Saturday, January 24, 2009

Catholic Answers: Providing Certainty?

Catholic Answers has a link to a 2009 campaign for donations listed on their homepage. It appears that CA as a lay apostolate is playing a large role in the "certainty" of RCism by answering just about any question a Catholic may have:

(I have left in the text formatting (bolding, underlining) that is found in the CA website)

Catholic Answers states:

"…We’re impacting people’s lives—and helping people grow closer to God—one day at a time.

Here at Catholic Answers, that’s what we’re all about.

We’re here to defend, explain, and promote the Catholic faith. We’re the largest organization of our kind in the world. And, frankly, the most effective…."

"…In various ways, we’ve reached and influenced millions upon millions of people.

We’ve helped average Catholics become better Catholics. We’ve helped fallen-away Catholics come back to the faith. And we’ve helped non-Catholics become Catholic…

…That’s why I’d like to give you my vision for the future of Catholic Answers and show you how God is using our apostolate to help rebuild the Catholic Church and restore some sanity to our culture….

…And believe me, the demand for our work is growing tremendously every day. More and more people are turning to Catholic Answers for clear, powerful information about the faith—to the point where we hardly can keep up with the calls, letters, e-mails, and other requests we get!..."

"As a result, This Rock has led more people to the Catholic faith—or back to it—than any other journal of its kind being published today…Yet, the readership of This Rock still stands at around 36,000—a far cry from what it needs to be in order to maximize the true potential of this publication…"

"…When it comes to apologetics, the thing people need most is someone they can talk to for fast, reliable answers to their most burning questions.

For years, we’ve had staff members take phone calls from anyone who calls in with a question he wants to ask us.

More good is done through this one effort than you can ever imagine.

That’s because callers get a chance to connect with one of our expert staff apologists—a real, live person who understands their questions and knows the answers.

Our apologists are well-versed, well-trained Catholic experts with years of experience under their belts. They know the answers to virtually any question you could ask them. And they know how to communicate those answers in ways that people accept and embrace—even people who formerly disagreed with the Catholic position…"

"…Catholic Answers speakers are some of the best in the land. Every month, they go out to parishes across the country to give our special brand of parish seminars—where we present the basic elements of the Catholic faith to all who want to attend.

Our parish seminars have borne a great deal of good fruit in the last several years. With Tim Staples, Jimmy Akin, Jim Burnham, Ray Guarendi, Marcellino D’Ambrosio, and Mark Shea—we’re doing even more good work for the glory of God…"


Here we have another of example where Catholic reality doesn’t appear to match the arguments of Catholic epologists. Protestants are told they cannot trust their own interpretation when reading the bible but are in need of an infallible interpreter, especially to provide clarity around modern-day moral issues (contraception, stem cell research, etc.). But in reality we see thousands to millions of Catholics turning to a layperson organization for fallible answers and interpretations. Shouldn’t Catholics be asking questions of their priests and bishops rather than Catholic Answers?

We are also told by Catholic epologists that Protestants have no authority structure, but who is keeping an eye on Catholic Answers? Is a member of the magisterium monitoring the literature or radio shows put out by Catholic Answers? How has Catholic Answers not set themselves up as a private interpreter of Catholic teaching?

Finally, I would say that the popularity of Catholic Answers, especially the question and answer programs, suggests that the existence of an infallible teaching magisterium hasn’t provided much clarity to lay Catholics. While there are many faithful Catholics, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in conclusive knowledge of what the church teaches. But this isn’t surprising considering the vast wealth of documents a Catholic would have to consult to get a full answer – catechisms, papal encyclicals, council decrees, canon law, writings of early church fathers, etc.

Short of a Vatican hotline, I’m guessing lay Catholics will have to continue to seek out Catholic Answers to at least get a fallible answer to their “burning questions”.

117 comments:

EA said...

"Our apologists are well-versed, well-trained Catholic experts with years of experience under their belts. They know the answers to virtually any question you could ask them.

Does CA enjoy a "blanket Imprimatur" so the caller can be assured of an answer that is in conformance with the One True Faith or are we to take CA's word for it based on their private judgment?

James Swan said...

Does CA enjoy a "blanket Imprimatur...

I looked around the CA website for something like this, but couldn't find anything. If it's there, perhaps someone else could find it.

The recent backing away from Robert Sungenis by the Catholic e-community is very interesting, since Sungenis (CAI) appears to have a simialr set up to CA:

"CAI is a Catholic lay apostolate dedicated to the teachings of Jesus Christ preserved by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. It stands on the forefront of Catholic Apologetics, explaining Catholicism to fellow Catholics and defending it against her opponents. With the help and intercession of our new patron saint, St. Robert Bellarmine, and in communion with the other great Apologists of our Faith, we have every hope of winning souls for Jesus Christ."

So...who decides which of these organizations interprets Rome correctly?

DA is on a tirade against Sungenis (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/01/reply-to-robert-sungenis-letter.html). He has this recent blog entry hidden away off the front page.

So, who decides which layman based Catholic organziation speaks for the church?

Who monitors these organizations?

Seems to me, they just interpret and do whatever they want to.

PaulSceptic said...

This bragging sounds eerily similar to Paul.

Adam said...

Totally off-topic but I wonder why Dave links to: http://www.obamamessiah.blogspot.com/ ? There is more blasphemy there I could even count :-/

EA said...

"So...who decides which of these organizations interprets Rome correctly? "

Why they do, James. But faithfully, of course.

The existence of the organizations is fraught with irony. First, if the "clear teaching" of the Magesterium was so easily obtainable, as many Catholics insist, then these types of Catholic Q&A services wouldn't be necessary. Secondly, if the only legitimate teacher is the Magesterium, as these apologists insist, what is the laity doing answering on behalf of the Magesterium? Shouldn't the laity stand back and let the Magesterium do the talking? Thirdly, as pointed out above, there is no observable Magesterial review of the content from these "ministries".

These ironies become even more evident when a local parish requests Dave Armstrong or Jimmy Akin to come and lecture.

Matt said...

You will admit, at least, that it wouldn't be contradictory for the laity to simply communicate the teaching of the Magisterium to other laity. I mean, many churchgoers either don't have the time or, sadly, don't have the interest to investigate all these questions for themselves, which often takes little more than picking up the Catechism.

But the laity has a role in this, as we can see in this document promulgated by the Magisterium, Gaudium et Spes. I put these quotations elsewhere, but they bear repeating. Some are admittedly only indirectly relevant:

A few relevant statements from Gaudium et Spes:

Furthermore, it is to be hoped that many of the laity will receive a sufficient formation in the sacred sciences and that some will dedicate themselves professionally to these studies, developing and deepening them by their own labors. In order that they may fulfill their function, let it be recognized that all the faithful, whether clerics or laity, possess a lawful freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and of expressing their mind with humility and fortitude in those matters on which they enjoy competence.(16)

For, from the beginning of her history she has learned to express the message of Christ with the help of the ideas and terminology of various philosophers, and and has tried to clarify it with their wisdom, too. Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ's message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and' the diverse cultures of people.(22) To promote such exchange, especially in our days, the Church requires the special help of those who live in the world, are versed in different institutions and specialties, and grasp their innermost significance in the eyes of both believers and unbelievers. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.

Although the Church has contributed much to the development of culture, experience shows that, for circumstantial reasons, it is sometimes difficult to harmonize culture with Christian teaching. These difficulties do not necessarily harm the life of faith, rather they can stimulate the mind to a deeper and more accurate understanding of the faith. The recent studies and findings of science, history and philosophy raise new questions which effect life and which demand new theological investigations. Furthermore, theologians, within the requirements and methods proper to theology, are invited to seek continually for more suitable ways of communicating doctrine to the men of their times; for the deposit of Faith or the truths are one thing and the manner in which they are enunciated, in the same meaning and understanding, is another.(12)

Let those who teach theology in seminaries and universities strive to collaborate with men versed in the other sciences through a sharing of their resources and points of view. Theological inquiry should pursue a profound understanding of revealed truth; at the same time it should not neglect close contact with its own time that it may be able to help these men skilled in various disciplines to attain to a better understanding of the faith. This common effort will greatly aid the formation of priests, who will be able to present to our contemporaries the doctrine of the Church concerning God, man and the world, in a manner more adapted to them so that they may receive it more willingly.(14)

So...the laity has a role in communicating the truths of the Christian faith, even for "developing" those truths...

Tim Enloe said...

I see two things at the back of all this.

First there is a severe exaggeration of the Church's teaching authority on the part of Catholicism, such that the Official Teachers are thought of as beyond the need to answer for themselves to anyone on earth. The classic question "Qui custodies custodiet?" ("Who watches the watchers?") is supremely relevant to the Roman concept of the "Magisterium," and it is worth noting that throughout the Middle Ages a parallel concept of authority developed in which, to summarize, even the pope could be held accountable for errors that he propagated because the moment he propagated them he became "less than any ordinary catholic layman" in terms of authority. In classical Protestantism, the government of the Church (how ever variously constituted) has real teaching authority, and is not to be lightly dismissed by the individual believer, but at the same time, that teaching authority is not absolute. It can be questioned, and indeed, sometimes MUST be questioned.

The second problem is that the contemporary Catholic apologetics movement began as a parasite on Protestant Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists were making such a nuisance of themselves with their ignorant and stupid approach to Catholicism that the originators of contemporary Catholic apologetics largely formulated the defense of their own faith as a reaction to Fundamentalism. Unfortunately, this has created a reverse Fundamentalism among Catholics - instead of the Protestant bumper sticker "God said it, I believe it, that settles it," the Catholic has "The Church said it, I believe it, that settles it."

In neither Fundamentalism is there much sober minded thought about authority - about what it is and what are its limits, about distinctions of "public" and "private" and how they relate to each other, about the nature and limits of claims made by individual consciences, about the connection of historical theology and hermeneutics to contemporary theological, philosophical, and apologetical agendas, or about what exactly is being accomplished by endless Internet debates that only touch ancillary, not foundational, issues.

The only way any real progress can be made in these discussions is for both Catholics and Protestants to become more critically self-aware of their respective Fundamentalisms, and to seek out and orient their thought toward the better, more sober-minded streams of their respective traditions. It would be too easy to put the lion's share of the blame on the Catholics for constantly harping on the evils of "private judgment," but in fairness, that argument would possibly never have arisen had not Protestantism in America come to be dominated by Fundamentalism, such that the Reformation itself came to be treated by Protestants as if it was a popular pep-rally led by simpleton demagogues like the frontier revivalist circuit riders and Billy Sunday.

Matt said...

For what its worth, that was a brilliant analysis, Tim. A few relatively small quibbles with the first paragraph, but I always think of the views of John XXII on the beatific vision and how the University of Paris asserted its own "magisterium" as the "doctores" to correct him.

Avery Dulles, Yves Congar, Ulrich Horst, and even Ratzinger himself have done masterful work in this area...these are the guys advising the Second Vatican Council, not our friends at Catholic Answers, as helpful as some (?) of their work might be for those interacting with "fundamentalist" Protestants...

Anyway, my two cents.

Tim Enloe said...

Matt, I was thinking of certain relatively obscure (to us) canon lawyers, of Aquinas, and of William of Ockham, but sure, the University of Paris asserting its "magisterium" to correct the pope is another good example. From the papal monarchist point of view, that appeal could go too far, of course - Paris ended up being the darling of the Conciliarists - but the point remains that the issues involved in talk about "authority" are a lot more complicated than the pop-apologetics movements of either side recognize.

So much of this comes to the fact that the really good thought on both sides just hasn't penetrated to the popular level of blogs and message boards and glossy magazines and radio shows. It's bad enough when it's cradle Catholics and Protestants going at each other in mutual ignorance, but the converts are even worse. There's a saying where I come from, that converts ought to be locked up for about 5 years and helped to get the shock out of their system before they're allowed to be seen and heard in public. So one of the points of this post is absolutely right: the lack of oversight of the apologetics communities by properly constituted authorities is a serious problem.

Daniel Montoro said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Agellius said...

Mr. Swan:

The local bishop monitors those organizations. If they were disseminating false teaching it would be the bishop's job to correct them, and if they refused correction to discipline them.

Does that answer your question? If not, let me know.

Agellius said...

Incidentally, all of Catholic Answers' tracts contain the imprimatur of the local bishop. See for example here:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Catholic_Inventions.asp

which bears this imprimatur:

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Agellius said...

Mr. Swan:

My prior two comments were in response to your comment which is the second in this thread. This comment is in response to the main post.

