the question of whether the Reformers' formulations are binding is only a valid one (and even then it's a question, not something taken for granted) within the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. Other Protestants have already departed from the Reformers in some way or another. Of the two traditions with which I'm currently involved, Anglicanism (or at least many representatives of Anglicanism) moved away from a purely Reformational doctrine of salvation in the 17th century (as C. FitzSimmons Allison points out in The Rise of Moralism), and Methodism (while rejecting some aspects of the "moralistic" tradition and recovering a more evangelical emphasis) built on that "Arminian" trajectory of Anglicanism.

So I see the question rather differently than confessional Lutherans or Calvinists do. Insofar as sola fide is worth preserving, it is not a formula about separating justification from sanctification but rather a proclamation of the free mercy of God in Christ. The formulas of Trent as they stand seem to leave less room for this proclamation than had existed in Catholicism previously (and this must necessarily balance the criticisms of the Reformers for departing from the Fathers). I don't think they exclude it - but the fact is that Catholics who taught an evangelical interpretation of the Augustinian tradition were increasingly marginalized or persecuted in 16th-century Catholicism. By the end of the century it was hard for a Catholic to speak of the free mercy of God in Christ without being suspected of Protestant leanings. Constantino Ponce de la Fuente and Bartolome Carranza were both imprisoned as suspected heretics even though they never contradicted defined dogma.

I agree with the Joint Declaration that differences on justification do not need to be church-dividing. But a convert to Catholicism enters a community formed by five centuries of denying or downplaying the evangelical understanding of salvation (as Fr. Cantalemessa recognized in his candid sermon). That’s a serious issue. Protestants, for all our one-sidedness, have preserved an important aspect of the truth of Christ thas has been practically speaking largely absent from post-Reformation Catholicism.

[note: I've added a little bit that was not in my response on the other blog]

Which is what, Edwin? Could you summarize what this is briefly in plain language, please? And show what it is Protestants have preserved which Catholics allegedly have not (preferably with documentation from Trent or other authoritative pronouncement)? We deny "the free mercy of God in Christ"? If that is what you are claiming, I must have missed that somehow in my understanding of Catholic soteriology.

I refer you to Fr. Cantalamessa's sermon (+ part II). He certainly thinks that in practice the proclamation of justification by faith has been largely missing from post-Tridentine Catholicism.

It depends on what one means by that, I reckon. Faith alone is the main thing we have a problem with.

This is not about official documents. It's about what people believe and practice on the local level. It's about the way particular Christian traditions are formed over centuries.

If I were arguing that the Catholic position were heretical, you'd be right that I'd need to cite official teachings. But that's not my concern at all. I do think (for this I don't claim the support of Fr. Cantalamessa, obviously) that the wording of Trent (here as with regard to the authority of Scripture) is less than felicitous as an expression of orthodox Christianity. But I have always been told by Catholics that infallibility does not guarantee felicitous language.

It is possible that my critique simply does not concern matters that interest you. It seems to me that if Fr. Cantalemessa is right (and the experience of many people, including those dreaded anti-Catholics, indicates that he is) that "the great majority of Catholics have lived entire lives without having ever heard a direct announcement of gratuitous justification by faith," without too many "buts," then this is a serious matter and something is badly wrong in Catholicism.

And I'm willing to grant the same about Protestantism on all sorts of fronts, of course. In many Protestant denominations (my wife's United Methodist Church, for instance), the official teachings have a fairly strong doctrine of sacramental grace (though not quite the Catholic one), but in most local churches this is a dead letter. On the one hand, I expect Catholics to recognize the existence of the official teaching - but on the other hand, it's quite fair for them to question why this teaching hasn't put down better roots at the local level.

If you prefer to deal with abstract "official doctrines," that's fine. But in that case you will never get to the matters that actually affect most Christians. We have to deal with both - the official doctrines and the way they are understood.

I read the sermon, and I don't disagree with any of it. It is true that Catholics have heard this message relatively less than Protestants (a lot less, in fact). I think this is because of the natural human tendency (which I've often noted) of dichotomizing things and going to extremes in overreaction to opponents. Why this happened in history is obvious:

1) Protestants went too far and adopted faith alone (sola fide), so Catholics - in practice - tended to go too far in the other direction and overemphasize the importance of works and merit (while underemphasizing the true aspects of justification by faith). Some in both camps, in their ignorance, actually taught or practiced Pelagianism or antinomianism.

2) Protestants went too far and adopted Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) as its rule of faith, so Catholics - in practice - tended to go too far in the other direction and overemphasize the importance of Church and Tradition. Thus, many Protestants have virtually ditched the latter, while many Catholics wouldn't know the Bible from a hole in the ground (which I have also written about, in a published article; chiding and rebuking my fellow Catholics a bit). Catholics are as ignorant of the Bible as Protestants are ignorant of Church history. Of course, both should be familiar with both. The ignorance on both sides (in different ways) stinks to high heaven. But we can help each other.

3) Protestants (i.e., Luther in his Babylonian Captivity) got radical and radically innovative and threw out five sacraments [see my paper on exactly how radical Luther already was by 1520], so Catholics tended to emphasize the sacraments relatively more than gospel proclamation, evangelization, etc. Of course, in the 16th century, the early Protestants did little missionary work, while Catholics were all over North and South America, so these things ebb and flow.

There are many other similar dichotomies . . .

In my ecumenical emphasis, I like to think that Catholics and Protestants complement each other and "need" each other in this practical, philosophical way, precisely because both sides - in practice - tended to go too far in one direction and to dichotomize what was always intended by God to be together. So we can help each other out a lot, and ecumenism has a crucial function in God's purposes in the Kingdom. We can explain to each other our own emphases and try to achieve a consensus insofar as possible and to avoid even more tragic misunderstanding and disunity than we already have.

Hence, my attempts to persuade Chris Jones (and any other Protestants reading) that Catholic merit is essentially the same as Lutheran cooperation and sola gratia. I've also made many attempts to try to deliberately find common ground (as you may know), e.g., in the following papers:

Catholic "Initial Justification" & Protestant "Faith Alone": Significant Common Ground?
Good News: An Evangelical / Catholic Presentation of the Gospel Message
The Catholic Understanding of the Anathemas of Trent and Excommunication
Martin Luther's Doctrine Concerning Good Works: Have I Misrepresented It?
The Pro-Catholic Side of Martin Luther
The Wickedness of Christian Division, Anti-Catholicism, & Anti-Protestantism
Trent Doesn't Necessarily Exclude All Variants of Imputation (Kenneth Howell; posted on my blog)

I think it is senseless to wrangle over areas where we essentially agree. There are enough real differences to dispute, heaven knows.

All that said, how does one talk about the issues you raise? If we say everyone has lots of problems in practice, that's one thing (no sane, conscious person would disagree). But what is it you would want to discuss? That Catholics have offered lousy catechesis for 40 years? Guilty as charged. That Trent speaks in a language considerably different from, and foreign to, the man on the street today? Absolutely; I agree (Vatican II dealt with that factor quite a bit). I'm open to it; just give some directions and guidelines and I'll follow you, if there is something to profitably discuss along these lines.

But if the goal is simply to complain about how every communion has problems in passing down its beliefs to the faithful, what is accomplished? Nothing at all, by just writing about it. It seems to me that all I can do as a lay apologist, and what you can do as an up-and-coming historian, is to teach folks the teachings of our communions, so that they can become better educated and hence, avoid the extremes here critiqued. That's what we can both do to make a real difference and hopefully a net gain, from our own perspectives.

I presume that you aren't using these sorts of considerations as any kind of primary reason to avoid conversion to Catholicism (a possibility you have candidly written about for years). I would reject that, of course, and appeal again to official teachings, which have to be accepted or rejected. If one makes such decisions and determinations based on corruptions in practice and widespread nominalism, then there is no hope to believe anything, because every Christian group is corrupt, simply because all consist of human beings, whose hearts are universally corrupt.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

50 Ways In Which Luther Had Departed From Catholic Orthodoxy or Established Practice by 1520 (and Why He Was Excommunicated)

From a discussion on the Pontifications blog. Luther's words will be in green.

* * * * *

Chris Jones (Lutheran) asked: "So why was Dr Luther excommunicated? In what way was he heterodox?"

. . . I must confess that that subject is quite ambitious . . ., but nevertheless I will reply because I'm sick and tired of this canard, and it is high time to decisively refute it. This I will do below.

How about, for starters, separating justification from sanctification, adopting an extrinsic, forensic, imputed notion of justification (a radical departure from precedent, as McGrath and Geisler have noted), championing the novelty of fiduciary faith, changing the ancient rule of faith of Church, Tradition, and Bible to sola Scriptura, adopting private judgment over against ecclesial infallibility (Luther denied that even ecumenical councils possess this; going beyond the conciliarist position of some nominalists), throwing out the Sacrifice of the Mass and seven books of the Bible, and ditching five sacraments? Is that enough to be heretical by Catholic standards?

In his Commentary on Romans (1516), Luther wrote:

It is clear that according to substance and nature venial sin does not exist, and that there is no such thing as merit.

Two more Catholic doctrines denied. Now, you may think he was right, but the question at hand concerns why he was excommunicated as a "heterodox" Catholic. This is more than enough evidence to convict him of this "shortcoming," wouldn't you agree?

It gets even more bizarre than that, for those who are interested in the history of doctrine and theology. Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will:

If men willed what God wills, even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them.

Luther asserts (I think, blasphemously), during this same period, long before 1521, that Jesus Christ offered to go to hell for the sake of the salvation of mankind (a heresy picked up today by the hyperfaith teachers such as Kenneth Copeland):

He actually and in truth offered Himself to the eternal Father to be consigned to eternal damnation for us. His human nature did not behave differently from that of a man who is to be condemned eternally to hell. On account of this love of God, God at once raised Him from death and hell, and so He overcame hell.

In the Heidelberg Disputation (1518), Luther stated:

The mercy of God consists in this, that He has patience with us in spite of our sins and graciously accepts our works and our life notwithstanding their complete worthlessness . . . All that a man does is the work of the devil, of sin, of darkness and foolishness.

