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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: The authority of the Catholic Church
Holy Smoke
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The problem seems to me to be most acute for the person in another denomination who comes to believe, rightly or wrongly, that only the Roman Catholic Church possesses the means to salvation, but who is unable to accept Roman teaching on some arguably less important matter, such as whether using contraception is a mortal sin, or whether the Pope is able to make infallible truth-claims. Are they then to forgo their chance of eternal life, and stay in the CofE, for example, or should they join the RCC, but keeping their (private) reservations about certain aspects of church doctrine? Surely one must say the latter.
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Nenuphar
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I have hesitated to add to this thread since I wasn't sure whether my personal reason for having to become a catholic would feel at all relevant to you, but anyway, here goes. It's turned out longer than I expected, I'm afraid. I know it's not an original discovery, but for me, it all boils down to who has the authority to teach (or alter, or develop) the teachings Christ gave to His disciples.

I was raised a Methodist (well, sent to Methodist Sunday school by my non-churchgoing parents) but this was good, because of their emphasis on scripture reading (and exams!). When I was 15 I became an Anglican, drawn by the liturgy and sacraments. But from the time I was 18, and had left home for Uni, the Catholic church called insistently to me (somehow an inner longing). I struggled against it, studied (what I thought were) her doctrines, but found, to some relief! that I had difficulty with the 4 most recent dogma - the infallibility and universal jurisdiction of the Pope, and the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary. With hindsight, I know I didn't study hard enough and never understood properly the scriptural basis of all these, the development of doctrine, and the belief and teaching of the Church Fathers.

I remained a practising ("Catholic") Anglican until the women priest issue. I would be happy to have women priests if the Orthodox and Catholic Churches also all adopted them,(i.e. the majority of the world's Christians) but I just couldn't believe that the Holy Spirit would inspire one (relatively small ) section of the Universal Church to make such a momentous change on its own. Exactly who did have the authority to teach the truth of Christianity? (as in "Go and teach all nations..."). Where was the church Christ set up? So it was back to studying the Catholic Church, including those four dogma, since she made that claim, as well as reading the scriptures of course. I believed already that Scripture is inspired by God (He is the primary author), inerrant in matters of faith and morals, and the most straightforward meaning was normally the most reasonable to adopt (though now I would use the Catholic terminology and say of the four senses of scripture, the literal predominates - it's the same thing, I think).

The turning point for me was Matthew 16:16 - 19, where Peter makes his famous declaration, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," and Jesus replies, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Together with the other scriptures such as Luke 22,32 and John 21,16, Christ seemed to me to be pretty clearly appointing Peter to lead His Church for all time, a successive office of prime minister to be handed down in a continuing church to other "popes" (cf the steward of the household, Isaiah 22.22) (I know they didn't use the term "pope" then!) Christ promised that whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. This was breathtaking. God Himself would abide by the decisions of his earthly vicar: he (the latter) must in some special way be completely protected from pronouncing error for God to pronounce Himself bound by it - and of course there are other scriptures which also support this (e.g. Luke 10,16 - "He who hears you, hears Me.")

If I accepted that Scripture was true, that Jesus meant what He said - and I certainly always had believed this - then the Church led by Peter's successor must be the Church founded by Christ as He wanted it (I do realise human error and sin have crept into some behaviours and periods of course - we're not in the new Jerusalem yet)! Her fundamental teachings must be what Christ intended them to be - even if I had trouble understanding how they all could be. So a year later I had to stand before my new congregation and say, " I believe and profess all the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God." (This the profession of faith required by adult converts to Catholicism). I confess I didn't understand it all, but I would try: if that was what He wanted, that was what I had to do.(After all, I accept the laws of physics, and I certainly don't understand most of them!)


There are still things I don't understand properly - I go round and round the teaching on contraception, for example - but I try to accept in faith that the Church knows better than I do; I believe She is divinely protected from error, so I have to do my utmost to understand and obey Her teaching, which is not just hers, but protected by Christ. Gradually things become clearer. I found Augustine, who said, "Crede ut intelligas" (believe in order to understand) - faith opens the way to step through the door of truth - but also, and inseparably, "intellige ut credas" - understand in order to believe - in order to find God and believe, you must scrutinize truth.

On the evening of the Easter Vigil 1994, when I (and my husband) were received, I was filled with joy which has never left me. "I have come home!" I fervently and joyfully declared. Fellow Catholics, you can have a little laugh at me here - I've since found out this is so common an experience as to be almost a cliche (can't work out how to do an acute accent on the e). And the more I study and discover, the more I have to echo Newman in saying, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant". The things I have learnt have been so exciting - how things occurring over at least four thousand years, experienced by people most of whom never met each other, all fit together like a master 3D jigsaw puzzle, particularly the OT and the NT. Only now can I be truly certain that I receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, surrounded by the angels from heaven. It was the best thing I've ever done, I've never for one second regretted it, and my love for, and devotion to, Our Lord grow every day. I hope wherever your path leads you, you find the same joy and peace as well.

I apologise for posting a few references without linking to the texts: I am only a novice sailor and I need to go and learn how to use the UBB practice thread.

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Cara
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Wow, Nenuphar. Thank you. I think this is hugely relevant to the discussion at hand, as well as interesting and moving.

It is relevant to the OP because Eliab's question was about the question of the Catholic Church's authority, and this is exactly what your conversion turned upon--"it all boils down to who has authority to teach (or alter, or develop) the teachings Christ gave to his disciples," you say.

Your path is so interesting--those four recent dogmas, by the way, are surely problematic for many many others. They are for me.

I know the post is long but for me it is so worth it to see your steps on the way to conviction and conversion.

And the last part of your post is crucial, and illustrates exactly what I've been saying--in the end it comes down to faith. You got almost all the way by study and thought, but then we come to this:

QUOTE FROM NENUPHAR:
There are still things I don't understand properly - I go round and round the teaching on contraception, for example - but I try to accept in faith that the Church knows better than I do; I believe She is divinely protected from error, so I have to do my utmost to understand and obey Her teaching, which is not just hers, but protected by Christ. Gradually things become clearer. I found Augustine, who said, "Crede ut intelligas" (believe in order to understand) - faith opens the way to step through the door of truth - but also, and inseparably, "intellige ut credas" - understand in order to believe - in order to find God and believe, you must scrutinize truth. END QUOTE

Most especially: "I try to accept in faith that the church knows better than I do; I believe She is divinely protected by error, so I have to do my utmost to understand and obey her teaching..."

There it is. Accepting in faith that the [Catholic] Church is right.

This step of faith is just that--faith; it can be reasonably deduced, as you've shown, from Scriptures, up to a certain point and reading a certain way--but obviously it cannot be proved beyond a doubt, or most of us would be Catholics. It's a leap of faith.

Thank you for this. Surely even those who have traced the same thoughts and Scriptures and have come to a different conclusion, those who simply cannot accept that "the [Catholic] Church is divinely protected form error" on doctrinal questions, can respect your decision, and the serious inquiry and spiritual yearning of your path.

As for me, I envy the joy with which you say, "I have come home!"

Cara.

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Pondering.

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Zach82
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As a Protestant at a Catholic seminary, I can confirm that there is plentiful and vigorous debate in Roman Catholic theology. In fact, my strict insistence on faith in Jesus Christ as the only real source of righteousness usually makes me come across as an arch-conservative in these debates.

The Church puts up with far more dissent than you think. What it does not put up with (and really I think the Anglican Church needs to put its foot down more often too) is theologians who preach heresy while saying they preach the Roman Catholic faith.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
You are dealing with two different things: what would be termed "dissent" and engaging in a formal schismatic act by leaving the Church. The two need not be linked.

Hans Kung, the darling of liberals, is the celebrated example of the first: he is a priest in good standing, with full faculties to celebrate the sacraments...

Oh right, I didn't realise this was an option. So people in this situation - publicly espousing views contrary to the official Catholic position - are still considered to be 'good Catholics', fully able to take Communion etc.?
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
I'm not sure having a "monopoly on the truth about Jesus" is something the Catholic Church would say about itself. Again, that is your parody.

Apologies - I meant no parody or mockery at all with this comment. I thought it was a perfectly straight inference from your comment, 'I believe the Church has the means of salvation and the words of eternal life'. If you didn't mean 'I believe only the Catholic Church...' then I apologise again as I've misunderstood you.
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
You are putting weight on the wrong part of my statement about not leaving the Catholic Church: where else would I go when I believe the Catholic Church actually has all that is necessary?

I'm not particularly saying you should go elsewhere. It's rather that I'm trying to work out and get my head around exactly what the Catholic Church claims regarding its authority.

I guess my reference point is the Watchtower, the Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide institution. I'm pretty sure they claim to be God's sole agent on earth and consider all the other churches to be agents of the devil. Obviously the Catholic Church doesn't hold those views, but still it seems to me that the Catholic Church's view is pretty exclusivist. I know individual Catholics may well not fully agree with the official position but the latter is what I'm personally most interested in.

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My blog - wondering about Christianity in the 21st century, chess, music, politics and other bits and bobs.

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moonlitdoor
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quote:

originally posted by Triple Tiara

The things I find difficult are as nothing compared with the things I believe to be true.

The thing is I could be a Catholic on that basis and so I expect could Eliab. It's what you have to do with the difficult bits that I don't quite understand, the submission of one's own beliefs to the church's teaching if that is the right expression. I know intellectually that the Catholic church is more likely to be right about things than I am, since they have spent more time than I have working out their answers and the people doing the working out are cleverer and more spiritual than I am, but I still don't know how to accept their teaching if I don't believe it.