What exactly is your argument? I really wish you would set it out for us in a straightforward logical format. Is it this:

Premise: If Catholics really had an infallible magisterium, they would never disagree with each other.
Premise: Catholics disagree with each other.
Conclusion: Therefore Catholics don't have an infallible magisterium.

The problem with this argument is that the first premise is invalid: The existence of an infallible magisterium need not eliminate all disagreement.

Or is your argument this:

Premise: Catholics claim that Protestant divisions result from their lack of an infallible authority.
Premise: But Catholics have divisions too.
Conclusion: Therefore Protestant divisions don't result from their lack of an infallible authority.

The problem here is an invalid conclusion. It simply doesn't follow that if Catholics have divisions, then their identification of the cause of Protestant divisions must be false.

So what, exactly, is your argument? Can you give us a little precision here?

Jugulum said...

Agellius,

Carrie actually wrote this post, not James Swan.

"Or is your argument this:

Premise: Catholics claim that Protestant divisions result from their lack of an infallible authority.
Premise: But Catholics have divisions too.
Conclusion: Therefore Protestant divisions don't result from their lack of an infallible authority.

The problem here is an invalid conclusion.
"

You're right, that's invalid. But it's not quite the argument. I think it's more like the following. (I put my changes in bold.)

Premise: Catholics claim that Protestant divisions prove that Scripture is an insufficient guide for the Body of Christ, apart from the Magisterium.
Premise: But Catholics have divisions too.
Conclusion: Therefore Protestant divisions don't prove that Scripture is an insufficient guide for the Body of Christ, apart from the Magisterium.

Jugulum said...

P.S. That argument should be reworded a bit, still. Because Protestants do have an infallible authority. What we lack is an infallible interpreter.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

T.E. "So much of this comes to the fact that the really good thought on both sides just hasn't penetrated to the popular level of blogs and message boards and glossy magazines and radio shows. It's bad enough when it's cradle Catholics and Protestants going at each other in mutual ignorance, but the converts are even worse."

Agreed, even that statement made on either RC or Protestant side are rare and the coherent discussions are few that contain real inter-faith or historical reflection, but the negative, non-productive "Outrage, my way" publishers are many.

I have read and reflected on Luther and Calvin's motivations as much as Aquinas and Augustine. Thats the thing I rarely see from Anti-Catholics...a willingness to truly absorb the counterpoint source without becoming a Bulimic on there respective publications.

"the lack of oversight of the apologetics communities by properly constituted authorities is a serious problem."

CA has a Dominican Priest on staff and Diocesan review of all content as shown above, I guess that needs repeating, unfortunately.

Agellius said...

Jugulum wrote, "Carrie actually wrote this post, not James Swan."

My apologies to Carrie and to Mr. Swan.

Jugulum, I appreciate your attempt to deal with this in a more specific manner.

Jugulum writes, "Premise: Catholics claim that Protestant divisions prove that Scripture is an insufficient guide for the Body of Christ, apart from the Magisterium.
Premise: But Catholics have divisions too.
Conclusion: Therefore Protestant divisions don't prove that Scripture is an insufficient guide for the Body of Christ, apart from the Magisterium."

I don't think your conclusion follows either. What really follows from those two premises, assuming they're true, is that not only the scriptures but also the Magisterium is an insufficient guide for the Body of Christ. Which really begs the question, what is required for a guide to be considered sufficient? Must all divisions be eliminated?

But I don't think that is really what's at issue between us. The issue is really, does the use of an infallible magisterium, in addition to the scriptures, provide a benefit which the use of the scriptures alone does not provide?

I think that looking at it impartially, one would have to admit that IF an infallible magisterium existed and was truly instituted by God, it could not help but provide an advantage. Where we disagree is simply on the question, did God institute such a thing, and does it subsist in the RCC?

Disagreements among Catholics, deficiencies in understanding, squabbles and dissent from the magisterium, do not prove that the magisterium provides no benefit to any Catholic. The existence of those things might only mean that a lot of Catholics disregard the magisterium (just as Protestants argue that disagreements concerning scripture only mean that a lot of people disregard scripture).

The point we Catholics make is that the magisterium is capable of settling disagreements concerning, not only the interpretation of scripture, but points of doctrine which have been revealed by God to his Church in whatever manner, with an authority that is final and is binding upon the faithful. This is what we say Protestants lack.

Note that I did not say that the magisterium eliminates disagreements on every matter, among all Catholics. What I said is that it is *capable* of settling disagreements with an authority that is *binding* on the *faithful*. Not that it *does* settle *every* disagreement, but that it *can* and *has* settled disagreements on *certain* matters throughout history; and on the matters it has settled, actual disagreement and discord among Catholics has in fact been greatly reduced if not eliminated entirely.

Protestants will argue that the scriptures fulfill the same function. The difference is that there is no authority which Protestants accept as binding, which can settle disagreements among Protestants concerning the *scriptures themselves*; therefore Protestants often leave one communion for another, or found entirely new communions. In other words there is a large amount of institutional disunity. Some Protestants may argue that institutional disunity is unimportant -- which is another topic in itself -- but nevertheless, it's there.

All I'm saying is that if Protestants had such an authority to settle disagreements among themselves, they might enjoy more institutional unity. But of course that would only work to the extent that they put their faith in that authority. Protestants who rejected it or doubted it, obviously would not benefit from it. But those who put their faith in it and submitted to its authority, would find themselves with a way of settling disputes which they now lack.

Some Catholics refuse to put their faith in the Magisterium or to submit to its authority, and therefore do not enjoy its benefits. But Catholics who do, do. : )

Parenthetically, it's my own observation that while there may be more institutional disunity among Protestants, there is more internal dissent among Catholics. I believe this is because dissident Catholics tend to stay in the Church and dissent, rather than leave for other churches or found new ones; whereas when Protestants dissent from their denomination's teachings, they tend to just leave. I think this is because Catholics, even dissident ones, realize that there is nothing else like the Catholic Church out there: it's totally unique: therefore they stay and militate for change rather than leave. Whereas Protestants don't tend to think of their particular church or denomination as the only one of it's kind, or the only one they can imagine themselves belonging to. I wonder if this is the root of the institutional disunity.

Anyway, it would nice if people on both sides could just focus on the issues and stop the implications of dishonesty and bad faith.

Carrie said...

CA has a Dominican Priest on staff and Diocesan review of all content as shown above, I guess that needs repeating, unfortunately.

All content?

That does not appear to be true. Some of their written materials have imprimaturs, but it appears the vast majority do not. And an imprimatur is not possible on the radio show or on all the phone calls.

EA said...

Agellius said: "Incidentally, all of Catholic Answers' tracts contain the imprimatur of the local bishop."

The "tracts" may carry the Imprimatur, but Catholic Q&A and CA Live do not. Those are far more popular than the tracts.

Obviously, the Forums do not carry the Imprimatur as a practical matter. However, there is a huge amount of advice (among other things) given on the Forums. Which, in a way, is more "dangerous" from the standpoint of "private judgment".

EA said...

Carrie said: "All content?

That does not appear to be true. Some of their written materials have imprimaturs, but it appears the vast majority do not. And an imprimatur is not possible on the radio show or on all the phone calls."


Carrie beats me to the punch this time!

James Swan said...

The local bishop monitors those organizations. If they were disseminating false teaching it would be the bishop's job to correct them, and if they refused correction to discipline them.

If you have any other information on this, I'd like to hear it. I'd like to know exactly whom CA is responsible to.

James Swan said...

CA has a Dominican Priest on staff and Diocesan review of all content as shown above, I guess that needs repeating, unfortunately.

Does "on staff" mean "responsible to"? Just curious.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

Excuse my fallibility, I should have said "or". And yes, Fr. Serpa reviews their on air content and moderates a forum. He also is the Apologist on Open Q&A in a regular basis. That is visible if you read their material thoroughly.

Seriously...You are splitting hairs a bit. Calling out a single word "all" as though it reflects a blanket of Catholic deception is just the typical non-productive response I was hoping wouldnt be cultivated...I was sadly mistaken.

Where is your authoritative advocacy on what you believe and publish?

EA said...

"...if Protestants had such an authority to settle disagreements among themselves, they might enjoy more institutional unity. But of course that would only work to the extent that they put their faith in that authority."

You're right, that's where the faith would be: in the institutional authority.

EA said...

"Fr. Serpa reviews their on air content and moderates a forum."

It was my understanding that the diocesan bishop has the pastoral responsibility regarding the teaching of the faith for the flock under his care. Fr. Serpa is on assignment from the bishop of this diocese? Who, may I ask, is the bishop? Is CA a diocesan ministry?

In other words, to whom is Fr. Serpa answerable?

The Catholic Journeyman said...

EA...all your questions can be answered by your own research, like I did.

The tactic is again a setup. You hope someone in the combox will make a typo and then you land on them as if they are a Heresy.

Just now, I typed his name in the personnel search form in the Diocese of San Diego, and there appeared his profile. I would assume, but dont burn me at the stake for it if I am wrong, he is in "Chaplaincy" with CA in a fulltime capacity, under the Diocese there.

Carrie, thanks for obliging my comments here, but I am exiting at this point because the rhetoric is all to familiar and intentionally volatile, when I thought it might continue in Tim Enloes attitude of mutual observancy.

Peace,
-Dave

James Swan said...

One other question as well for my Roman Catholic friends- can you go ver to Catholic Answers, and find the information on who they are immediately responsible to?

I looked around for about 10 minutes yesterday, and couldn't find it. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough.

Also, if I heard something on CA Live that didn't sound "Roman Cathoic"...to whom would I report it?

James Swan said...

sorry for the typos.

James Swan said...

Shouldn’t Catholics be asking questions of their priests and bishops rather than Catholic Answers?

The ironic thing is, that I've heard more than a few call CA live, only to be told their priest is in error with the answer they were given. CA Live to the infallible rescue!

Dozie said...

"I'd like to hear it. I'd like to know exactly whom CA is responsible to".

You really have no idea how the Catholic Church works. There is only one person responsible for teaching the Catholic faith in each local Church. That person is the bishop. Not even a radio station that calls itself Catholic can be established in dioceses without the express permission of the local ordinary.

Cathoic Answers in so far as they teach Catholic doctrines is at the service of the Magisterium and their work is demanded by the same Magisterium. If they fail to teach Catholic doctrines, then the bishop has duty to declare they are not Catholic, ok.

No Catholic, matter how powerful, is his/her own Magisterium. No, Catholics do not teach as islands unto themselves. You will need to spend time studying the Catholic Church or better convert to the faith and stop asking foolish and time-wasting questions.

EA said...

"I typed his name in the personnel search form in the Diocese of San Diego, and there appeared his profile. I would assume, but dont burn me at the stake for it if I am wrong, he is in "Chaplaincy" with CA in a fulltime capacity, under the Diocese there."

OK, burning stakes aside, let's assume that Fr. Serpa is acting at the direction of the Diocese of San Diego. That's all well and good, if you're a parishioner within that diocese.

But suppose I'm a parishioner in Denver or St. Louis, Fr. Serpa was not appointed by those bishops. How do I know that my bishop approves of what is taught by CA? After all, the Imprimatur is not granted by the USCCB.

And to those that think that this is "splitting hairs", haven't some bishops denied communion to politicians who support abortion while other bishops have elected to permit the same (or similar) politicians to receive? So clearly, the bishops are not all of one mind on every issue.

Carrie said...

James, maybe you remember something similar as you listen to CA live alot.

Now that Serpa's name came up, I remember once listening to one of his shows on CA Live and someone called in with a question on the bible, specifically I believe about the Greek. Serpa said they would need to talk to one of the CA apologists (I think Staples) to get an answer as that wasn't his realm.

Don't quote me on any of that as it was many months ago, but I remember it b/c at the time I thought it was odd that a priest would deflect to a layman for an interpretation on the bible. I'll check my iPod and see if I can find the show.

I guess I'm not understanding how a chaplain is fulfilling any sorta of magisterial guidance and/or oversight. I thought the role of a chaplain was to perform onsite masses, hear confessions, and those types of clerical duties. And if I am right, and Serpa deflects biblical questions to the lay apologists, then his presence at CA isn't quite the level of oversight I would expect from a group that prides themselves on the clarity and authority that an infallible magisterium is suppose to provide.

James Swan said...

James, maybe you remember something similar as you listen to CA live alot.

I don't recall that, but it would not surprise me.

Agellius said...

EA writes, 'The "tracts" may carry the Imprimatur, but Catholic Q&A and CA Live do not. Those are far more popular than the tracts.' . . . 'Which, in a way, is more "dangerous" from the standpoint of "private judgment".'

