The Papacy and the Catholic Act of Faith

Feb 26th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On Friday, April 22, 2005, I was sitting at my desk at Saint Louis University, trying to think of a good remaining reason not to be Catholic. I had been investigating the Catholic question intensely for over a year, and one by one I had been discovering that my objections were largely based on straw men or question-begging assumptions. The final obstacle for me was not a doctrinal or intellectual objection. It was the difficulty of trusting that no future pope would turn against the Tradition, and lead the Church into heresy or apostasy. Pope Benedict XVI had been selected by the conclave three days earlier, and his selection challenged me to face this difficulty thoughtfully and carefully. Was it reasonable for me, in light of the entirety of the Catholic paradigm, to treat the selection of Pope Benedict XVI as another factor in deciding whether Christ was perpetually protecting the papal office, and whether or not to become Catholic?

Pope Benedict XVI, April 19, 2005
Pope Benedict XVI on the day of his election to the Papacy
April 19, 2005

As a non-Catholic at the time, I was facing a unique aspect of the Catholic act of faith, one that is tested in the hearts of all Catholics whenever a new pope is to be selected. This aspect of the Catholic faith cannot be found in any empire, State government, political party, or corporation, and distinguishes Catholicism both from ecclesial consumerism and from every Protestant denomination.1 Intrinsic to the Catholic faith is a belief that goes beyond the notion that divine providence governs the course of events, since Catholics believe that all events, including the rise and fall of empires, nations, corporations, and denominations, occur under the hand of divine providence. Divine providence offers no guarantee that any such entity will endure, and therefore no sufficient reason to believe that when an empire, nation, corporation, or denomination selects a new leader, that leader will not conduct it to its demise. By his or her beliefs, character, experience and vision, the new leader of any such entity variously offers grounds for hope or despair concerning its successful perpetuation.

The Catholic faith, however, contains a doctrine involving Christ’s founding of and indissoluble union with the Catholic Church as His Mystical Body, sustained in part but essentially through His unique relation to St. Peter and his episcopal successors in Rome in their role as the Vicar of Christ until Christ returns. The Catholic act of faith is in this way unique, because in making this act of faith, one does not merely assent to propositions concerning Christ as considered apart from the Church, or as considered apart from any visible body on earth. One expresses faith in Christ-as-inseparably-united-to-the-Catholic-Church, and thus faith in His working in and through His Church, to guard her from error and guide her into all truth until He returns. Because of the essential role of St. Peter and his episcopal successors in the structure and identity of the Catholic Church, the act of Catholic faith includes faith in Christ regarding each successive pope, specifically faith that Christ will protect each pope in his exercise of the papal office from promulgating any false doctrine.

This kind of component does not belong to a Protestant act of faith, because in Protestantism the Church Christ has promised to protect and guide is not a particular visible body, but all Christians and denominations whose doctrine sufficiently match [what one judges to be] the gospel laid out in Scripture.2 So from the Protestant point of view, the existence of such Christians and denominations is taken to be the present fulfillment of Christ’s promise. And the future fulfillment of the divine promise is taken to mean not that any one of these presently existing denominations will remain until Christ returns, but merely that until Christ returns there will be Christians somewhere who hold beliefs sufficiently conforming to the gospel laid out in Scripture.

This difference between Protestant and Catholic ecclesiologies has an important comparative implication for the respective acts of faith. While I was a Protestant investigating the Catholic question, I wrote the following to a friend sixteen months before I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church:

In a certain way, being a Protestant requires less faith, because the Bible does not change (at least not now). If others depart from Scripture, then one just departs from them and brings the Scripture with oneself. But a Catholic must have more faith in God to guide His Church. And that is hard for me, in large part I suspect because I have been a Protestant all my life.

Four months later I wrote to this same friend:

But trusting the Holy Spirit to guide the Church is a very hard thing for a person who has been a Protestant for a long time, or from birth. It is not easy to distinguish between rightly trusting the Holy Spirit to guide the Church, and wrongly trusting that men are following the Holy Spirit (when in fact they are not). I mean, there are two ways to error. But, for a Protestant by second nature, the tendency (in my opinion) is to err on the side of not trusting the Spirit to guide the Church through the men He has appointed.

In this respect, the Catholic act of faith is more difficult, because in this act one is believing that until Christ returns He is faithfully protecting and preserving this ecclesial body in orthodoxy, rather than that at every moment until He returns, He will ensure merely that some body or other will hold doctrine in sufficient conformity to the gospel contained in Scripture. More specifically still, the concrete application of this component of the Catholic act of faith is trusting that Christ will guard and protect not just some persons somewhere, whom one then discovers and identifies by their sufficient agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, but will guard and protect this man selected to govern the Church from the Chair of St. Peter, as his 266th successor in the case of Pope Benedict XVI.3

The assent of faith in this doctrine is tested in the hearts of Catholics when a new pope is selected. If we believe this doctrine, then when a new pope is to be selected, the future prospects and possibilities arising from the ideas held by the person who will be selected provide no sufficient reason to the Catholic faithful to cease being Catholic, or to non-Catholics to become Catholic, as though some previous dogma will be overturned, or some new assurance of the preservation of Tradition has been provided. On the contrary, by faith through this doctrine we know that God in His faithfulness will continue to govern and preserve His Church, guarding her from shipwreck no matter which man is brought to her helm. Those who disbelieve this doctrine, however, embrace the Church when she agrees with them, and depart from her when she does not, flock to her when a man of their particular theological or moral party receives the keys, and abandon her when a man holding some perspective other than their own is selected for the fisherman’s throne. That stance falls short of Catholic faith and what it means to be Catholic.4

Of course as grace builds on nature, so too does the charism of the one to whom Christ entrusted the keys of the Kingdom. As history shows, a good pope can be an instrument of great good and flourishing in the Church, and likewise a bad pope can bring great harm and shame to the Church. Hence we rightly pray that God would provide a virtuous and orthodox man with the natural and spiritual gifts needed to shepherd the Church well. But that is altogether different from the stance of disbelief characterized by notions such as that if Cardinal X is selected then one will have reason to become Catholic, or that if Cardinal Y is selected then one will have reason to leave the Church. The identity of the next pope provides no reason to become Catholic, and no reason not to be Catholic, precisely because the Catholic faith concerning the Church’s government transcends the man Peter, and rests in the unbreakable promises of Christ concerning both the Church and the Petrine office. If this faith were false, there would never be sufficient reason to be Catholic, even if the pope of that time happened to be a good pope. But if this faith is true, then it is always time to become and remain Catholic, whether the next pope is a good pope or a bad pope.

As I sat at my desk that Friday and pondered that truth, I came to see clearly that the selection of Pope Benedict XVI as the next pope was not in itself evidence of Christ’s protection of the papacy, much as the selection of much less pious men for the papacy in previous times was not evidence of Christ’s failure to protect the office. Rather, what confronted me as one among many motives of credibility was the history of the papacy itself, and the very fact that there was a 266th successor of St. Peter. To make the Catholic act of faith, I would need to believe in Christ’s fidelity to the papal office not because a man like Pope Benedict XVI had been selected, as though every future pope would be such a man. Rather, I needed to believe that what Christ had done over the course of 266 successors of St. Peter, He would continue to do through that office until He returned. On the one hand I had no good reasons remaining not to be Catholic, and on the other hand I had the Church of all the ages with all her martyrs and saints, beckoning me to come as Christ bade St. Peter come to Him on the water. I pushed back from my desk, walked to the nearest Catholic church, and said the following to the first person I met there: “I’ve decided to become Catholic. What must I do to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church?”

  1. On ecclesial consumerism see here. []
  2. See “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” []
  3. On the “Chair of St. Peter,” see here. For a list of popes from St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI see here. []
  4. One does not rightly become a Catholic on the ground that one happens to believe at present all the doctrines that the Church teaches. That approach is a form of rationalism, not fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding). One rightly becomes a Catholic by an act of faith in which one assents to all that the Catholic Church teaches, even if not yet fully understanding it, on the ground of the apostolic authority of the Church’s magisterium. When we are received into the Catholic Church we say before the bishop, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” We are not saying that we just happen at present to believe Catholic doctrines. We are not merely reporting our present mental state vis-à-vis Catholic doctrine. Rather we are making a confession of faith, an act of the will whereby we are submitting to the apostolic authority of the Church in assenting to what she “believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God,” on the ground of her magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles whom Christ Himself appointed and sent. []
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  1. Thanks for this Bryan. It is truly a difficult journey, and one that requires more faith. What a hard journey it has been for me as I go through RCIA and look forward to full communion with the Church this Easter. It truly can be a test in the midst of all the controversy surrounding the Vatican and the election of the new Pope while simultaneously shifting from a lifelong Protestant paradigm. While as a Protestant I would have simply said, ” I’m not with them”, now I trust that Christ will guide the Church in the midst of controversy as He always has been faithful to do.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    On my way into the Church, people challenged my willingness to shelf the brain that God gave me, for the unpredictability of papal infallibility. Besides the awful fact that I was becoming Catholic, people were upset with my self-lobotomy. I understood their worry, for in a truth, I was giving up things that I had believed were scriptural and I knew that I would soon be allowing myself to believe doctrines that I was taught were not scriptural. I didn’t want to attach myself to something that was sketchy or idolatrous, but I also knew that I had no better reason to stand on Reformed doctrines; They could be excluding things because of modern sensibilities. I couldn’t trust their learned guesswork, because it would have its presuppositions. Anyways, you know my decision…

    But I have worried, that the warnings of my Protestant friends will be realized in that some nut will get the Papal Office and that he will make a mockery of it, and maybe even purposely decree something completely outlandish just to mess-with the minds of people. I have wondered, “What if a Pope declares that homosexual union is not a sin? Will this mean that I have misunderstood the scriptures, or that what I thought was a sin actually isn’t?” So I see that in some ways, I am not willing to check my brain at the door of the church, and that I am still allowing my reading of scripture determine what I will believe about the nature of morality. But, I also know that if that happened, I would have to give up Christianity as being a credible witness to the nature of things. My Protestant friends will wonder how it is that I could believe that a Papal declaration could cause all of Christianity to crumble, but I am certain it would. They would tell me that they are glad that I am using my mind to interpret scripture when coming to the conclusion that a papal decree such as the scenario that I gave was rotten, and that I should now renounce the RCC and join them again, but they can’t see that that would be epistemically impossible. If God has not given his people a Church that can be trusted to guide them in all truth, then He has intended us to be orphans all along( in which case even a pastor/preacher is unneccessary)or the scriptures are not really divine oracles.

