Suspense Ended

The answer to the quotation teaser from a day or so ago is Roman Catholic. All winners will receive a PDF of the Old Life Theological Society mug.

The quotation comes from Pius X in his famous condemnation of modernism as a heresy with the encyclical, PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS (1907). It is a long statement that dug in the papacy’s heels even deeper against the forces of modernity. The pope was most concerned to condemn the influence of higher criticism and liberal theology. But as the quote shows, Rome’s opposition to modern times included American conventions like the separation of church and state.

Also worthy of note about the encyclical is Pius’ rejection of the “evolution of doctrine.” Here is a sample:

28. Thus then, Venerable Brethren, for the Modernists, both as authors and propagandists, there is to be nothing stable, nothing immutable in the Church. Nor indeed are they without precursors in their doctrines, for it was of these that Our Predecessor Pius IX wrote: These enemies of divine revelation extol human progress to the skies, and with rash and sacrilegious daring would have it introduced into the Catholic religion as if this religion were not the work of God but of man, or some kind of philosophical discovery susceptible of perfection by human efforts. On the subject of revelation and dogma in particular, the doctrine of the Modernists offers nothing new – we find it condemned in the Syllabus of Pius IX., where it is enunciated in these terms: Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the progress of human reason; and condemned still more solemnly in the Vatican Council: The doctrine of the faith which God has revealed has not been proposed to human intelligences to be perfected by them as if it were a philosophical system, but as a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence the sense, too, of the sacred dogmas is that which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared, nor is this sense ever to be abandoned on plea or pretext of a more profound comprehension of the truth. Nor is the development of our knowledge, even concerning the faith, impeded by this pronouncement – on the contrary it is aided and promoted. For the same Council continues: Let intelligence and science and wisdom, therefore, increase and progress abundantly and vigorously in individuals and in the mass, in the believer and in the whole Church, throughout the ages and the centuries – but only in its own kind, that is, according to the same dogma, the same sense, the same acceptation.

Now I know I have the wrong paradigm which is good a locating men made of straw, but as I read this section I have a sense of tension between the papacy’s condemnation of modernism and the idea of the development of doctrine that flourishes whenever people ask about changes in the teaching of the church. When Pius quotes Vatican I that the doctrine revealed by God to the church is not to be “perfected” by human reason but is “a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted,” it sure sounds like doctrines, teachings and practices won’t change. But that’s likely the view of traditionalist Roman Catholics.

But then along came Vatican II with all the affirmations of conciliarism and the laity:

37. The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments. They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church. When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.

I am not sure that Pius X would have approved:

. . . studying more closely the ideas of the Modernists, evolution is described as resulting from the conflict of two forces, one of them tending towards progress, the other towards conservation. The conserving force in the Church is tradition, and tradition is represented by religious authority, and this both by right and in fact; for by right it is in the very nature of authority to protect tradition, and, in fact, for authority, raised as it is above the contingencies of life, feels hardly, or not at all, the spurs of progress. The progressive force, on the contrary, which responds to the inner needs lies in the individual consciences and ferments there – especially in such of them as are in most intimate contact with life. Note here, Venerable Brethren, the appearance already of that most pernicious doctrine which would make of the laity a factor of progress in the Church.

I guess that’s why you need the development of doctrine.

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39 thoughts on “Suspense Ended

  1. Darryl,

    Now I know I have the wrong paradigm which is good a locating men made of straw, but as I read this section I have a sense of tension between the papacy’s condemnation of modernism and the idea of the development of doctrine that flourishes whenever people ask about changes in the teaching of the church. When Pius quotes Vatican I that the doctrine revealed by God to the church is not to be “perfected” by human reason but is “a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted,” it sure sounds like doctrines, teachings and practices won’t change.

    There is no “tension” between the condemnation of modernism and the Catholic conception of the development of doctrine. What Pius is condemning there is a particular [non-Catholic] conception of development, which makes it subject to *human reason,* and treats it as not bound to what has already been laid down definitively by the Church.

    So, yes, your hunch about the straw man was right. 🙂

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  2. Nice try Bryan.

