Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Official Interpretation of Private Interpretation and Other Observations on Blogosphere Lay-Catholicism

In his nuanced exposition of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Dulles, Professor at Fordham University and Professor Emeritus at The Catholic University of America, discusses the inevitable (and appropriate) use of private interpretation after official pronouncements by the Magisterium:

After the Magisterium has spoken, theologians play an indispensable role in giving effect to its pronouncements. Just as they took part in preparing the way for the pronouncements to be made, so too they inform the public about what has been decreed and in doing so interpret the documents. Every papal or conciliar definition or condemnation leaves a certain margin for interpretation, so that private judgment has to complete what public pronouncements left unstated. John Henry Newman insisted on this point in his defense of the Vatican decrees on papal primacy and infallibility. Once a thesis or treatise is censured, he writes, "theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success, but that demonstration is not de fide." Newman considers this process of theological sifting a necessary safeguard, protecting the faithful against the "fierce and intolerant temper" of those who would brush aside theological distinctions and burden the consciences of the faithful with exorbitant demands. (Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith [Sapientia Press: Naples, FL, 2007], 42-43)


The significance of the quotation will not be lost on those familiar with lay-Catholic arguments on the subject. As we are often told by various lay-Catholic apologists, the use of private interpretation is unbiblical and leads to doctrinal chaos--a great spiritual evil. However, here we are told by an official representative of Catholicism that private interpretation has its place in rightly handling the public pronouncements of the Magisterium, and that it even plays a positive preventative role--inoculating the faithful against "exorbitant demands." While effective epistemological objections can be raised against the standard lay-Catholic argument above, it seems sufficient to note that the role of private interpretation cannot, on Catholic terms, be unbiblical in an unqualified sense. If Dulles is correct, and we have every reason to believe he is an official representative of Catholicism given his relevant qualifications, then the traditional texts leveled against this Protestant hermeneutical assumption are being interpreted too broadly; they strike at both Protestant and (official, authoritative) Catholic notions of private judgment. The lay-Catholic objection to private interpretation must either be abandoned or qualified. For the latter, however, it is difficult to conceive of a way in which an interpretation of a text like 2 Peter 1:20 could be seen to apply only to Protestant private interpretation, and not to the private interpretation discussed by Dulles.

I recommend Cardinal Dulles' work. Indeed, as a general matter, I think most Protestants interested in Catholicism should spend far less time reading and engaging lay-Catholic apologetic blogs and far more time reading and engaging the official works of the Magisterium and their approved scholars. The lay-Catholic convert industry, of which the lay-Catholic blogosphere is a definitive part, merely represents a conservative sociological trend. As Dulles warns, such movements may or may not properly represent the official teachings of the Magisterium:

The sense of the faithful should be carefully distinguished from public opinion in the Church, which is not a theological source attributable to the Holy Spirit, but merely a sociological fact. Public opinion may be correct, but it often reflects the tendencies of our fallen human nature, the trends of the times, and the pressures of the public media. (Ibid., 45)


Indeed, as more of us have come to see, a study of mainstream and approved Catholic scholarship shows a disparity between blogosphere Catholicism and official Catholicism (e.g. Dulles approvingly cites Raymond Brown, a scholar often dismissed as too "liberal" by conservative lay-Catholic apologists). The post-Vatican II sensibilities of the modern Magisterium cannot be found in the basic fundamentalist and evangelical sensibilities of blogosphere converts to Rome.

Consider as well how the informal hierarchy of the Catholic conversion industry functions. Acceptance into its authoritative ranks differs decidedly from entrance into the authority structure of the official Magisterium. In official Roman Catholicism, authority is transmitted via the appropriate form and application of Apostolic Succession. This naturally leads to the promotion of long-time insiders to the faith. In the conversion industry, authority is a function of the kind of conversion manifested (which necessarily excludes persons with a history of life-long Catholic commitment). The more spectacular, with respect to emotional gravity, and the more dramatic, with respect to prior involvement in Protestantism, the greater the authority of the convert to represent the (singular) core value of the movement. As such, those with a prominent voice in blogosphere Catholicism might very well be (and almost always are) completely unqualified to speak for Catholicism in any official capacity. For all their superficial attempts to cultivate an air of intellectual sophistication, Catholic sites such as Called to Communion represent little more than unauthoritative shrines to a selection of conversion narratives. Fellow converts will undoubtedly find such self-centered glorification of the cult of celebrity emotionally satisfying, as, by all accounts, they have imported and applied their evangelical altar-call sensibilities to their new faith community. But for those of us attempting to understand and engage official Roman Catholic belief and practice, nothing seems as fruitless as studying such narratives and interacting with their authors. In terms of official doctrine, they have no more standing than any other set of lay-Catholic opinions.

The natural outgrowth of such circumstances is, of course, the multiplication of situations like the one sketched above--where a popular lay-Catholic apologetic is found to be incompatible with official Roman Catholic teaching. Beyond responding to its effects on unwitting Protestants, there seems to be no value in rigorously engaging a movement that produces such arguments, since faithful adherence to the denomination it promotes would inevitably result in jettisoning many of the very arguments used to arrive at it in the first place.

71 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"the multiplication of situations like the one sketched above--where a popular lay-Catholic apologetic is found to be incompatible with official Roman Catholic teaching."

Yeah. I've seen that happen.

But it's not just the popular lay-Catholic apologists who promote arguments incompatible with official Roman Catholic teaching.

There are also Catholic scholars and clergy who promote arguments incompatible with official Roman Catholic teaching.

Tim Enloe said...

For all their superficial attempts to cultivate an air of intellectual sophistication, Catholic sites such as Called to Communion represent little more than unauthoritative shrines to a selection of conversion narratives.

That is quite possibly the most brilliant sentence I have ever read concerning the lay Catholic apologetics community. That it is merely a sociological movement - and a deeply subjectivistic and individualistic American one at that - is a great irony given the claims about "submission to objective external authority" that drive most of its rhetoric. If one wants to understand the origins and impulses of the lay Catholic theological-apologetical world, one need look no farther than Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity.

louis said...

Matthew, that was wicked. Great article.

Ryan said...

Great post.

For all that lay RCs seem to disagree with their relative authorities, you have to wonder at the blatant double standard of the claim that Protestants cannot tenably hold the authority of the church as subordinate to the authority of Scripture.

steve said...

One simple test of whether lay Catholic apologists are accountable to their religious superiors is whether they leave contact info on the sidebar of their blog so that you can run what they say by their parish priest or local bishop's office. When have you ever seen this?

James Swan said...

Steve-

I think each should at least list what parish they go to.

I would have no problem providing links and contact information to my church.

John Bugay said...

For some of these guys, I don't think it would be an issue to list their parish information. On the other hand, their priest likely might not even know what they are doing.

Matthew, as usual, this is just an excellent article.

James Swan said...

Well, some of them don't have any problem asking for $$$. They'll link to a paypal bucket you can drop some change in before they'll give out their priest's name.

How about this: they link their paypal propaganda to their parish, and their parish decides how much money they should get.

Yeah, alternate universe stuff, I know.

Constantine said...

Beautifully written, Matthew. Thanks very much.

John Bugay said...

How about this: they link their paypal propaganda to their parish, and their parish decides how much money they should get.

James, this is an idea whose time will never come, I'm sure.

Marie said...

Well said, and raises several good points. I don't even bother engaging "Catholic apologists" anymore - their lack of biblical knowledge, basic systematic training and even their ignorance of their own religion's tenets is astounding.

herb said...