Again I must ask, what specifically is your argument?

Has any Catholic claimed that private judgment must never be used? Private judgment is used all the time. The only thing prohibited is placing your private judgment *over* the judgment of the Church.

This is really not that complicated if you are making a good faith effort at understanding it.

The problem seems to be, that people jump from one argument to another to another without distinguishing between them. Are you arguing against an alleged prohibition of all private judgment; or are you arguing that an infallible magisterium provides no benefit over and above the scriptures; or are you arguing that there is insufficient oversight by the magisterium?

When someone answers one argument you jump to another.

Admittedly I'm lumping you in with other commenters here. Still, you would think there would be a single overarching theme for each post, which the comments could focus in on. Instead even the original post can't make up its mind what it's arguing. There seems to be just a general theme that "Catholics are wrong about pretty much everything", and any stick is good enough to beat them with.

It's no wonder the comments are all over the place and get nowhere.

Agellius said...

James Swan writes, "[quoting me] 'The local bishop monitors those organizations. If they were disseminating false teaching it would be the bishop's job to correct them, and if they refused correction to discipline them.' If you have any other information on this, I'd like to hear it. I'd like to know exactly whom CA is responsible to."

Just let me know what information you're interested in.

But to give you a general answer: the bishops of the Church are the shepherds of their flocks. ("Bishop" literally means "overseer" or "supervisor".) Their job is to guide them and protect them from error. Catholics are obligated to be obedient to their shepherds.

Any Catholic who teaches publicly is subject to correction by his bishop. That means that even if I as a private citizen go out and preach the faith on street corners, the bishop can correct my errors or, if I refuse correction, order me to stop. A bishop could even tell me to stop engaging in online discussions if I were misrepresenting Church teaching therein.

Therefore obviously if I were to found an apologetics organization I would know that my public teaching and my publications were subject to correction by the bishop.

This type of oversight is not flawless: Obviously Catholic Answers could make mistakes, and the bishop might not find out about it right away, and some people could be misled. But no one ever claimed that the existence of a Magisterium completely eliminates all problems arising out of human fallibility. No one claims that it accomplishes it's tasks with absolute perfection. If these claims are the basis of your arguments, then your arguments fail due to the falsity of their premises.

Agellius said...

EA writes, "You're right, that's where the faith would be: in the institutional authority."

Yes but did you forget? When I described the "institutional authority" to which we both refer, I described it as one that is infallible and is instituted by God. Why shouldn't a Christian put his faith in something instituted by God to be infallible?

Again, you will obviously dispute whether such a thing exists -- but that's a good thing, because that's where debate ought to be focused.

Instead we get these silly arguments based on the absurd notion that Catholic bishops must be monitoring every word that issues from any Catholic teacher, writer or debater in order to guarantee absolute uniformity -- and if that doesn't happen then the entire Catholic edifice comes crumbling down.

EA said...

"Again, you will obviously dispute whether such a thing exists -- but that's a good thing, because that's where debate ought to be focused."

I do, indeed, dispute that.

"Instead we get these silly arguments based on the absurd notion that Catholic bishops must be monitoring every word that issues from any Catholic teacher, writer or debater in order to guarantee absolute uniformity -- and if that doesn't happen then the entire Catholic edifice comes crumbling down."

I'm not sure how you came to the opinion that this is an "absurd notion". After all, the RCC has gone to great lengths in the past to ensure "unity".

I didn't say that every word had to be monitored. I also didn't say that it had to be uniform. It is the RCC that requires (or used to) the Imprimatur on works that intended to instruct on matters pertinent to the Catholic Faith, not me.

The output of CA, even according to the statements of CA itself quoted by Carrie, show that they consider it important to offer some assurance that their "material" conforms to the Faith. I'm only pointing out that their assurances are not worth much by the standards that the RCC itself has set forth. I'm measuring the assurance of correct teaching from Catholic Answers by the yardstick that the RCC has provided.

Catholics insist that certainty regarding teaching of the Faith is important. If that is true, then the question of who is providing the "certainty" of CA's output is a legitimate one.

Agellius said...

EA writes, 'I'm not sure how you came to the opinion that this is an "absurd notion". After all, the RCC has gone to great lengths in the past to ensure "unity".'

That's fine, but again what's the point? Yes, the Church goes to great lengths to assure unity. But some of the Protestants in this forum are making the implication that if unity of opinion among Catholics is not absolute and all-encompassing, then the magisterium is of no value to them. This notion is absurd. That degree of unity has never been claimed, and its lack does no damage to Catholic claims whatsoever.

EA writes, 'I'm only pointing out that their assurances are not worth much by the standards that the RCC itself has set forth. . . . Catholics insist that certainty regarding teaching of the Faith is important. If that is true, then the question of who is providing the "certainty" of CA's output is a legitimate one.'

Fine, but who ever said that Catholic Answers was part of the Magisterium? Who ever claimed that Catholics had a right to expect that kind of assurance from a privately run, lay organization? How is this damaging to Catholic beliefs?

What, in short, is the point of all this? What is the argument? It only makes sense if the underlying premise is the notion above-mentioned, that there must be an absolute and all-pervading unity among Catholics or else the Catholic system collapses. But such a unity has never been claimed.

I have already explained that Catholics who teach publicly are subject to correction by the bishop. That's how the magisterium works. Due to human imperfection it doesn't always work perfectly. So???

EA said...

"Fine, but who ever said that Catholic Answers was part of the Magisterium?"

What does that have to do with the fact that lay Catholics are teaching other lay Catholics? Does the stricture of "correct teaching" apply only to the Magesterium? No. This gets to the heart of a major Catholic objection to Protestantism. Catholics will insist that Protestants have no assurance that the teaching or interpretation they receive is "correct". The remedy for that defect, they tell us, is the Magesterium. The Magesterium ensures correct teaching is the claim. In fact, the Magesterium has set up various mechanisms to ensure that the laity is instructed properly. One of those mechanisms is the Imprimatur.

"Who ever claimed that Catholics had a right to expect that kind of assurance from a privately run, lay organization?"

CA said:"Our apologists are well-versed, well-trained Catholic experts with years of experience under their belts. They know the answers to virtually any question you could ask them. And they know how to communicate those answers in ways that people accept and embrace—even people who formerly disagreed with the Catholic position…"

You documented that the CA Tracts had received the Imprimatur from the local bishop. So you appeal to the authority of the bishop to show that the material is in conformance with the Catholic Faith and then later claim that any expectation of ecclesial review was somehow unreasonable.

So the Imprimatur is important when CA receives it, but then again is no big deal if they don't receive one?

Another poster, (CatholicJourneyMan) stated that Fr. Serpa acts on behalf of the Diocese of San Diego. So either CA or the bishop of S.D. or both think it is important to provide at least the appearance of ecclesial review.

CA is engaged in a 'bait & switch' maneuver: in effect they are saying "we have trained apologists and a Dominican on staff, we're authoritative, but not binding; you can trust us." They remind of me of those "Bankruptcy advisors" who for a fee will help you fill out the IRS and legal forms you could have downloaded for free and filled in yourself. It's "magesterial-lite".

"How is this damaging to Catholic beliefs?"

I think a better a question is how does it comport with Catholic claims of a superior rule of faith?It is certainly damaging to the credibility of Catholic objections to the Protestant rule of Faith when Catholics appeal to fallible teachers for their answers as they accuse Protestants of doing.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

EA...you just lied to try to advance your point...and its no small deception...you quoting CA as:

"...were authoritative, but not binding..."

CA has never claimed such a thing or even implied it. You havent even read their mission, or all the other responses here which are consistent therein.

With that instigative dishonesty, you are not an example of any kind of Christian I would find credible.

Daniel Montoro said...

"One other question as well for my Roman Catholic friends- can you go ver to Catholic Answers, and find the information on who they are immediately responsible to?"

James, how about to their bishop as shepard of their diocese and according to the faithful obedience that is required of them to the magisterium of the church. How about that!

The real question is, who are you responsible to other than yourself and what you chose to say scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that contraception is evil, but you couldn't care less.

Carrie said...

EA...you just lied to try to advance your point...and its no small deception...you quoting CA as:

That's a bit dramatic.

EA said: "in effect they are saying 'we have trained apologists and a Dominican on staff, we're authoritative, but not binding'"

That's not even close to a lie, it's his opinion of what their actions portray.

EA said...

"CA has never claimed such a thing or even implied it."

What is exactly is the value proposition that CA is putting forth with the following statements?

We’ve helped average Catholics become better Catholics. We’ve helped fallen-away Catholics come back to the faith. And we’ve helped non-Catholics become Catholic…

More and more people are turning to Catholic Answers for clear, powerful information about the faith...

callers get a chance to connect with one of our expert staff apologists—a real, live person who understands their questions and knows the answers.

Our apologists are well-versed, well-trained Catholic experts with years of experience under their belts. They know the answers to virtually any question you could ask them. And they know how to communicate those answers in ways that people accept and embrace—even people who formerly disagreed with the Catholic position…"


Additionally, you pointed out that Fr. Serpa is on staff, in part, to review content: "CA has a Dominican Priest on staff and Diocesan review of all content as shown above..."

CA is making the case to Catholics that they are a resource worth paying for.

Part of their evidence in making their case is that they offer clear and "correct" information.

It certainly is their implication that their answers are authoritative. They may not carry "Magesterial Authority", but they are "authoritative enough" for run-of-the-mill Catholics: that's why I called it magesterial-lite.

Matt said...

(I want to say upfront that I'm not a huge fan of Catholic Answers. But I want to weigh in because I honestly don't understand why this is so difficult.)

Isn't the "authoritativeness" of Catholic Answers of an entirely different sort than the Magisterium (which is ex officio). Catholic Answers is only "authoritative" insofar as they effectively and accurately communicate teachings which have already been established by the Magisterium, on the basis of their research, rational reflection, prayer, etc. They are giving a helping hand to lay Catholics who don't have the time, energy, wherewithal, or commitment to do the research for themselves.

Now, it doesn't take a research degree to find out what the Catholic Church teaches, say, on infant baptism. :-) That has been authoritatively and clearly set forth, and this is a useful thing for Catholic ecclesial unity, among other things (given the fact that different communities of faithful Christians--Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.--have varying perspectives on the right answer to this question). There is no widesrpead raging debate on whether infant baptism is the proper course of action for a Roman Catholic parent. I would imagine you don't get many calls to CA asking whether infant baptism is right or wrong.

Now...does the Catechism (as a shorthand "source" of Magisterial teachings) include the responses to the objections to infant baptism? Does it include the explanations about the historical development of this teaching? Etc., etc. The answer to these questions and ones like them is no. This is where an organization like Catholic Answers can come in (per my quotations, arguably, from Gaudium et Spes). They are there not primarily to communicate the magisterial teachings (and certainly not to "develop" them), which are pretty widely known to most. They can function as their defenders and expositors, etc. The laity can develop defenses particular to certain times and places and communities which they are a part of, as Gaudium et Spes suggests.

Now, it is still (arguably) useful to put the imprimatur on their stuff to know that the "real authorities" believe that these explanations and defenses are in accord with the Magisterial teachings. But this doesn't demand that they are the best or most appropriate ways of addressing these points. Remember, imprimatur simply means "it may be printed" and nihil obstat simply means "nothing hinders"...in other contexts, these would be rather weak endorsements. :-)

The authority of the bishops or the pope are not based in how effectively or accurately they communicate the Magisterial teachings, obviously. They are authoritative ex officio.

Well, it's a shot...

Turretinfan said...

Montoro wrote: "Scripture teaches that contraception is evil, but you couldn't care less."

I care. Would you mind pointing me to the chapter and verse where it says that?

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

Here comes the "We're morally better than you evil heretic rebels who want to be your own moral standards" nonsense. I'm sensing the relevance of the Pharisee / publican story.

Carrie said...

Catholic Answers is only "authoritative" insofar as they effectively and accurately communicate teachings which have already been established by the Magisterium

Matt,

A couple of thoughts, though maybe with no cohesiveness (bad week).

1. Who determines whether CA is accurate in their answers to other Catholics' questions?

2. Shouldn't CA be presenting more of a disclaimer for their own fallibility rather saying things like they are "well-versed, well-trained Catholic experts with years of experience under their belts. They know the answers to virtually any question you could ask them"?

The issue here is the double standard. Catholic apologists/epologists continue to rant on the destruction of unity and doctrinal certainty b/c of sola scriptura. Without the guidance of the magisterium each man becomes his own pope and believes whatever he wants. There is no Protestant authority to answer questions on modern-day issues, etc, etc.