    Susan

  3. Wonderful post, Bryan – thank you. This expresses so much that I have thought and felt. I cannot deny, indeed, I joyfully affirm that the issuance of Summorum Pontificum was a major “motive of credibility” for my own personal journey to the Catholic Church. However, if the Catholic Church is really the Church Christ founded, then it remains such whether the next man to sit in the Chair of St. Peter’s is going to be more like Benedict XVI or whether he is going to be more like Paul VI in his liturgical (or other) sensibilities, and as I keep reminding myself the Act of Faith must sometimes be reaffirmed – indeed is often most important – when all external signs, humanly speaking, seem to militate against it. This is for me one of the most abiding values of meditating up on our Lady Mater Dolorosa – standing at the foot of the cross, who, humanly speaking, could have seen any hope at all for the Kingdom announced by the prophet Jesus of Nazareth? And yet even in this darkest hour, charity, faith, and even hope remained in the heart of the Blessed Virgin – and so it must within our hearts as well, though they be tested ever so severely. Indeed, with eyes of faith, one can see motives of credibility even when the Church has been tested by the reign of “bad” popes – though sometimes this is easier to detect this in retrospect than it is at the time! I especially like this:

    If this faith were false, there would never be sufficient reason to be Catholic, even if the pope of that time happened to be a good pope. But if this faith is true, then it is always time to become and remain Catholic, whether the next pope is a good pope or a bad pope.

    Thanks again for a very timely post!

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  4. To Bryan’s post and Jeff’s comment both, I can only say “Amen.”

    I was a lapsed Catholic and Benedict’s election was significant to me even while still worshipping as Protestant, because from that Protestant vantage point he had the “right” doctrines. It took no act of faith to affirm this, since I was simply affirming my own theological opinions.

    I do pray that the next Pope will deepen (or at least maintain) the liturgical reforms of B XVI, but as Jeff says, the Act of Faith must be reaffirmed regardless of my personal interests in liturgical reform.

    This will be a marvelous teaching opportunity for my Protestant friends, with whom I am still very close, and I will use a good deal of what Bryan has written here about the Catholic’s Act of Faith transcending the human participants in the institution because it “rests in the unbreakable promises of Christ concerning both the Church and the Petrine office.”

    Pax Vobiscum,
    Frank

  5. Another “Amen” here.

    I remember saying something very close to this to my wife, when JPII was still Pope and we were still Protestants, “If Cardinal Ratzinger ever becomes Pope that will be a sure sign we are supposed to become Catholic”. She agreed.

    So when he actually became Pope I was stunned. But it still took us until 2010 to finally come home.

  6. Hi Bryan,

    Is there something about April 2005? I “came home” on Holy Saturday 2005 after having spent 32-plus years in various Protestant denominations, the last being Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York City. (Have you heard of the founding pastor, Tim Keller?)

    I walked into the confessional that day and received the Lord that night at the Easter Vigil. It has been a fantastic journey ever since.

    Peace,
    EJ Cassidy

  7. I remember, in 1994, when I knew that I was going to have to become a Catholic. I was determined to do so – but had heard that somehow the Pope, John Paul, had made some statement about ordaining women. I was already convinced that ordaining women was not possible – but I was absolutely determined to become a Catholic. I thought, “what will he have said? I will take it, because it’s the Pope, and I absolutely believe the Catholic Church is Jesus’s Church – but it will be very upsetting if he says women can be ordained.”

    Imagine my emotions when his statement in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was so clear.

    jj

  8. Although I did not really start thinking about the Catholic question until early 2006, I remember watching the last papal conclave with a considerable degree of interest. I recall sitting in my office refreshing the news sites every few minutes so I could find out the identity of the new pope.

  9. Enjoyed reading your post, Bryan, as well as all the comments. Very similar to my journey into the Catholic Church in 2010. I am reading a very interesting and encouraging book right now, VICARS OF CHRIST: A History of the Popes by Charles Coulombe. That the Catholic Church is still in existence is amazing. What troubles, turmoils, scandals and battles for power within the Church have taken place and here we are today about to welcome the next Vicar of Christ. There have been glorious reigns as well and we must not forget them, but those we rather expect, don’t we? Whenever I get discouraged about any issue within the Church I remember Peter, the Rock, upon whom Jesus founded His Church, a man who denied Him in a moment of fear. He was weak because he was human, but God made him strong. I believe it is the same with the Church, weak in human hearts and hands, but God makes it strong. Pax et bonum, Marija

  10. Great article Bryan.

    Suzan V. said:
    “What if a Pope declares that homosexual union is not a sin?”

    As for me, If he declared that while invoking his authority as pope, and it could be shown he was not under duress to declare it, and all the other conditions for infalibility were met…

    then I would not remain Catholic. Even the pope cannot change the natural law and declare what is evil to be good. I might at that point become Orthodox, but then there is the issue of contraception there, among other things… so for me it would be likely I would lose faith in Christ entirely. Because if the Church is capable of teaching error, then Jesus’ promise about the gates of hell was wrong, and His deity would be in question also.

    *But*, after 2000 years why would a pope all of a sudden do that? If the church at Rome can survive 2000 years without the pope teaching error, which is rediculous when you think about it, and miraculous when you examine it further, I see no reason to doubt that it will continue in Truth. I highly recommend reading B16’s final audience yesterday, where he points this fact out about the office of the papacy. He mentions at times feeling like Peter in the boat durring the storm and Jesus seems to be sleeping in the boat.
    http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/02/dear-friends-god-guides-his-church.html

    I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

  11. Hey guys,

    God’s promises do not fail, and will not fail. We’ve put our trust in Him, and I don’t even think about potential future contradictions as an intellectual exercise, let alone as a real practical worry. If a protestant says: “what if what you think are God’s promises turn out not to be because of a future contradiction,” then my response is: “I do not deal with those kind of future hypotheticals because I have the supernatural virtue of faith.” That response may not be pleasing to them. But, ultimately, it seems that the whole exercise of thinking about future hypotheticals has so many logical and practical problems with it that nipping it in the bud with an announcement of our faith is not a bad tradeoff whatsoever: there was not much real meat to be gained by the exercise in the first place.

    None of this is to criticize in the slightest the intellectual exercise that David and Susan have engaged in for the sake of dialogue with our separated brethren: I know you do it out of Love, and from a desire to be transparent to your interlocutors’ questions, and I applaud your sincerity and good will. But there is only so much the protestants have a right to ask of us. I won’t answer those kind of future hypotheticals for similar (and yet much better) reasons to why I won’t answer questions such as: “What would you do if turns out your wife has been living a double life since before you got married and none of her promises were real?” There is something odious about such a question to anyone who lives in trust and Love.

    We do the intellectual work on stuff that has already happened and as an exercise to guide our faith in God to its proper locus. But I think we can’t really do good intellectual work on what hasn’t happened yet, so there is nothing useful to be gained that can balance the loss incurred by the very act of considering odious questions.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  12. K Doran,

    Learning that the protestant notion of “The Church” was indefensible, pushed me, and others, to the edge of a precipice. The anxiety that I was experiencing because the protestant idea failed, should have been alievated when learning that the Catholic Church was my answer, but I keep rehearing hypotheticals in my head. This back and forth has been very hard. I have even tried to find another reason for the Church’s duration rather than just except that its longevity is because the Lord keeps His promises. I have been testing it to see if it is a safe place to put all my weight:) But I do this with potentially contained faith, exactly because I know that there is no place else to go. Shoot, when I heard the Catholic interpretation of the book of Romans, I knew it was correct, and this has been the case with every doctrine I’ve come across. I can know with certainty that her teaching are true because Christ will guard His Church. That She makes use of Aristotle is definately a plus and that makes her the truly Universal Church!

    I’m still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes is all:)

    ~Susan

  13. Hey Susan,

    Good to hear from you; I’ve learned a lot from your comments. Isn’t it an amazing thing about the Church (and about God in general) that the more we trust, the firmer our reasons for trusting become? I’ve never encountered anything else like that in the world, even in science or mathematics. We indeed see through a glass darkly, but God has given us reasons for the hope that is within us.

    He is a gentleman — he won’t coerce our trust. Likewise, He is God — he won’t let us coerce him the way we run experiments on nature. And all of this is because He doesn’t want us to believe in him the way we believe in F=M*A, or the way we believe in a pancake; He wants us to believe in him the way we trust in a living person. And, here is the thing: outside of heaven, I do not think any living person can be trusted without a certain element of what we call faith, and hope. Our communion with each other and with God here on earth does not seem to be capable of reaching the level where we can trust without these virtues.

    I think that because faith is a type of trust, and not just an intellectual exercise about things we can coerce or control, we will never be able to address every hypothetical, especially hypotheticals that insidiously refer to future events that may in themselves be intrinsically self-contradictory or impossible for reasons we cannot at the moment comprehend. But in Heaven, it will be a different story. Faith and Hope will be subsumed, and only Love will remain. So we’ve got to keep on that road to the promised land: I will pray for you, and you pray for me!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  14. Thanks to all of you for your comments. I agree with what K. Doran said in comment #11. Susan, the ‘shelving one’s brain’ objection presupposes that the authority to which one is submitting has not been divinely authorized in such a way as to make that submission reasonable. It is reasonable, for example to submit to an “omniscient, omnibenevolent” being, because what such a being directs me to do is more certainly ordered to that end (i.e. the good and the true) to which my own reason is most deeply ordered, because that being grasps that end and the best means to that end far better than the ability of my own reason to determine. Much as it is irrational for a chess novice to ignore the advice of a chess master, it is infinitely more irrational to refuse to submit to an “omniscient, omnibenevolent” being. So submitting to divine authority is not ipso facto irrational, or ‘shelving one’s brain.’ What is irrational is submitting to one who is not divinely authorized, or submitting to such a person in a way that does not correspond to the form of divine authority he has been given. (Think Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.) Therefore in the Catholic case the question is whether God has given to St. Peter and his episcopal successors (and the Catholic Magisterium composed of all the bishops in communion with the pope) the sort of divine authority to which the right response is the sort of submission described in the profession of faith (see the first link in footnote 11 of the “Catholics are divided too” post). That’s the conversation to have when someone raises the ‘brain-shelving’ objection — does the Catholic Magisterium have the divine authority to establish definitively which truths are dogmas and which are heresies?

    I have wondered, “What if a Pope declares that homosexual union is not a sin? Will this mean that I have misunderstood the scriptures, or that what I thought was a sin actually isn’t?” So I see that in some ways, I am not willing to check my brain at the door of the church, and that I am still allowing my reading of scripture determine what I will believe about the nature of morality. But, I also know that if that happened, I would have to give up Christianity as being a credible witness to the nature of things.