[for further sources, see my Reflections on Luther's Novel Soteriology]

The radical nature of Luther's so-called "reform" is clearly evident in the three great treatises of 1520. Let's make a survey of [two of] them, since there seems to be so much ignorance in this matter of how far Luther had departed from the received Catholic faith by 1520. I cite from the book Three Treatises, taken from Luther's Works, revised edition, 1970 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press):

1) To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

A) ". . . we are all consecrated priests through baptism . . . The consecration by pope or bishop would never make a priest, and if we had no higher consecration than that which pope or bishop gives, no one could say mass or preach a sermon or give absolution . . . the whole community, all of whom have like power . . ." (p. 12)

B) ". . . a priest in Christendom is nothing else but an officeholder . . . a priest is never a priest when he is deposed . . . there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests . . ." (p. 14)

[denial of ordination, the special status of the priesthood, and in effect, apostolic succession; going back to the mentality of the Donatist heresy; on p. 13 Luther claims that a group of laymen in a desert could "elect" one of themselves to say mass and give absolution; cf. p. 70]

C) ". . . since the temporal power is ordained by God to punish the wicked and protect the good, it should be left free to perform its office in the whole body of Christendom without restriction and without respect to persons, whether it affects pope, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or anyone else . . .

"All that canon law has said to the contrary is the invention of Romanist presumption." (pp. 15-16; cf. pp. 45-46, and p. 53: "The pope should have no authority over the emperor")

[radical overthrow of the entire Catholic medieval understanding of the relationship of Church and state]

D) ". . . they play about with words before our very eyes, trying to persuade us that the pope cannot err in matters of faith, regardless of whether he is righteous or wicked." (p. 19)

[denial of papal infallibility, which was widely believed; also adoption of the schismatic ancient Donatist mentality of righteousness nullifying an office or sacramental efficacy]

E) ". . . the keys were not given to Peter alone but to the whole community." (p. 20)

[this is untrue; the "keys of the kingdom" were only given to Peter in Scripture, and to no one else.]

F) ". . . if we are all priests . . . why should we not also have the power to test and judge what is right or wrong in matters of faith?" (p. 21)

[private judgment and sola Scriptura: radical innovations concerning Christian authority]

G) "The Romanists have no basis in Scripture for their claim that the pope alone has the right to call or confirm a council." (p. 22)

[overthrows the long-established principle of governance of ecumenical councils; on p. 23 he states that when the pope is "an offense to Christendom, the first man who is able should . . . do what he can to bring about a truly free council" and on p. 24 says that "we" can "excommunicate" the pope if he has gone astray]

H) ". . . restore freedom to everybody and leave every man free to marry or not marry." (p. 65)

[denial of the ancient practice of celibate priests, nuns, and monks]

I) ". . . . popes, bishops, canons, and monks. God has not instituted these offices." (p. 66)

[self-explanatory]

J) "Furthermore, I advise anyone henceforth being ordained a priest or anything else that he in no wise vow to the bishop that he will remain celibate."

". . . the pope has as little power to command this as he has to forbid eating, drinking, the natural movement of the bowels, or growing fat." (pp. 66, 68)

[denial of vows of celibacy, and the institutional right to demand same as a matter of discipline, contrary to Jesus' statement about eunuchs and Paul's teaching that celibacy is preferable for the purposes of serving God more fully in an undistracted manner]

K) "All festivals should be abolished, and Sunday alone retained. If it were desired, however, to retain the festivals of Our Lady, and of the major saints, they should be transferred to Sunday, or observed only by a morning mass." (pp. 72-73)

[radical revision of the liturgical calendar]

L) ". . . fasts should be left to individuals and every kind of food left optional . . . " (p. 74)

[overthrow of the Church's prerogative to prescribe penitential practices in commemoration of our Lord's suffering, such as on Fridays and during Lent]

M) "What spirit gave the pope authority to canonize saints? . . . My advice is to let the saints canonize themselves. Indeed, it is God alone who should canonize them.

". . . Although the canonization of saints may have been a good thing in former days, it is certainly never good practice now." (pp. 77-78)

[So much for saints . . . throw the baby out with the bath water, as usual with Luther . . .]

N) "The brotherhoods, and for that matter, letters of indulgence . . . dispensations, and everything of that kind, should be snuffed out and brought to an end." (p. 84)

[Indulgences are an expressly biblical practice. St. Paul issued a penitential punishment, or "binding" (1 Cor 5:3-5 ) and then relaxed or "loosed" it, which is all that an indulgence is (2 Cor 2:6-11). ]

O) Luther goes after Aristotle (and by extension, all philosophy), on pp. 92-94, calling him a "blind, heathen teacher" and "damned, conceited, rascally heathen . . . wretched fellow" and recommending discarding his books because "nothing can be learned from them either about nature or the Spirit . . . nobody has yet understood him." He then claims that "I understand him better than St. Thomas or Duns Scotus did."

Right
. . . I do agree with one thing Luther wrote, however (except the last sentence):

"I know full well that I have been very outspoken. I have made many suggestions that will be considered impractical. I have attacked many things too severely. But how else ought I to do it?" (p. 111)

2) The Babylonian Captivity of the Church

A) ". . . transubstantiation (a monstrous word and a monstrous idea) . . . " (p. 147)

[denial of a defined dogma]

B) "The third captivity of this sacrament is by far the most wicked of all, in consequence of which there is no opinion more generally held or more firmly believed in the church today than this, that the mass is a good work and a sacrifice." (p. 152)

". . . monstrous and wicked doctrines, as they have done who have made of the sacrament an opus operatum and a sacrifice." (p. 154)

". . . the gospel does not sanction the idea that the mass is a sacrifice . . . " (p. 174)

[denial of the central aspect of the Christian liturgy, as had been practiced for 1500 years]

C) ". . . the sacrament of penance . . . The first and chief abuse of this sacrament is that they have completely abolished it. Not a vestige of the sacrament remains." (p. 206)

". . . this Babylon of ours has so completely extinguished faith that it insolently denies its necessity in this sacrament." (p. 209)

[I see! Who am I to quibble with the opinions of the illustrious "reformer"?! Seriously, though, this is simply untrue. For any confession to be efficacious, the penitent must be sincerely repentant, and exercise faith that the priest has the power to absolve, by God's design. On p. 212, Luther is "heartily in favor of" private confession and "would not have it abolished." But he thinks "it cannot be proved from the Scriptures" and denies that it is a sacrament]

D) "For Christ has given to every one of his believers the power to absolve even open sins." (p. 214)

[subversive of ordination and apostolic succession]

E) "For these monstrous things we are indebted to you, O Roman See, and to your murderous laws and ceremonies, with which you have corrupted all mankind, so that they believe they can with works make satisfaction for sin to God, when he can be satisfied only by the faith of a contrite heart!" (pp. 216-217)

[Penance, more generally construed as penitential acts, is denied]

F) "I do not say this because I condemn the seven sacraments, but because I deny that they can be proved from Scriptures." (p. 218)

[Interesting comment. In any event, Protestantism generally held to two sacraments, and the denial that there was any proof in Scripture is radically contrary to the Catholic position, making Luther "heretical" again insofar as he has denied yet another received Catholic teaching: that Jesus instituted all seven sacraments and that the Bible sufficiently indicates this]

G) "Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant of Scripture, . . . " (p. 220)

[Yet another sacrament goes down the drain . . . ]

H) "Among endless other monstrosities, there are enumerated in this book eighteen impediments to marriage . . . snares in order to prevent people from marrying, or, if they are married, to annul their marriage? Who gave this power to men?" (p. 225)

[denial of the Catholic belief in an invalid marriage and annulments]

I) "As to divorce, it is still a question for debate whether it is allowable . . . whether it is allowable I do not venture to decide . . . Christ, then, permits divorce, but only on the ground of unchastity . . . it is still a greater wonder to me why they compel a man to remain unmarried after being separated from his wife by divorce." (p. 236)

[contrary to centuries-long Catholic moral theology]

J) "Ordination - Of this sacrament the church of Christ knows nothing; it is an invention of the church of the pope . . . there is not a single word said about it in the whole New Testament. Now it is ridiculous to put forth as a sacrament of God something that cannot be proved to have been instituted by God." (p. 237)

[radical innovation again; not even followed by many later Protestants, in this radical form]

K) "The church can give no promise of grace; that is the work of God alone. Therefore, she cannot institute a sacrament." (p. 238)

[radical anti-sacramentarian view]

L) ". . . mumbling the vain repetitions of his prescribed prayers . . . " (p. 245)

[mocking of the priest's daily office]

M) "We do not deny, therefore, that forgiveness and peace are granted through extreme unction; not because it is a sacrament divinely instituted, but because he who receives it believes that those blessings are granted to him." (p. 256)

[denial of another sacrament]

N) ". . . it has seemed proper to restrict the name of sacrament to those promises which have signs attached to them. The remainder, not being bound to signs, are bare promises. Hence there are, strictly speaking, but two sacraments in the church of God - baptism and the bread. For only in these two do we find both the divinely instituted sign and the promise of forgiveness of sins." (p. 258)

[definitive statement of the number of sacraments being reduced from five to two]

O) "To the godless, on the other hand, and those who in obstinate tyranny force on us their own teachings instead of God's I confidently and freely oppose these pages. I shall be completely indifferent to their senseless fury. Yet I wish even them a right understanding. And I do not despise their efforts; I only distinguish them from what is sound and truly Christian.

"I hear a rumor that new bulls and papal maledictions are being prepared against me, in which I am urged to recant or be declared a heretic. If that is true, I desire this little book to be part of the recantation that I shall make; so that the arrogant despots might not complain of having acted in vain." (p. 260)

[as usual, anyone who disagrees with Luther, be it individual or pope or entire Church, must be wrong and unbiblical, and indeed, not even "truly Christian"]

* * * * *

Okay; to revisit the original query, Chris Jones asked: "So why was Dr Luther excommunicated? In what way was he heterodox?" I have summarized how he was heterodox by 1520, by virtually indisputable, unarguable Catholic standards. Remember again: this is not a discussion of whether Catholic teaching is right or wrong, but rather, whether Luther was "heterodox" or "heretical" by that same teaching (i.e., whether the Church was at least self-consistent in excommunicating him, or whether it was a power play unrelated to truth or Luther's actual - or falsely-imagined - heresy).

