Liberalism in the Catholic Church

Apr 14th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Catholicism is a religion of truth, not opinion. This truth is a divinely revealed truth, not simply one we make up as we go along. Be that as it may, it is no secret that the Catholic Church is beset by certain elements that reject the revealed truth of the faith. It is a spirit that seeks to overturn revealed truth in favor of modern capitulations. It is an idea that the revealed truth is ‘outdated’ and needs to be revised because modern man is, well, modern. This spirit is often called ‘Liberalism.’

Blessed John Henry Newman

What do I mean by ‘Liberalism?’

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining force and substance daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternize together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. (Blessed John Henry Newman’s Roman Address of 1879 as quoted in “Letters to a Young Catholic” by George Weigel)

As was true in Newman’s day there are lay people, theologians, clergy and religious to whom this definition of liberalism applies. This is possible because of the visibility of the Church where the tares can always be seen among the wheat until Christ returns.

When we see examples of liberalism in our church such as homilies laced with dissent or perhaps a nun advocating women’s ordination why doesn’t the bishop swoop through the window like a swat team member and lay the smack down? Imagining such a scenario is rather cathartic isn’t it?

Although it does not quite work like that there are times when situations get so bad that they cannot be ignored. In recent years there have been excommunications of people for supporting abortions or publicly advocating dogmas that are contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. There have also been censures of teachers and repudiations of theological works. Here is one such example. Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a nun and professor of theology at Fordham (a Jesuit university), wrote an unorthodox book which among other things taught ideas about the Trinity which are inconsistent with the Catholic faith. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded with a 22 page condemnation of the work. This is not the first time the USCCB has identified a Catholic book as unorthodox and it won’t be the last. The response is a good read and a look into the mind of the United States Bishops when faced with heterodoxy.

There is also an ongoing inquiry into American religious orders called the Apostolic Visitation which many believe is, in part, a response to various religious orders participating in heterodox ideas.

So, while the response is sometimes painfully slow, the Church does respond to liberalism.

Liberalism may never die out completely but there is hope that the post Vatican II spirit of liberalism is certainly waning. Many studies have shown that the fastest growing religious orders in the Church are those which are marked with a spirit that desires to be obedient to the Magesterium. The orders that treat orthodoxy as “the greatest human adventure” are the orders which are bursting at the seams. Meanwhile, orders which are decidedly liberal are literally dying out. Young Catholic women seeking the religious life are not rushing to join orders where they can dress like they walked out of an episode of ‘Golden Girls’ and do yoga meditations but are seeking orders that are serious in their commitment to the habit, prayer and their vows. The same goes for vocations to the priesthood.  Catholic seminaries teaching orthodoxy are finding that they need to expand their dormitories, while liberal ones are dwindling.

In summary, there is liberalism in the Catholic Church, and we should be prepared to encounter it. Because of the charism Christ gave her, the Catholic Church will never lose a single dogma to liberalism in spite of the liberal element’s best efforts. The gates of hell cannot prevail over the Church. To see liberals fighting to influence the Church away from her dogmas is to witness the effects of the war between the forces of heaven and the forces of evil. Liberalism should be expected in the Church that Christ founded, because Satan hates the Church and wishes to destroy her.

So how are we to deal with liberalism in the Catholic Church? We ought to pray earnestly for orthodoxy to flourish, support religious orders that are obedient to the teaching of church, support Catholic schools that are obedient to the teaching of the church, volunteer in our parishes and if we encounter truly egregious heterodoxy in our parishes we should contact our bishops.

Lastly, if you are not yet Catholic and are turned off by seeing liberalism in the Church; know that Christ’s calling of you into the Catholic Church does not depend on waiting until there are no liberals or hypocrites in the Church. And know that the Catholic Church can certainly use you to join the cause.

43 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. ” They may fraternize together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them.”

    Sounds like the Charismatic movement to me. Newman was a prophet of things to come.

    “It is an idea that the revealed truth is ‘outdated’ and needs to be revised because modern man is, well, modern.”

    Again the spirit of the Charismatic movement and much of contemporary Evangelical Christianity.

    The real Liberalism is the rejection of the Sacramental as it offends the modern mind.

  2. You say “the post-Vatican II spirit of liberalism.” To what or whom from that council or as a response to it do you attribute that spirit to?

  3. Barrett,

    “You say “the post-Vatican II spirit of liberalism.” To what or whom from that council or as a response to it do you attribute that spirit to?

    Good question. Reading the council documents themselves certainly does not give the license that some of these liberal elements claim it gives them.

  4. SP — Your thoughts are insightful. Liberalism is difficult to handle, especially when trying to help loved ones into the Church who come from a conservative protestant tradition. We must understand that accepting the fullness of the truth as presented by the Church does not exclude us from the fact of which you remind us that the wheat and the tares are among each another until the time of harvest.

    I often find myself disheartened by how many people do not take the time to seriously and fully consider the truth claims of the Catholic Church. Rather, people are more interested in interpreting scripture, so to speak, not realizing that their interpretation is exactly that — according the THEIR interpretation. I appreciate how you open the article stating that “Catholicism is a religion of truth… divinely revealed truth…” and is not an opinion. Kudos.

  5. “Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining force and substance daily…”

    In light of VonHildebrand’s “ecumenitis”, misinterpretations of Nostra Aetate, Assisi II Day, Church scandals, and basic human sentimentality, liberalism today is understandable. The average Catholic who is not up on official Church documents/encyclicals, or sadly even, the C.C.C., is easily swayed from orthodoxy to the point where he will deny the dogma EENS outright, if he was even aware of it to begin with. And the crisis continues…

  6. This article is so right on. I’m a convert. Before converting to Catholicism, I had the belief that as long as everyone believed in the core Christian theology (i.e., Trinity) or tenets, everything is OK.

    I now of course believe the Catholic faith or theology the Truth and Protestantism is really a heresy founded on men, not of divine origin.

    Thanks for this website. It’s very insightful.

    Dan

  7. Funny how I was reading Eusebius last night and he was describing speaking in tongues, healings, prophecies etc. in the time of the twelfth Bishop of Rome from the rugged fisherman….That sounded like the Charismatic movement too….

  8. #5.

    It appears Fr. Pfleger may be “disembarking” of his own accord.

    http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/2011/04/father-pfleger-willing-to-leave-church-rather-than-resign-pastorate/

  9. From a European perspective I will also add that I would hate to see the US Culture Wars infect the Catholic Church and other bodies with Apostolic claims. We need to move beyond the language of ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ with all the baggage that carries and seek to combat consumerism and secularism. In the UK at least Creedal and Apostolic Christianity has historically been strongly politically left wing in parts rather than right wing (especially as ‘Life’ issues are non-partisan and free votes) and this must be respected. We must also be wary of making ‘allies’ who deny essentials of the sacramental faith as this is probably the most significant dividing issue of doctrine in the worldwide Church.

  10. Before entering the Church, I saw liberalism as mainly a problem in the laity.
    Example:
    A guy I work with asked if I was going to get “snipped” after my next child (#5) is born. I said, “No, I want more children, even if I didn’t want more it would be immoral to be snipped, and as a Catholic I am not allowed to be sterilized or use contraception anyway so…”
    His response:
    “Aw, come on that’s not true, Catholics can do that. I’m a Catholic and I am getting snipped after my next kid…”
    Me:
    “No. it is actually against Church teaching and a mortal sin to do those things. Catholics do not do that”
    Him:
    “Well, yeah, but… what I mean is I am a disobedient Catholic.” (smiles and laughter from him)
    Me (furrowed brow and contorted mouth):
    “A disobedient Catholic?”
    Him:
    “I was raised Catholic blah blah blah…”

    That is a sad story. But what I am finding it even harder to deal with is issues like “altar girls” and “Eucharistic ministers”. (They are rarely called by their proper name “extraordinary Eucharistic ministers” and rightfully so. Because they are not “extraordinary”, but absolutely ordinary. They are also mostly women.) I am sorry but this seems like something of a easy thing for the Pope to fix. It is a absolute novelty of the past 30-40 years to have women on the altar, let alone little girls, let alone lay “ministers” handing out the Eucharist for what appears to be only a time saving reason.
    I have heard the points about things taking a while to fix in the Church. Things moving at the speed of “Romanitas” and all. I get that. And for an issue of badly trained Priests or bad architecture or something I can see that taking a couple generations or more (at least) to correct. But altar girls? Seriously? I about laughed out loud when, as a new Catholic I first saw one! Can’t the Pope just say “only men and boys on the altar, “extraordinary” means once per month… PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.” in some sort of official capacity? (perhaps rolled into the new changes to the wording of the mass would be a great time to slip it in) It just simply does not seem like an issue where we can say “well, see it takes time for these things to change…” It sure didnt take time for these abuses to slip into the Church, it was not gradual in the least. So why the long ages to root out something so painfully embarassing and disrespectful? Any thoughts?

