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Monday, November 14, 2005

Emergency Brake

I have turned off the comments to my last post on heresy in the Catholic church. I looked back at the progression of the conversation and saw that I was diagnosing symptoms as the problem, thus creating myriad points of discussion that not only would not be effective, but cast an air of "anti-Catholicism" to my position, which was never what I sought.

I allowed myself to become upset after reading the Council of Trent and Vatican I. You can see the tone change in my post from the beginning to the end. Emotional arguments are not a hallmark of my style, but I trod there despite that.

The heresy of the Catholic church is its position that the ecclesiatical leadership of the church is final and infallible in its decisions, even if they are contradictory to scripture and the tradition of the Ante-Nicene fathers. That is honestly the only position that is heretical, simply because it is the impetus for all of the other points of contention - purgatory, baptismal regeneration, prayer to saints, indulgences, penance, etc., all of which must rely upon the infallibility and final authority of ecclesiastical support. It trumps any debate about the issue at hand, and makes debate impossible. I doubt anyone that reads this blog would defend that position, so I suppose we can't debate the infallibility of the church here.

Team Hammer is not anti-Catholic. After all, how could we stand against the source of the greatest football program on God's green earth? We get a free pass anyway, as family members of Catholics - well, a free pass to purgatory, at least.

15 Comments:

  • Hammer,
    I suspect you're right that emotions were running too high on the other thread. I still think, though, that you're using "infallible" in an unhelpful manner here. As was pointed out on the other thread, infallibility has a very specific meaning WRT the RC church - it means only the Pope speaking on doctrinal issues. It does not mean that the ecclesiastical leadership is infallible, nor even that the Pope himself is infallible in all his decisions!

    Indeed, there have been several high-profile apologies in recent decades from the RC church for errors that the church has made historically. True, there are perhaps too few of them. True, also, the church heirarchy is often too arrogant and certain of its own correctness - but that's hardly exclusive to the RC church!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 11/14/2005 02:16:00 PM  

  • I didn’t comment on the previous post because I feared that I might write something that I would later regret. Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge fan of Catholic theology, doctrine or practice. I do realize that Catholics believe many of the ‘first order’ Truths, but I wonder if their understanding of those Truths isn’t clouded by all of the ancillary traditions and teachings that have accumulated over the centuries.

    p.s. I responded to your very insightful comment on my last post. I’d love to know you thoughts, as I’m not typically that candid about my faith on my blog…at least not like I am on yours ;-)

    By Blogger Robert, at 11/14/2005 07:19:00 PM  

  • That is the problem about arguing with someone about Catholic doctrine. Either you believe the Pope is infallible or you believe he is fallible. Everything hinges on that belief.

    I can go on and on about how I disagree with the doctrine on Mary etc., but it all hinges on the Pope issue.

    The only real question you can give a Catholic is where in God's Word do you find any mention of infallibility when it comes to any human being? It is simply not there.

    By Blogger A Human Bean, at 11/17/2005 11:37:00 AM  

  • Hi ahb,

    Catholics along with Protestants believe that when Peter spoke in Scripture, he was speaking for God. The sayings of Peter along with other Apostles have been documented and canonized to the point of being infallible. Catholics believe that the Pope can make a statement that is equivalent to those that were spoken and canonized from Peter. The canonization of Peter’s statements were made by committee and affirmed through the ages. It is unlikely a Pope would make any declarations of faith that were not a majority view among the Cardinals.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 11/17/2005 12:35:00 PM  

  • The issue is not that simple, AHB. I know much more about the RC Church than most suspect, and Protestants in general know less.

    Papal infallability is not the issue. First, it is a limited doctrine - limited in its scope, that is. There must be five conditions met for the pope's word to be infallible. If the pope says, "Cadillac is better than a Lincoln", it can't be infallible.

    The issue is not papal infallibility, but Roman Catholic Church infallibility. I did not invent this marriage of terms. It is explicit in two sources of mine - New Advent.com and a book in my hand, "A Closer Look at Catholicism", by Bob Moran, CSP. The book is an apologetic of Catholicism to Protestants, not a Protestant attack on Catholicism.