I understand how to keep quiet about what I don't agree with, which I have to do at work sometimes, but I think the church is asking for something more than that.

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Ender's Shadow
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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
I'm not sure having a "monopoly on the truth about Jesus" is something the Catholic Church would say about itself. Again, that is your parody.

You REALLY REALLY don't want to engage with the reference to those who reject the Marian dogma as having 'made a shipwreck of their faith'. That's what the Pope has declared infallibly. Yet you don't really believe it, do you? But it is surely only on the basis of having the monopoly of the truth that the RCC can make its claims that everyone else has made a shipwreck of their faith.

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Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Please don't refer to me as 'Ender' - the whole point of Ender's Shadow is that he isn't Ender.

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Zach82
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I am sure even TT could not exhaust everything an Anglican or Baptist has right about the Christian Faith, Ender's. What he does not believe is that their Churches possess all the marks of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

Maybe I am going too far in saying that on TT's behalf, but it's how I look at the issue anyway. What did Jesus Christ found? Which community carries all of the marks of that community of the apostles? I think those marks are preaching the faith, celebrating the sacraments, and apostolic orders, and I think TEC has all those marks. Is unity with the Bishop of Rome one of those marks? I don't think the Bible says so, but Roman Catholics believe it does. Which is why they are Catholics and I am an Anglican.

[ 02. August 2012, 22:00: Message edited by: Zach82 ]

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Don't give up yet, no, don't ever quit/ There's always a chance of a critical hit. Ghost Mice

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Triple Tiara

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Thank you Zach - I would concur with you.

quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
You REALLY REALLY don't want to engage with the reference to those who reject the Marian dogma as having 'made a shipwreck of their faith'. That's what the Pope has declared infallibly. Yet you don't really believe it, do you? But it is surely only on the basis of having the monopoly of the truth that the RCC can make its claims that everyone else has made a shipwreck of their faith.

Um, no. The Pope was not addressing Christians of other churches when he wrote Ineffabilis Deus. He was addressing a disputed doctrine within the Catholic Church, and making a formal declaration. Here is the full context of the phrase which causes you such anguish:

quote:
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.
You might think he was trying to cock a snook at protestants. In fact he was calling Catholic theologians to line up behind that which was now defined and not go trundling down their own paths. Context is everything.

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Ronald Binge
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I have held off from making any comment here for some time, as I have been attempting to make sense of my own relationship with the Catholic Church. Fr TT is fortunate that he grew up in England, where by necessity the (Roman) Catholic Church did not control matters of social policy. It most certainly did in Ireland during my lifetime, where the hierarchy under the imperious John Charles McQuaid, aided and abetted by a zealously right wing and active professional class laity ensured that the social teaching of the Church was enshrined in the law of the land, right up to the 1990s.

I stopped practicing in the 1990s for a number of reasons, which were a cumulation of many things over a number of years. A number of members of my family were "encouraged" to contract marriages when they got pregnant, leading to all but one of the marriages collapsing and in one case by suicide. Unbelievably, contraception was still illegal at the time these events happened, and it was a tooth and nail fight to get that mad law reversed over a twenty five year period. Ne Temere's implementation in Ireland was only very slightly lessened by the Hierachy in 1970.

The nadir for me and the breaking point was the effective takeover of my parish by a zealous group of laypeople who promoted Medjugorje/the Divine Mercy and the cause of Mary Mediatrix as a new Marian dogma, all of which I believe to be nonsense, and divisive nonsense at that.

I do not share Fr TT's sanguine view of Fatima. The older generation of Irish Catholics that I knew had a highly apocalyptic view of faith and of Christ's heavy arm waiting to punish the world, only held back by the intercession of the BVM. I grew up with the absolutely terrifying ream of prayers based around the "trimmings" of the rosary. All of this contributed to the "Hotel California" school of Irish Catholicism, where "you can check out anytime you like but you just can never leave". Most Irish Catholics when they lapse go nowhere else and abandon faith entirely, because we have never been given the tools to analyse the Faith in a critical way.

I found, as a guest at different times, in Anglican and Methodist churches, reverent worship, devotion to the Eucharist, decent singing and a sense of continuity of belief, which are often absent from an Irish Catholic Church. The overriding sense in an Irish Catholic Church is either one of performing one's duty on a Sunday, or sailing on the wider fringes of folk Catholicism during the week.


Fr TT is dismissive of liberals and Fr Kung, but I hold on in the hope that Rome will sweep the ban on contraception, mandatory clerical celibacy, Ne Temere and Apostolicae Curae, among others, into the dustbin of history where they belong. "Woe to you, you Pharisees, you lay burdens on men's backs but you do nothing to lift them" resonates with me.

For what it's worth.

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Older, bearded (but no wiser)

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Triple Tiara

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Actually I have a great deal of sympathy for your position, as I have often thought that the Catholic Church is at its absolute worst where it is in a position of power. Quite often our worst enemies are our own hierarchy who lose sight of the primary vision. I get disheartened by daft statements from bishops and the over-zealous rants of the ultra-Catholics. They often, it seems to me, grab hold of the lesser tenets and exalt them to the highest level of importance.

But then I hear the opposite trend and I am equally disheartened - the wet tendency, the relativists, the liturgically naff.

Both extremes, it seems to me, do damage to the beauty which is at the core of the Catholic Faith. I am not a knee-jerk conservative, though some think I am. But neither am I a wet liberal for whom everything is up for grabs. I probably do not just dismiss the things I don't like, but rather listen attentively and then assign a lesser level of importance to them and try to face the Lord once again and keep moving forward.

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I'm a Roman. You may call me Caligula.

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CL
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
You are dealing with two different things: what would be termed "dissent" and engaging in a formal schismatic act by leaving the Church. The two need not be linked.

Hans Kung, the darling of liberals, is the celebrated example of the first: he is a priest in good standing, with full faculties to celebrate the sacraments...

Oh right, I didn't realise this was an option. So people in this situation - publicly espousing views contrary to the official Catholic position - are still considered to be 'good Catholics', fully able to take Communion etc.?
Yes and no. The Church has long since realised that the best way to deal with the likes of Kung is to the deny them the oxygen of publicity they so desperately crave, i.e. not taking overt public action against them but rather letting them and their ideas slide into obscurity and irrelevance.

Though of course the hammer does come down sometimes where behaviour leaves no other option, such as in the case of Milingo.

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"Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ." - Athanasius of Alexandria

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Triple Tiara

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You are engaging in false comparisons. Milingo was excommunicated because he engaged in a schismatic act by ordaining bishops without an apostolic mandate from the pope - same reason as Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated.

If you want to make a comparison with Kung (and the description you give is entirely your own reading of the situation) then you would be better to cite the example of Fr Tissa Balasuriya

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I'm a Roman. You may call me Caligula.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
I was trying to have a bash at this when talking about all churches having equally valid claims to authority - I should not have spoken of validity because of the triggers that has, especially for Anglicans, and I should have realised this.

It's not a trigger for me. I'm a fairly MOTR Anglican - High enough to understand what the debate about validity of orders and sacraments means, and Low enough not to care particularly what other churches think of ours.

quote:
Again, I think you are perhaps reading LG from the perspective of "this is one Church among many, all claiming authority".
Well, yes. Of course I am. The Catholic Church IS one church among many, claiming authority. That much, surely, is beyond dispute. The question of me is whether it is right.

quote:
The Catholic perspective is that there is only ONE Church, but it is divided. It's not engaged in a contest as to which is the best Church. So the opening paragraphs of LG are speaking of that one Church.
Yes, and I agreed with them. I'm a member of that one Church. At least, I think I am, and the CCC seems to say that, too.

quote:
It is NOT Catholic belief that it is the ONLY Church. However, it does lay claim to being the Church which is historically, theologically and ecclesiologically contiguous with the Church established by the Lord and built upon the Apostles.
And that's what my "WHY???" is all about. LG doesn't answer that question. It says there's a Church, and the fullness of it subsists in this one institution. It doesn't say why, or why it can't also subsist elsewhere.

The closest I can get to it, from you and IngoB, is that you seem to take it as axiomatic that there must be this one, authoritative, spirit-led Church identifiable as an earthly institution, which is preserved from error on all (the important) points. And, if that's where you start from, it looks to me to be a toss up between Catholicism and Orthodoxy (because, by definition, you need a Church which institutionally goes all the way back). But I don't see why the Church, in the Jesus-founded, Spirit-inspired sense, has to be institutional in that way at all. It might be, but it's not in the least a necessary consequence of Jesus being who he claimed to be. And a reason for thinking that it isn't a likely consequence is that, nice idea though it is, for it to have the ‘lead you into all truth' effect, it's only useful for God to preserve his One Church from error if he also preserves it from schism. Otherwise you get the situation of about half the Christian world not having that divine guarantee of truth, anyway, and having to be disciples of Jesus without it. And then you have to say that either the Spirit isn't leading that lot into truth (absurd) or that God doesn't need the institution to do it (true).

quote:
The ecumenical impetus of all Catholic engagement is a return to unity as one Body of Christ. Naturally in that she has certain propositions which she believes are necessary to establish that unity.
But those "certain propositions" are, in practice, just about everything.

I've been reading a book of testimonies from prominent UK Catholics about ‘Why I am a Catholic' (that being the book's title). One was by Ann Widdecombe, and what struck me about her account was how seriously she took her declaration of acceptance of Catholic teaching. She said that she delayed asking to received into the church for several months because she had difficulty accepting the doctrine of purgatory.

