But Wasn’t the Church Invented in 1965?

Tuesday, November 18, AD 2014

Cardinal Newman History

 

 

Pat Archbold is on fire over at National Catholic Register:

But the common usage of ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ extends its use beyond as just an interpretive lens of the council. Today, it has become a crutch and a cudgel.  It is a crutch in that the hierarchy of the Church no longer feels obligated to clarity in its communications, but regularly unitizes and embraces ambiguity out of laziness or even possibly sometimes with more nefarious motives.  The bottom line is there is no understood obligation on the part of the magisterium to teach and communicate in the clearest and most unambiguous way possible.

Rather, too much communication in recent years has gone beyond mere ambiguity approaching clear contradiction, leaving it up to those few still concerned with continuity to develop a lens suitable to a proper catholic understanding.  If you have to squint, turn your head left 45 degrees, and stand on one foot to view a modern church communication as Catholic, well then you had better do it bub.  In this way, the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ is a rhetorical cudgel used to beat anyone who dares to notice any discontinuity. 

Why is it now our obligation to assume even the most contradictory utterances and writings are in conformity with immutable Catholic teaching but no longer their obligation to clearly demonstrate that continuity?

I know it may seem antediluvian to suggest this, but read Pascendi Dominici Gregis, or the encyclicals of Leo XII, read any of great encyclicals of the centuries prior to 1960, is any hermeneutic necessary to understand them?  Are copious context and a rose-colored lens necessary to view them in continuity with all that came before?  No, they are plainly and obviously Catholic with many references to Popes and documents before them to establish clearly in the mind of the reader that what is being taught has always and everywhere been taught. 

But is unfortunately rare today that modern Church teaching and communications refer or quote, in any meaningful way, Church documents prior to 1960.  It seems obvious to me that this is purposeful, as the clarity of those documents do not serve the resolute ambiguity now so desired.

The unconverted person looking in from the outside could be forgiven for assuming that a 2,000 yr. old Church that is afraid to quote itself beyond the last 50 years is either unworthy of belief or unworthy of its beliefs.

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12 Responses to But Wasn’t the Church Invented in 1965?

  • To suggest that, in the past, papal pronouncements were free of ambiguity, is fanciful.
    Consider the ink spilt over the condemnation of the famous Five Propositions of Jansenism in Cum Occasione, or of the propositions of Quesnel condemned in Unigenitus and which so divided the Church in France. In neither was a word of explanation offered.
    In Unigenitus, 101 quotations are taken from Quesnel’s works followed by these words, “Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favouring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.”
    It does not even say which epithets apply to which propositions, for each cannot apply to all (a proposition cannot be both “heretical” and “close to heresy”)
    No wonder Bl John Henry Newman wrote, “As to the condemnation of propositions all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be, such, that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students, and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope’s act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened. In discussions such as these, there is a real exercise of private judgment and an allowable one; the act of faith, which cannot be superseded or trifled with, being, I repeat, the unreserved acceptance that the thesis in question is heretical, or the like, as the Pope or the Church has spoken of it.”
    That “questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened,” hardly suggest lucid draftsmanship.

  • In 1965, the Church was bereft of the Communion of Saints as “The Church”. Redefining the “Church” by jettisoning the souls of the Saints in heaven and the souls of the Suffering in purgatory gave the innovators of the “Church” the chance to redefine Jesus Christ as a Pied Piper who embraces all souls and approves of all of our sins, giving us no reason to repent and God no reason to redeem man.
    .
    Yes, the “church” was invented in 1965, not the Catholic Church of the Saints in heaven, the suffering in Purgatory and the militant on earth, but a “church” of imposing a stripped down heresy of ” because I say so.” absent the Holy Spirit.

  • I hadn’t decided whether to write about it yet, but I actually thought that was a pretty weak offering by Archibald.

    I would agree that there is a tendency to vague-speak in recent Church documents. However, as Michael Paterson-Seymour says, I think it’s delusional to hold that Church documents from before 1965 don’t require any interpretation — something rather careful interpretation — in order to have them come out reasonably. Things that occur to me right off the bat are:

    – Statements from various points in Church history on usury
    – Social encyclicals
    – The Syllabus of Errors (and several other statements from that era, particularly ones dealing with questions of political liberty)

    Also, while I haven’t gone through and done a citation count, I don’t buy the claim that modern Church documents don’t cite ones from before 1965. Certainly, from having to read through several recent social teaching documents and show that they can be interpreted sanely, I know those plentifully cite documents from the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, even moving into other topics I don’t really think that we’d find that John Paul II and Benedict XVI cite prior Church teaching measurably less than Pius XII or Pius X. We can’t really measure yet for Francis, since the only encyclical he has put out was a warmed over (and not entirely finished) Benedict XVI encyclical.