    The next comment is a repeat of a post by Marty, who is Catholic, intellectually honest, educated on the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and well spoken. I hope that the discussion between he, me, and the rest of us will enlighten us all.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/17/2005 02:58:00 PM  

  • From Marty:

    The word "infallible" is a technical term. It does not mean perfect. It does not mean impeccable (sinless). The sinfulness of Church leaders does not justify rejecting their teachings or defying their commands. "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." (Matt 23:1-3 King James Version.) Moses' seat, of course, not a piece of furniture but a symbol of authority. The Today's English Version -- the Good News for Modern Man translation -- translates that passage as, "The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses' Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don't practice what they preach."

    Also, Jesus said to the Seventy disciples He sent out, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16, King James)

    From the earliest centuries it was recognized that the bishops of the Church, as the successors of the Apostles, could exercise the infallible teaching authority of the Church. That is why the doctrinal definitions of General Councils, such as Nicea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Ephesus, were infallible. Administrative and policy decisions were not. It was widely believed that the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, could exercise the infallible teaching authority of the Church by himself, apart from a General Council. This belief was formally defined by the First Vatican Council in 1870. That's all the term "papal infallibility" means. It does not mean the Pope is perfect, sinless, or incapable of making mistakes in administrative policy. Also, infallibility is not inspiration. The Pope still has to decide what is the correct doctrine by himself, although he will pray for God's help and God may well give it. However, if he decides on an incorrect interpretation of God's revelation God will prevent him from defining it. God could do that in any number of ways including enlightening the Pope to the correct doctrine or replacing him with a new Pope.
    A little later you wrote, "Vatican 1 (in which it is stated that all who come to the catholic faith must swear to belief in everything proscribed at the council of Trent, as well as doctrinal statemnet sof the truth of indulginces, purgatory, and noting that outside the catholic faith none can be saved).
    "Vatican 2 (in which we find Protestants now called 'separated bretheren' - quite a change from anathema, indeed. Aren't they supposed to be infallible?)"


    The Catholic Church teaches that the scriptures are not merely infallible but inspired. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

    II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture
    105
    God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69

    "For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70

    106
    God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71

    107
    The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72

    108
    Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living."73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."74

    http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt1sect1chpt2.htm

    The official teachings of the Catholic Church are correct because they agree with Scripture. If you think they do not, either you do not understand the Bible correctly or you do not understand the teachings of the Church correctly.

    You seem to say that the Church condemned teaching children the Lord's Prayer in English in the 16th Century. I have no idea what you have in mind, but there obviously is some misunderstanding. While the upper classes knew Latin most people did not and prayed in their everyday languages. There were many translations of the Bible or of parts of the Bible into vernacular languages centuries before the beginning of Protestantism. St. Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin is known as the "Vulgate" because at that time the educated upper classes spoke Greek. Latin was the everyday language of the vulgus, the common people.

    As for the statement that outside the Catholic Church no one can be saved, there has been no change in doctrine, just a change in emphasis. In 1854, several years before Vatican I Pope Pius IX said, "We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?"

    In other words, people who are culpably outside the Church cannot be saved. People who through no fault of their own do not realize that God wants them to be Catholic are not excluded from Heaven. Incidentally because some people don't realize that the word "ignorant" is not the same as the word "stupid" I should point out that "ignorant" means lacking knowledge. Until 1930 all of the greatest minds in human history were totally ignorant of the existence of the planet Pluto because it wasn't discovered until that year.

