Saturday, April 24, 2004

Are All Catholic Laymen & Non-Theologians Qualified to Freely & Frequently Criticize the Pope's Opinions and Prudential Judgment? (vs. Mario Derksen)

This was taken from correspondence. I dealt with this general subject area briefly in my piece "Laymen Advising and Rebuking Popes." I think it is long overdue for more clarification to be given, in light of the inaccurate portrayals by radical Catholic reactionaries (RadCathRs) of what I and many others believe to be the orthodox Catholic attitude and belief. Words of Mario Derksen (a RadCathR who some time after this exchange became a sedevacantist) will be in blue:

* * * * *


In my exchange, "Dialogue: Should the Pope Kiss The Koran?: Ecumenism as an Effort to Acknowledge Partial Truth Wherever it is Found", I wrote:


Every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a picture of Pope St. Pius X in one hand, and a dog-eared Denzinger in the other, going around judging (nay, trashing) the pope or an Ecumenical Council, as if they were some sort of expert . . . This is self-importance elevated to the level of the profoundly ridiculous; almost grotesque or surreal. And they are blind to this obvious reality, which makes it all the more frightening. One can do that in Protestantism, as everyone is their own pope, when it comes down to it. But to attempt that in Catholicism is patently and manifestly absurd.
Another apologist agreed with my sentiment:
It is amazing how people think that just because they have read a Davies book or the theology manuals of of Ott or Tanquerey that somehow they are theological equals to John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger!!! Even in non-definitive teachings the Magisterium is still much more likely to be right than the individual on matters relating to faith and morals and theological matters, etc.
And I continued:
 
So go ahead and question the behavior of the Holy Father if you wish (though I think it is - broadly speaking - a foolish stance to take). But at least try to understand the possible rationale for what he does (if you must question the "propriety" or wisdom of it).
Yes, one can conceivably question the pope - especially his actions (we are not ultramontanes), yet I think it must be done only with overwhelming evidence that he is doing something completely contrary to Catholic doctrine and prior practice. It is not something that a non-theologian or non-priest should do nonchalantly and as a matter of course. To me that smacks far too much of the Protestant attitude of private judgment and lack of an authority-structure.
 
There is a middle ground here; one need not be technically a schismatic in making such judgments, but: you wish to criticize the prudence of a pope? Very well, then, I reserve the right to criticize your astonishing lack of prudence (and possibly respect) in leveling some complaint or other at this holy man, who will go down as one of the greatest popes in history. It gets downright silly at times to even think of doing that. One must remember with whom one is dealing. Let's give him some benefit of the doubt, that he knows what he is doing, for Pete's sake (pun intended).
 
In any event, if you want to take one particular view of what is prudent for a pope to do, that is your perfect right. As for me (and my house), I will side with John Paul II as to matters of prudence, over you, thank you. And that is my "right" too, of course! I think he has more than earned this trust (to put it mildly), even apart from the fact that he is the pope and therefore endowed with special and extraordinary charisms.
 
I don't think there is reason to believe that JPII will go down as one of the greatest popes in history, much less do I think he will be called "the Great." Others have argued that JPII will perhaps go down as the "weirdest" Pope in history, i.e. the most contradictory one. Wouldn't that be an option too?
 
Yes (in the technical, "canon-law-speak" of RadCathRs) but a pretty narrow-minded and silly one, in my opinion. Really . . . You expect me to sit here and take seriously your pontifications about the alleged shortcomings and failures and "contradictions" of this present pope?
 
No. Because they're not MY pontifications. If I were the only in the world who came up with that, you would have a good point. But this is not so.
 
So you cite others who are acting equally "un-Catholic" to the extent that they rashly and imprudently judge the pope. But this is a good point; I recognize that you are getting these erroneous beliefs from others.
 
Again, if these were MY own objections only, and if no one of maturer age agreed, you'd have a point. But as it stands, it's a straw man.
 
I still say it is silly for you to sit there and "pontificate" about the pope you are supposed to be obedient to, in small matters as well as large. It is unseemly, and silly, and scandalous, in my humble opinion. You always speak in these matters so dogmatically. So you speak for yourself to a large extent, though you are obviously one of many.
 
I don't agree with making your young age a matter of relevance with regard to apologetics per se, but when it comes to judging a pope, I think it is a bit much for anyone to take. But age is not my primary concern (and I don't claim it is an "argument") - which is, rather, a dismay at the unmitigated gall and essential foolishness of such judgments, as if John Paul II's actions and thoughts and your opinions are (in effect) of equal weight.
 
It's one thing for someone to opine that the pope made an error in prudential judgment (which is entirely possible; even somewhat likely once in a while, and over time). I have no problem with that. But now you want to run him down with these sweeping judgments . . . I find it appalling. But of course these attitudes are very common in RadCathR circles, as Stephen Hand has been eloquently pointing out a lot lately.
 
