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Can the Rhine pour into the Tiber 'neath the sweep of the Wittenburg door?

The Rev. Russell E. Saltzman has authored a remarkable essay published on First Things' On the Square (31 July 2009), "An Ecumenical Moment for One."

A Lutheran pastor in Kansas City, the Rev. Saltzman laments his denomination's (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) readiness to bless same-sex unions and to allow those in same-sex unions to be ordained to the pastorate. He anticipates that this will occur at the ELCA's forthcoming meeting in Minneapolis, 17-23 August 2009.

After entertaining several options for recalcitrant Lutheran congregations such as his own, he offers this possibility in his concluding three paragraphs:

Frankly, the creation of one more Lutheran church body in America is a dauntingly depressive possibility. I’m not entirely certain I want anything to do with it . . . unless we’re talking about a ministerium organized to open dialogue on becoming a Roman Catholic affiliate, congregations, pastors, the whole caboodle, eventually seeking full communion with the bishop of Rome. If Rome cooperates, this ought to be pretty easy. Just think of us as inactive members seeking reinstatement. In my congregation, an officially inactive member is welcomed back to full fellowship by making a contribution and receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes we’ve been known to even skip the contribution part. Couldn’t the Church of Rome handle that? There might be a few subsidiary issues to settle, but get us inside first and everything else becomes manageable. What is needed here is a brave archbishop or two, together taking cognizance of what is about to happen to the ELCA, and stepping forward as potential shepherds. Can’t really call it stealing sheep if the previous shepherd has run off, can you?

No, I’m not being facetious. Not altogether. The original intent of the sixteenth century Reformers wasn’t to start a new church but to be a witness for evangelical reform within the one church. Our Lutheran confessional documents—notably the Augsburg Confession of 1530—forcefully argues that nothing Lutherans taught was contrary to the faith of the church catholic, nor even contrary to that faith held by the Church of Rome. As it has happened, much to our Lutheran chagrin, late twentieth century Rome itself become a better witness to an evangelical gospel than early twenty-first century Lutherans have proved capable of being. And for all the radical Lutheran polemic coming after Augsburg—you know, about the pope being the latest anti-Christ sitting on the throne of the whore of Babylon—truth is, these days, I get far less trouble from the bishop of Rome than I get from my own bishop.

Some time in the mid-1980s Richard John Neuhaus told me—with no little optimism, I might add—that fifty Lutheran pastors and their congregations seeking fellowship with Rome would become an ecumenical moment. After he himself became Roman Catholic following formation of the ELCA he lowered the number to a more modest twenty-five. Facing the August convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its inevitable aftermath, I’m wondering, how about one?


You can read the whole thing here. For Lutherans entertaining the same possibility, let me suggest the 95-page essay authored by my friend, Robert C, Koons, Professor of Philosophy (University of Texas), "A Lutheran's Case for Roman Catholicism."

(Originally published on First Thoughts)

Comments (122)

James Joyce once said; Catholic Church means Here Comes Everybody! and between the Traditional Anglican Community and SSPX'ers seeking admission it can feel that way. While SSPX has hurdles, I hope Lutherans aren't discouraged by the same officious reception that has been rudely extended to TAC by professional "ecumenists" fretting over their motives or the bruised feelings of the congregations leave behind. Instead, they should be welcomed with true Latin hospitality.

A good Rosary intention if I ever heard one.

Kevin, that's a good word. I still don't know the full story on what happened with the TAC. Does not Rome understand that a Church that includes the American Kennedys, the Speaker of the House, and the Vice President of the United States should have room for a half million Anglicans who may have teentsy-weentsy issues compared to the head-full-of-steam Cathetical malevolence embraced by the weirdos indigenous to my side of the pond?

Do you have to bring up the SSPX Kevin? for the Last time we are not outside the Church, its a funny kind of schism where the scene of 8 ordinations are moved from Germany to Econe, Switzerland at the request of the Holy See

Frank:

The arguments of men like Pastor Salzmann and Prof. Koons echo those which led Richard John Neuhaus to "become the Catholic I was." In my experience, Lutherans in general are much more amenable to this sort of thing than the Reformed, i.e. Calvinists. I think that's because Lutheran readings of Scripture and Tradition can been seen with less difficulty as a reforming hermeneutic within a distinctively Roman Catholic tradition. The Calvinist double-predestination hermeneutic, more globally coherent and unitary than the Lutheran and less like the Roman Catholic (or the Eastern Catholic, for that matter), is more readily embraced as a replacement for a distinctively Catholic tradition.

This is why, in my many online debates about the development of doctrine with Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox, the fiercest resistance I get is from conservative Presbyterians. They really do believe that the entire content of the deposit of faith can be gleaned directly from Scripture, either in what's explicitly said in Scripture or through some form of rational necessitation by what's explicitly said. On such a method, the Catholic doctrine of the Magisterium is necessarily otiose; for that which would theoretically justify it would also render it unnecessary. Such, I believe, is Calvinism's inheritance from its Renaissance-humanist forebears. To be sure, and like most of the Fathers and medieval Catholic doctors, Lutherans all believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture; but they aren't as confident as the Calvinists that what can thereby be learned is incompatible with Catholicism.

It's quite amusing to me to watch debates between "confessional" Lutherans and Calvinists. They tend to anathematize each other as much as both anathematize Rome. Which, to me, is one more consideration in Rome's favor.

Best,
Mike

Frank, Rowan Williams has made it clear that Rome's granting a personal prelature or Rite for TAC will be viewed as a hostile act and the recently retired Cormac Murphy took up William's cause for reasons of his own. They're still talking and we're still praying.

Kevin,

After following this saga for years, I still do not understand why Murphy-O'Connor, now retired, believes that granting TACers an "Anglican-Use" rite within the Latin Church would be a "hostile act." If he thinks so only because Williams does, I say a fig for Williams, whose pants are splitting trying to sit on the fence within his own fracturing communion. I hope Vincent Nichols thinks as I do. Aidan Nichols certainly does.


I have trouble thinking up a single reason why anyone in Rome would worry even a smidgeon what Rowan Williams thinks. I mean, this is the guy who, trying to prevent an all out splinter in the Anglican ranks, basically had to say 'being an Anglican means whatever the archbishop of Canterbury says is means.' (Which is truly funny when compared with the views of the original Reformers to Rome's exactly similar stance.) If Rowan Williams thinks that Rome's being friendly to TAC would be a "hostile act", that might make it MORE attractive to Rome, but I certainly cannot see why it would make such friendly overtures less attractive.

Frank, Rowan Williams has made it clear that Rome's granting a personal prelature or Rite for TAC will be viewed as a hostile act and the recently retired Cormac Murphy took up William's cause for reasons of his own. They're still talking and we're still praying.

The question I have, though, is how could the Roman Catholic Church resolve the doctrinal issues between Lutherans and Anglicans on one side, and the traditional Roman Catholic doctrines. The former, for example, believe in salvation by faith alone, and that good works arise from a saving faith (rather than have any effect of causing a saving faith).

That is single biggest reason why I cannot be a Roman Catholic.

Mike T:

What makes you think the Catholic Church teaches that good works "cause a saving faith"? I'm a lifelong Catholic well-educated in theology, and I've never heard or believed that.


Tony,

____

I have trouble thinking up a single reason why anyone in Rome would worry even a smidgeon what Rowan Williams thinks.

____

Rome's main concern appears to be what liberals think. In most respects (support for evolution, higher criticism of the Bible, pluralism, opposition to the death penalty, immigration) Rome sides with the left. I suspect that Rome considers leftist protestant groups their natural allies and hopes they will change on a few social issues.

Just when I'm through dealing with the progressives who find Rome way too conservative, I turn around and find traditionalists who find Rome way too liberal. I love Rome!

I still do not understand why Murphy-O'Connor, now retired, believes that granting TACers an "Anglican-Use" rite within the Latin Church would be a "hostile act.

Mike,
Come on, Cormac dreaded The Reform of the Reform gaining more adherents and momentum and has used everything from; mass conversions are suspect and irregular, sticky legal issues over property will arise, and do we want a Liturgy that appeals to aesthetes, anything to slow down TAC coming home.

Williams also has a personal relationship with B16 and has made it clear he does not want to go down in history has the last Archbishop of Canterbury and feels Rome allowing TAC in en masse would lead to mini-schisms like the "Catholic" Diocese of swimming to the Thames. It short, it will be a tumultuous affair when the reconciliation occurs.

Did you catch Williams latest gambit; "two ways of being Anglican"? He is a tragic figure.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jul/27/rowan-williams-anglican-communion

As an aside, Vince Nichols is breathing life back into Westminster.

Liccione's right. If you read the catechism, it's pretty clear that the Catholic Church does not teach that "good works cause saving faith." You can find that here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm

This is also consistent with both St. Augustine and the Council of Trent, which are separated by nearly 1200 years. See my post here: http://romereturn.blogspot.com/2009/07/st-augustine-on-journey-of.html

Do you have to bring up the SSPX Kevin? for the Last time we are not outside the Church

Jack, here is the status of SSPX after B16 lifted the excommunications of the 4 Bishops;


The doctrinal questions, however, obviously remain, and, until they are not clarified, the Fraternity does not have a canonical status within the Church, and its ministers cannot exercise any ministry legitimately.
http://www.zenit.org/article-26402?l=english

Below is a very recent interview with Fellay about the prospects of full communion;
http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/

Mr. Liccione,

Where did I say I was a traditionalist, or even express my religious views at all?

Just when I'm through dealing with the progressives who find Rome way too conservative, I turn around and find traditionalists who find Rome way too liberal. I love Rome!

Amen. Often validation of Rome comes from her contradictory critics; otherworldly, yet literal, ascetic but materialistic, too rigorous yet too flexible, too particular and yet too universal.

Kevin,

___

Often validation of Rome comes from her contradictory critics; otherworldly, yet literal, ascetic but materialistic, too rigorous yet too flexible, too particular and yet too universal.

____

This strikes me as a very poor argument. Luther's critics said the same thing.

Neil, it wasn't an argument, just an observation. Besides, we're getting ready to welcome some of Martin's folks back into the fold, so maybe he'll enjoy the irony.

What makes you think the Catholic Church teaches that good works "cause a saving faith"? I'm a lifelong Catholic well-educated in theology, and I've never heard or believed that.

I don't think I communicated it quite right. Every Roman Catholic I have met considers it to be a matter of "faith + works = salvation." That is a description that I have seen when I have researched it online as well. Please correct me if that information isn't true.