It is absolutely evident that Luther was heretical and that the Church was under no obligation to even contend with him at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Since it was obvious that he was teaching heresy, it was equally obvious that the Church should demand that he recant, renounce, and cease doing so. He refused, because he knew more than the Church (as he in effect implied, many times). But no Protestant body would have acted any differently, then or now, in the face of dozens of rejections of its own stated dogmas. Here is what Luther believed contrary to the Church (without even delving too much into the finer points of soteriology):

1. Separation of justification from sanctification.
2. Extrinsic, forensic, imputed notion of justification.
3. Fiduciary faith.
4. Private judgment over against ecclesial infallibility.
5. Tossing out seven books of the Bible.
6. Denial of venial sin.
7. Denial of merit.
8. The damned should be happy that they are damned and accept God's will.
9. Jesus offered Himself for damnation and possible hellfire.
10. No good work can be done except by a justified man.
11. All baptized men are priests (denial of the sacrament of ordination).
12. All baptized men can give absolution.
13. Bishops do not truly hold that office; God has not instituted it.
14. Popes do not truly hold that office; God has not instituted it.
15. Priests have no special, indelible character.
16. Temporal authorities have power over the Church; even bishops and popes; to assert the contrary was a mere presumptuous invention.
17. Vows of celibacy are wrong and should be abolished.
18. Denial of papal infallibility.
19. Belief that unrighteous priests or popes lose their authority (contrary to Augustine's rationale against the Donatists).
20. The keys of the kingdom were not just given to Peter.
21. Private judgment of every individual to determine matters of faith.
22. Denial that the pope has the right to call or confirm a council.
23. Denial that the Church has the right to demand celibacy of certain callings.
24. There is no such vocation as a monk; God has not instituted it.
25. Feast days should be abolished, and all church celebrations confined to Sundays.
26. Fasts should be strictly optional.
27. Canonization of saints is thoroughly corrupt and should stop.
28. Confirmation is not a sacrament.
29. Indulgences should be abolished.
30. Dispensations should be abolished.
31. Philosophy (Aristotle as prime example) is an unsavory, detrimental influence on Christianity.
32. Transubstantiation is "a monstrous idea."
33. The Church cannot institute sacraments.
34. Denial of the "wicked" belief that the mass is a good work.
35. Denial of the "wicked" belief that the mass is a true sacrifice.
36. Denial of the sacramental notion of ex opere operato.
37. Denial that penance is a sacrament.
38. Assertion that the Catholic Church had "completely abolished" even the practice of penance.
39. Claim that the Church had abolished faith as an aspect of penance.
40. Denial of apostolic succession.
41. Any layman who can should call a general council.
42. Penitential works are worthless.
43. None of what Catholics believe to be the seven sacraments have any biblical proof.
44. Marriage is not a sacrament.
45. Annulments are a senseless concept and the Church has no right to determine or grant annulments.
46. Whether divorce is allowable is an open question.
47. Divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.
48. Jesus allowed divorce when one partner committed adultery.
49. The priest's daily office is "vain repetition."
50. Extreme unction is not a sacrament (there are only two sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist).

So that is 50 ways in which Luther was a heretic, heterodox, a schismatic, or believed things which were clearly contrary to the Catholic Church's teaching or practice, up to and including truly radical departures (even societally radical in some cases). Is that enough to justify his excommunication from Catholic ranks? Or was the Church supposed to say, "yeah, Luther, you know, you're right about these fifty issues. You know better than the entire Church, the entire history of the Church, and all the wisdom of the saints in past ages who have believed these things. So we will bow to your heaven-sent wisdom, change all fifty beliefs or practices, so we can proceed in a godly direction. Thanks so much! We are forever indebted to you for having informed us of all these errors!!"

Is that not patently ridiculous? What Church would change 50 things in its doctrines because one person feels himself to be some sort of oracle from God or pseudo-prophet: God's man for the age? Yet we are led to believe that it is self-evident that Luther was a good, obedient Catholic who only wanted to reform the Church, not overturn or leave it, let alone start a new sect. He may have been naive or silly enough to believe that himself, but objectively-speaking, it is clear and plain to one and all that what he offered - even prior to 1520 - was a radical program; a revolution. This is not reform. And the so-called "Protestant Reformation" was not that, either (considered as a whole). It was a Revolt or a Revolution. I have just shown why that is.

No sane, conscious person who had read any of his three radical treatises of 1520 could doubt that he had already ceased to be an orthodox Catholic. He did not reluctantly become so because he was unfairly kicked out of the Church by men who would not listen to manifest Scripture and reason (as the Protestant myth and perpetual propaganda would have it) but because he had chosen himself to accept heretical teachings, by the standard of Catholic orthodoxy, and had become a radical, intent also on spreading his (sincerely and passionately held) errors across the land with slanderous, mocking, propagandistic tracts and even vulgar woodcuts, if needs be.

Therefore, the Church was entirely sensible, reasonable, within her rights, logical, self-consistent, and not hypocritical or "threatened" in the slightest to simply demand Luther's recantation of his errors at the Diet of Worms in 1521, and to refuse to argue with him (having already tried on several occasions, anyway), because to do so would have granted his ridiculous presumption that he was in a position to singlehandedly dispute and debate what had been the accumulated doctrinal and theological wisdom of the Church for almost 1500 years.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On Whether the Term "Catholic Christian" Denotes a Sub-Catholic Ecclesiology & Understanding

Background: the claim was made in a previous discussion on the validity of the apostolate of Scott Hahn (link) that the use of the descriptive phrase Catholic Christian is improper. I vigorously denied this, arguing that it is a matter of the English language and category distinctions, and a way to linguistically counter the common anti-Catholic assumption that Catholics call themselves Catholics rather than (if one word must be chosen) Christians because they are not Christians in the first place, and wish to deliberately dissociate themselves from that description or category. In other words, it is inadvertently falling into their false ecclesiology (at least in effect, or in their minds). We are urged in Vatican II to speak in language that our separated brethren can understand and relate to, with the aim of sharing the fullness of our faith more effectively.

David Jones recommended the following article:

In regards to this whole conversation of the use of the term "Catholic Christians," I refer you to Douglas Bushman's article entitled The Catholic on the Church - To Be Catholic is to be Christian, Period. Go to my April Archives to view and print it. It's provided to you over six posts [they are jpg files; enlarge by clicking on the scanned photos].

Here is my reply:

I agree with virtually all of the Bushman article. But any conclusion drawn from it that Catholic Christian is impermissible terminology is illogical and unfounded, in my opinion.

If the objection is, as he argues, that Catholicism is seen as something "added to" being a Christian, I reply by saying that this is not how I have ever regarded it (i.e., since my conversion). To me it is the fullness of Christianity, while Protestantism is a truncated, abbreviated, skeletal, least-common-denominator type of Christianity.

Christianity rightly understood in all its fullness, colors and multi-faceted nature is Catholicism, of course. How it somehow follows that saying Catholic Christian is an implicit acceptance of [C.S.] Lewisian "mere Christianity" (which I have been relentlessly critical of for fifteen years, though Lewis remains my favorite author) I know not. Perhaps Bushman himself isn't even arguing this, and his opinions are wrongly being used to draw this erroneous conclusion.

There are all sorts of words which are misunderstood. But it doesn't follow that we therefore cease using them. We need to carefully define and explain our terms.

I no more need to refrain from saying Catholic Christian than I have to refrain from saying Socratic philosophy or Thomist philosophy on the grounds that no other type of philosophy can pass muster with those, so we need to simpy say Socratic method or Thomism as identical with philosophy, with all the other philosophies being mere pretenders. It simply doesn't follow.

Bushman is obviously reacting to certain liberal outlooks which retire from an enthusiastic, confident presentation of the Catholic faith as the fullness of faith. Alas, it's not a problem I have ever had. :-) I get accused of being a "triumphalist" all the time, and my insistence on the Newmanian requirement of accepting the entire faith or bust does not exactly endear me to Protestant dialogue opponents either. So he is preaching to the choir on this. But I don't see why I would have to stop saying Catholic Christian in order to speak about these other things.

Certainly it is tomfoolery to suggest (as the inimitable John Lowell did) that to merely use the term suggests a terribly deficient ecclesiology. As just described, I don't have that! So at least in my case, there is no truth to the charge at all.

Most of the article is not about this terminology. Since he allows for the latitude of speaking of other Christians, the contention that Catholic Christian either must mean or even imply some non-Catholic ecclesiology, collapses.

In fact, he is not even internally consistent if in fact he were to take a strict position himself that the phrase must mean what Mr. Lowell claims it intrinsically means, by his use of the term non-Catholic Christians. It's real simple: if there are non-Catholic Christians, then there must be Catholic Christians, on the basis of the comparison and contrast, and the English language. Non-Catholic Christians are those who are Christians without being Catholics. They are a type of Christian distinguished by not being Catholic.

Therefore, the group they are being linguistically contrasted with must be Catholic Christians. There are more than one type of Christian, so it follows inexorably through the function of language and logic that Catholic Christian must be permissible as simply an instance of indicating a smaller sub-group of the larger sociological/religious group, which the author freely concedes (and indeed must, if he is to follow the teaching of Vatican II).

That being the case, this contention collapses in a heap. The only way it can succeed is to assert something which the author didn't do: that Catholics are the only Christians, period. In that case, one could only describe Protestants as non-Catholics, since Catholic and Christian are absolutely identical. It would be nonsensical to describe them in that hypothetical situation as non-Catholic Christians. So this view must be discarded as internally incoherent and illogical.

At best one can only say that the phrase Catholic Christian may be misunderstood. But since that is true of almost any word these days, especially in the vexed world of religious controversies, it really isn't saying much at all.

