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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Authority and truth--reply to Binx

I've been carrying on a conversation in the comments section with a poster named Binx, who posed some excellent questions relating to my last post. So I decided to move t into a new blog post (in part because it's late Sunday night and I haven't made a new post this weekend). As I have time--probably next weekend--I hope to move on to the priesthood of all believers, and from there to women's ordination--so stay tuned!

Binx initially raised three objections to my post (you can read his full arguments in the comments section of my previous entry):

1. James contradicts what I am saying. I responded that I don't think James and Paul are speaking of the same kind of "faith," and my evidence for this is that James identifies the dead faith that cannot save as the faith of demons, which cannot be a gift of God and which even Aquinas distinguishes from the "lifeless faith" of sinful Christians.

2 (this was the third point he made, but I'm leaving the most important issue for last). The practical flaws in Catholicism result not from Catholic doctrine but from a failure to proclaim said doctrine. They are therefore simply the results of sin and do not constitute a reason to continue in separation from the Church. I responded that when any Christian body consistently shows certain weaknesses, these weaknesses derive from some flaw in its teaching. This applies to Protestants as well. It's not that we are better than Catholics or that we are unwilling to be in union with Catholicism, but rather that (in view of the flaws of Catholicism) we cannot make the act of unconditional submission that Catholicism requires.

3. Most significantly, Binx raised the issue of authority. I'll put his argument in his own words:
the objective aspect of faith, the 'what is held to be true', is just as integral a part of faith as the act of 'holding as true'. And this is where dogma and authority are indespensible and yet absent from evangelical Protestantism. It is why 'faith' in the Jehovah's Witness sense or the Mormon sense is not faith in Christ at all. It is why Arianism is not Christian. And gnosticism, Donatism, Albegensianism, etc. Faith has an objective element that the Authority of the Church protects and that is necessary to salvation. . . . The Dogma and Authority of the Church are not the heart of Faith but they are the divinely instituted means of protecting the very fullness of the Faith.
To this I responded that the objective aspect of faith is indeed integral, but this faith is primarily faith in Christ rather than faith in whatever-the-Church-proposes-as-true. What distinguishes Arianism from authentic Christianity is its failure to proclaim the true Christ, not its failure to conform with the pronouncements of the Magisterium.

In his most recent post, Binx began by responding to this argument. I will quote snippets of his post here, but you can of course read his arguments in their entirety (which they well deserve) in the comments section of the previous blog entry.

Binx wrote:

Actually I think I would formulate the relationship between the Church (and her God given Authority to bear witness to the Truth) and Christ as integral and inseperable.

Sure. But as a matter of fact there are many Christians out there who believe in Christ but don't accept this "integral" connection. Vatican II describes us as imperfectly connected with the Church, but still in some sense members of the Body. I can live with that. But that of course means that the full authority of the Magisterium is not the same thing as union with Christ (though it may be necessary for perfect union with Christ). Some "hierarchy of truths" is necessary. Some things are believed for the sake of other things. And it seems important to me that Jesus Christ crucified should be the one for whose sake we believe in the Church, not vice versa. Of course the Church is necessary as a _witness_ to Christ. (This I think is what Augustine meant in his famous statement about not believing the Gospel if not convinced by the Catholic Church.) But a witness is decidedly secondary to the truth to which he witnesses.

So it seems to me it can't boil 'down to...our faith is in Christ, not in a doctrine or a church', because implicit in faith in Christ is faith in Christ's message necessarily mediated thru the Church. Yes?

Yes. I was not trying to create an either/or, but rather a hierarchy of importance. My problem with much Western Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant (I'm not necessarily holding up the Orthodox as models here, just leaving them out because I'm less sure about them), is that we have exalted the methodology of belief above the content of belief itself (or rather Himself). William Abraham has some good things to say about this in his book Canon and Criterion, though I don't agree with all his arguments.

But I would immediately feel compelled to qualify the statement by an equally important addendum so that it only makes sense to read it as "...not fully divine and thus not the true Christ as understood and proclaimed the Church, whom the Lord gave his Authority to bear witness regarding Himself" ('He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.')

