Five Reasons a Muslim Can Never Be President of the U.S.

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This morning on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd was exorcised no small amount that Dr. Ben Carson said that a Muslim should not be President of the United States. Apparently Chuck has never studied Islam, the Quran or American history. So, in order to help Chuck better assess Dr. Carson’s correct inclinations, here are just five reasons no Muslim should ever be our President.

1. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are NOT created equal.

Our entire governmental system is based on the presupposition that “all men are created equal”. A Muslim President would have to deny this. The Quran (98:6) says that people who do not believe in Islam are less important than bugs. The exact wording is that “non-believers are the worst of all creatures”. Non-believers are, of course, the 300 million of us who live in the United States that are not Muslim. In order for a Muslim President to enforce the laws of the United States which protect non-Muslims, he would have to commit the Islamic sin of shirk. The funny thing about shirk is that, according to Islam, it is a capital offense. Therefore, a Muslim President of the U.S. who tried to uphold laws based on our Christian heritage would be committing suicide.

2. A Muslim President would unleash a REAL war on women.

The Quran (4:34) condones wife beating. And the Quran, to a Muslim, is the eternal, perfect, unimpeachable word of Allah. The Quran cannot be questioned without committing shirk which, as we noted above, is a capital offense. You want to see a war on women? Put a man in charge who has authority directly from Allah to beat his wife!

3. Disagree with Islam? You get your hands and feet cut off.

Want tolerance in religion? The Quran (5:33) says that those who “create mischief in the land” (read, disagree with Islam) …they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned.

4. Goodbye Gay Pride

The Quran says that Muhammad was an “excellent example” (even though Muhammad tried to commit suicide several times, was deceived by Satan and stole his son’s wife) for anybody who wants to follow Islam – as a Muslim President would. And Muhammad cursed gays and cross dressers. The secondary authority in Islam is the collected writing of Islamic scholars known as the hadith. So Sahih Bukhari (7:72:774) says gays have to be kicked out of the house. Abu Dawud says that those who commit sodomy are to be killed (38:4447,4448). Ibn Majah says “kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.”

Under a Muslim President, life would not be good for gays.

5. Science will Die

The Quran teaches that the sun sets in a mud puddle (18:86) . It teaches that human embryos go through a stage where they are a blood clot (23:14). It teaches that human sperm is created between a man’s ribs and his spine (86:6-7). Since the Quran is “perfect” your kids will be encouraged to learn the “perfect science”.

The Quran verses are listed so you can check them out yourselves at http://www.quran.com

A Book Review: Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray.

comingapart“If you only read one book this year….” is the sort of thing that one sees at the beginning of a review of a momentous book, so that phrase is rightly placed here. You will do yourself a favor if you read this book this year – or at any time.

The Baby Boomers who came up during the period under Mr. Murray’s examination are all acutely aware of how different America is today. And the brilliance of Murray’s approach is that he is able to succinctly but thoroughly show how the context of our lives has changed, what is now so very different and what were the causes.

The first evidence of Murray’s genius is in his title. With images of Ferguson or of Baltimore fresh in our minds the temptation may be to add a racial component to any “coming apart” one might describe. But by focusing exclusively on “White America” Murray avoids even the appearance of possible racism. He further deploys extensive statistical evidence to support his conclusions which should assuage any remainder of suspicion. So the result is the description of a bifurcation of American society – that is, “white” American society.

Murray begins his analysis in November 1963 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy which he sees as a line of demarcation. What I found fascinating is his observation of how similar life was then for both the middle class and the “rich”. There were only three television networks. There was typically only one or maybe two newspapers in a town. The movies in the local theaters had to be seen in the week or two they were there or nobody could see them. There was a monotony in local eating establishments that children of a later generation would find “quaint”. The difference is captured wonderfully in a quote Murray takes from David Brooks. Brooks had written about his hometown in Pennsylvania describing it as an “espresso desert” while he was growing up! Now, his town has as many boutique coffeehouses as any other town. So the opportunities available to the rich were as few as those for the rest. This leads Murray to the wonderfully prescient synopsis: “In 1963, the main difference between the old-money rich and everybody else was mainly that they had more money.”

In order to paint a picture of what’s different now, Murray asks his reader to think of attending a parent’s night in an average neighborhood elementary school and then to imagine one at an “elite private elementary school.” He starts with differences in the parking lot and then describes the likely differences in the strollers used by each group and finishes with a description of the parents themselves. The latter group, while driving foreign cars and pushing high dollar strollers bought at baby boutiques are also much more slender and likely to know their cholesterol number. They will be more well informed, less likely to watch TV and please, don’t look for them in a McDonald’s! They will marry later, frequently vacation out of the country and will obsess over every aspect of their children’s lives. In short, a separation of mainstream and rich has visibly occurred.