And note that this is coming from a person who fights "wars" about terminology all the time, and indeed, thinks it is important to do so. I refuse to use Reformation without quotes because I reject the description. I reject it because it was not what that word implies at all. Rather, it was a revolution or revolt. So I use those terms. I reject Enlightenment on similar grounds, because it presupposes that the spiritual and intellectual and cultural heritage of the highly Christian Middle Ages was a "darkness" from which "progressive" 18th-century man joyfully escaped.

I just don't see any problem here, though. Christianity is a rather large group. There are different kinds of Christians. Catholicism is one of these. One then (hopefully) proceeds to defend and proclaim it as quintessential Christianity and the best kind. But classifying it as part of the larger group of Christianity does not undermine that endeavor in the least.

* * *

John Lowell wrote:

I'm terribly sorry, but the simile you offer us is in no way apt, Chris. In your illustration, Roman is an adjective and Catholic is a noun, much like Melkite Catholic might be. The unmistakable meaning of Catholic, used as it is in Hahnspeak, "Catholic Christian", misrepresents our teaching. "Catholic" is improperly used as an adjective in this case.

This is thoroughly wrongheaded once again. I deny that there is a "grammatical" argument in the sense in which John intends this, at all. He implies that it is intrinsically indicative of an inferior brand of Christianity or Catholicism, if one simply uses Catholic Christian in the sense that Catholic functions grammatically as an adjective.

This doesn't fly because John is apparently overlooking crucial category distinctions and different possibilities of relationships between ideas (thus, it is again, at bottom, I think, a logical or thinking problem here).

In our present case, Christianity is an umbrella term. As such, it necessarily contains less information than sub-groups contained "under" it (as strictly a matter of classification). It does not follow that describing a form of x Christianity makes x less than Christianity as if Christianity were the qualitatively greater concept of the two.

This follows, not only logically and grammatically, but also theologically, since, in fact, the Catholic Church recognizes other forms of Christianity beside itself, though it regards them as less full manifestations of same.

After all, Orthodoxy arose in the 11th century. Unless someone asserts that it is a less than Christian faith, then one must be able to distinguish Orthodoxy from Catholicism, as two different forms of Christianity. Thus: Catholic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity.

In other words, from a Catholic perspective, there is a form of Christianity beside itself, but not as full and complete as itself. Catholicism remains the fullest expression of Christianity (thus greater than [mere] Christianity) and so Catholic is the greater concept than Christianity, while it still remains perfectly permissible and proper to say Catholic Christianity.

In fact, it should also be noted that even C.S. Lewis's own notion of "mere Christianity" presupposed this. His analogy to the house held that "mere Christianity" was the common hall in the house that all shared. Yet the fullest expressions of anyone's particular Christianity remained in individual rooms.

Thus, you have "rooms of the house" yet the rooms are in a real sense greater than the house. They are the sub-category in one sense, but the greater notion of the two in another. The rooms are greater than the hall where all Christians met in the context of common beliefs. The hall is generic Christianity, but the rooms are fuller expressions of particular Christian belief-systems.

If that is insufficient to reveal the fallacies and category mistakes entertained by John in his analysis, then we may suggest various analogies.

For example, there is the umbrella category of "music," which is, of course, almost unimaginably huge. Yet it contains less "content" than the categories underneath it. Classical music or gospel music immediately brings forth in one's mind rich images and sounds. Is classical music somehow inferior to music because it is more specific and merely because in the phrase classical is an adjective describing a particular kind of music? Of course not.

We could take that analogy a step further, making a reductio ad absurdum:

Mozartian classical music is a deficient form of music because, after all, the Mozartian aspect is inferior to the classical category, since it is an adjective describing the latter, and classical is inferior to music because it describes that.
Is the fallacy here evident and obvious yet? I should think so!

There are also, of course, qualitative distinctions in the "adjectival" categories. If we were to compare Mozart's classical music to Armstrong's classical music (I toyed with some written and electronic "compositions" right after high school, as I had majored in music), it would be obvious immediately which thing was the vastly superior of the two.

How about filmmaking? There is that large umbrella category, which would encompass anything, even up to crude home movies or even pornography (if we are referring strictly to the process of making movies which can be played back).

So if we say Hitchcockian filmmaking or Kubrickian filmmaking are Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock somehow "inferior" to the concept of "filmmaking"? Again, no. It doesn't even make sense to say that. Rather, they are two directors who produced excellent manifestations of film, and examples of that art. The Kubrick film is an infinitely fuller expression of film than home movies of our kids made in the Armstrong household (no matter how cute and endearing we think they are).

How about art? You have sculpture as a larger category. Then you have Rodin's sculpture and Michelangelo's sculpture. Are we to say that no other sculpture exists because Michelangelo made his glorious David and Pieta? No, of course not. Does it degrade Michelangelo or imply that someone else was a greater sculptor to simply say that his work was a species of sculpture? Again, no, of course not.

Likewise, the fact that Catholic describes a type of Christianity and is an adjective in the phrase Catholic Christian has no bearing whatsoever on the supposed proposition which allegedly follows from this, that it makes Catholicism subservient to Christianity and somehow compromises the fullness of Catholic ecclesiology.

The only possible compromise in ecclesiology in this scenario is the tacit assumption in Lowell's "argument" that there are no other forms of Christianity rightly so-called besides Catholicism. That clearly clashes with Vatican II ecclesiology, therefore is a deficient ecclesiology.

He wants to argue that he doesn't assume this presupposition? I hope he does so, but then his whole contention about "Catholic Christian" will collapse. As far as I am concerned, it already has, based on logic, grammar, and Catholic magisterial teaching. No one has to use this terminology (just like no one has to pray the Rosary or believe in Fatima and Lourdes), but it is not in the slightest un-Catholic or sub-Catholic or theologically-questionable to do so.


Those Weird Catholic Apologists & the "Real Jobs" They Oughtta Get!

This is loosely based on an exchange with a Catholic. The words of the usual criticisms heard in this regard will be in green.

* * * * *

Apologists shouldn't be a full-time profession or primary wage-earning income.

Why should the apologetic profession be any different than any other? Does anyone poke their nose into anyone else's business, asking what they do for a living, and what they do with all their money? I don't know what anyone else doe, and I really don't care, as long as it is worthy and honorable work (as most work is).

It's not a real job. You could do it on the side, though, as a supplement.
An apologist doesn't have a "real job"? On what basis does someone come to that conclusion? A "real job," seems to me, is something someone does (as long as it is not immoral, of course) which brings in recompense, on which they can live. Period. End of sentence. If Scott Hahn or Karl Keating or Pat Madrid or any other apologist (including myself) have important information to offer, in terms of education and helping Catholics better understand and defend (and perhaps also live) their faith, why should they not do this full-time?

Every other profession expects people to work full-time. But suddenly, when it comes to this, it is somehow a bad thing for someone to devote their full attention and energies to it? Why??!! We are simply exercising the gifts and the calling that God gave us. If we do it full-time then we have to make a living somehow. So we write books and give talks. Why anyone would have a problem with that truly mystifies me.

It's as if we have to be ashamed and embarrassed doing what we do, as if it is of little importance and only a last resort. I'm not ashamed at all; not in the slightest. But I am ashamed to see that so many Catholics have an irrational, groundless hostility to apologetics. I've seen the reasons given for this over and over, but I don't believe I have ever come across one that made any sense or could hold any water under even mild scrutiny.

It's an ego-driven mentality.

LOL Again, why must it be "ego" and what is this "mentality," pray tell? A "mentality" of doing what God calls one to do is a bad thing? A "mentality" of desiring to better equip Catholics with the intellectual aspect of the faith and to help them defend what they believe is a bad thing? A "mentality" that is happy to assist people in becoming convinced of the truth of Catholicism and to enter joyfully into the Church is a bad thing and undoubtedly indicative of a huge ego?

If a conversion story helps others convert and grow in their faith, and a person is willing to share it over and over, why is that wrong? I really don't get this. I have a friend, Alex Jones, who was a pastor (from Detroit, where I am from). He became convinced of Catholicism, and so he lost his job. He had to make a living. This is no small problem for pastors who convert. It so happens he was able to give his conversion story and put it out on tapes, to enable him to bring home the bacon. Now he is a deacon (or soon to be).

Why is this wrong? Some folks act as if it is a Faustian bargain to tell one's conversion story or (heaven forbid) write a book. I get about $1.75 per book that I sell. So how many books do I have to sell to become greedy?

The Catholic market is very small. The other day I saw three of my books in the Catholic Theology Top 50 at amazon, but I can't live off the royalties I get for those books. One of them doesn't even pay royalties. I received a one-time fee. I didn't get one red cent for my story in Surprised by Truth, either. I agreed to it; that was fine (and I got a lot of "name recognition" from it), but I use that as an example to show that one doesn't get rich doing apologetics.

Catholic apologist speakers make outrageous demands on their fees,

How does one determine what is outrageous? Are, e.g., athletes' salaries are outrageous too? 15 million dollars a year to play a boy's game? So maybe we should stop watching. But a Catholic sharing their faith and giving testimony making maybe $1000-2000 for a talk is unconscionable and scandalous?

The numbers of people who hear or read are unimportant. If we make an impact on just one person, it's worth it.

Agreed. I suppose it has to do with making it worth one's while, if one has to travel across the country, etc. We may all like to think that we would travel to Alaska or something to talk to two people in an audience, but if we are honest with ourselves, we would want to be able to feel that we are having a bit more influence than that. It may also have to do with selling more books at the book table (which is not wrong and some damnable sin, either). But if the fee is set beforehand it would be less of a factor.

Apologetics only goes so far . . .

It's not like it is either/or. Apologetics aims to give people the tools to be confident in what they believe, because they can fully accept it with their mind and rational faculties, as well as with their heart, and in faith. This is invaluable. It prevents people from being vulnerable to spiritual or theological attack and possibly falling away from the faith. After all, where are folks most likely to lose their faith? In college, of course. Part of that is peer pressure and hormones, but it is also in large part because of the unyielding hostile ideas being taught and soaked up like a sponge.

All of us can always grow more in this respect; there is no reason to stop. But different folks like different things. In any event, it isn't an either/or scenario. Apologetics need not be counter at all to spirituality, various devotions, love of the liturgy and the liturgical calendar, reading about saints and miracles, acts of mercy and charity, prayer, fasting, a wholesome family life, etc.