As it happens, the doctrine of purgatory per se isn't a problem for me*. But it's hardly a key doctrine. There's the barest reference to some images that might optimistically be imagined to be purgatory in the Bible, and while that doesn't absolutely prove that the apostles didn't know about it, it demonstrates at least to my satisfaction that they didn't think it a key part of the gospel. It is not a proposition which seems to me to be remotely necessary for Christian unity. If the Catholic Church is indeed the indispensible bit of the Body of Christ, it strikes me as scandalously irresponsible to keep from that Body those Christians who cannot sincerely declare that they accept this teaching. I cannot understand why you would even want to. If purgatory is not an issue that we can agree to disagree on, and still be one communion, what is?


(*the superstructure of belief about temporal punishments, and indulgences and so on that accompanies it is another matter. Someone has just made that up as far as I can see)

quote:
In the meantime, she does not say "you are not Christians at all, all the rest of you. You are not even in the Church". Rather she proposes her belief that all other Christian bodies derive their authenticity from the fullness of unity and faith of the One Church of Jesus Christ - as you say " "Christianity" emerged at one time.
I know that. It's one of the points most in your favour.

If the Catholic Church said the rest of us weren't Christian, I'd know that I could safely ignore everything else that it said. What it does say about us, though, makes perfect sense given how it sees itself. We fit very neatly into that scheme, in a way that does not detract from the truth of our own experiences, and places us in a real, but somewhat strained, relationship with the Church of Jesus. It means that I could convert to Catholicism without feeling that my Anglicanism was a waste of time, and without being asked to doubt what I encountered of God outside the Catholic Church. That one, you got right.

quote:
We all trace our heritage back that far, and every different tradition has done some stuff since then". That stuff done since then is the problem, and the Catholic Church's position is some of that stuff has gone too far from the common root. Of course, I understand that the same applies in reverse as well!
Yes, exactly. Which gets us back to the authority question. You've done stuff, we've done stuff, so we're about equal unless you really are the highest earthly authority capable of judging that you are right and we are wrong.

quote:
So how do I reconcile all this with commitment to the Catholic Church? John 6:67-68 "So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" ".
It's possible to hear those Words in Anglicanism, Methodism, Pentecstalism, Orthodoxy...

quote:
I find unconvincing the foundations of any of the other churches. I would probably simply be a lapsed Catholic before I could ever be an Anglican or Orthodox Christian because of that.
I am stunned by that. I don't get it at all. OK, I can sort of imagine believing that you can hear Jesus better through the Catholic Church than any of the others, even believing that the others have distorted the message, but I don't see how, on any view, not listening to Jesus as a nominal Catholic is better than actually trying to follow him as a Baptist.

Are you saying that if you didn't have a plausibly infallible Church, you wouldn't see the point of being any sort of active Christian? Because that just sounds crazy to me. Have I misunderstood you completely?

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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Ronald Binge
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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
Actually I have a great deal of sympathy for your position, as I have often thought that the Catholic Church is at its absolute worst where it is in a position of power. Quite often our worst enemies are our own hierarchy who lose sight of the primary vision. I get disheartened by daft statements from bishops and the over-zealous rants of the ultra-Catholics. They often, it seems to me, grab hold of the lesser tenets and exalt them to the highest level of importance.

But then I hear the opposite trend and I am equally disheartened - the wet tendency, the relativists, the liturgically naff.

Both extremes, it seems to me, do damage to the beauty which is at the core of the Catholic Faith. I am not a knee-jerk conservative, though some think I am. But neither am I a wet liberal for whom everything is up for grabs. I probably do not just dismiss the things I don't like, but rather listen attentively and then assign a lesser level of importance to them and try to face the Lord once again and keep moving forward.

Indeed. Thank you as ever for a considered response. Am fully with you on liturgical naffness, seeing as one of my Anglican ports of call has been All Saints Margaret Street, and one of my points of return has been the high quality of worship and preaching at St John the Evangelist in Bath.

If Irish Catholicism could even remotely understand the importance of beauty in worship it would truly help in its healing.

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Alogon
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quote:
Originally posted by IngoB:
highlights I have added show the real logic. There is no claim here at all that the dogma of the Assumption of Mary is totally central to the Catholic Faith by virtue of its content. One does not fall away from the Catholic Faith because one does not find this teaching obvious by and in itself. Rather, the pope is here saying: I will now make a statement concerning faith in the fullness of the power granted by God to my office: I will here make use of my infallibility to define a truth of faith, and I will unequivocally demand the full assent of faith to this of all the Church.



And I think that you've read the pope's mind admirably. A Boston, Catholic-raised friend years ago said that this pope was bound and determined to emit another dogma. When it turned out to be merely the Assumption, theologians heaved a great sigh of relief. They were afraid that it would be Our Lady Co-Redemptrix.

I have more trouble with its being a dogma than with the belief per se. It is a venerable and admirable pious opinion. Consider the precedents. Scripture itself would have us believe that two Old Testament figures were assumed bodily into heaven. So why not Our Lady, who must have been at least as dear to God as they? You'd think fundamentalists would be the last to doubt this. [Biased]

The larger issue, as you have pointed out, is the dogma of papal infallibility, on which the Assumption as a dogma depends. The circumstances surrounding its emission are too suspicious to encourage confidence. First we have the fact that the pope was smarting from his sudden and decisive loss of power as a secular prince. The acknowledgement of this spiritual authority (and, by extension, that of the Roman Catholic church as a whole) would make a great psychological consolation prize. Second, the acoustics of St. Peter's Basilica, in which the council deliberated, made it virtually impossible for delegates to understand what was happening. Some complained about this afterwords. Third, the idea horrified knowledgeable and devout Catholics such as Lord Acton and even John Henry Newman. One can suspect that it was railroaded through without adequate discussion.

Congratulations, Eliab, for a very articulate O.P. Your fourth point is an absolute red herring IMHO, unless liability insurance rates for Catholic churches and institutions are higher than those of any other denomination. Insurers have more at stake than anyone else: their very solvency depends on good actuarial work. They must soberly get the statistical facts straight and keep them straight, regardless of popular pressure or journalistic sensationalism. Perhaps the scandals in the RCC tend to have a particular character, but in the eyes of courts and juries, they are less than those of other churches in other respects, so that the financial impact (i.e., the bottom line-- and who would dare to argue with the bottom line? [Biased] seems to be balanced. Journalists will pick easy and well-known targets for opportunistic reportage that's good for ratings and sales.

Otherweise, you have described my own position and reservations very well.

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Ronald Binge
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quote:
Originally posted by Alogon:

And I think that you've read the pope's mind admirably. A Boston, Catholic-raised friend years ago said that this pope was bound and determined to emit another dogma. When it turned out to be merely the Assumption, theologians heaved a great sigh of relief. They were afraid that it would be Our Lady Co-Redemptrix.

I have more trouble with its being a dogma than with the belief per se. It is a venerable and admirable pious opinion. Consider the precedents. Scripture itself would have us believe that two Old Testament figures were assumed bodily into heaven. So why not Our Lady, who must have been at least as dear to God as they? You'd think fundamentalists would be the last to doubt this. [Biased]

The larger issue, as you have pointed out, is the dogma of papal infallibility, on which the Assumption as a dogma depends. The circumstances surrounding its emission are too suspicious to encourage confidence. First we have the fact that the pope was smarting from his sudden and decisive loss of power as a secular prince. The acknowledgement of this spiritual authority (and, by extension, that of the Roman Catholic church as a whole) would make a great psychological consolation prize. Second, the acoustics of St. Peter's Basilica, in which the council deliberated, made it virtually impossible for delegates to understand what was happening. Some complained about this afterwords. Third, the idea horrified knowledgeable and devout Catholics such as Lord Acton and even John Henry Newman. One can suspect that it was railroaded through without adequate discussion.

Congratulations, Eliab, for a very articulate O.P. Your fourth point is an absolute red herring IMHO, unless liability insurance rates for Catholic churches and institutions are higher than those of any other denomination. Insurers have more at stake than anyone else: their very solvency depends on good actuarial work. They must soberly get the statistical facts straight and keep them straight, regardless of popular pressure or journalistic sensationalism. Perhaps the scandals in the RCC tend to have a particular character, but in the eyes of courts and juries, they are less than those of other churches in other respects, so that the financial impact (i.e., the bottom line-- and who would dare to argue with the bottom line? [Biased] seems to be balanced. Journalists will pick easy and well-known targets for opportunistic reportage that's good for ratings and sales.

Otherweise, you have described my own position and reservations very well. [/QB]

I should think that if Mary as Co-redemptrix was ever promulgated as a dogma then I believe that it would be my duty to leave, immediately. Where is the parallel in Orthodoxy or indeed anywhere else in non RC Christian belief? Truly, as CS Lewis would say, not just nonsense but damned nonsense. "Do what He tells you" was Mary's response at Cana to a question addressed to her.

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Alogon
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quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
I hope I'll be corrected if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that one of the defining features of Catholicism is that it is, in a way, monolithic. Every bit of the doctrinal system relates to every other bit, and none can be dislodged without upsetting the whole thing.

So wrote Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited. Likewise, Chesterton in Orthodoxy, comparing the faith to Christ's seamless robe. But with the dogma of the Assumption, Ingo claims that it would be better to ignore this view for the moment. I'm not really sure why.

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k-mann
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Oh yes, but few Protestant churches would hold their interpretation to be authoritative in the way the Catholic Church holds its interpretation. That's the point, isn't it?

They might not explicitly say that their interpretation is authoritative, but they do believe that their interpretation is correct. If, say, a baptist pastor doesn’t hold his interpretation of a certain text to be correct, why would he teach it? If I had an interpretation of a text that I didn’t believe was correct, but might be, I might share it with someone, but I probably wouldn’t teach it. I also disagree with the postmodern implications that is often drawn from the ‘all we have is interpretations’ mindset. Of course all we have is interpretation. But that doesn’t have to entail any postmodern conclusion unless we assume that no interpretations are authoritative and/or that all interpretations are equal.