What were the causes? Murray identifies four: “the increasing market value of brains, wealth, the college sorting machine, and homogamy.” And they all work in an incestuously powerful way. Murray quotes Bill Gates as identifying the ability of “brains” to effect high value impact on a company, thereby driving up the cost of those people so gifted. This produces wealth which produces the ability of more parents to send their children to elite schools in pursuit of more “brains”. The more children attending elite schools means students of both sexes which then are more likely to marry their own kind. Murray uses statistics to show how these “brainy” marriages produce children of higher IQ’s which then, are more attractive to elite schools so the scenario repeats, ad infinitum. These “homogamous” couples are also more likely to settle into zip codes with more of their “kind” which augments the separation of the elite from the mainstream. Murray’s extensive statistical support for these phenomena is fantastic and prevents any skepticism about his conclusions. This separation would not be problematic, per se, save for two attributes of the new elite: they tend to be the new influencers in politics, business and media and they are now almost completely devoid of any knowledge of the other class; a process Murray describes as “balkanization”.

Having outlined the new upper class, Murray turns his analysis to the new lower class. In order to establish a context or framework Murray reflects at some length about the qualities which allowed American to prosper since its founding and he cites four: industriousness, honesty, marriage and religion. Fascinating observations follow about how few people were on the dole, how few were in prison, how important married women are to the social fabric and how religion builds a sense of caring and community which undergirds the whole enterprise. Murray quotes at length from Tocqueville and Grund – two contemporary European observers – as well as several of America’s Founders here. Having established the framework, he then applies modern statistics to show how those four areas have deteriorated so extensively as to produce the lower class of today. But, in a fascinating bit of counterpoint, Murray underlines the fact that the new upper class still exhibits those virtues. That is, they are highly industrious, they stay out of jail, they stay married and they have exhibited a slower decline in “religiosity”.

One drawback I find is Murray’s skittishness in prescribing a solution. Anyone with a basic familiarity of American history will recognize that Murray’s concept of “industriousness” used to be called the “Protestant work ethic.” And the concepts of “honesty”, “marriage” and “religion” were part and parcel of the Calvinist ideology America’s Founders held while forming this country. Even the idea of “community” grew out of the Protestant notion of the “priesthood of all believers” and the organization of society around the local church. If the “coming apart” of our current society is signified by deficiencies in these areas, surely a “coming together” would result by returning to them. Murray seems to imply that the shortcomings in these areas will magically heal themselves as Americans watch the slow suicide of Europe.

Another unfortunate part of this book is the author’s swipe at the sincerity of America’s Founders, at least with regard to their religious convictions. Murray says that, “They (the Founders) went to church, but few of them were devout.” Historic psychoanalysis is always problematic. Besides, this negative focus on a mere handful of individuals obscures the broader picture that 80% of Americans at the time of the Founding were strongly influenced by the teachings of Calvin and more than 70% of the universities were founded on those principles. The focus on these men, even if the conclusion is true, also says nothing about their families which were nearly always “devout”.

One might despair having come this far – and there is reasonable support for this reaction. But Murray ends on rather a high note that points to the light at the end of this tunnel. The light seems somewhat dim and at a considerable distance but Murray is not a pessimist about the outcome – at least in the long run. If you are the slightest bit interested in how our society is changing, I would highly encourage you to read this book.

Each Catholic and his own Magisterium – Protestantism’s Influence on Modern Catholicism

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Crisis of Authority

One of the oft repeated jibes made by Catholics against Protestants is that the religion of the latter has no authority. That religion – Protestantism – merely devolves into what each individual church member believes as he interprets his Bible, alone. It is, in the words of the common retort, merely a religion of “each man and his bible.” The Catholic church is superior, according to adherents of this philosophy, precisely because it has a pope and bishops who can authoritatively interpret not only the Bible, but matters of faith and morals, church practice, etc. The Roman Catholic is thereby relieved of much of the uncertainty which is laid at the feet of Protestantism.

Unfortunately, any conscious person with the slightest interest in the subject knows how damaging the Catholic Magisterium actually is to its own denomination. In this earlier post, I reviewed Professor Leslie Woodcock Tentler’s research showing how the Magisterium had destroyed the Church’s sacrament of Confession.

In a still earier writing, I examined Professor Francis Oakley’s discoveries regarding the Catholic Church’s “institutional forgetfulness” regarding the issue of authority for the Roman Church. Professor Oakley showed how modern Roman Catholics are posed an unsolvable riddle when asked the question, who really is in charge?