Please correct me if that information isn't true.

Your "information" isn't true. So back to this:

That is single biggest reason why I cannot be a Roman Catholic.

Mike T

I think Kevin has stated the truth: Catholicism is not consistent with the view that faith + works = salvation. (Please note that the instances when Kevin and I publicly agree are few in number, so this is pretty strong evidence of something being REALLY solid.)

I will grant you that to a surface, non-careful hearing, sometimes the Catholic Church sounds like it might believe that faith + works = salvation. When I was a child, that is close to the message I heard. But as soon as I started reading the Bible and St. Augustine and St. Thomas and so on, it became immediately clear to me that this is NOT the intended meaning of any passage that seems close to suggesting that works belongs in the equation, except (as you yourself put it) as a byproduct of faith.

Right (I say sarcastically), Rome and Geneva, Rome and Wittenburg, Rome and Canterbury all have fundamentally the same doctrine of salvation and of grace. But the 16th century theologians attached to those churches were so incompetent that they didn't notice. Indeed, until Vatican 2, nobody noticed.

Kevin,

Cardinal Hoyes is on the Record as saying that Catholics may attend Masses celebrated by the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth and that we may recieve the Sacraments there so long as we don't adhere to a schismatic mentality - No evidence of that in my local SSPX Chapel. Also the Pontificul conuncil for Christian Unity says that the SSPX is not an item on their agenda and that it is an internal Church Matter that would seem to imply that we are in the Church

As for Vatican Two, after consulting various sources I have come to believe that the council can be reconciled with tradtion. my bet is that talks are simply for show, so that Bshp Felly can simaltaniously play the progidal son and conquering hero.

As for the TAC, I can't believe Niccols will give a fig for what Williams says, why should he? whats williams going to do? reinsate the test act?

Jack,
1) SSPX does not have a canonical status within the Church, irregular or otherwise. Sacraments received from SSPX are in the eyes of the Church illicit. I have produced the Church's official teaching, you have not produced the Cardinal Hoyos quote, which obviously does not trump that teaching.

2) B16 lifted the excommunications of the SSPX "Bishops" as a step towards reconciliation, but none is possible without the acceptance of Vatican II on the part of Fellay and all who return. Church teaching is explicit on that matter too.

3)TAC accepts VII and is doctrinally closer to Rome than SSPX, but it is a delicate matter for those close to the situation and I'll place my trust in B16 and the new Bishop of Westminster. What is intolerable are those members of the Curia who fear the absorption of TAC because it hastens and end to their liturgical experimentations and doctrinal distortions of VII.

Tony, which one of us gets to assist Mike T through the Rite of Christian Initiation? Either way, I plan on being there at the Easter Vigil for him. Waiting on you Mike!

Jack, I hope you enter full communion sooner rather than later, as SSPX would obviously be a huge boost towards a restoration and the more frequent praying of the Latin Mass. And you don't have to wait until the wrangling is over to come back.

1)We are not confronted to a heresy. It cannot be said in correct, exact, and precise terms that there is a schism. There is a schismatic attitude in the fact of consecrating bishops without pontifical mandate. They are within the Church. There is only the fact that a full, more perfect communion is lacking – as was stated during the meeting with Bishop Fellay – a fuller communion, because communion does exist. - Cardinal Hoyes

http://www.cardinalrating.com/cardinal_17__article_2883.htm
(Note Kevin this was almost 5yrs ago and look how much the situation has improved then).

2. So you're telling me that Fr's John Jenkins, Richard McBrien (both men being heretics) exercise legitimate ministry whilst Fr Boyle (my local SSPX priest and doctrinaly Othordox) does not? I've got a bridge over the thames to sell you

3. I'll wait until Archbishop Niccols gives the Society (in the UK) assurance that he won't crush us underfoot the minuite we subject ourselves to incardation within England and Wales after all thats pretty much what happened with the FSSP, the only time that Bishops allow them in was if the Society had recently set up shop in the diocese.

1) As you know, it is either full communion or a spiritual, ecclesiastical twilight of rebellion and distrust.
2) I'm not telling you, the Church is and it is impossible to say Fr Boyle is "orthodox" if he rejects a Council.

Guys -- I must not be totally up on the latest news with regard to the Traditional Anglican Community and the Vatican, but I do know that Benedict (as did his predecessor) takes unity extremely seriously. He takes a loooooong view, which means if there's reason to believe that formally welcoming TAC into communion would deeply jeopardize the future chances of welcoming the entire Anglican Church--or other Protestant denominations--sometime in the probably distant future, he might think twice. This isn't about scoring points against those wobbly liberal churches. Again, I don't really know anything, but the recent popes have shown they are willing to do some pretty drastic things (formal apologies on the part of his office, for example) to advance true unity in the fullness of time.

Mike T:

You might want to peruse the JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. The English translation can be found at the Vatican website. I don't think it resolves all difficulties, but it certainly clears up a lot of misunderstanding about Catholic teaching.

The two pivotal questions in all this are: (1) How does justification relate to sanctification, and (2) What answer to that question is binding doctrine as distinct from theological opinion? Some Protestants take an extreme "forensic" view, according to which justification is merely God's external imputation of righteousness to the believer, and has no transformative, sanctifying effect on her. That's the "dung covered by snow" view; in terms of the history of doctrine, it is a late-medieval novelty that Luther developed but never seemed to settle on entirely. At the other extreme of Pelagianism, it is held that we can please God by freely doing works apart from grace. Both extremes are condemned by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic doctrine is that faith is an unmerited gift of grace which one must freely accept in order to please God and be saved, and that such acceptance is itself made possible by prevenient grace; but faith without works is "dead" (cf. James 2: 14-26) and thus insufficient for salvation. A "living" faith, sufficient for salvation, is one which conforms the believer to Christ by being part of her sanctification; and that can occur only if one's faith in Christ is expressed by acting as he commands, i.e. by doing good "works." Such deeds are salvific for the doer not by virtue of their human element, which could never suffice by itself, but by "grace," i.e. because God is acting in and through them.

But all the disputes about faith and works, law and gospel, justification and sanctification are merely the bandying of opinions unless there is some way to authoritatively adjudicate among competing interpretations of Scripture. That's mainly why I'm Catholic. And that's how I answer (2).

Mr. Liccione,

As I understand it, the Lutheran World Federation is an ultra liberal organization that doesn't have much to do with historic Lutheranism.

Although I haven't studied the document and don't profess to be a theologian, it is well known that liberals are quite slippery in their language. So that liberal Lutherans and liberal Catholics might have some surface agreement on this or that issue isn't surprising.

As I recall real Lutheran churches (LCMS, WELS) objected to the statement.

Kevin: SSPX does not have a canonical status within the Church, irregular or otherwise. Sacraments received from SSPX are in the eyes of the Church illicit.

Jack: Cardinal Hoyes is on the Record as saying that Catholics may attend Masses celebrated by the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth and that we may recieve the Sacraments there so long as we don't adhere to a schismatic mentality

Kevin, I would be careful about the use of the term "illicit" in this context. (1) The SSPX is a priestly organization. The laity who attend a mass said by a SSPX priest are not members of SSPX. Therefore, if membership in SSPX were itself schismatic, that would not devolve to the laity automatically. (I do not think that membership in SSPX is itself schismatic - what about the priests who were members before Lefevre ordained the 4 bishops? But even if it were...) (2) The priest (whether SSPX or not) can say a mass without having a writ from the local bishop. Offering mass does not require such permission. (Unlike confession and matrimony.) Therefore, saying a mass without having been granted "canonical status" does not make the mass illicit. (3) The sacrament of the Eucharist confected during a mass is not usually called "illicit" if priest conforms entirely and in every respect to the Missal and the rubrics for that mass, and if he has not been forbidden to say Mass. Since SSPX priests generally do conform, it would be odd to call the Eucharist "illicit." Therefore, it would seem that it is possible for a lay person to receive Communion at a SSPX mass without receiving an "illicit" sacrament.

I do not say that this is without difficulty: as the Cardinal Hoyos statement makes clear, there is always the potential for a person at an SSPX mass to be there precisely on account of a schismatic mentality. Some SSPX priests and communities are more given to schism than others. I don't go to SSPX masses, so that I don't have to concern myself with the issue.

Chris: He takes a loooooong view, which means if there's reason to believe that formally welcoming TAC into communion would deeply jeopardize the future chances of welcoming the entire Anglican Church--or other Protestant denominations--sometime in the probably distant future, he might think twice.

Yes, I suppose that is true. But I wonder what, precisely, would make someone in Rome think that welcoming TAC into full communion would jeopordize future chances. I mean, it is not like Rowan Williams is personally ever going to ask for full communion, and it is not like even if he did he would carry the weight to bring along the other branches of the Anglican Communion along with him - he lacks the gravitas to carry it off.

I personally think that it is silly to be thinking in the reallllyyyyy long term like 200 years down the road, as if any choices we make here and now (other than the ones that are in conformity to Christ's will here and now) will have a foreseeable effect 200 years down the road. It is AT LEAST as likely that being willing to foment a crisis this year will bear as much fruit in the really long term as not doing so out of FEAR of some future potential. And such a distant possibility could NEVER, in my mind, justify the injustice to a TAC community of not treating them appropriately on account of some OTHER community, no matter how much larger.

Therefore, it would seem that it is possible for a lay person to receive Communion at a SSPX mass without receiving an "illicit" sacrament.

Possible? Sure but why do so save physical hardship or an exceptional circumstance that would mean otherwise forgoing the Eucharist. There is no reason why a Catholic should receive a sacrament from a SSPX chapel. Such a practice subverts the unity and interior predisposition of obedience we are called to cultivate and which Rome is trying to restore.

I personally think that it is silly to be thinking in the reallllyyyyy long term

Not sure what realllyyy means, but Chris Floyd is trusting the judgment of those closest to the situation and assumes the Spirit is guiding B16 as he navigates the various tributaries leading to the Tiber. Not being privy to the negotiations, inter-Church relations or larger considerations, and having little reason to doubt the Stewardship of Benedict, Chris seems to be on very solid ground in his approach. It is one I'll emulate in spite of my own impatience and unearned expertise and instead take hope from the fact that reconciliation is coming, perhaps not soon enough for me, but right on time according to the Spirit.

Why must reconciliation be between organizations? Am I mistaken in believing [like a good Protestant] that such reconciliation is an individual matter?