Hi- It seems to me that Dulles/Newman are speaking of interpreting the Magisterial teaching (as opposed to interpreting Scripture). Catholics are suggesting that "solo" Scriptura is dangerous. So if you're suggesting that "interpretation of Magisterial teaching" is the same as "interpretation of Scripture," I think you've missed the point. Keep in mind, also, that the entire process described in by Newman/Dulles is taking place WITHIN the Catholic Church, not outside of it. I am trying to see your point here, but I must be missing something. Thanks.

John Bugay said...

Herb, your distinction is non sequitur.

In the process of "suggesting that 'solo' Scriptura is dangerous" (which, as has been noted time and again here, is a caricature of what we genuinely believe anyway), the Roman Catholics are pronouncing on what "Magisterial teaching" actually is, what Roman Catholic doctrine is, and they are doing so in the non-authorized, and even backward way that Matthew is describing.

[And aside from being a caricature, "Solo Scriptura" is not the only thing these folks talk about anyway.]

As for the thought that the entire process described in by Newman/Dulles is taking place WITHIN the Catholic Church, not outside of it, in fact, Matthew is only amplifying what Dulles said:

Dulles said: Public opinion may be correct, but it often reflects the tendencies of our fallen human nature, the trends of the times, and the pressures of the public media. (Ibid., 45)

And here, "the informal hierarchy of the Catholic conversion industry" is nothing more than this fallen human "WITHIN the Catholic Church" public.

Whether or not these self-appointed apologists have Catholic doctrine correct, the very things they are saying "often reflect the tendencies of our fallen human nature, the trends of the times," etc. They are NOT reliable expositors of Magisterial teaching. So long as any of these self-appointed apologists attempt to say what Roman Catholic doctrine is, Matthew's assessment is dead-on.

Rhology said...

That's just Dulles' fallible interpretation as a private theologian. Your argument goes nowhere, Schultz.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Herb,

Thanks for your comment. John has made the important point, since the issue of private interpretation is one of a variety of possible examples that could be raised to support the general distance between lay-Catholic blogosphere apologetics and the teachings of the Magisterium, all of which plays into the former being a sociological movement with neither authority nor relevance.

That said, I'll simply add a few words. You wrote:

So if you're suggesting that "interpretation of Magisterial teaching" is the same as "interpretation of Scripture," I think you've missed the point.

They certainly strike as the same type of activity, even if not the same exact activity. Why does one manifestation of private interpretation lead to good action that prevents theological abuse and produces a generally unified body of knowledge, while another kind leads to interpretive chaos and doctrinal confusion? It's difficult to imagine how the broad interpretation lay-Catholic apologists give to passages like 1 Peter 1:20 could be consistently reworked to only apply to the private interpretation practiced by Protestants, rather than to the private interpretation exercised by Catholic theologians as well.

Matt said...

John Bugay said:
For some of these guys, I don't think it would be an issue to list their parish information. On the other hand, their priest likely might not even know what they are doing.

John -- As an author at Called to Communion, I can assure you that our Church leadership knows what we're up to. I'm not sure where you'd get the idea that we're slinking around, blogging in darkness, trying to hide our dubious apologetic efforts from the Magesterium.

I go to St. George Church in Aurora, Illinois. If you're that curious about it, you can find the phone number for the parish office online and give a call to be sure my pastor knows what's up.

But, like I said, it's not like we're doing anything in secret. I teach youth group at my parish, some of our authors work for their dioceses full time, some teach at seminaries. The fact that we're interested in teaching the faith is well known to our spiritual superiors. It's all out in the open and it's all on the up and up.

I'll now leave you to continue discussing the quote from the late Cardinal Dulles, a convert from Presbyterianism himself and an inspiration to all us self-obsessed converts. I heartily second the author's exhortation to read more of his work. He was a brilliant man and a courageous bishop.

John Bugay said...

Matt, what makes you think I think you're slinking around? Or did you just decide to throw in a little slur?

My comment rather addresses the disengaged nature of the clergy. Which I am familiar with from having grown up in a Roman Catholic parish, by the way.

Matt said...

John -- My apologies. I read you wrong. I assumed you meant a lack of integrity on our part. Thanks for the clarification.

While I am privileged to have a couple of very engaged priests at my parish and a great monk as a spiritual director, your diagnosis of disengaged clergy is unfortunately accurate in some places, though it's probably a two-way street in a lot of places. I'm sure it's hard for a priest to gin up enthusiasm to engage a congregation that makes a b-line for the door the second Mass ends.

But that's another topic entirely. Thanks again for the clarification.

Rhology said...

Matt,

ISTM that you're only on the hook here if you've used the idiotic "that's just your private interp" argument.
If you have, then shame on you. You need to feel the full force of what Dulles said.
If you claim not to have used it, then methinks thou protesteth too much?

John Bugay said...

Matt; and even if they know what you're doing, what safeguards do you have in place to check hour work? Why should anyone take your word on an early papacy, for example, over that of Klaus Schatz or Robert Eno? Like, when they say that the monarchical bishop in Rome didn't put in an appearance until about 150 Ad. You write articles complaining about "scholarship". Whose word should we take? Is it any wonder that we reject you as quacks?

John Bugay said...

*-to check your work?

Constantine said...

I heartily second the author's exhortation to read more of his work. He was a brilliant man and a courageous bishop.

Although I haven't read much of Dulles, and am willing to grant the consensus that he was a superior individual, he did write that atheists can get into heaven. (See First Things, Feb. 2008: “Who Can Be Saved”) Brilliant and courageous as he may have been, would one be wrong to question his Christian grounding?

Interestingly, this seems to be the effect that Roman Catholicism has on its adherents. Another very much loved RC teacher was Henri Nouwen. Nouwen wrote, at the end of his life, that his mission was to help people get to heaven “whether they know Jesus or not!”

Know Christ, know peace – no Christ, Roman Catholicism.

Peace.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Matt said:

I'll now leave you to continue discussing the quote from the late Cardinal Dulles, a convert from Presbyterianism himself and an inspiration to all us self-obsessed converts. I heartily second the author's exhortation to read more of his work. He was a brilliant man and a courageous bishop.

Your need to draw attention to Dulles' conversion from Presbyterianism merely confirms the cult of celebrity diagnosis.

Tim Enloe said...

As for the supposedly more unified system of beliefs that adherence to the Magisterium produces, it's been pointed out for years that nearly all Protestants agree with each other on a fairly well defined set of "core beliefs" - and this despite there being no "official list of essential doctrines" in the Bible.

Also, it's evident to any thinking person that there is an enormous amount of theological diversity within Catholicism, and not just on the official levels. Lay Catholics often argue with each other about all manner of theological ideas, and frequently cite the same passages of Magisterial teaching against each other.

Lastly, as Paul says, there have to be divisions among you to see which of you has the Lord's approval. There have always been schools of thought among Christians - always - and no doubt there always will be. The "Roman temptation" so to speak (and by "Roman" I don't merely mean Roman Catholicism, but Roman cultural) has always been toward excessive bureaucratization and legalization, but no promise ever uttered by Christ or His Apostles ever said anything about bureaucratic and legalistic unity. There is no reason, save for special pleading on the RC's part, why Protestant disagreements cannot be legitimately looked at as merely being schools of thought within the same overall Christian faith - a phenomenon as deeply rooted in history as anything can be.