    Lumen Gentum recognizes the charism even amongst the “laity” faithful and is to be acknowledged as the movement of God among the people of God. It may take years to be confirmed by the bishops but Lumen Gentum recognizes it’s viability. It’s this viability of the the charism of the faithful that Pius X is including in his resistance to modernity as “that most pernicious doctrine which would make of the laity a factor of progress in the Church.” Take a wiff, that’s modernity at the door of your faith.

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  3. Is it just me or does the spouse of Christ not write worth a damn. My eyes glaze over whenever I attempt to read “her”. An illustration might make sense from time to time. The writing just does not flow. Maybe it’s better in Latin.

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  4. sean,

    The Church has long recognized the sensus fidelium in the laity. The “most pernicious doctrine” to which Pope Piux X refers is not the authentic sensus fidelium exercised by the laity, but its imitation, which disregards the authority of the Church and the definitive, irrevocable establishment of its her dogmas. Pope Benedict XVI made this same distinction between the authentic and inauthentic sensus fidelium, as I pointed out in comment #97 of the “Short Video on the Identification of the Apostolic Faith” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  5. “since the ‘sensus fidei’ cannot truly develop in a believer other than to the extent to which he participates fully in the life of the Church, and it therefore necessitates responsible adhesion to her Magisterium.”

    Translation: The laity absolutely rocks insofar as those folks agree with the church. When they disagree with us and tell us we need to reform, then they don’t rock so much.

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  6. Bryan thanks. It’s why I included affirmation by the bishop. But, it’s pure faith stance for you to reconcile The Pius X quote with Lumen Gentum. Your assumption of harmony is faith claim.

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  7. Erik:”Is it just me or does the spouse of Christ not write worth a damn. My eyes glaze over whenever I attempt to read “her”.”

    Make it two of us.

    It just spins around and around and seems lofty, but there is nothing there.

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  8. Like this?

    Garry Wills

    The next pope should be increasingly irrelevant, like the last two. The farther he floats up, away from the real religious life of Catholics, the more he will confirm his historical status as a monarch in a time when monarchs are no longer believable. Some people think it a new or even shocking thing that so many Catholics pay no attention to papal fulminations—against, for instance, female contraceptives, male vasectomies, condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, women’s equality, gay rights, divorce, masturbation, and artificial insemination (because it involves masturbation). But it is the idea of truth descending though a narrow conduit, straight from God to the pope, that is a historical invention.
    When Cardinal Ratzinger was asked, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, if he was disturbed that many Catholics ignored papal teaching, he said he was not, since “truth is not determined by a majority vote.” But that is precisely how the major doctrines like those on the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection were fixed in creeds: at councils like that of Nicaea, by the votes of hundreds of bishops, themselves chosen by the people, before popes had any monopoly on authority. Belief then rose up from the People of God, and was not pronounced by a single oracle. John Henry Newman, in On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (1859), argued that there had been periods when the body of believers had been truer to the faith than had the Church hierarchy. He was silenced for saying it, but his historical arguments were not refuted.
    Catholics have had many bad popes whose teachings or acts they could or should ignore or defy. Orcagna painted one of them in hell; Dante assigned three to his Inferno; Lord Acton assured Prime Minister William Gladstone that Pius IX’s condemnation of democracy was not as bad as the papal massacres of Huguenots, which showed that “people could be very good Catholics and yet do without Rome”; and John Henry Newman hoped Pius IX would die during the first Vatican Council, before he could do more harm. Acton’s famous saying, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” was written to describe Renaissance popes.
    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/mar/10/does-pope-matter/

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  9. Couple of interesting developments. He refers to Ratzinger as bishop emeritus, and refers to himself as bishop of Rome. May be nothing, but considering Ratzinger was very particular about his titles even in retirement, pope emeritus, and all the accompanying accoutrements and considering Francis is a Jesuit, an order that runs toward the most progressive end, though Francis is a conservative compared to others of his order, I anticipate a compromise Pope who is RC’s halfway measure toward the modern church anticipated in Vatican II. So far his statements anticipate a conciliar understanding of authority.