No one said apologetics was the be-all and end-all. In fact, I challenge anyone to find even ONE real apologist (published, credentialed) who ever stated such a foolish thing. It's elementary, after all, for anyone to figure out that "apologetics isn't everything." I often find that people argue things because of projection, based on their own odyssey, thinking that everyone else needs to learn the same lessons that they did. Just speculation, . . .

A healthy religious view does need an accompanying apologetics, because that provides the crucial rationale for why the thing is believed, and the basis for it to speak truth to culture, so that the Church can build it up and bring about spiritual revival.

Evangelization is greater than apologetics.

I don't feel a need to classify everything, better or worse. All these things are important aspects of the Catholic faith, and interconnected. I do both of these. It just depends on the situation.

In order to effectively evangelize today, however, more times than not one will need to be pretty well acquainted with apologetics, because it'll be necessary with the first "hard question" one is asked. Not everyone will jump for joy at having heard the Catholic message, and embrace it, no questions asked. They will want answers to many questions. That's where we come in.
Apologetics precedes conversion many times.

I know relatively little about the lecture-circuit because I don't do speaking, but I did do some research a while back after anti-Catholic Eric Svendsen made the charge that we Catholic apologists are so greedy because we charge speaking fees, whereas he does that for free. Of course, he didn't mention the fact (that he had stated elsewhere) that he was so independently wealthy that he could easily fork out $100,000 for a silly challenge he made to Catholics one time. So I made a comparison of speaking fees. It was most enlightening.

If proper catechesis was being done, apologists would not be so popular.

Probably so (as a matter of overlap in causality), yet this exhibits a confusion of category. Catechesis teaches the "what" of faith; apologetics deals with "why we believe what we believe". So it doesn't follow that apologetics would be less needed as good catechetics increased, any more than we should eat less apples in direct proportion to how many more oranges we eat.

If parents were doing a better job teaching the faith, we wouldn't need as many apologists, either.

This doesn't follow. Not every parent can teach decent apologetic skills (and my wife home-schools our four children). It is a specialized field. Therefore, most obviously it is good to have people who specialize in it, so that they can share what they have learned with others, saving them the trouble of doing it.

So, for example, anyone could go to a free paper of mine on the Internet (I have posted over 2100), and find some elaborate information that could literally save them hours of research. This very day I spent about four hours writing two pages on the deuterocanon for my next book. It's packed with information, itself drawn from several papers of mine that, combined, would represent probably 40-50 hours of work.

When someone reads this and takes in the information, they are better equipped in that regard. My 50 hours of labor can save them a bunch of time. Division of labor . . . this is how the world works. Now the trick is to obtain the time to spend 50 hours studying the issue of the deuterocanon.

Here's a news flash for critics of apologists!: it takes TIME. And it does even for one like myself who is known (in some circles, notoriously so) for being prolific and a very fast writer. And time is money. The time I spend doing that takes away time I could be at some other job making money. If folks think an apologist is doing helpful work, then they think it is worth it to support him financially, so he can devote himself more so to the important work. But our "product" has no monetary value; it has only spiritual value. Our society doesn't value things other than products and wealth-producing techniques, and so the type of work I do is not considered "real" work. Hence, many pick up that secular mentality, saying we should get a "real job."

I could have done anything I wanted in my life. I had a 3.5 GPA in college. I could have learned anything and gone into any number of lucrative fields. But I chose to do this because I felt God's calling to do so (way back in 1981). It's a sacrifice, and there are many trials and tribulations. Most folks have never seen one-tenth of the lies and smears and epithets I put up with from critics. This isn't easy work. Not everyone can do it. So it is beyond silly to see people making an argument that we do this for greed and fame and pride purposes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Warren Carroll on Historical Method & Primary & Secondary Sources (Brian Tierney as Liberal Counter-Example)

Warren Carroll obtained a doctorate in history from Columbia University and has taught history at Indiana University. He founded Christendom College in 1977. He is an orthodox Catholic and the author of many books dealing with Church history; notably the multi-volume A History of Christendom (first installment: The Founding of Christendom, 1985, from Christendom Press, Front Royal, Virginia). I've read the first four volumes of this excellent work.

Dr. Carroll has made some cogent, insightful statements at the beginning of the first volume mentioned above (pp. 11-12), about method and bias. I agree wholeheartedly:

The majority of the citations in these notes refer to secondary sources – that is, to the work of modern historians on which the author has drawn. Primary sources - documents contemporary with the period under review - are used from time to time, particularly where there is a strongly controverted point, but comprise only a minority of the citations. This is simply because of the scope of this work, which renders it impossible for any one man in a reasonable period of time to master all or most of the applicable primary sources adequately; even if this were possible, it would not be a reasonable expenditure of time and effort, since so many painstaking and conscientious scholars have already investigated the primary sources with the utmost care and have reported thoroughly on them. The overriding need is not for more monographs on original sources, but for synthesis from the Christian point of view, in a time when this kind of history has virtually ceased being written.

. . . Regarding objectivity, every professional historian knows that the most difficult single task in historical research is pruning down and weeding out the original indigestible mass of raw material into the basis for a coherent presentation of the subject being researched and written about. Every historian must use principles of selection of what material is important and relevant to his general and particular task. Every historian (though not all are fully aware of this) has a world-view which has much to do with his choice of what is significant and relevant. For the historian to suppress evidence bearing directly on his own subject and conclusions is a grave dereliction; but for him to screen out irrelevant information is a duty, an essential part of his craft. In all honesty, every historian owes to his reader an identification and a statement of his own world-view.

Above all it is necessary to see the fundamental error in the widely held idea that the history of religion is "objective" when written by those who do not believe in the religion they are writing about (or often, in any religion) but biased when written by a religious man. The rejection of some or all religious truth is every bit as much of an intellectual position as is the acceptance of religious truth. Both the believer and the non-believer have a point of view. Both are equally tempted to bias; either may be objective by overcoming that temptation. Objectivity does not derive from having no point of view. History cannot be written without one. Objectivity does require honesty and respect for truth always.

This is how I try to approach my own apologetic research, particularly when I write from an amateur historiographical apologetic viewpoint. I especially appreciate Dr. Carroll's remarks about secondary sources, since I have argued the same thing for years from my non-scholar's viewpoint: I'm an apologist; pure and simple. It would be folly and presumption for me to pretend to be a scholar, let alone an historian. Therefore, it is perfectly proper and well and good that I cite the work of professional historians about historical matters. I don't have to be acquainted with every primary source every time I cite someone like Luther or Jonathan Edwards or Charlemagne or whomever it may be (some folks seem to think this is strictly necessary, lest I be guilty of gross misrepresentation and incompetent research). As Dr. Carroll notes, even historians are not strictly obliged to do so, since he himself has consciously relied mostly on secondary sources for his purposes, even in a major, multi-volume history of Christianity.

It's also good that theologically-liberal and dissident historians are also increasingly willing to make their biases known, so that readers are not left guessing. For example, the well-known proclaimed "Catholic" historian Brian Tierney, author of scholarly works such as Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages, and Rights, Laws and Infallibility in Medieval Thought, makes no bones about his disbelief in the subject he writes about. Here is a portion from the Introduction (pp. 2-5) of his book, Origins of Papal Infallibility: 1150-1350 (Leiden: 1972; emphases in green added):

If the popes have always been infallible in any meaningful sense of the word—if their official pronouncements as heads of the church on matters of faith and morals have always been unerring and so irreformable - then all kinds of dubious consequences ensue. Most obviously, twentieth century popes would be bound by a whole array of past papal decrees reflecting the responses of the Roman church to the religious and moral problems of former ages. As Acton put it, "The responsibility for the acts of the buried and repented past would come back at once and for ever." To defend religious liberty would be "insane" and to persecute heretics commendable. Judicial torture would be licit and the taking of interest on loans a mortal sin. The pope would rule by divine right "not only the universal church but the whole world." Unbaptized babies would be punished in Hell for all eternity. Maybe the sun would still be going round the earth.

All this is impossible of course. No one understands the fact better than modern theologians of infallibility. If past popes have always been infallible — again, we must add, in any meaningful sense of the word—then present popes are hopelessly circumscribed in their approaches to all the really urgent moral problems of the twentieth century, problems involving war, sex, scientific progress, state power, social obligations, and individual liberties. The existence of this dilemma helps to explain the rather eccentric development of the doctrine of infallibility during the past century. Since Vatican Council I, Catholic theologians have felt obliged to defend some form of papal infallibility. Real infallibility has regrettable implications. In the years since 1870, therefore, theologians have devoted much ingenuity to devising a sort of pseudo-infallibility for the pope, a kind of Pickwickian infallibility.

Their usual technique has been to raise endless, teasing, really unanswerable questions about the meaning of the term ex cathedra as used in the decree of Vatican Council I and about the phrases "ordinary magisterium" and "extraordinary magisterium" that came to be associated with it in discussions on papal infallibility. Already in 1874 Gladstone could write, "... There is no established or accepted definition of the phrase ex cathedra and (the Catholic) has no power to obtain one, and no guide to direct him in his choice among some twelve theories on the subject, which, it is said, are bandied to and fro among Roman theologians, except the despised and discarded agency of his private judgment."

. . . The one consistent rule of interpretation we can be sure of encountering is this: whenever a theologian disagrees with some old teaching or new ruling of a pope he will find good theological grounds for deciding that the papal pronouncement was "not infallible." The whole modern doctrine of infallibility in its Pickwickian form might be summed up in the general principle, "All infallible decrees are certainly true but no decrees are certainly infallible."

