Thursday, July 31, 2008

Women's Head Veils (Mantillas) at Church

By Dave Armstrong (7-31-08)

The January 2005 issue of This Rock ("Quick Questions") dealt with the issue of veils:
Q: Did the Vatican ever publish a document stating that women are not supposed to wear head veils to church anymore?

A: No. Women are free to wear a head covering to church if they so desire. It’s just not required.

The document Inter Insigniores [ link ] by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 15, 1976) stated that the 1917 Code of Canon Law (canon 1262.2) requiring women to wear veils on their heads was a custom of the period and that such ordinances "concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance." Thus the obligation "no longer has a normative value." But, as a sign of respect, women still are required to wear a veil when meeting the pope.
Here is the passage referred to above, from that document:
Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on the head (1 Cor 11:2-6); such requirements no longer have a normative value.
Colin B. Donovan, STL, gave a reply on this question at EWTN ("Head Coverings in Church").

The CHNI board had threads on the topic in April 2007 and May 2007.

What little I've said about this in the past amounted to an urging of Catholic women to (by all means) wear a veil if they want to do so, but not to impose any such obligation on others, since the Church does not do so at this time, or act as if they are more obedient or spiritually superior in so doing. Nor should women who don't wear it frown upon those who do (assuming the latter don't exhibit questionable attitudes just described).

I think they're beautiful and graceful-looking myself (particularly ones like that pictured above): like bridal veils. Insofar as the intention is as a sign of modesty and femininity and submission to God, that's great. On the other hand, my wife has never worn one to church. Live and let live. Worship and let worship.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Am I a "Protestantizing" Catholic Now Or Was I Formerly a "Catholicizing" Protestant?

By Dave Armstrong (7-24-08)

This theme has come up several times. It is becoming almost a mantra: particularly in anti-Catholic Protestant and "traditionalist" Catholic circles (those two groups, oddly enough, often seem to have a great affinity in style, argument, and beliefs). Former Catholic Adventist Bill Cork recently enlisted it. Anti-Catholic Steve Hays has tried (futilely) to make this case with regard to my own conversion. Scott Hahn (most unjustly) has been a particular target of this charge. Several "traditionalists" tried to make the "argument" in a recent forum thread that lambasted me because I defended Pope John Paul II's ecumenism.

As a sub-theme, both Bill Cork and this group of "traditionalists" (as well as many anti-Catholics in the past) have claimed in particular that I have adopted a peculiarly Protestant method of quoting Bible proof texts for Catholic positions. They both assume that this is somehow "unCatholic" -- as if Protestants "own" the Bible or the practice of Bible interpretation, or exegesis. This is absurd.

In a delightful turn of events, Hugo Mendez, a former Adventist and now Catholic, basically defended me from this bum rap, in a post about the "war of words" between myself and Bill Cork:
Is Bill keen to suggest that Dave's (arguably, overstretched) reliance upon the Bible to vindicate the Catholic teaching [is] a very Protestant instinct (which requires a verse for every belief)? Or, does Bill['s] quick dichotomy of Bible and Church teaching (where both stand more or less independently) flow from yet another Protestant instinct or caricature? In his own words:
Many Catholic teachings have no other foundation than the Church’s claim to teach with authority: purgatory, Marian dogmas, saints, indulgences, the papacy, etc. These are not Bible doctrines.
In fact, the ancient fathers and theologians of the Catholic Church cited Biblical precedents or bases for all these doctrines. St. Damasus cited Matt 16:18 to defend papal authority sixteen centuries ago; the Latins and Greeks debated the significance of 1 Cor 3:15 to the question of purgatory six centuries ago; Pius IX's definition of the Immaculate Conception explored the meaning of Luke 1:28 two centuries ago, etc. In this light, Catholics have every reason to believe these doctrines have true biblical roots. Moreover, it becomes readily apparent that the PCA converts have pioneered almost none of the arguments they popularly present. (This is my difficulty: trying to distinguish the "rationalistic" arguments allegedly unique to modern Catholic converts from the arguments they have clearly inherited from previous generations. I find few unique contributions in their writings--not to their discredit, but to the credit of so many theologians in centuries past.)

One may dispute the legitimacy of certain textual interpretations used by Catholics. This is fair; I certainly do. Then again, the use of OT texts by the writers of Matthew, Romans, and Hebrews easily qualifies as "eisegetical" by the (perhaps, too) exacting principles of biblical studies today.
"Matt," the one fair-minded, non-insulting person in the recent "traditionalist" hit-piece, er, thread devoted to trashing my name, made a similar comment, referring to me:
He's also an excellent and Orthodox Bible scholar. Ironically, his Biblical approach seems more Thomist than I bet we'd give him credit for.
I defended myself and my method in my reply:

We can defend Catholic views from Scripture -- as harmonious with Scripture -- precisely as the Church fathers always did (usually at first). But when confronted with the notion that all doctrines have to be found only in Scripture, and explicitly so, as the supposedly only infallible source, we reject that in no uncertain terms, and appeal to Tradition and apostolic succession and infallible councils and popes, also precisely as the fathers did. We can assert material sufficiency of Scripture without asserting sola Scriptura. . . . What I do does not presuppose sola Scriptura in the slightest. Protestants don't "own" Scripture, and we can give better arguments from the Bible than they give. I have two entire web pages devoted to scores of lengthy articles explaining all this: one about Bible and Tradition and the other that critiques sola Scriptura. I have a third web page about the Church (ecclesiology), with dozens more articles. I've written far more about this topic than anything else. It would surely come as an astonishing shock -- and an uproariously funny thought -- to my anti-Catholic friends to learn that I allegedly never defend Catholic Tradition.
The truly humorous irony in all this is that, here I am being blasted and pilloried as a supposed quasi-Protestant or some goofy "hybrid" infiltrating the Catholic Church, simply because I use biblical arguments. It is presupposed that because I do so, I must somehow be adopting the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura, which is a completely different thing from mere citation of the Bible and biblical argumentation.