Deep down within [I mean really deeeeep down] why should Rome give a fig for the organizations? The Eastern Orthodox are a different matter. Their sacraments and their clergy are valid. The Easterners like to shake their fists at Rome and say nasty things. But then so do many Catholics. And I envy the Easterners that their liturgy has not been mucked about ["mucked about" - as one does in a stable[ by reformers with tin ears.

Reunion with the Church of England was pretty thoroughly discussed by their last great theologian - J.H. Newman. He dismissed it. Reunion must be a personal matter - a personal conversion.

Possible? Sure but why do so save physical hardship or an exceptional circumstance that would mean otherwise forgoing the Eucharist. There is no reason why a Catholic should receive a sacrament from a SSPX chapel. Such a practice subverts the unity and interior predisposition of obedience we are called to cultivate and which Rome is trying to restore.

I agree. And that's why I don't do it. But that reasoning doen't lead to a conclusion that the sacrament is illicit, that's all I was pointing out.

Chris Floyd is trusting the judgment of those closest to the situation and assumes the Spirit is guiding B16 as he navigates the various tributaries leading to the Tiber.

I have no problem with the point of view Chris stated. But he stated it in the context of a hypothetical: "IF there's reason to believe that formally welcoming TAC..." I was expressing doubt that the hypothetical premise actually obtains. We don't seem to have any evidence for a supposition that B16 thinks there is some reason to believe... So until we see such evidence, we are perfectly free to believe BOTH that B16 is working under the guidance of the Holy Spirit AND that he may give little credibility to a claim that formal welcoming TAC would create problems for full Anglican re-union. For myself, I am perfectly content with whatever time table the Holy Spirit has in mind for full reconciliation of all of the distant Christians, whether it be in 20 minutes or 20 millenia.

I was ELCA Lutheran before converting to Catholicism. Even in the mid-90's I could see that the ELCA was sliding toward approval of homosex. I was a delegate to our synod with my wife and on the docket was a proposal to study homosexual issues. It was couched with the disclaimer that it is just a study and no one was approving of any homosexual acts, but when someone in support of it came up to the podium and harrangued us with the "First they came for the Jews" poem, my BS antennae went "boing". It sounded like the usual "just starting to dialog" stuff we always hear which is code for: We-keep-talking-and-using-emotional-tyranny-until-you-unenlightened-rubes-cave. The measure was defeated barely, but I knew then that it was something that was going to continue to come up and that they could lose a hundred times, but only needed to win once. In the back of my mind the road map had only one destination: approval of homosex. Looks like Minneapolis will confirm this.

Why must reconciliation be between organizations?...Reunion must be a personal matter - a personal conversion.

Indeed and just that argument has been made by Msgr. Marc Langham, of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. A TAC-Rome reconciliation presumes a personal conversion on the part of those who join the RCC, yet seeks to allow those who do continued access to their liturgical riches and traditions, which includes married priests.

The supposition that Rome is worried about the impact on Canterbury is not a mere hypothetical;

At the same time, any invitation by the

Vatican is likely to upset leaders of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion and would hurt the Vatican's decades-long efforts to strengthen ties with that fellowship of churches...

...Cardinal William Levada, wrote Hepworth in July 2008, saying he was giving "serious attention" to the TAC's proposal. But he noted that the situation within the broader Anglican Communion, with which the Vatican has an official dialogue, had "become markedly more complex."
http://www.christianpost.com/article/20090305/traditional-anglicans-want-to-join-catholic-church/index.html

However the Vatican is also growing impatient with the implosion within Anglicanism, a development which favors TAC;

Cardinal Kasper warned Anglican bishops that Rome would turn to smaller ecumenical communities if the Anglican Communion at large proved unapproachable ecumenically.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/8235121/Traditional_Anglicans_to_be_offered_persona
yet seeks to allow those who do continued access to their liturgical riches and traditions, which includes married priests.

I'm not sure I understand why Rome would allow for this sort of division within its ranks. Is just that Rome does not consider the differences with Anglicans to be particularly important?

"There might be a few subsidiary issues to settle..."

LOL! Perhaps quite a few...

"...but get us inside first and everything else becomes manageable."

Sounds like this guy's in for quite a shock. Post-Vat II theology may have tried to pretend that the chasm separating Protestantism and Catholicism isn't there but the fact is you still need to cross a very narrow bridge to get to the other side (I know as I have made the crossing).

"I'm not sure I understand why Rome would allow for this sort of division within its ranks. Is just that Rome does not consider the differences with Anglicans to be particularly important?"

Mike T, some differences are more important than others. While the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church absolutely cannot admit of contradictions within its ranks when it comes to truths of faith, liturgical and disciplinary differences are quite another matter. The Catholic Church actually consists of 23 different autonomous churches, each with their own leadership, liturgy and ecclesiastical laws. It really is quite diverse. In the so-called Eastern Churches (most of whom are reunited Orthodox), many priests are married. Even in that part of the Church led directly by Rome (the Western or Latin Church) there are currently at least 7 different liturgical rites in use.

The celibacy of the priesthood is not a matter of doctrine but of discipline, and as such it may in extraordinary cases be suspended for the good of souls. When the Church made such an exemption for former Anglican clergy back in the 80's, hundreds of Anglican ministers flocked to Rome because they could be ordained as Catholic priests even though they were married. It was in many respects a great boon for the Church.

I recall reading a few years ago a statement between the Anglicans and Catholics concerning the role of the bishop. As I recall, it avoided calling a bishop "he." (I think it used the plural.) It also didn't discuss the validity of Anglican orders. But it was a big breakthrough.

I have a hard time taking all this ecumenical stuff seriously.

"the fiercest resistance I get is from conservative Presbyterians. They really do believe that the entire content of the deposit of faith can be gleaned directly from Scripture, either in what's explicitly said in Scripture"

You're forgetting a vast swath of "non-denominational" Protestants who feel more or less the same way.

All right, Kevin and all other legalist Catholics out there: so one is only 'orthodox' and in 'full communion' if one accepts Vatican II?

Well, Hans Küng rejects much of Vatican II, while the priests of the FSSPX accept most of it - certainly those parts that Hans Küng rejects. But the funny thing is that Hans Küng is supposedly in 'full communion' and the priests of the FSSPX are not. Confused? I sure am.

The fact is that both Pope Bl. John XXIII and Pope Paul VI were adamant that Vatican II did not issue any dogmatic definitions or anathemas, and as such there is nothing proposed in its documents that is binding on the faithful. Indeed, the finest theologians of the Church, including our present Pope, are still squabbling over what the Council texts actually mean in the first place. Given all this, the truism that it is absolutely necessary for a Catholic to 'accept Vatican II' is sounding increasingly tired and meaningless.

The only reason why members of the FSSPX are under canonical suspension is because they had the audacity to study at a priestly seminary which taught the unadulterated Catholic faith and resisted its (possibly groundless) forced closure by the Vatican at a time when the rest of the Catholic world was dissolving. It has bugger all to do with heresy or schism. Indeed, if it had we would be pandering to them like we are pandering to the real schismatics, i.e. the Orthodox, setting up fancy oecumenical committees for 'dialogue' and inviting Mgr. Fellay to give the homily at Pontifical Vespers in St. Peter's.

Gideon Ertner

Finally I hear common sense from a fellow Catholic (non-sspx) on this issue.

Regarding a resolution of the difficulties between Rome and SSPX, one must keep clear the distinctions between the organization of SSPX, and the members thereof in their private capacity. Rome has the power to reverse all of the canonical problems at one moment's notice, merely by fiat: saying for all of the priests and the organization itself the original status is in force, and giving the SSPX bishops (well, maybe except Williamson) full authority as bishops in a personal prelature. This is purely juridical and could be done with no disturbance of basic law. (Same, by the way, with the laity: Rome could by fiat simply validate all the marriages that hitherto took place without faculties from the local ordinary.)

On a personal level, no priest or bishop in SSPX would cease to be under the cloud of schism (if he is now in schism) merely because of the removal of the juridic problems: if a priest was schismatic, the stain of that sin remains until he confesses and receives absolution. And likewise, no lay person who indulged in schismatic willfulness would cease to be in sin merely because the SSPX were returned to canonical status. The most that could be said (until they received absolution) might be that they no longer continued to commit that sin. Any priest who personally heretically refuses consent to authoritative teaching of the Church proposed as definitively to be held remains a heretic even if the organization of SSPX is reinstated with its former status.

Given all this, the truism that it is absolutely necessary for a Catholic to 'accept Vatican II' is sounding increasingly tired and meaningless.

Benedict disagrees, as Fellay reminds us below;

“Benedict XVI pointed out that there can be only one way of belonging to the Catholic Church: i.e. by having the spirit of Vatican II interpreted in the light of Tradition, that is to say according to the intention of the Fathers of the Council and the letter of the text. This is a perspective that rather frightens us.” Bishop Fellay

Gideon,
Revisionism serves no purpose here and you manage to insult the sincerity of people on both sides of the divide.

Followers of Marcel Lefebvre went into schism over the Council's teachings on religious freedom, the ecumenism of return, and of course the Mass being said in the vernacular. In 1995, 7 years after JPII excommunicated Lefebvre, the Vatican issued a statement saying the excommunication of the SSPX bishops "constituted the consummation of a gradual, overall situation of a schismatic tendency," and that "until there are changes leading to the reestablishment of the necessary 'communio hierarchica', all of the Lefebvrist movement is to be viewed as schismatic."

One can acknowledge the tumult of those years and sympathize with SSPX; the hijacking of the Council by modernists, its poor implementation by others, and the confusion caused by fringe traditionalists charging that VII was a Masonic plot, without minimizing the real and profound difference between JPII, B16 and Marcle Lefebvre.

Reconciliation will not occur by obscuring either the significant divisions that led to the schism, and those differences that still persist as obstacles. Full communion will not be realized through falsehood. And Vatican II is the major doctrinal issue.

Prior to becoming Pope, B16 took on both the modernist and the Lefebvrist misinterpretations of the Council;

“Some descriptions give the impression that everything was different after Vatican II, and that nothing that came before it could still be considered relevant, or could be relevant only in the light of Vatican II. Vatican II is not treated as a part of the greater living tradition of the Church, but as a totally new beginning. Even though it did not issue a single dogma and wanted to be considered a humble pastoral Council, some recount it as though it had been a kind of superdogma which makes everything else irrelevant”. But “we can render Vatican II worthy of more faith if we call it what it was: a part of the single and whole tradition of the Church and its faith”
Josef Ratzinger

http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/43223?eng=y


To speak plainly, the sedevacantists are right, which is the first, but not the main, reason I decided not to stay with Rome.