But during the Arian controversy it wasn't clear what the Church proclaimed. The Church was divided. Even Rome wavered at one point, though it never sided with the Arians. Athanasius and others defended what they believed to be true based on Scripture and the writings of earlier Christians and the analogy of the Faith. They believed what they believed passionately because they were convinced it was true, not because it came stamped by proper authority.

Otherwise who can tell us who the 'true Christ' is? That is precisely what the Arians claimed to be doing, defining the true Christ. Who has the Authority to say?

Well, that's radically different from how Athanasius approached it. And I think it's a dangerous, even deadly attitude to take (however tempting in confusing times like ours). The answer to the question is that the Church has the authority, and the Church is made up of all believers. The Church has proper authority structures, but that doesn't (or shouldn't) shortcut the messy process of actually thrashing out the issues based on what we (not just I, but not just the Pope and bishops either) believe to be true.

Clearly we need authority if this process is not to be totally open-ended and hence incapable of resolution. But that's not the same thing as saying (as you appear to be saying) that we can't even talk about why the Arians are wrong until we have heard from some Qualified Authority that they are wrong. This is the attitude that has torn the Western Church apart (not, as many Catholics will tell you, the rejection of this attitude--of course this is a matter of perspective). Medieval Catholicism took in the poison of Roman law and fell prey to its legalistic, authority-driven approach to the world. (I'm often tempted to agree with the late medieval apocalypticists and the Protestant Reformers who thought that at this point Antichrist in some way entered into the Church.) This has nearly destroyed Christianity by distracting us from the older, more orthodox, ontological approach. (In other words, is truth primarily a matter of obeying the rules laid down by competent authorities, or of participating in Ultimate Reality? Of course it doesn't have to be an either/or, but one or the other tends to be in the driver's seat, and I think it matters a lot which.)

I think this all flows from the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Church's foundation on Christ and his nature as determined by the Incarnation. The human and divine nature of Christ are inseperable, even tho they can be considered in their seperate aspects. Yes?

But Jesus' humanity was sinless. The Church is not (although she can be defined as such if you play elaborate word games that identify the mystical reality of the Church with the earthly institution enough to sanctify the latter but whisk the mystical reality back up to heaven as soon as the threat of earthly pollution becomes imminent). The Church errs--at least the institutional leaders of the Church err. The Church as an earthly institution errs. (Not perhaps in dogmatic definitions, but in the many other decisions it makes every day.) In this world the Church cannot simply be identified with Christ. This is to confound the "already" with the "not yet," and it is the fundamental error of Catholicism. When all is said and done, this is the reason I'm not a Catholic. (Although when a more extreme version of this was expounded by Touchstone's S. M. Hutchens, I responded critically in my blog post "The Ecclesiology of Limbo." Read that post, if you like, for a balance to what I'm saying now.)

(Luther and Calvin both wounded forever the Protestant movement with their inbalance regarding the Transcendence of God).

Calvin yes, with his conception of idolatry. I'm much less sure about Luther. It's hard to find someone who proclaimed the Incarnation with all its consequences as boldly as Luther. I think it's a mistake to assume that because Luther wasn't sure the Church was most fully incarnate in ecclesiastical hierarchies that he therefore had a spiritualized view of the Church. The case can be made that he did--but it's not an obvious one. (And Calvin arguably spiritualized the Church even less than Luther, although he had a more spiritualized view of the Sacraments than Luther.)

She has the promise that the Gates of hell will not prevail against her.

And she defines this to mean that certain ecclesiastical officials can't err on matters of doctrine in very narrow circumstances. In my more Protestant moods, I'm tempted to say, Who cares? (I know that's a silly and insufficient response. But it's an appropriate response to the careless way some Catholics throw the "gates of hell" passage around as if it were sufficient to wipe out all the very obvious failures of the institutional Church throughout history.)

If the Catholic Church (or the Church whose true identity is that of the original church, as Newman would say I think) has not 'preserved the fullness of the Faith', then the Scripture is not true that proclaims she is the 'pillar and ground of truth', and indeed the 'gates of hell have prevailed against her'.