In actual fact, it is these critics who are conflating scriptural argument with sola Scriptura, and in so doing, show themselves to be far more influenced by the distinctively Protestant mindset than I am, or ever have been (since I highly valued Church history and the value, to some extent, of Christian tradition in my thirteen years as a committed evangelical Protestant: with a more or less traditional Anglican or Methodist perspective on Church history: which is precisely why Cardinal Newman was so key in my own conversion).

Yet they pride themselves for being so "unProtestant" and quintessentially Catholic. They have accepted Protestant false dichotomies and ways of thinking, while at the same time falsely accusing others (who know far more about the subject than they do) of doing what they are doing, in the very act of wrongly, densely characterizing others. I've also stated for years that Catholic "traditionalism" often shows the characteristics of selective Protestant private judgment and a liberal Catholic "cafeteria, pick-and-choose" mentality.

Good grief. As I write, there is on the front page of my blog (dated 19 July: just three days ago) a lengthy critique of the Protestant principle of private judgment: closely aligned to sola Scriptura. A similar paper (dated 15 July 2008) just went off my front page, but it's only a week old. I have scores of similar papers, and large portions of several books that are devoted to the same question (e.g., my book on the Church fathers devotes over a hundred pages to it: by far the longest chapter in the book). This criticisms is so wildly off the mark that I wrote about it today:

To imply that I and other apologists somehow wink at sola Scriptura, when I am constantly critiquing and refuting and lamenting it is about as dumb a thing as could conceivably be said about my apologetics. This person clearly knows less than nothing about my beliefs and my approach. . . . It's . . . quite another [thing] to say of a baseball player that he knows nothing of running the bases or of a baker that he is completely unfamiliar with flour.
Understanding the crucial Bible-Tradition-Church-Authority issue is Catholic Apologetics 0101. If I didn't understand that, I wouldn't be known or published at all today, and would have never been on national Catholic apologetic radio shows, talking about it.

On a broader level, per the title of this post, it is foolish to say such a thing about me, once one knows a bit about my past intellectual history. I wrote about this in a reply to Hugo Mendez''s post, referenced above:

You cited Bill Cork:
. . . the rationalistic, forensic style of apologetics that has its roots in the Reformed tradition and that has crept into Catholicism through converts from the fundamentalist Presbyterian Church in America.
The only problem with this, insofar as it is applied by insinuation to me, along with other convert-apologists, is that I was neither fundamentalist nor Presbyterian at any time. I was never a Calvinist. I was an Arminian as a Protestant, and am a Molinist (technically a Congruist) as a Catholic.

Moreover, in apologetics, the dominant style in Presbyterianism is presuppositionalism: something I have never held, and which I have vigorously critiqued, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic.

My own apologetic methodology is largely evidentialist (with, however, many elements from different schools: particularly the analogical reasoning of Cardinal Newman), which hearkens back to Catholicism and St. Thomas (I love, e.g., the cosmological argument and that basically goes back to Aquinas).

So, far from thinking like a Protestant and bringing that into Catholicism with me, it was much more the case that I had been thinking like a Catholic as a Protestant for years, and brought that with me into the Catholic Church. I was thinking more and more "Catholic" for years before actually becoming one.

That is patently obvious if one reads any of the several versions of my conversion story. How odd, then, to be accused of "Protestantizing" Catholicism: which has been a theme from both anti-Catholic Protestants and "traditionalist" Catholics.

That may be true of some few apologists, but not of me.
There you have it, folks. To paraphrase Mark Twain's hilarious comment about a rumor of his death: reports of my still being a Protestant are greatly exaggerated.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Catholic Sources on Celtic Christianity and a Supposed "Celtic Church" Separate From Rome (Links)

By Dave Armstrong (7-21-08)

I don't recall ever having written on Celtic Christianity, myself, though I may have in passing, or have forgotten about something. I used to have some links on my old "England" and/or Anglican web pages (both now defunct), as I recall.

I think a lot of this thought that there was a separate entity: the "Celtic Church" in the British Isles, is essentially similar to the ecclesiological thought of Orthodoxy, and so can sometimes be dealt with in the same fashion, from a Catholic perspective.


"Celtic Coptic Anglicans? A Modern Myth to Dodge the Authority of Rome," Fr. Dwight Longenecker (This Rock, Nov. 2006)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Synod of Whitby" (664)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Anglo-Saxon Church"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Celtic Rite"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Ancient Diocese and Monastery of Lindisfarne"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "School of Iona"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Monastic School of Aran"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Scotland"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Ireland"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Archdiocese of Dublin"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Diocese of Ossory"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Welsh Church"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Glastonbury Abbey"
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Diocese of Canterbury"


Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Alban" (d.c. 304)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ninian" (d.c. 432)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Patrick" (c. 390-c. 460)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Brigid" (c. 452-525)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Brendan" (484-577)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Columba (Columcille)" (521-597)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Baithen of Iona" (536-c. 600)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Canice (Kenneth)" (c. 516-600)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. David" (d.c. 601)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Comgall" (c. 520-602)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Augustine of Canterbury" (d. 604)
"The Mission of St. Augustine of Canterbury to the English," Dr. Ghazwan Butrous.
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Columbanus" (543-615)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Kevin (Coemgen)" (d. 618)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Lawrence" (d. 619)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Mellitus" (d. 624)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Aedan of Ferns" (c. 550-632)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Edwin" (c. 586-633)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cronan" (d. 640)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Aidan of Lindisfarne" (d. 642)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Oswald" (c. 605-642)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Paulinus" (d. 644)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Finan" (d. 661)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cedd (Cedda)" (d. 664)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ronan" (d. 665)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Ceatta (Chad)" (d. 672)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Colman" (c. 605-676)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Caedmon" (d.c. 670-680)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Eata" (d. 686)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Cuthbert" (c. 635-687)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "Theodore, Abp. of Canterbury" (c. 602-690)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Adamnan" (c. 624-704)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Wilfrid" (634-709)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Adrian of Canterbury" (d. 710)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Venerable Bede" (c. 673-735)
Venerable Bede on the Conversion of England (Medieval Sourcebook)
Venerable Bede on the Synod of Whitby (Britannia Historical Documents)
Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Boniface (Winfrid)" (d.c. 755)