    -David Meyer

  11. @Jeremiah

    Bp. Eusebius also spoke of “the sacred offerings of the table of Christ, through which we have been taught to offer the unbloody and reasonable sacrifices”. Charismatic and Sacramental then! As I understand it the Catholic Church recognizes the work of the Spirit in diverse gifts and forms. Miracles did not cease as some claim.

    But I was more making the point that the ‘Liberalism’ of Blessed John Henry Newman does not directly equate with the term used today. I do not hold to seven day creationism for example but this does not make me a liberal – some may say it does. I share the hope of Catholic teaching on the fate of the unevangelized but this does not make me a liberal – some may say it does. I am committed to subsidiarity and admire distributism but this does not make me a liberal – some may say it does.

    The Apostolic faith is neither Liberal nor Conservative as understood by some protestants or politicians. Equally the test for those who question things with a degree of academic or personal freedom is whether they do so within a Catholic framework. I suspect that some of the struggles faced by claimed Apostolic churches at present regarding gender and sexuality (and I suggest that in Catholic teaching these areas are linked) are due to failing to engage with that Catholic framework of the tradition. In particular I imagine on this issue we need to pray for vocations to the religious life and for new religious monastic movements.

    As it is I am not in Communion with Peter’s Successor – I am still closer to Newman’s former position (although married) and yearning for a return to Apostolic faith and method escaping the Protestant Liberal vs. Conservative dichotomy.

  12. David –

    I’ve wondered about some of those things as well. What I find interesting is that the Pope during his masses (and any mass in the Vatican) you only see male altar servers and there certainly aren’t lay people walking around the altar.

    When the Pope visited the US most recently there was a dust up because even at the stadium masses, no ‘extraordinary’ ministers were used.

    I think we really do need to remind ourselves that we are living this out in real time. Things are slow to happen and we think, “Golly, why doesn’t this just happen this way.”

  13. Have you read Elizabeth Johnson’s book? To characterize her entire book as “unorthodox” is so uncharitable. So many of our traditions greatest scholars and thinkers were at one time or another censored by church authority. Many, as in the case of Henri DeLubac, took their exile humbly and in obedience. Years later, then Pope John Paul II would bow to Fr DeLubac publicly in recognition to his “now” orthodox insights. That is how it ought to be with an authentic and living tradition. Humility and charity…well worth cultivating.
    Cindy

  14. Cindy

    The Doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out and defined in Ecumenical Councils in the first 500 years. It’s not exactly an area open for speculation. Johnson clearly makes statements that are incompatible with orthodox Catholic or orthodox Orthodox Christianity regarding one the oldest and most central doctrines of the Faith. So yes, her book is unorthodox without question.

    Anything else she might have to say regarding Christianity is immediately highly suspicious because she had demonstrated she is perfectly willing to contradict the teaching of the Church.

  15. Cindy,

    Thank you for the note. The purpose in citing Elizabeth Johnson’s work was merely to show one way in which the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is exercised. I have not read her book apart from passages outlined by the USCCB and with that I am comfortable describing the book as unorthodox. To advocate changing of the name of the Blessed Trinity to Wisdom and Holy Sophia as to use more feminine words is unorthodox – which means that it is not orthodox. You won’t find that in the Tradition of the Church so it is pretty easy to call that unorthodox. That doesn’t mean that all her teaching is unorthodox but there it is. It is also unorthodox to suggest that the Holy Spirit inspired other religious texts and that one needs Hinduism and Buddhism to understand God. That is unorthodox. So, that is what I meant by ‘unorthodox.’

    I am not terribly familiar with the De Lubac situation but I do know that plenty of unorthodox teaching found from theologians within the Church has always been understood as unorthodox so it is not the case that all censured theologians one day get vindicated as being orthodox after-all.

  16. David,

    I was interested in your comment about altar girls, so I looked it up.

    According to this letter,
    http://www.adoremus.org/CDW-AltarServers.html

    the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that bishops may allow altar girls, at their discretion. (Supposedly this was first allowed under JPII?)

    “With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the Sacred Pastors. Therefore, in the event that Your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.”

  17. Sean, can you address the difference (if there is any) between “unorthodox” and “heterodox”?

  18. Has anyone else noticed that none of the issues listed in this post (or the comments) meet Cardinal Newman’s definition of liberalism? One could cite any number of examples of Catholics saying, “All religions are basically equivalent,” or “There is no positive truth in religion.” Instead I see a pastiche of varying complaints: dissenting homilies, errant theologians, heterodox ideas, annoying liturgical practices, etc. There is a basic non sequitur here. Cardinal Newman is invoked, but apparenlty only for rhetorical effect. Newman’s definition is narrow because it is precise. In contrast, this discussion is broad and vague, which is particularly ironic given Called to Communion’s typical emphasis on reason and rigor.Forgive me if I attribute this lapse to anger; the unifying theme in this thread is nothing if not a sense of resentment and frustration.

    Believe me, I can relate. As a fellow convert, I’ve felt my share of confusion and disappointment. On reflection, I can boil this down to two factors. First, the Church I’m experiencing simply doesn’t match my vision-of-the-Church prior to entry. I entered seeking a peaceful end (an absolute end… I daresay a final solution) to the protestantism’s endless debate and division; yet I found a dozen dissonant voices. Second, my only frame of reference for gauging the significance of Catholic dissonance was, naturally enough, my protestant experience. In that world dissonance meant existential crisis: the tissue of propositions that constitutes a protestant “religion of truth” is shredding yet again, which poses yet again the ugly choice: a church split or betrayal of truth, broken relationships or violated conscience.

    I’m finding, much to my surprise, that this dilemma simply doesn’t exist for Catholics. The Church is stronger than I could ever have imagined, as strong, in fact, as the True Body and Blood). Her children can neither strengthen nor weaken Her. She is utterly un-threatened by arguments, errors and heresies. And really, this should have been obvious. She is the Body of God eternal. Finite beings like us can’t diminish nor add to the Church any more than they can impinge on the infinite God. She is truly founded on the Rock. No storm can begin to shake her (and truly, the present storms are minor compared to some of the whoppers in the past).

    Nor is this mere abstract theorizing; it’s the lived experience of Catholics through the generations. Take, for example, the complaints in this thread about the Pope’s seeming slowness to respond to dissonance or apparent disunity. Not to put too fine a point on it, but would you really expect him to scrabble about like some protestant synod, frantically searching for heretics behind every bush? Only if you think he has reason to fear. Much to my joy and relief, there is really-and-truly nothing to worry about. We can safely trust the Church to continue being the Church no matter what. She offers ample room for Her children to get things wrong, to be wildly mistaken, to be sinners, to be immature and to grow in maturity. (Yes, even to be heretics. As I understand it, Arianism was majority opinion before Nicaea, especially among priests and patriarchs. But the most striking attribute of Athanasius, for example, is his sense of humor, almost amusement at the patent absurdity around him. The one thing you don’t find in his writings or in his life is a sense of panic or anger or anything other than patient confidence.)

    This stability creates room for generosity, to offer the benefit of the doubt, and to admire what is beautiful and true even in those brothers and sisters whom we (with the plank in our own eye) might, as protestants, have judged to be “tares among the wheat.” Serenity is the Catholic birthright. Hence, charity can be a Catholic virtue. Indeed, I find that an attitude of belligerency, judement, criticism, etc., is a good sign that I need to head to the confessional: I need to be forgiven for allowing despair to displace faith.

    To my great relief, I find that I’m no longer personally responsible for creating a church, for policing orthodoxy or enforcing unity. I can let the fruit of the Spirit grow naturally (which is to say, paradoxically, mysteriously, inevitably and contrary to all expectations). I can stop playing God in the name of God. That is, I can finally afford to accept that pruning the Vine is the Father’s prerogative, and His alone. I don’t have to panic about imperfections as if they were life-threatening (or truth-threatening) because imperfections don’t corrupt the One Who Is the Truth and the Life. In ways inconceivable to protestants, we Catholics are truly free to simply rest. We have abundant room to respond to one another in Love where, as protestants, we were once (understandably) driven to act in fear. We can finally pray with full sincerity and joy the great Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:

    “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. But grant rather the spirit chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.”

  19. Tim.

    You make some points worthy of reflection and I thank you for that.