So how wonderful it is to continue this series of the examination of what modern Catholic thinking is about what the Magisterium ought to be. Professor Gerald Mannion sets the stage here:

“the Magisterium” has become a concept that has generated as much controversy, division, and fear as it has misunderstanding.i

Think of it. The one thing that that differentiated Roman Catholicism from the dark nether world of Protestantism is now a source of “controversy, division and fear”! What is remarkable here is not only the admission itself but that it could be published by a Fellow of the Catholic University of the Louvain!

But what is even more fascinating is how the Protestant concept of the ‘priesthood of all believers” is proposed as the solution:

So it is upon the church entire and not any particular member of it that this gift of the spirit is bestowed.ii

And Mannion cites another notable Roman Catholic scholar, Fr. Francis Sullivan, S.J., in support here:

 Sullivan believes that when assessing the content, worth, and binding authority of any church document that sets down an aspect of the ordinary magisterium, we should ask five particular questions. First, who is the teaching addressed to? Second, what kind of teaching is it? Third, what kind of document is the teaching contained in? Fourth, what particular level of magisterial authority is employed in the teaching? And, fifth, what sort of language is employed in the teaching? iii

No only do Catholics now publicly challenge the idea of an “infallible Magisterium” which has been the bedrock of Catholicism from time immemorial, it now reserves the right to design the criteria by which the Magisterial pronouncements can be judged. To those of who grew up in the Church it’s all fantastic, really!

Each Catholic and his own Magisterium. The new normal and how Catholicism continually changes contrary to itself.

iMannion, Gerald. “A Teaching Church that Learns? Discerning “Authentic” Teaching in Our Times”. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity.  ed. Michael J. Lacey and Francis Oakley; New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 2011 Locations 3473. Kindle eBook.

iiIbid., Location 3508

iiiIbid., locations 3544-3553

Science Cannot “Prove” When Life Begins

One of the more misguided comments by prominent Roman Catholics of late is that “Science proves when life begins.”  I am thinking specifically of Bill O’Reilly and Senator Marco Rubio who have both stated this publicly.

Unfortunately, for this to be true, man would have to be only a material being.  If we hold to the traditional view that man is constituted of body and soul, we must allow that science has not a thing to say about the soul.

George Weigel – Making Heros from Heretics

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It is a source of continuing amazement just how malleable history is for Roman Catholics.  There is apparently no longer even the pretense to objectivity or constancy when representing Catholic history.   Francis Oakley describes this phenomenon as “the empire that the present continues to exert over the past in so much of Catholic institutional thinking” and went on to make this prescient observaton:

Under certain circumstances, moreover, casual forgetfulness (by Catholic institutions) has betrayed a disagreeable tendency to mutate into a proactive politics of oblivion reflective of the Orwellian conclusion that if he who controls the past controls the future, then he who controls the present would be well advised to control the past.1

So it is with great interst that we observe he preeminent Catholic spokesperson of the day, George Weigel reaffirming Oaklley’s thesis in his  recent National Review article    Weigel weighs in on the recent SCOTUS marriage case (Obergefel) by channeling the late Fr. John Courtney Murray.  Weigel captions his article, “What would Father John Courtney Murray say?” and describes the late Fr. Murray as, “one of the intellectual architects of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom and author of what remains today the best Catholic explication of the moral-cultural foundations of the old American democracy, “We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition.””1.  There is no better extant example of historical oblivion than this.

In order to better understand either the tragic or comic nature of Weigel’s prounouncements it will be helpful to review who John Courtney Murray was and how the Roman Catholic Church actually treated him during his lifetime.

A simple Google search will allow the reader to ascertain the bare facts or Murray’s existence. He was born in 1904, was highly educated at an early age, became a Jesuit priest in 1933 and went on to earn advanced degrees in Rome.  And Murray’s area of special interest was how Roman Catholics could make sense of the American political system.  Why did that require the efforts of so great a scholar?  Because the American political system was described as “very erroneous” by Pope Leo XIII. and condemned as heresy.  (Google ‘Heresy of Americanism” and you will find lots of information.)  So how, exactly, were Americans to exist under a political system condemned by the pope?  Enter, John Courtney Murray.

Whle it is beyond our present scope to outline Murray’s thought on the topic, it is necessary to describe how vehemently and vociferously the Roman Catholic Church opposed his work and used every trick possible to thwart Murray in his teaching, speaking and writing.

