Sunday, June 12, 2011

Neo-Geo Exaggerations: The Catechism of Trent (guest post by David Palm)

[link to his post on his blog]

In my last piece on neo-geocentrism I pointed out how neo-geocentrists consistently exaggerate the nature and authority of the various ecclesiastical documents that touch on the topic.

Another example of this may be found in how they treat some passages in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Here's what a leading neo-geo has to say about it:

One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism comes from the catechism issued under a decree of Pope Pius V, known as The Catechism of the Council of Trent or more simply, The Roman Catechism. (Bob Sungenis, GWW2, 163).

"One of the clearest official and authoritative statements"....keep that phrase in mind as we look into this a little further. Bob deploys several passages from the Roman Catechism to try and make this case. Here's one of them:

He also gave to the sun its brilliancy, and to the moon and stars their beauty; and that they might be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety.

Now a lot of non-geocentrists are going to look at that and say, Okay, but I agree with that. How exactly does that clearly teach geocentrism? Bob deploys another passage from the Catechism of Trent to try and answer that:

Rather, to expel any doubt about what objects are revolving the catechism adds that the sun, moon and stars have a “continual revolution.” Although the unspecified reference to “revolution” might cause a heliocentrist to infer that the sun’s revolution does not necessarily mean it is revolving around the Earth, a few pages later the catechism disallows that inference by stating the following:

The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them.…

The problem for Bob is the context that he left off after the ellipses makes his application of this passage to the earth's place in the universe untenable. Let's have the whole passage, including what he omitted:

The earth [terram] also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world [mundi], rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.
While mundus can mean "universe", it can also just mean "world", e.g. Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, "The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived." But from the whole context it appears that the Catechism is using the word "earth" (terra) in terms of the "land", as distinct from the "air" and "water" and the word "world" (mundus) to mean the whole globe. (This echoes the wording of Gen 1:10, "And God called the dry land, Earth [terram]".) Thus in this context "rooted in its own foundation" means that the land is fixed in place with relation to the water, not in relation to the cosmos. If "earth" here means the entire globe then the passage ceases to make sense, since in the last sentence the "earth" is specifically contrasted with the "air" and "water" and God certainly didn't cover the entire globe, including the air and water, "with trees and every variety of plant and flower".

This passage, then, doesn't represent a description of the globe's place in the universe and it has no application to geocentrism. I should note that the English version of this Catechism by J. A. McHugh and C. J. Callanon which appears in many places on the Internet (e.g. here) has the heading "Formation of the Universe" over this section. This is a mistranslation of the Latin, De terrae creatione, which is correctly translated "Creation of the earth" (as in, e.g. the translation by J. Donovan (link). It is perhaps this mistranslation—along with an insufficient attention to context—that has misled certain neo-geocentrists to read this as if it addressed the earth's place in the universe.

There are a couple of other passages Bob cites to try and bolster this notion that the Catechism of Trent teaches geocentrism, but they get weaker and weaker.

But though God is present in all places and in all things, without being bound by any limits, as has been already said, yet in Sacred Scripture it is frequently said that He has His dwelling in heaven. And the reason is because the heavens which we see above our heads are the noblest part of the world, remain ever Incorruptible, surpass all other bodies in power, grandeur and beauty, and are endowed with fixed and regular motion.

...all goods both natural and supernatural, must be recognised as gifts given by Him from whom, as the Church proclaims, proceed all blessings. If the sun by its light, if the stars by their motion and revolutions, are of any advantage to man; if the air with which we are surrounded serves to sustain us...nay, those very causes which philosophers call secondary, we should regard as so many hands of God, wonderfully fashioned and fitted for our use, by means of which He distributes His blessings and diffuses them everywhere in profusion.
Obviously, non-geocentrists can affirm all that this Catechism says. There is no explicit affirmation of geocentrism here whatsoever; these are generic statements that fit modern cosmologies equally well. Yet despite the weakness of this evidence in favor of his pet cosmology, Bob speaks of the "Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism" (GWW2, pp. 164f.). This is a manifest exaggeration.

We have seen that, far from containing a "dogmatic assertion of geocentrism", the Catechism of the Council of Trent says nothing at all on the subject. The evidence strongly suggests that this is a modern, private interpretation of the Catechism based on a mistranslation and a misunderstanding. The following fact should pretty much clinch that case. Bob claims that this is, "One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism. . . " But surely, if that were true, this would have been the very centerpiece in the original Galileo controversy. And yet this source was was never, as far as I have seen, brought up either by the Congregation of the Index or the Congregation of the Holy Office during the Galileo affair. The silence is deafening.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent does not teach geocentrism as an article of faith. And of course, the Church's next universal Catechism, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, also says not a word about geocentrism either. And yet the Holy Father stated in Fidei Depositum IV:

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, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.

"[A] statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine..." But not a peep about geocentrism. That silence too is deafening.


Stan Williams said...

As the documents declare about themselves, their purpose is for the teaching of the faith and not the teaching of science, or cosmology. The only way your geocentric "fiends" can argue their position (if they claim to be sentient and rational), is if they are also belligerent and polemic. Ignore them. As Karl Keating as pointed out, if you didn't visit their websites, no one would.

S said...

I disagree, Stan. Certainly, there aren't mobs of geocentrists, but the problem is that some people are drawn in by it. Some people are troubled by the attacks made by geocentrists. Some honestly worry that they're not being completely faithful to the teaching of the Church after being hammered by these people. And at least one of the leading geocentrists (Sungenis) still has some following and credibility because people remember him from his good "Not By" series and his days on EWTN. IMO, it's an act of charity to help people from falling into the kind of paranoid and conspiracy mindset that commonly surrounds geocentrism. If you want to ignore them, by all means, go right ahead. I can completely understand that. But you have to know that it's more of a rhetorical device than actual truth to say that if he didn't visit their geo-websites, no one would.

Jordanes551 said...

Mr. Sungenis seems to quote the Roman Catechism the way a hyperliteralist, fundamentalistical Protestant quotes the Bible.

Dave Armstrong said...

Yep. I have said all along that the problem is one of poor understanding of how language works, and of logic. We see the same error of interpretation all down the line, in Bob's errors.

Jae said...

Dave I totally agree with you. Poor Bob Sungenis he's now an advocate of Sola Scriptura where the sole authority to interpret tradition and scripture falls on his head.

"Even heretics appeal to Scripture". In Bob's case it's the Sacred Tradition.

Dave Armstrong said...

It's very sad.