    I will reply to Marty tomorrow. I owe a post on Team Hammer's beginnings today.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/17/2005 03:02:00 PM  

  • "The issue is not papal infallibility, but Roman Catholic Church infallibility"

    Then I think you need to clarify what exactly "RC Church infallibility" means here. Because, as far as I know, there is no official doctrine of the RC Church that it is infallible in any sense. Indeed, this flies in the face of the apologies in recent years for mistakes made by the Church.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 11/17/2005 04:41:00 PM  

  • Hammertime,

    You say, "The heresy of the Catholic church is its position that the ecclesiastical leadership of the church is final and infallible in its decisions, even if they are contradictory to scripture and the tradition of the Ante-Nicene fathers." The wording of that sentence is technically ambiguous although the meaning is clear. I am sure you are not claiming that the Catholic Church says, "Our doctrines are infallibly true, even if they are contradictory to scripture and the tradition of the Ante-Nicene fathers." No Christian would say that his doctrines contradict scripture. Therefore, you must have meant to say something like, "The heresy of the Catholic church is its position that the ecclesiastical leadership of the church is final and infallible in its decisions, even if they are contradictory to what I and those Christians who agree with me think is the teaching of scripture and the tradition of the Ante-Nicene fathers." Since I am sure you do not claim infallibility for yourself, that seems to indicate that, on most issues, your disagreements with Catholics are similar to your disagreements with those Protestants who hold theological positions different than yours. One exception seems to be the Church's claim to infallible teaching authority, but in the interest of writing relatively brief postings on specific points I'll discuss that in my next post.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:38:00 PM  

  • Hammertime,

    You say, "That [i.e. the Catholic Church's claim to infallible teaching authority] is honestly the only position that is heretical, simply because it is the impetus for all of the other points of contention - purgatory, baptismal regeneration, prayer to saints, indulgences, penance, etc., all of which must rely upon the infallibility and final authority of ecclesiastical support. It trumps any debate about the issue at hand, and makes debate impossible." No it doesn't. The infallibility of the Church is for internal use only. That is, only Catholics recognize it and only Catholics can be expected to accept it. Anyone who reads everything I've posted here before, both in the now closed The Catholic Church and Heresy discussion and in this discussion, will see that I never invoked the infallibility of the Church to support my statements. (I did explain what the Church's claim to infallibility does and does not mean, but that's not the same thing.) It would have been a waste of time to invoke the infallibility of the Church because you do not accept it. You and I can quote the Bible at, er, to each other because we both accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. We recognize its authority although we disagree about what it means. It would be a waste of time for us to quote the Bible to an atheist, except as a historical document, because he rejects its authority as God's word, just as it would be a waste of time for a Muslim to quote the Quran in a discussion with us.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:41:00 PM  

  • Hammertime,

    I just said that you and I accept the authority of the Bible but disagree about what it means, what it teaches. You also disagree with many other Protestants on some points of biblical teaching. That reminds me of a comment by Frank Sheed, who was a prominent Catholic author and publisher through much of the middle of the 20th century. (His books can be found in many library catalogs under "Sheed, F. J. (Francis Joseph)".) He said that if Jesus had not left us a Church to teach authoritatively in His name then, even though the Bible is the inspired word of God, He would not have left us a revelation, He would have left us a riddle, and a riddle we could never be sure we had solved correctly. Fortunately, He did leave us a teaching church. As St. Paul said, the church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

    I said Sheed's books can be found in many libraries. Some of his writings are on the web. Here is the URL of his book A Map of Life, which was written primarily for Catholics to help them understand more fully some of the basic doctrines they already accepted. Therefore, it does not try to prove, but just to explain:
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/MAPLIF.TXT

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:45:00 PM  

  • David M. Smith wrote, "Catholics believe that the Pope can make a statement that is equivalent to those that were spoken and canonized from Peter." No. The Catholic Church teaches that public revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. The Church can define, authoritatively, what God's revelation means, but it cannot add to it and we believe that He will not add to it.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:47:00 PM  

  • John wrote, "Then I think you need to clarify what exactly 'RC Church infallibility' means here. Because, as far as I know, there is no official doctrine of the RC Church that it is infallible in any sense. Indeed, this flies in the face of the apologies in recent years for mistakes made by the Church." To take his last sentence first, the apologies have been for adminstrative policies and similar actions that do not fall within the scope of infallibility as the Church understands it. Therefore, they are irrelevant to this discussion.