    Instead I see a pastiche of varying complaints: dissenting homilies, errant theologians, heterodox ideas, annoying liturgical practices, etc.

    We have been moderating the comments on this thread a little tighter than usual because we don’t want this thread to lead to descend into a discussion about horror stories. So maybe as a result the discussion appears somewhat uneven. That is probably my fault. I have not listed concrete and narrow examples of ‘liberalism’ on purpose because for one thing it is scandalous. I think it is safe to say that we know that it is out there and that should be enough. You allude to this yourself if I understand your comment, “Believe me, I can relate…”

    However we needed to raise this issue openly, however, because frankly there are episodes of dissent and Liberalism (as defined in the original comment) out there which causes scandal and creates a negative perception of the unity of the Church – even if that perception is misplaced. But we wanted to do so without airing every example we’ve ever encountered.

    I do think Elizabeth Johnson’s book is a good example of “Liberalism” as the bishops outline that among the faults of her work is her presupposition that removes Holy Tradition as a starting point and ideas that are consistent with Newman saying, “It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true.”

    The Church is stronger than I could ever have imagined, as strong, in fact, as the True Body and Blood). Her children can neither strengthen nor weaken Her. She is utterly un-threatened by arguments, errors and heresies.

    Amen to that! And that is the key take-away in this discussion that I perhaps failed to adequately express.

  20. Tim Feist,
    To most of your comment I say amen. To your specific idea about you not being a police of orthoxoxy anymore, I say good for you. I felt like that as a Protestant and I am glad to leave it behind as well. You have a really humble and godly attitude. But that exact method is not the way for everyone. If I see something wrong I am going to point it out to those who can change things (with gentlenes and respect), and encourage others to do the same. I guess I am missing why that is wrong?
    You said: “would you really expect him to scrabble about like some protestant synod, frantically searching for heretics behind every bush? Only if you think he has reason to fear. Much to my joy and relief, there is really-and-truly nothing to worry about.”

    That is why I became a Catholic. The Church is indefectable! How awsome is that to know that our great great grandchildren will still live in a world with the same Catholic faith handed down from the apostles. I love it.
    But pointing out an abuse in the liturgy or an unorthodox theologian is quite necessary for someone (perhaps not every individual) to do. If we don’t who will? I believe we should have an environment of love in the Church. That means people who will love disidents and heretics enough to point them back to Jesus. Or in the case of more minor abuses in the liturgy and such, love the Church enough to speak out and defend her. And if we take the route of wanting things to change from the ground up, well how will that happen unless people voice their concern that something is wrong? I for one think having altar girls is a shame on the Church and does not fit with the Tradition of the Church at all. As far as I know the Church has not declared as de fide that I must believe otherwise. Am I going to jump ship? No way. Do I doubt the Church’s magisterium? No way. Do I think having altar girls will go down in Church history as an embarasment? Oh yeah. I think it is a “no brainer” decision to ban the practice, but I fully realize it might be me that has “no brain” and I will submit to the Church on this and every other topic.

    Raymond Burke, the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, recently said:

    “liturgical abuses lead to serious damage to the faith of Catholics.”
    source: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1100868.htm

    So people can have their faith “seriously damaged” from some of these abuses. This is a big deal, and we should strongly encourage our Bishops to take a stance more like Cardinal Burke.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  21. Thanks for the good words and wise response, Sean. A related line of inquiry: this thread seems to make a more-or-less automatic equation between “dissent” and liberalism. Is that adequate? Helpful? Appropriate? It’s not obvious to me. I’d second Eddie Green’s concern here that the modern American terminology is idiosyncratic and probably inadequate to describe dynamics of Church life that are much more complex than a binary framework can accomodate. I wonder whether we’ve adequately explored the distinction between dissonance, disagreement and dissent — or, put another way, between various levels or degrees of dissent. It seems to me that we can’t be healthy without debate, critique and conscience.

    Also, a practical note for new Catholics. Having been on my parish’s Pastoral Council for a mere year, I can already offer a strong caution re: contacting your bishop with complaints. Diocesan offices field dozens of complaints from parishoners every month (daily in larger metropolitan areas). With the obvious exception of grave legal accusations(e.g., financial or sexual abuses), their pastors are immediately notified, at which point they have the conversation they should have had in the first place. Moral of the story: talk to your pastor first and often about any concern, even if it’s about his “dissenting homilies”. Calling the bishop’s office for should only be a parishoner’s gravest last resort. Anything less, and you risk being counted with the numerous cranks and malcontents who routinely bypass their pastors because they insist on “talking to the manager.”

  22. Tim (#17)

    It’s pretty clear to me what the terms “dissent” and “Liberalism” mean in the context of this article and it’s comments. Could you spell out the questions/problems/issues you have with such terminology in more detail so we could understand better why you feel that such terms are inadequate/unhelpful/inappropriate? Perhaps even some examples that give the lie to such terminology would be helpful …

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  23. @Tim

    Thank you for sharing your experience and your heart. It echoes that of other converts who have shared with me.

    Your conclusion on the nature of the Church is truly a ‘Call to Communion’ and deeply moving.

  24. Tim,

    As always, I greatly appreciate your perspective and insight. You make a point that I need to remind myself of more often. I have seen and felt the Protestant franticness to maintain orthodoxy, as they see it as least, within a denomination. This franticness reflects the fact that they do not believe (nor do they have reason to believe) that God is protecting the doctrinal soundness of their denomination. It is up to them. Yet, as Catholics, we believe that Christ is guiding our Church, which, as you point out, should give us reason to breathe easy.

    On the other hand, I have met life long Catholics over the past year since I have come into the Church who do not know or believe that the Magisterium of the Church has any special authority at all. To them, it is just another one of the voices you mention. I heard one parishioner put it this way, “The Bishops have their opinion…I have mine.” At this point, are we to hold our tongue and love them patiently or should we graciously point out to them that they are actually Protestants who happen to attend a Catholic parish on Sunday? As you know, I have genererally taken the second option and in doing so have lost the ears of many of our parishioners. I am simply dismissed as a radical conservative. From observing you, however, I believe you have found a better way. You seem to be lovingly leading people towards the beauty and truth of our Church without allowing them to put you in box. Well done brother. I have a great deal to learn.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  25. Re: #24

    Gents,

    First, I pray daily. Sometimes it is a very good prayer, other times not so much, however I do it anyway. At home, daily Mass is pretty much a privilege I am able to participate in. I am dependent on our Lord for everything, including the ability to witness correctly.

    In trying to insinuate myself into the parish I have the privilege of being in, I was looking for a way to contribute. When I ended up with CCD for boys and girls matriculating between their seventh and ninth years of life, I ended up partially taking over the class, in large part because the catechetical material was lacking. There was a sign off on various items required before that boy or girl could get first confession followed by first communion (think of “punching the ticket”). Part of that sign off involved the prayers that Catholic boys and girls should know, and would if their parents were praying with them. We ended up saying those prayers at the beginning of each class as it was the only way that the repetition would occur in all to many instances. Virtually every boy and girl could recite those prayers without reading them before the end of the CCD year.

    This past year I’ve signed up for the courses on Fr Raymond Brown on the gospels. I am in a position to take a stand on various issues. In several cases, things I have learned, including at this website, gave me a basis for taking a stand clearly with my peers at the parish. In the process, I have tried to make Catholicism interesting and exciting, which it really is. After participating in the first of the Raymond Brown classes, the leaders specifically asked me to return for the next class as I had something to contribute regularly, and managed to do so without antagonizing everyone there. (Thanks be to God for such a favor! It has something to do with catching people with honey rather than vinegar.)

    There are times when I must stand up and be counted, think of confronting moral evil such as abortion. There are times when I may be able to take a stand, but that assumes the person/people I am contending with are open to listening . There are times when, to the best of my understanding, nothing I say will make a difference, and a recent bit of give and take with a Mormon at this website is one of those “nothing I say will make a difference” times.

    I am always ready to defend the faith, in part or in whole, but there are not always times when it would be effective. Our Lord warned us against throwing pearls before swine (which Jewish law sees as an unclean animal). Having been a swine during parts of my life, I try to be real careful about applying that maxim, but if Our Lord said it (and He did), then there are times for it to be applied.

    Oh, just in case, trial and error is acceptable.

    Cordially,
    dt

  26. All – sorry if I’ve been slow at moderating…busy couple of weeks.

  27. David Meyer and Jeremy Tate are both responding to my initial post with the obvious question: “If we don’t who will?” In other words, one could easily construe my embrace of “the Catholic birthright of rest” as a sort of quietist withdrawal in the face of error. There seems to be an logical tension between feasting on the Faith’s riches and heeding moral obligations. But I think there’s a third way to consider here.