. . . the pronouncements of popes, even of modern popes, sometimes contradict one another (notably, for example, in the matter of religious toleration). Some theologians therefore have upheld the infallibility of contemporary decrees without giving serious consideration to the possibility of their conflicting with preceding ones. In effect, they are content to pretend that the past did not happen. There is at least a beguiling innocence in this approach. Other theologians, more reprehensibly (from a historian's point of view), have devised hermeneutical principles so ingenious that the documents of the past can never embarrass them. By applying such principles, they can reinterpret any doctrinal pronouncement, regardless of its actual content, to mean whatever the modern theologian thinks that its framers ought to have meant. [footnote: A good introduction to the hermeneutical problems that arise when theologians try to reconcile doctrinal statements from different ages of the church's past that are really irreconcilable with each other is provided by H. Riedlinger, "Hermeneutische Ueberlegungen zu den Konstanzer Dekreten" is Das Konzil von Konstanz, ed. A. Franzen and W. Müller (Freiburg, 1964), pp. 214-238.] The infallible doctrine of the past remains infallible but it is deprived of all objective content. This procedure seems based on a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland logic. One is reminded of the Cheshire Cat—the body of a past pronouncement disappears but its grin of infallibility persists. The general principle underlying this second major approach to the problem of infallibility might be summarized in the formula, "All infallible pronouncements are irreformable—until it becomes convenient to change them." It seems only fair to add that most Catholic theologians have continued to opt for some version of the relatively simple and straightforward Pickwickian position.

By the time of Vatican Council II the Catholic theology of infallibility had become a tangle of paradoxes and evasions. The theologians had worked themselves into a complicated cul-de-sac. But the council refrained from any thorough-going reconsideration of this question and merely repeated with minor variations the doctrine of 1870. In the years since Vatican Council II, however, a new development of thought has occurred. Very recently—while this book was being written—a few Catholic scholars have begun overtly to challenge the validity of the doctrine that was defined at Vatican Council I and reaffirmed at Vatican Council II. [footnote: F. Simons, Infallibility and the Evidence (Springfield, Ill., 1968); F. Oakley, Council Over Pope? (New York, 1969); H. Küng, Unfehlbar? Eine Anfrage [Infallibility?: An Inquiry] (Zurich, 1970).] It remains to be seen whether their point of view will establish itself as a viable position that can be held within the Roman Catholic church.
There is much to be said for transparent honesty, isn't there? Tierney must be admired for having no reluctance whatsoever to reveal his glaring heterodox Catholic affinities. He has "grown" far more than, say, Dan Rather, who never quite managed to admit that he was a far left political liberal; hence prone to the most outrageous bias (such as - to pick an example out of the blue - his reporting on President Bush and his earlier days during the last election campaign). Heads rolled at CBS, but Rather's was never one of them (despite the disdain even of the veteran reporter Mike Wallace). Not so, Tierney, or folks like Hans Kung. We know where they stand!

Let's all be thankful for small favors . . .

For further related reading:

Brian Tierney: Inveterate Enemy of Papal "Tyranny" and Infallibility

The Modernist, Secularist Historicism of Raymond Brown and Brian Tierney (including lengthy citations from St. Thomas Aquinas on papal infallibility, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Msgr. George A. Kelly, and Protestants J. Gresham Machen and Os Guinness on Liberalism)

The Historical Credibility of Hans Kung (Joseph Costanzo)

Christian Apologetics and Academic Historiography: Similarities and Differences (vs. Edwin Tait)

Discussion on Orthodox Caesaropapism & Proper Historiography (vs. "Theophan" & Joel Kalvesmaki)

A Defense of Amateur Apologetics a la C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton

Martin Luther the "Super-Pope" and de facto Infallibility: Extensive Documentation From Luther's Own Words and a Discussion of Protestant Charges Concerning Alleged Widespread Dishonesty of Catholic Apologists in Dealing With Luther

Protestant Contra-Catholic Revisionist History: Pope St. Pius X and Cardinal Newman's Alleged "Modernism", Version II (vs. David T. King)

Catholic Historiography: Brian Tierney and John Henry Newman

Was Conciliarist Ecclesiological Theory an "Orthodox" Option in Mediæval Catholicism? 


Monday, March 20, 2006

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST (very serious health / ethical situation)

My friend Stephen Hand, webmaster of Traditional Catholic Reflections, has written the following about his son:

Prayer Request: My son [Jeremy Hand] has fallen into a coma and is in critical condition, I would be very grateful for any who would pray for him, especially at Mass at the Consecration / Elevation. He recently returned to the Church and had the Sacrament of the Sick yesterday. Thank you.



Monday. The next 24-36 hours will be critical if my son, 28, is to avoid being designated "brain dead," or impaired which God forbid. Should he awake, even partially, it will remain to be seen what if any long term damage was done. Thank you for your prayers. He apparently vomited in his sleep, deep into the night after St. Patrick's day dinner with us and other visits with other friends Friday; it went into his lungs, causing a heart attack and depriving his brain of oxygen, causing also pneumonia, kidney failure, etc. His state was not discovered until the next day at 1 PM by my daughter who had stayed over at his apartment for the night. Previously she thought he was just sleeping. When she finally tried to stir him his lips were blue. His kidneys have rebounded somewhat but no improvement yet in the "higher functions of the brain" affecting coma. The question is how long his brain was deprived of oxygen. Needless to say our hearts are broken. He had just returned most sincerely to the Church, and our hearts were warmed Friday when he was the one who asked us to make sure we prayed together before St. Patrick's day supper. Is it possible he had too much alcohol after he left here? Yes. With his other friends we do not know. He only had a Guinness when with us. Some prescription drugs were found in his system. He was not depressed, but had been treated for an anxiety disorder. Quite to the contrary of depression; he spoke in joy about his new girlfriend and his future at work (he is an engineer). - Stephen Hand

* * * * *

I would also appreciate prayers for my father, Graham Armstrong. I've written before how he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. The tumor is growing, and our family has to decide upon treatment soon. Please pray also for his spiritual state. Thank you very much.

* * * * *

Monday, 3-20-06:

A Cry to My Sisters and Brothers for Help

Today my family and I were given heartbreaking news, that my son's cerebral cortex, which controls cognition / thinking, has been damaged beyond human hope due to having been deprived of oxygen "for apparently a long time" sometime between Sat 12:30 AM and 1 PM (an 11.5 hr window). This means, we were told, the "thinking part" of his brain is "gone forever," barring a miracle, and that within 48 hours we should make a decision to take him off artificial life support "and give him peace". We asked for a second opinion and received the same answer, breaking our hearts altogether.

Apparently this morning, at the same time, they began feeding my son liquid nutrition / food through a nasal tuble. When I asked the doctors whether he would die from just the removing him from artificial life support, they told us not necessarily. He would, they said, because of his youth, more likely die first of dehydration and lack of nutrition. This means starvation and filled me with anxiety. We need help here to be morally certain in making a family decision. Is this removing of a nasal tube identical to the situation Terri Schiavo was in? Would this mean "actively killing" my son? Please, if you can find it in your heart to send me a brief, preferably official document, clarifying this for us, I / we would be most grateful. I am very reluctant to remove nourishment for the very same reasons the Schiavo's were. Am I missing something here? Is there some factor which makes the cases different in any essential way? Under what terms, if any, is it allowable, according to the Church, to remove nutritional support once it has been introduced?

Please pray that God's will is done, and for my family. The agony of watching a beloved son in what is being called an irreversible coma, is almost too much to bear. So we cling to the cross. Help us, if you can, to know what His will is in Heaven in regard to all this. Perhaps I should know all this myself, but I feel shamefully in deep confusion. Thank you. Send your replies to TCRnews2.com@gmail.com and thank you in advance for understanding that I may not be able to reply immediately.

* * * * *

Further Updates:

Tuesday AM: "No good news to report," ICU nurse informed us this AM.

Tuesday PM: We will be informing the hospital that while we approve the removing of all artificial life support sometime after Jeremy's pneumonia has cleared, we cannot ever approve any interruption or removal of a feeding tube which provides for the ordinary maintenance of life (the unity of body and soul). Thank you so very much for the caring of so many who wrote to help us work through these issues. Especially to my sometime sparring partners on the war and some other issues who rushed to help showing what beautiful men and women they are, sisters and brothers in Christ. And especially thank you for your prayers which Jeremy and we still need. I'll try to move on with TCR now as time permits.

Wednesday 10 PM, Jeremy Update: Today, yet a fourth neurologist who examined the latest Cat Scan of Jeremy's cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) gave us a slight first glimmer of some hope. He contradicted the previous doctors who suggested it was all over; this doctor interpreted white matter in the Cat Scan and said "Jeremy's cortex is significantly damaged as you can see in this area. But only because of his youth I think we should give him more time, a couple of months, and see, assuming he lives through this, what his youthfulness does for him." He went on to say, "at this point I can only say that the results could range from the horrific (SH: his word) to maybe what you saw in the girl on TV" (SH: I assume he meant Terri Schiavo?). He was an abrupt no nonsense kind of man who resisted further questions by putting up his hand. "I can't tell you more. He has significant brain swelling. Very few recover significantly from the kind of injuries your son has sustained. But sometimes young people surprise us. He's not an old man with Alzheimers. So we can only wait and see what is left."

My heart leaped within! Possibly grim, certainly mixed, but hopeful news. We'll take whatever he's left with! Catholic moral theologian Dr. Germain Grisez was contacted by Stephen O'Brien, a beautiful soul, and arranged for me to call Dr. Grisez who, along with Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, who tweaked the draft, approved a final revised set of directives for us to guide the medical staff in sensitive matters. Dr. Grisez told us that if Jeremy survives with a feeding tube we might consider taking him home, if we are able and with visiting nurses, after whatever rehab is used to stabilize residual capacity. This was what my wife had been hoping to hear and Dr. Grisez brought it up without my even asking. Human love, the warmth of home, with reasonable care (feeding, suctioning, bathing and caring for natural functions, ensuring against bed sores, etc), can prevail over mere efficiency. So our hearts are set on hope. Where there is life there is hope. A feeding tube, at the very least, can ensure that we hope. Moreover, as so many of you have said, God can do miracles. And, as grace builds on nature, there is as this new neurologist told me, Jeremy's youth.