The Catholic argument from the "disunity" of Protestants simply fails on every count.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew D. Schultz said...

TUAD,

Please send me an e-mail. (The address is located on my blogger profile.)

Matt said...

John Bugay wrote:
Matt; and even if they know what you're doing, what safeguards do you have in place to check your work?

John -- Well, none, John. It's a blog. Anyone is free to disagree with anything written on CtC. It's not dogmatic teaching, it bears no imprimatur. I'm not sure why would it fall under the purview of my priest to monitor every theological debate I enter into or every blog post I write.

I will say that my priest is convinced of my orthodoxy or I wouldn't be teaching in any capacity in the Church, and if I had problems sorting out a theological issue he would be among the first people I'd turn to for guidance.

As regards my take on the early Papacy, that's not really an area of significant expertise for me. I'm sure your reading on the subject is much more extensive than mine. But that's not really an issue, especially since I don't write about it.

But you shouldn't take my word for it anyway. You should take the word of the Church. Unless you're going to go believing every joe with a history degree who says that Jesus didn't actually rise from the dead.

Yours,

Matt Yonke

Matt said...

Oh, and quacks, John? Come now. Let's talk like Christian gentlemen if we're going to talk. Ad homs like that are for amateurs and provocateurs.

--Matt

Tim Enloe said...

Matt Yonke said:

But you shouldn't take my word for it anyway. You should take the word of the Church. Unless you're going to go believing every joe with a history degree who says that Jesus didn't actually rise from the dead.

I don't know why this non-argument keeps being bandied about. It's easily disposable of by mentioning the need for critical thinking, by which process one subjects even the pronouncements of professionals to examination.

It simply is not the case that EITHER you trust "the Church" (note: petitio principii alert) OR you just have to blindly trust professionals who may at any time argue all manner of idiotic things.

Matt said...

Tim -- I wasn't trying to provide anybody with airtight proof of anything, but John took one of his trademark, "But modern historians disagree with the Church!" potshots and I didn't see that as deserving of more of an answer than I gave it.

It's certainly a false dilemma to say one must either believe the Church completely or every joe with a history degree completely, but it's equally false to insist that since a historian said it last week, the Church's consistent teaching must be junked.

But you and I both believe a lot of stuff that historians would call us idiots for believing, and I think the word of the Church is a much more solid ground for belief than recent scholarship in an age that delights in "debunking" the Church.

Btw, haven't seen you since Moscow a very many years ago. I hear you're in Dallas now, is that right? Hope all's well.

Regards,

Matt

Tim Enloe said...

Matt, I was trying to remember if it was you that had been at NSA a few years back. I don't recall us ever meeting, but that's probably faulty memory on my part. I wasn't exactly the social butterfly in my time there. I'm no longer in Dallas, having graduated from my MA program. Now I'm teaching Latin, History, Literature, and Bible for a small Christian school in Nevada. I hope to move to higher grade levels, perhaps even to the college level, soon, but right now this is where God has me.

Thanks for disavowing that you meant what I thought you meant. Nevertheless, that is a very common argument made by convert-apologists, and it gets really tiring addressing it.

I don't speak for John, but I don't think he is arguing that "since a historian said it last week, the Church's consistent teaching must be junked." His argument is more firmly rooted in history than that, as any sober-minded look at history will easily confirm that Rome's absolute claims of authority have (1) always been contested by vast numbers of Christians not beholden to Rome, and (2) since the Renaissance, historical investigation has been anything but the friend of Rome's absolute claims.

The problems that usually crop up in these kinds of discussions are twofold. First, there is a strange exemption from matching up with the created world given to the domain of "theology," such that even theological claims that speak directly to matters of publicly accessible historical records are, because they are "theology," said to be unable to be challenged by historical investigation. Second, there are numerous varieties of special pleading and question begging deployed concerning phrases like "the Church," "constant teaching of every age," "development of doctrine," "tradition," and so forth.

I would caution you, especially since you went to NSA, to remember the admonition we were always given every year at the start: don't fall into the trap of thinking that a smattering of Liberal Arts education makes you a "somebody" who "knows." It doesn't, and if you took the lessons we were taught there about what history is, the limits of theological inquiry, and the problems of contemporary Protestantism as marking your conversion with some sort of quasi-expert status, then honestly, you missed the whole point.

John Bugay said...

And Matt, the two scholars I cited were the very types of theologians whose job it is to be teaching you. These you reject and dismiss.

Nice of you to come by here and illustrate the very thing this blog post was about.

Tim Enloe said...

I was remiss when I said "The problems that usually crop up in these kinds of discussions are twofold."

I can think of a third one, namely, the tendency of Evangelical converts to romanticize the notion of "historical facts" such that they think by piling up reams of "facts" that say Rome has always been in charge, they have proved their case. There are simplistic versions of this (i.e., a McDowell-esque "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" approach), and complex versions of this (i.e., the appeal to "development") but all suffer from the same inherent trouble of false generalization from samples of material the shape and scope of which are usually open to a dozen or more critical questions that eliminate the ability to confidently claim, "History plainly shows X."

This "naive evidentialist" form of arguing is also quite common among convert-apologists, and not only is it also highly question-begging but it suffers from inadequate attention to "meta-issues" of historiography such as the inescapable selectivity of all historians, the fragmentary nature of the historical record itself, and the persistent need to scrutinize one's own viewpoints and limitations so as to take proper account of how those may be affecting the formulation of the questions one asks of the historical data (which then create the answers one receives from the inquiry.)

Matt said...

Tim Enloe said:
. . . don't fall into the trap of thinking that a smattering of Liberal Arts education makes you a "somebody" who "knows." It doesn't, and if you took the lessons we were taught there about what history is, the limits of theological inquiry, and the problems of contemporary Protestantism as marking your conversion with some sort of quasi-expert status, then honestly, you missed the whole point.

Tim -- I certainly don't qualify myself as any kind of expert, quasi or otherwise. I'm just a guy who, in the limited reading I've been able to do in school and afterward, found the defenses of the Protestant experiment wanting.

My conversion was no celebrity moment and I don't think I've ever talked about it with any air of authority.

I did come to find, after leaving NSA, that a lot of the narrative I'd learned about Church history didn't quite stack up to what I was reading elsewhere. I don't think that makes me any kind of genius or that my few years at NSA gave me any kind of theological street-cred. Many people better read and worse read than me have come to the same conclusion.

The assumptions you're making about the motivations and attitudes of me and other people who have followed the same path are a bit offensive. I can only speak for those I know, but I don't know any converts who made their decisions for any reasons other than following their conscience and trying to obey God.

I assume that John Bugay left Rome for the same reasons. One of us was right and one of us was wrong and we'll find out who eventually, if not till eternity.

But in the meantime, imputing motives and chalking up other people's hard-won convictions as jumping on a subjectivist sociological bandwagon isn't really helping the conversation.

Matt said...

John Bugay -- When the Magesterium changes its position on the role of the successor of Peter, I'll change mine. Until then, theologians and historians are free to write as they please, but if their teaching is contradictory to the teaching of the Church, I'm following the Church.

If it can be factored into the teaching of the Church, all the better. I don't believe there's any dispute between faith and history.

My job as a faithful Catholic, however, is not to make sure I've read all the latest historians and theologians (as much fun as that can be) so that I can know my faith. If that's what you're reading Dulles to say, I'm pretty sure you're misreading him.

Tim Enloe said...