    A good place to begin exploring it might be the truth that, for Christians, the heart is paramount. And what bothers me about my own impulses to “correct” the “errors” I see around me, is that they do not feel Christ-like. My impulses to correct feel critical where Christ would somehow be generous. They feel fearful where He Is Love. They feel scared where He Is the fearlessness of Hope. They feel curiously self-centered where He is abiding in the Father. And this points to a litmus test for such actions. If there are myriad possible motives for any given action (and there are) then only pure motives are a valid basis for acting in the Name of Christ. If in a given moment I cannot respond to error out of pure, joyful Love, then the best answer to “If we don’t who will?” is “I don’t know… but right now I’m sure it’s not me.”

    I think Donald Todd’s post offers a really fine start to a possible list of litmus tests for distinguishing a spiritually wholesome from a toxic response to error. I see reflected in his post…

    …Christ’s example on the mountaintop. Am I responding to this person from a place of prayer? It’s not enough to have the right answer. My spirit must be conformed to Christ. If I am not immersed in a routine (rule) of daily personal and corporate prayer, then I should probably keep my mouth shut as a matter of principle.

    …Christ’s example of self-sacrifice. Have I been actively serving and consciously giving of myself directly to this person?

    …Christ’s example of entering into our flesh. Am I actively giving to this person directly in the area of his need (possibly synonymous with my concern)? A trite way to put this is, am I part of the solution?

    …Christ’s example of meeting people at their level. Is speaking out now, on this topic, the right prescription for this person’s spiritual healing and health? Even the best medicine in the wrong dose at the wrong time can kill a patient. The Doctor of our Souls had a keen sense of when it was appropriate or profitable to speak, and of the way context shapes purpose. At the table with certain tax collectors, yes. On trial before Caiaphas and Pilate, no. It’s daunting to measure my impulses toward correction against His insight and compassion.

    There are no doubt many other ways to evaluate motives for correction, but whatever the means, I take the end to be the same: like Christ, refuse to act from fear; like Christ, act solely from Love.

  28. OK, one more post before bed. (I’m addicted, no doubt — craving intelligent conversation. Thanks to all of you for offering it in such abundance.) Re: Jeff’ H’s request for clarification (#22). I agree that the meaning of the terms “liberalism” and “dissent” as used in this article and in the comments is pretty clear: liberalism means dissent means liberalism means anything at odds with any Church teaching on any topic. The two terms are treated as synonymous and interchangeable. But the definition of liberalism (Newman’s) first proposed as the basis of analysis is by no means directly equivalent to “dissent.” To deny truth in religion is ipso facto to disagree with a basic Church teaching. However, it does not follow from this that any dissent from a Church teaching is the same as “liberalism” in substance in gravity, or in kind. One can disagree with a Church teaching without claiming that there is no truth in religion.

    This move is common, of course – “liberalism” as used in American political discourse has entailed a kaleidoscopic jumble of substantially unrelated things – but it is logically unjustified, and to the extent that it inhibits clarity of thought or charity of heart, it can also be hazardous. Particularly for Christians. The great virtue of Newman’s definition is its precision: it is precise because it is narrow.

    Is it possible to believe firmly in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and also vocally advocate the priestly ordination of women… or laissez faire economics…or [insert ideological hobbyhorse here]? I can’t see how. But there it is nonetheless. Every Sunday I worship next to people who embody this seeming paradox. Their faith in the Real Presence is apparently as strong or stronger than mine (it is certainly older!) and their submission to ecclesial direction is as complete as I can tell without attempting to judge their interior life. Yet their opinions aren’t all correct-and-in-order. (Nor, I have to accept, are mine.) And indeed, as others have pointed out, they’re probably mostly unaware of their deviance. (As, I firmly believe, am I.) But there it is, the real connection between flawed people and the perfect Christ. Right in front of my eyes. Paradox. Mystery. Beyond me. Next to me. Brothers and sisters. Amen.

  29. Tim #28.

    Thanks for your willingness to continue this dialog. I hope I am learning something as we go along, but I also hope you don’t mind if I probe a bit more deeply into what you are trying to say, as it still seems somewhat confusing – at least to me. Among other things, I wonder about your suggestion that it was clear that this article came from a position which equated liberalism with “any” dissent from “any” Church teaching. One reason why it is somewhat confusing to me is that it isn’t clear from your response what you consider to be “Church teaching” for purposes of this definition. One reason it isn’t clear is that as I read your comment, you seem to be equating “priestly ordination of women… or laissez faire economics” as if these are two equal positions of “dissent” which somehow, equally, can describe persons whose “submission to ecclesial direction is as complete as I can tell” – provided that at least such persons believe in the Real Presence. The drawing of such an equivalence is very confusing to me – at least in this context. It seems – to me at any rate, though I suspect the same would hold true for the author of this article and many of those who have so far commented – that it is quite clear that a person who advocates the priestly ordination of women is simply, obviously, and quite objectively, NOT “in complete submission to ecclesial direction”. Such a form of dissent from established and defined Church teaching is not even in the same category, not even on the same menu, not even in the same restaurant, as legitimate differences of opinion on matters of economic or political philosophy which have, can, and do exist amongst entirely orthodox Catholics who are indeed “in complete submission to ecclesial direction”. Enough that it causes me to question the purpose of attempting to suggest such an equivalence. Could you help me to understand what purpose it serves to muddy the waters in this way – if I can be so bold as to use such a metaphor?

    I realize that the author of the article opened himself up to the criticism you raise by his use of Newman, however, it does not seem to me that a call for more precision, clarity, and perhaps circumspection in the use of Newman is furthered by an equal if not even greater imprecision and lack of clarity such as is involved in attempting to draw a moral equivalence between examples of “dissent” (if such term can even be employed fairly) such as advocacy of women priests and advocacy of laisez-faire economics. After all, as far as I am aware, only one of these two topics can have been said to have been defined by the Magisterium, and thus, only one of these two could fairly be said to represent a position of “dissent”.

    Further, though it is always salutary to recognize that not every person who holds to an opinion objectively dissenting from established Church teaching is necessarily “knowingly” holding such a position “as” a dissenting position, nevertheless, it is hard for me, and I suspect would be hard for most of those who have so far commented to imagine a Catholic who does not know that the Church teaches the women cannot be ordained, and who does not know, therefore, that to advocate the opposite position is to indeed “dissent” from the teaching of the Church. Is this really what you are suggesting? Or have I misunderstood what you have written?

    Part of the Charity which is required of those who are brothers and sisters in Christ is precisely that they don’t let a brother or sister endanger their own soul, or the souls of their children, or the souls of their brethren, or the souls of their brethren’s children by continuing unwarned down a path which, as Christ our Master has taught us, could lead them into a situation where it were better that a mill-stone should have been tied around their neck.

    Christ’s our Master’s teaching and example was always, as you note, Love Incarnate. But that Love was not a Love which ignored the peril into which ignoring God’s Law, whether in the Letter or in the Spirit, can place one’s own soul, as well as the souls that are led astray by one’s example. Christ dealt very gently with many, such as the woman taken in adultery, and the Samaritan woman, and Zachaeus, and many others. However Christ, who is Love Incarnate, did not deal gently with Pharisees, Sadducees, and moneychangers. Now it is quite true that none of those I’ve just described, neither those whom Christ dealt gently with, nor those whom Christ did not deal gently with, could be described as being guilty, strictly speaking, of “dissent” in the sense that it has been used in this thread. Nevertheless, both examples, both those dealt gently with, and those not dealt gently with, have something to teach us about what Christ’s Love is, and what it requires of those who would call him Lord and Rabbi.

    How does or can your “third way” reflect this balance which we see in the Gospel between a Christ who draws in the dirt with a stick rather than casting stones, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a Christ who wields a whip against his brethren according to the flesh? (hint: I believe that the context, and the proximity to Temple Worship and Service play a big part in sorting out such apparent discrepancies)

    Hoping that nothing I’ve written will cause offence, I look forward to your thoughts…

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff Holston

  30. Jeff Holsten: I realize that the author of the article opened himself up to the criticism you raise by his use of Newman, however, it does not seem to me that a call for more precision, clarity, and perhaps circumspection in the use of Newman is furthered by an equal if not even greater imprecision and lack of clarity such as is involved in attempting to draw a moral equivalence between examples of “dissent” (if such term can even be employed fairly) such as advocacy of women priests and advocacy of laisez-faire economics. After all, as far as I am aware, only one of these two topics can have been said to have been defined by the Magisterium, and thus, only one of these two could fairly be said to represent a position of “dissent”.

