Saturday, February 19, 2005

Challenges For Self-Described "Progressive / Liberal Catholic" Joe ("jcecil3")

[Joe's words -- the first portion below from my own BlogBack comments area -- will be in green]

Catholics are not believers in sola scriptura. We believe that the Word is revealed through Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition.

. . . At given points in history, a formulation of a thought becomes so clear and apparent to the body of Christ that an infallible definition is made. The infallible dogma then rests on its own authority even if at a later point it is discovered that the text that lead to that conclusion at that point in time probably meant something else.

. . . On the other hand, if we allow that our exegesis can lead today to a conclusion that was different than those scholars of yesteryear who formulated a dogma, this does not mean that we are rejecting the dogma.

. . . Biblical interpretation may have lead to formulation of a dogma, but once we know the dogma infallibly, we can hold fast to the dogma without a need to believe the original author intended the dogma anymore - even if the framers of the dogma believed that.

Don't get me wrong. There will be times when dogma and the current consensus of the scholarly community will be in complete agreement. However, it is not necessary for this occur.

It does not deny dogma to examine the arguments of a modern scholar and find those arguments a compelling argument for the probable meaning of the original human author.

Indeed, the Vatican encourages this, so long as we hold fast to infallibly defined dogma.

Hi Joe,

Let's cut to the quick on this. You invited discussion on your blog, by writing, "Let me know what you think." So here I go! :-) You want to have your cake and eat it too, it looks like to me. You want to talk the language of Tradition, infallibility and dogma, yet you want to be a so-called "progressive" or "liberal" (thanks for your upfront honesty on the use of that term, which is refreshing), and to retain the right to question the Church in areas where it has already decided things, and doesn't allow any further questioning. The proof of this is abundant on your blog, In Today's News.

1) You attack Natural Family Planning (NFP) as sinful:

". . . it would seem that NFP is morally illicit."

"Conclusion: Therefore, it follows that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a [sic] morally illicit."

"If NFP is morally licit, it naturally raises the issue whether artificial contraception and even certain acts of gay sex might be morally licit on the same grounds."


(Is NFP the Slippery Slope to Gay Unions?)

". . . artificial contraception in marriage is morally equivalent to natural family planning . . . "

("My Introduction" on the sidebar of your blog)

This amounts to equating a mortal sin with a practice which the Church has sanctioned. That's really a lot of moral authority, isn't it? The Church supposedly sanctions something which is equally as sinful as an act which is a serious sin, and contrary to natural law.

2) You are soft on sodomy and seem to favor so-called "gay marriage" (or at the very least, do not oppose it):

"If deliberately separating sexuality from procreation is always wrong, why can married heterosexuals knowingly and deliberately engage in conjugal relations during a period of a women's cycle that is infertile? There was an ancient Christian non-sacramental rite of adelphopoiesis uniting people of the same gender in an indissoluble bond as spiritual siblings. Could this rite be restored as a recognition of committed same gender love, whether
such a couple is having sex or not?
If the rite of adelphopoiesis were restored, could it be bestowed with benefits under civil law that mirror those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, such as inheritance rights, tax benefits, the ability to adopt, power of attorney and so forth?"
[emphasis added]

". . . How is a gay civil union a greater threat to heterosexual marriage than an infertile couple or a couple practicing natural family planning?"

". . . What harm is caused to others by permitting gay unions?"

". . . Why did the organization called "Catholic Answers" include gay marriage with four right to life issues as one of only five "non-negotiable" political issues in the 2004 voter's guide?"

". . . Was it homophobia that inspired support for Bush - an anxiety provoked by people who experience homosexual attractions?"

". . . Are the arguments against gay unions any different than the arguments against inter-racial marriage?"


(Questions About Church Teaching on Gay Civil Unions)

"For example, could a gay couple be considered somewhat like an infertile couple? Might their own sexual expression be an expression of unitive love that is morally legitimate if contained within the bond of a permanent loving commitment?"