It seems to me that you can't get from Trent and Vatican 1 to Vatican 2 without rejecting major portions of the RC faith of previous centuries. Don't get me wrong; I think that even that earlier rendition of the faith merits rejection, which is why I reject it. But the liberal protestantism of Vatican 2 is not the faith of the Roman Catholic church of previous centuries, and it is not the faith of the apostles and of Christ, something that was set aside very early on, even by the days of Ignatius of Antioch, who was particularly egregious on this count.

So let's see: the faith of Vatican II is incompatible with that of Trent and Vatican I, which in turn might or might not be compatible with the faith of the 2nd century church, which in any case is probably incompatible with the faith of the 1st-century church.

Whew. Good thing your church doesn't claim to be infallible.

"Good thing your church doesn't claim to be infallible."

It doesn't, and given the historical record, neither should yours. Not a single bishop at Nicea, for example, believed what the RCC does now concerning things like the perpetual virginity of Mary or papal infallibility, much less did any of the apostles or Christ (not to mention the hundreds of millions of Christians from traditions outside Rome, both today and in the past).

In other words, as I said before, Vatican 2 is incompatible with Vatican 1 and with Trent. Vatican I and Trent are incompatible with the faith of the apostles and of Christ, though partially compatible with the significant changes that followed them.

Mchael Bauman

If your Church doesn't claim to be infallible than how do you know that what it teaches is correct? or are you soooo certain in your own impressive ability to interpret the Bible that you alone out of the 2 Billion (professed) Christians living today and all of those who have gone before you, know what it means?

For the Record. St John Chrysostom believed in the immaculate conception (Bl Dun Scotus defended it philosophically), St Clement of Rome (1st century) went to his death beliving that he had the authority as Bishop of Rome to tell the corinthians to get thier act together, St Ignatius of Antioch (1st&2nd Century) was the first Church Father to explicitly reference the fact that Our Lord is Really present in the consecrated host under the appearence of bread and wine.

Not a single bishop at Nicea, for example, believed what the RCC does now concerning things like the perpetual virginity of Mary or papal infallibility, much less did any of the apostles or Christ (not to mention the hundreds of millions of Christians from traditions outside Rome, both today and in the past).

Not a single apostle while he walked with Jesus believed in the 27 book New Testament, the Chalcedonian formulation of the incarnation, the doctrine of the Trinity, that Church councils like Nicea would be formed to adjudicate doctrinal disputes, the apostolic status of Saul of Tarsus, let alone the forensic theory of justification or the idea of an invisible church a la the Reformers.

And around and around we go......

Nice to finally see evidence that Dr. Beckwith is truly becoming transformed into a Son of the Church as opposed to a Son of Luther; hopefully, Dr. Bauman will one day follow suit along with Kevin et al!

the doctrine of the Trinity

I think that is probably false. That is to say, while Jesus was on earth they probably did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but I think it was developed very rapidly via a combination of the rapid understanding of the deity of Christ and reflection on Jesus' own words concerning the Comforter, as well as the sheer practical importance of the Holy Spirit in the very early church. I think developmentalist theses that place the trinitarian doctrine very late are probably wrong and that we should more accurately think in terms of the apostles' coming to understand the divinity of Christ within _months_ rather than _years_ of the ascension, with the trinity following rapidly and naturally thereafter.

the apostolic status of Saul of Tarsus

Also false. Peter himself referred to Paul's writings as "scriptures," which is pretty high praise from the Fisherman. To be sure, Paul was a controversial figure, and there was tension there with the whole Judaizing vs. apostle to the Gentiles controversy, but it's quite clear that Paul's apostleship was well-accepted during the lifetime of the apostles who had walked with Christ.

Lydia:

I meant to say "while he walked with Jesus." I ineptly wrote "who walked with Jesus." So, I will change it above. With that change, then your criticisms no longer stand.

Frank

I think that is probably false. That is to say, while Jesus was on earth they probably did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but I think it was developed very rapidly via a combination of the rapid understanding of the deity of Christ and reflection on Jesus' own words concerning the Comforter, as well as the sheer practical importance of the Holy Spirit in the very early church. I think developmentalist theses that place the trinitarian doctrine very late are probably wrong and that we should more accurately think in terms of the apostles' coming to understand the divinity of Christ within _months_ rather than _years_ of the ascension, with the trinity following rapidly and naturally thereafter.


Yeah, I'm pretty certain that the Apostles' understanding of the Trinity was exactly identical to the homoousian understanding; why, their own teachings, both in epistle and by mouth, were so replete with the doctrine, no wonder there were never heresies that had arisen due to such clarity of such teaching as well as an entire council to resolve it.

Frank,
Right, the apostles did not believe in the canon of the 27 NT books, but they did believe in what is in those books. After all, they or their close associates wrote them. If you want to know what the apostles believed, you have to go there. What is in those books is sometimes at odds with what RCism teaches. As for Chalcedon, you know firsthand that I am quite uneasy with the formulations reached there and at other councils, especially because those formulations introduce categories and methods quite different from those of Christ and the apostles. I don't reject those decisions as mistaken; nor do I identify them as apostolic doctrine. They are neither obviously mistaken nor apostolic. As for the forensic theory of justification, we simply disagree as to whether or not it is the NT view. I think it is; you do not. Unlike some folks, I do not think that either decision leaves those who hold the other view outside the Christian faith.

Jack,
Neither you nor your church have to be infallible for you to have real knowledge. Nor is it the case that someone who dissents from Rome is alone in his beliefs, the way you characterize me. You'll notice, for example, that the doctrines I listed above (in my reply to Michael L.) doctrines from which I dissent, are also doctrines from which the entire Eastern Orthodox tradition dissents, as do the Protestants. I could list additional doctrines. It's not simply me against Rome (or, actually, me against one of the competing groups claiming to be the real Rome). In some cases it's Rome contra mundum, no matter how you identify Rome. Further, your reading of the apostolic fathers is off. Clement does not mention either that he is a bishop or that he writes as a bishop. His letter, if it is his -- it is anonymous -- comes from a sojourning church to a sojourning church, and it makes no claim to supreme Roman authority. As for what Clement believed on the day he died, while you seem to know, most patristic scholars decline to speculate. Nor does that letter to Corinth make anything like the eccentric claims of Ignatius about the sacraments being the medicine of immortality and believers drinking the blood of God. Perhaps you should level your criticism of me against Ignatius instead. He is the innovator.

Ari,
For the record, I'm not a son of Luther. I learned to dissent from Rome by reading the NT, the church fathers, and the Catholics, most notably Dante, Erasmus and Valla.

Mike:

When it comes to Christian theology, I'm more Burke than Von Mises. :-)

Affectionally,
Frank

Interesting to note, the latter historical figures were indubitably devout Catholics (note, too, Erasmus' own disdain for Luther's dissent from the Church) and the fact that, ironically, by the very same sources, I have become and shall forever remain a loyal Son of the Church; hopefully, one day you will too.

If your Church doesn't claim to be infallible than how do you know that what it teaches is correct?

How do you know your church **is** infallible? I'd be more interested to hear your explanation of how you came to believe that for reasons that don't involve circular reasoning.

How do you know your church **is** infallible? I'd be more interested to hear your explanation of how you came to believe that for reasons that don't involve circular reasoning.

I would like to hear your reasons for claiming that the 27 books of the New Testament is actually infallible for reasons that don't involve circular reasoning, too.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Catholic Church herself was the one actually responsible for declaring that very Canon but, like other historical events in the early church such as the Doctrine of the Trinity, we can pick and choose as we so desire; why, it makes for a splendid cafeteria platter of theological and seeming Christian beliefs in the very end, which is what should ultimately matter, no?

Notwithstanding the fact that the Catholic Church herself was the one actually responsible for declaring that very Canon but, like other historical events in the early church such as the Doctrine of the Trinity, we can pick and choose as we so desire; why, it makes for a splendid cafeteria platter of theological and seeming Christian beliefs in the very end, which is what should ultimately matter, no?

Well, one possible explanation would be that I have doubts as to whether the religion practiced today is the same thing practiced by the Roman Catholic Church today.

Well, in that case, I doubt that the Catholic religion as practiced at the time of Nicaea & shortly thereafter was actually the same as practiced during the time of the Apostles.

Well, in that case, I doubt that the Catholic religion as practiced at the time of Nicaea & shortly thereafter was actually the same as practiced during the time of the Apostles.

And so we enter into the debate over where "difference in degree" becomes "difference in kind..."

You'll notice, for example, that the doctrines I listed above (in my reply to Michael L.) doctrines from which I dissent, are also doctrines from which the entire Eastern Orthodox tradition dissents

Michael Bauman,
Your listed two (2)doctrines and got one of those very wrong. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is a doctrine taught and held in the Eastern Orthodox Church. As for the development of doctrine, to suggest all we need to know was known by about 100 A.D. seems more compatible with Islamic theology. Oddly, even those who hold that view aren't immune fron tacking political accretions onto their theology. Such as certain Middle Eastern wars being in some way the fulfillment of Scripture, for example.

Mike T,

Yeah -- as if the subordantionist understanding of the very early church is identical as the homoousian understanding of the later period.

It seems that the choice is stark: Restorationism (or "Trail of Blood" Baptistic theology) or Apostolic Succession Christianity (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Traditional Anglican Communion).

Kevin

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is also a Catholic Dogma

Jack, Michael wasn't disputing that, if you read his comments that precipitated my reply.

Mr Bauman:

If you want to have a discussion of the development of doctrine (DD), I suggest you first have a look at this essay of mine. In keeping with what I called "the Protestant hermeneutical circle," you're assuming that, in order to count as "apostolic," a given doctrine must be historically verifiable as having belonged to the conscious faith of the apostolic church. That assumption is untenable.

To take just one example, the doctrine that the collection of books you recognize as canonical is a (materially or formally) sufficient expression of the faith of the apostolic church does not belong, because it cannot have belonged, to the conscious faith of the apostolic church. That idea was developed later by inference from the "rule of faith" taught as such by the bishops claiming apostolic succession. That rule was one of "Tradition." As St. Irenaeus showed, such were the authorities by which the biblical canon was both formed as such and taken to be normative for Christian faith. So if the biblical canon is to be regarded for such reasons as normative for faith, it stands to reason that said canon can only be authoritatively interpreted by the same means and people; it cannot be left up to any individual or group within the Church who do not even claim such authority. That's because anybody can interpret Scripture for themselves and thus fashion criteria of Christian orthodoxy to suit themselves. That's why Protestantism consists of countless denominations. Their confessions are just opinions, and their churches are just associations of people sharing similar opinions.