    I seems wrong to me to posit that the prohibition against women priests has been defined by the magisterium while a teaching against laisez-faire economics has not been defined by the magisterium. Perhaps I am being nit-picky about what it means to say a doctrine has been formally defined, but I think that it is important to be nit-picky here. Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was NOT an extraordinary exercise of the magiserium, (i.e. it is not an ex cathedra papal teaching), therefore the doctrine of the faith that women cannot receive the Sacrament of Ordination has not been formally defined by the magisterium. While the doctrine against the ordination of women does not possess the degree of theological certainty of de fide definita, it is, nevertheless, an infallible doctrine of the Catholic faith, a doctrine that has been received by the church through the ordinary and universal magisterium.

    Letter Concerning the CDF Reply Regarding Ordinatio Sacerdotalis
    Letter by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
    Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
    October 28, 1995

    … In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature of this assent; it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. … In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church.

    http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/teach/ordisace3.htm

    The doctrine of the faith that prohibits the ordination of women is a doctrine that has been received by the church through the ordinary and universal magisterium. I think it is an easy case to make that the doctrine of morals that prohibits laisez-faire economics is moral doctrine that has also been received by the ordinary and universal magisterium. By laisez-faire economics I mean the godless capitalism espoused by Ayn Rand and her acolytes such Alan Greenspan. Ayn Rand’s libertarianism and philosophy of positive objectivism is so infested with the spirit of antichrist that no Catholic can embrace it.

    Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

    Political Authority

    394. Political authority must guarantee an ordered and upright community life without usurping the free activity of individuals and groups but disciplining and orienting this freedom, by respecting and defending the independence of the individual and social subjects, for the attainment of the common good.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. …

    2445 Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use …

    2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. … Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.

    Tim Feist: This move is common, of course – “liberalism” as used in American political discourse has entailed a kaleidoscopic jumble of substantially unrelated things – but it is logically unjustified, and to the extent that it inhibits clarity of thought or charity of heart, it can also be hazardous.

    A point well made. In the political realm ‘liberalism’ has been turned into a dirty word by those that embrace Ayn Rand’s philosophy of unfettered greed and Social Darwinism. But liberality is a virtue, not a vice, and I can remember a time when liberal meant generous and charitable, not licentious or heretic. In the 50’s and 60’s, a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ was someone that wanted to see the federal government make just wages mandatory and the power of the federal government used to end racial discrimination. That is an oversimplication, of course, but I can remember when Cathoilic men and women called themselves ‘liberals’, and they were neither licentious nor a heretics. They were men and women interested in justice and the gospel.

    Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

    Tim Feist: I think Donald Todd’s post offers a really fine start to a possible list of litmus tests for distinguishing a spiritually wholesome from a toxic response to error. I see reflected in his post…

    I agree. One must know one’s faith, but how one responds to a person in error is something that we must submit to the Lord. I must say though, if I thought that I could not respond to those espousing error until I was a perfect saint, I would never speak out. Offer a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for his guidance before speaking out – that seems to work for me (when I have enough sense to do it).

  31. Mateo,

    I agree with almost everything you said, except you might be too narrowly defining laissez faire to Jeff’s benefit. I think one may use the phrase in a more petite version as it is found in the mouth of Colbert its originator or vis-a-vis Ben Franklin in the US.

    Setting aside Rand, if we think Adam Smith, we recognize both the principal of total depravity and elements of deism present in his capitalist schema and therefore are able to see its deficiencies. Though, in so much that we are sinners but are capable of working toward the good of the other through a commitment to good value and fair price motivated by the moral good of providing for our children and the Church, I think there is something redeemable in the principals–a kind of inverted Randian movement.

    Blessed Pope JPII, Chesterton and the history of economics teach us that government regulations many times have an unintended (or intended) effect of producing high barriers of entry into a given market. These barriers decrease competition and aggregate power into the hands of a few. This is something we are all struggling with now in the USA: the marriage of big government and big business. Ironically, this is a one way marriage because one side is always holding the assets (business) while the other side is holding the debt (government). History proves (think S. America or Russia) this is a collision course for a government take-over and some form of quasi-communism.

    Chesterton said that the two greatest enemies to freedom in our society are big government and big business. And they are also enemies of the family. As a family man, I currently feel like a small piece of lettuce squeezed between two very too large pieces of bread.

    To your quotes from the Catechism, I took note that it does not prescribe a system but rather puts forward the moral impetus of any system. I tend to see the issues you’ve presented as very complex problems, many times rooted in the progress of technology as it empowers on the one hand while both creating and eliminating high paying jobs on the other; many times creating new unskilled jobs as large scale production is made possible through technology (developed in a void of any moral impetus).

    Lastly, the term liberal, like democrat, has certainly taken an entirely different turn in the last 50 years. However, the same could be said for republican or conservative. In popular society, conservative is a kind of curmedgeon term, whereas in the past it meant one who sought to preserve what is good in society and was salutary. Nevertheless, they are terms of the polity and as such bound to evolve and devolve with how the polity aligns itself philosophically.

    Thankfully, as Catholics we can choose the via media.

    Your brother,

    Brent

  32. @mateo: I wouldn’t equate “laissez-faire economics” with Randian Objectivism (which, I agree, is wholly incompatible with Christianity). “Laissez-faire capitalism” is only an idea about the relation of the government to the market economy; it doesn’t have any connection to atheism.

    The Church definitely teaches that the poor need to be helped, that employers have responsibilities to society, etc.; what it doesn’t (so far as I know) teach is that those moral obligations need to be enforced by the government.

  33. Matteo #30:

    Thank you for enriching this discussion with your comments! I appreciate your taking the time to comment on this thread, and particularly to interact with what I wrote, and I know that I will be able to learn from your wisdom and perspective. I hope that nothing I say below will lead you to believe that I failed to appreciate or profit from your words.

    Having said that, I do have to register an immediate objection to your first statement regarding the equivalence between the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood, vs. the teaching of the Magisterium concerning economic/political principles which have been described with the term “laissez-faire”. My objection is of two parts. First of all, I completely disagree with your statement that it is wrong “to posit that the prohibition against women priests has been defined by the magisterium”. I think your own statement concerning this is ample proof that it is not only NOT “wrong” but that it is exactly “right”, because it simply IS the case that the Magisterium (in this case, the Ordinary Universal Magisterium) HAS indeed defined (that’s what “definitive” in this context means, after all) this doctrine of the Church, and that this doctrine of the Church has indeed been set forth infallibly. Dr. Liccione has explained this on more than one blog, including, if I’m not mistaken (though perhaps my memory is faulty on this) in the comboxes of this very blog. The reason why Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not ITSELF an exercise of the EXTRAORDINARY Magisterium, was precisely that (as Dr. Liccione has explained) this doctrine of the Church was ALREADY define infallibly by the ORDINARY and Universal Magisterium, and to re-define it in an exercise of the EXTRAORDINARY Magisterium would not only be redundant, but would also subtly undermine the ORDINARY and Universal Magisterium at precisely a time when many were (and, let’s face it, *remain*) wont to disregard it’s work and teaching under the supposed cover of an argument like “well, because the *Pope* hasn’t defined [teaching x] as a dogma of the faith, I can safely dissent from it”. This is emphatically NOT the case with teaching which has been defined by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, and, if I may be so bold, I’m a little surprised that you don’t understand this already. I know I’m a newcomer to a lot of these debates, but I have read from your comments often in these comboxes, and I have ALWAYS profited from your comments – as indeed I do now, though I have to disagree STRENUOUSLY with this particular statement.

    The second part of my disagreement with your comment is in your statement that “it is an easy case to make that the doctrine of morals that prohibits laisez-faire economics is moral doctrine that has also been received by the ordinary and universal magisterium.” Where to start. First of all, if it is an easy case to make, it is surprising to me that you haven’t really made any case at all in support of it! To simply poison the well by equating “laisez-faire” principles with the atheistic philosophy of Ayn Rand is not to make an argument at all, and I’m a little surprised that you wouldn’t try harder. I take this blog and this combox seriously, because I have profited immensely from it and from almost all of the writers who post articles and/or comments, and I honestly want to learn more about my newfound Catholic faith, because I want to know the truth that is taught by the Catholic Church so that I can conform my mind and my heart, my beliefs and my actions, more closely with what She teaches. By all means, please, bring your best arguments to bear – I won’t be offended at all – in fact, I relish the opportunity afforded by such interaction to receive fraternal correction in any area of doctrine or morals where my understanding of the Church’s teaching is deficient and/or simply wrong.