"Celtic Saints" (Among the Cloud of Irish Witnesses)
"Celtic Saints and the Early Church" (Celtic Twilight)
"Celtic Monasticism: History and Spirituality," Dr. Deborah Vess
"Celtic Church" (Infoplease)
Firth's Celtic Scotland and the Age of the Saints (website)
"Book of Kells" (Wikipedia) (c. 800)
"Anglo-Saxon Saints" (Wikipedia)
"Anglo-Saxon Christianity" (Wikipedia)
"Celtic Christianity" (Wikipedia)

It is easy to exaggerate the cohesiveness of the Celtic Christian communities. Scholars have long recognised that the term “Celtic Church” is simply inappropriate to describe Christianity among Celtic-speaking peoples, since this would imply a notion of unity, or a self-identifying entity, that simply did not exist.[4] As Patrick Wormald explained, “One of the common misconceptions is that there was a ‘Roman Church’ to which the ‘Celtic’ was nationally opposed.”[5] Celtic-speaking areas were part of Latin Christendom as a whole, wherein a significant degree of liturgical and structural variation existed, along with a collective veneration of the Bishop of Rome that was no less intense in Celtic areas.[6]
"Cornish Saints" (Wikipedia)
"Hilda of Whitby" (c. 614-680) (Wikipedia)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comparative Soteriology: A Handy Chart

By Dave Armstrong (7-19-08)


See note
See note

All these belief-systems accept original sin and sola gratia: absolute necessity of God's grace to be saved and to have the results of the Fall overcome ("total inability"), and deny semi-Pelagianism: the doctrine that man can initiate salvation. Classic Arminians and Lutherans (along with Catholics) are often falsely accused of semi-Pelagianism because they believe in human free will. Lutherans also falsely accuse Catholics of same, in their confessions, because we deny imputed justification, refuse to formally separate justification and sanctification, and assert merit. Arminians and Lutherans posit a fall that is distinct from Catholicism and Calvinism, but closer to the latter. The main difference is that they would deny the notion that even good acts of an unregenerate person are evil, as Luther and Calvin taught. This is the strict definition of "total depravity" and relatively few brands of Christians hold it.













Luther denied this, but Lutheranism decided to follow the thought of Melanchthon and others back to a more Catholic understanding.





Thomist Catholics believe in unconditional election; Molinists and Congruists believe it is conditional only in the limited sense that God takes into account foreseen actions of man by means of Middle Knowledge. Man is still not causing his election even in Molinism and Congruism, because any good thing he does is always enabled by God in the first place. But it is ultimately a mystery why one man chooses to accept grace and another does not, within a paradigm of free will. All views boil down to how one relates God's sovereignty and providence to the free choices and free will of man: one of the most complicated questions in theology.
















Some Arminians, such as some Methodists and Anglicans, accept baptismal regeneration.





"Reformed Baptists" practice adult "believer's" baptism; most Calvinists: such as Presbyterians and Reformed, baptize infants. Goups such as Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ; combine baptismal regeneration with a belief in adult baptism. Methodists and Anglicans baptize infants. Pentecostals generally believe in adult baptism.





Calvinists -- except for Reformed Baptists -- speak of sacraments, but in the end, their baptism and communion are mere signs of God's mystical presence, without actually accomplishing anything themselves, which is the usual definition of "sacrament": a physical means to obtain God's grace. Methodist and Anglicans can be sacramental to various degrees; some believe in the Real Presence. Lutherans are highly sacramental, but have only two sacraments. Confirmation for them is sort of "semi-sacramental". Catholicism and Orthodoxy alone retain the seven sacraments of historic Christianity, Sacred Tradition and the Bible.

* * * * * 

I am a congruist, myself (a variation or modification of Molinism). 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reply to Radical Catholic Reactionary Silliness About Lay Catholic Apologists Being Some New Thing

By Dave Armstrong (7-18-08)

This guy goes by "StevusMagnus". I found his remarks on a large "traditionalist" / radical Catholic reactionary forum.

"Well, the biggest problem is that ex-Protestants seem to have brought over the lay apologist. I don't mean someone arguing in the tavern with a Protestant - I mean people who do it for a living, or are so involved they spend as much time as they would if they were doing it for a living. People read their mind-fizzle instead of going to the source documents and the Church's commentary itself. What happens is that they learn the lay apologists opinions on things and think that is what the Church teaches when often it is not. Often times, the Church has no de fide statement on something, and we are allowed to differ in opinion. But these lay apologists often present their (usually erroneous) opinions with an air of authority. Then the cult of personality kicks in for some, and then it's good night, nurse. They have people believing nonsense like Prima Scriptura. We used to have Bishop Sheen, and now we have Hahn and Armstrong. Pre V2, post V2. See the difference?"

Yes, we also "used" to have G. K. Chesterton: lay apologist and convert. We "used to have Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman: convert, and Ronald Knox: convert, and Malcolm Muggeridge: convert, and Evelyn Waugh: convert, etc., etc., etc. 

You also had "in the old days" a lay cradle Catholic who was a major apologist: Frank Sheed. 

There are many key figures in the current apologetics movement who are cradle Catholics (and/or priests): e.g., Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Fr. Pacwa, Fr. Stravinskas. So, nothing's really changed at all. There were always apologists in all these categories, and always will be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reflections on Christian Opposition to the Sin of Homosexual Acts

By Dave Armstrong (7-16-08)

A Catholic psychologist wrote:
I think that, over the next 100 years or so, a lot of self-righteous people and self-righteous organizations (read religions) are going to be eating their words regarding homosexuality. This could develop into another proof that our energies should be spent on spreading the Gospel and not negative commentary on things we do not understand. For example, if we want to work beyond the spreading the Gospel; how about stopping abortion?
What is he trying to say? Does he want to assert that sodomy (a sin so great that an entire city was destroyed because of it) and a radical redefinition of marriage are perfectly fine and dandy and in harmony with 2000 years of received Christian Tradition? What is it he thinks we don't "understand"?