  • Darwin Catholic

    You might want to add to your list oneof the shortest and most debated papal pronouncements of all time, Alexander VII’s Constitution “Ad sacram beati Petri Sedem,” Oct. 16, 1656

    “We declare and define that these five propositions have been taken from the book of the aforementioned Cornelius Jansen, Bishop of Ypres, entitled Augustinus, and in the sense understood by that same Cornelius condemned.”

    How, asked many of the puzzled faithful, can we know “the sense of Jansen?” It did not help that the Five Propositions are not, word for word, in the Augustinus, but purport to be a summary of certain (unidentified) statements in it.
    “To know what the pope means, we have to know what Jansen means and no one will tell us that, or, rather, a lot of people will, but they all say different things.”

  • Regarding the situation in the U.S. (and the rest of the Anglosphere)

    Andrew Greeley (engaging on sociological topics but a wretched priest and perfectly terrible as a producer of topical commentary) issued a memoir in 1986. It’s worth reading for the lacunae in it (as well as its unintentionally revealing components). Willy nilly the Church had by 1955 recruited and ordained a corps of priests liberally studded with those suffering from occult resentments, occult anxieties, (and, more infrequently, occult sexual disorders). These men may not have hated their lives in 1960, but they were vulnerable to such feelings when certain sorts of feedback ceased to be given by their peers or by respected superiors or by parishioners (and certainly Greeley vulnerable and took to various substitutes for a priestly vocation). I think you can speculate that the dynamic of action and reaction which has obtained has left you with the ruins we are living in now. I doubt the citation count in soporific papal encyclicals has much to do with it.

  • It is one thing to state that spiritual things are very deep and take lots of working out in our lives & the church body as a whole. It is entirely another to deliberately muddle things up around the edges in order to get your way without having to man up and state your purpose clearly. God is not the author of confusion.

  • The radical priest, I had mentioned earlier, often described
    the pre-Vatican II Church as mean and intolerant, which
    arrogantly claimed to be the one true Church. He mentioned
    briefly the scandals of bad popes, the inquisition, the crusades,
    and the usual nonsense. I was surprised the progressive priest didn’t
    associate the pre-Vatican II Church with the Nazis, the Klan,
    skinheads, Joseph McCarthy, the Committee on Un-American
    Activities, the militias, the tea party or hate radio.

    The great modernizer recently declared the laity is equal to the clergy
    and that the clergy must submit to the modern theological
    insights of the laity, which will end any conversation of the
    pre-Vatican II Church’s teachings.

  • Barbara Gordon

    There is a very good example of perfectly legitimate ambiguity in the 1950 Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, defining the doctrine of the Assumption.

    There had long been a difference of opinion among theologians as to whether the BVM had died or whether, like Enoch and Elijah, she had been assumed alive into heaven.

    Pope Pius XII did not choose to address their particular question, contenting himself with defining, “expleto terrestris vitae cursu” (when the course of her earthly life ended), which can obviously be read either way.

    Another occurs in the Council of Trent’s treatment of the prohibited degrees of marriage contained in Leviticus (18: 6-17). “If any one says, that those degrees only of consanguinity and affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, can hinder matrimony from being contracted, and dissolve it when contracted; and that the Church cannot dispense in some of those degrees, or establish that others may hinder and dissolve it ; let him be anathema.” (Sess XXIV c 3) The Council did not specify which of the Levitical degrees were dispensable and which not, because the Council Fathers were not agreed. Once again, we have perfectly legitimate ambiguity.

    Popes and Councils are infallible, not inspired. They cannot err in their definitions, but there is no guarantee that they know the answer to ever question anyone can raise.

  • “There is a very good example of perfectly legitimate ambiguity in the 1950 Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, defining the doctrine of the Assumption.”

    There is no problem with legitimate debate. Whether or not Biblical marriage is between a man & a woman is not an area of legitimate debate. Period.