    However, I don’t believe that’s what you’ve achieved – yet at any rate. For one thing, what you have provided is so far from a “definition” against laisez-faire principles by the Ordinary and Universal (to say nothing of any other) Magisterium that it puzzles me greatly that you would think that this constitutes such. Can you help me to understand better where you are coming from here?

    And furthermore, the fact is, that the laisez-faire principle is NOT at all limited to such despicable and godless tripe as is turned out by Rand and her ilk. In fact, the laisaz-faire principle can be easily harmonized with the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity, because in it’s most simple form it is a principle which says that in most aspects of economic activity the greatest good for society is not achieved by having the Federal Government interfering with the the free economic activity of it’s citizens. That does not in any way imply that the Catholic Christian, with his moral compass set by the teaching the Church should not, and can not use his free economic activity for the good of his family, his Church, & his city/region/nation, and that includes giving alms to the poor and tithing to the Church and every other benevolent activity which the Church encourages her members to support – including the types of things which you yourself have given witness to in your quotations from the Catechism.

    In fact, the truth is, that the application of the opposite of the laisez-faire principle has and does constitute a much greater threat to the Catholic Christian applying his faith, formed as it should be by the Church’s teaching, in the area of economic activity, for when the state interferes with the free economic activity of it’s citizens, it is also inhibiting the free exercise of charity. Let’s not forget that Jesus’ teaching about how the poor are to be cared for in his Name is not directed at the State, but rather to his discples – to the Church. It is not the business or mission of the State to feed the poor, it is the business and mission of the Church to do so, and when the Church tries to pawn off this charge from Her Master onto the State, not only is it a dereliction of duty, but it also becomes a barrier to evangelization, instead of the great advantage it could have been. For the Church is then seen, like any other special intrest group, to be simply trying to leverage it’s political clout to force (using the sword-bearing State as it’s “muscle”) “other” people to do what they wouldn’t otherwise do of their own free will (namely, feed the poor) because She is unwilling to do so Herself. This is absolutely the opposite of the way the Church should be seen, but that’s what you end up with when you teach people to look to the State as Savior instead of looking to Jesus – and in this case that means looking to the Church Jesus founded to be his body on earth – as Savior. For Jesus’ hands and feet in this case are the hands and feet of his disciples living on the earth now, not the hands and feet of those whom his disciples can force, against their will, to “pay up, or else the IRS is going to come after them”!

    It is interesting, in this regard to look at what happens when you pursue the opposite of the laisez-faire principle – such as in Communist Russia, where, (as is pointed out in one of George Grant’s books) “In 1929, the Council of Religious Affairs in the Soviet Union was instructed by Josef Stalin and the Central Committee of the Communist Party to enforce a comprehensive ‘ban on charitable or cultural activities by churches.'” This was done, because “According to Vladimire Kharchev, a spokesman for the Kremlin at the time, ‘the State cannot tolerate any challenge to it’s claim on the heartstrings of the Russian people.'” (Trial & Error p.135)

    Now I should pause at this point, lest you discount everything I’ve said as merely being the rabid ravings of a schill for the Republican party or some such thing as that, and I should hasten to add that I really am no such thing, and that, since my conversion to Catholicism I am more ready to carefully examine all my previously held beliefs and opinions, including my political and economic opinions, in the light of the Church’s teaching. What I’m after is the truth, wherever it may be found, but so far, you haven’t convinced me of your claim that it is “easy to make that the doctrine of morals that prohibits laisez-faire economics is moral doctrine that has also been received by the ordinary and universal magisterium.”

    But that’s OK – I’m more than willing to give you another chance! I’m only after the truth here! But you’ll have to bring some real arguments to the table – meaning something better, stronger, more reasoned, and more clear than what you’ve put forward so far!

    However, before I close this, I do need to register one further thing which troubles me about your post. Perhaps the thing which bothers me most about your response is that you seem to think that these two issues are innately “on the same level” in terms of the theological and doctrinal content of the fidei depostitum. Here’s why I say this: It seems patently obvious to me that the prohibition on the ordination of women to the priesthood is *inately* theological in nature – and thus *naturally* a part of the fidei depositum. However, it also seems equally patently obvious to me that the Church’s teaching as it touches on economic and political philosophy is anything BUT *inately* theological in nature. Rather, the Church’s teaching, as it touches on economic and political philosophy is, quite to the contrary, *inately prudential* in nature, and thus subject to change as historical circumstances change, and, most importantly NOT, in the nature of the case, even ELIGIBLE to be defined dogmatically as an article of faith. I’m troubled because not only does this seem patently obvious to me, worse yet, I can’t see how anyone could NOT see this – can you help me to understand why you don’t see it this way?

    I’m not trying to be glib here, I really want the best arguments you’ve got – I just haven’t seen anything you’ve said as being even remotely close to an real argument yet.

    There’s more to be said, of course, on this topic, mainly to tie this all back to my original point, which was trying to probe Tim’s posts to get to the heart of what he was trying to say, and to understand why he was saying it, however, I think I should leave this alone for now, as this post has gotten over-long as it is.

    And so to conclude I re-iterate what I said at the outset, I truly hope that nothing I’ve said above is offensive – and if so, I appologize in advance. My goal is not to p*ss anyone off, but rather to get to the truth of the matter – to understand more fully the glory and richness of the Catholic faith we share, and to apply it more and more fully to my own thinking and acting on a daily basis, and to that end, I welcome any and all fraternal correction. I crave only that you bring your best arguments to the table, because I truely believe I have much more to learn from you and from the rest of those who post and comment here at C2C!

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff Holston (yes, that’s holstOn not holstEn!) ;D

  34. Re: Jeff #31

    Apologies to one and all for the many speed-generated errors in spelling and even grammar in my post!

    “mea maxima culpa!”

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  35. francis: The Church definitely teaches that the poor need to be helped, that employers have responsibilities to society, etc.; what it doesn’t (so far as I know) teach is that those moral obligations need to be enforced by the government.

    If the government should not enforce the moral obligations of men, then what authority should have that power? What institution, besides the government, would you have enforcing the moral prohibitions against murder, rape, or theft? The prohibition of theft (the moral obligation imposed by the seventh commandant), is the foundation of at least some of the Catholic social teaching about ethical business practices. The Catholic Church does indeed teach that moral obligations that prohibit the practice of theft and economic slavery need to be enforced by the government:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    1897 “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.”

    By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.

    1898 Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.

    2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.

    2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.

    A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity. Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

    Brent: … you might be too narrowly defining laissez faire

    francis: I wouldn’t equate “laissez-faire economics” with Randian Objectivism (which, I agree, is wholly incompatible with Christianity). “Laissez-faire capitalism” is only an idea about the relation of the government to the market economy; it doesn’t have any connection to atheism.

    Point made, and point accepted. It is only my narrow (if idiosyncratic) definition of laissez faire capitalism that is condemned by the Catholic Church, because I am consciously defining a particular flavor of capitalism – a form of godless capitalism that is practiced without government interference.

    If there exists a type of laissez faire capitalism that is infused with the supernatural virtue of charity, then we could name that version as Christ-centered laissez faire capitalism. Certainly Christ-centered laissez faire capitalism (whatever that might be) would be radically different than godless laissez faire capitalism (which is a type of capitalism that has manifested itself at times in history, such as the era of the Robber Barons).

    Brent: To your quotes from the Catechism, I took note that it does not prescribe a system but rather puts forward the moral impetus of any system.

    Exactly.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    1922 The diversity of political regimes is legitimate, provided they contribute to the good of the community.

    1923 Political authority must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and must guarantee the conditions for the exercise of freedom.

    2459 Man is himself the author, center, and goal of all economic and social life. The decisive point of the social question is that goods created by God for everyone should in fact reach everyone in accordance with justice and with the help of charity.

    What the Catechism condemns are godless regimes, and godless systems – whether a regime of godless tyranny personified by the Emperor Nero (the prototype of the Antichrist), a regime of godless Communism envisioned by Marx and Lenin, or a system of godless “free market” libertarianism envisioned by Ayn Rand.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    675 … The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

    A “pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God” accurately describes Any Rand’s libertarianism, which is a type of libertarianism that is alive and very popular in today’s marketplace of political ideologies.

    Brent: Chesterton said that the two greatest enemies to freedom in our society are big government and big business. And they are also enemies of the family. As a family man, I currently feel like a small piece of lettuce squeezed between two very too large pieces of bread.