"How can one conclude that a gay couple, neither partner choosing to be homosexually inclined, is not the moral equivalent of the infertile couple? If the gay couple were open to children and willing to adopt, could their sexual expression be seen as an expression of unitive love equivalent in nature to the married heterosexual couple expressing unitive love during a period of known infertility?"


(What is "Advancing Progressive Views"?)

3) You act as if the Church isn't sufficient enough to not need "progressives" who hanker for "change" in infallible doctrines:

". . . I have turned to "blogging" where I can become a voice in the wilderness crying out as the loyal opposition from within Catholicism for progressive change in the Church, while defending her from outer attack from the atheists, fundamentalists and whoever else has an axe to grind."

Like you don't have an axe to grind"? :-) . . .

"Let me say up front, that if I depart from the "official line" of the Vatican here, I will say so. I will try to explain why I withhold assent from a teaching and point to the Catechism or other authoritive texts where you can read the Church's official answers and judge for yourself whether my questions are valid. I make no claim of personal infallibility, and I very well can be in error. That said, I see no reason why the questions of progressive Catholics should not be given serious attention."

This is classic dissenting modernism and liberalism, couched -- in your writings elsewhere -- in the usual rationale of "conscience," or "progressivism" or "tolerance" or "open-mindedness" . . .

"Nevertheless, in often taking stances that seem opposed by the Vatican, many of my fellow Roman Catholics will question my right to call myself Catholic."

Oh, you're a Catholic, but in cases where you dissent from Church teachings, you are a disobedient Catholic. It's part of my job to point out when people are claiming that the Church teaches or allows something that it doesn't teach or allow. You take it upon yourself to correct what you call "conservative" Catholics or positions. Likewise, I correct what I call "liberal" positions.

"I accept . . . the infallibility of the Pope when speaking ex cathedra, . . . "

The pope is also infallible in the ordinary magisterium, when reiterating teachings that are firmly established in Catholic tradition. Instances of this would include Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II's denial that women can be ordained. Ex cathedra is only the highest of the many levels of infallibility.

"Yet, I believe that doctrine develops according to Dei Verbum 8, and that such development can justify beliefs considered "controversial" by many Catholics."

(From the sidebar on your blog: "My Introduction")

Here you engage in the familiar, tired liberal tactic of co-opting development of doctrine for reversal or evolution of doctrine. Along with the abuse of the true Catholic notion of "conscience," this is probably the most-used liberal tactic. Hence, Cardinal Newman is often wrongly (if I were cynical, I would say also, cynically) utilized on both grounds, since he wrote with great insight on both topics.

4) You think God is properly referred to as "Mother":

"The more controversial beliefs I hold are as follows: I believe that God can be called Mother as well as Father, . . ."

("My Introduction")

5) You advocate inclusive language (which usually indicates several false feminist assumptions about gender and the use of the English language):

". . . inclusive language in reference to the people of God should be used in liturgy, . . . "

("My Introduction")

6) You advocate women "priests":

". . . women could be ordained ministerial priest, and perhaps should be ordained (The Pope has clearly said no to this one) . . ."

("My Introduction")

Yes, he has, and (most importantly for this discussion) he has done so in the context of universal, unbroken Catholic tradition; therefore he speaks infallibly. Why, then, do you keep dissenting?

7) You go on and on about a married priesthood (throughout your blog[s]):

". . . married men should be ordained . . ."

("My Introduction")

They already are, in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church , so if you yourself wanted to be a married priest, why didn't you go there and become one? And if you don't care for the Western, Latin rites' understanding on this matter, why do you remain? If, on the other hand, you choose to remain (as you obviously have), you should cease and desist. But then you wouldn't be a "progressive" if you did that, now would you?

8) You are soft on divorce and remarriage:

". . . divorced and remarried Catholics can participate in the life of the Church, . . ."