You are always complaining about how "ambiguous" Vatican II is. For you, Vatican II is not like Trent. They are of an entirely different order altogether. One is perfect; the other shot-through with liberal nonsense, or halfway-liberal, compromised clues and hints in every nook and cranny of the documents.
 
Sometimes RadCathRs ask me if I would kiss the Koran. If the (ecumenical, conciliatory) meaning and intent of my action was completely understood, possibly.

I retort by asking them: Would you vote for a candidate who allowed abortion in cases of rape and incest? Would you pray with a Protestant (or a Jew) at a school commencement or at a family picnic? Today I even prayed with a Muslim Imam at the George Bush rally I attended (which was marvelous, by the way). Dearborn, Michigan (where it was held) has the largest Arab population outside the Middle East. Does that make this man a Christian (or terribly compromised), because he prayed with a majority Christian crowd? Of course not. Does that make me a Muslim and mean that I deny the divinity of Jesus? Of course not. Or does it . . . hmmmm; maybe I denied the divinity of Jesus without knowing it . . . ?????
 
Reflective adults immediately realize that such joint endeavors are based on the common ground we have, while acknowledging self-evident differences. That is the ecumenical enterprise, and if you accept Vatican II, you should know this already. The pope can do apologetics and ecumenism. I say that we are all called to do both to the extent of our abilities. Why should that be so controversial?
 
I was asked if I would kiss the writings of Arius. But this is not a direct analogy, because one is a heresy and corruption of Christianity, whereas the other (though still ultimately incorrect in many ways) is a separate religion altogether. Would you kiss the Hebrew Bible? Would you kiss the famous scroll of Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls? No? Why? Yes? Oh, well, then, you are accepting an incomplete, Christ-less religion and denying key tenets of Christianity. How can you do that?!!!!!
 
It is foolish to believe that the pope would engage in an utterly stupid, mindless act, as if he has no rationale at all for what he does (even if we can't figure it out after wracking our brains trying).

RadCathRs apparently accept Vatican II with the exception of the following clauses from Nostra Aetate (more of the pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism of the modernists, and private judgment of Protestants):
The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God . . . They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God . . . The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding . . . (3)


The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. (2)


The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values. (3)


Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, this sacred Council wishes to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation. This can be obtained, especially, by way of biblical and theological enquiry and through friendly discussions. (4)
When a layman disagrees with the Holy Father on matters of prudence, I go with the pope. When you disagree with the decree of an Ecumenical Council, ratified by a pope, on matters of ecumenism, I - with all due respect - go with the Council. The Muslims do a better job even than Protestants when it comes to sexual morality, the wrongness of contraception and abortion, and pornography and divorce and homosexuality, and the (bizarre, strange) behavior of continuing to want to have large families with two parents of a different gender. 

But let's simply war against them, rather than work together to fight the evils of Communism, humanism, fringe terrorism, radical feminism, unisexism, widespread abortion and euthanasia, and sexual debauchery and degeneracy. Let's never work together for a better world, based on the many values which we hold in common. That could never do; we don't want that.
 
RadCathRs wish to criticize the prudence of a pope and they expect me to give their opinions as much credence as his? I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see these sentiments expressed. RadCathR may reject Vatican II, by decapitating it into "orthodox" and "heretical" portions, based on their own private judgment. But they will no longer be completely obedient or orthodox Catholics if they do so.


Even Protestants observe the ludicrous exercising of private judgment against a pope, since any moderately informed Protestant knows that a Catholic ought to be obedient to the pope in all but the most extraordinary circumstances (that is surely how I would have perceived your spirit in this, when I was still Protestant. I would have immediately determined that RadCathRs of this sort were liberal or radically inconsistent Catholics).

Even in the rare justified cases of rebuke or dissent against papal actions or decrees, I would say there is a world of difference between a Catherine of Siena or a Francis of Assisi rebuking a pope (or, say, Cardinal Ratzinger or Mother Teresa, privately), and zealous, still wet behind the ears apologists doing so. One either immediately grasps this self-evident point or they do not. But it's clear that - failing to grasp it - rational argument is pretty much futile.
 
RadCathRs too often argue like good Catholic liberals or Anglicans. Interesting. Whenever there is a good, honest disagreement, we are to pipe up and make a stink. How often would they say that the pope screws up? One can only take so much of this, and that accounts for my increasingly sarcastic tone, because that's the only way I know to deal with such outrageously self-important sentiments.

I could call the shots when I was my own pope as an evangelical. But that got real old after a while. Now I am content to let the pope be the pope while I try to make it through life the best I can, warring against the world, the flesh, and the devil. They used to say "let Reagan be Reagan." I say, "let the pope be the pope."

We're saying what anyone before the 70's (vaguely) in the Catholic Church would have said -- that this is scandalous.