Matt, you shouldn't take my "caution" to you as reading your motives. It's merely a caution that anyone should heed. I give it because I have had a vast deal of experience with converts, and that has taught me that the majority of them go very quickly from knowing almost nothing about the major issues to pretending that they know an immense amount. Part of the illusion they foster about themselves is precisely that they used to be "in," so they "know" what Protestantism is about and now that they are on the other side, they can authoritatively speak about all the involved issues. In this they are fooling themselves, and the appeal to conscience doesn't save them from being properly charged with ignorance and / or poor reasoning.

Indeed, the appeal to conscience is not sacred, for both Scripture and history show us that consciences can be weak, misinformed, mistaken, and even seared. I have an obligation to respect your conscience in itself as your God-given moral guide, but I have no obligation to respect the contents of a judgment given by your conscience. Take offense if you like; your emotions are neither here nor there regarding the truth of the judgment of your conscience.

I read your conversion story some years ago and was not impressed, for it struck me as just one more iteration of the same old same old. Perhaps you have not used it as a "celebrity moment," but you cannot tell me that others have not. Every time a Protestant converts, no matter what the state of his or her knowledge, some Catholic apologist somewhere trumpets the conversion to the sky. You may not be personally guilty of this, but you have allied yourself with a community that habitually does so.

If you don't like sociological analysis of your community, too bad: your bunch does it to us all the time, and there is nothing illegitimate or offensive about the activity in itself. People are not Cartesian thinking machines. We cannot ignore the fallacious "bandwagon" style argument form so much of the convert industry uses, nor can we pretend that a guy who, say, just heard about the Church Fathers for the very first time six months ago is now, after a few months in RCIA, in position to lecture anyone on what "being deep in history" means.

[cont]

Tim Enloe said...

I accept as an honest self-report your statement that you don't think of yourself as any kind of expert. But I don't accept as any kind of evidence your subsequent statement that many better read than you have reached the same conclusion. Many better read than you (and me) have reached the opposite conclusion. There is no profit in a war of autobiographies (i.e., conversion testimonies), though it must be noted that that phenomenon is a major sociological marker of Evangelical Protestantism, so the irony of Catholic apologetics conforming to it is rich.

I don't know what you have read or how it has influenced you to "[find] the defenses of the Protestant experiment wanting," but it would surely be interesting to converse with you in detail about that. Speaking of the non-helpfulness of warring testimonies, since you say that what you learned at NSA didn't stack up to what you read elsewhere, I suppose you should know that what *I* read elsewhere *did* stack up to what I was taught at NSA - and in spades. In fact, since others of your community have recently here pointed to the fact that I went to a Catholic University for my MA, and other Protestants have gone to that same place and converted, I just have to say that nothing I ever learned at UD ever even remotely tempted me to convert, but only increased my appreciation for Protestantism and made me far better able to articulate and defend the Reformation.

So much for the value of conversion stories, eh?

Matt said...

Tim -- Thanks for the clarifications.

I commented on this thread in the first place because I really didn't feel like you and John and some of the other commenters were giving me and my cohorts at CtC a fair shake but were brushing us of as a bunch of guys who got duped by a sociological phenomenon. I don't think that's the case.

I think we agree more than we disagree about the value of conversion stories. I think they're better used to inspire the faithful than to win new converts, but I think there's a lot more than that going on at CtC.

My pointing out that your assertions were offensive wasn't so much to flaunt my hurt feelings but to point out that that kind of thing isn't getting us any closer to reunion, which is the whole point of CtC. But going back and forth about that stuff isn't really getting us anywhere.

If you would like to chat further about what discrepancies I saw between my education in Church history at NSA and the further reading that led me to become Catholic, I'd be happy to discuss that, though this is probably not the right venue. My e-mail address is on my profile if you want to discuss further.

I've spoken my piece and I appreciate you guys hearing me out.

Best to all of you,

Matt

contrarian 78 said...

Since Called to Communion is being explicitly lumped into this "conversion story" thesis (which, by the way, can be rebutted by a broader sense of the Magisterium where it is connected to the sensus fidelium, but that's another story), I thought I'd add a comment to those by Matt.

Where do articles on called that discuss the insufficiency of Mathison's Solo/Sola Scriptura distinction and the like have a "conversion story" basis?

And how many times do ex-Catholics like Bugay talk about their past as an appeal to the superiority of being Reformed?

Tim Enloe said...

Fair enough, Matt. I agree that this isn't the venue to discuss our respective NSA experiences and what we have each made of them. Perhaps I will e-mail you.

Tim Enloe said...

contrarian,

Where do articles on called that discuss the insufficiency of Mathison's Solo/Sola Scriptura distinction and the like have a "conversion story" basis?

I, at any rate, did not say everything done by converts has a "basis" in conversion stories. Much of it does, but not all of it. Nevertheless, all of it is enmeshed with the trauma of the conversion itself, and the arguments brought forward even in articles that are trying to be intellectually sophisticated is inseparable from the mentality of the conversion process.

I remember how "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary 2006" once friended me on Facebook. I thought it was because we both went to UD, but the moment I accepted his friend request, he started bombarding me with ridiculous polemical slogans about Mary and the problems with sola Scriptura and how heart-poundingly (romantically) wonderful it is to be Catholic, if only I'd come to "see the light" as he so brilliantly did. I quickly de-friended him, because it was obvious he had no stability or perspective, was uninterested in any kind of substantive discussion, and was merely out to get notches in his belt.

Everything I've seen from him since confirms that impression, especially his unethical and unscholarly use about a year and a half ago of some poor self-admitted theological and historical illiterate who converted. According to "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary 2006," this poor lady's conversion proved the superiority of Catholicism, despite her utter lack of training or knowledge to address any of the significant issues. No doubt "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary 2006" is much more careful in his Ph.D work at UD - else they'd throw him out on his ear for being a sloppy thinker.

So to return to your question, anyone who seriously believes that "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary 2006,"s conversion story is irrelevant to the arguments he makes just isn't examining the man or his work very critically.

And how many times do ex-Catholics like Bugay talk about their past as an appeal to the superiority of being Reformed?

No one said Protestants don't do it too. But this is just a tu quoque argument from you, and is both logically invalid and not to the point of the observations being made.

John Bugay said...

how many times do ex-Catholics like Bugay talk about their past as an appeal to the superiority of being Reformed?

Not very often at all. I mention it. The superiority of being Reformed rests solely in Christ alone.

Tim Enloe said...

I wasn't as clear as I should have been in that last post, contrarian.

It isn't that no legitimate talking points whatsoever can be made at any time about, say, Mathison's solo / sola distinction by a person who is a convert. What is it is the quality of the talking points that usually are made by these converts.

Most of these guys, despite their appeal to having been Protestant for X years or having been to XYZ Seminary just don't reveal all that deep an understanding of either Protestant theology or Protestant experience "on the ground." This is demonstrable from repeated attempts to get them to simply deal with the texts of the Reformers, not their own impressions of what the texts "have to" mean, and also from their inability to process the fact that most Protestants in real life just don't think and act like they (the converts) themselves did. The number of converts may look like it says a lot until you set it next to the number who never convert - which is far larger.

I think here of Scott Hahn, who has implied, if not outright said, that because THE GREAT JOHN GERSTNER (allegedly) couldn't answer his questions about sola Scriptura, well, there must not be any good answers. I think of Gerry Matatics, who long before "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary 2006," ever even got on the Internet, was arguing that because he went to some Protestant seminaries, that meant he was an expert in Protestant theology and the rest of us should just take his word for it. Not to mention the stream of minister-converts hawked about like cheap watches at a flea market on EWTN.