    First, as K. Doran said above, one must recognize a loaded question for what it is. The common classroom example is: “When did you stop beating your wife?” The common theological examples are “Who created God?” and “Can God make a rock so big that He cannot lift it?” And the one you just raise is also a loaded question, because it presupposes the possibility of something that is theologically impossible, according to the Catholic paradigm. So to entertain the question as if it is a neutral question presupposing only common ground between the questioner and the Catholic, is already to deny [performatively] a Catholic article of faith. The proper response to questions of that sort is to point out their question-begging character, how they presuppose a denial of some article of the Catholic faith. Christianity cannot crumble, nor can the Church, because Christ cannot be overcome, and the Church is His Body. Even crumbling depends on Christ for its very being, for He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), even crumbling.

    Second, we have a duty as Catholics to hold on to and hand down the authentic Tradition, both oral and written. Faith does not eject or diminish reason. On the contrary, faith elevates reason, increasing its range and reach. So our stance as Catholics is one of fides quaerens intellectum, and credo ut intelligam. We seek to understand and lay hold of the Tradition, by the guidance of the Magisterium as over the centuries it identifies, illumines and more deeply unfolds the deposit of faith. And in this way we come to know what the Magisterium cannot possibly say, and that if a bishop were to say x it would be contrary to the Tradition, and should not be accepted, just as St. Paul teaches in Galatians 1:8. This is the middle position between a rationalism that tests all claims by one’s own interpretation of Scripture (and/or one’s own interpretation of Tradition), and a mindless fideism that accepts as infallible whatever one’s priest or bishop (or even the pope) says regarding faith. We stand together with all the saints through the ages, affirming the same faith they affirmed, as the Holy Spirit guides us through the Magisterium into a deeper understanding, but never contradicting what has been handed down throughout the whole Church as belonging to the deposit and to be believed with divine and Catholic faith, whether as taught by the extraordinary Magisterium or by the ordinary universal Magisterium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  15. “the act of Catholic faith includes faith in Christ regarding each successive pope, specifically faith that Christ will protect each pope in his exercise of the papal office from promulgating any false doctrine.”

    Interestingly, the late Fr William Most, in an article on the “de auxiliis” issue (thomism vs molinism), points out two cases which show that, if necessary, this protection will even be at the expense of the Pope’s physical life. Quoting from:

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/2THOMIST.TXT

    When debates became acute in Spain, and people were becoming disturbed, Clement VIII in 1597 ordered both sides to send a delegation to Rome to have a debate before a commission of Cardinals.

    In March 1602 Clement VIII began to preside in person. In 1605 he very much wanted to bring the debate to a conclusion. So he worked long into the night, and finally came up with a 15 point summary of Augustine’s doctrine on grace, intending to judge Molina’s proposals by it. That would have meant condemnation of Molina and probable approval of the so-called Thomists. But according to an article in 30 Days, No. 5 of 1994, on p. 46, “But, it seems barely had the bull of condemnation been drafted when, on March 3, 1605 Clement VIII died.” Another Pope had died at the right time centuries earlier. The General Council of Constantinople in 681 had drafted a condemnation of Pope Honorius for heresy – which was untrue – Pope Agatho had intended to sign it. But he died before being able. The next Pope, Leo II, having better judgment, agreed only to sign a statement that Honorius had let our doctrine become unclear, in his letters to Sergius, which did not teach the Monothelite heresy, but left things fuzzy.

    So it seems if there be need, God will take a Pope out of this life if needed to keep him from teaching error.

  16. Hi Again K Doran,

    Here we are, on the surface of lone planet earth, with 7 billion yrs of history behind us, and we have our narrative as handed down from scripture and tradition. But this grand narrative requires that we also have something called “faith”. Almighty God, for reasons only He knows, isn’t going to knock us upside the head( Luke 16:31), even though in history he has been known to reveal Himself to others.. He isn’t going to coerce us ,you say, and I understand that you are right. But, for reasons only He knows, He wants our trust, and I can’t argue this “fact” because I am sure that this is how His world operates. Secular anthropology says that man created God in order to handle catastrophe and randomness, but Christianity starts with, “In the beginning, God”. The hardest part though, is that I don’t want my trust to give way……I scare myself. You see, I don’t want to coerce God, but I also don’t want weak faith. I want to be completely rescued, and I thought Reformed theology helped me here, but when I went through a dark night of the soul where I encountered a terrible aridity, I realized that God will not be called out to suit my infirmity. I pray and pray every day for more grace:) My faith is growing again, and I have hopeful expectation from God( as you said; “the more trust , the firmer our reasons for trusting become” )Part of my expectation is personal in that God has performed on my behalf in the past( I have worried what I or my children might have to suffer something horrific…something so horrific that their in their free will, they will reject God). A big part of my expectation is the witness and testimony of the saints…….something that Reformed tradition doesn’t acknowledge much. This aspect, is really glorious, but at the same time, because of my modernist sensibilities, it causes fear. I feel that I was pretty insulated from the prospect of martyrdom. What is more, I was taught that my zeal and love wasn’t all that important, as long as I had faith in sola fide.
    Yes, I will pray for you and I thank you for praying for me too. I also appreciate what Bryan has said and will acknowledge the “middle position”.

    Peace In Christ,
    Susan

  17. Bryan,

    Thank you for this latest blog entry. It’s interesting to note, as you did, the contrasting elements of exercising faith in Christ’s promises between the Protestant perspective and the Catholic perspective. However for me, I experienced a level of peace that I had previously not known, when I began to realize that Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church actually meant the Catholic Church, rather than some nebulous invisible church that I had been struggling to believe existed. As you put it, “the Catholic act of faith is more difficult, because in this act one is believing that until Christ returns He is faithfully protecting and preserving this ecclesial body in orthodoxy…”. But I was incredibly relieved to realize that Christ really had established a visible Church, and I no longer had to play mind games to figure out when and if the Spirit was leading me into truthful interpretation of the Scriptures. In the year since I came to that realization, I have seen my faith grow, my lack of clarity in Scripture begin to diminish, and my love for Jesus (and His mother) intensify; and this in the face of the significant difficulty of walking away from the Protestant life that I had known for 33 years.

    As I am in the last phase of preparation of full communion with the Church in one month, I also want to thank you and the other contributors at CTC for all that you have done in addressing and explaning the issues of division between the Church and protestantism. This was the first place I landed when I wanted to seek to understand what the Catholic Church had to say about the atoning work of Christ contrasted against what to me was an unsavory explanation within the Reformed tradition (which was primarily all I had really known before). The article “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement” made me hunger for more understanding of the Church; and I quickly realized that what I had previously understood of her was nothing more than a poor caricature. But an article on the Eucharist sealed the deal for me. There was no looking back at that point, which coincidentally was at Easter 2012.

    Peace,

    Lee

  18. Susan, you mean someone like Clement V?

  19. Greetings Dr. Hart!

    I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean about Clement V. I will have to read about him to see if I can follow what you are asking:)

    btw, I cannot quite make out the the pic you use for blogging, but what I can see reminds me of that “very model of a modern major general” from The Pirates of Penzance:) haha!

    Best,
    Susan

  20. I’m a casual visitor and life- long Catholic. I really enjoy the exchange between all of you and find it very uplifting. The clarity of your thinking and your generally heart-felt conviction is truly refreshing. I must admit I have tremendous respect for all of you, for embracing the Faith. I can only imagine the turmoil such a jouney entailed!

  21. Re: posts 2 & 10
    Does everyone posting here agree with Susan and David – that you would give up on Christianity if the Office of the Papacy erred? I’m really asking. I’m not playing devil’s advocate. I’m seriously investigating becoming Catholic, and several articles on CTT on the Catholic church being “the” church founded by Christ have been compelling to me. (I plan to ask some trusted Protestant brothers soon to read them and give me their feedback on two or three of them.) If the Catholic church is the church that Christ founded, then I must join; however, difficult that will be for me personally. But to say that I would give up on Christianity if it turned out that papal infallibility were not true? I don’t know about that.

    Thanks.
    Jeff

  22. Jeff (re: #21),

    Yes, I would abandon Christianity if Catholicism were false. What is the alternative?

    Hillaire Belloc, Catholic writer and historian, said that there was never a thing called “Christianity,” only the Church. If the Church is wrong, to where else do we turn?

    Pax,
    Brian

  23. Hello Jeff (#21)

    I took a lot of heat for desiring epistemic certainty because those pastors to whom I sought counsel had it stuck in their heads that was seeking to experience,now in this life, the beatific vision,so they sent me( via my husband), Dr. Michael Horton’s article that was meant to remind me that here on earth I shouldn’t seek to know anything more that what is revealed in the bible.

    * See rebuttal to that article here:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/06/some-thoughts-concerning-michael-hortons-three-recent-articles-on-protestants-becoming-catholic/

    But, when I could no longer trust that the magisterial reformers were rightly dividing the word of truth, I was no longer able to put my trust in their formularies. So when I read Dr. Horton’s article, all I could think was that he had given some really nice words, but they weren’t giving me any comfort, for I wasn’t seeking anything more than the same kind and degree of certitude that he himself had. I wasn’t trying to yank back the veil now. I was riding comforably in “the now and not yet” schema…..that made sense to me and reflected the way the world looked.
    I was completely disoriented, realizing that he was just a voice among many and even though he is highly learned and kind( I met him once and he is friendly to all), I couldn’t trust his take enough to stay Reformed, because I couldn’t trust the fallibility of those theologians where he was drawing from. If I can’t know without a doubt that sola fide is infallible then how can I trust the rest of their doctrines? You might ask why I didn’t just reject their man-made formularies and go find a church that was rightly interpreting scripture. To do this would be to trust in my own interpretation, and this was not helping my epistemic troubles, for I could not disprove their formularies by using scripture alone, but only by comparing it with other doctrines in existence that also were being drawn from the pages of inspired holy scripture.

    You see, to deny sola scriptura is to walk away from one of their fallible doctrines, and that it tantamount to rejecting God. Ask a Reformed person if is permissble to reject sola scriptura. Then imagine being in the position where you are forced to; already one is cast outside the Reformer’s camp by no design of their own, but because sola scriptura is absolutely untenable. If I could have maintained assent to that doctrine, I would glady have done so.
    Essentially it is their way or the highway:) They might as well admit that while they claim ministerial authority( what does that mean?), it behaves very magisterially. I realized that I had been giving allegience to a paper pope all along.