Ecumenism has rapidly developed in the 20th century, I agree. But its kernels can be found all the way back, as is the case with many (actually all) Catholic beliefs and doctrines. I have noted definite precursors in Augustine and Aquinas. So does someone of impeccable, unimpeachable orthodoxy, such as Fr. John Hardon. Development itself is explicit in those two Doctors, and in (classically) St. Vincent of Lerins. Vatican II was in the 60s, not the 70s. :-)

You probably haven't spent much time with traditionalist literature (and I don't mean to blame you for it),
 
You are correct. I don't have time for wrong-headed, misguided, majoring-on-the-minors stuff when there is so much spiritual treasure out there to read. Everyone makes these judgments of what is worthwhile to read. This is one of mine, based on some significant experience dialoguing with RadCathRs"
 
but if we actually look at the pontificate of John Paul II, he does seem to be a really strange Pope.
 
"Strange" in the sense of spectacularly, peculiarly notable, perhaps.
 
He's done lots of good, oh yes, and I praise him for it.
 
Do you have a whole paper on your site about all this good stuff?
 
He's been excellent in certain points. But there are those aspects of his reign that seem to cloud these wonderful accomplishments.
 
So you say. What do you think Cardinal Ratzinger, e.g., thinks of him (since I know you admire the latter)?
 
All I said is that some have argued that John Paul II might go down as an extremely STRANGE Pope. I didn't even say I agree with it, though I think there is a good case for it.
 
You love leaving all your options open, don't you? You come right up to saying something, but then qualify it so you have an "out" if needs be. I have often noted this in your arguments. This is classic "RadCathR-speak."
 
Yes, that's called prudence, shrewdness or, to put it in a negative light, ambiguity. But I'm glad you caught that, because this is precisely what we've gotten from the post-Vatican II era.
 
Nice try. I'm glad you have seen fit to acknowledge your own absurd inconsistency. You have become what you despise. Having railed against Vatican II ambiguity, you have now adopted it as your own modus operandi. You have already in effect adopted the Protestant rule of faith; why not the modernist as well? And I have long noted that curious phenomenon in RadCathRs.
 
Double-speak; ambiguity (quite ironic itself, given the charges about Vatican II). If you don't believe something yourself, then I plead with you to stop speaking out of both sides of your mouth. Just don't say the thing at all. It is this necessity to always offer an opinion, on anything, no matter from what source, which is one of the tendencies of youth which has often been noted.
 
But Dave, you don't know me well enough.
 
I don't have to; I have observed what you write for a while now, and I know you are very young, which I think is a quite relevant consideration, since you take upon yourself the burden of harshly criticizing the pope's prudence, his orthodoxy, even his rudimentary rationality and consistency. It's unseemly, foolish, and (sorry) downright stupid, coming from a professed orthodox Catholic.
 
There are plenty of things I don't have an opinion on.
 
Who cares? I'm dealing with your very strongly-stated opinions! LOL
 
Church just doesn't happen to be one of them, for obvious reasons. What goes on in the Church is extremely important to me, for this is where I draw my spiritual life from. Every week I feel the struggle in my spiritual life to get to a good confessor and to a traditional Mass. It's not easy. This is intricately connected with my life.
 
That's great, but I don't know what it has to do with the subject at hand. I don't question your piety or desire to follow Christ. I don't have to disparage and run you down, like these head-in-the-sand buffoons and former "friends" are currently doing to Stephen Hand, because he is courageous enough to both change and speak his mind.
 
That's why I do have an opinion on this, and that's why I think everyone should. Though, again, I am open to being taught. But again, that doesn't mean I accept anything just like that--whether by the conservatives nor by the trads.
 
I have no problem with that. I am the last person to dismiss someone merely because they are young. But prudence and wisdom in matters of behavior and alternate choices regarding non-absolute questions take time, I think, to develop; they require much life experience.

I agree. Hence, I am not out there proclaiming to have the solution to all crises.
 
That's irrelevant. You violate this necessary "humility" by even stating the things you do about the pope.
 
On my web site there is basically nothing about the crisis.
 
I remember looking through some things a while back which really put me off, including your own papers. Perhaps you have removed them.
 
It is not for nothing that Christianity has great respect for the elderly. This is one reason why I think it is fundamentally silly for someone in their early 20s (whether influenced by many old fogies or not) to offer a scathing critique of an extraordinary, 80-year-old pope, with all his unique gifts (personally, and deriving from his calling), and his equally astonishing experience. So in that sense (if not others as well), I do think age (as well as one's place in the structure of the Church) is a very relevant consideration, far from a mere non sequitur, as you would like us to believe.
 
But this issue goes beyond the proverbial question of "inexperienced youth vs. wise elders." It is a matter of the prudential judgments and gifts of a pope vs. the rash judgments of laymen quick to condemn things (and - I argue - based on a misunderstanding of the probable intent, or no inkling at all of what was meant).
 