And one more thing is important to note: The text which we interpret didn’t fall down from the sky. It was written within a certain tradition (first Israel, later the Church), by concrete individuals. And then, on a later occasion, the Church discerned which texts was inspired, canonized them and compiled them. They had certain criteria that helped them making the decision, but there are texts that, although ‘scoring’ on all the points, where never considered inspired, and thus was never canonized. One fairly obvious example is the third epistle to the Corinthians (see 1Cor 5:9). As far as I’ve been told, the reason we no longer have it, is probably because it wasn’t canonized.

My point is that while we all interpret Scripture, we still rely on certain individual’s decision as to what texts are to be considered Scripture.

And as Zach has pointed out, it really makes no sense to say Scripture or Tradition. The term ‘tradition’ is derived from the latin noun traditio (‘that which is handed over’) which is derived from the latin verb trado (‘to hand over, deliver’). (Or it could be that the verb derives from the noun. I forget.) Scripture is handed over in the Church, from the Apostles. The disagreement is whether or not something more was handed over, and if this is authoritative in some way.* In most Lutheran churches, Scripture is primarily authoritative, but the creeds, confessions, catechism, etc. are authoritative too, to a lesser degree.** Scripture is norma normans (‘the norming norm’), creeds and confessions are norma normata (‘the normed norm’). The same, I believe, is true of Reformed churches, with their texts being the normed norm. (Tradition is that which is handed over, and which is authoritative, to lesser or higher degrees.)

Just as in the Catholic Church, we see in protestant churches as differanziation between Tradition and tradition(s).

* Just because it irritates me when I am meet this kind of language in debates, I would like to point out that texts or interpretations are authoritative; persons have authority.

** AFAIK, in most Lutheran churches this means the Book of Concord, but some churches doesn’t regard the whole books as authoritative. In the Church of Denmark and the Church of Norway (primarily because the King didn’t want to take part in the conflicts on the continent), the only authoritative extra-biblical texts (within a specific sense of ‘authoritative’) are the three ancient symbols (Apostolicum, Nicenum, Athanasianum), the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by k-mann:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Oh yes, but few Protestant churches would hold their interpretation to be authoritative in the way the Catholic Church holds its interpretation. That's the point, isn't it?

They might not explicitly say that their interpretation is authoritative, but they do believe that their interpretation is correct.
Indeed they do believe their interpretation is correct but I still maintain most Protestant churches have an approach a whole lot softer than that of the Catholic Church.

For example, my church (and I'm sure it's not unique in this) does not believe it has superior status than any other. We do not believe God is working through us in a way He isn't through other churches. We do not believe our sacraments are superior or more valid than those of other churches.

Unless I've wildly misunderstood things, this puts my church (and all other churches that could state the same things) in a very different position to the Catholic Church.

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Zach82
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# 3208

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I don't know, SCK. A few years ago a priest of TEC was dismissed from her ministry for refusing to recant her statements to papers that she could be a faithful Christian priest and a Muslim at the same time. The man a diocese elected bishop was refused sufficient consents for, ostensibly, dabbling in Zen Buddhism. We have drawn our lines too, and the RCC makes more allowances than some people think.

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k-mann
Shipmate
# 8490

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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Guilty as charged about statements of faith, but I think for most Protestant churches the statement of faith will be far, far smaller than the equivalent for the Catholic Church.

Which doesn’t really make any principled difference. And if you asked protestant pastors about many of the beliefs of the Catholic Church (the ever-virginity of Mary, for instance),* some would probably say that you couldn’t believe them and be part of their church, making non-belief in certain doctrines part of the requirements.

quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Furthermore, most (or at least many) Protestant churches will happily release someone who decides they can't assent to that particular church's statement of faith, without considering the person to be schismatic or in heresy.

Is that only your assumption, or a fact? If, say, a person who was a member of the (lutheran) Church of Norway (of which I am a member) didn’t believe that Christ was divine, I would consider him a heretic. If he split with the Church,** I would consider him to be in schism. (The latter doesn’t really adress the question of which side of the schism is correct, though.)

quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
To repeat, most Protestant churches don't consider themselves to have a monopoly on the truth about Jesus in the way (ISTM) the Catholic Church does.

But what, exactly, do you mean by ‘monopoly,’ and in what way do you believe the Catholic Church claim it? You seem to be using a deliberately polemic term without explaining what you mean by it.

* I chose this example deliberately, as this is a belief that has been controversial, but which (contrary to the belief of many), has been traditionally held by Lutherans. To quote from the Smalcald Articles, from the Book of Concord: “That the Son became man in this manner, that He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pure, holy [and always] Virgin Mary...” (1:4)

** I wouldn’t considering moving to Sweden or England and joining, respectively, the Church of Sweden or the Church of England to be schismatic. But they are in communion with the Church of Norway.

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"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt."
— Paul Tillich

Katolikken

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South Coast Kevin
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# 16130

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quote:
Originally posted by k-mann:
If you asked protestant pastors about many of the beliefs of the Catholic Church (the ever-virginity of Mary, for instance), some would probably say that you couldn’t believe them and be part of their church, making non-belief in certain doctrines part of the requirements.

I expect some would say this, but I'd be surprised if it's anything like a majority. Speaking from my own experience, I belong to a Vineyard Church and, while I've not checked, I'd be surprised if our statement of faith (local church or national umbrella body) has any mention of Mary's sexual experience, barring the virgin birth. And I'd be stunned if one's views on this matter (again, barring the virgin birth) were considered important by my church leadership.
quote:
Originally posted by k-mann:
If, say, a person who was a member of the (lutheran) Church of Norway (of which I am a member) didn’t believe that Christ was divine, I would consider him a heretic. If he split with the Church, I would consider him to be in schism.

Something as fundamental as this, probably yes - such a person wouldn't be considered in my church for leadership positions and so on, and perhaps wouldn't be thought of as a Christian (I'm less sure of the latter point). But the body of beliefs which would bring such questions into play is far smaller with most Protestant churches than with the Catholic Church, ISTM.
quote:
Originally posted by k-mann:
But what, exactly, do you mean by ‘monopoly,’ and in what way do you believe the Catholic Church claim it? You seem to be using a deliberately polemic term without explaining what you mean by it.

I meant no polemic, honestly! I've just scanned through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and this is roughly what I had in mind:
quote:
III. The Interpretation of the Heritage of Faith

The heritage of faith entrusted to the whole of the Church

84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practising and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."

The Magisterium of the Church

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

The key quotation, for me, is that final sentence: '[T]he task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.'

So what does that say about bishops and others not in communion with the Pope? Are they (we) not capable of interpreting the Bible? I can't see how the Catholic Catechism says otherwise, meaning the official teaching of the Catholic Church is that it alone is capable and authorised to interpret the Bible. Show me where my argument is wrong...

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Sir Pellinore
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
...
So what does that say about bishops and others not in communion with the Pope? Are they (we) not capable of interpreting the Bible? I can't see how the Catholic Catechism says otherwise, meaning the official teaching of the Catholic Church is that it alone is capable and authorised to interpret the Bible. Show me where my argument is wrong...

The problem of a Protestant interpretation of the Bible, as against a Roman Catholic (or Orthodox) interpretation of the Bible is that Catholics (and Orthodox) could not see the Bible being interpreted outside the Church's continuing Tradition (which actually predates and is seen to include the New Testament). The concept of sola scriptura - relying only on the Bible - which is very much the Reformation mindset would be quite foreign.

At the Reformation, the Bible, particularly as understood by the Reformers, was seen as the key to creating new doctrinal statements of belief which were believed to supersede the old, corrupt Roman ones.

It would be strange then if the Roman Catholic Church (or Orthodox) were to discount Tradition; history and the guarantee given to Peter that the Church would never stray from the essential deposit of Faith.

The Roman Catholic Church's attitude to biblical exegesis outside it would be to wish the exegetes well but not necessarily take said exegesis on board. Some commentary, such as by Bishop Tom Wright, which is essentially scriptural and in keeping with what are normally regarded as traditional Christian belief until the Nineteenth Century and the rise of Modernism, would be fairly highly regarded. Some more contentious approaches, which would cast doubt on traditional Christian beliefs, as defined by the Councils of the Early Church; the Creeds or certain official doctrinal statements by the Popes would not be taken on board as they would be regarded as heretical.

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Well...

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
The problem of a Protestant interpretation of the Bible, as against a Roman Catholic (or Orthodox) interpretation of the Bible is that Catholics (and Orthodox) could not see the Bible being interpreted outside the Church's continuing Tradition...

Which Church though? That's the problem; according to the Catechesis this seems to mean 'the Catholic Church's continuing Tradition', i.e. that only the Catholic Church is the guardian of accurate Christian tradition. This is setting out the Catholic Church to be qualitatively different from all other expressions of Christianity, ISTM.
quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
It would be strange then if the Roman Catholic Church (or Orthodox) were to discount Tradition; history and the guarantee given to Peter that the Church would never stray from the essential deposit of Faith.

That's an interesting phrase - 'never stray from the essential deposit of Faith'. I wonder what all the various horrors committed and taught by the Catholic Church over the centuries do to this belief. I'm thinking of positions the Church has taught and actions it has carried out which it would now strongly turn its back on; things like the Inquisition and the sale of indulgences for obvious starters.