That in turn is why your church, and the 450-year-old tradition from which it springs, does not and cannot claim infallibility. It can only present the raw data of Scripture, as well as of Tradition, as the basis for forming opinions that are revisable in principle. That does not present the deposit of faith, given "once for all to the holy ones," as a proximate object for the assent of faith as distinct from opinion. To the extent you have faith at all, it is in spite of your methodology and parasitic on the tradition and authority of the real Church.

Accordingly, your statement that "[w]hat is in those books is sometimes at odds with what RCism teaches" is only the self-undermining opinion of some people regarding what those books mean and what Catholic doctrine means. It is backed by no real authority and, given its own principles, cannot even claim to be. Newman was right: "No revelation is given, unless there be some authority to decide what is given."

Mike L, your otherwise excellent response suffered from the clumsy; To the extent you have faith at all. I no you did not intend it the way it sounds, since no one here can question the sincerity of Michael Bauman's faith, and even though we disagree with much of what he says, we are better for his engagement. Sorry for interrupting this steel-cage match with that schoolmarmish correction, so; play on!

As the usual, Kevin must always interject his pettiness on what could've been a substantive, thought-provoking discussion headed by Dr. Liccione and the man, Mr. Bauman.

Ari, it still is substantive, but these Catholic - Protestant debates don't always go well when the sincerity or depth of faith come into question. Besides, I was complimenting Michael Bauman since he earned it.

Kevin,

Only pickin' on you, bro.

At any rate, I would've loved to have observed the subsequent interaction between the two (especially given what seems like Dr. Liccione's expertise on the matter and, accordingly, Mr. Bauman's own relative body of knowledge).

Now, unfortunately, given the contamination which you recklessly introduced into the timeline; things will take a turn towards perhaps something else whereas before, it could've been genuinely focussed on more weighty issues concerning the subject comment made by Dr. Liccione and the more detailed aspects.

Kevin, of course Vatican II must be interpreted through the hermeneutic of continuity with Tradition. I'm not saying it shouldn't, nor that it can't. But what that means is that, ultimately, Vatican II is largely irrelevant to Catholic doctrine because it doesn't actually say anything new! - at least not anything which is necessary for salvation.

A Catholic formed solely on the basis of a catechism written in 1961 would be at least as much a Catholic as someone who had read the entire Acts of Vatican II - and probably a better Catholic since he would have been spared much confusion.

We can't ignore Vatican II, as I pointed out in my original post, but once the mainstream Church stops treating it as a pivotal and defining point in the history of the Church, perhaps we can all begin to develop a more sanguine approach to it and get on with saving some souls.

As for the FSSPX being in schism: sorry, but your information is outdated. Citing documents from 1995 really doesn't cut it; for at least the last 3 years now the message from the Vatican has been that the FSSPX are not in schism (though some of their members may harbour a schismatic attitude). The subject of the excommunications is entirely irrelevant since they were annulled earlier in the year.

That is to say, while Jesus was on earth they probably did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but I think it was developed very rapidly via a combination of the rapid understanding of the deity of Christ and reflection on Jesus' own words concerning the Comforter, as well as the sheer practical importance of the Holy Spirit in the very early church.

I "think" that you have "probably" overestimated how much you can ascertain on that subject from the New Testament Scriptures.

Other than that, I find the above a fine exposition of the way doctrinal development works. Now, if you don't mind, can you demonstrate that there is a categorical difference between such a development which lasts months and one which lasts years, or even centuries or millennia, which would render the slower development invalid?

On the other hand, never mind. As a Protestant, I assume you subscribe to the idea that Scripture contains all that is necessary for salvation - a doctrine which took about 1,400 years to develop?

Gideon,
We both want SSPX reconciled and back in the fold, and we both understand, as Benedict does, how unhealthy agendas and persons created the conditions for the initial schism. Yet, the Council did represent enough of a change on the issues of religious liberty and ecumenism to prompt Lefebvre to form a remnant in exile. And, these are not the words of a man ready to; begin to develop a more sanguine approach to it;

We will not make any compromise on the Council. I have no intention of making a compromise. The truth does not tolerate compromise. We do not want a compromise, we want clarity regarding the Council... The problem in the Church of our age is not us. We have become a problem only because we say that there is a problem...For example, on the Council, we may say that almost all of it is to be rejected. But it may also be said that what is possible should be salvaged...
http://www.ncregister.com/daily/fellay_sspx_wont_compromise/

"To take just one example, the doctrine that the collection of books you recognize as canonical is a (materially or formally) sufficient expression of the faith of the apostolic church does not belong, because it cannot have belonged, to the conscious faith of the apostolic church. That idea was developed later by inference from the "rule of faith" taught as such by the bishops claiming apostolic succession. That rule was one of "Tradition." As St. Irenaeus showed, such were the authorities by which the biblical canon was both formed as such and taken to be normative for Christian faith. So if the biblical canon is to be regarded for such reasons as normative for faith, it stands to reason that said canon can only be authoritatively interpreted by the same means and people; it cannot be left up to any individual or group within the Church who do not even claim such authority. That's because anybody can interpret Scripture for themselves and thus fashion criteria of Christian orthodoxy to suit themselves. That's why Protestantism consists of countless denominations. Their confessions are just opinions, and their churches are just associations of people sharing similar opinions."

Michael L,
I can't see that anything in the paragraph above is actually true or relevant to the point I am making. If you continually filter my comments through your peculiar grid, you will continue to misrepresent and misunderstand them, as you have repeatedly done over recent weeks. I am assuming nothing, and need to assume nothing, along the lines you mention concerning Irenaeus, the rule of faith, apostolic succession, or authoritative canon makers. We don't need the Catholic church in order to have a canon. Indeed, when it comes to the OT, the Catholic church got it wrong. Canonicity circles around Christ, not Rome. For the OT, I want the canon He endorsed, and it does not include the Apocrypha. For the NT, since He wrote no books of his own, I want the books written by the persons He taught or by their close associates. But we don't need Rome to figure out either which books they are or how they ought to be understood. If you'd like to include different NT books -- if you think these are the wrong books -- then tell me which ones you'd include. But if they're the right ones, then we don't need Rome to provide a canon. The issue is Christo-centric, not ecclesio-centric.

Kevin,
Perhaps I was thinking "immaculate conception" and wrote "perpetual virginity." I don't recall. It was late. But if I misspoke, then the error is mine. Mea Culpa.

Frank,
So, you side with Burke, the protestant (wink)?

Kevin

As FR Z noted in his commentary on the interview the quetion Bshp Felley was responding to was badly phrased in the first place hence the response, instead the interviewer could have asked the question "do you believe the Dogmatic declerations of the Second Vatican Council can be interpreted in a manner consistent with the tradition of the Church" and to be fair his Lordship does have a point, truth does not accept compromise, would you compromise with a muslim over the divinity of Christ?

And, these are not the words of a man ready to; begin to develop a more sanguine approach to it

I don't see why he should as long as 99% of the Church keeps defining itself according to Vatican II rather than the 1,900 years preceding it. In psychiatry, when a patient has an unhealthy fixation or labours under an illusion, the psychiatrist must persistently try to make him focus on the broader picture or on reality, respectively (and for the record, I don't buy into the nonsense that the FSSPX, with their narrow Gallican theology, are the sole guardians of the Catholic faith, but they are nevertheless in a good position to help the Church clarify her faith).

In fact, Mgr. Fellay has repeatedly said that it is the desire of the FSSPX to interpret Vatican II in the light of Tradition, though he also says that on some points he doubts that it is possible.

Michael Bauman, O.k., but just for the record, the Orthodox, like Martin Luther, hold that Mary was free of personal sin and therefore the doctrine was unnecessary. In the spirit of genuine ecumenism, I hope we neither exaggerate or conceal the differences between us.

Jack & Gideon,
There are two schools of dissent. One holds nothing that happened before the Second Council matters, and the other that nothing that happened at or after the Council matters. The Church will not accept an entire body of priests and laity that clings to either view back into the fold. She simply cannot, and both JPII and B16 have been unwavering in their position.

I am hoping Fellay changes his stance this autumn and brings a good part of his flock with him. The ball is squarely in his court.

There are two schools of dissent. One holds nothing that happened before the Second Council matters, and the other that nothing that happened at or after the Council matters.

Sorry, but you are not getting off so easily; you will have to qualify that statement. What do you mean by 'matters'? Of course the Vatican II and post-Vatican II Magisterium is valid in form and must be respected, and to the extent that it conforms with earlier teaching it must be adhered to.

But if Vatican II or a post-Vatican II Pope has non-infallibly taught something which contradicts an earlier non-infallible, yet stable teaching, is one a dissenter if he holds to the earlier teaching?

Michael Bauman, O.k., but just for the record, the Orthodox, like Martin Luther, hold that Mary was free of personal sin and therefore the doctrine was unnecessary.

For the Orthodox here, is this accurate? I've seen Orthodox commentary online stating that Mary was only sinless after the Resurrection, and that she sinned at the wedding in Cana by presuming to instruct the Lord. My understanding is that the Orthoodox rejection of the Immaculate Conception is due to their belief that we only inherit Adam's mortality, not his guilt.

Frank, So, you side with Burke, the protestant (wink)?

I'm not at all surprised by Beckwith's lingering Protestantism; what I am rather taken aback is Bauman's influences being the devout Catholics, Dante & Erasmus.

"For the OT, I want the canon He endorsed, and it does not include the Apocrypha. For the NT, since He wrote no books of his own, I want the books written by the persons He taught or by their close associates."

The "I's" have it, apparently. And therein lies the problem with Protestantism: it all reduces to the "I."

"For the Orthodox here, is this accurate?"

We Orthodox definitely believe in Mary's perpetual virginity. As for her sinlessness, it is a widely-held view that she was personally sinless, but it is not a dogma. Therefore you will see variation on this among Orthodox writers.

"My understanding is that the Orthoodox rejection of the Immaculate Conception is due to their belief that we only inherit Adam's mortality, not his guilt."