    It is impossible to try to find a church that accords with my plain reading of scripture. I couldn’t find a church that believed was I was trying to suppose; ie. the doctrine of justification by faith alone( as understood by the Reformers) AND the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. I was certain both of these things were biblical, but where was a church that believed this way? I saw that as long as I was presupposing what should be orthodox, sola scriptura wasn’t working for me.
    I was left holding a bible, without having a church( Not fun!!!!)

    It wouldn’t make sense that God has left us divine oracles with no way to know absolutely what they meant.

    ~Susan Vader

  24. I would be very uncomfortable, were I pope, and were I inclined to try to teach something other than Divine Truth as if it were Divine Truth.

    I remember a few decades back when Oral Roberts got in trouble for saying that unless he raised so-and-so amount of money, God was going to call him home.

    Amusing, that. But I rather expect that, where the pope is concerned, God does in fact leave open the option of “calling him home” if no other expedient will serve to prevent him from teaching error to the faithful.

    Surely the Holy Spirit speaks to the pontiff as a first measure. And sometimes Our Lord has sent saints to scold this pontiff or that, as a secondary measure. But if I were in those red shoes, I’d be careful to make sure no tertiary measures were needed, because Our Lord made a promise, and He will protect His bride and lead her, not into error, but into all truth, and the gates of hell will not prevail. In the end, pontifical cardiac arrest is as good a stopgap as any, to prevent error.

    On a related note, I notice that those nasty Borgia popes never bothered much to try to declare and define doctrine.

    Smart move on their part, I suspect.

  25. A video from today’s Missa pro eligendo Romano Pontifice:

    Cardinal Sodano’s homily at today’s Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass:

    Dear Concelebrants,
    Distinct Authorities,
    Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    “Forever I will sing the mercies of the Lord” is the hymn that resounds once again near the tomb of the Apostle Peter in this important hour of the history of the Holy Church of Christ. These are the words of Psalm 88 that have flowed from our lips to adore, give thanks and beg the Father who is in heaven. “Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo”: is the beautiful Latin text that has introduced us into contemplation of the One who always watches over his Church with love, sustaining her on her journey down through the ages, and giving her life through his Holy Spirit.

    Such an interior attitude is ours today as we wish to offer ourselves with Christ to the Father who is in heaven, to thank him for the loving assistance that he always reserves for the Holy Church, and in particular for the brilliant Pontificate that he granted to us through the life and work of the 265th Successor of Peter, the beloved and venerable Pontiff Benedict XVI, to whom we renew in this moment all of our gratitude.

    At the same time today, we implore the Lord, that through the pastoral solicitude of the Cardinal Fathers, He may soon grant another Good Shepherd to his Holy Church. In this hour, faith in the promise of Christ sustains us in the indefectible character of the church. Indeed Jesus said to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” (Mt. 16:18).

    My brothers, the readings of the World of God that we have just heard can help us better understand the mission that Christ has entrusted to Peter and to his successors.

    The Message of Love

    The first reading has offered us once again a well-known messianic oracle from the second part of the book of Isaiah that is known as “the book of consolation” (Isaiah 40-66). It is a prophecy addressed to the people of Israel who are in exile in Babylon. Through this prophecy, God announces that he will send a Messiah full of mercy, a Messiah who would say: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me… he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the wounds of broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to prisoners, and to announce a year of mercy of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

    The fulfillment of such a prophecy is fully realized in Jesus, who came into the world to make present the love of the Father for all people. It is a love which is especially felt in contact with suffering, injustice, poverty and all human frailty, both physical and moral. It is especially found in the well known encyclical of Pope John Paul II, “Dives in Misericordia” where we read: “It is precisely the mode and sphere in which love manifests itself that in biblical language is called “mercy” (n. 3).

    This mission of mercy has been entrusted by Christ to the pastors of his Church. It is a mission that must be embraced by every priest and bishop, but is especially entrusted to the Bishop of Rome, Shepherd of the universal Church. It is in fact to Peter that Jesus said: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?… Feed my lambs (John 21:15). In his commentary on these words, St. Augustine wrote: “May it be therefore the task of love to feed the flock of the Lord” (In Iohannis Evangelium, 123, 5; PL 35, 1967).

    It is indeed this love that urges the Pastors of the Church to undertake their mission of service of the people of every age, from immediate charitable work even to the highest form of service, that of offering to every person the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace.

    This is what Benedict XVI wrote in his Lenten Message for this year (#3). “Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16).”

    The message of unity

    The second reading is taken from the letter to the Ephesians., written by the Apostle Paul in this very city of Rome during his first imprisonment (62-63 A.D.) It is a sublime letter in which Paul presents the mystery of Christ and his Church. While the first part is doctrinal (ch.1-3), the second part, from which today’s reading is taken, has a much more pastoral tone (ch. 4-6). In this part Paul teaches the practical consequences of the doctrine that was previously presented and begins with a strong appeal for church unity: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4,1-3).

    St. Paul then explains that in the unity of the Church, there is a diversity of gifts, according to the manifold grace of Christ, but this diversity is in function of the building up of the one body of Christ. “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph 4:11-12).

    In our text, St. Paul teaches that each of us must work to build up the unity of the Church, so that “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph 4:16). Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the Successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity.

    The Mission of the Pope

    Brothers and sisters in Christ today’s Gospel takes us back to the Last Supper, when the Lord said to his Apostles: “This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The text is linked to the first reading from the Messiah’s actions in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, reminding us that the fundamental attitude of the Pastors of the Church is love. It is this love that urges us to offer our own lives for our brothers and sisters. Jesus himself tells us: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12).

    The basic attitude of every Shepherd is therefore to lay down one’s life for his sheep (John 10:15). This also applies to the Successor of Peter, Pastor of the Universal Church. As high and universal the pastoral office, so much greater must be the charity of the Shepherd. In the heart of every Successor of Peter, the words spoken one day by the Divine Master to the humble fisherman of Galilee have resounded: “Diligis me plus his? Pasce agnos meos… pasce oves meas”; “Do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs… feed my sheep!” (John 21:15-17)

    In the wake of this service of love toward the Church and towards all of humanity, the last popes have been builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace. Let us pray that the future Pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level.

    Moreover, this service of charity is part of the intimate nature of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this fact when he said: “The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being; (Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio Intima Ecclesiae natura, November 11, 2012, introduction; cf. Deus caritas est, n. 25).

    It is a mission of charity that is proper to the Church, and in a particular way is proper to the Church of Rome, that in the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, is the Church that “presides in charity” “praesidet caritati” (cf. Ad Romanos (preface).; Lumen Gentium, n. 13).

    My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a Pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart. We ask this of the Lord, through the intercession of Mary most holy, Queen of the Apostles and of all the Martyrs and Saints, who through the course of history, made this Church of Rome glorious through the ages. Amen.

    The text of the homily is from Vatican Radio.

  26. Below is a video of today’s procession of Cardinal Electors into the Sistine Chapel, while chanting the Litany of the Saints. This is followed by the Cardinal Electors each taking an oath, in their order of precedence. The name and country of each Cardinal Elector, in their order of precedence, is provided below, along with the Latin text of the oath, and its English translation. The catholicity of the Church is clearly visible in this video, as we see Cardinal Electors from every region of the world, and many different ethnicities:

    (The same event, accompanied by EWTN’s commentary, can be viewed here.)

    Et ego, N., Cardinalis N., spondeo, voveo, ac iuro. Sic me Deus adiuvet et haec Sancta Dei Evangelia, quae manu mea tango. [And I, N. Cardinal, N., promise, vow and swear. Thus may God help me and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.]

    1. Giovanni Battista Re, retired prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, of Italy.
    2. Tarcisio Bertone, chamberlain, of Italy.
    3. Antonios Naguib, retired Coptic Catholic patriarch, Alexandria, Egypt.
    4. Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, of Lebanon.
    5. Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels.
    6. Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany.
    7. Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
    8. Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles.
    9. Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana.
    10. Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal.
    11. Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
    12. Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, Mexico.
    13. Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid.
    14. Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan.
    15. Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
    16. Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.
    17. Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City.
    18. Francis E. George of Chicago.
    19. Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, of Poland.
    20. Crescenzio Sepe of Naples, Italy.
    21. Walter Kasper, retired president, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, of Germany.
    22. Ivan Dias, retired prefect, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, of India.
    23. Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Sao Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
    24. Audrys Juozas Backis of Vilnius, Lithuania.
    25. Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago de Chile.
    26. Julio Terrazas Sandoval of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
    27. Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.
    28. Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
    29. Juan Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru.
    30. Claudio Hummes, retired prefect, Congregation for Clergy, of Brazil.
    31. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    32. Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, Portugal.
    33. Severino Poletto of Turin, Italy.
    34. Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany.
    35. Angelo Scola of Milan.
    36. Anthony Olubunmi Okogie of Lagos, Nigeria.
    37. Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum, Sudan.
    38. Carlos Amigo Vallejo of Seville, Spain.
    39. Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia.
    40. Ennio Antonelli, retired president, Pontifical Council for the Family, of Italy.
    41. Peter Turkson, president, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of Ghana.
    42. Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi, India.
    43. George Pell of Sydney.
    44. Josip Bozanic of Zagreb, Croatia.
    45 .Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
    46. Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France.
    47. Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary.
    48. Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, of Quebec.
    49. Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome, of Italy.
    50. Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, Venezuela.
    51. Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, France.
    52. Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, of Spain.
    53. Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.
    54. Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland.
    55. Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy.
    56. Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland.
    57. Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain.
    58. Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris.
    59. Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, Italy.
    60. Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal.
    61. Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India.
    62. Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico.
    63. Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
    64. Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo.
    65. John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya.
    66. Raul Vela Chiriboga of Quito, Ecuador.
    67. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo.
    68. Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Italy.
    69. Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
    70. Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil.
    71. Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Poland.
    72. Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    73. Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany.
    74. George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
    75. Thomas Collins of Toronto.
    76. Dominik Duka of Prague, Czech Republic.
    77. Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands.
    78. Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Italy.
    79. Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
    80. Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin.
    81. John Tong Hon of Hong Kong.
    82. Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
    83. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.
    84. Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia.
    85. Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines.
    86. Jean-Louis Tauran, president, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, of France.
    87. Attilio Nicora, retired president, Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, of Italy.
    88. William Joseph Levada, retired prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of the United States.
    89. Franc Rode, retired prefect, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, of Slovenia.
    90. Leonardo Sandri, prefect, Congregation for Eastern Churches, of Argentina.
    91. Giovanni Lajolo, retired president, commission governing Vatican City State, of Italy.
    92. Paul Josef Cordes, retired president, Pontifical Council Cor Unum, of Germany.
    93. Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, of Italy.
    94. Stanislaw Rylko, president, Pontifical Council for the Laity, of Poland.
    95. Raffaele Farina, retired head, Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Library, of Italy.
    96. Angelo Amato, prefect, Congregation for Saints’ Causes, of Italy.
    97. Robert Sarah, president, Pontifical Council Cor Unum, of French Guinea.
    98. Francesco Monterisi, retired secretary, Congregation for Bishops, of Italy.
    99. Raymond L. Burke, prefect, Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, of the United States.
    100. Kurt Koch, president, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, of Switzerland.
    101. Paolo Sardi, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of Italy.
    102. Mauro Piacenza, prefect, Congregation for Clergy, of Italy.
    103. Velasio De Paolis, papal delegate overseeing reform of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, of Italy.
    104. Gianfranco Ravasi, president, Pontifical Council for Culture, of Italy.
    105. Fernando Filoni, prefect, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, of Italy.
    106. Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head, Apostolic Penitentiary, of Portugal.
    107. Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of Basilica of St. Mary Major, of Spain.
    108. Antonio Maria Veglio, president, Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, of Italy.
    109. Giuseppe Bertello, president, commission governing Vatican City State, of Italy.
    110. Francesco Coccopalmerio, president, Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, of Italy.
    111. Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, of Brazil.
    112. Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, of the United States.
    113. Domenico Calcagno, president, Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, of Italy.
    114. Giuseppe Versaldi, president, Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, of Italy.
    115. James M. Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, of the United States.