Not that churches of all other stripes haven't also strayed hideously from Jesus' example and teaching, but when the church doing it is apparently the inheritor of the 'guarantee given to Peter that the Church would never stray from the essential deposit of Faith'... That seems like a problem to me. How do Catholics deal with this?

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Forthview
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Most Catholics deal with the above problems by simply ignoring them.Not only Catholics,of course,do this.Most of us try to ignore unpleasant parts of the history of our nation,our family and often our own personal failings,as we usually undertsand why we have done what we have done.

I agree with a number of the Catholic contributors here that the Catholic community does better on the whole when it has no real power.

The history of Ireland and its relationships with the other parts of the British Isles are the reasons for the absolute dominance of the Catholic church when Ireland became an independent nation state.Catholics recognise,I think, that the Church,like Christ' has two natures,the divinely appointed ideal and the human fallibilities of its members.Almost all religious communities,not only Catholic communities,will have their religious zealots ,who are committed to a close following of religious rules,sometime man made,particularly the difficult ones.Fortunately in most religious communities there are many people who live on the fringes of the community and who do not allow the religious zealots always to have their way.

It is easier for many of us to follow external religious rules like going to Mass,saying the Rosary,not eating meat on Fridays,but also reading the Bible,making sure that one does not do anything on Sunday,not mixing with those who do not accept our rules -it is easier in a way to do all these things than actually to get on with loving God and loving our neighbour as we do ourselves.

Most of us,but certainly not all of us,have our experience of religion,within the context of the family and the local community.We are aware often of the weaknesses and imperfections of others and sometimes aware of our own weaknesses and imperfections,but more often than not we will stick with that community,because we have a knowledge also of the benefit of the community.

My only connection with Ireland is my Irish grandmother (who died in 1941),but I am indeed aware of the situation of Irish Catholicism.For all its weaknesses and for all its good points it is essential to remember that it is not the only 'authentic' Catholicism.

An expression which almost all English speaking Catholics will know is 'Holydays of Obligation',reminding Catholics that certain days,not normally holidays in wider society were days on which Catholics should fulfil an obligation to observe the holiness of the day.In most other European countries although the expression 'Holyday of obligation' might be used in technical Catholic language such as in Italian 'festa di precetto' almost no Italian would use such an expression.It is simply 'festa' a day on which one has freedom from work and time to enjoy the family and hopefully to thank God also.I find that in Ireland the word 'obligation' was perhaps overused.
Most Catholics have little difficulty with doctrines such as the Immaculate conception or the Assumption,long standing traditions even if the Assumption was only formally defined by Pius XII in 1950.They are theological propositions which by earthly standards can neither be proved nor disproved..They are just like the doctrine of the Trinity which can neither be proved nor disproved nor even understood by most people.If one accepts that the Catholic church has the divine command to teach all nations,it is only natural to accept its teachings on points like this.It is not so much the idea that Almighty God is obliged to following the teaching of the Catholic church,but rather that the Catholic church in its established teaching is preserved by God from teaching error.

As a catholic I find it easy to see the hand of God working in those of other Christian confessions,in the community of my Moslem brothers and sisters and others of different and no faith.I am happy to be able to participate in their religious worship and to have some insight into their beliefs,from which I learn so much.

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Robert Armin

All licens'd fool
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Forthview:
quote:
I agree with a number of the Catholic contributors here that the Catholic community does better on the whole when it has no real power.
I think this is true of any branch of the Church, as well as any individual Christian. As I've said elsewhere, at length, most people seem to become bastards when they become Bishops. There are glorious exceptions but they are very much exceptions, IMNSVHO.

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Keeping fit was an obsession with Fr Moity .... He did chin ups in the vestry, calisthenics in the pulpit, and had developed a series of Tai-Chi exercises to correspond with ritual movements of the Mass. The Antipope Robert Rankin

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Moo

Ship's tough old bird
# 107

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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Armin:
Forthview:
quote:
I agree with a number of the Catholic contributors here that the Catholic community does better on the whole when it has no real power.
I think this is true of any branch of the Church, as well as any individual Christian. As I've said elsewhere, at length, most people seem to become bastards when they become Bishops. There are glorious exceptions but they are very much exceptions, IMNSVHO.
I have heard this that Kierkegaard said, "Christianity needs fresh air; it needs persecution."

Moo

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Ender's Shadow
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# 2272

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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
You REALLY REALLY don't want to engage with the reference to those who reject the Marian dogma as having 'made a shipwreck of their faith'. That's what the Pope has declared infallibly. Yet you don't really believe it, do you? But it is surely only on the basis of having the monopoly of the truth that the RCC can make its claims that everyone else has made a shipwreck of their faith.

Um, no. The Pope was not addressing Christians of other churches when he wrote Ineffabilis Deus. He was addressing a disputed doctrine within the Catholic Church, and making a formal declaration. Here is the full context of the phrase which causes you such anguish:

quote:
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.
You might think he was trying to cock a snook at protestants. In fact he was calling Catholic theologians to line up behind that which was now defined and not go trundling down their own paths. Context is everything.

Thanks for a fascinating reply - a totally new understanding of the material that has left me very surprised. I don't think it's a sustainable interpretation - but it's 'interesting'! Thanks.

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Mr. Rob
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# 5823

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:

Example: The papal teaching defining the Assumption of Mary ...

... is aptly referred to as an assumption.
*

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Triple Tiara

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# 9556

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quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
Thanks for a fascinating reply - a totally new understanding of the material that has left me very surprised. I don't think it's a sustainable interpretation - but it's 'interesting'! Thanks.

I am puzzled by your response. If you go and read the whole Decree - here - you will see how Pope Pius IX builds up to the point of defining the doctrine by calling upon the witness of history, piety, papal precedents, the Council of Trent, the ancient belief of the Roman Church (meaning the Church of the City of Rome, not the way Anglicans use that term). There is a whole section devoted to earlier papal sanctions against those who taught otherwise . It's all of a piece. I cannot at all see why you think he was aiming at the likes of you, who do not hold to the authority of the Bishop of Rome!

--------------------
I'm a Roman. You may call me Caligula.

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Cara
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:

[QUOTE]I find unconvincing the foundations of any of the other churches. I would probably simply be a lapsed Catholic before I could ever be an Anglican or Orthodox Christian because of that.

I am stunned by that. I don't get it at all. OK, I can sort of imagine believing that you can hear Jesus better through the Catholic Church than any of the others, even believing that the others have distorted the message, but I don't see how, on any view, not listening to Jesus as a nominal Catholic is better than actually trying to follow him as a Baptist.

Are you saying that if you didn't have a plausibly infallible Church, you wouldn't see the point of being any sort of active Christian? Because that just sounds crazy to me. Have I misunderstood you completely?

Eliab, I think this is the crux of it all. The question of the foundations of all other churches. These foundations seem unconvincing, as TT says, to many (most? all?) Catholics. The other churches seem to be founded by breaking away from the core, by diverging from the true faith, by changing and altering the deposit that came down from Jesus and the apostles, by being in schism, and so on.

Those of us who, like me, left the Roman Catholic Church to join another one (in my case the Episopal Church/Anglican communion) have to work out for ourselves how we can feel assured our new chosen church is in fact just as "valid" as Catholicism.

It was ingrained in us that other churches were invalid--and in my childhood a nun even told a classroomful of girls that non-Catholics cannot get to Heaven. (I know this is not the teaching now, I just use it to illustrate the difficulty of overcoming the mindset one was brought up with.) In the generation before mine, Catholics weren't even supposed to set foot in a non-Catholic church--or perhaps they could to look at the building architecturally! But couldn't attend worship there....

But after a lot of thought I decided I could believe the Holy Spirit could be active in all the churches; and could even have had something to do with the emergence of the Anglican church...it wasn't all about Henry VIII's desire to divorce his wife and take another, as I'd been taught.

It's true, a divided Christian church does not seem to be in line with what Jesus wanted. But then, the abuses of the pre-reformation Church (though of course it had so much that was wonderful as well) were hardly what jesus wanted either....

I think there's more that unites all the Christian denominations than divides them (obviously); I love all ecumenical initiatives and endeavours, eg Taizé, the work of Abbe Paul Couturier, etc etc;
I think we are getting appreciably closer to each other.

So, Eliab, I think TT and Nenuphar (among others) have pretty much whittled it down to the essence: is the Catholic Church founded on firmer ground than the others? Has it preserved from doctrinal error by the Holy Spirit? Is the authority of the Pope what Jesus meant by "Upon this rock," etc? an other Christian churches claim true apostolic succession? And does the foundation and authenticity and inerrancy of the Catholic church truly give it the authority it claims?

Whatever the answer, I for one am so glad there is so much more dialogue nowadays, and easing of the terrible inter-denominational hostilities of the past. Which of course, to balance what I said above, were not all on the Catholic side, I realise--as is well-known, many Anglicans and others were in, eg, the 19th century, deeply hostile to "Popery" and anything seeming to smack of it, and Catholics were prevented from getting anywhere academically, politically, and,often, socially.

Astonishingly, some of that deep hostility survives in some quarters, as witness the thread started by The Silent Acolyte.

Cara

--------------------
Pondering.

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Ronald Binge
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quote:
Originally posted by Cara:
quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:

[QUOTE]I find unconvincing the foundations of any of the other churches. I would probably simply be a lapsed Catholic before I could ever be an Anglican or Orthodox Christian because of that.

I am stunned by that. I don't get it at all. OK, I can sort of imagine believing that you can hear Jesus better through the Catholic Church than any of the others, even believing that the others have distorted the message, but I don't see how, on any view, not listening to Jesus as a nominal Catholic is better than actually trying to follow him as a Baptist.