The implication of a remark like the one above is that those of us (entire religions, for heaven's sake!) who simply oppose homosexual acts as sinful and a radical revision of marriage and removal of procreation from the essence of sexuality, are self-righteous (and profoundly ignorant). We're gonna "eat our words". We're like Pharisees (renowned -- at least the corrupt among them, since Paul called himself one twice -- for their self-righteousness). How so?

The Church will supposedly eventually wake up and figure out that homosexuality is either 1) perfectly normal as a life-choice, or 2) merely an abnormality of genes rather than a sin, as Christianity has always taught? Psychology allegedly has far more insight than historic Christianity, with regard to homosexuality; it now has some knowledge to offer us about homosexuality that Catholicism has not understood for 2000 years and is need of knowing, courtesy of (generally speaking) massively secular psychology?

This is a very serious ethical topic in Christianity and the larger culture. Do psychologists who feel like this expect us to accept without argument their dogmatically expressed opinions that Christians are utterly ignorant about homosexuality, whereas modern psychology "gets it" and we will all eat our words 100 years from now?

I'd be happy to cordially debate anyone on homosexuality (I already have done this several times). Anyone can pull out all the stats and scientific studies and psychological expertise that they want. I respect that, but it's not infallible and should not be presented as such. I can also produce a ton of medical documentation of the tragic health effects of sodomy (it's already "out there" on my blog). If anyone wants to make some kind of argument along these lines, they're more than welcome to do so on my blog (and I will, of course, give a vigorous critique).

As to the present topic of homosexuality, Church teaching is very clear (in the Catechism of the Catholic Church):
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Catholics are not at liberty to disagree with this. The Catechism was promulgated under Pope John Paul II in 1992, accompanied by the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, which stated in part:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. . . .

Therefore, I ask all the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Eph 3:8). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.
As for opposition to homosexual radicalism being somehow antithetical to pro-life efforts, what do apples have to do with oranges, except for being in the same category (fruit)? What does opposition to one (serious) sin have to do with opposition to another? If I fight world hunger and the greed and corrupt governments, etc., that contribute to it, I can't also be a pro-life activist? If I join a group that shelters women who are beaten by their husbands, I can't also evangelize and do apologetics? I must say that I do not understand this reasoning.

It makes sense (to me, anyway, and maybe I'm nuts and don't understand language) only if one argues that homosexual acts and the drive to legalize same-sex "marriage" and custody of homosexual couples of children and so forth are such minor sins (if at all), that we need not waste our time and energy and resources to oppose them. Otherwise, it makes no sense to argue that "serious sin A must not be opposed, for the most part, because it is relatively less harmful to souls and to society than serious sin B".

I can understand choosing to spend one's time opposing abortion over against a campaign to reduce white lies or rudeness or jaywalking, because there seems to me to be a clear difference of degree of wrongfulness. I can't see, however, setting opposition to abortion over against opposition to the full societal movement to legitimize homosexuality, because the latter (that is, the acts involved) is also a very grave and disordered sin, just as abortion is. So now we categorize grave sins as those that should be opposed by Christians in society, and those which should be left to the private realm and unopposed, as if Christianity is libertarian, and grave sins don't have grave social consequences?

This mentality strikes me as similar to the one (held formerly by myself as a Protestant) that opposes abortion, but doesn't oppose contraception, which is the very prior acceptance and worldview particular opinion that leads in many ways to abortion (both philosophically and even legally), because it is anti-child and accepts the fallacious premise.

I want to emphasize as strongly as I can (because this issue always comes up): it is wrong and a serious sin to cruelly treat a homosexual person and not differentiate between the sin and the sinner: a human being who deserves and is entitled to love and consideration no matter what sin he has committed, or even defends. I'd venture to guess that not one in a hundred reading this would suggest that homosexuals should be treated poorly, over against, say, adulterers or those who have committed a robbery. That's not advocated among many serious Christians; particularly Catholics, though there is a significant minority of Christians who do adopt such abominable and unChristian attitudes.

Committed Christians get "wound up" over homosexuality, not out of a motive of hate or derision of someone merely because he or she is a bit different from them, but because homosexual acts are grave sins, that not only harm society in that the lifestyle presupposes many grave sins within it: sodomy, non-procreative sex, redefinition of marriage, etc., but is extremely harmful to those who practice it: morally and in terms of health (males far more so than females, because of the difference in the sexual acts and relative healthiness of them).

Such opposition is is not just confined to the Old Testament (as some mistakenly seem to think). St. Paul was very clear that homosexuality was serious sin, too, and against nature itself (see, e.g., Romans 1:24-27). Jesus makes reference to the sins of Sodom (and we know what those were) in Matt 10:15; 11:23-24; Mk 6:11; Lk 10:12; 17:28-30. St. Peter refers to it in 2 Peter 2:6-8; as does Jude 7, very explicitly, and Rev 11:8. So this is another red herring, as if opposition to sodomy is an outdated "Old Testament thing," made superfluous and thoroughly antiquated by the font of moral wisdom and profundity that is modern psychology (and I know a bit about that field, as I minored in the subject in college), that (so it is always reminding us) "knows better" than ancient Jewish and Christian received moral tradition.