    “Another occurs in the Council of Trent’s treatment of the prohibited degrees of marriage contained in Leviticus (18: 6-17). ‘If any one says, that those degrees only of consanguinity and affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, can hinder matrimony from being contracted, and dissolve it when contracted; and that the Church cannot dispense in some of those degrees, or establish that others may hinder and dissolve it ; let him be anathema.’ Sess XXIV c 3) The Council did not specify which of the Levitical degrees were dispensable and which not, because the Council Fathers were not agreed. Once again, we have perfectly legitimate ambiguity.”

    It is not a part of legitimate debate process for the pope to, by the slight of hand as it were, publish paragraphs in a final report which were actually voted down and should have been removed. It is sheer cowardice & manipulation.

    “Popes and Councils are infallible, not inspired. They cannot err in their definitions, but there is no guarantee that they know the answer to ever question anyone can raise.”

    Very interesting statement, MPS.

  • Barbara Gordon
    “Popes and Councils are infallible, not inspired. They cannot err in their definitions, but there is no guarantee that they know the answer to ever question anyone can raise.”

    Very interesting statement, MPS.
    Consider the history of disputes over the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
    In 1483, Pope Sixtus IV (a Fransiscan, who personally believed the doctrine) forbad both the supporters and defenders of the doctrine to accuse each other of heresy since “”up to this time there has been no decision made by the Roman Church and the Apostolic See.”
    The Council of Trent tiptoed round the issue, declaring in its decree on original sin: “… it is not its intention to include in this decree … the blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Rather, the Constitutions of Sixtus [IV] of happy memory are to be observed.”
    In 1567, Pope St Pius V renewed this constitution and forbad public disputations on the subject, whilst allowing the Dominicans to do so privately amongst themselves (He was himself a Dominican)
    Neither pope saw fit to make a dogmatic pronouncement, which suggests they entertained at least a measure of doubt and it was not until 1854 that Pope Bl Pius IX solemnly defined the doctrine as an article of faith.
    Of course, we must believe that, on urgent and important questions affecting the life of the Church, Popes and Councils will be given sufficient light.

  • “Of course, we must believe that, on urgent and important questions affecting the life of the Church, Popes and Councils will be given sufficient light.”

    Indeed! I myself have often been given insights by the Holy Spirit re: things in life that I later found taught as a principle in scripture. If it works that way for me on relevant matters to my life, I am sure that it will work that way for others. Of course their us wisdom in balance. Relevant scripture that come to mind are:

    “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”–2 Timothy 2:23 KJV.

    “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.–Proverbs 1:7a

    “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”–John 16: 13

  • Just a few more asides:

    We have a full time job doing what we know to do. 🙂

    As has been said by another–it is what I do know that bothers me–not what I don’t know! 😉

    And then there is that principle of following the light that we have in order to be given more light. If we reject the light we have, it would be quite presumptuous to expect God to give us more.

Pope Benedict XVI, A Pontificate Steeped In Humility

Monday, February 11, AD 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has taken the ultimate step in humility and has decided to resign, because he felt the duties of the Petrine Ministry were too important to continue in a diminished state. I have no doubt that this will be the wave of the future for successive popes. Our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II soldiered on to help the show the world that disability was no disgrace. However, Pope Benedict XVI must have felt that since that example was already shown to us, he would chart a different path.

The humility of the Holy Father was first seen when then Father Josef Ratzinger had his sister listen to his homilies and his college seminary lectures for he did not want to go over the heads of his parishioners and seminary students. The Holy Father was somewhat of a prodigy as a child. Though he liked to play soccer with the rest of the boys in Traunstein, a small town in Bavaria, he realized he would never become a great athlete, so he throw himself into his studies and into the History and workings of religion in general and Catholicism in particular.

During the eight years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to everyone, the poor, the marginalized, the wealthy and creative, those of other faiths, schismatic Catholics as well as those whose world views were totally different than his. However, the man from Bavaria never compromised on the issue of truth; he railed against the Dictatorship of Relativism and against the idea of social engineering which seems to have engulfed the Western world.

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3 Responses to Pope Benedict XVI, A Pontificate Steeped In Humility

  • The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, at the Council of Constance

  • Many great saints have tried their best to shun power. Francis of Assisi and Martin of Tours avoided becoming priests. Ambrose was cornered into being a bishop. Frances de Sales did everything he could think of to avoid promotion to the Archdiocese of Paris. Philip Neri set up the Oratorians with an eye to making sure that he didn’t have power over the other houses. Francis of Assisi stepped down from leadership of his order as soon as he could.

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