Americans in the first half of the 20th century were well aware of Catholic doctrine regarding church-state relations.  They were also well aware of the disaster that this doctrine had wreaked on Italy, Spain and other heavily Catholic countries.  Fr. Murray, realizing this, understood that ecumenical cooperation was indeed necessary for Catholic progress in the U.S.  In 1943 he sought permission to address an ecumenical group at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Such permission was denied by the auxiliary bishop for the Catholic archdiocese of New York.  Later speeches given by Murray were shadowed by professors from the Catholic Univeristy in America and from other Catholic seminaries. The end result was that the Vatican working through American Catholic universities had Murray’s books pulled from the shelves and, working through Murray’s Jesuit superiors, had his speeched banned and his further printing contracts cancelled.  Murray was essentially forbidden to speak or write further because of his “heretical” views and became persona non grata to the Catholic world.  Murray was predictably banned from attending the Second Vatican Council

There is one more very interesting twist to the story and that has to do with the rise of America’s first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy.  Murray was well known to the Kennedy clan and, if memory serves, was actually sought out as an adviser to the then Senator’s Presidential campaign.  That fact put theVatican in an extremely precarious position. If they persisted in forcing Murray into the Gulag, it would look bad at precisely the time a Catholic was poised to become President of the most powerful country on earth.  Realizing the terrible optics that Rome had created for the American political situation, Cardinal Spellman had to intervene to get Fr. Murray out of his ghetto and on to the Vatican Council – which he did.  However, Murray was not in attendance until the Second Session of Vatican II.  (Oh, to have been a fly on the Vatican wall at that time!)

So I hope the reader will see with me that when Weigel goes on to muse about how Murray might have “counseled the bishops” of America, he is engaging in the worst sort of anachronism.  Murray was not even allowed to “counsel” college students let alone bishops.  When Weigel begins his essay, “What would Father John Courtney Murray say?” he exits the bounds of Catholic propriety by openly contradicting the Magisterium.  And when he refers to Fr. Murray as the “architect” of anything with regard to the Vatican Council II, he ignores how the Vatican did what it could to preclude his very presence.

Maybe some knowledgeable Catholics will stand up and correct Weigel before he draws more discredit to Catholic historical research.

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1 Oakley, Francis.  History and the Return of the Repressed in Catholic Modernity: The Dilemma Posed by Constance in “The Crisis of Authorityin Catholic Modernity” ed. Lacey, Michael J. and Francis Oakley.  New York: Oxford University Press; 2011.  Kindle Location: 677

1 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420711/obergefell-catholic-church?target=author&tid=900911

The Supreme Court and the Roman Catholic Magisterium

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Last week’s Supreme Court rulings present an excellent example in the damage the Roman Catholic Magisterium can wreak on society. It will be remembered that in on case before the Court (the Burwell,or Obamacare case) the Court held that the word “State” did not really mean “State” but something else. In the second case (the gay “marriage” case) the Court said that the protections of the 14th amendment applied to those who wanted to marry the same sex – even though every State of the Union at time of the adoption of the amendment defined marriage as only occurring between opposite sex couples. How can that happen?

To understand this better, one needs to review American history.

This country was founded squarely on Protestant principles. According to one historian, “80 percent of American Christians in the colonial period…were significantly influenced by John Calvin’s teachings.” And those teaching would have included the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In addition to proclaiming the infallibility of God’s written Word in providing moral guidance to God’s people, this doctrine elevated the importance of the written word and minimized the importance of outside interpreters. The further influence of this theology emphasized the importance of covenants, or written contracts. The Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians – “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6) – is one example of this line of thinking. This is also why the Supreme Court was given a little thought in the founding era of this country. After all, if judges who had been trained in Calvinism, Covenant theology and Sola Scriptura would surely rely on the written law and not on a “penumbra of rights” or other ephemeral things. When the Congress passed a law that says “States” that is what they meant.

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, reacting against Protestantism departed from this ancient Christian teaching. According to the Catholic Catechism, the bishops of the Catholic Church have been given“(t)he task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God”. (CCC para. 85 ff.) And while the catechism says that the Magisterium “is not superior” to the Scriptures the fact remains that the final word belongs to human beings and their subjective interpretation. That is why so much of Catholic theology is built on the teaching of men and not the teaching of the Bible.

So here’s the connection with last week’s SCOTUS opinions.

6 of 9 justices on today’s court are Roman Catholics. Having been raised in a tradition which defers to a human body that gives “authentic interpretation” to the laws, its’ only natural that they relied on their own judgment, rather that the written law. After all, Catholic theological history is littered with contradictory doctrines and topsy-turvy teachings precisely because of this.

So when a court dominated by Roman Catholics says, “States” means something else and they invoke an amendment that was passed by states that all defined marriage a heterosexual union in support of homosexual “marriage”, they are only doing what the Magisterium has been doing for time immemorial. One can think of papal pronouncements against slavery all the while Jews were enslaved in the Papal States. Or one is reminded of the Magisterium’s decree that Councils are superior to popes in 1418 which was reversed in 1870 by a Council that anathematized anyone who believed thusly! Or Pope Leo’s making “official” the teaching of Thomas Aquinas which included that a fetus is not immediately human contrasted by today’s Magiesterial hysteria about life beginning at the “moment of conception”.