Church Fathers on the Sinlessness of Mary

By Dave Armstrong (7-16-08)

Here are some excerpts from my book, Catholic Church Fathers:

St. Athanasius

. . . pure and unstained Virgin . . . (On the Incarnation of the Word, 8; Gambero, 102)

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71, 216; Gambero, 106)

St. Ephraem

Mary and Eve, two people without guilt, two simple people, were identical. Later, however, one became the cause of our death, the other the cause of our life (Op. syr. II, 327; Ott, 201)

The Virgin Mary is a symbol of the Church, when she receives the first announcement of the gospel . . . We call the Church by the name of Mary, for she deserves a double name. (Sermo ad noct. Resurr.; Gambero, 115)

Thou and thy mother are the only ones who are totally beautiful in every respect; for in thee, O Lord, there is no spot, and in thy Mother no stain. (Nisibene Hymns, 27, v. 8; Ott, 201)

Citing this source, J.N.D. Kelly asserts:

[W]e find Ephraem delineating her as free from every stain, like her son.

(Kelly, 495)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Pure and spotless is this birth. For where the Holy Spirit breathes, all pollution is taken away, so that the human birth of the Only-begotten from the Virgin is undefiled. (Catechetical Lectures, XII, 31-32; Gambero, 140)

St. Gregory Nazianzen

He was conceived by the Virgin, who had first been purified by the Spirit in soul and body; for, as it was fitting that childbearing should receive its share of honor, so it was necessary that virginity should receive even greater honor. (Sermon 38, 13; Gambero, 162-163)

St. Gregory of Nyssa

It was, to divulge by the manner of His Incarnation this great secret; that purity is the only complete indication of the presence of God and of His coming, and that no one can in reality secure this for himself, unless he has altogether estranged himself from the passions of the flesh. What happened in the stainless Mary when the fulness of the Godhead which was in Christ shone out through her, that happens in every soul that leads by rule the virgin life. (On Virginity, 2; NPNF 2, Vol. V, 344)

[T]he power of the Most High, through the Holy Spirit, overshadowed the human nature and was formed therein; that is to say, the portion of flesh was formed in the immaculate Virgin. (Against Apollinaris, 6; Gambero, 153)

St. Ambrose

. . . Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin. (Commentary on Psalm 118, 22, 30; Jurgens, II, 166)

What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? (Virginity, II, 6; NPNF 2, Vol. X, 374)

St. Epiphanius

Mary, the holy Virgin, is truly great before God and men. For how shall we not proclaim her great, who held within her the uncontainable One, whom neither heaven nor earth can contain? (Panarion, 30, 31; Gambero, 127)

St. Jerome

'There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall grow out of his roots.' The rod is the mother of the Lord--simple, pure, unsullied; drawing no germ of life from without but fruitful in singleness like God Himself... Set before you the blessed Mary, whose surpassing purity made her meet to be the mother of the Lord. (Letter XXII. To Eustochium, 19, 38; NPNF 2, Vol. VI, 29, 39; cf. Gambero, p. 213: “whose purity was so great that she merited to be the Mother of the Lord”)

Indeed how inferior they are, in terms of holiness, to blessed Mary, Mother of the Lord! (Contra Pelagianos, 1, 16; Gambero, 212)

St. Augustine

We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. Well, then, if, with this exception of the Virgin, we could only assemble together all the forementioned holy men and women, and ask them whether they lived without sin whilst they were in this life, what can we suppose would be their answer? (A Treatise on Nature and Grace, chapter 42 [XXXVI]; NPNF 1, Vol. V)

Augustine went a step farther. In an incidental remark against Pelagius, he agreed with him in excepting Mary, "propter honorem Domini," from actual (but not from original) sin. This exception he is willing to make from the sinfulness of the race, but no other. He taught the sinless birth and life of Mary, but not her immaculate conception. . . . The reasoning of Augustine backward from the holiness of Christ to the holiness of His mother was an important turn, which was afterward pursued to further results. The same reasoning leads as easily to the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, though also, just as well, to a sinless mother of Mary herself, and thus upward to the beginning, of the race, to another Eve who never fell.

(Schaff, HCC 3, 418-419)
We do not deliver Mary to the devil by the condition of her birth; but for this reason, because this very condition is resolved by the grace of rebirth. (Opus Imperf. Contra Julianum, 4, 122; Graef, 99)

And so he created a Virgin, whom he had chosen to be his Mother . . . she, with pious faith, merited to receive the holy seed within her. He chose her, to be created from her. (De peccatorum meritis et remissione, 2, 24, 38; Gambero, 219)

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Hail, Mary Theotokos, Virgin-Mother, lightbearer, uncorrupt vessel . . . Hail Mary, you are the most precious creature in the whole world; hail, Mary, uncorrupt dove; hail, Mary, inextinguishable lamp; for from you was born the Sun of justice . . . Through you, every faithful soul achieves salvation. (Homily 11 at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus; Gambero, 243, 245)

I see the assembly of the saints, all zealously gathered together, invited by the holy Mother of God, Mary, ever-virgin . . . We hail you, O Mary Mother of God, venerable treasure of the entire world, inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, scepter of orthodoxy, imperishable temple, container of him who cannot be contained . . . Through you, the Holy Trinity is glorified; the precious Cross is celebrated and adored throughout the world; heaven exults, the angels and archangels rejoice, the demons are put to flight, the devil, the tempter, falls from heaven, the fallen creation is brought back to paradise, all creatures trapped in idolatry come to know of the truth. (Homily IV Preached at Ephesus Against Nestorius; Gambero, 247-248)


"Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you, you are blessed" (Lk 1:28), O most beautiful and most noble among women. The Lord is with you, O all-holy one, glorious and good. The Lord is with you, O worthy of praise, O incomparable, O more than glorious, all splendor, worthy of God, worthy of all blessedness . . . spouse of God, divinely nourished treasure. To you I announce neither a conception in wickedness nor a birth in sin; instead, I bring the joy that puts an end to Eve's sorrow. To you I proclaim neither a trying pregnancy nor a painful delivery . . . Through you, Eve's odious condition is ended; through you, abjection has been destroyed; through you, error is dissolved; through you, sorrow is abolished; through you, condemnation has been erased. Through you, Eve has been redeemed. (On the Mother of God and the Nativity; Gambero, 271)