Are you saying that if you didn't have a plausibly infallible Church, you wouldn't see the point of being any sort of active Christian? Because that just sounds crazy to me. Have I misunderstood you completely?

Eliab, I think this is the crux of it all. The question of the foundations of all other churches. These foundations seem unconvincing, as TT says, to many (most? all?) Catholics. The other churches seem to be founded by breaking away from the core, by diverging from the true faith, by changing and altering the deposit that came down from Jesus and the apostles, by being in schism, and so on.

Those of us who, like me, left the Roman Catholic Church to join another one (in my case the Episopal Church/Anglican communion) have to work out for ourselves how we can feel assured our new chosen church is in fact just as "valid" as Catholicism.

It was ingrained in us that other churches were invalid--and in my childhood a nun even told a classroomful of girls that non-Catholics cannot get to Heaven. (I know this is not the teaching now, I just use it to illustrate the difficulty of overcoming the mindset one was brought up with.) In the generation before mine, Catholics weren't even supposed to set foot in a non-Catholic church--or perhaps they could to look at the building architecturally! But couldn't attend worship there....

But after a lot of thought I decided I could believe the Holy Spirit could be active in all the churches; and could even have had something to do with the emergence of the Anglican church...it wasn't all about Henry VIII's desire to divorce his wife and take another, as I'd been taught.

It's true, a divided Christian church does not seem to be in line with what Jesus wanted. But then, the abuses of the pre-reformation Church (though of course it had so much that was wonderful as well) were hardly what jesus wanted either....

I think there's more that unites all the Christian denominations than divides them (obviously); I love all ecumenical initiatives and endeavours, eg Taizé, the work of Abbe Paul Couturier, etc etc;
I think we are getting appreciably closer to each other.

So, Eliab, I think TT and Nenuphar (among others) have pretty much whittled it down to the essence: is the Catholic Church founded on firmer ground than the others? Has it preserved from doctrinal error by the Holy Spirit? Is the authority of the Pope what Jesus meant by "Upon this rock," etc? an other Christian churches claim true apostolic succession? And does the foundation and authenticity and inerrancy of the Catholic church truly give it the authority it claims?

Whatever the answer, I for one am so glad there is so much more dialogue nowadays, and easing of the terrible inter-denominational hostilities of the past. Which of course, to balance what I said above, were not all on the Catholic side, I realise--as is well-known, many Anglicans and others were in, eg, the 19th century, deeply hostile to "Popery" and anything seeming to smack of it, and Catholics were prevented from getting anywhere academically, politically, and,often, socially.

Astonishingly, some of that deep hostility survives in some quarters, as witness the thread started by The Silent Acolyte.

Cara

When you have had it drummed into your head since you can reason that Grace does not exist outside the (Roman) Catholic Church then it certainly sets up a major conflict, as it did for me, that it most certainly does.

--------------------
Older, bearded (but no wiser)

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Ender's Shadow
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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
Thanks for a fascinating reply - a totally new understanding of the material that has left me very surprised. I don't think it's a sustainable interpretation - but it's 'interesting'! Thanks.

I am puzzled by your response. If you go and read the whole Decree - here - you will see how Pope Pius IX builds up to the point of defining the doctrine by calling upon the witness of history, piety, papal precedents, the Council of Trent, the ancient belief of the Roman Church (meaning the Church of the City of Rome, not the way Anglicans use that term). There is a whole section devoted to earlier papal sanctions against those who taught otherwise . It's all of a piece. I cannot at all see why you think he was aiming at the likes of you, who do not hold to the authority of the Bishop of Rome!
I'll take your word for it that the intention is not to target Protestants; I don't have the enthusiasm to plough through the logic of piece. The question is whether it is theologically coherent to describe a person who was in communion with Rome but rejects this doctrine as having made a ship wreck of their faith, but to argue that a person who wasn't as not having done so. This is especially so given the language employed - referring to such persons as 'having separated from the church' and 'made a shipwreck of their faith'.

Perhaps it helps if we put this into real life. Sean and Seamus are two brothers who've been considering being received into the CofE for some time from Rome. Both of them reject the belief in the Assumption. The day before encyclical is published, Sean is received into the CofE. He's merely a schismatic. But Seamus - he's not over the line in time; the CofE bishop was ill, so the service was postponed. Suddenly he's made a shipwreck of his faith as well. And note that this categorisation applies to ALL who leave the RCC in fact, unless they continue to believe the doctrine of the Assumption...

You see the problem, TT, is that the sort of language in the encyclical is rather similar to the language that Rome has always used against schismatics. Historically you had the courage of your convictions and would have argued quite freely as in Regnans in Excelcis that we were heretics; none of this pussy footing about us as 'schismatics'.

And of course that act encouraging Catholics to reject their lawful vows was an encouragement to the attempted terrorism of the Gunpowder plot...

And it's because of this history of misleading the people of God so grossly, that the authority of the RCC to say anything is, sadly, really completely devalued. Contraception? So is this a bull like Regnans, or the ones encouraging the Crusades, or the Inquistion? Your pope got it so so wrong in the past, no sensible person should buy into that busted flush of total authority these days these days if they've got a quantum of historical sense.

Of course this is nothing new. The history of the attitude of the church to Origen is a running gag of flip flopping from one view to the other; on his death bed he was assured that he was totally sound. A bit later he was roundly condemned. Now he's back in fashion.

AFAICS, in practice, Rome is the school bully; when he can get away with it, he lords it over his fellows, making them do exactly what he says. But when he's lost his power to rule, he gets all soft and smiley and tries to pretend to be everyone's friend - until he gets another chance to be the bully. Given the chance, Catholics will persecute Protestants to this day; examples still exist in the Philipines and even Europe where Anglicans were labelled a sect in Belgium when a whistle blower at the European Commission proved to be an Anglican. I'm allergic to bullies, and AFAICS, the RCC is a classic example. There is, no doubt, some good in there, but there's too much noise in the output for it to be taken as authoritative per se.

--------------------
Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Please don't refer to me as 'Ender' - the whole point of Ender's Shadow is that he isn't Ender.

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Sir Pellinore
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I think, South Coast Kevin, Roman Catholic and Orthodox biblical scholarship are very similar in many ways as the basic beliefs underlying both Churches are based on the same historic formulations of doctrine which tend to go back well before the putative date of the Great Schism in 1053/4.

My contention would be that other Christian confessions tend to rely, to a very great extent, on confessions which go back to the Reformation and which are, in many ways, substantially different.

The various "horrors" perpetrated by various Christian denominations on each other and on those who are not Christian are probably best left to stand as witness to the capability of human beings to do this sort of thing.

In this regard I am sorry to see Ender's Shadow raising the sad flag of sectarianism. I thought most sensible Christians had moved beyond that. Perhaps they have. [Votive]

--------------------
Well...

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
The various "horrors" perpetrated by various Christian denominations on each other and on those who are not Christian are probably best left to stand as witness to the capability of human beings to do this sort of thing.

I don't think churches that claim they are, in some sense, God's chosen church can get away this, sorry. Such churches have to explain (a) how they have got things badly wrong in the past (e.g. the Inquisition), and (b) why people should put their complete trust in what the church teaches today, given the previous errors.

Churches that neither claim specially favoured status nor imply those in other churches are missing out on something just don't have these issues, ISTM. And besides, I suspect God cares far less than we do about what church institution we belong to!

--------------------
My blog - wondering about Christianity in the 21st century, chess, music, politics and other bits and bobs.

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Ender's Shadow
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quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
In this regard I am sorry to see Ender's Shadow raising the sad flag of sectarianism. I thought most sensible Christians had moved beyond that. Perhaps they have. [Votive]

The problem is that the way in which the RCC formulates it claim to power makes it subject to this sort of criticism, whereas a Protestant approach makes it easier in practice to walk away when you've made an idiot of yourself (e.g. the Protestant support for Prohibition and Appeasement). This thread is about the authority of the RCC; therefore it makes sense to look hard at what it does say - and challenge it firmly as it is, IMNSHO, fundamentally flawed.

And I also feel it is healthy to bring out some of our suspicions and claims on these occasions. I've been very impressed by TT's explanation of the 'Shipwreck' clause; it has genuinely deepened my understanding of the issue, and that's only been possible because I hauled it out into the light. I do genuinely want an explanation of how the other issues I raised can be squared with the modern policies of the church; there is MUCH good stuff from Catholics; unfortunately they've also got some bad habits... And at the heart of the 'purgatory' approach is to give everything a good airing and see what doesn't stand up!

--------------------
Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Please don't refer to me as 'Ender' - the whole point of Ender's Shadow is that he isn't Ender.

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Zach82
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quote:
I don't think churches that claim they are, in some sense, God's chosen church can get away this, sorry. Such churches have to explain (a) how they have got things badly wrong in the past (e.g. the Inquisition), and (b) why people should put their complete trust in what the church teaches today, given the previous errors.

Churches that neither claim specially favoured status nor imply those in other churches are missing out on something just don't have these issues, ISTM. And besides, I suspect God cares far less than we do about what church institution we belong to!

Even Protestants believe that the Church has a special relationship with God- one not shared by non-Christians no matter how saintly they might be. It is, furthermore, the case that having faith in Jesus Christ means having faith in His Church. We know of Jesus Christ because he was proclaimed by the Apostles, so believing in him means believing in the reliability of that community that proclaims him.

I think the case from the Bible is that God does care which institutions we belong to- insofar as He wills all to be one in His Church. I think I am saved because I am baptized into an institution.