Yet what we see here is that a completely non-magisterial, non-infallible Catholic organization is promoting itself as the expert in answering almost any question a Catholic may have. And many, many people are getting their answers from CA rather than their priest or local bishop.

Of course the kicker is that CA apologists are some of the ones who have spawned today's apologetic arguments about Protestants lacking certainty and clarity and yet they are the ones who appear to have placed themselves in a position of authority over other Catholics. Meaning, everyday Catholics are calling on CA for answers on Catholic teachings and trusting the info they receive as authoritative (whether it was intended that way or not).

I feel like the Catholic commenter's see the issue here, hence the need to show scattered imprimaturs and the onsite presence of Serpa. But what I would expect to see is some frustration and concern that CA has elevated themselves to a sort of pseudo-magisterium IF the old arguments for the importance and necessity of an infallible interpreter and authority were legitimate in the first place.

David Waltz said...

Hi Tim,

You said:

>>There's a saying where I come from, that converts ought to be locked up for about 5 years and helped to get the shock out of their system before they're allowed to be seen and heard in public.>>

Me: Does that include converts to “Reformed Catholicism” (the new “Via Media”)? [Wink]


Grace and peace,

David

Tim Enloe said...

David, absolutely. I wish someone had locked me up for 5 years right after I became Reformed. Had I had some sober-minded guides to help me through the post-conversion impulse to save the world from its own stupidity and make it believe THE TRUTH, I might not have taken certain unconstructive paths that I took. And had I been properly guided through the "reconstruction" process after my conversion, I might not have been so dismayed by "the dark side" of contemporary Reformed discourse that I ended up reacting against those paths with unconstructive vehemence.

Agellius said...

EA writes, 'This gets to the heart of a major Catholic objection to Protestantism. Catholics will insist that Protestants have no assurance that the teaching or interpretation they receive is "correct". The remedy for that defect, they tell us, is the Magesterium. The Magesterium ensures correct teaching is the claim. In fact, the Magesterium has set up various mechanisms to ensure that the laity is instructed properly. One of those mechanisms is the Imprimatur.'

I think some distinctions are needed here. There are two things involved: (1) The correctness of Magisterial teaching, and (2) the accuracy with which that teaching is imparted to individuals. Catholics claim that 1 is guaranteed, but not always 2.

If you're going to say that Catholic Answers should have a guarantee of accuracy from the magisterium before it may teach the faith, how about parents? We are taught that the primary responsibility for the education of children lies with their parents. Does the magisterium need to examine all teaching given by every single parent and approve it before allowing that parent to teach his kids?

The answer is, it doesn't, and the Catholic position does not require that it should. Since the Catholic position does not claim that teaching is always imparted with complete accuracy, neither the lack of accuracy, nor the absence of an imprimatur, harms any Catholic claim.

OK, you will say: If the RCC can't guarantee that it's infallible teaching is imparted accurately, what good is it? It's no better off than Protestant communions which derive their teaching from the infallible Bible, but can't guarantee infallible imparting of biblical teaching to their members.

Again I think a distinction is called for: There are infallible sources of information, such as the Bible and the Magisterium. And there are human interpretations of, and inferences from, that teaching.

You write, 'Catholics will insist that Protestants have no assurance that the teaching or interpretation they receive is "correct".'

You misstate the Catholic position here. (It may be the fault of other Catholics who have argued with you, or it may be that you misconstrued their arguments; I don't know. In any case, I'm here to correct it.) We don't say that Protestants have no assurance that the teaching or interpretation they receive is correct. If Protestants receive teaching from the Bible, certainly they can be assured that it is correct. When the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son," a Protestant may be very much assured that that teaching is true.

When potential problems arise is when Protestants teach things are are not written in the Bible. For example when they teach that justification is by faith alone and not by works; or that baptism is unnecessary for salvation; or that God is a Trinity. These things are not stated in the Bible. You may argue that they are implied, and maybe they are. Nevertheless it's a fact that they are not *stated*. What they are, are interpretations and inferences from the biblical texts.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with interpreting the Bible, or that laypersons are not allowed to do so. What I'm saying is that when a layperson interprets the Bible, he has no guarantee that his interpretation is correct. Again when he *reads* the Bible, he may be sure that what he *reads* is true. But I may or may not be sure that he understands correctly what he has read. And if he then spreads his understanding to others, those others have no guarantee that what they are receiving is correct.

What Catholics say is that when an individual reads the Bible and interprets it or draws inferences from it, his inferences and interpretations need to be subject to the correction of the Church. This will guarantee that his interpretations are not in error, and that his understanding is in harmony with that of other faithful Catholics. When he refuses to do so, but places his own understanding above the teaching of the Church -- or claims that the Church knows no better than he does, or has no right to correct him -- this is whence divisions arise.

And admittedly, this occurs among Catholics as well as between Protestants and Catholics and among Protestants themselves. Most of the dissent you hear about among Catholics arises from Catholics refusing to submit their understandings and interpretations and inferences to the correction of the duly constitued authorities (most often with respect to birth control and the male-only priesthood).

Virtually all divisions and discord among Christians have this common root, whether internal divisions among Catholics or division between denominations.

Applying this to the Catholic Answers situation: The question is not whether a given Catholic may be sure that the teaching he gets from Catholic Answers is guaranteed correct by the magisterium. The question is whether he intends to submit his understanding to the teaching of the Church. Whether Catholic Answers is teaching correctly is between it and the bishop. The Catholic puts his faith in the Church, not in Catholic Answers. He may accept Catholic Answers' explanations and defense of the faith so long as he has no reason to believe they are in error. But if he learns that the bishop has ordered CA to correct its teaching, and that CA has refused, then he will follow the bishop and not CA. If on the other hand, the bishop has endorsed some of CA's publications and has assigned a priest to its staff, it's reasonable of the Catholic to assume that CA does what all faithful Catholics ought to do, i.e. submit its teachings to the correction of the Church.

Look, all I want to do is shed light on things here. Your criticisms and those of others here, show that you are operating under some misconceptions about the Catholic faith. Let's work together to clear things up rather than fighting against each other. There's nothing wrong with trying to show each other where our respective beliefs are in error. But let's at least make sure we understand each other first, so we're not fighting against straw men.

Tim Enloe said...

I suppose I better immediately clarify that last remark. It wasn't directed at anyone on or affiliated with this blog. I was speaking of the lack of pastoral oversight I had after my conversion, as well as the lack of any face-to-face guidance from my church community and / or intellectual peers. It was about 4 years after I converted to the Reformed faith that I got any of that, and by then, certain forms of damage had already been done and certain trajectories were already well established and hard to root out.

David Waltz said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for responding; you said:

>>David, absolutely. I wish someone had locked me up for 5 years right after I became Reformed. Had I had some sober-minded guides to help me through the post-conversion impulse to save the world from its own stupidity and make it believe THE TRUTH, I might not have taken certain unconstructive paths that I took.>>

Me: Not wanting to be overly simplistic, I wonder if the individual model can in some sense be applied to the Church. Origen, for instance spoke of stages of God’s revelation to mankind, and applied a notion of development not only to the Church’s understanding of God’s revelation, but also to the individual.

Also, have you established a set of criteria by which one can identify “sober-minded guides” from their counterparts?


Grace and peace,

David

Daniel Montoro said...

Sure turetinfan,

Gen 38:9

I'm supprised that you are even asking this. Word on the street is that last time you asked this question you were roundly humiliated. Whatever.

Andrew said...

Daniel Montoro:

Onan was killed for disobediently refusing to fulfill his obligation to sire children to his brother's name. The "withdrwal method" was simply the means by which he accomplished his disobedience. The context is very clear, and it is also quoite clear that you have read you churches teaching back into a passage that says nothing whatsoever about the morality of birth control. I happen to agree with the Catholic Church on birth control, but you have misapplied this verse and no one who calls himself christian should stand for that.

EA said...

"You misstate the Catholic position here. (It may be the fault of other Catholics who have argued with you, or it may be that you misconstrued their arguments; I don't know. In any case, I'm here to correct it.)"

Well, that's good news. But aside from your say-so, how do I know your explanation is more correct than what others have stated?

"When potential problems arise is when Protestants teach things are are not written in the Bible."

I agree that teachings should be based on Scripture. That's why I take issue with the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility.

"What I'm saying is that when a layperson interprets the Bible, he has no guarantee that his interpretation is correct...

What Catholics say is that when an individual reads the Bible and interprets it or draws inferences from it, his inferences and interpretations need to be subject to the correction of the Church. This will guarantee that his interpretations are not in error, and that his understanding is in harmony with that of other faithful Catholics."


So the laity has no guarantee that their interpretation of the Bible is correct unless they subject it to the correction of the Church? How does that work in practice? It is not as if the layman has "the Church" sitting next to them as they read the Bible. It's not as if the RCC has issued an ex cathedra commentary.

"Applying this to the Catholic Answers situation: The question is not whether a given Catholic may be sure that the teaching he gets from Catholic Answers is guaranteed correct by the magisterium. The question is whether he intends to submit his understanding to the teaching of the Church. Whether Catholic Answers is teaching correctly is between it and the bishop. The Catholic puts his faith in the Church, not in Catholic Answers. He may accept Catholic Answers' explanations and defense of the faith so long as he has no reason to believe they are in error."

I think it is safe to assume that the questioner may not know (or be sure of) what the Church's teaching is on a given subject, that's potentially what is motivating the question in the first place. In that case, CA is standing in for the Magesterium and the layman is putting their faith in CA as a de facto spokesman for the Magesterium. How does the layman subject their understanding to the correction of the Church after receiving an answer from CA? How is the layman supposed to evaluate whether the answer they received conforms to Church Teaching?

Daniel Montoro said...

"Onan was killed for disobediently refusing to fulfill his obligation to sire children to his brother's name. The "withdrwal method" was simply the means by which he accomplished his disobedience. The context is very clear, and it is also quoite clear that you have read you churches teaching back into a passage that says nothing whatsoever about the morality of birth control. I happen to agree with the Catholic Church on birth control, but you have misapplied this verse and no one who calls himself christian should stand for that."

Then Luther, Calvin, and everyone prior to the Anglican conference in 1930 should not call themselves christian.

I would agree with you that Luther and Calvin weren't christians.

The text is clear, and it says that God punished Onan for what he did. It doesn't say for what Onan intended. Big difference Andrew.

Secondly, according to scripture death is not the punishment for forgoing one's duty to provide offspring for one's brother, public humiliation is. So if you are going to tell me what the bible says, then you should first read the whole bible.

Thirdly, God did not command Onan to provide offspring for his brother, Onan's dad did. This is important because if God had commanded this then you might have an argument, but seeing how he didn't, you don't either.

Fourthly, this was an ancient custom for several societies in those days. This wasn't something special for the Jews.

Fifthly, Onan's other brother, and subsequently his father, failed to provide offspring, but they were not struck dead.

Stop imagining things that the scriptures do not teach.

Turretinfan said...

Montoro:

a) You don't have to listen to the word on the street. You can go and check out the dialog here (link).

b) Andrew has already briefly pointed out your misunderstanding of Genesis 38:9. Allow me to elaborate further:

i) Genesis 38:9 does not provide any universal moral commandment.

ii) Genesis 38:9 is susceptible two several possible interpretations, because it merely states that the thing that Onan did displeased God and that consequently God slew him. This could be:

1) Because Onan slept with his brother's widow.

2) Because Onan spilled his seed on the ground.

3) Because Onan refused to raise up seed to his brother.

We can rule out (1), because Judah had commanded Onan to do this, and Judah's command is supported by the later Mosaic codification of the levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

If (2) is correct (and, in a sense, it is correct), the question is why? The only clear answer is ...

That (3) is correct. The reason that spilling the seed on the ground was wrong was because it was a refusal to perform the duty required by Judah and later codified by Moses. Onan failed to honor his father, and God slew him.

c) The fact that Calvin (and Luther?) viewed Onan's activity to be inherently displeasing to God does not make it so.

d) But the fact that people disagree with the best exegesis of the text does not mean that those people are not Christians.

e) The idea that Onan's intent was unimportant is a bit odd (especially since Scripture makes explicit what Onan's intent was). That would put us in the position of saying that even if Onan simply spilled it accidentally, God would still have slain him and that Scripture uselessly provided us with this information about what was going on inside Onan's mind. Can any reasonable person think that is the case?

f) Onan's older brother Er was wicked and was slain by God.

g) Judah blocked Onan's younger brother from marrying Tamar (Er/Onan's widow).

h) Judah himself did (unintentionally) raise up seed to his son, by sleeping with his son's widow (whom he thought at the time was a prostitute).

i) While Moses did not appoint death for violation of the levirate law, God is free to sentence to death everyone who violates His law in any degree (James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.)

j) And, in any event, dishonoring one's parents was a capital crime under Mosaic system, and the command here was a command of Onan's father.