That's correct. As Kallistos Ware puts it, from the EO standpoint the doctrine of the I.C. is not so much wrong, as it is unnecessary.

Suffice it to say, Catholics and Orthodox share a common veneration of Mary.

"The Orthodox church does not accept the Catholic dogma of 1854 -- the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, in the sense that she was exempt at birth from original sin. This would separate her from the human race, and she would then have been unable to transmit to her Son humanity. But Orthodoxy does not admit in the all-pure Virgin any individual sin, for that would be unworthy of the dignity of the Mother of God." Sergius Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church. Crestwood: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997.

"...being Himself at once God and man, His flesh and soul were and are holy - and beyond holy. God is holy, just as He was and is and shall be, and the Virgin is immaculate, without spot or stain, and so, too, was that rib which was taken from Adam. However the rest of humanity, even though they are His brothers and kin according to the flesh, yet remained even as they were, of dust, and did not immediately become holy and sons of God."
- St. Symeon the New Theologian, Discourse XIII in On the Mystical Life, vol. 2, trans. Alexander Golitzin (SVS Press, 1996)

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Immaculate_Conception

That seems confusing - if under the Orthodox view we do not inherit Adam's sin, then why would they say Mary was not exempt from Adam's original sin? Are they saying all are exempt from it?

This would separate her from the human race, and she would then have been unable to transmit to her Son humanity

Is Orthodox teaching that Original Sin is part and parcel of true humanity, rather than a mar or defacing of it? Seems she should be transmitting perfect humanity to her Son, as God created Adam in the beginning without sin - or was Adam not fully human until he sinned?

Aristocles, the Inquisitor, writes:

I'm not at all surprised by Beckwith's lingering Protestantism; what I am rather taken aback is Bauman's influences being the devout Catholics, Dante & Erasmus.

What I like about Burke is his deference to tradition, which is why if he had not been an Anglican he would have not become a Presbyterian or a Baptist. He would have followed his sister Juliana to Rome.

Rob,
Your allusion to the repeated use of the word "I" is hardly a refutation. Try dealing with the argument I made concerning the canon.

Dr. Beckwith,

I meant nothing perjorative by that statement; only that it seems quite understandable that you should continue to hold to certain Protestant views since you were intimately connected with these previously -- especially considering the once prominent position you held as former ETS president.

Although, I am rather curious as to what exactly had earned me the title of "Inquisitor"; if you like, you can label me as "Grand Inquisitor" if the perjorative applied as it were was meant to be taken to its most extreme.

That way, I can do away with the likes of Kevin, too!

"if under the Orthodox view we do not inherit Adam's sin, then why would they say Mary was not exempt from Adam's original sin?"

Adam's sinfulness is inherited; his guilt is not. In the Orthodox understanding the guilt of sin is personal.

"Try dealing with the argument I made concerning the canon."

I would, if there were actually an argument there. It sounds more like one particular Protestant's ipse dixit than any sort of debate point.

C Matt,
Here is a link, like the one I provided earlier that could prove helpful in understanding the difference between Rome and the Eastern Church;
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2005/03/08/patriach-bartholomew-on-the-immaculate-conception/

As already said, original sin weighs on the descendants of Adam and of Eve as corruption, and not as legal responsibility or moral stain. The sin brought hereditary corruption and not a hereditary legal responsibility or a hereditary moral stain. In consequence the All-holy participated in the hereditary corruption, like all mankind, but with her love for God and her purity – understood as an imperturbable and unhesitating dedication of her love to God alone – she succeeded, through the grace of God, in sanctifying herself in Christ and making herself worthy of becoming the house of God, as God wants all us human beings to become.

Short answer; they love Mom too, they just give different gifts than we do.

Rob G:

Pace St. Augustine, the Catholic Church too denies that original sin is "personal fault." See CCC §405.

As to how that is compatible with Trent's dogmatic canons on original sin, see my post on that topic: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2007/04/development-and-negation-vii-original.html.

Best,
Mike

Mr Bauman:

Rob G has you pegged:

"For the OT, I want the canon He endorsed, and it does not include the Apocrypha. For the NT, since He wrote no books of his own, I want the books written by the persons He taught or by their close associates."

The "I's" have it, apparently. And therein lies the problem with Protestantism: it all reduces to the "I."

You're assuming that the deposit of faith, and hence the truth about which early writings are divinely inspired, can be known without the mediation of the Church. Thus for you, the "hermeneutical buck"—to borrow a phrase Rob used in the other Catholic vs. Protestant thread—stops with the individual. As far as I'm concerned, that suffices to reduce your position to personal opinion rather than the faith of the Body of Christ, aka the Church. It has no authority whatsoever, and hence cannot be a reliable means of receiving divine revelation as an object for the assent of faith.


"As to how that is compatible with Trent's dogmatic canons on original sin, see my post on that topic"

Thanks, Mike. I'll check it out.

Dr. Liccione:

As I had made mention before, Rob G would appear to be more Romanist than even certain Romanists themselves!

Either way, he nevertheless remains within one of the two principal lungs of the True Church.

"As I had made mention before, Rob G would appear to be more Romanist than even certain Romanists themselves"

Ari, I was raised in a Protestant denomination that tends to be quite anti-Catholic. It was only later, when I attended a Catholic college, that I discovered that much of what I'd been taught about Catholicism was untrue. Eventually I became Orthodox, but because our two churches have so much in common, I do not like to see the teachings of the Latin Church misrepresented, even on those points where I disagree with you all.

And ditto Protestantism by the way. I don't like to see my former tradition undergo unwarranted jabs either!

Michael L,
Neither you nor Rob even deigned to give an argument. Yes, I used the word "I." To say so is not a refutation of ANY of the points I made regarding canon formation -- not one. Yes, I used the word "I", and what "I" said might be true or it might be false. We'll have to assess the reasons for it. You and Rob failed to do so in any way. The fact that an argument came from an "I" does not do any work in that regard. "I" made an argument. Refute it if you can. "I" am not the issue. The issue is the issue. The issue, in this case, is canon formation, which I argued was Christo-centric, not ecclesio-centric, and told you why. In so doing, I was establishing that an appeal to Rome was unnecessary and, in the case of the OT, downright misleading. In other words, to get back to the quotation from Newman about the necessity of authority, I was invoking the authority of Christ, not that of Rome. On this point, they speak with different voices and lead to different conclusions. He is determinative. He has an authority that those Roman "I"s you generically invoke do not. Your comment that this view "has no authority whatsoever," is simply and utterly false. The authority referenced is Divine, not Roman. Wherever they diverge, and here they do, the former trumps the latter.

Nor does the irrelevant fact that you classify an argument as an opinion mean that you have undermined its truthfulness in the least, much less refuted it. Yes, it's an opinion. All opinions are opinions. Some are true; some are not. Merely to classify views and arguments as opinions gets you nowhere. You'll actually have to refute what I contended regarding the OT and NT canons. The mere imposition of your personally preferred "opinion" rubric gets you precisely nowhere. The fact that, to this point, you did not actually attempt to refute my specific contentions regarding canon formation might indicate that you have no real case to make, merely the irrelevant application of your own personal taxonomy and your utterly insignificant observation that a view came from an "I."

Dr. Bauman,

Yes -- it would seem that the Church itself is as unnecessary in establishing the Canon of the New Testament as it was in establishing the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Surprising to see that the various Christians of the early church then didn't just go their own way, ignoring ecclesial authority then, and guide themselves simply by the moving of the Holy Spirit, especially since Scripture (whatever canon it was that each region then embraced -- and if you are indeed knowledgeable of those times then, it was indeed quite a variety depending on the region) would have been more than sufficient.

Too bad Protestantism came 1,500 years too late though.

if you are indeed knowledgeable of those times then, it was indeed quite a variety depending on the region

Rumors of the subjectivity and wide variation of the NT canon and of the consequent need for it to be "established" by a black-box mechanism of authority are greatly exaggerated. But one so "knowledgeable of those times then" will surely realize this.

Michael Bauman,
Below is a quote from an address B16 gave on culture to an audience that included Moslems, Jews and Christians, and that I think deserves your attention. Benedict does not directly touch on the question of Authority (though it will always be implicit, I imagine), but stresses that a true and genuine response to the Word must be active, corporate and communal in nature. It appears to be a rebuke to the spiritual individualism of our age;

Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense (cf. par. 108). It perceives in the words the Word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity and the reality of a human history. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living. Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. The Word of God and his action in the world are revealed only in the word and history of human beings. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080912_parigi-cultura_en.html

So exaggerated, in fact, that I take it there were never such huge disagreements in the Early Church between St. Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, for example. Those actually acquainted with ecclesiastical history would know that there were populations of Christians and local churches who actually rejected Books such as Revelations, Jude, 2nd and 3rd John, Hebrews as part of Scripture and, indeed, even went on to say that they were not, in fact, inspired.

Even further, there were several figures and regions in the early church that actually accepted the Epistle of Clement as Scripture and was even read in Corinth for over a hundred years as such after the passing of Clement and considered the Didache, The Letter of Barnabas and even the Shepherd of Hermas Scripture.

Yet, such tales are but exaggerations merely devised by "black-box mechanism of authority", as is even the case in the resolution of heresies as well as the formulation of certain doctrines as that concerning the Trinity.

Oh, and Lydia, by the way, that "black box mechanism" was something that St. Thomas More himself had referred to as simply the "Holy Spirit".

Although, perhaps it's merely a myth that the Holy Spirit should rightfully guide the Church, as Christ Himself had once promised -- then again, these are perhaps all reconstructions of we who are so easily given to "black box mechanism of authority".

Mr Bauman:

The reason I did not undertake a detailed refutation of your opinion about the canon is that the details, in this context at least, are unimportant. There is a more fundamental issue at stake: we disagree about the very nature of faith. I shall once again attempt to explain how.

If one claims, as you do, to be able to discern the content of divine revelation, precisely as an object of faith, without recourse to the divinely instituted authority of "the Church"—whichever communion of ancient pedigree is identified as the Church—then all one has to go on is one's own and/or others' opinions about what counts as the sources of transmission and what they mean. Whatever the content of such opinions may be, they cannot command the assent of faith even if many of them happen to be true. Fallible, provisional human opinions neither express nor constitute an assent of faith to what God has revealed—and the latter cannot consist merely, or even primarily, in holding the opinion that a just-so collection of books is inerrant. It must involve acknowledging some divinely instituted authority for adjudicating disputes about the scope and meaning of all the pertinent sources; otherwise, we have only affirmed some people's opinions that such-and-such books are inerrant and what they mean. If that's all we've got, I couldn't care less about it. We agree that Jesus spoke "with authority, not as the scribes;" do you really expect anybody to settle for what scribes think about what was written about him after his time? If you want me to take your admittedly fallible opinions seriously in this context, you will have to explain to me how admittedly fallible opinions could possibly command the assent of anybody's faith.