Today they significantly decreased Jeremy's oxygen dependence and so far he seems to have accepted that well. He has involuntary movements (yawning, lip licking, jerking motions of the arms)

Wednesday 10:45 PM ....Just after writing this I got a call from the hospital saying Jeremy's heart stopped "suddenly for about 30 seconds" after we left the hospital tonight. He was saved by the ICU team. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Thursday PM Update: Jeremy went into several seizures this morning and had to be placed back on full oxygen and on anti-seizure medication. In the morning a feeding tube will be inserted into his stomach in surgey, as well as an implanted intravenous device near the collar bone. Thank you for your continued prayers and Masses for him. I suspect we are in for many ups and downs in the months to come. Right now we are simply praying hard he will survive if it is God's will. He looked so tired and suffering today, though I am told he feels nothing. How I hope so.

END

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Irrational, Uncharitable, Groundless Smear Campaign Against Scott Hahn & Lay Apologetics & Evangelism (by Fellow Catholic John Lowell) Continues

One John Lowell (a professed Catholic) has kept up his harangue (on another blog; post since removed by the owner, with an apology to Scott Hahn), which previously had been taking place on the Ressourcement: Restoration in Catholic Theology blog, prior to March 3rd, when I posted my reply to it. I shall respond to his latest charges, and also some general motifs which come up too frequently on the Internet (the words of the fictional "skeptic of apologetics" will be in red).

* * * * *

Strangely enough, Mr. Lowell (his words will be in green) wrote the following very near the end of that earlier pathetic thread:

Why might it be that the Hahn claque just can't leave this question alone? Have they been made all that insecure by what I've said? If so, their's is a rather considerable fragility. Might there be financial or some other such questions on the line for them? I mean at one point we approach the tedious, eh?

Justin [Nickelsen; blog owner],

There's a point past which self-expression passes into harrassment and, at this juncture, I think we're all too close to it. As should be evident above, I've done my level best to discourage further interchange on this question. But not unlike the Evangelicals these birds would seem to want to mimic, you're going to hear from them repeatedly whether you want to or not. Now if my participation here is to continue - and you've assured me that it is valued - then I'm going to have to look to you for relief at this point.

Yet, oddly enough, shortly after March 9th, Mr. Lowell reversed his ostensible position of the topic having long since reached and exceeded the point of tedium and "harassment". Having done his "best to discourage further interchange on this question" he nonetheless found himself unable to "leave this question alone" and so it is our misfortune to hear from Mr. Lowell on another similar blog "repeatedly whether [we] want to or not," since this Catholic gentleman enthusiastically took up the exact same question over there a mere week or so following his previous exhaustion (of course, for no "financial" reason).

And so it was off to the dog races again, with the illustrious and energetic Mr. Lowell. Excellent rebuttals were offered by my friend Christopher Blosser, and also Deacon Barth E. Bracy.

* * * * *

Drumroll followed by cymbal crash ...

Here's Scottie ...

I mean can there be even one aspect of his life that Scott Hahn feels isn't deserving of book length attention? What's next, for heaven sake, the Sex Life of Scott Hahn or Scott Hahn Meets Frankenstein? How many members of Opus Dei might you imagine don't feel their membership so notable that they can't resist the beakoning of self-importance? This guy is really quite the entreprenuer, what could be more clear?

Well, for one thing, that you like to judge hearts and motives?

 
* * *


Many apologists have an evangelical mentality and make lots of money from books.

Cardinal Newman or G.K. Chesterton never made a penny from their numerous books? Perhaps all writers (in which class I find myself) should work gratis?

* * *

He really never had the humility to leave Evangelicalism and take the time to adjust himself to the social and spiritual reality that is Catholicism.

As I recall, there was about a three-year gap, which is plenty of time.

He came in guns blazing, cock sure he knew just what we needed - a Catholic version of the Evangelicalism he'd just left - and started at the top with all the answers, like the son-in-law of the owner that gets placed in charge of the local glass factory. He repeatedly describes himself as a "Catholic Christian" as though there were some larger reality, Christianity, of which the Catholic Church is just one variety. Some ecclesiology, that. And he writes books? Oy!

I dealt with this ridiculous charge in my last reply (and in a subsequent paper). The only way the charge of a heterodox ecclesiology can fly at all is to deny that there are any Christians besides Catholics. If so, then the qualifier is a function of the English language, pure and simple. If not, then you are quite in discord with Vatican II.

* * *

Some apologists seem to go overboard seeking opportunities for financial gain: sort of like the Protestant televangelists.

. . . as if the profit motive or almighty Dollar is what drives and motivates apologists. I would say, rather, that we look for opportunities for ministry and that we earn wages for this work, just as any other laborer is worthy of his wages.

This is not a "Protestant" mentality at all, but a very biblical one (more on that later). What is off here is the unspoken acceptance of the secularist, non-biblical sacred-secular dichotomy, which would hold that spiritual work is no work at all, and thus not due any remuneration (thus those who receive it are intrinsically corrupt; having received wages for no work). Speakers' fees are determined by market
forces. Book royalties are determined by the publisher. But of course, if one has a problem with capitalism per se (any form of it), then that would be another issue. Apologists shouldn't be the unfortunate targets and scapegoats for anti-capitalist mentalities.

Apologists (those who are full-time) make a living based on hard work and vigilance in doing the work of the Kingdom which God called them to do. Writing a book is worthy work; giving lectures is also. The market determines the wages. Why must Christian lay workers be condemned? If this is some evil thing, then how much more evil (i.e., by this fallacious reasoning) are those who make a profit by merely producing items for mass consumption? At least apologists are communicating Catholic truth; doing evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

Apologists (usually) aren't academics, and write too much in a popular vein.

So what!!!??? What in the world is wrong with that? The same was true of both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis: widely considered the two greatest and most influential Christian apologetics in the 20th century (Chesterton had no college degree at all and Lewis was an Oxford don). Does this come down to ivory tower elitism? Must we think that folks have to be interested in academic work or else they can read nothing of worth with regard to Catholicism?


[Christopher Blosser] "... but if he's going to criticize Hahn, he may as well do the same for every other contemporary Catholic convert/apologist who's published an account of why and how they were led to the embrace of our Holy Catholic Church".

Well, I suppose you're right about that. You might remember Thomas Merton who it is said was criticised roundly by the other monks of his order for what they considered his publicity seeking and justly so in my view. Until I read of the Opus Dei business, I would have been willing to restrict my criticism of Hahn to a charge of self-importance. But much as David points out, with this new offering even the most generous treatment would find an attempt to capitalize financially from the earlier publicity surrounding his conversion.

As pertains to the books you cite, yes, to the extent that they offer similar testimony to Hahn's I feel they deserve censure. But again, here, Hahn set the tone. If there is any mitigation to be seen in the cases of these follow-on conversion stories it is in their monkey-see-monkey-do quality.

You gave no answer to my questions last time about the usefulness of classic conversion stories such as those by Newman, Knox, Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, or Dorothy Day (preferring snide personal insults instead). Obviously, you haven't pondered that question, as you go right on with the same astonishing, vapid criticisms.

In any case, one gets the impression with all of this business that Catholicism is being reduced to a kind of AA meeting, the difference being, of course, that those testifying in AA have at least the humilty to remain anonymous - even when their stories have been published - so as to guard against the very self-importance and entrepreneurship so evident in Hahn. Hahn, and others, would have done well to have considered this far more Marian example, rather than the sordid kind of revival tent exhibitionism so typical of the biblicist Evangelicalism from which he came. The more I learn of Hahn the less I like.

Yeah, right; like Cardinal Newman was really anonymous when he wrote his Apologia pro vita sua? Perhaps, according to you, he should rather have not done so, so as to maintain his humility? It's embarrassing to have to even point out such things.
You should cease the mindless slander and speculation of ill internal motivations. It's a wicked sin, and one not regarded lightly in Holy Scripture. When will these ludicrous smears cease?
Capitalism can corrupt people, including apologists.

It can do so, yes, absolutely. I have always thought that myself. But it is not an absolute. It is your unproven assumption that this is inevitably the case which causes problems. It isn't self-evident that when one looks at a Catholic apologist today, that they see a profound example of a person corrupted by capitalism, greed, and so forth. We can't read mens' hearts. We don't know what they do with the money they make. We have no idea what struggles another person has to deal with and what worries him as he lies in bed at night.
* * *

A couple of comments ago, I pointed to the example of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous as having a more suitable claim to the Marian spirituality to which I would hope we all aspire than would the egoism all too perceptible in Hahn and his acolytes.

I suppose any public expression of a conversion story or otherwise helpful teaching (especially if one actually makes money from it!) must be absolutely forbidden, lest we fall into the trap of "egoism." But where does either the Church or the Bible teach this, pray tell?

The book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the bible of the AA program, offers any number of stories of dramatic religious experiences, most of them far more impressive than anything Scott Hahn has reported of himself, yet the writers manage to set aside the temptation to self-importance and the possibility of financial gain by keeping their names to themselves. And they maintain this anonymity precisely to avoid the occasion of sin.

St. Augustine and Venerable Cardinal Newman as rank sinners and egoists . . . right-o!

Now God has prospered Alcoholics Anonymous in ways that make Scott Hahn's conversion express look like a Sunday school picnic, yet no one in AA has ever gotten on a platform of any kind. Frankly, I can't think of anything more possibly instructive than this example. Hahn would have been wise to have considered it.


* * *

At no time or at any official level did the community that is the Church, either solicit Hahn's writing of his experience or see in it a service so essential, so vital to Herself or to the external culture, that She would have compensated him for it.

He made his living by other means. So what? What business is that of yours, or anyone else?

Had She, there would be an analogy, Greg, but She hadn't. To the contrary, very much unlike Bill W., Hahn, either wholly on his own initiative or in unison with his handlers, embarked upon the project of his conversion story in a way that was both presumptuous and, inevitably therefore, egoistic. To say that his book somehow represents a community service is no more true of it than it would be of Wayne Dyer's Your Erroneous Zones.

A Catholic can write a book just like anyone else can write a book. Conversion stories are valuable because they directly challenge Protestant assumptions and help to build up confidence among Catholics (who already have somewhat of an inferiority complex in dealing with Protestants). If people want to read it, then the author is entitled to his due royalties (the economic aspect). If such a story helps others convert, then that is God's working through the book and a sure confirmation of its value (the spiritual aspect). But of course, you frown upon that. It's unimportant to you, I guess, that God may be using a testimony to bring others into His Church (since I haven't seen you say one positive thing yet about that). All you see is unbridled pride and egoism and greed.