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

David, with the benefit of hindsight, yeah, I think I could identify sober-minded guides from their counterparts. But I think talking about that would go far astray of this post.

Daniel Montoro said...

"Montoro:

a) You don't have to listen to the word on the street. You can go and check out the dialog here (link)."

Whatever.

"b) Andrew has already briefly pointed out your misunderstanding of Genesis 38:9. Allow me to elaborate further:"

Please humor me.

"i) Genesis 38:9 does not provide any universal moral commandment."

Oh, okay everyone, turt says it, it must be true. But just for fun how about you prove it turt? so far you haven't proved anything but only speculated with zero support.

Turt, scripture says "And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also."

"ii) Genesis 38:9 is susceptible two several possible interpretations, because it merely states that the thing that Onan did displeased God and that consequently God slew him. This could be:"

Exactly, what Onan DID, not what he intended to do. Address the text turt, address the text.

"1) Because Onan slept with his brother's widow.

2) Because Onan spilled his seed on the ground.

3) Because Onan refused to raise up seed to his brother.

We can rule out (1), because Judah had commanded Onan to do this, and Judah's command is supported by the later Mosaic codification of the levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

If (2) is correct (and, in a sense, it is correct), the question is why? The only clear answer is ...

That (3) is correct. The reason that spilling the seed on the ground was wrong was because it was a refusal to perform the duty required by Judah and later codified by Moses. Onan failed to honor his father, and God slew him."

This is where you go wacko turt. The text does not mention anything about what Onan failed to do, but what he did was evil. God was displeased by what he did. The text could have said that God was displeased because Onan had a hardness of heart, and maybe then you would have an argument, but as it is you have failed miserably at proving your case. The text does not support your assertions, logic does not support your assertions, history does not support your assertions. We can continue on with your theological fantasy though.

"c) The fact that Calvin (and Luther?) viewed Onan's activity to be inherently displeasing to God does not make it so."

Calvin and Luther were heretics, so I can agree with you here.

"d) But the fact that people disagree with the best exegesis of the text does not mean that those people are not Christians."

Not catholic = not christian.

"e) The idea that Onan's intent was unimportant is a bit odd (especially since Scripture makes explicit what Onan's intent was). That would put us in the position of saying that even if Onan simply spilled it accidentally, God would still have slain him and that Scripture uselessly provided us with this information about what was going on inside Onan's mind. Can any reasonable person think that is the case?"

First of all, evidence proves that you are not a reasonable person, so I seriously doubt that you could answer your own question. Be that as it may, I'll help you.

Your entire argument is based upon what Onan intended. My argument is based upon what Onan intended, AND the fact that his act itself is intrinsically disorderd.

"f) Onan's older brother Er was wicked and was slain by God.

g) Judah blocked Onan's younger brother from marrying Tamar (Er/Onan's widow).

h) Judah himself did (unintentionally) raise up seed to his son, by sleeping with his son's widow (whom he thought at the time was a prostitute).

i) While Moses did not appoint death for violation of the levirate law, God is free to sentence to death everyone who violates His law in any degree (James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.)

j) And, in any event, dishonoring one's parents was a capital crime under Mosaic system, and the command here was a command of Onan's father.

-TurretinFan"

All of what you have said is both irrelevant and unsupported. Yes, God can slain whomever he chooses, but the text clearly tells us why he slain Onan, and it was for what he did. Deal with the text turt instead of making it up as you go along.

Turretinfan said...

Onan was slain for what he did.

What did he do?

Was it (a) just spilling his seed on the ground? or was it (b) spilling his seed on the ground to avoid raising up an heir to his dead older brother?

-TurretinFan

Daniel Montoro said...

Just as the bible says turt, why is that so difficult for you.

The bible says you must eat my flesh, and protestants hate it.

The bible says faith without works is dead, and the protestants hate it.

The bible says that God had slain Onan for what he did, and protestants hate it.

Onan spilled his seed on the ground. Whether he did it to avoid children, or he did it because he thought it was cool is irrelevant. He did it, God was not pleased. Deal with the text.

Turretinfan said...

Montoro:

Yes, that's the difference between your selective reading and a more complete reading.

Your selective reading ignores the most important part of what Onan did wrong. In contrast, a more complete reading takes into account Onan's intent.

You want to pretend that his intent doesn't matter, but in doing so, you must ignore the part of the text that doesn't help you.

-TurretinFan

Daniel Montoro said...

Turt, why do you have to lie about my position?

"You want to pretend that his intent doesn't matter, but in doing so, you must ignore the part of the text that doesn't help you."

His intent was important, but not the overriding importance that you try to force into the text.

Obviously if during intercourse he accidentally slipped and bam spilled his seed on the ground then that would have been different. But that isn't the point turt, the point is he miss-used sex. He did something intrinsically evil. God did not create us to act like animals.

Turretinfan said...

I see - so the fact that what he was doing was disobeying his father (and God) in not raising up seed to his brother could not possibly be the reason God was displeased?

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

If one wanted to argue that Scripture gives a general moral principle about contraception, wouldn't the command to Noah and his family be a better example? "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." That is, the command is to "be fruitful," not to try to artificially stop the fruitbearing process, and (2) to "replenish the earth," implying that the earth needs to be replenished and that it is God's will that it be done.

I'm not saying that text should be seen as a general moral principle, but just wondering if it wouldn't be a better example than Onan. TurretinFan is evidently correct about the meaning of Onan's act, especially given the later codification in the Law of the principle to raise up seed for one's brother should he die. The issue wasn't contraception per se, but denying one's lawful duty to one's brother, which God had commanded.

Also, if one is looking for general moral principles, wouldn't passages such as "Children are a heritage of the Lord," and "Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" be more relevant? Not to mention the principle that God, who opens and shuts wombs as He wills, is in control of reproduction.

Daniel Montoro said...

"I see - so the fact that what he was doing was disobeying his father (and God) in not raising up seed to his brother could not possibly be the reason God was displeased?"

He engaged in what is called a disordered act.

Daniel Montoro said...

"Not to mention the principle that God, who opens and shuts wombs as He wills, is in control of reproduction."

Exactly, and this proves my position. What Onan did was a disordered act. You can't have both Tim.

Turretinfan said...

It's not called a "disordered act" in the text (not in this text, not in any text of Scripture). Can you deal with the text?

Doesn't the text provide (at least implicitly) the answer I just gave, about it being the disobedience to Judah's and God's command to raise up an heir to his brother?

-TurretinFan

Daniel Montoro said...

"And what he did (spilled the semen on the ground) was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also."

This is what God saw him do. What he did was immoral. It wasn't because he just didn't fulfill his duty. Judah likewise didn't fulfill his duty, nor did Shelah, but did God slay them? No.

Turretinfan said...

Montoro:

God didn't slay them. Let's say I test your theory, and go out and spill my seed on the ground. If God doesn't slay me, will you agree that this proves your interpretation of the verse is wrong?

Or is the "God didn't slay someone else" argument just fallacious?

To ask the question a third time, breaking it into two parts, in order that it will be simple to answer: (a) isn't it clear from the text that Onan was disobeying his father and God? and (b) doesn't Onan's disobedience provide an adequate explanation for his death?

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

Well, Mr. Montoro, since you don't know much about me personally or my beliefs, perhaps you should consider not rushing to judgment. I myself actually do not believe in contraception, and regardless of the opinions of some I am as Protestant as they come.

Nevertheless, I don't see an explicit moral command in Scripture prohibiting contraception. The reasoning you are using is analogical, and like all analogies has limitations. If there was a Ten Commandments-style prohibition of contraception, no one would be able to dispute it, obviously. But there isn't, and so we're left to argue for or against general principles on the basis of analogies, other general principles in special and general revelation, and from our respective relative degrees of sanctification and illumination by the Spirit.

I personally think that the fact that God calls children the heritage of the Lord, that He desires the godly to raise up godly offspring to carry on the work of His kingdom, and that ultimately, as the examples of Leah and Rachel show, He, not us, is in total control of reproduction, militate towards a prudential (but not morally binding) disavowal of contraception. Some moral principles are straightforward black-and-white; others are matters of complex reasoning on the basis of broad swaths of biblical data. Contraception is the latter, not the former.

Daniel Montoro said...

"God didn't slay them. Let's say I test your theory, and go out and spill my seed on the ground. If God doesn't slay me, will you agree that this proves your interpretation of the verse is wrong?"

You can't be serious turt, please tell me that you just shot off at the mouth without thinking about this first.

God also slew Ananias and Saphira for what I'm sure people do every day. Let's just say He made an example out of Onan. And the example has been understood according to my description of it by Christians and heretics and Jews.

"Or is the "God didn't slay someone else" argument just fallacious?

To ask the question a third time, breaking it into two parts, in order that it will be simple to answer: (a) isn't it clear from the text that Onan was disobeying his father and God?"

He did disobey, but the text says that what he did was displeasing to God. The text does not say that just his disobedience was displeasing but what he did. The hebrew is clearly refering to his act.

"and (b) doesn't Onan's disobedience provide an adequate explanation for his death?

-TurretinFan"

No because his dad and brother disobeyed too.

Daniel Montoro said...

"I personally think that the fact that God calls children the heritage of the Lord, that He desires the godly to raise up godly offspring to carry on the work of His kingdom, and that ultimately, as the examples of Leah and Rachel show, He, not us, is in total control of reproduction, militate towards a prudential (but not morally binding) disavowal of contraception. Some moral principles are straightforward black-and-white; others are matters of complex reasoning on the basis of broad swaths of biblical data. Contraception is the latter, not the former."

Your asking me to just take your word for it, against what is clear in the text itself, and how both christians and jews understood the text and human sexuality since the beginning. So who you are and what I know about you is irrelevant, and I think that you could agree with that, just as who I am is irrelevant.

Daniel Montoro said...

Tim, since you're requiring me to accept your position, how about you deal with the text itself and how even the orthodox jews understood it, along with the hebrew.

Turretinfan said...

Montoro:

a) You yourself have admitted that other people not dying doesn't prove anything, but you continue to rely on it. Why?

b) The Hebrew doesn't specify whether it was the act of disobeying his father and God or the more specific way in which he did so that displeased God. You would know this, if you knew Hebrew. It has the same kind of ambiguity here that English does.

c) Will you agree that there are many Scripture texts that clearly teach that disobeying one's parents is displeasing to God?

Mr. Enloe:

I'm not ignoring you, I just want to deal with Mr. Montoro's assertions first.

-TurretinFan

Daniel Montoro said...

Turt, by your statements you are clearly ignoring that what Onan did, spilling his seed on the ground, was displeasing to God. His eldest brother was wicked, and God slew him. Onan, by spilling his seed did what God considered to be wicked, and God slew him.
Onan's dad and younger brother refused to obey, God did not kill them. Deal will the text and stop this nonsense. You have failed.

Daniel Montoro said...

More than likely turt, you'll need to ask James Swan to come to your rescue and close the comments on this blog and give you the last word because you are failing miserably.

Turretinfan said...

Montoro:

As far as I can see, you are dodging the questions, because you know that the truth defeats your position. If I am wrong, prove me wrong by providing honest answers to the questions.

Mr. Enloe:

Having disposed of Mr. Montoro, I think there's a reason why folks like Mr. Montoro cannot use those more general commands.

a) Those more general commands would seem to teach away from intentional celibacy, but Rome promotes intentional celibacy.

b) Those more general commands, even if limited to married folk (which may be proper), would also teach away from intentional abstinence by married people, but Rome promotes intentional abstience within marriage.

c) Even if it is proper to permit some amount of intentional abstinence in marriage (for Lent, etc.) and even if those general commands only apply to married folk, those general commands would have to be contravened by Natural Family Planning applied negatively to avoid having children.

d) In fact, I'm willing to say that if Onan had diligently practiced NFP to avoid raising up an heir to his brother, God would still have been displeased and killed him.