If you don't think they do or should, then I'm just not interested in them.

Michael L.,
Christian faith is faith in Christ, not faith in one of the competing churches claiming to be the one true church. By trying to adjudicate theological disputes by appealing to Rome's alleged authority, you have not settled disputes; you have initiated them. Roman authority is itself a dispute, not the resolution of disputes.

Not only are there other churches claiming to be the one true church, but there are multiple churches competing for recognition as the real church of Rome. You have chosen the wrong one. Even if you've chosen the right one, the real Rome, you haven't yet established the real Rome's singularity or supremacy. An appeal to Rome's authority will not establish Rome's authority. That must be done some other way. Rome's authority is the issue, not its resolution. Nor can you appeal to Scripture to establish that authority. If you did, then, given your view of Scripture, you'd be arguing that the canon stands on the authority of the church and that the church stands on the authority of Scripture -- which stands on the authority of the church. You'd be arguing in circles once again by appealing to the very thing you are trying to establish.

To use the Bible to establish Rome's supremacy or authority, you'd somehow have to show that your interpretation of the relevant Scripture passages -- and your recognition of a proper canon from which to draw your interpretations -- was not mere question begging regarding Roman authority. To prove such things, you are inescapably thrown back on private judgment, which you eschew. But, in the end, private judgment on momentous issues is unavoidable. You must use it to adjudicate between the churches claiming to be Rome, and between the churches claiming to be the one true church -- if indeed there is such a thing as the one true church, which you'd also have to establish. Assuming you succeed in establishing that there is one true church, whichever church you choose as fulfilling that role, YOU choose, and the ones you reject, YOU reject. And if, as you contend, private judgment is mere opinion, then your views about Rome (and therefore all the other churches) are mere opinions, which (by virtue of their status as mere opinions) you claim are not sufficient to the task. You haven't really escaped the problem that all persons have, Catholics included.

Again, the authority to which you appeal on this issue (canonicity) is one of many churches. The authority to which I appealed is Christ Himself. In so doing, our different appeals yield different results with regard to the OT and the same results with regard to the NT. That is, an appeal to Rome is unnecessary in the latter case and misleading in the former. You want to listen to a church of your own choosing; I choose to listen to Christ. In both cases, an "I" is doing the listening, the deliberating, and the choosing.

**that "black box mechanism" was something that St. Thomas More himself had referred to as simply the "Holy Spirit".**

Right. Or as Vladimir Lossky put it, Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. He did, after all, promise that the Spirit would lead us into all truth. That dominical saying is not eschatological, nor does it apply to every single individual believer, considered in isolation.

Michael B., Mike L. does not need to appeal to Rome for adjudication of theological disputes, just as I do not need to appeal to Constantinople. When one considers the issue of the Canon, one can temporarily put aside that later divide and simply appeal to the undivided Church of the pre-schism Patristic age.

In any case, your statement that you choose to listen to Christ instead of a church of [our] own choosing is incoherent. If there was no Church, you'd have no idea what Christ even said; hence you'd have nothing or no one to listen to.

Rob,
I don't need a church to tell me what Christ said. The documents themselves do that, and would do so even if they were not part of any canon. They are historical documents and can be read and understood without a church claiming to have produced them. By the same token, I do not need a church to tell me what Moses or David said. Their books do that, books that were inspired, and recognized as such, long before there was a Catholic or Orthodox church to take credit for it. Your claim that a church produced these texts, or is responsible for these texts, or is needed to understand these texts, is a historical fiction and ecclesiastical imperialism of the most egregious sort.

"I don't need a church to tell me what Christ said. The documents themselves do that, and would do so even if they were not part of any canon."

And you'd be able to tell the difference between the authentic documents, and the multitude of apocryphal and inauthentic ones how, exactly? Do you trust your own lights that much? Or does the Holy Spirit speak to you directly?

"Your claim that a church produced these texts, or is responsible for these texts, or is needed to understand these texts, is a historical fiction and ecclesiastical imperialism of the most egregious sort."

Really? What about the simple fact that the Church antedated the texts, and that the texts were written, gathered, edited, etc., within its bounds and under its auspices?


Rob G:

And you'd be able to tell the difference between the authentic documents, and the multitude of apocryphal and inauthentic ones how, exactly? Do you trust your own lights that much? Or does the Holy Spirit speak to you directly?


Don't you know if Dr. Bauman sifted through all the volumes of books that the Catholic Church herself went through in the 4th century, he too would have decided upon the very same set of 27 NT books the Church herself had determined then?

I mean, his criteria, of course, would've surely been certifiably accurate as well as infallible; however, I wonder though what exactly would be that criteria?

If his assurance is simply that the books were purportedly written by the Apostles themselves, then, as you yourself had rightly alluded to earlier, how could he tell authentic books from the more questionable ones?

And what do we do with books like Hebrews?

Why, for goodness sakes, must we accept that book when we do not even know its actual author to this very day? How do we know for a fact that it should even rightly comprise the Official Canon of the New Testament?

Hindsight can be so... convenient.

Rob,
I've already explained that the measure of OT canonicity is Christ. He endorsed a particular OT canon. The Catholic church was not around to make that canon. It antedated the RCC by centuries, and was canon nevertheless. His OT canon and that of the RCC differ. I opt for His. In short, you don't need the RCC to have the right canon. The same holds true for the NT. Because Christ did not Himself write a book, we look for the books written by those He taught or by their close associates. The church is not required for us to identify which books those were.

Ari,
If you'd like to go into a detailed analysis of the authorship of Hebrews, we can. The canonicity of that book has nothing at all to do with convenience.

Dr. Bauman:

I've already explained that the measure of OT canonicity is Christ. He endorsed a particular OT canon. The Catholic church was not around to make that canon. It antedated the RCC by centuries, and was canon nevertheless. His OT canon and that of the RCC differ. I opt for His.

Are you certain you opted for the one that Christ actually endorsed?

Are you not aware that the very authors of the New Testament books themselves used the Septuagint tradition (the very same the Catholic Church uses since time immemorial) as the Old Testament Scriptures they relied upon when writing the inspired books of Scripture.

In fact, if you were to look in Hebrews 11, there is a place where it talks about how some of the heroes of the Faith refused to be released and were even killed and martyred in order to obtain a better Resurrection.


Now, you could read the Protestant Old Testament from front to back and you’ll never find that.

But, where you will find it is in the Book of 2nd Macabbees, where there is a group of martyrs who were being tortured for adhering to the Jewish Faith and rather than be released, they stuck to their Faith and were martyred so that they can have a better resurrection; and that’s what’s being referred to in the Book of Hebrews.

Now, the Church Fathers, similarly, accepted the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, and that’s what shaped the Christian Canon of the Old Testament until the time of the Reformation.

What essentially happened then was Martinus Luther didn’t like a lot of what he saw in the Catholic Church and, more specifically, certain traditional doctrines of the Church.

One of these happened to be the doctrine on Purgatory, which is clearly alluded to in the book of 2nd Macabbees.

Luther’s response was simply that 2nd Macabbees must not be Scripture and also because he personally believed that this doctrine was incompatible with the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice.

Even further, he went on to merely rely on Jews who continued to use the Pharisee canon as opposed to the Traditional Canon that the early church itself as well as the Apostles themselves & even writers of Scripture relied on ever since – and that’s how the split developed between the Protestant and Catholic Canons of the Old Testament.

Personally, I'm inclined to believe that it was the LXX that was used in the early Church, but that's neither here nor there. If you believe that Christ endorsed a particular OT canon, you have to find that endorsement somewhere. Obviously, you think you find it in the NT. Fine. But where you get the equivalent endorsement of the NT? How do you know that "the books written by those He taught or by their close associates" are actually what they claim to be, and not apocryphal, wrongly attributed, or outright forgeries? If it's the word of Christ that validates the OT, what validates the validation?

"The church is not required for us to identify which books those were."

Who gets to identify them? And what if there's disagreement, as there was in the early Church? Who adjudicates?


Michael Bauman,
No one here is going to be argued into Catholicism, or any other denomination, so instead I wonder about the practical aspects of your approach.

How is a consensus possible, much less the orthodoxy necessary for creating the unity we are called to seek when we place such primacy on personal interpretation? What happens to those of us who lack the confidence and competence to correctly interpret and apply the Word to challenges that are left unmentioned in the Bible. We have no teaching authority or tradition to make our appeal, leaving us vulnerable to a fundamentalism that might say Christ is pro-choice given his silence on abortion. Examples like this abound.

The early Christians were full of expectation that Christ would soon return and establish His Kingdom, and as we know after 2000 years, nothing happened. As a result of this “failure” in NT prophecy, Christianity began to stress the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, as you well know, Christ spoke of Himself as being the Kingdom, which He promised to those of us who live bodily with other men - here and now! Clearly something like this should be sorted out, but who could we possibly trust to embark on such a project that might lead to a profound correction in our eschatology?

Rob G:

Who gets to identify them? And what if there's disagreement, as there was in the early Church? Who adjudicates?

Kevin:

We have no teaching authority or tradition to make our appeal...

You would think that with all the controversies that necessitated the Great Ecumenical Councils, that such a fact as this would have been self-evident and even deemed necessary and an inescapable conclusion; apparently, not so to some.

As one Orthodox Pastor wisely said in the year before:

"Your Holiness, our society is tired and sick. It seeks but does not find! It drinks but its thirst is not quenched. Our society demands of us Christians -- Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans -- a common witness, a unified voice. Here lies our responsibility as pastors of the Churches in the 21st Century."

"Here," the Orthodox pastor continued, "is the primary mission of the First Bishop of Christianity, of him who presides in charity, and, above all, of a Pope who is Magister Theologiae: to be the visible and paternal sign of unity and to lead under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and according to Sacred Tradition, with wisdom, humility and dynamism, together with all the bishops of the world, fellow successors of the apostles, all humanity to Christ the redeemer."

"This is the profound desire of those who have the painful longing in their heart for the undivided Church, 'Una, Sancta, Catholica et Apostolica,'" he concluded. "But it is also the desire of those who, again today, in a world without Christ, fervently, but also with filial trust and faith, repeat the words of the apostles: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!'"