  27. The black smoke indicates that the results of the first vote of the conclave were inconclusive. A two-thirds majority is required, meaning that one person needs to receive at least 77 of the 115 votes. Voting continues tomorrow.

  28. In spite of the cold rain, a penitent pilgrim, barefoot and wearing clothes made from coarse bags, kneels in prayer for the conclave in St. Peter’s Square yesterday:

    (Source)

  29. I’m so excited to get to know our new Pope! If anyone comes across videos of then Cardinal Bergoglio in English, I’d love to see them. Until then, here are a couple I’ve found so far in high quality:

  30. Hi Susan,

    You said to Brian,

    Susan Vader February 26th, 2013 1:54 pm :

    Hi Bryan,

    On my way into the Church, people challenged my willingness to shelf the brain that God gave me, for the unpredictability of papal infallibility. Besides the awful fact that I was becoming Catholic, people were upset with my self-lobotomy. ….Susan

    My question is, why is it a self lobotomy to accept without question, what the Church teaches? But not a self lobotomy to accept what the Protestants teach without question?

    Because, I can look up what the Church teaches and confirm for myself that she is teaching the Truth. But, Protestant doctrine which contradicts Catholic Teaching is not in Scripture, even though that is what they claim.

    I was an atheist when I came back to God. I hated all creeds but the Catholic Church most of all. So I began studying the Protestant doctrines. I began with Sola Scriptura. I couldn’t find it in Scripture. Can you? Can anyone?

    I immediately thought. I have to accept this doctrine on the word of men! Isn’t that their objection about the Catholic Church? And so, I decided not to self lobotomize myself to become Protestant. I refused check my brain at the door of Protestantism.

    It was many years before I came back to Catholicism. But by that time, I realized that I had to check my brain at someone’s door. I’d rather leave it with those whose doctrines I could confirm.
    Proverbs 3:5
    Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

    May God bless you and yours on this Resurrection Day.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  31. Hello De Maria,

    Yes, I agree with you that it is not self-lobotomy to accept what the Church teaches. But operating from a sola scriptura commitment, that is what they fear I have done. I was told that I was smart enough not to let someone else tell me what to think.
    I listened to their concern( remember, when you head to Rome you are also rejecting sola fide, so this is what they feared for me most of all) as we spoke about my claim that I had found the doctrine untenable, but as long as they were certain that the reformed church fathers had rightly interpreted scripture, then they were certain that Rome had erred. So, I also agree that they are accepting Reformed claims on the authority of men. To them though, they feel safer if they can test what men teach rather than have to give complete assent to a pope. They presuppose that the bible is the all that has been revealed, and that that revelation is equally clear to all who search the scriptures, and for some reason they do not believe that interpretation belongs to the Church thay is guided by The Holy Spirit and that this is where the authority to interpret comes from. They don’t see that each denomination excludes other denominations by believing that it is either more in line with the primitive church, or that its doctrines are definitive because it’s formularies tip their hats to the preeminence of scripture. And they don’t see that once a person holds their presuppositional tradition at arm’s length, fideism fails to support them because now they are aware that they are holding a bible filled with a series of propositions that are supposedly perspicuous, but everybody interprets differently. These differences don’t faze them, however, because they rely completely on their reformed fathers getting things systemized, all though it be not infallibly systemized. That Catholic theologians interpret differently isn’t their problem. The Reformed schema just seems more gracious, so that’s what they go with.
    I have would like to know if the Reformed believe that they are the only rightful interpreters of scripture.(I did have someone tell me that he believed the Reformers were infallible and that sola fide was an infallible doctrine).
    When you hear each Protestant denomination not approving of some doctrine that belongs to the tradition of another, you begin to wonder how it is possible that the Holy Spirit leads everyone to competing truths. Later you wonder how they each live comfortably in their respective traditions when it becomes plausible that they could me mistaken about some or another doctrine of another’s tradition. They never suspect that, so maybe they are the one’s shelving their brains. But of course it is nearly impossible to step outside of your interpretive paradigm and realize that you have educated guesses and that this is all you are staking interpretation on.

    Susan

  32. Susan, but who is the rightful interpreter of the pope?

    “80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.” Syllabus of Errors, 1864 http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9syll.htm

    Is this an interpretation or does it need to be interpreted? Having the papacy doesn’t really solve the hermeneutical problem even if it provides psychological anxiety.

  33. Re #32
    Imagine if the Ethiopian Eunuch said to St. Phillip, “I appreciate your interpretation, but who’s going to interpret your interpretation for me?”

  34. dgh #32 you asked Susan,

    “Susan, but who is the rightful interpreter of the pope?”

    I know Susan can answer for herself, but I would ask you who was the rightful interpreter of Peter at the council if Jerusalem in the book of Acts:15? Peter was the leader of the Apostles but I don’t see anyone having to interpret his decision or the councils decision before sending Paul and Barnabas back out to the Church in Antioch. Why would the Pope need anyone to interpret his decisions other than the council of bishops of the Church with whom he makes his decisions? The bishops are the ones who would be putting the decisions into play.

    Blessings
    NHU

  35. @dgh (#32):
    It doesn’t seem to me that Susan is ignoring the hermeneutical problem. She simply has good ontological reasons for concluding that there can be a solution to the hermeneutical problem, i.e., for concluding that there is an objective meaning to be found and that the method is conducive to finding it. In particular, the office of the papacy is itself situated in Tradition that has endorsed the authority of Scripture and many Councils, all of which necessarily confine what anything the Pope says could possibly mean. In contrast, Protestantism puts faith in the meaning of Scripture itself, making the hermeneutical circle vicious rather than virtuous.

  36. Darryl Hart,

    I really think you are being completely sincere. I appreciate that you, have taken my epistemic angst seriously, so thank you for that. ( I honestly felt surges of sobs starting to well up)
    At least somebody in Protestantism actually sees that I a problem presents itself. And Darryl, my friend, this is exactly why I would have to give up on Christianity completely. If I had to float around with a book, and didn’t know who to trust with its intepretation, then God had left us orphans and I was forced to come to the conclusion that it was a book of mythology or a book of moral codes and wise sayings. But I didn’t want to accept that that was all it was, so I began to entertain the idea that perhaps there was a Church on earth that knew all that was within it.
    You are on the verge of discovering the miraculous. God be with you.

    Susan

  37. Darryl – and as a PS to what Jonathan says in #35

    It doesn’t seem to me that Susan is ignoring the hermeneutical problem. She simply has good ontological reasons for concluding that there can be a solution to the hermeneutical problem, i.e., for concluding that there is an objective meaning to be found and that the method is conducive to finding it. In particular, the office of the papacy is itself situated in Tradition that has endorsed the authority of Scripture and many Councils, all of which necessarily confine what anything the Pope says could possibly mean. In contrast, Protestantism puts faith in the meaning of Scripture itself, making the hermeneutical circle vicious rather than virtuous.

    The additional point is that if there appears to be some ambiguity about a pronouncement of the Church or the Pope, I am not left with using my own reason plus searching the Scriptures to resolve it. I can ask the Church to clarify. This is what we mean by saying that we have a living Magisterium.

    jj

  38. Darryl,

    I didn’t really give you an adequate response because I got excited that you actually saw the problem.

    So you said:”Having the papacy doesn’t really solve the hermeneutical problem even if it provides psychological anxiety.”

    But it does solve the epistemic problem that was rooted, not in hermeneutics, but in who’s hermeneutic. “If” ingrained into the Catholic hermeneutic is a mechanism for interpretation then my problem is solved, right? The alternative is one’s own, that agrees with a segment that also may or may not be right.

    It is as Jonathan said: (my)”ontological reasons for concluding that there can be a solution to the hermeneutical problem, i.e., for concluding that there is an objective meaning to be found and that the method is conducive to finding it. In particular, the office of the papacy is itself situated in Tradition that has endorsed the authority of Scripture and many Councils, all of which necessarily confine what anything the Pope says could possibly mean. In contrast, Protestantism puts faith in the meaning of Scripture itself, making the hermeneutical circle vicious rather than virtuous.”

    Why can you give assent to the segment that may or may not be right( and you know have to concede that they system by its own admission doesn’t provide an infallible switch; I mean it gives you no guarantee) but not to a locus that not only says it is the rightful interpreter, its claim accords with a doctrine that is ingrained in the texts themselves. This is a far cry from sola scriptura that has no principled way to determine opinion from truth.
    Don’t give up:) Oh, and are you on FB? I searched your name, but it only gave me a web link to your Old Life blog.

    Susan

  39. Dr. Hart( I should have addressed you this way from the first)

    Please tell me what you do with doctrines that are contrary to a Reformed schema.
    As I said, when I held my own Reformed presuppostion at arms length, I no longer had a sure fire way to know if it was true.
    What is your principled way to know if this is opinion or theological truth, please?

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/reformed-catholic.gif

    Thank you kindly,
    Susan

  40. Jonathan P., that’s interesting since I hear the infalliblity of the papacy has been invoked on only two occasions. All that certainty, so little clarity.