("My Introduction")

"I believe that divorce is wrong, and even sinful in most situations. Nevertheless, I have questions about the Church's teaching regarding divorce and remarriage and the subsequent reception of communion."

". . . Conservatives will argue that the answer is simple: dissolve the second marriage and stop living in adultery, or annul the first marriage. This does not strike me as reality. If the second marriage has children, and is a healthier, happier, and more loving union, I am not sure that God is really commanding its dissolution or considering it adultery."

". . . Divorce and remarriage is wrong, and it is not the perfect Christian way. However, we are sinners living in an imperfect world. Perhaps prohibiting people from receiving communion indefinitely is not the appropriate response to our current circumstances."

"It is this last point that I feel is missing in the Roman Catholic expression of faith. It is not that our theology of an indissoluble bond is necessarily wrong. Nor is our desire to discourage divorce and remarriage wrong. Marriage is a beautiful thing that we want to protect and support.

"However, I feel that we need a means for those who have remarried to reconcile with the Church. Christ's whole life proclaimed the possibility of reconciliation with God. This reconciliation means we need to take into account that there may even be children involved in both marriages, such that we may not want to determine a marriage "invalid" (and the children "illegitimate"). This reconciliation also means that we account for the growth in love that may occur in a person involved in a second marriage. I believe that the mercy and compassion shown by Christ demands that we take a more forgiving approach regarding this issue."

(Divorce and Remarriage)

In Catholic teaching, there is no such thing as a divorce, because true, sacramental marriage is indissoluble, by its very nature. Therefore, if someone is divorced (as opposed to being granted an annulment, which means no marriage actually occurred), and remarry, they are in mortal sin, and in an ongoing state of committing adultery. You seem to not only not want to point out that uncomfortable fact; but you commit further wrong by advocating inclusion of such people in the rites of the Church (I am assuming that you mean allowing them to partake of the Holy Eucharist; if not, then I have misunderstood, and apologize), as if they are doing nothing wrong. This is an extremely serious matter.

9) You see nothing wrong with John Kerry (who advocates an extreme pro-abortion position) receiving communion as a Catholic in good standing, and think that Fr. Richard McBrien is a good orthodox Catholic:

"At a very fundamental level, many of these folks are constantly trying to define Catholicism as narrowly as possible with the goal of looking for ways to exclude someone from the fold - prove once and for all that John Kerry is unworthy of Communion, and that theologian, Father Richard McBrien, is a heretic, and so forth . . . I am intentionally looking for the ways to say maybe John Kerry and Richard McBrien and all other so-called "dissidents" have something to say to the rest of us."

(What is "Advancing Progressive Views"?, emphasis added)

As for Fr. McBrien (not a dissident??!!), Fr. William Most, in his paper, Comment on Richard McBrien, Catholicism, 3rd edition, notes (his words in purple, McBrien's in red):

On p. 577 McBrien asks: "Did Jesus intend to found a Church? He answers: " 'No' if by 'found' we mean some direct, explicit deliberate act by which Jesus established a new religious organization... . The majority of scholars today support the assumption that Jesus expected the end to come soon." We can see the all-pervading notion of ignorance in Jesus peering out. If He thought the end was soon, why bother to found any organization?

. . . In line with that view he says the sacraments were not directly instituted by Christ (pp. 798-89). We presume he means that the Church and sacraments just evolved in the next century - Jesus was too ignorant to foresee any such structure, and, as said above, He expected the end soon.

McBrien clearly is not concerned about the fact that the Council of Trent defined that Jesus instituted the sacraments (DS 1601), and especially that he instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper when He said,"Do this in memory of me." (DS 1752).

. . . He admits that Jesus did not sin, yet He was capable of sinning (p. 547). He as not immune to sexual desires (pp. 562-63).McBrien grants that the Church does teach, as does the NT, that Jesus was without sin. But he has trouble about the impeccability, inability to sin, of Jesus.