Why? Why is a failure to achieve perfection part-way through one's earthly pilgrimage a total defeat by the gates of hell? What if the fullness of the truth is not something that can be preserved but something that must be achieved, and will only be achieved in Glory? Perhaps a better term for the deposit of faith the Church preserves would be the integrity of the truth. I'm not disputing the importance of preserving the deposit--I'm questioning that (by Newman's own standards, recognizing the reality of development as he did) the "fullness of the truth" is the right term for what the Church preserves.

"the members of the Church, due to the effects of original sin and actual sin, are always in need of reform. The Church’s teaching, however, is from God. Not one iota is to be changed or considered in need of reform." [Alice von Hildebrand, as quoted by Binx]

And this is the disjunction that I'm not sure I can accept. Indeed, in a way this very disjunction is anti-incarnational. I agree that the Church is more than the sum of its members. I'm not sure you can use "the Church" in a proposition whose content is diametrically opposed to any true statement whose subject is "the Church's members." In other words, I don't think you can say, "The Church is sinless; the Church's members are sinful," unless of course you are very explicitly talking about the eschatological reality of the Church, toward which we are presently in pilgrimage.

I recognize that you quote Dr. von Hildebrand as saying not "the Church" but "the Church's doctrine." This is a more defensible position, but as I said it seems somewhat gnostic to me. And of course there's a huge difference between defined doctrine and normal, everyday teaching. I'm quite willing to keep open the possibility that the Catholic Church's defined dogmas may in fact all be true (due to divine protection). I hope this is the case, because I deeply long for the unity of the Church and I doubt that the See of Rome will ever back down from this particular claim. But clearly the actual, day-to-day teaching of the Catholic Church is deeply flawed in all sorts of ways. That I'm sticking to, and I think most Catholics would agree with me, however reluctant they might be to put it quite this way.

I am not sure what you mean by 'unconditional submission', could you explain.

I mean that I would have to accept without qualification not only that all the currently defined teachings of the Catholic Church are true, but that the Holy Spirit is so guiding the Church that any future definitions would also be true. I would have to accept that to separate from the "Roman" Catholic Church is (if done with full and sufficient knowledge) to separate from Christ, so that if in the future I came into conflict with the Church, I would never be in the right to push that conflict to the point of separation.

Also, whatever this means, the Church, I think, teaches that one should always follow the dictates of one's conscience. That surely has to be balanced with what unconditional submission means (I will try and find that in the CCC if you like).

I've read quite a bit on this, and I think (though I could be wrong) that I understand it. Catholics are required to follow their consciences, but they are also required to be willing to form their consciences according to the Church's teaching. And they are required to submit even when they cannot agree, unless some practical action were required that went against the conscience. In other words, I assume that if I lived in the 13th century and knew that reporting on my Albigensian or Waldensian neighbor would lead to said neighbor being burned at the stake, I would be justified in the eyes of the modern Catholic Church in defying the decree of Lateran IV authorizing the bishop to order me to report on said neighbor; whether that would help me much back in the 13th century I'm not sure.) I'm not arguing that this kind of submission is unworthy or conflicts with intellectual honesty. I respect those who make it, because they believe it is the right thing to do. My problem is that, as an outsider to Catholicism, I don't see evidence that the Catholic Church (as an institution) is trustworthy enough for me to make that kind of submission. (The policies of the high medieval Church toward heretics are one good reason for this--I'm pretty sure the Church won't do such a thing again, but it did do it once, and I can't be sure that it isn't doing or won't do something equally stupid and wicked.)

I thought Bouyer in Spirit and Forms does a marvelous job in pointing out that the insights that Luther came to were always the heart of Catholic Doctrine and that it was the decadence of the time and of a corrupting Nominalist Theology on which he was standing that caused him to fail to perceive it. If you get the chance I would love to hear your perspective on his argument.