The Founding Fathers were suspicious of this behavior so as to even prevent Catholics from voting in this new country. Now that Catholicism has gone mainstream, and that there are 66 million American Roman Catholics, this behavior, although shocking, is entirely understandable. America has found its Magisterium!

How Roman Authority Destroyed Confession

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crisis

As I continue this exploration of the nature and effects of Roman Catholic authority, it should be remembered that the very idea is sometimes an attraction to those outside of the Catholic church. Protestants who are poorly catechized on this topic find the bold claims of Rome to be a safe harbor in a world of change and conflict. But, as we saw in my previous essay, Rome cannot come clean with regard to the very locus of its own authority. And, worse still, the historical record makes clear that the contradictory nature of Rome’s claims along with its claims to consistency render any assertion to authority moot on Rome’s own grounds.

Now we turn to how the authority of Rome actually harms the church. We will look at how the exercise of authority by Rome has virtually elimiated one of its own sacraments. We begin with what used to be referred to as Confession, later the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Professor Leslie Woodcock Tentler of the Catholic University of America has done extensive primary research in the dioceses of the United States. One of her specialties is inquiry into the practice of sacramental confession in American Catholic parishes. Professor Tentler notes that at the turn of the twentieth century it was common practice for American Roman Catholics to “go to confession” annually. This changed in 1905 when the pope issued a decree that the faithful should receive communion as frequently as daily. Because Catholics have historically tied the reception of the Eucharist with a previous visit to the confessional, the number of confessions heard in American parishes blossomed.

The next momentous event with regard to this sacrament in the United States, at least, was the 1930 promulgaton of the encyclical, Casti Connubii, by Pope Pius XI. Here, the pope sought to address the matter of Christian marriage and what he perceived as the faithful’s ignorance of the matter. The growth in the frequency of confessions mentioned aboved provided a natural means by which to effect his new emphasis.

Why was Casti Connubii so important? Precisely because the pope’s anxieties were well placed: like their European brethren, American Catholics prior to 1930 heard relatively little about birth control, even in the confessional…. Casti Connubii signaled an end to the era of “good faith ignorance.” Confessors were suddenly expected to be proactive: to question married penitents who gave reason for suspicion (or, for a time in the Archdiocese of Chicago, simply because they were married) and to condemn the sin in unyielding terms when it was confessed. i

Professor Tentler notes that this had two deleterious effects on the faithful: it made the practice of going to confession “excruciatingly difficult” for those Catholics practicing contraception and it made devout Catholics into subversives so as to to get past the priest’s demand for a “firm purpose of amendment”.

It further had the consequence of distancing the priests from their local flocks. Only those priests who were well known for toeing the papal line would be tapped for advancement. And those who knowingly allowed for the exercise of a congregant’s conscience in the matter were ostracized.

However, the situation was to change in a few short years with the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.

Several cataclysms erupted the details of which are beyond the scope of this writing but they should be well know to Catholics. The first was the juxtaposition of raised hopes and a heavy handed encyclical. During the Council, the pope had established a committee of devout, lay Catholics to make recommendations on the Church’s practice. There was apparently great hope in the work of this group. However, they were unserriptiously co-opted by bishops and cardinals toward the end of their tenure and their work was made void with the proclamation of Humanae Vitae. Many Roman Catholics felt rightly betrayed by Roman authority.

The second convulsion that occurred simultaneously was the result of the more “pastoral” approach of this new council. There came to be what Professor Tentler calls “a personalist theology of marriage”. This meant that the everyday Catholic could engage her conscience when deciding whether or not to confess her use of contraception to her priest. Previously the confessor was to “enforce” the Church’s teaching but the times. The whipsaw effect of this now-the-priest-is-enforcer vs. now-he’s not simply drove the stake deeper into the heart of this “sacrament”.

There also was the matter, to educated Catholics at least, of how the rhythm method of contraception could be promoted by a church that for centuries had condemned the practice as a matter of grave sin.ii

The amalgamation of these factors and others showed Roman Catholics just how capricious their Magisterium was. Further, their exaggerated claims to constancy in teaching over time having been disproven by the very contradiction that the rhythm method had laid bare the false claims of Rome’s authority.