. . . We do not say it is nature that sins, but a person sins. But in Christ there was only one Person, even though two natures. If He had sinned, the sin would have been attributed to the one Person, a Divine Person. Which of course is impossible.

Finally we mention Canon 12 of the second General Council of Constantinople, in 553 (DS 434) which spoke of Theodore of Mopsuestia as "impious" because he spoke of Christ as "suffering from passions of soul and desires of the flesh, and gradually going away from the worse things, and so becoming better by advancing in works... merited divine sonship... ."

As to the death of Jesus, McBrien says it was not a sacrifice of expiation-- just a peace offering (p. 457). McBrien here does not understand what a sacrifice is . . . the Council of Trent defined that the Mass is a true sacrifice: DS 1751.

. . . McBrien says( p. 541) that "the arguments historicity [of virginal conception] are also strong." First, he seems to say that if Mary and Joseph knew He had no human father, and they had not kept it from Him, then He would not have been so ignorant about who He was. He is so convinced of ignorance in Jesus that he can used it as an a argument against the virginal conception.

. . . Secondly he says that the infancy narratives, the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke,"suggest a nonhistorical rather than historical accounting of the conception of Jesus." He says that the two accounts are "virtually irreconcilable."

. . . McBrien thinks the virginal conception may have been just a theologoumenon. That would mean that physically there was no such thing, that to say it is just a way of asserting her holiness. To that we reply: Where else in Matthew and Luke do we find even one clear case of a theologoumenon? Further, the Church shows no sign of considering it such. From the earliest creeds on she is called simply ever virgin, aei parthenos. Pope Leo the Great, in his Tome to Flavian at the Council of Chalcedon wrote (DS 291): "She brought Him forth without the loss of virginity even as she conceived Him without its loss." What point is there in talking about keeping virginity if it was only a theologoumenon? What would that add when extended to during and after birth?

. . . Still further, Vatican II, in LG #12, wrote: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief." That is, if the whole Church, pastors and people, have ever, for even one period, believed something as revealed, that belief cannot be in error, is infallible. Now of course the people have never dreamed that her virginity is a mere theologoumenon.

. . . Speaking of original sin, McBrien says: "theologians today would probably agree with the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who refers to the doctrine as a rationalized myth about the mystery of evil."

. . . Also, on p. 186, McBrien says "Although later doctrine of Original Sin has been read back into Paul's Letter to the Romans, neither biblical scholar nor theologian would agree that it is in fact there." This is a surprisingly bold contradiction of a defined doctrine. He does not really deny original sin himself, but he says Trent merely read into Romans what is not really there.

[see my paper, The Biblical Evidence for Original Sin]

Also, Ronald J. Rychlak (words in blue; McBrien's still in red) provides more gruesome details of this "so-called" dissident, who used to head the theology department at Notre Dame (God help us), in his article, Theology According to Richard McBrien:

. . . when Pope John Paul II asked Catholic universities to become more Catholic, McBrien responded in the Chronicle of Higher Education: "Bishops should be welcome on a Catholic university campus. Give them tickets to ball games. Let them say Mass, bring them to graduation. Let them sit on the stage. But there should be nothing beyond that." Regular readers of The Wanderer are aware of his comparisons of the Holy Father to Communist dictators and suggestions that the Pope may be an "unknowing prisoner of the Curia" (May 14th, 1998).

Even those readers who are accustomed to McBrien's dissenting viewpoint must have been surprised by a recent column that he wrote about the Church in the year 999. This piece was designed to raise questions about papal supremacy and infallibility by suggesting that these teachings — central to the Catholic faith, but not in line with McBrien's theology — are of recent origin and would have been inconceivable 1,000 years ago.

The article was presented as a conversation between a modern Catholic and one from 1,000 years ago. When the modern made reference to various Catholic teachings, the voice from the past expressed surprise because the doctrines supposedly were developed after the year 999. McBrien, of course, knows that the doctrines of papal supremacy and infallibility are much older than he suggests.