Mathison' book is a very serious book, sober-mindedly examining a crucial point about the original, Magisterial doctrine of sola Scriptura vs. its modern distortions. I've never seen a single convert able to accept what Mathison PROVES about both the Reformers (Tradition 1) and modern Protestants (Tradition 0) and augment their own authority arguments to take these demonstrations into account.

The quality of the arguments made against Mathison is what is at stake, and if that has any connection to the conversion story issue, the connection lies in the fact that most converts who run out immediately to start sharing "the good news" have neither the perspective nor the patience nor the actual knowledge that is needed to intelligently and critically examine the issues. Ninety-percent of them are in what we call "the cage stage" of their conversion-assimilation process, and really should keep their mouths shut for about 10 years until they develop said perspective and patience.

(And for those who know me from long experience on the Internet, yeah, I wish I had kept *my* mouth shut for the first 10 years that I was Reformed. I made all these mistakes myself, which is one reason I am able to see them so clearly in others.)

Matthew D. Schultz said...

contrarian 78 said:

Since Called to Communion is being explicitly lumped into this "conversion story" thesis (which, by the way, can be rebutted by a broader sense of the Magisterium where it is connected to the sensus fidelium, but that's another story)

Given that the manifestation of the sense of the faithful is proportional to the personal holiness of the individuals in question, and given that some members of Called to Communion conduct themselves in a fundamentally dishonest and downright rude manner, it is not obvious how such an appeal would succeed on any terms.

And since the sense of the faithful is a universal concept, it's also quite naive, or simply deceptive, to imply that invoking this concept will absolve sites like Called to Communion from the criticisms raised in this post. The lay Catholic blogosphere represents little more than a diminutive, American, theologically conservative movement of (comparatively) wealthy individuals. It's hardly a cross-section of a denomination with over a billion adherents in dozens of cultural, economic, geographic, social and political situations and environments, all of which cloud and color their theological interpretations of Catholicism.

That was, indeed, part of the reason I quoted from Dulles' exposition of the sense of the faithful in my original post. By all accounts, Called to Communion and its blogosphere ilk represent a sociological trend rather than any sort of authoritative confirmation of the Catholic Church's official doctrines.

So your parenthetical will be dismissed for what it is.

Where do articles on called that discuss the insufficiency of Mathison's Solo/Sola Scriptura distinction and the like have a "conversion story" basis?

While Tim's comments are sufficient (and quite excellent), I have to say that this strikes as a fairly obtuse reply. It's not as if every article has to explicitly appeal to a conversion narrative in order for conversion to serve several implicit roles in such articles. For one, the site is based around converts to Roman Catholicism from Reformed Protestantism; that is the point of entry and the assumed basis for taking its voice seriously as a representation of Catholicism to the Reformed world. For better or worse, all of its articles, and its broader effort to regard itself as some kind of medium of "dialogue" between the Reformed and Catholic camps, will be filtered through this initial foundation. Called to Communion, along with many other lay Catholic apologetic sites and blogs, advertises itself this way, drawing explicit focus to conversion in the auto-biographical information supplied by its contributors.

And given the asinine and vapid apologetics some of the contributors at Called to Communion peddle on the main site or at the comments sections of various Reformed Protestant blogs, it seems conversion features as the only, or primary, qualification necessary to be given a voice on these matters. That, of course, is deeply problematic for a variety of reasons, but if the conversion narrative really does not play such a large role at Called to Communion, it would be best for the leadership to rein in some of its more embarrassing members. Some of their frankly absurd arguments, based as they are on ten minute Google searches and copy-and-paste jobs, are the direct result of their scholarly qualifications consisting of a keyboard, an Internet connection and a conversion narrative.

If there wasn't an assumed weight of authority given to those who have converted, and the weight was properly given to the Magisterium and its approved theologians, we wouldn't have unqualified converts feeling a need to pontificate on all matters of church history and doctrine, and perhaps we could have real dialogue, where the learned members of the Magisterium discussed and debated these issues with the learned elders, scholars and pastors of the Reformed community.

Tom said...

To all,

If you are so inclined to read a wonderful article on the Magisterium from a Bishop about the way forward in the Church, I recommend the following: http://www.ewtn.com/library/bishops/schneider-proposte.htm

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Tom,

I am far more interested in Magisterial documents than the private ruminations of lay Catholics.

And the one you've linked looks particularly informative. Thanks.

herb said...

John- Thanks for the response. I don't see how my comment is a non sequitur but I'll definitely spend some time trying to understand it as such... thanks, John.

Matt- Thanks for the comments (And for the record, I absolutely don't consider myself to be an apologist! I am trying to get a feel for what "both sides" of this debate are saying). You said:

"Why does one manifestation of private interpretation lead to good action that prevents theological abuse and produces a generally unified body of knowledge, while another kind leads to interpretive chaos and doctrinal confusion?"

I see it this way: In the home family members can/should challenge Mom and Dad in a healthy manner. My kids "interpret" what I say and sometimes even make me re-think something I've said or done. At the same time, though, as their Dad, it's my place to, when necessary, lay down the law in order to preserve order and unity in the home. Similarly, WITHIN the Church, there is a healthy degree of room for scholarly consideration of Magisterial teaching. When the time comes, though, the Church may act "extraordinarily" to speak with the authority granted to it by Christ (Luke 10:16, of course!) and to truly, definitively settle an issue. within this context, private interpretation is good and healthy. But private Biblical interpretation (as I see it, a far different thing), is inherently doomed for failure as it by necessity strips the 3rd party (an authoritative Church) of its mediative role and by logical consequence reduces all truth claims to nothing more than human opinion (all of which have varying degrees of apparent Biblical support).

herb said...

Matt said:

"I am far more interested in Magisterial documents than the private ruminations of lay Catholics."

Fair enough. But just understand that some of us, just normal dads wandering around the internet, who wouldn't in a million years consider themselves to be "apologists," simply care about people and wish to hear what others are thinking, christian and non-christian alike.. rather than sit around and watch fear factor or something... thanks again.

herb said...

Last one, fellas!

"I detest dissension because it goes both against the teachings of Christ and against a secret inclination of nature. I doubt that either side in the dispute can be suppressed without grave loss." -Erasmus of Rotterdam

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Herb,

I deeply appreciate the sentiment. Television is a colossal waste of time, and anyone who is counter-cultural and realizes this deserves to be commended.

My concern is that, in order to study Catholicism as it really is, it is necessary to spend far more time and energy reading the works of the Magisterium, over and against lay materials. The role of the laity is highly limited within the authoritative bounds set by the Magisterium, and since its voice is (excepting some highly qualified circumstances) nonbinding and non-authoritative, there seems little value in committing much of any time to it. It could be overturned, revoked or dismissed at any moment; there is no guarantee that what is said by the laity reflects true Catholic doctrine.

This is due to the terms the Magisterium itself sets for the laity. I have no problem giving extended interaction to lay persons of other denominations, nor do I have a concern with listening to Catholics on matters unrelated to Catholic belief and practice.

contrarian 78 said...