A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns. (Homily VI, 11; O’Carroll, 339)

If iron, once joined to fire, immediately expels the impurities extraneous to its nature and swiftly acquires a likeness to the powerful flame that heats it, . . . how much more, in a superior way, did the Virgin burn when the divine fire (the Holy Spirit) rushed in? She was purified from earthly impurities, and from whatever might be against her nature, and was restored to her original beauty, so as to become inaccessible, untouchable, and irreconcilable to carnal things. (Homily 4, 6; Gambero, 264)

Innocent virgin, spotless, without defect, untouched, unstained, holy in body and in soul, like a lily-flower sprung among thorns, unschooled in the wickedness of Eve . . . clothed with divine grace as with a cloak . . . (Homily 6, 11; Gambero, 268)

Pope St. Leo the Great

For the uncorrupt nature of Him that was born had to guard the primal virginity of the Mother, and the infused power of the Divine Spirit had to preserve in spotlessness and holiness that sanctuary which He had chosen for Himself . . . (Sermon XXII: On the Feast of the Nativity, Part II; NPNF 2, Vol. XII)

St. Sophronius

Others before you have flourished with outstanding holiness. But to none as to you has the fullness of grace been given. None has been endowed with happiness as you, none adorned with holiness like yours, none brought to such great magnificence as yours; no one was ever possessed beforehand by purifying grace as were you . . . And this deservedly, for no one came as close to God as you did; no one was enriched with God's gifts as you were; no one shared God's grace as you did. (In SS Deip. Annunt. 22; O'Carroll, 329)

St. Andrew of Crete

Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God. . . . The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation. (Homily 1 on Mary’s Nativity; O’Carroll, 180)

. . . alone wholly without stain . . . (Canon for the Conception of Anne; Graef, 152)

St. John Damascene

O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! O glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew. (Homily I on the Nativity of Mary; O’Carroll, 200; cf. Graef, 154; Gambero, 402)

So according to John of Damascus, even the “active” conception of Mary was completely without stain, panamomos – a view which goes far beyond the terms of the later definition of the doctrine and was open to the objections raised against it by the schoolmen.

(Graef, 154)
She is all beautiful, all near to God. For she, surpassing the cherubim, exalted beyond the seraphim, is placed near to God. (Homily on the Nativity, 9; Gambero, 403)


Gambero, Luigi, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought, Thomas Buffer, translator, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, revised edition of 1999.

Graef, Hilda, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, vol. 1 [to the Reformation], New York: Sheed and Ward, 1963.

Jurgens, William A., editor and translator, The Faith of the Early Fathers, three volumes, Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1970 and 1979 (2nd and 3rd volumes).

Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, fifth revised edition, 1978.

O'Carroll, Michael, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Wilmington, Delaware: M. Glazier, 1982.

Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, translated by Patrick Lynch, edited in English by James Canon Bastible, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1974, from the fourth edition of 1960 (originally 1952 in German).

Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600 (“HCC 3”), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974, from the revised fifth edition of 1910.

Schaff, Philip, editor, Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1 (“NPNF 1”), 14 volumes, originally published in Edinburgh, 1889, available online:

Schaff, Philip & Henry Wace, editors, Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 2 (“NPNF 2”), 14 volumes, originally published in Edinburgh, 1900, available online:

* * * * *

As to the "these were late fathers" Protestant polemical canard, this proves too much, since one has to realize that many doctrines that Protestants accept (even very key ones to them) often took many hundreds of years to fully develop, as well:
1) The canon of Scripture: not finalized till 397, and it included the Deuterocanon, which Protestants (inconsistently) reject.

2) The Two Natures of Christ: dogmatized in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon. Further controversies over whether Christ had one of two wills (Monothelitism; the orthodox doctrine holds that He had two wills) went on for a few centuries more.

3) Original sin: this was finalized in dogma so late that it wasn't part of the Nicene Creed, and Cardinal Newman noted that the fathers wrote much more about purgatory than about original sin.

4) Sola Scriptura: one of the two pillars of the "Reformation" is virtually absent from the fathers. I have over 100 pages on this issue in my book on the fathers. This doesn't seem to give Protestants any pause, yet the Marian doctrines with regard to the fathers does. Why?

5) Sola fide (faith alone): also virtually nonexistent in the fathers, as Protestant scholars such as Geisler and McGrath have admitted.
Furthermore, many doctrines that many Protestants reject are almost unanimously or largely held by the fathers, such as baptismal regeneration, episcopal Church government (bishops), the papacy, real presence in the Eucharist, perpetual virginity of Mary, the sacrifice of the Mass, penance, purgatory, prayers for the dead, the communion of saints, veneration of the saints, theosis, etc.

It's a tough road to be a Protestant who values Church history (as, particularly, traditional Anglicans and Lutherans do), and thinks that the Church fathers were more Protestant than they were Catholic. That's a miserably losing battle every time. But I give anyone who attempts it a lot of points for chutzpah and admirable zeal. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Catholic Resources on Jehovah's Witnesses (Links)

By Dave Armstrong (7-14-08)

Fellowship of Catholic Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses

A Catholic Critique of Jehovah's Witnesses (Knights of Columbus: 1963)

Jehovah's Witnesses: A Catholic Response
(Catholics United for the Faith)

Apologetic Podcasts and Conversion Story Podcasts (Catholic Ex-JWs)

Answering Jehovah's Witnesses (book by Jason Evert)

The Catholic Answer to the Jehovah's Witnesses: A Challenge Accepted (book by Louise D'Angelo)

Jehovah's Witnesses: "The Apocalyptic Arians": A Biblical and Historical Critique (+ Part Two) (Dave Armstrong)

Jesus is God: Biblical Proofs (Dave Armstrong)

The Holy Trinity: Biblical Proofs (Dave Armstrong)

Jehovah's Witness to Catholic conversion stories: written and audio (scroll down to alphabetical "Jehovah's Witness" category on the left)