Professor Tentler, once again,

Church authority, our leaders seem to believe, is credible only if one can point to a history of changeless teaching. One must at all costs maintain the fiction, which everyone knows it to be, that the teaching church is never wrong.iii

Roman Catholic authority with respect to the very sacrament of confession has rendered itself irrelevant. And, Irrelevant institutions, by definition, lack authority.”iv

Even though exact statistics are unavailable, some today think that as few as ten percent of Roman Catholics in the U.S. go to confession – and then only monthly.v

What we have seen in this brief expose, is that Rome’s authority, far from being a safe harbor of certainty in a world of change is a destructive force. In the matter under examination, we have seen how the contradictory teachings and the contradictory manner of applying those teachings has had the effect of nullifying a sacrament of the church.

What more needs to be said to dissuade those considering joining Rome?

Soli Deo Gloria

iTentler, Leslie Woodcock. “Souls and Bodies: The Birth Control Controversy and the Collapse of Confession” in The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 2011 Pages 293-316. Kindle eBook.

ii See John Noonan’s work on contraception where he gently describes this contradiction as “topsy turvy”.

iii Tentler, ibid. Kindle loc. 6621

iv Ibid. Kindle loc. 6633.

v http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2005/11/the_sin_box.html

Contradictory Authorities – the Heart of the Catholic Problem

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One of the biggest attractions for newcomers to the Catholic faith is the expansive claims that Rome makes to its own authority. Catholic school children are taught – as I certainly was – that the Pope of Rome is the supreme authority of the church. Further, he has a primacy of jurisdiction and not merely honor and that he is the recipient of this power through an unbroken chain of his predecessors going back to St. Peter. And according to the First Vatican Council that this is the “manifest teaching of sacred scriptures” as the church has “always” believed. Pretty heady stuff to be sure and many unsuspecting converts or potential converts are apt to buy it.

Unfortunately, this is decidedly NOT what the Roman church has always taught or believed. In fact, in order to believe this line of thinking, today’s novice Roman Catholics will unknowingly deny or forget the history of their new denomination. As a more eloquent proof of that statement I recommend an exceptionalCrisis of Authority essay by Dr. Francis Oakley to which we will now turn.

It was Yogi Berra who wryly noted that “the past just isn’t what it used to be” and Professor Francis Oakley aptly uses this aphorism to set the stage for his scholarly analysis of the changeable history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Oakley begins by showing how Rome has rested her understanding of doctrine in a highly variable fashion. His first example is the work of John Henry Cardinal Newman (i.e. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine) while much venerated in today’s Catholic world, shows an historic ignorance of the very idea of “doctrinal development” from earlier eras. Oakley continues by highlighting how Newman’s second “note”, entitled “Continuity of Principle” is not able to describe the types of “radical discontinuity” that exist in the teaching and application of Catholic doctrine. He then cites an example that was brought to the fore by the noted Catholic scholar, John T. Noonan. Judge Noonan has documented how the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception had moved the rhythm method from being “intrinsically evil” to officially approved. The fact that Catholics today can accommodate such a reversal in teaching is owing to the “empire that the present continues to exert over the past in so much of Catholic institutional thinking.”

But worse still,

Under certain circumstances, moreover, casual forgetfulness has betrayed a disagreeable tendency to mutate into a proactive politics of oblivion reflective of the Orwellian conclusion that if he who controls the past controls the future, then he who controls the present would be well advised to control the past.ii

This brings us to the current state of Catholic “forgetfulness” or “politics of oblivion” that is exercised with regard to the Church’s ultimate locus of authority. Although modern Roman Catholics are most likely familiar with the dictates of Vatican I with regard to Catholic authority, they are probably not aware of how those dictates contradict the Church’s history and Tradition.

Oakley puts the matter thusly:

The instance of radical doctrinal discontinuity in question is the great gulf that yawns between the position the general councils of Constance (1414–1418) and Basel (1431–1449) affirmed concerning the ultimate locus of authority in the universal church and that staked out in 1870 by Vatican I.iii

The Council of Constance was convened to resolve the problem posed to the Church by multiple popes and multiple papal sees. After the death of Gregory XI, the last of the French popes and the first to restore the papacy to Rome, Urban VI was elected. He proved to be violently unstable and physically abusive to those in opposition to him. So the Roman Cardinals removed themselves to the town of Anagni, declared Urban deposed and elected Clement VII in his stead. Thus began the Great Schism of the church with simultaneous Roman and Avignonese popes. The Council at Pisa (1409) tried to dethrone the descendants of both lines and add a third – or Pisan line – with its election of Alexander V. However, none of the popes stepped down so now the numbers of popes had actually increased! Alexander’s successor, John XXIII, under political pressure from the German King Sigismund of Germany and the cardinals, convoked the Council of Constance on November 5, 1414 to resolve the schism.