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

TF, I wasn't actually taking issue with you; just posing some questions I thought were interesting. I agree that Rome's basic view of human sexuality is very disordered (ironic, eh?), particularly with regard to the enforced celibacy of the clergy and the exaggerated emphasis on the good of celibacy in general. I am not out to defend Rome's disordered view of sexuality by any means. In fact, I started my participation on this thread by noting, in response to Mr. Montoro's raising of the contraception question. by noting that probably we were just going to be treated with the standard-fare apologist reiteration of the Pharisees' approach to the Law: We're better than you because we do this and this and this and this" - to which the only proper reply is, of course, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Mr. Montoro, I agree with TF's explanation of the text, so I actually am dealing with the text. Perhaps instead of throwing around generalities about what "the orthodox Jews as well as the Hebrew" thought, you could spell it out. TF did a good job, I thought, of pointing out the context of God's displeasure with Onan, particularly with regard to the later Mosaic codification of the principle. It's pretty clear what the sin was, and it wasn't contraception "in general".

Agellius said...

EA writes, ". . . aside from your say-so, how do I know your explanation is more correct than what others have stated?"

[I don't know, but so what? What's the point? You and I are having a discussion. We're basically having a contest between my position and your position. If you doubt that I'm representing the Catholic position accurately then you are welcome to challenge me on it. Cite some Catholic source that contradicts me and I will respond. But is merely asking "how do I know you're right" strong enough to undercut my credibility?

EA writes, "I agree that teachings should be based on Scripture. That's why I take issue with the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility."

[Tsk. : ) You know very well -- or you will if you re-read the quoted sentence in context -- that I neither said nor implied that all teachings must come from the Bible. I said that when *Protestants* teach things that are not in the Bible, potential problems arise. This is because the Bible is the only infallible source that Protestants possess. Therefore anything they teach that is not actually written in the Bible is either a human interpretation or a human inference -- either way it's the product of human reason; nor do Protestants claim otherwise, as far as I know.

EA writes, "So the laity has no guarantee that their interpretation of the Bible is correct unless they subject it to the correction of the Church? How does that work in practice?"

[It's very simple. So simple I thought I had already made it clear. In practice it merely means that if the Church teaches a Catholic layman something that contradicts his own interpretation of the Bible, he will give deference to the Church's teaching rather than his own.

EA writes, "I think it is safe to assume that the questioner may not know (or be sure of) what the Church's teaching is on a given subject, that's potentially what is motivating the question in the first place. In that case, CA is standing in for the Magesterium and the layman is putting their faith in CA as a de facto spokesman for the Magesterium."

[What? Where does this come from? If you think someone approaching CA is the same as someone approaching the Magisterium, or that someone approaches CA as a substitute for the Magisterium, again you are laboring under a misconception. CA and the Magisterium fulfill very different functions. The Magisterium's role is to define what has been revealed to the world through the Church; CA's function is to pass on and explain what has been taught by the Magisterium, primarily in the context of defending the Catholic faith against attacks from outsiders.

[CA was founded during a time when most Catholics frankly were ill-equipped to respond to attacks on their faith by members of Protestant sects. It's mission was to provide literature which directly responds to such attacks, and also to give talks to advise people how to respond, and to hold direct debates with Protestant attackers to show Catholics that there are in fact *answers* to Protestant charges (hence the name "Catholic **Answers**").

[The Magisterium on the other hand, does not exist primarily to respond to Protestant attacks, but to define and teach the faith and preserve it from error.

[Again, CA is *subject* to the Magisterium -- it is not a part of the Magisterium nor a substitute for it, nor even an official spokesman. The official spokesmen of the Magisterium are the Church's bishops and priests.

EA writes, "How does the layman subject their understanding to the correction of the Church after receiving an answer from CA? How is the layman supposed to evaluate whether the answer they received conforms to Church Teaching?"

[Assuming he has a modicum of intelligence, he will evaulate what CA teaches him by comparing it with what his pastor teaches him, or with what he reads in the Catechism, or what he is taught by his bishop, or his religion teachers, or his parents, Church documents, etc. When he finds discrepancies he will naturally wonder who is right. If he is a faithful, instructed Catholic, he will know that CA is not the ultimate authority on Church teaching, but rather the pope and the bishops are, and he will turn to their approved writings and decrees to make the ultimate determination as to who is right and who is wrong.

[But I think we're getting off the track here. The point is that the premises underlying the argument made by the original post are based on misconceptions. The argument is something like, since Catholics claim to possess complete unity of belief in actual practice, due to the Magisterium guaranteeing the accurate transmission of all of its teachings to every Catholic, Catholics have the burden of showing how a group like Catholic Answers has its teachings guaranteed, because if CA's teachings are not guaranteed by the Magisterium, then the Catholic claim that all Catholics are guaranteed to receive accurate teaching are debunked.

[But as I have explained -- and this was one of the main points of my post, although you seem to have overlooked it in your response -- a distinction must be made between (1) the correctness of Magisterial teaching, and (2) the accuracy with which that teaching is imparted to individuals. Catholics claim that 1 is guaranteed, but have never denied that 2 is subject to human imperfections.

[Therefore what makes for unity among faithful Catholics, is not flawless instruction from guaranteed and certified teachers. Rather it's the willingness of faithful Catholics to submit their personal judgments to the correction of the Magisterium. This means that when the Church teaches me something that conflicts with my personal opinions, I will subject the latter to the former. To the extent that a Catholic, or anyone else, insists on placing his own opinions above the teachings of the Church, disunity results.

[None of this implies any claim that all Catholics receive perfect doctrinal instruction in actuality.

[You may have questions about how the Church goes about teaching its children in practice, but the vital point is the willingness of the faithful to be taught. Where that exists, unity will prevail, and to the extent it does not exist, it won't.

Carrie said...

But I think we're getting off the track here. The point is that the premises underlying the argument made by the original post are based on misconceptions. The argument is something like, since Catholics claim to possess complete unity of belief in actual practice, due to the Magisterium guaranteeing the accurate transmission of all of its teachings to every Catholic, Catholics have the burden of showing how a group like Catholic Answers has its teachings guaranteed, because if CA's teachings are not guaranteed by the Magisterium, then the Catholic claim that all Catholics are guaranteed to receive accurate teaching are debunked.

Agellius,

If there are truly misconceptions on my part they come from a few years of being told differently by online Catholics. I see you take a different approach, and maybe you are correct, but how would I know.

These apologetic arguments are not found in magisterial documents, they are the clever arguments of Catholic pop apologists. I could dismiss them as simply silly, but I find that hard to do b/c people actually fall from them (as difficult as that is to believe).

I know this b/c I have read conversion-to-RC stories - I tried to find some as an example but CHN seems to have removed many from their site. Oh well.

But let me revise your premise above a bit. What I have heard Cat apologists tell others is that an individual (the person they are talking to) can have certainty by becoming Catholic. Not simply that the teachings are certain, but that a person can possess certainty themselves.

But clearly an individual can not have 100% certainty (assuming the magisterium were infallible) as a person still has to have access to information and be able to properly process and understand that information. So no one can honestly promise certainty.

But the secondary issue is that Catholics do not have access to an infallible person to actually answer all of their questions - and clearly they have questions hence the popularity of CA. And yet, Cat apologist's not only promise certainty from their (inaccessible) magisterium, but they also strike out against the uncertainty of sola scriptura specifically because scripture cannot audibly speak to you to answer your question, settle disputes, etc.

So there is a double standard (and/or hypocrisy) of Catholic apologist's who try to lure people to the RCC by promising access to an authority who is living and infallible - something they can't get from the bible (alive, audible, interactive). But yet, your everyday Catholic has no access to this living, infallible interpreter so even if a benefit was possible, it can never be actualized.

Now, I agree, the real argument is whether the magisterium is divinely appointed or not. But the certainty argument is trotted out just as often and seems to work on some. That is why I like to take the opportunity to show the reality that doesn't jive with the theoretical.

You may have questions about how the Church goes about teaching its children in practice, but the vital point is the willingness of the faithful to be taught. Where that exists, unity will prevail, and to the extent it does not exist, it won't.

Rhetorical question: Why can't the same be said of God through scripture?

Carrie said...

BTW Agellius,

I tried to find some examples of the argument by other Catholics I have heard, but can't seem to find exactly what I was looking for. But here are two examples which sorta fit the bill for 1) attacking the supposed results of sola scriptura and 2) asking the endless 'but how can you be sure without a living, infallible guide'.

If you would be willing to take on some of your fellow Catholics to end these arguments, we would all be grateful to move onto to the frying the bigger fish.

Patrick Madrid:

""We've reached that point where the "rubber" of [sola scriptura] meets the "road" of everyday life. The final question that should be asked the Protestant is, "Can you show where in history [sola scriptura] has worked?" In other words, where, throughout Protestantism's relatively brief life-span, can we find examples (just one will do) of [sola scriptura] actually working-functioning in such a way that it brings about doctrinal certitude and unity of doctrine among Christians? The answer is "nowhere."

As a rule of faith that, without recourse to Sacred Tradition and an infallible Magisterium, promises doctrinal certitude and a unity of faith, [sola scriptura] fails miserably. The best evidence of this is Protestantism itself. There are today, according to one recent study, over 22,000 distinct Protestant denominations in the world, each of which claims to go by the "Bible alone," yet no two of them agree on what exactly the Bible teaches.

...Scripture alone-Scripture forced to stand apart from the infallible teaching magisterium that has been given Christ's own authority to accurately interpret Scripture, and Sacred Tradition, which is the Church's living interpretation of those written words -is unstable and leads to the myriad of conflicting, erroneous, and sometimes spiritually fatal "human traditions" (c.f. Matt. 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-7) that lead people away from Christ.

Scripture alone, as the tragic history of Protestantism has shown, becomes the private play toy of any self-styled "exegete" who wishes to interpret God's Word to suit his own views. The history of Protestantism, laboring under [sola scriptura], is an unending
kaleidoscope of fragmentation and splintering. It cannot provide any sort of doctrinal certitude for the Christian, because it is built on the shifting sand of mere human opinion - what the individual pastor [thinks] Scripture means."

source


A commenter here a few days/weeks ago:

"Do you see my point? It would appear that the Bible (Word of God) is living and active only because people preach it and people follow the precepts of what is being preached. And people can only follow those precepts when they understand them which means that someone has to authoritatively interpret those words so there is some uniformity of understanding and then go and preach those words.

...BTW, if you and I disagree on what the passages I just referenced in Hebrews, is the Bible going to step in and tell us which of us is right? If so, how is the Bible going to enforce its arbital decision and bind us to follow it? How is its authority enforced?"

source

Agellius said...

Carrie:

I appreciate the constructive tone of your comment -- though your bitterness (no doubt a residue of past encounters with nasty Catholics) still manages to shine through. : )

First, I am honestly and truly unaware of any well-known Catholic apologist who has claimed that all Catholic doctrine is flawlessly transmitted to every Catholic. The notion is so absurd on its face that, frankly, not only would you have to be stupid to argue it, you would have to be even stupider to believe it. If I were you I wouldn't even worry about people who have fallen for that claim (assuming it has actually been made with a straight face and fallen for). Anyone that dumb, like someone born severely brain-damaged and therefore incapable of sinning, could not be held eternally responsible for his actions. (I'm only half-serious here of course.)

You write, "But let me revise your premise above a bit. What I have heard Cat apologists tell others is that an individual (the person they are talking to) can have certainty by becoming Catholic. Not simply that the teachings are certain, but that a person can possess certainty themselves. But clearly an individual can not have 100% certainty (assuming the magisterium were infallible) as a person still has to have access to information and be able to properly process and understand that information. So no one can honestly promise certainty."

I think the best way to answer this is to offer a quote, which I'm sorry to say is a little bit long, but on the bright side is exquisitely written and therefore a joy to read:

"It is very common, doubtless, especially in religious controversy, to confuse infallibility `with certitude, and to argue that, since we have not the one, we have not the other, for that no one can claim to be certain on any point, who is not infallible about all; but the two words stand for things quite distinct from each other. For example, I remember for certain what I did yesterday, but still my memory is not infallible; I am quite certain that two and two make four, but I often make mistakes in long addition sums. I have no doubt whatever that John or Richard is my true friend, but I have before now trusted those who failed me, and I may do so again before I die.

"A certitude is directed to this or that particular proposition, it is not a faculty or gift, but a disposition of mind relative to the definite case which is before me. Infallibility, on the contrary, is just that which certitude is not; it is a faculty or gift, and relates, not to some one truth in particular, but to all possible propositions in a given subject-matter. We ought, in strict propriety, to speak not of infallible acts, but of acts of infallibility....I am quite certain that Victoria is our Sovereign, and not her father, the late Duke of Kent, without laying any claim to the gift of infallibility....I may be certain that the Church is infallible, while I am myself a fallible mortal; otherwise, I cannot be certain that the Supreme Being is infallible, until I am infallible myself...[.]"