It's been a while since I read that book--I was at least somewhat persuaded at the time, although as someone who's studied nominalism to some extent as a grad student I'm wary of blaming everything on nominalism. (Martin Bucer, the subject of my dissertation, was trained as a Thomist; and to take one of Bouyer's examples, Bucer had no problems understanding that the same action could be wholly of God and yet fully human; but Bucer still embraced Protestantism.)

On the whole, though, I've tended to embrace Bouyer's approach. That's precisely what I was trying to address in my post. I have identified an issue where I think Luther had a definite insight that did contradict Aquinas at least (the more I look at Aquinas on this, the less certain I am that his position represented the previous consensus--and that's true on a bunch of other issues as well).

How does Luther's rejection of the unformed/formed faith distinction either constitute an affirmation of Catholic orthodoxy or an unfortunate misunderstanding due to "decadent nominalism"? It seems to me that there is something more than that going on here, and that's exactly why I focused on this issue.


thoughtspot said...

Hi Contarini. Great posting. I think some things really become clear here--including a little bit of what I was looking for when I challenged you to define "accountability" in a way that meant "what WE believe" rather than "what I (or the Pope) believes."

Part of this is re-arguing against Binx what you've argued before, which is that "authority" in the RC sense cannot be the trump card in and and all discussions of truth. I think you have made this point well (though admittedly I'm predisposed to, as a Protestant!).

Finding a flaw in Catholocism's ways of defining faith--particularly if that flaw only applies to some teachers in some centuries--is not, of course, fatal to Catholicism. I'm not sure, in fact, that the same (or a similar) flaw is not made as badly by most teachers in most centuries of Protestantism.

More interesting to me is the notion of "unconditional submission." You even hint that if the RC dropped this demand then you (and other Protestants) could and would rejoin Rome, and unity of Christ's church would usher in the millenium. (O.K., I got carried away.) But I would like more from you on a prescription for unity--what exactly (besides unconditional submission) the RC could demand and still be the RC; and what exactly Protestants could give up without losing anything that is true and Godly in their own traditions.

I seem to remember you denying (in earlier posts) having such a prescription to make. But I'm wondering if you're closer to taking a shot at it.

God bless you. How goes the dissertation?

Derek Jenkins said...

I have yet to have the time this week to fully consider and respond, hopefully this weekend I can gather my thoughts.

Thoughtspot: As you admit, you are predisposed, and therefore are almost certainly influenced by your patriotism. You are guarding your home turf. There are genius' in every tradition doing just that. Almost any position can be defended, it doesn't make it true. A thousand things are plausible, there is only one truth, and it is exclusive by nature.

One thing is certainly clear; the Church of the 1st century did not arrive at the truth through a democratic ('what WE believe') process (Calvin's attempt to place spiritual authority in the hands of the people is one of his great failures). It was thru the leaders of the Church that the Lord led them into Truth. The Twelve and the other apostles 'passed on' what they had received. The Council of Jerusalem was a gathering of Church Leadership and they were led to understand the desire of the Lord for His people in the disputed matter at hand. And it is here that we see the seed, and development, of the divinely instituted means of bearing witness to the truth.

If there is not such a divinely instituted mean for judging between the conflicting views of men, then I fail to see how there is any authority at all (sola Scriptura is a bankrupt principle). And that is what in fact reigns in the Protestant movement: doctrinal anarchy. There is nothing to stop it. The Lord did not ascend into heaven and leave the Bible, he left the Church and he left her with His Authority.

Edwin: Before I go on, I would like to invite all to enter an imaginative trip back in time. I do so in the hope to try and gain insight into what it may or may not mean to submit the Church.

I hope we can come to some sort of basic agreement here before trying to move on or before anticipating where you might think I am headed. I have a feeling you may have not encountered something, that may help a great deal, that lies down this road in regard to the nature and authority of the Church.

Let us place ourselves within the church at Antioch during the controversy that led to the Jerusalem Council recorded in the Acts. Imagine also that you belong to the group that advocates cirmcumcision as necessary to gain entrance into Christ and the Church. Not a far fetched idea by the way, the first Christians still thought of themselves as faithful Jews. And were for many years considered a Jewish sect by outsiders. Now it really doesn't matter why you think circumcision is required, what matters is what does the leadership of the Church think. Why is that so?