The Council was widely attended described by our author as “one of the most imposing of all medieval representative assemblies.” In short, nobody of that day would have cause to doubt the efficacy and authority of that gathering. In April of the following year, the Council published its famous decree, Haec sanctus synodus. That decree stated that the Council was a legitimate council which derived its authority directly from Christ. Furthermore, ALL Christians including the pope, were subject to it and future councils under pain of punishment. Acting on its generally accepted authority, the Council quickly deposed all three popes – Gregory XII (Roman), John XXIII (Pisan), Benedict XIII (Avignon) – and elected a fourth, Martin V of the Colonna family.

One interesting fact that will have a big impact on our discussion is that the last Roman pope, Gregory XII, as part of his agreement to abdicate, requested that he be allowed to end and reconvene the council by his authority. He felt it was improper for him to step down during a council convened by another pope. The council acquiesced and on July 4, 1415 the bull of convocation was read aloud, and Gregory resigned the papacy. Martin V was made the Pope of Rome by the Council. Every pope from that day to this is descended not from Peter, but from the pope appointed by this council.

Professor Oakley notes that the scholarship dealing with the complexities of the doctrine of conciliarism has blossomed greatly in the last century. But there appear to be three issues with regard to the contrast of Vatican I with Constance.

The first issue is the very schism itself.

The question it seems, is would a Roman Catholic in 1378, be able to distinguish between the Roman pontiff – Urban VI – and the newly elected pontiff – Clement VII? Oakley maintains that even those “intimately involved in the whole sorry chain of events” would be “in a state of “invincible ignorance” about which…was the true pope.”

The historical evidence, certainly, does not permit one simply to insist on the exclusive legitimacy of Urban’s title to the papacy (and, therefore, the legitimacy of his successors in the Roman line). If that claim is now enshrined in the current official listing of popes, it should be recognized that it has been advanced quite explicitly on theological or canonistic rather than historical grounds.iv

If the doctrine decreed by Vatican I was evidence of Divine effort, the teaching of Scriptures and of a supreme constancy, how would the schism have occurred at all?

The second issue has to do with the  claim that Constance was not a legitimate council until convened by Gregory.

That claim would tend to negate the force of Haec Sanctus synodus whereby Gregory agreed to abdicate. But Oakley points out that Gregory’s convocation was merely a polite accommodation by the Fathers of the Council in order to smooth the transition to the next pope. It was not a formality that could be confused with doctrine of any sort. Our author cites as further evidence the fact that the Council Fathers had received ambassadors from both Gregory XII and his rival, Benedict XIII as “official papal delegates” thereby displaying their lack of favoritism for Gregory. But more damning than all of that is the fact that today’s popes are descended not from the last “Roman pope” – Gregory XII – but from Martin V who was elected by the Council. What that means is that the claim of Vatican I to an “unbroken succession” from Peter is nonsense.

The third issue that presents itself is that of “conciliar theory itself”.

The high papalists have claimed that the theory was “heterodox in its origins and rapid in its demise” but history has not been kind to that position. Here Oakley turns to the work of Brian Tierney of Cornell University. Tierney showed that the actions of Constance had deep roots in the ancient history of the church, the canon law and from a “vast ocean of commentary” in the “twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.” And that it was not until quite recently – with the resurgence of the new high papalism – that conciliar theory has had any shadow cast on it at all.

The culmination of all this effort is put quite nicely by Professor Oakley:

I concluded, as a result, that we were confronted with an instance in which two legitimate ecumenical councils of the Latin church were in contradiction on a doctrinal issue concerning the very locus of ultimate authority in the church.v

The Nature of the Dilemma

So today’s Roman Catholic is faced with an unresolvable riddle. If the pronouncements of Vatican I are true – that the pope is the ultimate authority beyond which there is no other – then how to explain the fact that the power he assumes is derived from a council? If this “manifest teaching” with the church has “always” held wasn’t held from the 15th century to the 19th, how can we know which is the correct version? And attempting to rely on some sort of “development” theory falls short due to the law of non-contradiction and the nature of the understanding of Catholic doctrine at the time.

Of course, if the Roman Catholic Church cannot come to terms with the true source of its ultimate authority, how can it be trusted to speak authoritatively about anything? And how can it claim for itself any teaching authority when it so blithely ignores or misrepresents history? And how can the pope be trusted to proclaim his own “primacy” it is not truly “manifest” in the Scriptures or historically taught by the Church? How can today’s Catholic’s be under the anathema of believing that no one can go above the pope’s authority, when the very pope who declared the anathema has gotten his authority to do so from a Council?