From The Grammar of Assent, pg. 224.

In other words, you don't have to be infallible yourself to be certain that something is true. Otherwise none of us could be certain that God exists or that the Bible is his word, or that our parents are our parents, or even that we are human beings. (Credit for the quote is due to Mr. Hoffer at http://capriciousness.blogspot.com/2009/01/cygnus-and-humble-hope.html.)

Carrie writes, "But the secondary issue is that Catholics do not have access to an infallible person to actually answer all of their questions - and clearly they have questions hence the popularity of CA. And yet, Cat apologist's not only promise certainty from their (inaccessible) magisterium, but they also strike out against the uncertainty of sola scriptura specifically because scripture cannot audibly speak to you to answer your question, settle disputes, etc."

We probably need to clarify something here: The reason a Catholic believes a teaching of the Church is not because the Church is infallible. The reason he believes it is because the Church teaches it -- and the reason that suffices, is that the Church is authorized to teach in the name of Christ. I'm sure an illustration will make this clear: When St. Paul taught something to the Church at Corinth, the Corinthians believed it with certainty not because St. Paul was infallible, but because St. Paul was authorized by Christ to teach it. Since we believe the bishops are the successors of the Apostles, we believe the bishops too have the authority to teach in Christ's name.

Now the bishops don't go around teaching every Catholic individually. Rather, they authorize others to teach in *their* name. These may include priests as well as religious brothers and sisters (monks, friars and nuns), and even certified catechists. Bishops may also authorize the faith to be taught using certain textbooks and catechisms.

Thus, just as the Corinthians were justified in believing St. Paul's teaching because he was authorized by Christ to teach, so also a Catholic layman is justified in believing what he is taught by his priest or catechist, or in a textbook or catechism, on the ground that they are authorized by the bishop to teach -- who in turn is authorized by the Church to teach, which in turn is authorized by Christ.

The priest teaches in the name of the bishop, the bishop teaches in the name of the Church, the Church teaches in the name of Christ -- thereore ultimately the priest teaches in the name of Christ. So you see, the certainty of the Catholic layman is the result not of being personally taught by someone who is infallible, but of being taught by those who are authorized to teach. Ultimately what this means, is that the layman puts his trust in Christ who authorizes them, and therefore feels secure in assenting to what he is taught.

As to sola scriptura: From the Catholic standpoint (or at least, from *my* standpoint, as a Catholic), the problem is not that scripture can't answer your questions -- sometimes it can. The problem is that scripture can't say who is authorized to teach in Christ's name and who isn't. Therefore if I encounter two conflicting interpretations of a given scripture passage; and I have James White arguing for one interpretation based on scholarly reasons A, B and C; and Jimmy Akin arguing for another interpretation based on scholarly reasons X, Y and Z; and I'm not a scholar and therefore don’t feel competent to judge who is right; or maybe I am a scholar but still, the arguments of both sides seem nearly equally valid; what am I to do?

Pray, of course. But suppose I pray and then feel assured by the Holy Spirit that White is right; and my wife prays and feels assured by the Holy Spirit that Akin is right; then what? Go back to arguing on the scholarly merits?

Now I'm *not* saying that the Catholic Church provides a resolution of every disagreement concerning a passage of scripture. But in the context of the Church, if the Church has not resolved a particular issue, it remains an open question; and therefore a disagreement as to that issue need not be matter for institutional division. The two parties to the disagreement need not brand each other heretics, since neither is contradicting the teaching of the Church.

Where this becomes a problem is in a scenario where the Bible is all-in-all, so to speak: i.e. in Protestantism. Since all Protestantism's doctrines have to be based on scripture, a disagreement over a scripture passage often turns into a disagreement on doctrine. And since scripture is deemed to be the final word, each side in the disagreement believes God has authorized his interpretation, and therefore has endorsed his doctrine, and therefore has reprobated all contradictory doctrines. And since you can't have fellowship with false teachers and heretics, you must separate yourselves. Which happens, let's face it, fairly often.

I said before that the problem (as I see it) with sola scriptura is that scripture can't say who is authorized to teach in Christ's name and who isn't. In the imaginary White/Akin scenario above, where my wife and I disagree as to whose interpretation is right: If St. Paul were around, he could say to us one of three things: (1) White is right; (2) Akin is right; or (3) it's an open question. In the case of 1 and 2, we would know what to believe, and in the case of 3, we would know that we are free to disagree without reprobating each other. In any of those 3 cases, unity would be preserved.

Let me reiterate though, that the reason Catholics reject sola scriptura is not because it's impractical or because it leads to disunity. The reason we reject it is because it denies that the Church is authorized to teach in Christ's name. The issues of impracticality and disunity are secondary considerations.

Sorry for the length, but you know, these are not simple issues!

The Dude said...

EA,
"I think it is safe to assume that the questioner may not know (or be sure of) what the Church's teaching is on a given subject, that's potentially what is motivating the question in the first place."

Depends on the subject, some are more narrowly defined than others. Is it really very difficult for an inquirer to discern the RCC's teaching on the eucharist or baptism? Anyways, what evidence would convince you of RCism having an advantage - that all RCs were a borg-like collective in all things who take input from the Pope's transmitter? Half-joking, but I am wondering what would be sufficient for you without eliminating the role/purpose of theologians. Also, if (classical) Protestantism is united in the gospel (the "essentials" as it is said), presumably the nature of the sacraments are incidental to the gospel. If so, why do Lutherans practice closed communion regarding the Reformed and place such obstacles to unity?

Andrew said...

Montoro said:
"Not catholic = not christian."

Hmmmmm, who should I believe; you or your infallible church? The catchism says that we are "separated bretheren". You say we are not bretheren at all. Maybe you should submit to the magesterium. After all you wouldn't want people to think that your church's infallible authority could produce disunity now would you?

Daniel Montoro said...

Andrew you are a pseudo-christian, and that is what separated brethern means, you are not in full communion with christianity because you do not hold christian truth. You are understanding things with a minimalist take on it.

Matt said...

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html

Andrew said...

Montoro:
What official church writing, decree, or council can I consult to confirm that separated brother and pseudo-christian are synonymous? I believe that your contradiction of your own church was demonstrated and now you are equivocating so that you don't have to admit it.

Daniel Montoro said...

It is simple logic Andrew, how about you deal with the logic instead of creating false doctrines. Read what the church teaches about christian truth. Read what the church teaches about what it means to believe. And add them together. Don't waste my time with infantile word games.

Andrew said...

Momtoro:
In other words, you can't demonstrate that the church means what you said it means when it says separated bretheren, you equivocated, I called you on it, and now you are accusing me of playing word games. Just tell me where I can go to see first hand that the catholic church equates separated bretheren with pseudo-christian. That's all you need to do. If you can do that I will admit I was wrong and you can go stroke your evidently monsterous ego over it. Unless you can show me I was wrong then I am done with you. Let the reader decide which one of us is playing word games.

Agellius said...

If I may jump in here over the "pseudo" issue: "Pseudo" means "not genuine or authentic". The Catholic Church does not consider Protestant bodies to be genuine or authentic Christian churches. This may be verified by reading "Dominus Iesus", at section 17, here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html

So it's perhaps in that sense that Mr. Montoro calls Protestants pseudo-Christians. I'm not arguing that he's right, necessarily, just trying to mediate the dispute a little. : )

Andrew said...

agellius:
I am aware of that, but I have heard Fr. Pacwa, among others, say that the catholic church does not question the christianity of an individual protestant. I also note that Mr. Mark Shea has sided with yours truly over on Mr. Montoro's blog. Mr. Montoro meant that I am a pseudo christian. It is on that point I have taken issue. It seems to me however that Mr. Montoro probably doesn't know or care what Dominus Iesus or any other document says. He seems more interested in posting the occasional screed than really interacting with anyone. As I said before, if Mr. Montoro can show me where I've made a mistake I will stand corrected. Agellius, you know that about me. I will admit when I am wrong if it can be shown to be the case.

Agellius said...

Andrew writes, "Agellius, you know that about me. I will admit when I am wrong if it can be shown to be the case."

Well . . . if you *believe* you have been shown to be wrong you will admit it. : )

But I agree with you that I would not judge any individual as to how "Christian" he is. To speak of Protestants in general is to speak in principle, which is different from judging individuals.

Dozie said...

"Mr. Montoro meant that I am a pseudo Christian. It is on that point I have taken issue".

Simply, you are not a Christian if you reject the Catholic faith through your own fault - pride, obstinate attachment to Protestant errors, or through arrogant over-estimation of your own knowledge of scripture, God, or even history.

Matt said...

From the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council (in special reference to the definition of "Christian"):

The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.(1) Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.

But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body,(21) and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.(22)

On the other hand, Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.

Nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from attaining the fullness of catholicity proper to her, in those of her sons who, though attached to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all her bearings.

Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians, but the grace to be had from it sometimes commends this practice.

Moreover, Catholics engaged in missionary work in the same territories as other Christians ought to know, particularly in these times, the problems and the benefits in their apostolate which derive from the ecumenical movement.

When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a "hierarchy" of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened by which through fraternal rivalry all will be stirred to a deeper understanding and a clearer presentation of the unfathomable riches of Christ.(34)

In these days when cooperation in social matters is so widespread, all men without exception are called to work together, with much greater reason all those who believe in God, but most of all, all Christians in that they bear the name of Christ. Cooperation among Christians vividly expresses the relationship which in fact already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant.

All believers in Christ can, through this cooperation, be led to acquire a better knowledge and appreciation of one another, and so pave the way to Christian unity.

Therefore, without minimizing the differences between the various Christian bodies, and without overlooking the bonds between them which exist in spite of divisions, this holy Council decides to propose the following considerations for prudent ecumenical action.

Our thoughts turn first to those Christians who make open confession of Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and men, to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are aware indeed that there exist considerable divergences from the doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning Christ Himself, the Word of God made flesh, the work of redemption, and consequently, concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church, and the role of Mary in the plan of salvation. But we rejoice to see that our separated brethren look to Christ as the source and center of Church unity. Their longing for union with Christ inspires them to seek an ever closer unity, and also to bear witness to their faith among the peoples of the earth.

But while the Christians who are separated from us hold the divine authority of the Sacred Books, they differ from ours-some in one way, some in another-regarding the relationship between Scripture and the Church.

I could go on and on... Let the reader judge for him or herself.

Turretinfan said...

"I could go on and on... Let the reader judge for him or herself."

So each of the readers is a competent judge of the documents of Vatican II? How about the SSPX folks who seem to consider them errant?

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

Are you serious? It's really not that difficult to see that the definition of "Christian" of the Council is in conflict with that of certain commentators here. And the SSPX folks who reject the documents are in schism.

This tact is really maddening sometimes. Catholic and Protestant bloggers argue and argue and argue. Once a Catholic commentators says something which the Protestant blogger might agree with, the response is: "How can we trust your interpretation?", "why are you competent to make this judgment?" etc.

Fine...this highlights the problems with the pop-apologist arguments about authority. Granted. But I would appreciate if everyone would reserve this tact for those peddling this point of view.

Turretinfan said...

Matt,

It's not my point to madden you. It's my point to highlight the fact that some things are able to read and understood by ordinary people. The SSPX people read V2 and reject it (you may want to note that their excommunication has been lifted), and they justify themselves by saying that V2 wasn't infallible.

If EC's are only infallible when they are defining dogma for the church, and if (as Ratzinger admitted) V2 did not define any dogma, then it would seem to follow that V2 is not infallible.

That, of course, doesn't mean that V2 is wrong. It just means that using V2 may not actually involve pointing to something that must be accepted by all followers of Catholicism.

But I digress. You correctly noted that readers can judge for themselves of the things that you copied down.

But they can also judge for themselves the words of Scripture which say:

Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

1Co 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Mar 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

Again, you seem somewhat trapped by the discourse established by the Catholic bloggers. When you read real Catholic theologians from today and from the Reformation era and from the 13th century and before, you don't see them merely quoting infallible statements by the Roman Church. They engage in reflection on Scripture, on the Fathers of the Church, on common sense, reason, and the philosophers, etc., etc., etc.