* * *

In offering purely non-personal output, I find nothing particularly offensive about Hahn. It's the holding-himself-out-as-exemplar, personal writing that I find objectionable.

The man wrote his conversion story! Why must you always condemn others' interior motivations? Look at your own heart, for heaven's sake, as Jesus says: the beam in your own eye, not the speck in Scott Hahn's eye.

I should add that I'm no cradle Catholic, either.

Yes, I've seen that you have expressed repeatedly how humble you are because you never wrote your story.

My concern with the prominence he achieved so soon after converting is that he gave himself no time to adjust himself to and accomodate the new
Catholic environment at all, he just started out at the top with all of the answers and went on from there. There was no restraint whatsoever. And, with the Opus Dei book, still none. I mean ask yourself, how important do you think it is really either to yourself or to the Church that Hahn is a member of Opus Dei. What short of the most incredible ego would convince him that it is. I think David hit the nail on the head with the financial gain charge. It can't be escaped.

What rational soul could possibly overcome your facts-filled, firsthand knowledge critique?

* * *

The objection has to do with the fact that he makes money at all this way, not that he makes too much of it. . . . I'd have to say that its just as much our business as it would be if any other huckster sought to exploit his Catholic identity the way Hahn has. I mean at one point, there's an obligation both to self and to one's brother.

This is simply amazing. Again, there is not one thing wrong with making money from speaking or writing books. You have simply assumed this; you haven't proven it in the least. Having irrationally assumed it, you then go on (as usual) to make a charge of hucksterism and exploitation.

* * *

St. Paul never made a profit from his apostolate, nor did St. Augustine.

St. Augustine had to beg on the street? I assume he was provided at least food and shelter and clothing by the Church? St. Paul taught that Christian workers were worthy of their wages, and had a "right" to them, as he explains at length in 1 Corinthians 9. Paul was an apostle but he wasn't functioning as much as a priest, as he was as an itinerant evangelist and apologist. His teaching in this chapter obviously has general application. Paul himself renounced the "right" to receive wages for his work (1 Cor 9:12 - cf. 9:15,18 -, but note that in the same verse he mentions "rights" twice). He renounced his right (going above and beyond the call of duty), but it doesn't follow that the right does not exist. The heroic or the extraordinary is not the norm for the ordinary. Thus, priests and religious are to receive a living wage; so are missionaries (which is why the Church supports missions). You may wish to argue that only priests and religious ever receive any funding from the Church. I would like to see you prove that no lay organization or individual in ministry ever does.
When one starts from erroneous assumptions, pretty soon the bad thinking gets into judgments of others' characters.
* * *

[responding to Deacon Bracy]

You presuppose that anyone has asked for the tracts that you judge to be so compensable, Deacon.

They asked for them by buying them! How silly is this!?

Is there some reason that they can't be made available as a personal sacrifice?

Sure. But again, you don't know what he has done with the money. One could make money and then give it away, which is just as much a sacrifice as doing something for free, because you have contributed free labor. But sacrifice isn't everything. One can help advance the Church and Kingdom in many ways. Conversion stories, evangelism, apologetics, and teaching are some of the ways.

The Church provides for the needs of our professional class, our priests and bishops. Why the need to justify compensation for the heads of self-appointed ministries?

He is a professional theologian. He was already a pastor before he converted. You have no right to question his calling as a Protestant. That is not "self-appointed" at all. I've been accused of the same thing because I am a layman. But what my accusers neglect in every case is the fact that I was personally received into the Church by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., who said my writings were "very Catholic" (even back in 1991) and who wrote the Foreword of my first book. Since he was considered one of the leading catechists in the world, and was a close advisor to both Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, I would say that is a strong sanction from the Church, wouldn't you? These types of things happen all the time with lay apologists. What do I need to do: get a personal letter from the pope, lest I be accused of being "self-appointed"? Scott has plenty of episcopal support. Only a relentless critic like yourself could fail to see that.

The concept and most of the language you use here, muzzling oxes, workman's keep and the like, has an all-too- Evangelical smell to it for my tastes. Much like the style of Hahn it carries all the earmarks of a poorly assimilated Protestantism. You may wish to give some thought to that.


It's biblical; not exclusively Protestant at all. Do you think Protestants made all those terms up??!! The Church highly encourages lay evangelization and apologetics; even on the Internet, as I wrote about recently. Sometimes that will occur in situations where the person gets paid to do it, just like any other work. I'm sure you will now go out and demonstrate how superior your way is to Scott Hahn's. As my friend Al Kresta likes to say when he might not agree with every jot and tittle of someone's method in some kind of apostolate: "his way of doing it is better than my way of not doing it." Perhaps you can beg door-to-door in rags, as St. Francis (who was not a priest) did. God will honor that and much fruit will come of it. But don't act like you know what everyone else should do.

Not everyone in the Church must live exactly the same. Was Abraham rich? Were Solomon and David rich? Did not God call them? After all, God only made two major covenants with Abraham and David. He didn't require them to be dirt-poor. But he called others to live a life of poverty. You can't make one rule, as if that is all there is. We know that Jesus and the disciples were supported financially by some women. They had to eat, after all. Abraham, great philanthropists who have given millions of dollars to help the work of the Church. Are you seriously arguing that every Catholic is called to a life of poverty?
Other (better) models of ministry besides apologists are people like, for example, Jean Vanier, Fr. Thierry de Roucy, and Fr. Philip Scott, who live radical lives for Christ.

I see that Jean Vanier has written at least twelve books (see link). He doesn't make a penny from any of them? The L'Arche Communities, which he founded, solicit funds (here's an example). They also ask for volunteers (same page). That's free labor for their cause and work. I would love to get free labor to help me too. As it is, I have done every last bit of work on my blog, website, and in my books, and the vast majority of it, by the way, was for not one thin dime, and free to the reading public.

I had and have other jobs, too: on top of my apologetics done free of charge. Time is money. Labor is sacrifice. I have a family of six to provide for. I manage to do that and also write apologetics and share my conversion story once in a while. That's my life. How apologists have chosen to go about their lives is no one else's business unless they can demonstrate some terrible sin committed or breach of trust with contributors, etc.

Are you saying that it is better to solicit funds, so as to be sufficiently "radical" for Christ, rather than work? Or are you contending that helping people with physical disabilities is worthy and honorable work, sufficient to be supported by donations, whereas evangelism and apologetics and helping people with spiritual or education disabilities is not?

Fr. Thierry de Roucy's Heart's Home USA also solicits funds (and also volunteers). Indeed, it "mostly relies on private donations as a funding source for its activities." I rely on donations, by contrast, for only one-third of my income (and that is only in the best-case scenario, which is usually not the case). The rest comes from book royalties and additional part-time jobs. So they mostly beg for their money, while I mostly work for mine. Is solicitation is somehow more godly and meritorious than earning one's money through their own labor? Let's be clear: I don't look down on solicitation in the least, if it is for a good cause. But some folks want to look down on selling books and giving talks, and on lay apologists and evangelists (from the looks of it) getting paid at all for their work.
How much do apologists make for their talks? How many do they give? How many books have they written? How much is enough? It's unbridled capitalism.

How many unwarranted accusations have been made? How many times have apologists' hearts and also that of many lay Catholic workers been judged? How much do the people who make such accusations make at their jobs? Have they ever spent five dollars above subsistence level? Have they ever engaged in any recreation or luxury or gone on a vacation? Have they ever eat en a banana split, when people were starving in other parts of the world or bought a new set of clothes or a vehicle? And why is it any of their business if someone else does?
Charity for the poor is a more important work than apologetics.

If the Catholic worker can raise money for charity purposes, why not an apologist for those purposes? Or must we believe that the Social Gospel is far more weighty and important and thus worthy of financial support than teaching, sharing, and defending the faith? I say both are, and that trying to divide them is the devil's game.

* * *

Capitalism can pervert the Gospel.

Sure; absolutely. So can Marxism and the Social Gospel and political liberalism and the sort of Pharisaical, judgmental, condescending legalism that John Lowell is spouting.

* * *

When the very egoism we've been criticising here is allowed to metastasize sufficiently, charity is seen only to consist in approval.

How fascinating: we must accept your view (with no compelling evidence at all offered for it: just naked judgmental opinion and judging of hearts) as self-evident, or else we are reduced to a mindless, clone-like "claque."

I don't know how you feel but there would seem to be a whole coterie of camp followers here and elsewhere, a kind of claque as it were, that appears whenever Scott Hahn is submitted to criticism. One is reminded of the style of invective so typical of political operatives in the Clinton and Bush White Houses where every criticism was and is met with the hurling of personal sludge. Perhaps these folks have been influenced by an all-too-close proximitity to the all-too-close proximity of Fr. Neuhaus, Fr. Pavone, and William Donnelly to the Republican Party aparatus, maybe that's the source of this infection.

That's right. I'm an apparatchik of "W" Bush Republicanism; hence my inability to comprehend your substanceless, irrational charges. Who could deny it?

I do know one thing for sure: That at another site my criticisms were met almost programatically by many who, not unlike Hahn, had published their conversion stories. It was as though the criticism had triggered a kind of mass guilt, that by merely poking at the abscess, the whole of it's contents had been released.

Absolutely. It goes without saying that whoever disagreed with you was undeniably burdened by an intolerable guilt at having shared their conversion, rather than having remained in the back pews and soup kitchens of sublime humility and service to our Lord and fellow man, as you obviously have done (so that no one has even heard of your name).

That notwithstanding, you should have comfort in knowing that it sometimes takes about three weeks before the hate mail begins.

* * *

. . . there really isn't much of a difference to be perceived in the egoism underlying the publication of the details of the Hahn conversion and those in any of the others that have taken this path. They differ only in their monkey-see-monkey-do character. Perhaps there's mitigation to that extent.

* * *

You be the judge of what is right and wrong here, dear reader . . .