I don't know what else to say! Some things are self-evident: Catholics obey the pope and do not routinely lambaste him. Elderly, godly men are far more likely to possess greater wisdom and prudence than young men. Does anyone think these things are at all debatable?
So this is an example of the pope exercising prudence in the service of ecumenism and diplomacy. Give him a break! If indeed he has made an abominable mistake, there are far more able and well-situated men and women in the Church to rebuke him for it than you, I, or virtually anyone we know.
 
As is my custom, I refuse to get as deeply into these RadCathR issues as you obviously would like me to. I just don't place the importance on it that you do, and disagree with fundamental premises. I regret the fact that Catholics are wasting all this energy wrangling amongst themselves when we have a pagan culture of death out there, and the world, the flesh, and the devil to contend with, apart from these internal squabbles. I find that very sad. But I'll offer a few comments (ha ha!), since you have taken the trouble to reply in depth . . .

What I am saying is that the position "You see, I am with the Pope" is extremely convenient but in and of itself not very compelling.
 
Logically, no, but I think that it is very "Catholic." And that is what I always strive to be.

I'd rather be right without the Pope than wrong with him.
 
That's what Luther thought, too. And Kung et al.
 
Obviously, we're talking about non-infallible matters.....
 
Yes. The kissing the Koran thing comes under the areas of prudence/ecumenism/diplomacy. My objection was that people were so quick to judge the pope, as if he had no rationale whatever for what he did. I find that astonishing and troubling.
 
Dave, please answer honestly. Have you ever read Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mortalium Animos, which came out on Jan 6, 1928? If not, it is about time. It's not very long, and it could have been written by a Michael Davies in our time. The difference being that, in 1928, it was the status quo. Today it would elicit the protest of hosts of people with the accusation of being "integrist."
 
I don't think I have read it right through at one sitting (I will definitely have to). The whole question here is if it can harmonize with later teaching. That is for theologians to work through, not amateur apologists such as myself (or you). What I have seen is that it does (just as with the "no salvation outside the Church" non-issue). But development, especially in ecumenical matters, so often is regarded as a "reversal" by RadCathRs. I just don't buy it. I think they are being too simplistic, and reactionary.
 
If you don't spend time reading trad. literature, you can't say it's misguided.
 
I sure can. I don't read Jehovah's Witness literature, either, but I know enough to know it is misguided, and to refute it. I don't have to watch The Last Temptation of Christ to know it is a blasphemous movie. Extreme examples, I know, but I simply disagree with you on this notion that I have to spend my time reading this stuff which I regard as a waste of time, ultimately. I think I know enough to make the comments I make on the subject. I continue to regard myself as a "traditionalist," but in the sense of utter orthodoxy, faithfulness to the magisterium, and a love for traditional liturgy and devotional practice and architecture, etc. (even though I don't want to study liturgical matters).
 
Again, I am not blaming you for not reading it, but perhaps then you should shift back a few gears when commenting about it.
 
I've had my share of arguments with these folks, as you well know. They like my writing on this subject, e.g., at the FSSP, as I have heard, so I must make one or two worthwhile points. Many former SSPX members think I do a fine job, without possessing all the technical, "inside" knowledge they have.
 
As for extensive knowledge of the liturgy and canon law, I have never claimed that I am an expert in those areas; nor do I wish to be (it bores me, personally; I'm much more interested in biblical and historical theology. Everyone has their preferred cup of tea). That doesn't mean that I can't comment at all on the false underlying assumptions I see in this debate. I have a right to comment on anything I want to, as long as I am not presumptuous. That's the luxury of being an amateur, unpaid apologist. LOLOL As long as I do all this for free, I can open my big mouth and speak my mind freely. LOL
 
And you can critique me as you please, too, and usually I will put all of it on my site for the world to judge (including this, if I think it is good enough when I finish). Remember, both Chesterton and Muggeridge were mere journalists, with no theological training. C.S. Lewis and Thomas Howard were (are) English professors. Yet these guys are among the very best apologists/writers of the 20th century. I am a "popular lay apologist," not a trained theologian, canon lawyer, or a scholar/academic.
 
I meant "strange" in the sense of "contradictory" or "paradoxical."
 
So say you. I say that is your lack of understanding of what John Paul II and his teachings are about. Protestants think Catholic teaching in general is "contradictory" or "paradoxical." You foolishly apply that to your own pope. The dynamic is the same, just on a different plane.

 People often disparage what they don't understand. You say I don't understandRadCathRs; I say you don't understand the highest levels of Catholic magisterial teaching, and where the Holy Spirit seems to be leading the Church in the last 150 years or so, as expressed through the teaching of its leaders, in council, and in the person of the Vicar of Christ.
 
The Latin Mass magazine in one of its recent issues had some very good points. It praised John Paul II for his good actions and encyclicals but also mentioned the dark spots in his pontificate, both of which, I think, balance each other out.
 
So he gets a C+ in your book, huh?
 