Collection of Conversion Stories of Ex-JWs (Fellowship of Catholic Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses)

Is Your Hope Bible-Based? Questions and Reflections For Jehovah's Witnesses
(Dave Brown)

Jehovah's Witnesses--Do They Teach What the Bible Really Teaches? A Critical Evaluation of the Watchtower's Book "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" (Dave Brown)

Hiding the Divine Name (Dave Brown)

No Heavenly Hope for the Old Testament Saints? (Dave Brown)

Is Jesus Yahweh? (Dave Brown)

1914: True Prophecy or False Prophecy?
(Dave Brown)

"And the Word Was God" (Jeffery Schwehm)

Welcome to the Universal (Catholic) Family of God (conversion story by Jeffery Schwehm)

How to Become a Jehovah's Witness (Kenneth Guindon: Envoy)

The God or a god? (Mark Brumley; This Rock)

How Many True Gods Are There, Anyway? (Mark Brumley; This Rock)

The Witnesses: Masters of Misquotation (Mark Brumley; This Rock)

You Can't Be Right: A Jehovah's Witness Confronts the Truth (Victor R. Claveau; This Rock)

Shunned by Kingdom Hall (Bradley R. Lewis; This Rock)

History of the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

Are They Awake on the Watchtower? (This Rock)

Distinctive Beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

The God of the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

Strategies of the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

Stumpers For the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

More Stumpers For the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

Who Are the Jehovah's Witnesses? (Canon Francis J. Ripley: This Rock)

What Jehovah's Witnesses Believe (Canon Francis J. Ripley: This Rock)

Christ's Divinity Proved by the JW Bible (Joel S. Peters; This Rock)

Pastor Russell (Cathleen A. Koenig; This Rock)

"Judge" Rutherford (Cathleen A. Koenig; This Rock)

Talking to Jehovah's Witnesses (Jason Evert; This Rock)

Five Don'ts For Dealing With Jehovah's Witnesses (Joel S. Peters; This Rock)

Does the Watch Tower Society Speak For God? (Joel S. Peters; This Rock)

The Watchtower's Flickering Light (Joel S. Peters; This Rock)

Cross or Torture Stake? (Clayton F. Bower, Jr.; This Rock)

JWs and Blood Transfusions (This Rock)

History and Techniques of the Jehovah's Witnesses (This Rock)

An Abomination to the Lord: How the Watchtower Relied on a Spiritist’s Bible Translation (Fr. Mitch Pacwa: This Rock)

Talking to Jehovah's Witnesses: Fictional Dialogue Between a Catholic and JW (Dean Mischewski)

Incredible Creed of the Jehovah's Witnesses (Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble)

What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe? (Fr. William Saunders)

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower (David Wesley)

Additional (Wholly or Partially) Non-Catholic Helpful Resources

Helpful Research Links

Were the Early Christians Jehovah's Witnesses? (+ Part Two) (Robert U. Finnerty)

The Watchtower and the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers (Michael J. Partyka)

Nicene Christology and an Introduction to the Trinitarian Theology of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Matt Paulson)

Yes! You Should Believe in the Trinity (Witness, Inc.)

Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse (online book by David A. Reed)

Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Subject by Subject (online book by David A. Reed)

A Critical Guide to Watchtower Publications (online book by David A. Reed)

"Proclaimers" Answered Page by Page (David A. Reed)

Bible Answers For Jehovah's Witnesses
(David A. Reed)

Jehovah's Witness Discussion

Protestant Website and Organizational Outreaches to Jehovah's Witnesses

Witness, Inc.

Comments From the Friends (David A. Reed) (David A. Reed)

Biblical (Pauline) Evidence for the Catholic Examination of Conscience

By Dave Armstrong (7-14-08)

From: John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980, 199):
Examination of Conscience

Reflection in God's presence on one's state of soul, e.g., in preparation for the sacrament of penance.

Examen, General

Prayerful daily periodic examination of one's conscience to determine what faults have been committed, which call for repentance, and what good actions were performed, for which God should be thanked.

Examen, Particular

Regular prayerful examination of one's conscience by concentrating on some one particular moral failing to be overcome or virtue to be exercised. Its focus is on such external manifestations of the fault or virtue as can be remembered for periodic inventory. Particular examens are changed weekly, monthly, or otherwise in order to ensure maximum attention. They are also commonly associated with some brief invocation for divine assistance, as occasions arise for avoiding a sin or acting on a virtue. And after some time another cycle may be started of the same defects that this person has to conquer or good habits he or she needs to develop.
On the CHNI board, an evangelical Protestant woman (not skeptical at all but very open) asked about Catholic devotional practices, such as the scapular and Rosary and fasting, and how to not allow these to degenerate into "good luck charms" and efforts to control the world.

One of the best treatments that I recall of the exact question she raised (the danger of sacramental practices descending into mere superstition and "good luck charms") was in two replies in This Rock magazine concerning the scapular (November 1992 and January 1993) and correct and incorrect understandings of it.

I think these two treatments hit the nail right on the head. Sure, any practice can become rote or separated from its essence, so that folks rely on it rather than God: towards Whom the practice was designed to foster worship and closeness. That's why we Catholics believe in being very self-aware and "vigilant" in the spiritual life: we're always examining ourselves to make sure that our hearts are oriented towards God (as a result -- always -- of God's grace, that we must seek and ask for).