During the controversy there is nothing established that would exclude either party from being considered a legitimate part of the Church. But the question must be answered, or we risk division. So a council is convened and the leadership deliberates. The Holy Spirit is cleary part of that council as witnessed by the Scriptures. Now, once they have declared what they believe to be the truth in the matter, isn't that decision binding for the whole church? Period. Who has the authority to disagree? Who can take a stand in opposition to the declared will of Christ, necessarily mediated thru the leadership of the Church, and still claim to be in Christ?

Would you agree that once that decision was made and pronounced that you, as a disciple of Christ, have no legitimate option but to accept it as the revealed will of God?

thoughtspot said...

Binx, you have consistently overstated your case.

For example, your characterization of Acts 15 is heavily weighted. You have already decided that authority is the only issue; and so you see the Jerusalem council as an example of authority and little else.

However, the text tells us more than your interpretation. (This is the one and only value in the "bankrupt" notion of sola Scriptura--the attempt to rescue the voice of Scripture itself, not just Scripture-as-authority-reads-it. Protestants have not always succeeded here, but their attempt has produced more Scriptural recover than you acknowledge.)

Acts 15, for example, describes a careful process that involves listening to many voices. It is not exactly democratic--I prefer the word "consensual"--but certainly it is more democratic than you imply. Experiences are recounted; Scriptures are cited; the manifest work of the Holy Spirit (in the growth of the church) is seen for what it is, evidence that the gospel is bearing fruit. When James proposes a solution, the whole gathering agrees that it is acceptable.

In fact, the apostolic letter looks less like a pronouncement than a compromise. The Gentiles are firmly included without requiring circumcision; but they are required (at least for a time) to obey other Jewish laws for the express reason of conciliating Jewish Christians.

Notice that Paul in 1 Corinthians seems free to modify one of the provisions of the Council's letter, i.e. meat-sacrificed-to-idols. And in Galatians, when similar issues arise, Paul works them out on their own merits rather than resting his case on the pronouncement of an the "authoritative council."

I may have overstated the tentative nature of Acts 15. I certainly think that the leadership of Godly people is an important part of the consensus-building process, as is the submission of the rest of us to the consensus-statement that is produced.

But you seem very obviously to be reading back into this chapter a notion of church leadership and authority that is part of your tradition but seems unknown in the first century. This, combined with your dismissive tone, makes me wonder whether your "exclusive truth" frees you from considering other interpretations. Perhaps it is you who is blinded by "patriotism."

Derek Jenkins said...

thoughtspot: I apologize if it seems I am dismissive.

It is a great temptation for one to be dismissive in these matters. What is so critically needed when asking the questions before us is a just disposition. That is an immensely difficult task, especially for one who admits a predisposition. Because a predisposition is a prejudice, and it is difficult to root them out even when one is aware of them. If we care who is right we will certainly find a way to answer the question in favor of that prejudice.

It is critical to make the fully committed imaginative effort to not care who is right, only to discern who is right.

Again my apologies. But I do see many prejudices implicit in your responses, ones that I doubt you have challenged within yourself.

You are quite wrong in thinking I am defending my own tradition. I converted to Christ in the Evangelical community during my mid-twenties and have been a vibrant participant in the life of that community for the past twenty years. I have diligently studied a good deal of Protestant theology, I am intimately aware of the Protestant movement from an evangelical point of view.

Thru a series of events brought about by a leadership position in that community I began a study of ecclesiology, 16th century church history and early church history. I became fully convinced that the Protestant movement in general, while having many admirable qualities, is nevertheless, built over an abyss. I do not criticise Protestants only the forms of the various churches and the principle that is systemically imbedded in the foundations of the movement.

I have spent the past 18 months intensely studying to determine who has the fullness of the faith.

Of the remaining communions to choose from, I have no interest who is correct, only which one is correct.