    I feel for you. Like most of us, you are suffering from the pernicious effects a system of godless Fascism:

    “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini

    “The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State.” – Benito Mussolini

  36. Brent: Lastly, the term liberal, like democrat, has certainly taken an entirely different turn in the last 50 years. However, the same could be said for republican or conservative. In popular society, conservative is a kind of curmedgeon term, whereas in the past it meant one who sought to preserve what is good in society and was salutary.

    Well said. When did ‘conservative’ become so synonymous with mean-spirited that it was necessary for Madison Avenue to market a new type of conservative, the compassionate conservative?

    The Catholic Church has been entrusted with the deposit of faith, and it is her duty to conserve that deposit and pass it on uncorrupted to every generation. In your definition of ‘conservative’ as being “one who sought to preserve what is good in society and was salutary”, every Catholic must be conservative. One could even say that the authentic Christian spirit is a conservative spirit. I feel that Anderw Preslar’s thread Ecclesial Consumerism, Redux is about the implications of that authentic Christian conservative spirit. From Andrew’s article:

    … catering to felt needs at the expense of orthodox doctrine and reverent liturgy is not very compatible with Catholicism.

  37. mateo #35:

    You said:
    “If the government should not enforce the moral obligations of men, then what authority should have that power? What institution, besides the government, would you have enforcing the moral prohibitions against murder, rape, or theft? The prohibition of theft (the moral obligation imposed by the seventh commandant), is the foundation of at least some of the Catholic social teaching about ethical business practices. The Catholic Church does indeed teach that moral obligations that prohibit the practice of theft and economic slavery need to be enforced by the government:”

    This is a typical Statist maneuver, and I’m a little surprised that you think this counts as an argument. First of all, though you seem not to recognize this, there is a difference between theft of some else’s property and failing to show charity to the poor. There is an excellent Scriptural case to be made in support of a government-enforced prohibition on Theft. However, there is nothing anywhere in Holy Scripture and there is no Church teaching I’m aware of, and certainly nothing you have so far quoted from the Catechism or any other document of the Magisterium that comes anywhere near saying that the Catholic Church teaches that the civil government should force people to show charity to the poor. Does the Catholic Church teach that people should show charity to the poor? Yes. Does the Catholic Church teach that people who have means and see their neighbor in need and do not help them will be judged by God for failing to show charity? Yes. Does the Catholic Church teach that civil government should force people to show charity to the poor? No. Nowhere. No one is to force them, because if they were forced, it would not be charity. This should be obvious, but in my experience, it tends not to be obvious to those who believe that only the State can make us holy.

    However what interests me more than the complete absence of any case in support of the supposed moral equivalence between advocacy of ordination of women to the priesthood and advocacy of laissez-faire economic principles, is the sequence or strategy employed in this exchange. The reason it interests me is that I’ve seen it many times before during my 18 years as an Anglican of various stripes before being received into the Catholic Church in 2009.

    The strategy is straightforward and usually fairly successful. It starts with attacking the terminology used by the orthodox, the words, the vehicle for discussion. The aim here is to take away the ability to say anything meaningful by attacking the use of, or the meaning of, terms which are in fact well known and understood by all parties. It is not a legitimate argument, but it’s goal is not to be ultimately persuasive or even sound, but rather to sow confusion and doubt, and to put the orthodox on the defensive.

    The second part of the strategy is to attempt to establish a false moral equivalence between some position which is clearly not orthodox (such as advocacy for the ordination of women to the priesthood), and something which some orthodox support and some do not (such as laissez-faire economic principles). Again, the goal here is not to present an argument that is ultimately persuasive or even sound, but rather to sow confusion and doubt, and, if possible get the orthodox to argue amongst themselves. (I’m particularly a sucker for this one, as you can see!)

    The third part of this strategy is to attempt to present a more “enlightened” approach, which us usually presented by means of much lofty and spiritual sounding advice which amounts to essentially some form of WWJD, but presented in a context where none of Jesus’ “brood of vipers” or “whitewashed sepulchers” vocabulary, nor Jesus’ “temple-cleansing” activity is ever mentioned. The goal here is to try to make any principled resistance of any sort by the orthodox party seem somehow less than Christian, and therefore to cause the orthodox party to simply sit down and shut up.

    I can definitely attest that this 3 part strategy has been very successful in the Anglican world, as well as in many of the rest of the mainline protestant denominations, and it’s easy to see why – because in the protestant world, there is no Truth in religion, merely opinions about religious ideas. Therefore, one opinion is, quite truly, just as good as another – or, in this case, just as “bad” as another.

    And while I praise God such is not the case in the Catholic Church, it remains to be seen how successful this 3 part strategy will be in the Catholic Church. Ultimately I believe it will fail, because I believe that the Catholic Church is the Church which Christ promised would triumph even over the gates of Hell itself. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t continue to try to use this strategy, because in the meantime, it offers a great way to provide cover for dissent in high places. Dissent amongst the Clergy & Religious. Dissent amongst Priests & Bishops. Dissent amongst administrative structure of the National Conferences of Bishops. Dissent amongst lay persons in positions of authority in Diocesan chanceries. Dissent amongst lay persons in political office. Dissent amongst cafeteria catholics who want to vote for dissenters in political office and be told they have done nothing wrong.

    And that’s why, while I’d love to trade 10 page responses for the next month proving exhaustively how each of these attempts which has been made are false and don’t hold water, I think it is important not to loose sight of the real issue – the issue which would be obscured by such time-wasting, doubt-and-confusion-sowing activities. And that is the issue which was addressed by the article at the top of this page. As far as I can see, what has transpired in the com-box of this article has done nothing but prove the point of the original article in spades.

    And for that, at least, we can all be grateful – for it means that at least this hasn’t been a total waste of time!

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff Holston

  38. Mateo,

    Thanks for all you comments.

    if there exists a type of laissez faire capitalism that is infused with the supernatural virtue of charity

    I recommend Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. It is ultimately up to the people to have infused charity not the system per se. Laissez-faire is not intrinsically evil nor the moral equivalent of the godlessness your describe. As Tocqueville is a Catholic, French-foreign commentator on American democracy and economics, I recommend the book highly. As a teaser, he also says that he expects the conversion of the US to Catholicism because of our principal of freedom of speech.

    Jeff #37

    Tocqueville famously says (something to the effect), “It is one thing for a man to reach into his pocket to give to a poor man, it is quite another for another man to reach into his pocket to give to him.”

    What socialism does is actually rob the moral agent from the opportunity to act upon infused grace. In other words, I am not being benevolent by paying taxes; if I did get credit for such, I’d move to Norway.

    God bless all,

    Brent

  39. Brent: It is ultimately up to the people to have infused charity not the system per se. Laissez-faire is not intrinsically evil nor the moral equivalent of the godlessness your describe.

    I agree that laissez-faire capitalism is not inherently evil. I am only saying that there is a particular form of laissez-faire capitalism that is evil, and that is the form that is godless. The godlessness comes not from ‘the system‘, but from the godless people that would use that system of that laissez-faire capitalism unethically. I certainly understand that one can run business and be a moral person, and I know of no reason why a capitalist can‘t become a saint. To try and shed some light on what I am saying, suppose a godless businessman goes into competition with a moral businessman man. Does the moral man have any reason to think that the government has the right and the duty to force the godless businessman to act ethically? Does the Catholic Church really teach that unethical business practices should not be regulated by the government?

    Jeff Holston: Does the Catholic Church teach that civil government should force people to show charity to the poor? No. Nowhere. No one is to force them, because if they were forced, it would not be charity. This should be obvious, but in my experience, it tends not to be obvious to those who believe that only the State can make us holy.

    It is obvious to me that ‘forced charity’ is an oxymoron, and I certainty don’t believe that “only the State can make us holy.”

    I am saying that the Catholic Church teaches that the government has the right to punish thieves, and that unethical businessmen can be very big thieves. For example: we had a brutal civil war in the USA over the issue of slavery. The Southern slave owners were laissez-faire capitalists that thought that the federal government had no right to interfere in ‘the peculiar institution‘ that was the foundation of their various businesses. The Southern slave owners were thieves that stole from their slaves what was rightly owed to them. The federal government had a moral duty to make slavery illegal. Another example from more recent times: Auschwitz was not originally planned as a death camp, it was planned as a slave camp to supply workers for the capitalists that made huge profits from forced labor. The Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation was something that capitalists invested in, and that corporation turned huge profits because of the slave labor supplied by the Nazis. Thyssen, Flick and the rest of the capitalists that invested in that corporation were thieves of the worst kind. A just government would not have allowed the Consolidated Silesian Steel Corporation to use slave labor.

    CCC 1898 Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.