It is not an easy problem but one that is entirely of Rome’s own making. She needs to come clean and confess that her claims do not stand the test of time and do in fact, change. And until she does, anyone who believes her claims to authority is a willing accomplice the “politics of oblivion”.

iOakley, Francis. “History and the Return of the Repressed in Catholic Modernity: The Dilemma Posed by Constance”. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 2011 Pages 29-56. Kindle eBook.

iiIbid., page 32.

iiiIbid., page 33.

ivIbid., page 40.

vIbid., page 47

How Roman Authority is the Bane of the Catholic Church

Crisis of Authority

One of the things which allures the unsuspecting to the Catholic Church is it’s claim to authority. Ina world of constant change and sinfulness, one full of strife and discord, Rome’s claims can look very much like a safe harbor. So the emotional appeal that lures the unaware is understandable. However one must go beyond emotions and look at the claims themselves to see that they are, in a word, vacuous. Worse still, Rome’s authority actually hinders honest scholarship, damages the relationship between clergy and laity and actually undermines the sacraments.

So it was with great interest that I found a compilation of twelve articles by Catholic scholars that makes this case in spades.1 The anthology is edited by noted historians Michael J. Lacey and Francis Oakley and includes contributions by Catholic professors from the Louvain, Catholic University of America and Notre Dame, Catholic priests, nuns and canon lawyers and others with like specialties. They show with great aptitude how Roman authority has created a “crisis” for the modern Catholic church.

In the period ahead I would like to share with you several of these articles that I have found fascinating. The next will be a look at how the history of the church makes it impossible to identify what truly is the nature and justification for Rome’s claims to power.

From the Prologue

The editors make the observation that the locus of Catholic authority – the papacy – is at once more consolidated and powerful than ever…

As the church settles into the twenty-first century, students of Catholicism no less than Catholics themselves are confronted with a paradox regarding the authority of its central institution, the modern papacy: it is stronger than it has ever been, yet frailer than before…2

…and increasingly irrelevant to local Catholics.

The practice is up to them (local Catholics). They cannot be scared into obedience or shamed into piety, and they know it. They can leave if they like and return if they wish.3

That is to say, today’s Roman Catholics cannot be bullied by Rome the way Catholics have been in the past.4 Or said still another way is that Rome has none of the actual authority that it claims.

This is amplified by another essay which shows that in Rome’s authoritative written instruments – it’s encyclicals, catechisms and the teachings of its bishops – “more authority is claimed than accepted, and the gap is apparently widening.” (This is reminiscent of a like situation that existed in the French church until it’s 1801 Concordat with Napoleon. Papal bulls and encyclicals were not allowed to circulate in that country without the local bishops’ approval.) In a lovely turn of a phrase it is noted what a charade teaching has become in the Catholic church:

“A spirit of reciprocal pretense seems to prevail: “…you pretend to teach me, and I’ll pretend to learn.”5

“Pretend” authority aptly describes the extant environment for Roman Catholics.

There is no better example of this than Rome’s “authoritative” teaching on birth control and contraception. The unwarranted claim that Rome makes in its current teaching is rejected by the majority of Catholics for several good reasons. The first is that incontrovertibly contradicts earlier church teaching and actually permits what was previously – and “authoritatively” – proscribed as sinful!

John Noonan, for example, has recently traced the convoluted process whereby a pattern of behavior once denounced as contrary to nature has modulated across time into the routinely acceptable, whereas another such pattern, once taken for granted as unexceptionable, has come to be viewed as totally unacceptable, perhaps even “intrinsically evil.”6

What the editors are drawing attention to here – and what Dr. Noonan describes in scholarly detail elsewhere – is the “rhythm method” of contraception. Declared a sin for centuries by Rome’s authority, Pope Pius XII made licit for all Catholics. To borrow a phrase from Judge Noonan, this is typical of the “topsy turvy” nature of Rome’s pronouncements.7

Later in this volume we will hear from a professor at Roman Catholicism’s oldest university – the Louvain – explain how the meaning of the term “Magisterium” – which signifies the teaching authority of the Roman church – has devolved into whatever the current Magisterium says it is.

I am very excited to be sharing this work with you. It is obvious to any honest observer that the official Roman claims to authority over the Catholic church are merely a power grab and a charade. The fact that innocent people are still, today, swayed by them is all the more reason to bring the discussion into the open.

This fabrication deserves to be exposed and these Catholic writers have begun the work brilliantly.

Next we will begin with an old problem for Rome’s claims to authority – the Council of Constance.

1 Lacey, Michael J. and Francis Oakley, ed. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

2Ibid. Kindle loc. 81

3Ibid., Kindle loc. 95

4The example of the mistreatment of John Courtney Murray, S.J as recently as the 1960’s is but one example.

5Ibid., Kindle loc. 162

6Ibid., Kindle loc. 670

7More detail can be found in Noonan, John T., Jr. Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986