Let me give an example of the paradoxical state of mind of JPII. Please note that I am using HYPERBOLE here, do not take me literally: John Paul II is such kind of a Pope as to proclaim on Tuesday that there is no salvation outside the Church and on Thursday that all men will be saved; that the Christ is the only Messiah on Wednesdays but on Fridays that somehow Moslems share in the plan of salvation.
 
What good is hyperbole, if it distorts his actual teaching? Of no use at all that I can see (in fact, harmful). If you are claiming that John Paul II is a universalist, please give me proofs. As for the Muslims, Vatican II is clear that they possess some truth (as virtually everyone does). That is controversial?
 
I don't think you fully understand paradox, nuance, and the complex balances which Catholic teaching require. Ecumenism does not negate apologetics. Partial truth in another religion does not contradict fullness of truth in Catholicism. It isn't a zero-sum game, as if no other belief-system has any truth and all are worthless, just because we possess the fullness of it. Don't be like Luther, who also had this irritating tendency of creating false tendencies. Man has a sinful tendency, therefore he is totally depraved, and even good acts are sinful; God is sovereign, therefore man has no free will. Etc., etc.
 
This double-speak has entered into the Church with, no doubt, Vatican II, whether or not that was intended.
 
No doubt? What makes you so sure? Because of all these books you've read? We are all what we read, as Fr. Hardon was fond of saying. You read all that sort of thing, so it is no surprise that you come out saying the same things they do, like a parrot. They are literally part of your brain. But you have to examine with great scrutiny the premises.
 
My site does not have much if anything about John Paul II in particular.
 
I'm certainly glad you are prudent enough to refrain from publishing all your unseemly speculations and criticisms of the Holy Father.
 
But if you go through my essays, you will see him referred to in a favorable light pretty much all the time.
 
Good! I appreciate that.
 
What do you think Cardinal Ratzinger, e.g., thinks of him (since I know you admire the latter)?
 
I'd have to say that I almost consider Card. Ratzinger in the same state as John Paul II.
 
Good grief! In the past you cited him to me in defense of various of your assumptions.
 
They're very similar. If you just compare Card. Ratzinger's statements on the Third Secret of Fatima with one another, there is again this inconsistency.
 
Or there is this inability of yours to synthesize complementary (even paradoxical, seemingly or actually) teachings.
 
Again I can tell you haven't looked around much in the traditionalist arena. And that's ok. But then don't call it erroneous.
 
Dealt with above.
 
Such people who are now considered integrists by some or at least extreme are or have been very recognized voices in the Church: Msgr. Gamber, Card. Ottaviani, Dietrich von Hildebrand, William Marra, etc.
 
And some who were considered liberals (John Paul II, Ratzinger) will soon be "very recognized voices in the Church" by your crowd, when they come to their senses and figure out what their priorities in the Christian life should be, and who our true enemies are.
 
I am still not sure just which order from the Pope I am disobeying. Would you tell me, please?

I wasn't making that claim, but criticizing your interior attitude in your constant taking John Paul II to task. That's why I used the word "pontificate" (quite deliberately, of course). 

Obedience is a concept which goes beyond the letter of the law (e.g., Jesus' scolding of the Pharisees, who missed the forest for the trees).
 
It is unseemly, and silly, and scandalous, in my humble opinion.
 
That's just that, then -- your humble opinion.
 
I never said it was otherwise. But it is just as valid as your opinion about the pope. You judge the Vicar of Christ; I merely criticize a fellow layman for having such a view towards the pope we both ostensibly submit to. If priests and bishops submit to the pope, how much more laymen? To me it is almost an insult (especially being a former Protestant) to even have to argue this with a fellow Catholic. I find it embarrassing; almost tragi-comic.
 
And again I wish to refer to John Paul II. Some of his statements are EXTREMELY close to error, but there's always a little door that conservatives will be quick to point out, through which one can press an orthodox interpretation. An example: his speech on January 1, 1999.
 
Ah, thank God we have the authoritative "interpretation" of the pope! What would we do without it? But what is this speech? Don't you believe in documenting things, when you make such charges?
 
Now, the reason I am so ambiguous about things and leave a way out is simply that I wish to share my thoughts on the matter while at the same time NOT being dogmatic about them. I am quite open to instruction from both camps.
 
But you always come down in the same fashion, don't you? I don't deny that you are open-minded, but can you point to any major RadCathR areas where you have been persuaded from your position (especially in the direction of whatever you call my position)?
 
But some feel that this means, then, that one cannot say anything. In other words, unless you're completely sure, you'd better not say anything about a crisis in the Church (which you point out below). Well, if we take this stand, we can't ever say anything or do anything. St. Athanasius would never have become what he became.
 
No one has a problem in acknowledging the obvious crisis. It is the exact nature and causes and solutions and implications which are in dispute. Kind of like the election fiasco. Everyone knows there is a huge problem, but the analyses are diametrically opposed. That's what we have here.
 
Now, with Vatican II that's a different story. If the bishops made things so ambiguous because they didn't really know which position to take and because they were not dogmatic, then that's a problem.
 