    BTW. if you think that remark is snotty, then consider why the popes have been so lenient with the Jesuits and the nuns.

  41. dghart,

    Please do not ignore the questions being asked of you. Remember that there are thoughtful not-yet-maybe-never-will-be Catholics (i.e., Protestants) reading this. Ignoring Catholic questions and responses only reinforces their sense that Protestantism does not have answers — a sneaking suspicion that led them to this combox to begin with.

    See comments #33 and #34 above. As a former, thoughtful, not-yet-maybe-never-will-be Catholic who became Catholic, I’m still interested in your answers as well.

    Kindly,

    Brent

  42. Brent,

    At the risk of question begging, what’s a protestant to do? The original apostles apostolic authority had been established and isn’t in dispute. Rome affirms the magisterium’s ongoing apostolic authority per succession, protestantism denies such a ‘living magisterium’ though not a visible church with officers no less. Sometimes being ecumenical means building good fences rather than always trying to find a way around them. The lexicon and tradition, sola ecclesia etc. tends to keep these conversations short but at least honest. But if RC is gonna play the living magisterium’s charism card, I sure would like to see more charism, beyond a hermenuetic of reform………continuity but not rupture, some 40 years later. As pope Paul said; “it’s the devil’s fault” and we know the devil lives in the details.

  43. Dr. Hart,

    In comment #41 above, Brent mentions the importance of answering thoughtful questions here. In another thread, I posed some questions to you (ones that I, at least, think are thoughtful) that were never answered. Perhaps you missed them (while trying to answer the many comments to you from others), or perhaps you took my questions to be purely rhetorical ones. I am genuinely interested in hearing how you would answer them. Here is the link to the relevant comment in that thread: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/03/habemus-papam/#comment-48608

  44. sean,

    At the risk of question begging, what’s a protestant to do?

    At the risk of begging the question, myself, the answer is to become Catholic. ; – )

    Sometimes being ecumenical means building good fences rather than always trying to find a way around them. The lexicon and tradition, sola ecclesia etc. tends to keep these conversations short but at least honest.

    I’m not sure what you mean here.

    But if RC is gonna play the living magisterium’s charism card, I sure would like to see more charism, beyond a hermenuetic of reform………continuity but not rupture, some 40 years later. As pope Paul said; “it’s the devil’s fault” and we know the devil lives in the details.

    “Like to see” cannot be the measure by which one affirms or rejects the Church that Christ established. For example, if I were in the first century and would “like to see” more Jerusalem Council like authority exercised, but in the case of the Biblical witness there is only one example of the Church convening and teaching authoritatively — despite all of the heresies rampant at the time — then either I submit to that Church (the one that Christ established) or I reject her because she doesn’t do enough for me (I hope you get my drift). I don’t think that is the right way to go, what say you?

    If my comment missed your point, I apologize, and please clarify if you have time.

    Warmly in Christ,

    Brent

  45. It’s alright Brent, I generally shoot from the hip in a combox 2-5 minutes is my rule, otherwise I don’t know it well enough to make a good case and I don’t get paid to be on the internet. My point is, we would generally deny each other’s starting points for determination of authority. We don’t share a paradigm and we oppose each other’s principled starting points. So, we don’t get very far before we run into obstacles talking to each other about our faith. I think it’s fine to put on the other guy’s paradigm and see the ‘world’ as he sees it, but if it’s unconvincing, or as the case may be, faith is lacking, it really isn’t helpful to try to work around another’s conscience on the issue. Ecumenism generally ends up with one side conceding ground that should render his position untenable but most often what you see is an accord reached where the party who concedes critical ground hasn’t realized what they’ve actually done.

    Aside from that, the “like to see” comment isn’t anymore ‘unprincipled’ than the conjecture I’ve heard put forth on numerous occasions at CTC of “wouldn’t it have made sense that God would’ve left a sole visible church that could be found?” and other such similar assessments. It’s ok, I’m not dinging anyone for it, we all start somewhere, it’s just not compelling to me. Furthermore, if you’re gonna hang your faith, in some regard, on a church uniquely invested with charism and that charism is further going to be uniquely manifested in the pope, as a cradle, and now a protestant I’d hope to see or imagine a better interpretive outcome than what we’ve seen so far from Vat II, for example. Particularly a document that was intended to be pastoral and thus more readily available for ready application. Pope Paul blamed the devil for the confusion, and Benedict put forth a broader interpretive grid in 2005 some 40 years later; reform…..continuity but not rupture. It’s something, but not on the level of charism that we have from the original apostles and inscripturated, canonical authority. Here we are going to deny each other’s points of faithful authority. This type of dialogue is at least respectful of conscience and each communion’s bounding. Hopefully that’s more clear, even if not agreeable.

  46. Nelson, I don’t read Acts 15 the way you do or even the way Acts 15 reads. Isn’t it odd that James speaks for the council, not Peter. Acts 15 is a case for conciliarism and against Peter as supreme among the apostles.

    But if you’re going pass everything through an ontological grid as Nelson does, then texts and history don’t really matter. Funny, I know some Reformed Protestants who also put philosophy before observations. I expect they may join Rome when they see how much more philosophy you guys have. But if they stick to the Bible, they should be fine.

  47. sean,

    It’s alright Brent, I generally shoot from the hip in a combox 2-5 minutes is my rule, otherwise I don’t know it well enough to make a good case and I don’t get paid to be on the internet.

    I don’t get paid either, but I try hard to be a good communicator because — like I would tell my students — your desire to communicate in a way that is intelligible to your audience shows your love for your audience, and ultimately your respect for their unique dignity as a human being. But, I digress.

    the “like to see” comment isn’t anymore ‘unprincipled’ than the conjecture I’ve heard put forth on numerous occasions at CTC of “wouldn’t it have made sense that God would’ve left a sole visible church that could be found?” and other such similar assessments. It’s ok, I’m not dinging anyone for it, we all start somewhere, it’s just not compelling to me.

    I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but I don’t think the intuition you are describing is a kind of first impulse. I think it is more inductive. Further, a positive induction works differently than a negative induction. In our example, you are comparing “like to see” with “wouldn’t it have made sense that God…”. The parallel is in the inductive features of both, but that is where it stops. First, note the difference between “like” and “made sense”. When a Protestant realizes from Scripture, history and reason that it “makes sense that God…”, he doesn’t like it. It actually is angering. I remember calling someone and ranting for days, stomping around my house with a Lutheran zeal, and declaring (in my mind) I would never be Catholic. This is a lot different than someone not “liking” the way The Church has handled Vatican II. One is about preference, another about reason. Now, if your take is that “it just makes sense that…”, then I would like to hear that version as well. Lastly, note that the later induction is an affirmation, the former a rejection. When I affirm something, I submit to the truth of it. When I reject something, I assert that I know better than it.

    That is all I will say about that for now. I would, however, ask that you consider that the The Church is not dealing with Vatican II, but rather two other forces:

    1. The general evil that has been released in this world since around that time (secularism and so forth). This evil has pretty much decimated mainline Protestantism, which was orthodox on average only 60 or so years ago. This evil now pervades every part of our culture.

    2. The prevalence of contraception which is rooted at the core of the human person (sexuality). Moreover, the resistance MOST American Catholics gave — visibly — in response to Humanae Vitae.

    I pray for the stemming of both evils. Amen.

    In Christ,

    Brent

  48. dgh,

    Acts 15 is a case for conciliarism and against Peter as supreme among the apostles.

    I disagree, and I think another plausible interpretation can be given. Nevertheless, if that is the case, why aren’t you a conciliarist? Or, is all of this just smoke and jab?

  49. Brent,

    That was a little much about “like to see”. To be more pointed, if as an RC, you want my faith to expand to embrace the charism of the roman magisterium and uniquely the pope, and that per apostolic succession, then the charism exhibited needs first to be in agreement with original apostolic teaching without departure and then subsequent appeal to extra-canonical tradition, and of at least a similar quality in regards to not merely authority but explanatory power. The first qualification immediately brings us to loggerheads and the second is a matter of observation and reading text without appeal to faith claims of searching out continuity and charitable readings that require same faith posture. The original apostles made claims in the midst of hostile witnesses and with great detail(this man Jesus is the son of God with power and has risen from the dead), even perspicuously comprehended by those without supernatural faith.

    As I stated previously ecumenism sometimes means building good fences so we don’t misrepresent the other’s position, even when the other side forgets to dot their I’s and cross their T’s, if you will. Respect of imago dei conscience requires such a consideration. Otherwise, all you’ve done is bested the other person not refuted the claims of their faith or legitimately engaged the issues.

  50. Brent, you may read Acts 15 differently, but I missed how Peter was the face of the council. In fact, I missed Peter’s presence for the entire second half of Acts and the NT.

    I am a conciliarist. I am a Presbyterian. We put the “commit” in committee.

  51. Brent, it’s pretty interesting by the way that you say secularism is the great evil against which the church stands. In point of fact, Rome was standing against secularism long before Vatican II. That’s what the Syllabus of Errors, Americanism, and Modernism were all about. And then — voila — Rome decides to engage the modern world, as if the bishops didn’t know that secularism since 1789 was alive and well.

    You guys need to read more history and less philosophy.

  52. Dgh,

    Recognizing that contraception was a watershed that ushered in a unique secularism in the modern era in no way is incompatible with the secularism we both affirm started taking root much sooner. I will admit before the 18th century. Remember, I am a student of history first. So, telling me to read more history is mistaken if not puerile.

    History can tell us what happened, but philosophy can determine what those events mean to us. So, endlessly pointing at history as if it agrees with your interpretation full stop gets little purchase. It just demonstrates, when done over and over again, that one has not reflected enough on the philosophical assumptions they bring to the data of history.

    Lastly, if I were a homosexual Pentecostal who followed a Presbyterian form of government, would that make me as conciliar as you? If so, who cares? If not, why?

    Kindly,

    Brent

  53. @Dr. Hart (#40 and 51):

    I hear the infalliblity of the papacy has been invoked on only two occasions. All that certainty, so little clarity.

    BTW. if you think that remark is snotty, then consider why the popes have been so lenient with the Jesuits and the nuns.

    It seems that you’re failing to make a distinction here that the metaphysical argument I’ve been discussing makes, so I will try to make the distinction clearer. Because there is an ontological object of faith that is independent of any subjective interpretation, there is a distinction akin to the distinction in physical science between the physical phenomena being studied and the interpretation thereof. There’s no question of events actually happening, so that grounds the possibility that even erroneous interpretations can be corrected. So it is with the Catholic object of faith. No individual can have a comprehensive, perfect understanding, but because there is an object there to be studied, it is possible to improve one’s grasp and correct one’s errors.