If you care to know how I came to the conclusion regarding the Protestant movement that I came to I can give you a reading list of the highest order. But I must say that if you set out trying to 'prove' that Catholicism is wrong you will. You must approach the question with good will and justice. It takes quite a while to see Catholicism the way that say Newman or Chesterton saw it, however, it can be done. But until you make that effort and see it as it really is you end up making your judgement on a misrepresentation or a charicature. The same can be said for Orthodoxy or Anglicanism.

In his great poem "An Essay on Criticism" Alexander Pope makes the point beautifully:

A perfect Judge will read each Work of Wit/With the same Spirit that its Author writ,/Survey the Whole, nor seek slight Faults to find,/Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the Mind;/Nor lose, for that malignant dull Delight,/The gen'rous Pleasure to be charm'd with Wit./But in such Lays as neither ebb, nor flow,/Correctly cold, and regularly low,/That shunning Faults, one quiet Tenour keep;/We cannot blame indeed--but we may sleep./In Wit, as Nature, what affects our Hearts/Is nor th' Exactness of peculiar Parts;/'Tis not a Lip, or Eye, we Beauty call,/But the joint Force and full Result of all.

I humbly submit that it is this effort to be a 'perfect Judge' and perceive and behold the 'joint Force and full Result of all.' that is necessary to have truly made a just judgement.

One thing that has had a tremendous impact on me is that the great converts are almost exclusively to Catholicism. I have yet to find the equivalent to Chesterton, Newman, Bouyer, Soloviev. These are men of the very highest order and bear witness in a way that I have yet to encounter in other conversions.

By the way my question at the end of the last post still stands. ;)

Warmest Regards

thoughtspot said...

Binx, thank you for your disarming response.

I find that too many of my discussions end up being about epistemology and nothing else. Unfortunate, but perhaps a sign of the times. I won't go into a 100-page thesis, as scholars I appreciate do, on the ways in which presuppositions are or are not unavoidable, are or are not helpful, and do or do not block us from ascertaining truth. I certainly agree with the spirit of your reply, and the attempt to seek truth by (among other things) reading various arguments on their own grounds. I think I've spotted tendencies in your other posts that undermine this, but I could well be wrong.

One of the thing about Ithilien that I find helpful is that it is (comparatively) modest. You talk about me trying to "prove Catholicism wrong," but nothing you'll find from Contarini or from me has anything like that aim (or tone). If you'll notice, Contarini and I have both been questioning what it would take for us to actually submit to Catholicism. This is hardly the stance of someone who is prejudiced against it!

But there remains in both of us a resistence to--I wouldn't even go so far as a rejection of--something that I can only call a pro-Catholic prejudice. This is the notion that every Scripture can't even be read until we have first asked what the (Roman Catholic) Church says it means. It's the notion that authority is always only about what the (Roman Catholic) Church says. It assumes that there is no objective content to faith unless it means "what the authority (that is, the Roman Catholic Church) says." It assumes that everything which is not completely grounded on an absolutely infallible authority is (by definition) ungrounded and relativist.

I'm not sure how much you share this stance, which I am calling a "pro-Catholic" bias. But I've seen it insert itself into every discussion of everything. ("Aha! But you can't really know [fill in the blank] without an authority, and the only authority is the RC!") That's why I think of it as the ultimate trump card. And it tends to transform readings of (for example) Acts 15 until they are almost unrecongizable.

As for the question I didn't answer--I'm not sure I fully understand it. Certainly I share with Contarini the will to submit, and to be disciplined, by proper authority and by the church consensus. And certainly the Scripture is my rule of faith and practice. From that perspective I would say yes.

But if you mean, do I take this decision of the church as somehow closing the door on farther discussion in new situations (for example, can a Maasai Christian eat blood?), the answer is no. Acts 15, by giving us the principles as well as the answers, encourages us to apply those principles to (perhaps) come up with new answers. Like so much of the New Testament, it gives us more than a command to obey; it gives an example of how we reach conclusions on important moral issues.