    As for the official doctrine of the Church on its infallibility here are three paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    889
    In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."417

    890
    The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

    891
    "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue
    of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms
    his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith
    or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of
    bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme
    Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its
    supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419
    and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience
    of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation
    itself.421


    http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt1sect2chpt3art9p4.htm. On the web the references are clickable, but most of them are references to documents of the Second Vatican Council and other Catholic authorities.

    A Catholic dictionary defines the word "Magisterium" as "The Church's teaching authority, vested in the bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, under the Roman Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter. Also vested in the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and visible head of the Catholic Church."

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:50:00 PM  

  • Oops. The URL of the Catechism reference was too long. Maybe this will work:
    http://www.usccb.org/catechism
    /text/pt1sect2chpt3art9p4.htm.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/19/2005 08:54:00 PM  

  • I apologize for the great length of time it took me to answer. I was neither uninterested nor overwhelmed, but rather, engaged. Final exams, Final papers, sick babies and starting work at just after midnight have a way of doing that!

    Marty, I suppose it is accurate that my disagreement with the Magesterium andd official doctrines lie in my disagreement with the posiiton that they are infallible in any sense. My support for such is scriptures and the tradition of the church prior to Nicea (really, prior to about 250 AD).

    Aside: John, I use the term "infallible" to mean without error in their specific points of doctrine. As Marty showed in the cathechism, it is an official term.

    I will lay aside my charge that the RCC persecuted those who taught the Lord's prayer in English. Of more significant documentation is the charge that the RCC persecuted those who translated the Bible into mother tongues - yet that is disputed, and instead of us tossing references around, we can agree with this - that it is the official doctrine of the Magesterium that the layman has no place attempting to interpret the scriptures in any fashion that is in opposition to the Magesterium - the essence of infallibility (Reference: Trent). It would be silly, as Marty points out, to use the infallibility of the Magesterium to prove the infallibility of the Magesterium! However, I fear that is the end result. I am open to being proved wrong on this.

    On this we agree:

    "The Catholic Church teaches that public revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. The Church can define, authoritatively, what God's revelation means, but it cannot add to it and we believe that He will not add to it."

    My argument is this: that the RCC has added. It has added using not scripture and tradition, but its own, self-appointed authority. MY specific example of the day follows.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 12/12/2005 01:49:00 PM  

  • The Immaculate Conception.

    This is not what you think, if you are not an educated Catholic. John has given an excellent description of this doctrine here at the CPF.

    In brief, the RCC claims that Mary was born without sin. It has absolutely no justification for this in Scripture or in the early church fathers.



    In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

    This doctrine was codfied in 1854 (the veneration of Mary became official long before - evidenced in the writings of Ambrose and Augustine). Reading the justification for this is eye-opening. Honest admissions are: "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture" and "In regard to the sinlessness of Mary the older Fathers are very cautious: some of them even seem to have been in error on this matter." Origen, Basil and John Chrysostom are cited in their opposition to this doctrine.

    Support? That many of the Fathers compared Mary to Eve (on which I have no objection, specifically, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian). Those same fathers are not mentioned for any other evidence. Origen is referenced again, yet the disconnect in ideas is not resolved. Hippolytus is referenced, but a review of the actual texts of Hippolytus that are referenced reveal no such support.

    Thus, we can only conclude, that with no scriptural justification for ascribing sinlessness to Mary, and no evidence in the traditions of the early church fathers that Mary was considered sinless, where has this doctrine arisen from? Can we not agree that it has been added since then?

    I find this example to be perfect - it is clearly a doctrine of the magesterium, complete with indulgences this year, and the awareness that the Third Ecumenical Council focused upon this very issue - that pagan worship of a feminine deity was entering the church in the form of Mary worship - in concert with the absence of scriptural and early traditional support. What we appear to be presented with is this: The truth is not what actually has been believed by all, at all times, in all places, but what the Magesterium says is truth - under the auspices of being believed by all, at all times, in all places.

    I would prefer to use this example, as we can focus our research and positions instead of trying to cast about covering all the bases.

    Aside 2: In rejecting the sinlessness of Mary, I am anathema.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 12/12/2005 02:19:00 PM  

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