Tim,
Thanks for your comment. I guess my thought on all of this is, if Catholics (Roman and Eastern, note that 3 of us are not Roman Catholic) on Called to Communion do not strike you as faithful to the Magisterium, and that there is some kind of individualism that has been denied on CTC that can be seen by Cardinal Dulles, then why are you not a Catholic in the intellectual vein of Cardinal Dulles? Why not be a Catholic who is more individualistic, in other words?

Why recommend Cardinal Dulles' work at all? I guess that that is my more serious question.....

It brings to mind the quote from this post (found here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/10/trueman-and-prolegomena-to-how-would-protestants-know-when-to-return/ )on CTC, from Carl Trueman, which states:

"we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day."


The fact that you want to put Cardinal Dulles in a juxtaposition of contradiction with the writing on Called to Communion implies, in a sense, that you are doing what Carl Trueman has suggested one ought to do that. And for that, I thank you all, and commend you and the rest of Beggars All to my prayers.

Asking for your prayers as well,
J. Andrew Deane

contrarian 78 said...

p.s. Apologies, Matt. I thought Tim had written this post.

John Bugay said...

Contrarian referred to the Carl Truman comment.

Are you aware that Turretinfan has clarified that statement with him; his meaning is quite different from what you are trying to say here:

Of course, it should be obvious that the fact I have not returned to Rome (or, for me, gone there for the first time) means that institutional/historical continuity a la Rome are of much less significance than justification and clarity. To use my arguments, as some have done, to imply the superiority of Rome to Protestantism tout court is nonsense; my argument is simply that Rome is superior to liberal Protestantism and the kind of woolly evangelicalism of those who think that scripture and justification are areas where we can agree to differ within the evangelical camp. Not so.

So keep bringing that up. Trueman says your position on that is nonsense.

Andrew Preslar said...

As another member of Called to Communion, I want to thank Matthew for taking the time to think carefully about our project, especially in relation to private judgment and the Magisterium. Such analysis provides us (CTC) with an occasion for reflection and critical self-examination.

I also thank you for pointedly reminding our readers, such as some of the folks here at Beggar's All, that reading the official works of the Magisterium, together with approved Catholic scholars, is a far better use of one's time than reading Catholic blogs, including our own.

Furthermore, I agree that it is of the utmost importance to recognize the difference between being ordained to the Catholic priesthood and joining a group blog. I appreciate your deft sketch of this distinction, which is directly relevant to the distinction between official and unofficial expositions and defenses of the Catholic Faith.

I also agree with you, insofar as you agree with Bl. Newman and Fr. Dulles, about the important and irreducible place of private judgment and the sense of the faithful in the overall interpretive project by which we grow in understanding of divine revelation.

Of course, I think we can agree that private judgment has intrinsic limitations, although we probably disagree about just where to place those limits. That is one of the things that CTC and other such blogs think is worth discussing, but again, you are correct to say that folks would do far better to read, e.g., Newman and Dulles than to read online discussions of such matters.

You are also entirely correct to note that private judgment and accompanying sociological factors are features of the Catholic blogosphere. Perhaps these factors render this sector of theological and apologetic discussion fruitless and/or internally inconsistent (from a Catholic standpoint). As to the former, the proof is in the pudding. So far, reactions to our lay concoction vary greatly. For the latter, it seems to be a stretch to say that lay witness (e.g., conversion stories) and lay apolgetics (e.g., defending the teachings of the Church from attack) are inconsistent with the organizational structure and official teaching of the Catholic Church.

(Part One of Long Comment! Part Two, below)

Andrew Preslar said...

It is only too true to say that many Catholic bloggers, not to mention some prominent Catholic theologians and scholars, present views that are not consonant with the official teachings of the Church. Thank you for holding us accountable to our own (putative) standards. I think that I can speak for everyone at CTC in saying that we do not intend to say or imply anything that is contrary to official Catholic teaching. You seem to imply that we have done so, but maybe I am misreading your post.

I am not sure what you mean by "post-Vatican II sensibilities of the modern Magisterium." Perhaps you mean something definite, like "post-Vatican II *official teaching* of the Magisterium." Well, of course we accept all of that, just as we accept all pre-Vatican II official teaching. But "sensibilities" was your word choice, so maybe you are referring to something other than the Church's official teaching over the past 40 odd years.

Let me suppose, for now, that "sensibilities" is intended to cover things like conversions to the Catholic Church. Vatican II has certainly made an enormous difference in Catholic understanding of, and attitudes towards, Protestants, both as individual and in ecclesial communities. However, this difference is not so great as to preclude conversions, as witnessed by the fact that the Church still receives converts from Protestantism, and has even, recently, created a structure to facilitate the reception of groups of Anglicans into the papal fold.

But you know about all that. So again, these few small quibbles aside, thanks for engaging our project. Perhaps this effort to marginalize CTC and similar ventures can serve as an impetus for us to improve things.

By the way, I approve of some approving citations of Raymond Brown. The man was a brilliant scholar, a testimony to the capacity (even though he could not entirely transcend the limitations) of private judgment.

Ken said...

Andrew Preslar -
Very interesting 2 posts!

I look forward to Matthew Schultz and others like John Bugay and Tim Enloe’s responses!

Matthew of course, will have to let you know more clearly what he meant by "Post Vatican 2 sensibilities"

I could be wrong on this – but . . .

If I may venture to guess; it seems to be seeking to catch everything (both official and unofficial) of the results of Roman Catholic thought and practice since Vatican 2, because there is so much said and done by RCs since then that seems to be honestly contradictory to the pre-Vatican 2 traditions of Roman Catholic Church in certain areas. Liberal stuff that Raymond Brown has written, Hans Kung's questionings; modern catholics for abortion rights and women as priests and homosexuals (while trying to say also that they are still Roman Catholic); the whole “Traditional” (thinking Vatican 2 sinned by allowing other Masses besides Latin (“Rad Trad”), and Sedavecantists movements; also, the seemingly contradictory stance of Vatican 2 and other documents that say that atheists and Muslims may get to heaven without faith in Christ as the Lord and eternal Son of God, and the different stance of Vatican 2, of changing the centuries held dictum, “no salvation outside of the church”, based on Cyprian's statement, "he who has God as Father must accept the Church as his mother."

But that is my opinion of what I think he was trying to get at. I could be wrong. I look forward to his and others clarification on that.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Andrew Preslar,

Thanks for your reply.

Ken has identified the general thrust; by "sensibilities" I was referring to the general attitudes, beliefs and practices of the Magisterium, with reference to its official or unofficial capacities. Lay Catholic blogosphere apologists strike me as generally more conservative in their theological preferences than the Magisterium itself.

You said:

For the latter, it seems to be a stretch to say that lay witness (e.g., conversion stories) and lay apolgetics (e.g., defending the teachings of the Church from attack) are inconsistent with the organizational structure and official teaching of the Catholic Church.

There are two (potentially unpleasant for some) options. Either such testimonies and defenses are inconsistent with the authoritative boundaries set by the Magisterium or they are fundamentally private actions with no authority (or one falls into the former category, the other the latter). Consider, for example, where the Catholic Encyclopedia delineates the responsibilities and duties of the laity on matters of doctrine (a passage I plan to post sometime soon on the blog):

As to doctrine

The body of the faithful is strictly speaking the Ecclesia docta (the Church taught), in contrast with the Ecclesia docens (the teaching Church), which consists of the pope and the bishops. When there is question, therefore, of the official teaching of religious doctrine, the laity is neither competent nor authorized to speak in the name of God and the Church (cap. xii et sq., lib. V, tit. vii, "de haereticis"). Consequently they are not allowed to preach in church, or to undertake to defend the Catholic doctrine in public discussions with heretics. But in their private capacity, they may most lawfully defend and teach their religion by word and writing, while submitting themselves to the control and guidance of ecclesiastical authority. Moreover, they may be appointed to give doctrinal instruction more or less officially, or may even become the defenders of Catholic truth. Thus they give excellent help to the clergy in teaching catechism, the lay masters in our schools give religious instruction, and some laymen have received a missio canonica, or due ecclesiastical authorization, to teach the religious sciences in universities and seminaries; the important point in this, as in other matters, is for them to be submissive to the legitimate teaching authority.


Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08748a.htm

Either lay Catholics are forbidden to engage in public disputation, which conceivably would cover such activities as blogging and (open) forum postings, or such defenses are merely private, unauthoritative activities, which would render them irrelevant in terms of representations of Catholic belief and practice. If the latter, why spend the limited hours of this short life engaging them?

(Continued.)

Matthew D. Schultz said...

On the matter of conversion testimonies, perhaps I will simply ask what legitimate role you think they play, from a Roman Catholic perspective or simply a matter of basic discourse, in public defenses of Catholic doctrine. On Catholic grounds, they do not carry any authoritative weight as representations of Catholic doctrine and practice.

And on simpler matters of discourse, a conversion testimony seeks to influence the emotions, not the intellect, thus often constituting a coercive, rather than conciliatory, appeal. It seems nothing more than a celebrity endorsement, which tells us little to nothing about the quality of the product or idea endorsed.

The arguments and evidence are what matter, but lay Catholics are not qualified to make official arguments or sift evidence in any authoritative manner such that their writings and beliefs should be considered for any length of time. There is no guarantee that what is promoted as a solid defense of Roman distinctive belief will not simply be overturned, dismissed or implicitly denied by future pronouncements from the Magisterium, to say nothing of the fact that they do not initially enjoy any authoritative status.

By all accounts, it seems the only public role unauthorized lay Catholics should play is to point others to their denomination's official documents.

Tim Enloe said...

Matthew wrote:

Either lay Catholics are forbidden to engage in public disputation, which conceivably would cover such activities as blogging and (open) forum postings, or such defenses are merely private, unauthoritative activities, which would render them irrelevant in terms of representations of Catholic belief and practice. If the latter, why spend the limited hours of this short life engaging them?

Indeed, why? The only reason I can think of is because their superficial materials actually bother many Protestants enough for them to either convert or to seriously consider converting.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I had almost entirely disconnected myself from Internet apologetics wars of any kind, believing them mostly to be fruitless bickering by mostly untrained, undisciplined, and unsupervised folks whose opinions mostly aren't worth the electrons they are displayed with.

It took a pastoral intern at my church and an old friend of mine contacting me to ask me what could be done about the lay Catholic apologetic pestilence to get me back into the fray, even in the limited fashion that I have been this past year and a half. Were it not for the need to help lay Protestants see through this stuff and be unbothered by it, I wouldn't give it the time of day myself.

I wish the churches would do more to educate people. Due to moves for school and work, I've wound up attending about 8 Presbyterian churches in the last 10 years, and none of them had any kind of officially sponsored, serious educational programs for the laity beyond memorizing Catechism questions and basic expositions of Reformed doctrine. Only church I've ever been to hat did the other sort of thing was, perhaps ironically, James White's Reformed Baptist congregation.

John Bugay said...

The Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors (I Ephes. iv. II sqq.) -- a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging (Matt. xxviii. 18-20; xvi. 18, 19; xviii. 17; Tit. ii. 15; 11. Cor. x. 6; xiii. 10. & c.) It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

VEHEMENTER NOS

Encyclical of Pope Pius X promulgated on February 11, 1906.

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10law.htm

PeaceByJesus said...

Hot topic it seems, and i just posted today on another forum about the liberal bent of RC scholarship, esp, as related to the NAB.

So how does this fit with,

"The intolerance of the Church toward error, the natural position of one who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude makes her forbid her children to read or to listen to heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truths by examining both sides of the question."

“The reason of this stand of his is that, for him, there can be no two sides to a question which for him is settled; for him, there is no seeking after the truth: he possesses it in its fulness, as far as God and religion are concerned. His Church gives him all there is to be had; all else is counterfeit..he must refuse to be liberal in the sense of reading all sorts of Protestant controversial literature.” (John H. Stapleton, Explanation of Catholic Morals, Chapter xxiii. the consistent believer (1904); Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York )
--------------------------------------------------------
...mark well: having once found the true Church, private judgment of this kind ceases; having discovered the authority established by God, you must submit to it at once. There is no need of further search for the doctrines contained in the Christian Gospel, for the Church brings them all with her and will teach you them all.

“All that we do [as must be patent enough now] is to submit our judgment and conform our beliefs to the authority Almighty God has set up on earth to teach us; this, and nothing else.”

“...outside the pale of Rome there is not a scrap of additional truth of Revelation to be found.”

“He willingly submits his judgment on questions the most momentous that can occupy the mind of man-----questions of religion-----to an authority located in Rome.”

“Absolute, immediate, and unfaltering submission to the teaching of God's Church on matters of faith and morals-----this is what all must give..”

“The Vicar of Christ is the Vicar of God; to us the voice of the Pope is the voice of God. This, too, is why Catholics would never dream of calling in question the utterance of a priest in expounding Christian doctrine according to the teaching of the Church;”

“He is as sure of a truth when declared by the Catholic Church as he would be if he saw Jesus Christ standing before him and heard Him declaring it with His Own Divine lips.”

“So if God [via Rome] declares that the Blessed Virgin was conceived Immaculate, or that there is a Purgatory, or that the Holy Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, shall we say, "I am not sure about that. I must examine it for myself; I must see whether it is true, whether it is Scriptural?"
“..our act of confidence and of blind obedience is highly honoring to Almighty God,..” — Henry G. Graham, "What Faith Really Means", (Nihil Obstat:C. SCHUT, S. T.D., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur: EDM. CANONICUS

PeaceByJesus said...

Either lay Catholics are forbidden to engage in public disputation, which conceivably would cover such activities as blogging and (open) forum postings, or such defenses are merely private, unauthoritative activities,

Are you saying RCM is unclear in some of its teaching?

We furthermore forbid any lay person to engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith. Whosoever shall act contrary to this decree, let him be bound in the fetters of excommunication. — Pope Alexander IV (1254-1261) in “Sextus Decretalium”, Lib. V, c. ii: [Considered defunct: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/archive/index.php/t-51631.html]

Do not converse with heretics even for the sake of defending the faith, for fear lest their words instill their poison in your mind. Bl. Isaias Boner of Krakow (Polish, Augustinian priest, theologian, professor of Scripture, d. 1471)

“the Church forbids the faithful to communicate with those unbelievers who have forsaken the faith they once received, either by corrupting the faith, as heretics, or by entirely renouncing the faith, as apostates, because the Church pronounces sentence of excommunication on both.” - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

Is it permitted for Christians to be present at, or to take part in, conventions, gatherings, meetings, or societies of non-Catholics which aim to associate together under a single agreement everyone who, in any way, lays claim to the name of Christian? In the negative! - Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos

How does a Catholic sin against faith? A Catholic sins against Faith by Apostasy, heresy, indifferentism and by taking part in non-Catholic worship." (Catechism of the Council of Trent, and the Baltimore Catechism)

"It is not permitted at all for the faithful to assist in any active manner at or to have any part in the worship of non-Catholics." 1917 Code of Canon Law [Canon 1258]

"If any ecclesiastic or layman shall go into the synagogue of the Jews or to the meeting houses of the heretics to join in prayer with them, let them be deposed and deprived of communion. If any Bishops or Priest or Deacon shall join in prayer with heretics, let him be suspended from Communion" - III Council of Constantinople.