By the way, my reading of Acts 15 is most influenced by a RC scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson. He is (so far as I know) obedient to church doctrine. But he is also (if I read him right) frustrated with any attempt by the church to ground truth in church doctrine, rather than church doctrine in truth; to make Acts 15 about authoritative conclusions rather than about truth-seeking discussions.

William Tighe said...

Not eveyone would agree that Luke Timothy Johnson is "obedient to (Catholic) Church doctrine." He has long been, and continues to be, an advocate of the ordination of women, and this despite the fact that the papacy has authoritatively declared that the Church has "absolutely no authority" to ordain women, and insisted that the subject is "closed." This is hardly "obedience."

thoughtspot said...

That, of course, is the question--whether obedience requires silence, whether the subject is closed just because Rome says it is closed, and whether dissent is possible within submission. Some Catholics (forgive me) seem to define what "really being Catholic" means in ways that actually exclude the majority of Catholics--even thoughtful, holy, Biblical Catholics.

If, of course, we have pre-determined that submission must be unconditional, and that all truth and holiness and thoughtfulness is predicated on this view of authority, then of course we have pre-judged the discussion that Contarini, Binx, and I are all having.

Derek Jenkins said...

I doubt very seriously that Dr. Tighe is just 'some Catholic' who would 'seem to define what "really being Catholic" means in ways that actually exclude the majority of Catholics--even thoughtful, holy, Biblical Catholics.'

I hope I do not offend when I suggest sticking to what is actually said by those in the discussion and not drawing in the hypothetical poorly informed Catholic who might say anything and everything. Yes?

I am quite sure Dr. Tighe is defining what 'really being Catholic' is exactly as the Catechism does. And, after all, we must certainly agree that the Catechism is the authoritative statement on what it means to be Catholic. If we don't agree that the Roman Catholic Church has the Authority to define what it means to be Roman Catholic, then one must ask, who does?

Dr Tighe, Edwin, thoughtspot: I still think my question above is valid and critical to the discussion. If I have constructed that historical situation improperly I stand to be corrected. The issue that was causing dissension in the church and that needed a decision was whether Gentiles coming into the church needed to be circumcised. The 'apostles and elders were gathered to consider this matter'. Once they made their decision a)what is the appropriate response one should expect from the 'circumcision' group? and b)is the question of circumsion 'closed just because' the 'apostles and elders' say it is closed?

William Tighe said...


Yes. In general, if Rome says "the case is closed" (as it has with WO), then for Roman Catholics it *is* closed, and to claim that the issue is still open for debate is hardly "obedient." Of course, what one can discuss is the level of authority of any particular Roman statement: to me at least *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis* seems not to be an ex cathedra papal magisterial definition, but a statement that the teaching of the "ordinary magisterium" that it is not possible to ordain women is "irreformable" (i.e., unchangeable), and thus that it is effectively an infallible teaching.

Antonio said...

This is not the issue here, but as I know there are "devouts" of St. Therese of Lisieux in this blog, I want to say that tomorrow starts the Novena (her Feast is this 1ยบ October).

Derek Jenkins said...


Perhaps I formed my question improperly?

There is an excellent post at Pontificator's that bears on our discussion here.


Anonymous said...

Mark Shea wrote an insightful piece that deals (partly) with acts 15 . See here :

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Edwin,

Hope you are well today, and that you had a great summer.

I discovered that you were again taking unwarranted pot shots at my Luther research [at Catholic Answers' Apologetics Forum]. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I thought I had disabused you of that notion in our last round over this sort of stuff. Now, I gotta do it again, but in the process, I think I also uncovered some interesting information about the alleged "snow on a dunghill" remark:

Luther's "Snow-Covered Dunghill" Mystery Solved?! / Edwin Tait's Charge of My Supposed Axe-Grinding Against Luther

God bless,

Dave Armstrong

Testimony said...

Hi Contarini I’ve been looking for related blogs and I came across yours on Authority and truth--reply to Binx during my trawl, so I thought it would be polite to let you know about my visit. You are most welcome to come and visit me at . I would also be happy to trade links with you if you are interested. Bye for now and have a nice day! Brother Roy.