I don't find it ambiguous. I find it to be ingenious development and progressive, in the best sense of that word: in terms of communicating the gospel and the Catholic Faith anew to the modern world. That was long overdue, and I rejoice to see an Ecumenical Council stress the Pauline principle (which I have always treasured, since before my conversion) of "becoming all things to all men" (while remaining traditional and orthodox; it is a matter of approach). But apparently you don't grasp that point. You see difference of approach as a difference in doctrine. This is simply not the case.
 
There, then, the difference between the ambiguity of the post-Vatican II church and my own in private e-mails.
 
Funny, that when you are "ambiguous," it is because of a noble open-mindedness, whereas when bishops in Council are, it can't be a fresh approach to the same Christian truths (as all developments are), but must be some smelly (and successful) liberal conspiracy. There have always been liberals at Councils, because human beings are at Councils. So what! God is bigger than that! They are just puppets in the divine scheme.
 
Dave, what you're saying sounds very noble in theory, but you have to actually look at the facts.
 
What do "facts" have to do with the general tendency of the brashness and over-confidence of youth? Young people always think they can make the world right, where all the old geezers have wrecked it. I did the same thing! To some extent I still think that way. Then as we get older we realize that we are no different than the older people we looked down on and despised. We find ourselves making the same compromises and falling on our faces, when we foolishly thought we never would. We find ourselves to be human beings after all. That's what you learn as you get older, my friend. And I'm only 42, but it's a lot different that the early 20's; believe me. You'll see. :-)
 
Again, this is serious business. We cannot keep our eyes closed in the crisis of the Church.
 
Again, that is not at issue, but the causes, etc. I say the liberals are on their way out, like dinosaurs. You seem to think they are almost triumphant, having infiltrated and co-opted a Council and the mind of a very influential pope. That is a major difference; I am far more optimistic than you are. Perhaps it is a matter of you lacking faith in God's protection over His Church as well (though that is a much bigger and more complex claim, so I will not assert it).
 
It won't go away. That's precisely why the neomodernists have had such success. Because the conservatives just wouldn't believe it.
 
What success? See how differently we view the same situation?
 
Would anyone in 1962 (when Blessed John XXIII was taking care of the Bride of Christ) have thought that in just ten years from then we'd have a rite of Mass that in no way resembles what most of the Saints had known as "the Mass"?
 
"In no way"? Prove that statement. This is the sort of comment that tempts one to dismiss an entire letter of yours, because you will come out with some outrageous assertion which is instantly absurd.
 
And shortly thereafter, we'd have Communion in the Hand, altar girls, etc.?
 
Communion in the hand was present in the early Church, but I agree that in the present context it has been a harmful development, and I have a paper saying so on my site. At my Church we have the old-fashioned altar rail.
 
Yet, all of this happened. Compare the Church between 1799 and 1899, and then between 1899 and 1999.
 
It's nothing compared to the Arian and Protestant crises, or even that of the "Enlightenment." So you fall prey to the silly notion that it is now far worse than ever before . . .
 
If the wise and elderly share their concerns about the crisis of the Church, they are dismissed as schismatic integrists, old and non-conforming to the "Living Magisterium."
 
No; it is their false premises and shoddy conclusions as to causes and solutions which is critiqued.
 
If a young guy does it, it's his inexperienced youth.
 
My point about youth was specifically with regard to your trashing the pope's motives and alleged imprudence. It was a tightly-argued contention that prudence is particularly something which develops with age; how much more would the pope have a better sense than a young layperson? But you have generalized and twisted my point to serve your own rhetorical purposes. Tsk, tsk.
 
If all the parties involved would actually give accurate and sincere responses, we wouldn't have this, I don't think.
 
Ah. Do you think I am sincere? :-)
 
If the Vatican had actually gotten together with Archbishop Lefebvre in the early 1970's to discuss his concerns and answer his charges and questions, we wouldn't have come to the 1988 "schism" (I still think it's questionable, but--this is one of those things I don't have an opinion on. I don't know if it was a schism or not. The evidence seems inconclusive to me.).
 
Didn't they reach an agreement with him, which he backed out of?
 
Same thing with the Abbe de Nantes. I do not like him, because he is not charitable enough. He ought to address the Pope with respect, which he doesn't.
 
I don't think you do, either. So respect and charity is largely in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

However, the Vatican has also failed to respond to him.
 
Maybe he doesn't deserve a response? Did you ever consider that?
 
The Abbe brought serious charges of heresy against Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and the "author of the new catechism."
 
I rest my case. LOL
 
What did Rome do? Nothing. No response.
 
That's right; just as they refused to answer Luther at Worms. Some things are clear enough.

Yet, they have all sorts of commissions set up, concerning interreligious dialog and what not, but they just can't get a committee together to respond to serious charges of heresy. What does this mean?
 
That the charges are worthless . . .
 