    In that respect, individual errors can be a pastoral problem, but they are not a problem for the object of faith itself. That’s not to say that people can’t practice theology either incompetently or in bad faith, but there is at least the possibility of improvement. But just as I have distinguished the object of faith from the subject, there is a tremendous gap between the subjective error of someone who nevertheless accepts the authority of the object of faith and one who denies the object of faith. The former is a kind of error that does not necessarily entail the rejection of divine truth; the latter is the kind of error that does.

    With respect to the former errors, the Church has widely varied on how Her disciplinary authority is used, notoriously strict in some cases (e.g., Galileo) and notoriously lax in others (e.g., the Jesuits and nuns that you mentioned). But since it is a pastoral, not a dogmatic, question, and one could always second-guess whether the Church has been too strict or too lax. These are unavoidable problems when dealing with human beings.

    The failure to distinguish between the types of errors leads me to believe that you misinterpret Catholic teaching here. This is possibly because Protestantism necessarily conflates the subjective influence of the Holy Spirit with objective revelation, thereby collapsing the distinction I’ve identified earlier. For example, you said:

    In point of fact, Rome was standing against secularism long before Vatican II. That’s what the Syllabus of Errors, Americanism, and Modernism were all about. And then — voila — Rome decides to engage the modern world, as if the bishops didn’t know that secularism since 1789 was alive and well.

    Here, there is an additional distinction between those who have accepted the object of faith and those who never have. The second group is not necessarily in a position to engage in the denial that I outlined previously. The first group is, and there is a further distinction between the kinds of errors that I outlined earlier. Americanism, modernism and secularism can each involve denial of the object of faith, but they do not necessarily do so. By contrast, leaving Catholicism for any other religion or for secularism almost always does. That sort of departure from the faith is repeatedly condemned, such as in Unam Sanctum (Pope Boniface) and Cantate Domino (Eugene IV, Council of Florence), which are addressed not outside the Church (as Vatican II was) but within.

    It doesn’t seem to me that you are distinguishing between erroneously denying particular beliefs while holding the object of faith and denying the object of faith entirely. It also doesn’t seem that you are distinguishing between culpable denial and ignorance. Consequently, you appear to be striking quite vicious blows against a straw man. But your concerns about liberalism are quite valid for your own Protestant faith, so I hope that the idea of actually having an object of faith that is by its nature immune to liberalism may both help you to understand the Catholic faith and to persuade you of its merits, as many here have seen.

  54. Brent, why would you go to philosophy for the meaning of history? You’re a Christian right? So why not theology?

    And given what the RC Church has gone through of late, you’re not really going to bring up gay clergy, are you?

    As for a homosexual Pentecostal who followed Presbyterian government, it doesn’t make him a conciliarist any more than the Lutheran Church having bishops makes them Roman Catholic.

  55. Jonathan, what exactly is your object of faith? I trust God. It sounds to me like you trust the papacy.

    If you do, you may want to modify this claim: ” leaving Catholicism for any other religion or for secularism almost always does. That sort of departure from the faith is repeatedly condemned. . .”

    Not any more. Your magisterium at Vatican II says that as long as I try to be the best of my abilities, it should all work out.

  56. Dghart,

    Philosophy either properly or improperly disposes one to theology. Maybe you can be more specific to help me understand how you think your latest comment sheds light on the discussion at hand.

    The gay clergy comment is a non sequitur and ad hominem. That is philosophy speak for theology speak: tale bearing and foolishness. So, if you are adverse to the former, accept the latter as clarification as to my criticism.

    Regarding your last comment about conciliarism, could you clarify why you think that to be the case? At this point, I do not understand your analogy nor to what it alludes.

    Kindly,

    Brent

  57. @Dr. Hart:
    My object of faith is the triad of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, of which the papacy is only one piece.

    You’re mistaken about Vatican II. Apostates fall under the condemnations of Unam Sanctum and Cantate Domino. There is only remote hope for them; they are most likely damned.

  58. Jonathan, but I am not apostate. I am a separated brother, remember?

  59. Brent, if you start with Aristotle and go to Aquinas you may have a point about philosophy leading to theology. But I read the Bible where philosophy was not all that important to the Hebrews, nor was it particularly important to Peter.

  60. @Dr. Hart (#58):
    I didn’t mean to imply anything about you personally in any of those comments. All I am saying is that there is a difference between Protestants who have never left Catholicism and Protestants who have. While they are all “separated brethren,” the latter are separated through their own fault and therefore excluded of salvation unless they return to the Church. Other separated brethren may not be separated by their own fault, and it is those for whom Vatican II holds out hope.

  61. dghart,

    The Hebrews and Peter weren’t much for physics or biology, but I’m sure that won’t stop you from hesitating when you get to the edge of a tall building or getting a colonoscopy if or when you may need it someday.

    If you noted my transliteration of philosophy speak, the Bible is chalked full of philosophy. It is called wisdom. Others say it was the way God was working in the gentiles to prepare them for The Logos (Plato was reading Moses). Despite what some say, Jerusalem and Alexandria are not on opposite sides of the world (you can confirm this by looking on a map : ) ). Throwing your hands up in the Biblicist air and declaring, “I don’t need my surgeon, I have 1 Timothy!”, misunderstands the role of other sciences in relationship to Revelation. Unless, of course, you have swallowed the Humean pill of skepticism regarding the possibility of what we can know philosophically. Assuming the best or worst, in this one instance, we get the best possible example of where history and philosophy collide (and where my interests collide). We might call it the history of ideas. So, to be ignorant of history (I agree) leads one inevitably to positions he cannot navigate out of. However, learning more history will only help one identify why he holds “x”, but it will do little to help him throw it off. Wisdom (philosophy) does that.

    Anyways, sir, I’m not sure we can cover all the ground on that subject in this combox given the thread to which it is married. In my last comment, I asked for clarification about your comment, and since you did not respond, I wanted to bring it back to your attention just in case you missed it. You wrote:

    As for a homosexual Pentecostal who followed Presbyterian government, it doesn’t make him a conciliarist any more than the Lutheran Church having bishops makes them Roman Catholic.

    I want to see what you mean by this. David, Solomon and Christ used analogies, so I’m not going all philosophical on you. I get the main of your point: simply acting a certain way doesn’t make you a certain thing. However, if you follow our conversation, this rabbit trail came about because of your interpretation of Acts 15. In that, you were implying that Acts 15 proves a conciliarist form of government. Me mentioning a homosexual pentecostal who practiced a Presbyterian form of church government wasn’t to draw the Presbyterian analogy, but rather to draw the conciliarist analogy. Meaning, a homosexual pentecostal picks up his Bible, reads Acts 15, and says, “Dgh is right, conciliarism is the way to go!” He then goes about practicing a form of conciliarism. What makes his any less valid than yours? Is there something else, in terms of authority, besides conciliarism, that is doing the heavy lifting in your church government?

    -Brent

  62. De Maria (30)

    You said…

    So I began studying the Protestant doctrines. I began with Sola Scriptura. I couldn’t find it in Scripture. Can you? Can anyone?

    Sure… I can.

    Matthew 15
    1 Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

    8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far away from Me.
    9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

    Tradition of the church does not supersede God’s word. In fact, it can be the path to hypocrisy, even in the one true church that God ordained… as with the Pharisees.

    Colossians 2:8
    6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

    God has rooted the believer, and built up the believer in faith. continuing with…

    8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

    Apparently, we are given sufficient wisdom to shield our faith against philosophies, deceptions and the traditions of men. Our focus is the one mediator… Christ.

    Ephesians 6
    10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    What is the sword of the Spirit??? The word of God. Do you see tradition anywhere in this list? No. Why? Because God has given us Scripture, and it is sufficient for faith and practice.

    1 Thess 2
    3 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

    The word of God… apparently sufficiently to bring people to Christ at the time of Paul.

    1 Tim 4
    4 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

    Tradition here? No. The word of God and prayer… that is how we avoid false doctrine.

    Hebrews 4
    12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    Got any support for tradition that sounds like that? No.

    Revelation 22
    18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

    Interesting that the Church fathers chose to end Scripture with this verse. Scripture contains everything we need to know to believe in Christ and follow Him. To the extent that catholic tradition affirms these truths, great! To the extent that Catholic Tradition adds to Scripture… one must ask: why was this not included in Scripture? Did someone make a mistake? Or has the Church overplayed its hand?

    Blessings
    Curt

  63. Regarding ##2, 10, 20-23,

    Were the RCC to err and one were to abandon the RCC, would one really have to renounce Christ and abandon Christianity, too? Instead of saying, “Yes, because how can I trust him if he was wrong about founding an infallible church?”, couldn’t one just say, “Well, perhaps we were wrong about what Christ meant about the gates of hades not prevailing against the church.” Of course, the rejoinder may be to go the skeptical route and say, “Then how can I trust anything that he says?” “Here,” Christ says, “Put your hand in my side,” may be the surrejoinder.

    So my question is this: suppose, for the sake of argument, that the RCC is not the church Christ founded. You still seem to have something like Christ’s resurrection from the dead to deal with, right? Would you really want to say, “If Rome is not the church that Christ founded, then Christ did not rise from the dead”? That seems like a hard pill to swallow.

    So, couldn’t one just adhere to some very minimal sort of “mere Christianity” in the end, were RCC to teach error dogmatically, thus, demonstrating that it is not the true church?

    I’ve received conflicting responses from Catholic friends that I highly respect, so I’d be curious to hear people’s responses.

  64. Veritatis Unitas, (re: #63)

    How a person answers your question depends on whether or not that person answers from the standpoint informed by supernatural faith, which includes the doctrine of the Church. From the standpoint informed by supernatural faith, not only do all the articles of faith necessarily hang together (cf. here), but the protasis of your conditional (“were the RCC to err”) is impossible, as is your hypothetical supposition (“the RCC is not the church Christ founded”), as K. Doran mentioned in comments #11 and 13, and I affirmed in comment #14. However, if one does not approach your question from the standpoint informed by Catholic faith, and instead views the Catholic Church’s identity and doctrine as merely one possible theological position among many others, then of course it is possible not to see the truth of Christ’s resurrection as in any way interdependent on the truth of every teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Nevertheless, even at the level of motives of credibility, there is some reason to think that the motives of credibility for both Christ and the Church all hang together. As Blessed Newman writes:

    I came to the conclusion that there was no medium [i.e. middle position], in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below, must embrace either the one or the other. And I hold this still: I am a Catholic by virtue of my believing in a God; and if I am asked why I believe in a God, I answer that it is because I believe in myself, for I feel it impossible to believe in my own existence (and of that fact I am quite sure) without believing also in the existence of Him, who lives as a Personal, All-seeing, All-judging Being in my conscience. (“Apologia,” p. 198, ed. 1883.)