One Primate of the Orthodox in particular had this to say:

"The Orthodox Church, having the understanding of the authentic interpretation of the teaching of the Apostle to the Nations, in both peaceful and difficult times of its two-thousand year historical course, can and must promote to the contemporary world the teaching not only regarding the restoration in Christ of the unity of the entire human race, but also regarding the universality of His work of redemption, through which all the divisions of the world are overcome and the common nature of all human beings is affirmed. Nevertheless, the faithful promotion of this message of redemption also presupposes overcoming the internal conflicts of the Orthodox Church through the surrendering of nationalistic, ethnic and ideological extremes of the past. For only in this way will the word of Orthodoxy have a necessary impact on the contemporary world...

"In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council..."


I look forward to the day when finally, East & West, after 954 years of that tragic schism, hold the 8th Great Ecumenical Council that would restore what once was a united Christendom.

I don't need a church to tell me what Christ said. The documents themselves do that, and would do so even if they were not part of any canon.

What documents? Did Jesus write some documents? I have never heard of that claim. At best, the documents you rely upon are hearsay, so you do need someone other than Christ to tell you what Christ said. That someone, whether you like it or not, is the Church (in its earliest stages in the persons of the Apostles and disciples).

Dr Bauman:

Having given our exchanges a bit of thought, I think the best way to frame the broad issue between us is as follows. After so framing the issue, I shall address your central argument.

I hold that, in order to know the deposit of faith (DF) as an object for the assent of faith, and thus to know the revelation in and through Jesus Christ, we need a divinely commissioned establisher and interpreter of the sources which transmit DF to us. Otherwise, we are left only with human opinions about what the relevant sources are and what they mean; and opinions "neither express nor constitute the assent of faith." Said establisher and interpreter must be some communion of ancient pedigree called "the" Church; from that standpoint, the choice is between visible communions claiming to be "the" Church. At this stage of history, the only credible candidates to choose from are the Catholic Church, consisting of a communion of 23 sui juris churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, and the Orthodox Church, consisting of a communion of a similar number of "autocephalous" churches not in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. You, on the other hand, hold that faith is

...faith in Christ, not faith in one of the competing churches claiming to be the one true church. By trying to adjudicate theological disputes by appealing to Rome's alleged authority, you have not settled disputes; you have initiated them. Roman authority is itself a dispute, not the resolution of disputes.

You then spend a paragraph on the general difficulties of establishing, specifically, the Church of "Rome" as "the" Church. Now that is rather misleading, since the Catholic Church is far bigger than the Church of Rome; Catholicism only requires that a given church be in full communion with the Church of Rome in order to belong fully to "the" Church, which on any account must be a communion of churches. Not even the Orthodox patriarchs profess doubt about who the Bishop of Rome is and what the "real" Church of Rome is; they just hope that the Bishop and Church of Rome return to that communion of churches, namely the Orthodox, which they believe to be "the" Church. That's because, in Rome, only the Papacy can claim apostolic succession as they and the Catholic Church understand it. But leaving that issue aside, you argue that, in order to "prove" that a given communion is "the" Church,

...you are inescapably thrown back on private judgment, which you eschew. But, in the end, private judgment on momentous issues is unavoidable. You must use it to adjudicate between the churches claiming to be Rome, and between the churches claiming to be the one true church -- if indeed there is such a thing as the one true church, which you'd also have to establish. Assuming you succeed in establishing that there is one true church, whichever church you choose as fulfilling that role, YOU choose, and the ones you reject, YOU reject. And if, as you contend, private judgment is mere opinion, then your views about Rome (and therefore all the other churches) are mere opinions, which (by virtue of their status as mere opinions) you claim are not sufficient to the task. You haven't really escaped the problem that all persons have, Catholics included.

And so you conclude, addressing me:

Again, the authority to which you appeal on this issue (canonicity) is one of many churches. The authority to which I appealed is Christ Himself. In so doing, our different appeals yield different results with regard to the OT and the same results with regard to the NT. That is, an appeal to Rome is unnecessary in the latter case and misleading in the former. You want to listen to a church of your own choosing; I choose to listen to Christ. In both cases, an "I" is doing the listening, the deliberating, and the choosing.

In sum and as I understand it, your argument is that I am stuck with something called "private judgment" because I must rely on my opinion about which communion is "the Church"; whereas you make "Christ" your criterion of judgment by accepting the Protestant canon as inspired and inerrant without the mediation of something called "the" Church.

There are two difficulties with your argument: a lesser and a greater. Together they are fatal.

The lesser difficulty is your argument's reliance on the premise that the correct biblical canon can be identified and interpreted as an object for the assent of faith without the mediation of something called "the Church." The fact is that the writings comprising the NT canon were produced by the leadership of the early Church—i.e., the Apostles and their close associates—and eventually certified as canonical by their duly authorized successors as leaders of the Church. Indeed, the very word 'canon' means 'rule' as in 'rule of faith'; and the question whose faith can only be answered by "that of the Church," as distinct from this-or-that individual or sub-grouping. Accordingly, and simply as a matter of historical fact, Christians since the Ascension have never had any reliable way of knowing, aside from the mediation and authority of something called "the Church," just what the correct biblical canon is and what it means. Hence, answering the question which communion of churches counts as "the" Church is unavoidable for the sake of knowing, as an object for the assent of faith, the revelation in and through Jesus Christ. The only question then becomes how to identify "the" Church as such. To trust "the" Church as divinely commissioned as establisher and interpreter of the sources means faith in its teaching authority, which in turn is required for faith in Christ. If that were not the case, we would be limited to opinion rather than faith.

The greater difficulty with your argument underlies your claim that one who seeks to answer the question "Which communion is the Church?" is limited to "private judgment" as distinct from faith, so that one must reject the question and put one's faith directly in Christ if one is to make the assent of faith. Now I avoided the phrase 'private judgment', of which Newman was so fond, because it is regularly misinterpreted by Protestants such as yourself in this sort of debate. So, let's use the term 'opinion', which you also use, interchangeably with the phrase 'private judgment'. What is the underlying difficulty?

The difficulty is that your claim only follows if one premises that the object of private judgment can never be such as to transcend private judgment and transmute it into a real assent of faith. But that premise is fundamentally question-begging. There would be good reason to accept said premise only if churches and communions of churches were merely collections of people who happen to share similar opinions about the content and meaning of DF; but that is precisely the point at issue, and in fact cannot be true if the sources of transmission of the DF present us with a proximate object for the assent of faith in its ultimate object, God in Christ. Whether the Orthodox or the Catholic communion of churches counts as "the" Church, they each hold that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, sharing in his teaching authority as her Head by means of apostolic succession. Such a church is no mere collection of people sharing similar opinions; rather (in Augustine's phrase), she constitutes "the whole Christ" together with her risen Head. Since that is what a communion of churches must be in order to count as "the" Church, the faith of the Church is The Faith, and thus faith in Jesus Christ. Accordingly, the role of private judgment consists in coming to see good reason to accept some communion's claim to be that Church. Once the thoughtful inquirer comes, for whatever considered reasons, to accept a given communion as "the" Church, he can no longer see the Church as a mere collection of people with similar theological opinions. He comes to accept it as the divinely commissioned establisher and interpreter of the sources transmitting the DF to us. And for reasons I've already given, there must be some such body. Hence, while "private judgment" on the part of the informed but uncommitted inquirer is unavoidable in his coming to make such an assent of faith, it cannot constitute that assent. It can only facilitate it. Once it does, one's assent is transmuted into an assent of faith that involves trust, and thus a kind of faith, in the Church and her definitive teaching. Private judgment has been transcended and transmuted.

Doubtless you will reply, as you've already implied, that the broad and seemingly intractable fact of disagreement about which communion of churches counts as "the" Church suffices to leave the question which communion so counts to "private judgment." But it does not. My argument is that there is and must be such a body and that many, many people fully belong to it, so that their faith is no longer mere private judgment, even as they retain certain theological opinions which are not de fide. I do not intend to give here my reasons for accepting the Catholic rather than the Orthodox claim to be the Church; I simply point out that the mere fact of seemingly intractable disagreement is just what to expect given that the assent of faith cannot be rationally compelled by demonstration even as it transcends mere opinion. Hence there are and always will be plenty of people who don't see reason enough to make what would in fact be an assent of genuine faith, as well as plenty who do; but that fact is no evidence against the existence of the assent of faith as distinct from opinion; nor do you think it is, given that you believe you have made that assent despite the millions who disagree with you. The point remains that there is such a thing as "the" Church whose authority is necessary for making the assent of faith in Christ, even when many people fail to recognize it as such and thus cannot reliably distinguish between faith and private judgment.

Very well explained, Mike. As an Orthodox, I agree with your argument entirely. The key I think is this: "there is and must be such a body and that many, many people fully belong to it, so that their faith is no longer mere private judgment, even as they retain certain theological opinions which are not de fide."

One may come to accept that there is such a body prior to identifying what that body is. That's what happened in my case. Once you believe that there is and must be such a body, the claims of truth require you to seek it out and "join" it. Or as I once heard it humorously put, "if there is a true church, it behooves you to get your arse into it."

The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow has given a remarkably upbeat assessment of relations with the Orthodox Church, saying unity between Catholics and Orthodox could be achieved “within a few months.”

In an interview today in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi said the miracle of reunification “is possible, indeed it has never been so close.” The archbishop added that Catholic-Orthodox reunification, the end of the historic schism that has divided them for a millennium, and spiritual communion between the two churches “could happen soon, within a few months.”

“Basically we were united for a thousand years,” Archbishop Pezzi said. “Then for another thousand we were divided. Now the path to rapprochement is at its peak, and the third millennium of the Church could begin as a sign of unity.” He said there were “no formal obstacles” but that “everything depends on a real desire for communion.”
http://www.ncregister.com/daily/catholic-orthodox_unity_in_sight/

OPEN UP THE DOORS!

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The Vatican said Tuesday it has worked out a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church.

"We've been praying for this unity for 40 years and we've not anticipated it happening now," Di Noia said. "The Holy Spirit is at work here."

The Church of England said the move ends a "period of uncertainty" for Anglican groups who wanted more unity with the Catholic Church.

Both groups have a "substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality" and will continue to hold official dialogues, the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster said in a joint statement.


http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/10/20/vatican.anglican.church/

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