--------------------
Don't give up yet, no, don't ever quit/ There's always a chance of a critical hit. Ghost Mice

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
In what way can the Pope - the man who is in charge of the whole worldwide Catholic church, who sits right at the very top of its leadership structure, who lives in a freakin' palace in the middle of his own country - be said to be a servant?

It's just barmy. You can't be the one giving out the commands to everyone else and be a servant of everyone else. The two roles are fundamentally irreconcilable.

What I'm saying is that this idea - "servant of the servants of God" describes the Christian model of leadership.

This is what any Christian holding any sort of official authority should be aiming for.

Did not Jesus say something like "you see how the pagans lord it over each other when they get the chance - let it not be so among you" ?

Make no mistake, this is a tall order. Humans as social animals have an inbuilt tendency to defer to the alpha male. Falling into the old unredeemed power-relationships is so easy.

It should be pretty obvious that the papacy has failed to live up to that ideal. Through a large part of Christian history the Pope has been seen as a monarch of the spiritual realm, parallel to the kings and queens in the temporal realm. Or the spiritual equivalent of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Seems to me that "kinging it" is "lording it" squared, and though there may be no verb "to emperor", acting like an emperor might be "lording it" cubed.

So on the one hand the institution of the Catholic church has faithfully preserved the ideal down the centuries. And on the other hand, like every other individual and institution, it has failed to live up to the ideal.

(Recognizing that some individual Popes have come much closer than others).

So that there is in Catholic thought not only many treasures, but also this culture of Roman power.

The wheat and the tares grow mixed.

Triple Tiara is quite right to say that if every Vatican communication is seen only in the light of political power-play then much that is good will be missed.

But the converse is that if every Vatican communication is seen only as holy wisdom, then much that is wrong with the Catholic church will go unchallenged and Roman Catholicism will sink further into siege mentality.

So there seems to me a necessity for discernment, a willingness to learn and be taught alongside a willingness to criticize and dissent.

Although some would call this heresy.

Best wishes,

Russ

--------------------
Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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CL
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quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
quote:
Originally posted by Ender's Shadow:
Thanks for a fascinating reply - a totally new understanding of the material that has left me very surprised. I don't think it's a sustainable interpretation - but it's 'interesting'! Thanks.

I am puzzled by your response. If you go and read the whole Decree - here - you will see how Pope Pius IX builds up to the point of defining the doctrine by calling upon the witness of history, piety, papal precedents, the Council of Trent, the ancient belief of the Roman Church (meaning the Church of the City of Rome, not the way Anglicans use that term). There is a whole section devoted to earlier papal sanctions against those who taught otherwise . It's all of a piece. I cannot at all see why you think he was aiming at the likes of you, who do not hold to the authority of the Bishop of Rome!
I'll take your word for it that the intention is not to target Protestants; I don't have the enthusiasm to plough through the logic of piece. The question is whether it is theologically coherent to describe a person who was in communion with Rome but rejects this doctrine as having made a ship wreck of their faith, but to argue that a person who wasn't as not having done so. This is especially so given the language employed - referring to such persons as 'having separated from the church' and 'made a shipwreck of their faith'.

Perhaps it helps if we put this into real life. Sean and Seamus are two brothers who've been considering being received into the CofE for some time from Rome. Both of them reject the belief in the Assumption. The day before encyclical is published, Sean is received into the CofE. He's merely a schismatic. But Seamus - he's not over the line in time; the CofE bishop was ill, so the service was postponed. Suddenly he's made a shipwreck of his faith as well. And note that this categorisation applies to ALL who leave the RCC in fact, unless they continue to believe the doctrine of the Assumption...

You see the problem, TT, is that the sort of language in the encyclical is rather similar to the language that Rome has always used against schismatics. Historically you had the courage of your convictions and would have argued quite freely as in Regnans in Excelcis that we were heretics; none of this pussy footing about us as 'schismatics'.

And of course that act encouraging Catholics to reject their lawful vows was an encouragement to the attempted terrorism of the Gunpowder plot...

And it's because of this history of misleading the people of God so grossly, that the authority of the RCC to say anything is, sadly, really completely devalued. Contraception? So is this a bull like Regnans, or the ones encouraging the Crusades, or the Inquistion? Your pope got it so so wrong in the past, no sensible person should buy into that busted flush of total authority these days these days if they've got a quantum of historical sense.

Of course this is nothing new. The history of the attitude of the church to Origen is a running gag of flip flopping from one view to the other; on his death bed he was assured that he was totally sound. A bit later he was roundly condemned. Now he's back in fashion.

AFAICS, in practice, Rome is the school bully; when he can get away with it, he lords it over his fellows, making them do exactly what he says. But when he's lost his power to rule, he gets all soft and smiley and tries to pretend to be everyone's friend - until he gets another chance to be the bully. Given the chance, Catholics will persecute Protestants to this day; examples still exist in the Philipines and even Europe where Anglicans were labelled a sect in Belgium when a whistle blower at the European Commission proved to be an Anglican. I'm allergic to bullies, and AFAICS, the RCC is a classic example. There is, no doubt, some good in there, but there's too much noise in the output for it to be taken as authoritative per se.

Ignorant post. Ever heard of formal schism and material schism?

--------------------
"Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ." - Athanasius of Alexandria

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CL
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
The various "horrors" perpetrated by various Christian denominations on each other and on those who are not Christian are probably best left to stand as witness to the capability of human beings to do this sort of thing.

I don't think churches that claim they are, in some sense, God's chosen church can get away this, sorry. Such churches have to explain (a) how they have got things badly wrong in the past (e.g. the Inquisition), and (b) why people should put their complete trust in what the church teaches today, given the previous errors.

Churches that neither claim specially favoured status nor imply those in other churches are missing out on something just don't have these issues, ISTM. And besides, I suspect God cares far less than we do about what church institution we belong to!

I wasn't aware that God guaranteed that the persons who run the Church on Earth would always and forever by purer than the driven snow. Please point out a man free from the fallen state so we can make him a bishop.

--------------------
"Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ." - Athanasius of Alexandria

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Sir Pellinore
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I think, Ender's Shadow, you have probably said far too much on a certain subject.

Those of us with any sense need to scroll past any further attempt by you to justify your appalling insensitivity and tastelessness.

Have you no shame? [Disappointed]

--------------------
Well...

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Zach82:
Even Protestants believe that the Church has a special relationship with God- one not shared by non-Christians no matter how saintly they might be. It is, furthermore, the case that having faith in Jesus Christ means having faith in His Church.

I don't share this view - if that means I'm not a Protestant then so be it! In any case, what do you mean by 'Church'? The only sense in which I might agree with you is if you mean the Church invisible, i.e. all those who are following Jesus and seeking to be his disciple. I think the church is tremendously important, and I think it's vital for Christians to be in community with other Christians, but it's people that either are or are not in line with God's will, not institutions IMO.

quote:
Originally posted by Zach82:
I think the case from the Bible is that God does care which institutions we belong to- insofar as He wills all to be one in His Church. I think I am saved because I am baptized into an institution.

I'd say I was baptised as a public declaration of my faith in Jesus Christ, not into an institution. And God willing all to be one in his church doesn't, in my view, mean he wants one worldwide institution. I think it's much more organic than that.
quote:
Originally posted by CL:
I wasn't aware that God guaranteed that the persons who run the Church on Earth would always and forever by purer than the driven snow. Please point out a man free from the fallen state so we can make him a bishop.

BUt CL, that's not the point. The Catholic Church is, ISTM, claiming it has something that other churches don't; namely guardianship of the truth about God and some kind of status as the institution in which the fulness of salvation and harmony with God is to be found.

Is the Catholic Church's official position that all Christians would be better off in some way if they left their current church and joined the Catholic Church? And does the Catholic Church claim an inherent superiority when it comes to doctrinal matters?

My church and, I think, most Protestant churches would claim neither of the above things, and that's important IMO. Obviously, any teaching is believed to be true by the one who is giving the teaching (assuming good faith of course). But ISTM the Catholic position is significantly more dogmatic than this, on matters which there is an official Catholic position.

--------------------
My blog - wondering about Christianity in the 21st century, chess, music, politics and other bits and bobs.

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Ender's Shadow
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# 2272

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quote:
Originally posted by CL:
Ignorant post. Ever heard of formal schism and material schism?

Obviously not; I don't claim to be an expert, and if that provides an explanation, fair enough. But it's not a sin to be ignorant; it is a sin to reject new knowledge - I am genuinely seeking to be educated as to how this logic works. It is unhelpful to hide such knowledge behind jargon phrase. Please feel free to explain.

quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
I think, Ender's Shadow, you have probably said far too much on a certain subject.

Those of us with any sense need to scroll past any further attempt by you to justify your appalling insensitivity and tastelessness.

Have you no shame? [Disappointed]

We've all got our dirty linen. If communication is to be honest and genuine, then issues of 'shame' are meaningless; if we are to break through from being polite to one another, but with no actual trust, to the point where we actually get to the point where we can actually work together for the glory of God, then these issues need to be thrashed out. That I've not heard a coherent defence of the RCC position on these issues AND AM WILLING TO LISTEN is a vote of confidence in TT, surprisingly. I do genuinely want to hear what he says in response to these questions...

--------------------
Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Please don't refer to me as 'Ender' - the whole point of Ender's Shadow is that he isn't Ender.

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Martin60
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# 368

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Just had my first Roman rite service ever in San Pedro de Alcántara. I was amazed at how High Anglican it was [Biased] Change the language all to English (one reading was) and quarter the 200 congregation and you could have been in sunny Leicester cathedral.

I didn´t take the host of course. And I did have Tom Lehrer running through my head at one point. Que Dios me perdone.