Putting the question of the "infallibility" of Vatican II's Constitutions aside (and you certainly have a point there, though it is important to note, at the very least, the distinction between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium), my point was to say that official Catholic position on the definition of a Christian is different than some of the commentators here. Whether it's infallible or even correct doesn't really affect my point at all. It means that these views cannot be taken as the official teaching. The same goes for Protestant Churches, even though they don't claim that they are infallible. If Lutheran X is saying a certain thing and Lutheran Y is saying another thing and Lutheran X turns around and accurately quotes the Formula of Concord in support of his view (and Lutheran Y has no ability to respond with official Lutheran documents), this fundamentally changes the conversation...obviously.

So I admit that, to a certain extent (given how Vatican II presented itself), these quotations might not mean that Catholics here are compelled to accept them. But it does mean that they can't present their view as the official Catholic teaching, right? The same would go for SSPX, schismatic or no.

As for your references to Scripture, you need to be clearer about your intent. Of course, I entirely agree with these texts of Scripture and I think, in general, that you and I would agree about them. Without repentance, faith, etc., no man will have eternal life. Note that the word "Christian" was not given in any of these texts. The word "Christian" has, for most of Christian history, generally referred to those who believe that Christ is the Son of God (more in the sense of the term "faith" as used in faith vs. reason than living or justifying faith). The theologians from the 16th century that I study, for instance, said that the heretics (as opposed to apostates, Jews, Muslims, etc.) were still "Christians", even if they don't have a living faith and even if they weren't headed to heaven.

If you want to have a debate about the term "Christian" here, I'd be glad to do so. But I'm not sure the uses of "Christian" in the New Testament are in conflict with this traditional definition. Even if the term is, though, I think we can acknowledge that it is important to use some word to demarcate those who believe in Christ (even with a "dead faith") from those who do not. No?

Turretinfan said...

No, I'm not trying to debate the matter of who is a Christian. I'm trying to nudge you toward the realization that the ultimately defining document for the Christian religion is the Bible (not the Formula of Concord, or Helvetican Consensus, or Lumen Gentium).

The Bible (as inspired) has a special claim of authority - and it is written so as to be undestandable, at least on those matters related to salvation.

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

I have no need to be nudged. I already affirm those principles.

But, as a fan of Turretin, wouldn't you say that these sorts of official statements still serve some function?

There is no pressing need for you to answer that question because, as far as this conversation is concerned, it seems that we basically agree.

The Dude said...

"That [V2 perhaps not being infallible], of course, doesn't mean that V2 is wrong. It just means that using V2 may not actually involve pointing to something that must be accepted by all followers of Catholicism."

RCs are to give submission of mind and will (in distinction to the assent of faith given dogma) to all authoritative teaching, even if not infallible - see Donum Veritatis, 23; Lumen Gentium, 25; Canon 752.

Turretinfan said...

"RCs are to give submission of mind and will (in distinction to the assent of faith given dogma) to all authoritative teaching, even if not infallible - see Donum Veritatis, 23; Lumen Gentium, 25; Canon 752."

a) There's no virtue in submitting one's mind and will to error.

b) How are bishops (and popes) supposed to correct error in the fallible teachings if they must submit their minds and wills to such teachings?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"But, as a fan of Turretin, wouldn't you say that these sorts of official statements still serve some function?"

Of course, I'm Reformed - so I have respect for the church as an authority (just as a lesser authority than Scripture).

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

"There's no virtue in submitting your mind and will to error."

Of course not. Again, you seem trapped in the pop-apologists' discourse. You seem to be suggesting, unless I am mistaken, that if something is not infallible, it should not be submitted to. But, as you susggested, you submit (?) yourself to the Reformed confessions (and I imagine that you follow the Scripture's guidance in submitting yourself to the elders in your Church, etc.), even though you do not believe them to be infallible and though you believe them to be a "lesser authority".

Why can't my attitude to Vatican II function in a similar way?

We both believe that our confessions and those who wrote them are, in some way, guided by the Holy Spirit in interpreting the Scripture and in proposing that interpretation clearly for the community of believers. Of course, I believe, as a Catholic, that I have better grounds for doing so, but this is not relevant to the conversation. The only thing relevant to establish here is that a Catholic can be told to submit himself or herself to the documents of the Vatican Council as part of the Church's mission to guard the deposit of faith.

The Second Vatican Council's decrees being infallible (or not) is not entirely relevant to that point. Right?

Turretinfan said...

Matt,

You seemed to be suggesting that although Vatican II could be heretical it must be submitted to.

I certainly wouldn't say the same about the Reformed confessions, and neither would any of my Reformed brethren.

But let me get back to the main point. Suppose someone asked what the official teaching of Rome was with respect to "Protestants" generally. If we turn to Vatican II (assuming for the moment that it is not considered "infallible") isn't more proper to say that this is simply an official teaching, but not the official teaching, since it must be possible for people to teach contrary to fallible official teachings, or errant official teachings (as a byproduct of fallibility) could never be corrected?

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

"You seemed to be suggesting that although Vatican II could be heretical it must be submitted to."

I don't even know where to begin here. Where did I suggest anything of the kind?

If Vatican II were heretical, I would not submit to it. But because it is promulgate with such authority, still by an ecumenical council and all of that, coming to this conclusion would likely lead me to leave the Catholic Church.

As for your final paragraph, I also am surprised by the argument you are making. After so many years of studying and debating these matters, this is really surprising. At any rate, I will acknowledge, granted your claims about the possible fallibility of Vatican II, that a Catholic may, to a certain extent, be permitted to say something different than the Council about the state of Protestants. This would not *necessarily* lead them to be excommunicated; this would not mean *necessarily* that they were teaching error.

But I cannot fathom how you can say that their opinion could be considered the *official* teaching of the Catholic Church. Let's draw the analogy again, Lutheran X is saying one thing and Lutheran Y quotes the Formula of Concord (which neither believes to be infallible...infallibility is not relevant here, as I have said). Lutheran X does not dispute Lutheran Y's interpretation of the Formula of Concord and even embraces the fact that he, though a Lutheran, is on this particular point exercising his right to dispute the Formula (and all the other Lutheran confessions), given the fact that it is fallible, give its historical context, given sola sciptura, whatever.

Even if an observer (Calvist Z) thought that Lutheran Y was within his rights to dispute the Formula on this point as a Lutheran and even if Calvinist Z thought that Lutheran Y's opinion was true, would Calvinist Z be sensible in thinking that Lutheran Y's position was the "official" teaching of the Lutheran Churches. Absolutely not. As I've said, this isn't so difficult.

As for your last point about fallible and errant (very different things, of course) teachings being corrected, I think you are right. There were certain views being put forward by Catholics in the 1940s and 1950s (Henri de Lubac maybe is a good example) which dealt with fallible though official teachings of the Catholic Church which they believed to be problematic (though not necessarily erroneous). They disputed these views and came to influence the Church at the Second Vatican II in adopting their views as official teachings. Before Vatican II, these views were not official, they were just the views of private theologians, however sound, accurate, true, faithful...they were. No one would claim, least of all the proponents of these views, that they were the official teachings of the Church.

So...you are correct that Catholics may dispute (respectfully, I would demand) official (though not infallible) teachings which they do not believe to be accurate or, better, the best way of expressing the mysteries of the Faith. But, in doing so, that does not make their viewpoint "official". It seems to me, therefore, that you are confusing the "official" with the "infallible" and the "fallible" with the "erroneous." I hope that these confusions have been addressed and that I have clearly communicated the very modest point I am attempting to make.

Matt said...

Dangit! I confused Lutheran X and Lutheran Y in my example. Please try to pick up what I intended to say. If it is hopelessly unclear, please let me know, and I'll try again. It's too bad you can't edit on blogger. Anyway...I'm sorry for that and other typos here; I should have proofed the comment.

Turretinfan said...

I tried to use emphasis to clarify, but perhaps I was still not clear.

There is a difference between "an" official teaching, and "the" official teaching.

Do you see the difference?

Matt said...

I see (and saw) your distinction. If there were multiple "official" teachings on a certain matter, then two Catholics could hold contrary (or, at least, conflicting) teachings and both could claim that their viewpoint was the official one.

Is that all the concession you need?

But to establish the relevance of this distinction in a particular case, my Catholic interlocutors would have to show where their viewpoint was supported officially, that is, in the approved catechisms, encyclicals, CDF statements, conciliar decrees, etc. My sense is that the possibility of multiple "official" teachings would not arise all that often.

Let me make two clarifications/responses to objections/what have you:

The first is regarding change over time. Based on generally received principles among Catholics about the development of doctrine, I would say that if my Catholic interlocutor quoted, say, Boniface VIII and I quote the Second Vatican Council, I am much more within my rights to say that my view is the "official" teaching.

The second clarification I want to make is about permissible theological opinions. Let's take the example of Thomism and Molinism. Neither can claim to be THE official teachings of the Catholic Church, as you know. So too: neither can claim to be AN official teaching of the Catholic Church. Neither is "official" in the way I am using the term, although both are acceptable (and although, I would argue, Thomism is true).

I hope that helps.

Turretinfan said...

"If there were multiple "official" teachings on a certain matter, then two Catholics could hold contrary (or, at least, conflicting) teachings and both could claim that their viewpoint was the official one."

Maybe it's just me, but I think all that they could claim was their their viewpoint was an official one.

Why do you say "the official one"? Am I missing some nuance?

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

Nope, that was just a typo. Sorry. You're right. Both could claim that they were holding positions which were official ("an" as opposed to "the").

Please, let me know if there is some sort of resolution, though. :-) That's what is always so frustrating about blogs. You go back and forth, clarify and clarify and dispute this or that, and then the conversation just ends...

Turretinfan said...

It does help clarify things for me, I think.

Now, if I have understood you correctly, you take Vatican II as presenting at least "an" official teaching, and as presenting a view of "Protestants" as "Christians" not "Pseudo-Christians."

Now, if Monotoro (or anyone else) wished, the burden would be on him to show an official teaching to the contrary, if he wished to maintain that "Protestants" are "Pseudo-Christians."

Have I understood you correctly?

-TurretinFan

Matt said...

Yes, and until they do so, I will think of my view as "the" official teaching. :-)

The Dude said...

"a) There's no virtue in submitting one's mind and will to error."

Non-infallible authoritative teaching would never be in error to such a degree as to endanger one's salvation. But yes, this type of assent is more than mere external conformance, but could also allow for someone to hold that they do not now understand it or how it could be true, but trust that if it could be better explained to them or whatnot, they could hold to it. There are degrees of error; I presume you would not resist your pastor's authority and cause scandal if he is teaching the congregation a viewpoint you disagree with and perhaps even consider very wrong (but that is not directly impacting the gospel)? However, I imagine the only type of assent you would give in this case is external conformance.

b) How are bishops (and popes) supposed to correct error in the fallible teachings if they must submit their minds and wills to such teachings?

The assent given to ordinary/non-infallible teaching must be qualified a bit - indeed, if not then there would be no distinction between assent to infallible or definitive teaching and assent to non-infallible teaching. Disagreement can be justified to some extent; if not, then yes, there would be no way for correction and theology wouldn't be as interesting and would impede development and doctrinal progress. But there is a difference between licit/faithful dissent and sinful/unfaithful dissent.

I think reading Donum Veritatis (by Ratzinger in 1990 no less) will give you a good idea of the RCC's view - articles 21-41; it's addressed to theologians but a lot of the same principles apply.
Also inline with the sentiments in DV, the USCCB in 1968 issued a document, Human Life in Our Day, outlining 3 guidelines for faithful dissent:
The reasons must be serious and well-founded; the manner of the dissent must not question or impugn the teaching authority of the church; and the dissent must not be such as to give scandal.
A year earlier, a German conference issued 3 similar guidelines:
One must have striven seriously to attach positive value to the teaching in question and to appropriate it personally; One must seriously ponder whether one has the theological expertise to disagree responsibly with ecclesiastical authority; One must examine one's conscience for possible conceit, presumptuousness, or selfishness.

DV I think fleshes it out more, mainly that the dissenter still has to be open and teachable and generally trusting of the Magisterium; if someone was to be a skeptic and dissent from everything that was non-infallible, that person would be in grave error. Basically, a balance is drawn between treating noninfallible teaching of the hierarchy as infallible and treating it as mere theological opinion; dissent should be "limited, reluctant, and respectful" as Dulles says.

Andrew said...

Dozie:
I realize that is true according to the RCC, but that is not what Mr. Montoro said. He said simply:
not catholic=not christian. I am familiar enough with RCC teaching that I know this to not be the case. Mr. Montoro has erred, but as per his usual approach, refuses to admit it.

Provident 360 said...

Dear Friend,

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2).

Keep up the good work.