    Jeff, do you think that the above cannot be construed as Catholic teaching authorizing the government to write and enforce laws that prohibit slavery – or child labor – or poisoning my drinking water?

    Jeff Holston: There is an excellent Scriptural case to be made in support of a government-enforced prohibition on Theft.

    And my point is that a godless form of laissez-faire capitalism can turn into nothing more than legalized theft.

    Jeff Holston: However, there is nothing anywhere in Holy Scripture and there is no Church teaching I’m aware of, and certainly nothing you have so far quoted from the Catechism or any other document of the Magisterium that comes anywhere near saying that the Catholic Church teaches that the civil government should force people to show charity to the poor.

    Nor have I argued that the “Catholic Church teaches that the civil government should force people to show charity to the poor.” As you have rightly pointed out, ‘forced charity’ is an absurdity, and the Catholic Church does not teach absurdities. What she does teach, however, is that government has the right and the duty to make laws that prohibit unethical business practices such as slavery, child labor, creating unsafe working conditions, etc.

    Jeff Holston: The second part of my disagreement with your comment is in your statement that “it is an easy case to make that the doctrine of morals that prohibits laisez-faire economics is moral doctrine that has also been received by the ordinary and universal magisterium.” Where to start. First of all, if it is an easy case to make, it is surprising to me that you haven’t really made any case at all in support of it! To simply poison the well by equating “laisez-faire” principles with the atheistic philosophy of Ayn Rand is not to make an argument at all, and I’m a little surprised that you wouldn’t try harder.

    I am not equating laissez-faire economics with Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I am saying that a particular form of laissez-faire economics, the godless form, can have its expression in Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

    Jeff Holston: And furthermore, the fact is, that the laisez-faire principle is NOT at all limited to such despicable and godless tripe as is turned out by Rand and her ilk. In fact, the laisaz-faire principle can be easily harmonized with the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity, because in it’s most simple form it is a principle which says that in most aspects of economic activity the greatest good for society is not achieved by having the Federal Government interfering with the the free economic activity of it’s citizens.

    Can the laissez-faire principle really be harmonized with Catholic teaching? I would say that this principle is, at best, naïve utopian thinking – i.e. to believe that a just ’free market’ can be set up that would NOT require the government to regulate is to way overestimate the inherent goodness of man. It is a Catholic teaching that men are born with fallen natures, and that fallen men are inclined to do evil. That fallen condition of man is why the government must regulate society for the common good, and that includes government regulation of marketplace activities. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was a good law because meat packing companies and patent medicine companies were killing people with their tainted products. I think that instead of defending a utopian market place ideology that will never manifest in this world, Catholics should be working for a just government that works for the common good without overstepping its bounds. A difficult balancing act to be sure, but one that acknowledges that a market without regulations is a market where the liars, cheats and thieves will reign supreme.

    Jeff Holston: In fact, the truth is, that the application of the opposite of the laisez-faire principle has and does constitute a much greater threat to the Catholic Christian applying his faith, formed as it should be by the Church’s teaching, in the area of economic activity, for when the state interferes with the free economic activity of it’s citizens, it is also inhibiting the free exercise of charity.

    Having laws on the books that force you to pay a fair share of your taxes does not hinder your ability to be charitable.

    Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? … Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
    Mark 12:14 & 17

    Jeff Holston: It is interesting, in this regard to look at what happens when you pursue the opposite of the laisez-faire principle – such as in Communist Russia …

    The system of godless Marxism would have a lot in common with a system of godless laissez-faire capitalism, namely an antichrist spirit.

  40. Jeff Holston: First of all, I completely disagree with your statement that it is wrong “to posit that the prohibition against women priests has been defined by the magisterium”. I think your own statement concerning this is ample proof that it is not only NOT “wrong” but that it is exactly “right”, because it simply IS the case that the Magisterium (in this case, the Ordinary Universal Magisterium) HAS indeed defined (that’s what “definitive” in this context means, after all) this doctrine of the Church, and that this doctrine of the Church has indeed been set forth infallibly.

    This is exactly why I was being nit-picky about what “defined” means. When it comes to Catholic dogma, formally defined is the same thing as being solemnly defined, and that can only occur when a dogma is promulgated through an extraordinary exercise of the magisterium. Inerrant dogmas that are promulgated through the Ordinary Universal Magisterium are not formally defined, even though they are definitive because the magisterium can exercise the charism of infallibility in this manner. In fact, this is how the charism of infallibility is ordinarily exercised.

    Jeff Holston: It seems patently obvious to me that the prohibition on the ordination of women to the priesthood is *inately* theological in nature – and thus *naturally* a part of the fidei depositum. However, it also seems equally patently obvious to me that the Church’s teaching as it touches on economic and political philosophy is anything BUT *inately* theological in nature. Rather, the Church’s teaching, as it touches on economic and political philosophy is, quite to the contrary, *inately prudential* in nature, and thus subject to change as historical circumstances change, and, most importantly NOT, in the nature of the case, even ELIGIBLE to be defined dogmatically as an article of faith. I’m troubled because not only does this seem patently obvious to me, worse yet, I can’t see how anyone could NOT see this – can you help me to understand why you don’t see it this way?

    The prohibition against women’s ordination is a doctrine of faith that is not solemnly defined, but is definitive nevertheless. The Church’s social justice teachings involve doctrines of morals that can also have the status of not being solemnly defined, but definitive nevertheless. Through the OUM, inerrant doctrines of both faith and morals are received by the members of the Church. There are moral doctrines of the church that rest on the moral absolutes, and ‘prudential judgment’ does not enter into the debate when one is dealing with the moral absolutes. That is why procuring an abortion incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication from the church – there are no cases where abortion can be allowed using a ‘prudential judgment’.

    A great part of the deposit of the faith is the moral teaching that has been divinely revealed. I am at a loss to understand why you would think that the moral prohibition against theft found in the scriptures would not be “eligible” to be the basis for forming inerrant doctrines of morals that prohibit theft in the marketplace.

    Jeff Holston: And so to conclude I re-iterate what I said at the outset, I truly hope that nothing I’ve said above is offensive – and if so, I apologize in advance.

    No offense taken. I enjoy the dialog with you, but we are getting off topic.

  41. Mateo #39

    Slave labor is by definition not free economic activity. Still less is slave labor which is forced by the State itself. How you could possibly think that State-run Nazi slave-labor camps is something which is described by the term “laissez-faire” was troubling to me until I reflected that you are far to intelligent to actually believe such a thing. No, like just about everything else you’ve said on this thread, this isn’t an actual argument designed to arrive at a clearer understanding of the Truth which the Catholic Church teaches – which is what I’m after. This is merely an attempt to provide cover for dissent. It fails as an actual argument because it is self refuting, but it succeeds as a strategy to sow confusion and doubt about the Truth which is taught by the Catholic Church when it is taken seriously enough by fools (like me) who waste time trying to refute something which was never intended to actually convince anyone.

    Well I’m not going to take the bait any further – been there, done that for 18 years in Anglicanism.

    In my experience, the kind of person who puts together posts such as you have presented in this thread (posts purporting, though utterly failing, to establish a moral equivalence between advocacy of ordination for women to the priesthood and advocacy of laissez-faire economic principles) is not a person who is serious about finding the Truth of what the Catholic Church teaches – whether about “ordination” of women as priests, or about the economic principles which should guide civil government. In my experience, the kind of person who puts together posts like you have here is a person who is only interested in sowing confusion and doubt about what the Church teaches in order to provide cover for dissent from that teaching.

    I’d love to believe that this isn’t you, Mateo, but every further post you make only tends to confirm this. Please, consider carefully what you are doing, and know that while it may fool some people, it doesn’t fool me – at least not any longer.

    I’m going to bow out now and let you have the last word if you care to, because it isn’t worth my time carrying on a conversation about serious matters with someone who isn’t seriously interested in finding the Truth which the Catholic Church teaches about those matters but only piling up pseudo-arguments in order to provide cover for dissent from the Truth taught clearly, definitively, and infallibly by the Catholic Church.

    May God help us all to better discern the evils of liberalism, modernism, and all other dissent, so that we can avoid what is false and foster what is True for the good of His Holy Catholic Church, and for the good of the whole human race. Amen.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

  42. All – since we are getting far removed from the topic I won’t approve further comments that are on one of the various tangents and not concerning the original post.

    Perhaps we’ll go into some of these questions later.

  43. Bishop Nickless’ pastoral letter raises some of these issues in a way that points to our Catholic tradition and continuity in the Church as the cure. A good and worthwhile read.

Leave Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe without commenting