I don't know; but I can tell you that, to the OUTSIDE, it confirms the suspicions of some (like the Abbe) that Rome can't answer the charges, i.e. that the Abbe is right. That's the impression one gets. Sad.
 
Yes, just as the Protestants think, when we "dissed" Luther. So you repeat the same error.

Your mistake here is again the mischaracterization that traditionalists (of my sort at least) "routinely lambast" the Pope. It's not true. The way you put it, of course it's wrong. But that's a misstatement. I don't delight in having to share some concerns I have, don't get me wrong.

What's the point of arguing this? I think you do do this. It is a judgment call. I see you making outlandish statements all the time about the pope. They offend me personally as a fellow Catholic. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but that is how I take them.
 
What else does the Pope have to do before you will say "Enough is enough. This was wrong!"?
 
I don't know. Perhaps if he kisses a copy of the Vatican II documents? Will that put you over the edge and send you off to the SSPX or some other crackpot group?
 
I appreciate your time, my friend. Your Brother in the Lord.
 
This was fun, despite our profound disagreements. And I do consider you a friend as well, and a great apologist (when you get off this topic LOL). Thanks for reading my reply, too.
 
* * *

I think it is normal and ethical (and quite Catholic) to indignantly respond to the petulant, pompous, and presumptuous tone of so many RadCathR statements about recent popes. If they can speak so cavalierly and arrogantly about popes (I had far more respect for them as a Protestant than they do), then surely I can wax indignant at them doing so, without being "rude." That gets us back to the fundamental problem we have here. When one can't see the obvious, then a certain sharpness of tone is called for, and quite properly so. One is not awakened by a soft voice.
 
So the author of the marvelous, prophetic, heroic Humanae Vitae did an altogether lousy job as pope? Interesting . . .
 
That one truly heroic encyclical doesn't cut it, Dave, because it is overshadowed by the destructive events over which he presided that went on alongside.
 
So let's see . . . Pope St. Leo the Great and Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned at a time when the Monophysite heresy was flourishing. Does that make them lousy popes too? When is there ever not heresy, for heaven's sake? You might retort that Paul VI's reign coincided with the beginning of modernism, or liberalism. That would hardly do, since modernism was written about in 1864, 1907, etc. Modernism essentially began with the Enlightenment, if not the Protestant Revolution (actually, the Fall, in a large sense).
 
So it would be beyond silly to cast the lion's share of the blame for it on Paul VI. The 60s were merely the fruition of a long 200+ years trend, primarily due to the rapid breakdown of the larger culture. Paul VI wouldn't have been able to stop it any more than a twig could stop the water from a burst dam. Doctrinal chaos and upheaval to some extent always happens after Councils, anyway (remember Nicea and Arianism?). But if one knows little of Church history, they wouldn't know that, would they? Conversely, if they did know Church history, that would make the charge all the more unfair and groundless, as it would then become absurdly and arbitrarily selective.
 
Fr. John Hardon stated (I heard this in person) that what he called the "revolution" in the Church had begun around 1940. So arguably, our present crisis was much more the fault (following your convoluted reasoning) of Pius XII than Paul VI, because the former ought to have stamped it out before it took root and started corrupting the seminaries and colleges and theologians and entire orders. Liberals don't pop out of nowhere, fully in bloom in all their hideous glory. The wheels were in motion long before Vatican II, in the "good ole days." But it didn't manage to corrupt the Council, and thus, for this and the other reasons above, Paul VI is falsely charged by you and others. Could he have been more forceful and vigilant? Sure, but then again John Paul the Great is that, and that doesn't gain him that many more brownie points or Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval from you hyper-critical folks, does it?

It is quite possible to be more Catholic than the Pope, namely then when the Pope is not that Catholic after all . . .
 
Are you more orthodox than His Holiness John Paul II? If so, how? And why should we believe this if you assert it? Simply by your great wisdom and self-anointed authority?
 
RadCathRs can give their opinions till they are blue in the face (it's a free country with free speech, and God gives us free will, and we are free to say stupid things), but if such opinions are clearly pompous, arrogant, presumptuous, sophomoric, and so forth, it is our duty as Catholics and brothers in Christ to call these folks on it. This stuff is poisonous, and they hurt themselves as much as anyone else by spouting it. Therefore, love demands that they be rebuked, for their sake and that of others. Since when does the duty to rebuke depend on the expected response? The loving thing is to speak the truth, about ethics and charitability and Catholic submission, as well as about doctrine and orthodoxy. A conscientious Catholic can only hear so much of this petulant hogwash without speaking out against it.
 
It is not so much the "OPINION" per se on popes which many RadCathRs express, as it is the SPIRIT, SEVERITY, FREQUENCY, and DEGREE of such opinions, and what it appears to indicate about the person making it - about how they view Catholic authority, submission, humility, prudence, and so forth. Nor is it a personal attack to point this out. Rebukes are always regarded as attacks by those who do not or cannot hear them.
 