    He explains this in more detail in his “Note 2” where he writes:

    This peculiarity I first found in the history of doctrinal development; in the first instance it had presented itself to me as a mode of accounting for a difficulty, viz. for what are called “the Variations of Popery,” but next I found it a law, which was instanced in the successive developments through which revealed truth has passed. And then I reflected that a law implied a law-giver, and that so orderly and majestic a growth of doctrine in the Catholic Church, contrasted with the deadness and helplessness, or the vague changes and contradictions in the teaching of other religious bodies, argued a spiritual Presence in Rome, which was nowhere else, and which constituted a presumption that Rome was right; if the doctrine of the Eucharist was not from heaven, why should the doctrine of Original Sin be? If the Athanasian Creed was from heaven, why not the Creed of Pope Pius? This was a use of Analogy beside and beyond Butler’s use of it; and then, when I had recognized its force in the development of doctrine, I was led to apply it to the Evidences of Religion, and in this sense I came to say what I have said in the “Apologia.” “There is no medium in true philosophy,” “to a perfectly consistent mind,” “between Atheism and Catholicity.”

    The multitude of men indeed are not consistent, logical, or thorough; they obey no law in the course of their religious views; and while they cannot reason without premisses, and premisses demand first principles, and first principles must ultimately be (in one shape or other) assumptions, they do not recognize what this involves, and are set down at this or that point in the ascending or descending scale of thought, according as their knowledge of facts, prejudices, education, domestic ties, social position, and opportunities for inquiry determine; but nevertheless there is a certain ethical character, one and the same, a system of first principles, sentiments and tastes, a mode of viewing the question and of arguing, which is formally and normally, naturally and divinely, the organum investigandi given us for gaining religious truth, and which would lead the mind by an infallible succession from the rejection of atheism to theism, and from theism to Christianity, and from Christianity to Evangelical Religion, and from these to Catholicity. And again when a Catholic is seriously wanting in this system of thought, we cannot be surprised if he leaves the Catholic Church, and then in due time gives up religion altogether. I will add, that a main reason for my writing this Essay on Assent, to which I am adding these last words, was, as far as I could, to describe the organum investigandi which I thought the true one, and thereby to illustrate and explain the saying in the “Apologia” which has been the subject of this Note. (Note 2. “On the alternative intellectually between Atheism and Catholicity”)

    Earlier he had written:

    A Protestant is already reaching forward to the whole truth, from the very circumstance of his really grasping any part of it. So strongly do I feel this, that I account it no paradox to say that, let a man but master the one doctrine of the Being of a God, let him really and truly, and not in words only, or by inherited profession, or in the conclusions of reason, but by a direct apprehension be a Monotheist,” (that is, with what in the foregoing Essay I have called a “real assent” as following upon “Inference,” and acting as a fresh start) “and he is already three-fourths of the way towards Catholicism. (quoted in Note 2. “On the alternative intellectually between Atheism and Catholicity”)

    This fundamental choice between Catholicism and atheism he sees to be grounded in the fact that (a) the order and majestic growth of doctrine in the Catholic Church, contrasted with the deadness and helplessness, or the vague changes and contradictions in the teaching of other religious bodies, argues a spiritual Presence in Rome that empirical observation shows to be nowhere else, (b) Catholicism is the only way to avoid arbitrariness with respect to doctrine and catholicity (cf. here), and (c) on account of its divine establishment and divinely authorized Magisterium, only the Catholic Church is capable of withstanding the tendency toward atheism that follows from autonomous reason. “Unlearn Catholicism,” writes Newman, and the “infallible succession” is “Protestant, Unitarian, Deist, Pantheist, Sceptic.” “When a man does not believe in the Church, there is nothing in reason to keep him from doubting the being of a God.” “There is nothing between it (the Church) and Scepticism when men exert their reason freely.” (“Discourses to Mixed Congregations,” pp. 262, 263, 283)

    So in that case while an individual can fail to see any connection between the truth of the Church and the deity and resurrection of Christ, there are reasons to believe that the truths go together such that if (per impossibile) one were false, this would call the truth of the other into question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  65. Thanks, Bryan, especially for the Aquinas link.

    I think there are two distinct issues here. One is in the realm of epistemology, the other in the realm of metaphysics.

    The epistemological question seems to be what Aquinas is addressing, where all the doctrines “necessarily hang together” (as you put it) given that they are all taught through one divinely authoritative voice.

    But I’m interested in the metaphysical question concerning questions of ontological dependence relations. Take for example, the relation between Christ being raised and ascended into glory and the assumption of Mary (cf. Munificentissimus Deus 39). I want to say that the assumption of Mary essentially depends for its truth, at least in part, on Christ being raised and ascended into glory such that if Christ has not been raised, then neither has Mary. But the truth of Christ being raised and ascended into glory depends in no way for its truth on the fact that Mary was assumed into heaven. I mean, how could it? Mary was still alive when Christ was raised and later ascended into heaven. So, here is an example where we have one doctrine (Mary’s assumption) asymmetrically depending on another doctrine (the resurrection and ascension of Christ), at least in part, for its truth. So, in the realm of ontology we get the following:

    (a) If Christ has not been raised to glory, then Mary has not been raised to glory.
    (b) If Christ has been raised to glory, him being raised to glory does not *necessitate* the truth that Mary was raised to glory (here I am denying truthmaker necessitarianism). But Christ being raised to glory would be the *grounds* for Mary being raised to glory *if* she was in fact raised to glory.
    (c) If Mary has not been raised to glory, then Christ has been raised to glory.
    (d) If Mary has been raised to glory, then Christ has been raised to glory.

    So, whether Mary was raised or not raised to glory, Christ has been raised to glory. But the truth of whether Mary was raised to glory depends, at least in part, on the truth of whether Christ was raised to glory.

    So, if Mary was not in fact assumed, that does not touch the fact of Christ’s resurrection. But now back to the epistemology. Let’s say I come to believe that Christ was raised from the dead, not on the basis of the Church’s authority, but through the testimony of 1st century writings, whether Christian or not. For example, even non-Christian scholars will grant that (at least some) of the letters with the name “Paul” were written by the apostle Paul himself (e.g. Romans and 1 Corinthians). So I come to believe that Christ was raised but either deny or strongly doubt that Mary was assumed. So, it seems that I could come to believe certain “core” doctrines without taking it on the Church’s authority. And if I deny Mary’s assumption, my belief in these core doctrines is not shaken in any way.

    Kind regards,
    V.U.

  66. So, given #65, can the Catholic account for asymmetrical dependence relations among certain Christian truths, such as the example I just gave concerning the resurrection of Christ and the purported assumption of Mary?

  67. Jeff #21

    Jeff, I came into the Church with Paul VI. Each successive pontiff was visited with various expectations and denigrations (John Paul II being the “communist” pope, and that from the SSPX people), and honestly each of them has exceeded any expectations I have had.

    I think you’ll find them remarkable men visited with a most uncommon charism, the privilege of being Peter’s successor with all that means.

    I haven’t looked back since becoming Catholic. Honestly, like Peter, I have no where else to go.

  68. VU (re: #65/#66)

    So, it seems that I could come to believe certain “core” doctrines without taking it on the Church’s authority. And if I deny Mary’s assumption, my belief in these core doctrines is not shaken in any way.

    If, for example, your belief that God exists were based only on the five ways, or your belief in the resurrection of Christ were based only on motives of credibility, then your disbelief in Mary’s Assumption (say, because you hadn’t yet discovered any evidence for this event) would not necessarily “shake” your belief in God’s existence or Christ’s resurrection. In that case, however, what was not shaken would be beliefs that are also doctrines, though not believed by you by faith, but only as truths of reason and history knowable through rational inquiry.

    So, given #65, can the Catholic account for asymmetrical dependence relations among certain Christian truths, such as the example I just gave concerning the resurrection of Christ and the purported assumption of Mary?

    I’m guessing that you don’t intend to be asking about “the Catholic,” but rather about whether asymmetrical dependence relations among doctrines is possible in Catholicism. (But maybe my guess here is incorrect.) However, I also think it would be more helpful if you would first explain what’s motivating this particular question, in other words why it seems to you that asymmetrical dependence relations among doctrines are not possible in Catholicism.

    Let’s go back to what you asked at the end of comment #63, because I think that’s the stone in your shoe, and it might help elucidate what you are after in your “asymmetrical dependence relations” question. There you wrote:

    So my question is this: suppose, for the sake of argument, that the RCC is not the church Christ founded. You still seem to have something like Christ’s resurrection from the dead to deal with, right? Would you really want to say, “If Rome is not the church that Christ founded, then Christ did not rise from the dead”? That seems like a hard pill to swallow. So, couldn’t one just adhere to some very minimal sort of “mere Christianity” in the end, were RCC to teach error dogmatically, thus, demonstrating that it is not the true church?

    Your question in #63 is, I take it, largely a response to comments #2, #10, and #21. My response is what I already explained in the penultimate paragraph of comment #14. Your “suppose, for the sake of argument, that the RCC is not the church Christ founded” is, for the Catholic, something like the atheist saying to the theist, “suppose, for the sake of argument, that God does not exist.” The theist cannot grant the supposition, because it would require denying the existence of what the theist believes to be a necessary being, one that cannot possibly not exist. Similarly, your proposed supposition for the sake of argument requires that the Catholic deny what he knows (by the light of faith) to be true. So your supposition is question begging for the Catholic, because loaded. And the same is true of your “were [the] RCC to teach error dogmatically.” So these presuppose what a Catholic as such cannot grant even as hypotheticals in the epistemic sense, but only as hypotheticals in the modal sense, i.e. had God created a different world than the actual world.

    So I think the claims in #2 and #10, even though made by new Catholics, are best understood as being made from the perspective of the non-Catholic inquirer who has come to see the absolute need, given what Christ has taught, for what only the Catholic Church claims to have, i.e. a divinely authorized Magisterium. From this perspective, if God had not provided such a thing, then Christ’s message would have been in some sense incoherent, and thus His credibility and identity would be called into question in a significant way, even were the motives of credibility regarding His resurrection from the dead to be exactly as they are.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  69. Thanks for this, Bryan. I hope to respond soon.

    Best,
    VU

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