This very self-examination is what Protestants sometimes critique and scorn as "uncertainty of salvation," as if it were a bondage or something undesirable, or altogether lacking in the hope and joy and peace that we have in Christ. Not at all. St. Paul expressed something that I believe is very much along these lines:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (RSV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Paul also wrote to the same Corinthians about the same necessity of self-examination:
1 Corinthians 11:28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
If we pursue this notion, we find that the Greek word in the last two examples above ("test" in 2 Cor 13:5) is dokimazo (Strong's word #1384). In the KJV it is translated variously as examine, discern, prove, try, and approve. Here are some other NT uses of it in similar fashion (RSV):

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 8:7-8 Now as you excel in everything -- in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us -- see that you excel in this gracious work also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

2 Corinthians 8:22 And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you.

Galatians 6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good,

1 Timothy 3:10 And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons.
"Examine" in 2 Corinthians 13:5 is a different word: pirazo (Strong's #3985), usually translated as tempt or tempted. In this case it is used in the sense of "tempting" or "testing" or "trying" oneself (i.e., examining).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Scholarly Use of the Term "Anti-Catholicism" in Precisely the Way I Habitually Use It (the Theological Sense)

By Dave Armstrong (7-8-08)

. . . theological anti-Catholicism or anti-'Romanism' remains an important part of Irish Protestant identity.

(Irish Society: Sociological Perspectives, edited by Patrick Clancy; this section ["Nation Unequally: Sectarianism in Ireland"] by R McVeigh, 1995, 637)

(2) Brewer (1998) also argues that theological anti-Catholicism does not necessarily lead to a strong unionist position and, in fact, that some evangelicals are . . .

("The Moral Minority: Evangelical Protestants in Northern Ireland and Their Political Behaviour," Claire Mitchell and James Tilley, Political Studies, Volume 52, Number 3, October 2004 , pp. 585-602(18) )

(3) . . . of an increasing number of Irish and German immigrants that seemed to confirm the fears of Morse and Beecher, theological anti-Catholicism and political . . .

("'Religion without Restriction': Anti-Catholicism, All Mexico, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo," John C. Pinheiro, Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Spring, 2003), pp. 69-96)

(4) Scholars have drawn a distinction between theological and cultural anti-Catholicism. Theological anti-Catholicism is as old as the Reformation; it emphasizes the theological distinctives that separate Catholicism and Protestantism, In America, it can be traced to the influence of the Puritans on the development of America's Protestant identity. . . .

Cultural anti-Catholicism locates its roots in the belief that the Roman Catholic Church's institutional presence and hierarchy threatened American democracy and the autonomy of the individual. . . .

For southern Protestants, . . . cultural and religious anti-Catholicism persisted much longer.

(The South's tolerable alien: Roman Catholics in Alabama and Georgia, 1945-1970, Andrew S. Moore, LSU Press, 2007, 12)

(5) Brewer (1998) and Brewer and Higgins’ (1999) work on religious anti-Catholicism amongst Protestants might also be characterized as ethnic support. Brewer asserts that anti-Catholicism must be understood as sociological process. It provides the resources to mark out boundaries, rationalize and justify Protestants’ political position and to provide unity in times of threat. Brewer’s work by no means ignores theology as he outlines how each variant of anti-Catholicism intertwines specific theological positions with political ideas and (lack of) relationships with Catholics. He teases out the how the substance of religious anti-Catholicism relates to social and political power.

("The Religious Content of Ethnic Identities," Claire Mitchell, Sociology, Vol. 40, No. 6, 1135-1152 (2006) )

(6) The claim that anti-Catholicism is Scriptural is rooted in sixteenth-century theological debates . . . the belief that anti-Catholicism is Scriptural is part of the self-defining identity of certain Protestants . . . divisions are immutably upheld by theological doctrine. . . . anti-Catholicism in some settings is, indeed, much more than doctrinal differences, but a sociological account is needed to distinguish these situations from settings where the differences remain theological. . . .

Anti-Catholicism can be defined as the determination of actions, attitudes, and practices by negative beliefs about individual Catholics, the Catholic Church as an institution, or Catholic doctrine.

("Understanding Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland," John D. Brewer and Gareth I. Higgins, Sociology, 33(2), (1999), 235-255)

(7) . . . a 'theological' anti-Catholicism grounded in historic Protestantism . . .

(Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951, Ross McKibbin, Oxford University Press, 1998, 293)

(8) Brewer (1998) outlines three active modes of anti-Catholicism that he sees as prevalent in contemporary Northern Ireland: covenantal, Pharisaic, and secular. The first two are based in theological teachings . . . the covenantal mode of anti-Catholicism is based in prophetic Old Testament ideas of God, land and a 'chosen people' . . . Conflict is interpreted as a battle between good and evil, truth and error . . .

It is important, however, not to over-simplify the social and political consequences of theological anti-Catholicism. It is inaccurate to say that people's theological problems with Catholicism and a desire to convert inevitably lead to bad social relationships.

(Religion, Identity, and Politics in Northern Ireland, Claire Mitchell, Ashgate Publishing, 2005, 120-121)

(9) Much anti-Catholicism involved theological argument that could quickly become mental mud-wrestling between defenders of particular faiths.

(American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War, David Grimsted, Oxford University Press, 1998, 222)

(10) Puritan anti-Catholicism, despite some sympathies with later kinds of bias, was deeply different from them. Far from being anti-theological, like Jefferson, it was super-theological. It was central to the whole structure of Puritanical thought.

(Head and Heart: American Christianities, Garry Wills, Penguin, 2007, 51)

(11) Already in much of Latin America, Protestant-Catholic conflicts often involve traditional religious anti-Catholicism of a sort that went out of fashion among Anglo-Americans half a century since.

(The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Philip Jenkins, Oxford University Press, 2003, 213)

(12) . . . in the mid-nineteenth century we can begin to disentangle two strands of anti-Catholicism in the United States. The first is an intensely religious anti-Catholicism derived from the Reformation era-polemics that shaped American cultural life . . . Here Catholics believe in self-evidently ludicrous doctrines such as purgatory and transubstantiation.

(John T. McGreevy, in American Catholics, American Culture: Tradition and Resistance, edited by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, 156)

(13) The evidence strongly suggests that there were two types of anti-Catholicism in 1960. The lower-class nonurban kind is the religious anti-Catholicism of American history, tied to a lack of education, strong commitment to one's own Protestant

(Revolution and Counterrevolution: Change and Persistence in Social Structures, Seymour Martin Lipset, Transaction Publishers, 1988, 356)