If I were to compare the rebukes of popes by St. Bernard, St. Catherine, and the typical RadCathR today, perhaps I could be forgiven if I might perceive but a slight difference of authority and seriousness.
 
Humanae Vitae was a great document. Too bad Paul VI didn't enforce it, or anything else for that matter. Too bad he let the Canadian Bishops completely oppose HV at will, with no consequences. Too bad he failed to denounce the lay committee, which he appointed, that repudiated HV. Too bad he did nothing to censure the dozen or so "Catholic" theologians who took out the NY times full page ad denouncing HV. Oh yes, Paul VI was a model of competence.
 
Which is more important: the document itself or possible disciplinary errors with regard to dissidents (just as with the Vatican II documents)? If the former, then why is Paul VI such an "incompetent" pope? If the latter, do you think it would have been a better result to clamp down severely on dissent, thus quite possibly causing a schism of the Canadian and American bishops? I heard firsthand from Fr. John Hardon, who was a close advisor to Paul VI, that this was a very real possibility indeed, lest you think I am merely exaggerating for rhetorical effect. You don't have the slightest idea of what His Holiness Pope Paul VI went through (and again, I know, from Fr. Hardon, who was an eyewitness to it). There is much more going on here than you in your resplendent "armchair poping" can see.
 
I have already agreed that he could have been more vigilant. But that is a far cry from being one of the worst popes ever, as some RadCathRs seem to think he is. The worst popes ever were whoring and living it up, not writing heroic encyclicals in direct confrontation with the overwhelming forces of secular culture. Even you admit the document was "great." 

Contraception was the first thing that caused me to convert to Catholicism. You will never see me totally running down the man who reiterated Church teaching on that matter (in 1968 of all years!). Even Karl Barth commended Paul VI for his great steadfastness and courage. That doesn't sound like a wimp to me.
 
John Paul II has been called a "mixed bag" by many RadCathRs (and even "traditionalists") Do they mean to pronounce on his lack of holiness? If they aren't in his shoes, and don't know what he does, and don't possess his charism, how can they even pronounce on his disciplinary decisions? Who are they to presume what they do? What are their exalted credentials, whereby they feel so free to sit and condemn entire papacies with one-sentence salvoes?
 
My point is not that a pope can never be rebuked, nor that they could never be "bad" (a ludicrous opinion), but that an instance of rebuking them ought to be quite rare, exercised with the greatest prudence, and preferably by one who has some significant credentials, which is why I mentioned saints. Many RadCathRs make their excoriating judgments of popes as if they had no more importance or gravity than reeling off a laundry or grocery list.
 
Even if they are right about some particulars, they ought to express their opinion with the utmost respect and with fear and trembling, grieved that they are "compelled" to severely reprimand the Vicar of Christ. St. Paul showed more deference even towards the Jewish high priest than such people do to popes (Acts 23:1-5). After saying to Ananias "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall," he stated in v. 5:
 
". . . I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.' " (NRSV)
 
Even immediately before His scathing rebuke of the Pharisees, Jesus told His followers to:
". . . do whatever they teach you and follow it . . . " (Matthew 23:3)
 
Why? Because "the Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat; THEREFORE do whatever they teach you . . ." (23:2-3)
 
Well, the pope occupies the Chair of Peter, and is the Supreme Head of the Church. 

Pope-bashing RadCathRs don't strike me as being willing to "do whatever they teach you and follow it" (including disciplinary stuff, liturgical details, etc.). But the popes certainly have as much authority as non-Christian scribes and Pharisees.
 
Nor does this mean that one can never criticize the pope, or that if they do, that their responsibility to submit in obedience is somehow lessened. For Jesus went on to denounce their hypocrisy, even calling them "blind guides," "blind fools," "whitewashed tombs . . . full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth . . . full of hypocrisy and lawlessness," "snakes . . . brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?" (23:16-17,27-28,33)
So we have both St. Paul and our Lord Jesus expressing the most vehement criticisms of appointed religious leaders, yet Paul showed quite considerable deference when he found out who he was criticizing, and Jesus commanded obedience to the very same people whose hypocrisy He excoriated. This is all consistent with the traditional, orthodox Catholic (and what is called the "neo-conservative") view.
 
It is not consistent with much RadCathR behavior. Perhaps their personal beliefs, if probed enough, can be synthesized with this outlook, but the routine displays of cavalierly lambasting popes in the broadest, most sweeping terms certainly cannot be. If they reply, "well look at what Jesus and Paul said!," I reply in turn that Jesus was God incarnate and Paul was an Apostle. And they are?: well, too often, a (relatively young) layman with some experience on the Internet. And that gets back to my point about WHO is doing the rebuking.
 



Uploaded by Dave Armstrong (age 42 at writing, if anyone was wondering) on 29 November 2000 from correspondence. Further exchanges added on 18 January 2001 and 5 July 2001. Terminology and typesetting updated on 12 August 2013.


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