"One must neither pray nor sing psalms with heretics, and whoever shall communicate with those who are cut off from the communion of the Church, whether clergy or layman: let him be excommunicated". (Council of Carthage)

"No one shall pray in common with heretics and schismatics" - Council of Laodicea.
-------------------------------------------------
Rome, Italy, Feb 19, 2010 / 02:03 pm (CNA).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, announced this week that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Evangelical Lutheran Church located in Rome on March 14 for an ecumenical celebration.

Andrew Preslar said...

Ken,

Well, taking a look at the quotes provided by John and PBJ, maybe you can add another item to your list: the apostolate of the laity. Vatican II deemed that the time was ripe for this to be broadened and intensified. Thus, we read in Apostolicam Actuositatem:

[BOQ] Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning-to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church. [EOQ]

Andrew Preslar said...

Matthew,

General trends and relative degrees of conservatism are hard to measure. I suppose that I must be content to reaffirm my intention of being faithful to the Magisterium in the definite sense of submitting to its teaching authority.

I do conceive of CTC as an essentially private (as in unofficial) and non-authoritative project. Certainly, one seeking authoritative answers about a doctrinal matter should consult others, namely, the relevant doctrinal authorities. This does not imply that the evangelical and apologetic "word or writing" of lay Catholics is "irrelevant," it only implies that lay Catholics are not doctrinal authorities.

Regarding conversion stories: Personally, I look on these the way I do slices of pizza: Yeah, I've had countless slices in my life, but I still look forward to the next one.
Its true, man does not live by such stories alone, but he is nevertheless a story-telling kind of animal. That's just how it is.

As to pointing others to the Church's official teaching: Absolutely. Lay Catholic apologists must do this. Its just that sometimes folks want to talk about those teachings, whether to understand them better, or to rebut and replace with some opinion of their own, or what have you. Now, if I respond to this sort of thing, what we have is called a conversation, and though it is sometimes the worse for being ethereal (confined to the Internet), it is not forbidden, nor intrinsically useless. It is simply private, in the sense that neither party is officially representing their ecclesial community.

Notice that we are here having a conversation about conversations. That is okay, though we are all (so far as I can tell) laypersons and non-scholars. No worries. The thing that matters, as you point out, are the arguments and the evidence (that is, in conversations that aim at unity in truth, which are the best kind, in my book). Same goes for conversations about things other than conversations.

Andrew Preslar said...

Tim,

Glad to hear that you've been persuaded to rejoin the online conversation, though in this thread about the only thing I've learned is that you don't think its worth having. Well, you're welcome over in my neck of the woods anyway. We could use a good dose of learned and sophisticated talk, even if it is bestowed begrudgingly.

John Bugay said...

From
the Vatican II document that Andrew Preslar mentioned, which opened the door for the "apostolate of the laity:

Whether the lay apostolate is exercised by the faithful as individuals or as members of organizations, it should be incorporated into the apostolate of the whole Church according to a right system of relationships. Indeed, union with those whom the Holy Spirit has assigned to rule His Church (cf. Acts 20:28) is an essential element of the Christian apostolate. No less necessary is cooperation among various projects of the apostolate which must be suitably directed by the hierarchy.

Indeed, the spirit of unity should be promoted in order that fraternal charity may be resplendent in the whole apostolate of the Church, common goals may be attained, and destructive rivalries avoided. For this there is need for mutual esteem among all the forms of the apostolate in the Church and, with due respect for the particular character of each organization, proper coordination. This is most fitting since a particular activity in the Church requires harmony and apostolic cooperation on the part of both branches of the clergy, the Religious, and the laity.

24. The hierarchy should promote the apostolate of the laity, provide it with spiritual principles and support, direct the conduct of this apostolate to the common good of the Church, and attend to the preservation of doctrine and order.

Indeed, the lay apostolate admits of different types of relationships with the hierarchy in accordance with the various forms and objects of this apostolate. For in the Church there are many apostolic undertakings which are established by the free choice of the laity and regulated by their prudent judgment. The mission of the Church can be better accomplished in certain circumstances by undertakings of this kind, and therefore they are frequently praised or recommended by the hierarchy. No project, however, may claim the name "Catholic" unless it has obtained the consent of the lawful Church authority.

Certain forms of the apostolate of the laity are given explicit recognition by the hierarchy, though in various ways.

Because of the demands of the common good of the Church, moreover, ecclesiastical authority can select and promote in a particular way some of the apostolic associations and projects which have an immediately spiritual purpose, thereby assuming in them a special responsibility. Thus, making various dispositions of the apostolate according to circumstances, the hierarchy joins some particular form of it more closely with its own apostolic function. Yet the proper nature and distinctiveness of each apostolate must be preserved, and the laity must not be deprived of the possibility of acting on their own accord. In various Church documents this procedure of the hierarchy is called a mandate.

Finally, the hierarchy entrusts to the laity certain functions which are more closely connected with pastoral duties, such as the teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical actions, and the care of souls. By virtue of this mission, the laity are fully subject to higher ecclesiastical control in the performance of this work.

PeaceByJesus said...

Thanks for the addition to the example of unanimous consent.

PeaceByJesus said...

No project, however, may claim the name "Catholic" unless it has obtained the consent of the lawful Church authority.

Now how difficult is that? The term "rubber stamping" can sometimes seem to be synonymous with "Roman stamping."

Tim Enloe said...

Andrew, I've found your remarks on this thread and the new one today to be helpful, so thank you.

As for me being persuaded to "rejoin the conversation," ah, if only most of these things on the Internet were actual "conversations" - dialectical exchanges engaged in by unthreatened, informed, and prudent people on both sides for the purpose of mutual approach to wisdom and truth. Sadly, most of them are not, but are instead axe-grinding and name-calling fests that rarely do anyone any good.

I haven't interacted with you at all, but I gather you're part of the CTC group. Alas, I've had nothing but bad experiences with members of that group, particularly Taylor Marshall and Brian Cross. And, as Matthew has said, our time in this life we're given is so very limited. After nearly 10 years of engaging online apologists, I decided I couldn't spend any more of my precious life on that mostly useless activity. My friends persuaded me that there are some useful interactions to be had, but the problem is, of course, identifying which of the plethora of options ARE actually useful.

The Space Bishop said...

Hi Matthew.
Thanks for the article. I'm a little late joining this conversation so maybe this wont get picked up..

I think your article gets to something that I have been trying to articulate for a while about all things CTC. The first is

Does the CTC apologetic of a divine protection from error under certain conditions + the idea that sola scriptura necessarily devolves into private interpretation accurately reflect the RCC's official position?

the second thing is that i find its not productive to only argue with these guys using only epistemology, scripture and historical evidence, surely we need as Matthew is saying to use the actual V2 Documents and all subsequent documents.

The Space Bishop said...

While I'm at what exactly does an "official catholic" look like!! In my experience I've come across 4 broad groups. The liberals, the traditionals the CTC type and charismatic Catholics (the last group being less concerned with doctrines but unite themselves around having had born-again experience)