. . . In 1981, the first edition of McBrien's book Catholicism was published. Almost immediately the doctrinal committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops pointed out serious problems with it and asked him to make revisions. When those revisions had not been made by the time of the third edition, the conference finally released a statement indicating that the work was not a reliable guide to Catholic teaching and should not be used in theological instruction. The bishops said that Catholicism reduced the Pope's and bishops' teaching to "just another voice alongside those of private theologians" and that it minimized Catholic teachings and practice. "On a number of important issues, most notably in the field of moral theology, the reader will see without difficulty that the book regards the official Church position as simply in error" (Today's Catholic, May 5th, 1996).

. . . Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, puts it slightly differently: "The Magisterium, (according to McBrien] is Fr. McBrien and others whom he recognizes as belonging to the sacred college of academic theologians." Regardless of how it is phrased, the problem is that McBrien likes his ideas better than those of the Church. (McBrien's willingness to question the Church's teaching on abortion has even caused two pro-life organizations to call for his excommunication.)

10) You dissent from Humanae Vitae (an infallible pronouncement):

"I care less about persuading anyone that Humanae Vitae is inconsistent than persuading people that it does not exclude one from the Church to ask some questions about it."

"I have spent a good deal of time exploring what I see as a weaknesses in Humanae Vitae."

(What is "Advancing Progressive Views"?)

11) You are soft on contraception, which the Church has long since defined as an intrinsically disordered grave sin:

"The concern that many laypeople have about using "artificial" substances to manipulate the internal workings of body to avoid natural functions may not be absolutely immoral. However, it may be very immoral for one partner in a marriage to try to force the other to use such substances against the will of the other. If a woman had health concerns about using the pill, for instance, her husband should not force her to use the pill. Likewise, if a man is uncomfortable with a reversible vasectomy, no wife should try to pressure him into it. Other means of preventing conception should be explored. This is a simple application of the golden rule."

"Could it be that Paul VI was simply mistaken in implying that artificial contraception is always wrong within a marriage bond? If the couple mutually decides that such means are appropriate, are we right to judge them in sin?"

(What is "Advancing Progressive Views"?)

12) You distort beyond all recognition what it means to submit to the Church's teaching:

"I believe that the religious submission of the mind requires that every Catholic who is troubled by a doctrine should examine the teaching carefully looking for its strengths prior to pointing out any deficiencies. In other words, we should give the Vatican enough benefit of the doubt to assume or presume that even if a teaching challenges our very fundamental assumptions about what is true, there is something valuable and true in that teaching. Our first reading should be biased toward the Vatican."

". . . Religious submission of the mind means that I looked for the truth in the document, examining the teaching in question with a presumption that there is some truth in it."

". . . I would hold that so long as you analyzed the teaching looking for its strengths and presuming there is genuine truth in there somewhere, you have fulfilled your obligation to give religious submission of the mind."

". . . We should be inclusive in our attitude, trying to define being Catholic as broadly as the Church allows. We should help people make real sense not only of the strength of a teaching, but of the rightness of their own questions about the teaching."

(What is "Advancing Progressive Views"?)

13) You act as if a pro-lifer can consistently vote for a pro-abortion advocate like John Kerry:

(Why I Voted For John Kerry as A Pro-life Catholic: An Examination of Participation in Evil)

See my paper:

How on Earth Can Christians Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates?

You could be perfectly happy (feel right at home), holding all these positions, as a liberal Anglican (or even a liberal or "conservative" Orthodox, in some cases). What prevents you? At least then, you would not be contradicting the theological and ecclesiological principles of the Church you are a member of. But again, you would not be a "progressive" if you didn't try to change the Church to conform to your liking, rather than conforming your opinions and will to that of the Church, in all areas where you are bound as a Catholic to do so. So, lest the leopard change its spots, you must remain right where you are, to bless all of us "conservatives" with your never-ending dissent in the name of "open-mindedness" and "development."

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