The authority was certainly no less than Canterbury or Constantinople. I look forward to more authority emerging in all of these bishoprics.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
At the moment there is a tension between the Catholic Church and the Society of St Pius X. The Pope wants them back in communion - they think they are being true to the "message" (to use your word), which the Catholic Church has transgressed and thus cannot concede anything. They therefore prefer to remain on the ecclesial outside. To Catholics that is a scandal.

Dear TripleT,

You seem to be saying:

- The SSPX don't want to concede anything for the sake of unity, and that's a scandal.

- The Protestant Reformers didn't want to concede anything for the sake of unity, and they are thus the wreckers of the unity of Christendom.

- The Catholics don't want to concede anything for the sake of unity with the Protestants, but that's "being true to the Faith" which is a virtue.

Is there a hint of a double standard here ?

Of course, you could make a similar point the other way around... (Am I unbiased ? No. At a minimum I have a culturally-English sympathy for the small man against the wielders of power.)

I don't know the answer - I can see no principle to determine when it is morally right to compromise on what one believes in for the sake of good relationships with others. (And if I could, would that then be one of my principles which I might be called to compromise on ?)

But can you see how some of what you say might come across as an exercise in special pleading ? Which devalues the case you're trying to make - that there really are reasons why one ecclesial institution is more to be trusted than others.

Trying to focus on the main issue, I suppose the question I want to ask is this:

Leaving aside papal infallibility, and focussing only on the "ordinary" teachings of the Pope - the level at which issues such as Eliab's example of contraception are dealt with;

the Catholic position seems to be that whatever past popes may have done wrong in their official capacity, the doctrine they have taught has always been true; you're saying not to judge one by the other.

So how does an outsider (someone with no detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of Church history and Vatican politics) tell the difference between

a) words of a Pope that teach moral "doctrine"

b) words of a Pope that merely set forth a moral position (e.g. on whether people should be tortured, whether governments should be obeyed, whether people should read the Bible in their own language, whether interest may be charged on a loan etc).

If category a) has this special authority and must be believed by faithful Catholics, but category b) hasn't and has with hindsight clearly been wrong in the past, is there genuinely "clear blue water" between the two categories ? Where's the big difference ?

With best wishes and much appreciation for your clarity and patience,

Russ

--------------------
Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3169 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
CL
Shipmate
# 16145

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
At the moment there is a tension between the Catholic Church and the Society of St Pius X. The Pope wants them back in communion - they think they are being true to the "message" (to use your word), which the Catholic Church has transgressed and thus cannot concede anything. They therefore prefer to remain on the ecclesial outside. To Catholics that is a scandal.

Dear TripleT,

You seem to be saying:

- The SSPX don't want to concede anything for the sake of unity, and that's a scandal.

- The Protestant Reformers didn't want to concede anything for the sake of unity, and they are thus the wreckers of the unity of Christendom.

- The Catholics don't want to concede anything for the sake of unity with the Protestants, but that's "being true to the Faith" which is a virtue.

Is there a hint of a double standard here ?

Of course, you could make a similar point the other way around... (Am I unbiased ? No. At a minimum I have a culturally-English sympathy for the small man against the wielders of power.)

I don't know the answer - I can see no principle to determine when it is morally right to compromise on what one believes in for the sake of good relationships with others. (And if I could, would that then be one of my principles which I might be called to compromise on ?)

But can you see how some of what you say might come across as an exercise in special pleading ? Which devalues the case you're trying to make - that there really are reasons why one ecclesial institution is more to be trusted than others.

Trying to focus on the main issue, I suppose the question I want to ask is this:

Leaving aside papal infallibility, and focussing only on the "ordinary" teachings of the Pope - the level at which issues such as Eliab's example of contraception are dealt with;

the Catholic position seems to be that whatever past popes may have done wrong in their official capacity, the doctrine they have taught has always been true; you're saying not to judge one by the other.

So how does an outsider (someone with no detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of Church history and Vatican politics) tell the difference between

a) words of a Pope that teach moral "doctrine"

b) words of a Pope that merely set forth a moral position (e.g. on whether people should be tortured, whether governments should be obeyed, whether people should read the Bible in their own language, whether interest may be charged on a loan etc).

If category a) has this special authority and must be believed by faithful Catholics, but category b) hasn't and has with hindsight clearly been wrong in the past, is there genuinely "clear blue water" between the two categories ? Where's the big difference ?

With best wishes and much appreciation for your clarity and patience,

Russ

Comparing the relationship of the SSPX to Rome and that of Protestants to Rome is a canard. The SSPX are merely in a canonically irregular situation which could (and will, please God) be solved with the stroke of a pen.

--------------------
"Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ." - Athanasius of Alexandria

Posts: 647 | From: Ireland | Registered: Jan 2011  |  IP: Logged
Triple Tiara

Ship's Papabile
# 9556

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Some rancour creeping in here, which I hope subsides.

I think the nexus of the question is posed by Russ: how does one know what weight an instruction from the top carries. It is in fact, quite simple, but one needs to know the key. I guess this is where the problem lies. So I will try to give a handy guide.

Every Papal Document carries a title of it's specific type. One might miss this if one simply sees them all as of equal importance because they come from the Pope.

However, take a look at these three links to documents emanating from Pope John Paul II:

Scripturam Thesauras - in which the Vulgate is declared the "typical" edition of the Scriptures for the Catholic Church.

Novo millennio ineunte on the Jubilee Year 2000

Fides et Ratio on the relationship between Faith and Reason.

I give these as links because each of them is specifically given a heading: the first is an Apostolic Constitution, the second is an Apostolic Letter and the third is an Encyclical Letter. Clearly, three different types of document. There are in addition documents known as Apostolic Exhortations, and then there are letters Motu Proprio. Finally there are of course speeches and homilies. Quite a variety! How does one navigate through all that?

Actually it's quite simple once you know what is what, so here's the handy guide:

1. Apostolic Constitution - the most important document in which the Pope defines a teaching (very rare - the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined by the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus and the Assumption by the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.)

An Apsotolic Constitution is also employed when the Pope makes formal rulings such as the erection of a new diocese or a new structure within the Church - hence the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus [Biased]

2. Encyclicals - this is a term which is often mistakenly applied to all Papal Documents. An Encyclical is a Letter expressing the mind of the Pope on a specific subject. An Encyclical can be either to the entire Church or to a Church in a specific territory. Thus Pope Pius XI wrote to the Church in Germany his famous Encyclical Letter Mit brennender sorge (unusual in that it has a German rather than a Latin title). An Encyclical carries the weight of the papal office, and therefore is solemn and needs to be heeded. But it would not be used to define a doctrine. Here is where there is debate amongst some about the prohibition of contraception: that was not done via an Apostolic Constitution but via an Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae. This is where the fun and games happens within Catholic theological circles - determining the weight of a particular teaching based on the way in which the Pope has formulated and declared it.

3. Apostolic Letter - this is less solemn than an Encyclical Letter, but is usually written for the encouragement of the Church on a particular theme - something the Pope wishes the Church to think about. Other uses of Apostolic Letters are to declare someone a saint, or make a reform within the Roman Curia, or adjust Church law.

4. Apostolic Exhortation - this is usually written by a Pope after a meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and reflecting upon their recommendations. Or it could be something like Vita Consecrata, written by John Paul II to try and chivvy up the religious in the observance of their vows.

Of course Popes produce far more words than just those documents - far, far more! Speeches, homilies and so on are worth listening to because they often contain quite good indicators of Papal thought. Benedict XVI delivers rather startlingly beautiful homilies and speeches, well worth reflecting upon. They are unlikely to contain any doctrinal error, but they are not definitive doctrinal statements either.

A final description to note is a document given Motu Proprio. This can be of any of the types listed (but is usually an Apostolic Letter), and indicates a very specific act by a Pope, issued at his own initiative (as opposed to one in response to a particular request). These carry the force of law within the Church. Thus Pope Benedict's famous Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum allowing for a relaxation on the restrictions of the celebration of the older form of the Roman Rite.

All these Papal documents come under the umbrella term of the "ordinary Magisterium" of the Holy Father. That is, by virtue of his office the Church needs to pay heed to them and fall in line behind them. This does not always happen! Quite often they provoke a huge amount of discussion rather than simple compliance. Very few "ordinary" members of the Church ever read any such "ordinary Magisterium" documents. They might hear about one if something controversial is written, but I know very few people who have actually read such papal documents in full.

Now, as to infallibility, a Pope needs to make it abundantly clear that he is invoking this specific privilege. This has only been done ONCE. This is how Pope Pius XII made it clear that he was defining dogma and not simply engaging in his ordinary teaching office:

quote:
For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honour of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma:

that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

You won't find that kind of language in other documents. And these are really the only things which are binding and irreformable - though Popes tend not to try and contradict their predecessors!

--------------------
I'm a Roman. You may call me Caligula.

Posts: 5905 | From: London, England | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged
Holy Smoke
Shipmate
# 14866

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quote:
Originally posted by Triple Tiara:
...You won't find that kind of language in other documents. And these are really the only things which are binding and irreformable...

So what happens if he later turns out to have been wrong? Are you just stuck with it, and have to teach it regardless?
Posts: 335 | From: UK | Registered: Jun 2009  |  IP: Logged
Triple Tiara

Ship's Papabile
# 9556

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Well, you are presenting a Catch-22 situation, aren't you? How is something going to be shown to be wrong if it is defined infallibly? And how are we going to know it's wrong until we get to heaven? I mean, how do we know the Trinity, the Resurrection, the Ascension are true?

--------------------
I'm a Roman. You may call me Caligula.

Posts: 5905 | From: London, England | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged



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