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  10. Darryl, it’s enough to cause me to develop a rooting interest in a communion I haven’t thought this much about in twenty years. I can tell you that Wills’ “dinner conversation” and mine would bear some striking similarities. Something about growing up in it and passing through the religious vocations and coming out the other side, weans you off the romance.

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  11. Bryan,

    The way to test your contention that Pius was not referring to legitimate development of doctrine but some illegitimate, rationalistic notion of development, is surely to go back and see what contemporaries made of his statements. I wont claim to have read extensively in the literature as I don’t have easy access to a first class theological library, but I certainly get the sense from what I have read that Pius’s contemporaries understood him to be referring to the notion of doctrinal development per se. That’s why those who resurrected Newman’s and Moehler’s notions at Vatican II were deemed to be ‘unreliable’, even dangerous theologians by traditional Roman Catholic prelates at the time. Didn’t the younger Ratzinger even have a file at the Holy Office? Boy, there’s been a lot of water flow down the Tiber and under the proverbial bridge since then!

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  12. sean,

    But, it’s pure faith stance for you to reconcile The Pius X quote with Lumen Gentum. Your assumption of harmony is faith claim.

    It is a stance of faith, of course. I am a Catholic, and the paradigm in which Catholic documents are rightly understood is the paradigm of Catholic faith. But it is not purely faith if by “pure faith” you mean “having no relation to reason,” or being arbitrary or fideistic. For example, if there were truly a contradiction between the two documents [i.e. Pascendi and Lumen Gentium], then I could not affirm them both in faith. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the Catholic understanding of the relation of faith and reason as expressed say, in Pope Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris and Pope John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio. Also, for one who holds the Catholic faith and thereby believes the Holy Spirit to be both (a) guiding the Church into all truth and (b) not contradicting Himself, later developments are approached as organic developments of, not contradictions to, prior teaching. This is the hermeneutic of continuity of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke, which is an expression of these two aspects of Catholic faith.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  13. Sean, wouldn’t you pay big bucks to see Bryan and Garry Wills talk about the Church?

    A week’s wages, at least! That would be fascinating.

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  14. Bryan,

    I’m sure you would accuse me of skepticism and therefore not only question begging but ultimately untenable in my assertions. But an a priori commitment to organic developments of doctrine, not contradictions, as a trusting in the Holy Spirit to preclude just such an occurrence, combined with a personal confession of faith to embrace and submit to those things taught; “I believe that I might understand’, though a necessary faith commitment by a roman catholic is not a paradigm I share nor ultimately find credible. I find it not credible because it goes beyond a supernatural faith that asks me to believe in things invisible, but asks me, by faith, to reconcile those things which are contrary, better said, exceed the apostolic authority of original apostolic authority. I believe in perspicuity and the Holy Spirit’s illumining, and that through the church no less. You, by faith, express organic development as an a priori faith posture toward non-canonical documents. I find no canonical basis for such a claim for non-canonical documents. Certainly I reject the possibility of contradiction as it pertains to canonical documents, they of course have a testator who is both divine and shed his blood in attestation of those documents. The various conciliar documents of RC lack a similar attestation, and without it, they are the improper objects of a supernatural faith that embraces Jesus Christ and His church.

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  15. When Bryan writes, For example, if there were truly a contradiction between the two documents [i.e. Pascendi and Lumen Gentium], then I could not affirm them both in faith., we can truly see the anthropocentrism of Rome.

    Ultimately, the veracity of Rome’s claims rest in whether “I could…affirm them”.

    Blessings,

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  16. Bryan: For example, if there were truly a contradiction between the two documents [i.e. Pascendi and Lumen Gentium], then I could not affirm them both in faith.

    You could if you were unaware of the contradiction. And that could happen if either

    (a) you accepted a false premise that entailed said contradiction. For example, if you accept that 1 = 0, there is no contradiction in saying that x = 2 and x = 3.

    OR

    (b) you were unable to see the contradiction. For example, some of my students sometimes see no contradiction in saying, There is an x such that |x – 1| < 0. They see no contradiction because they have not seen the inequality through to its conclusion.

    Just observing.

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  17. sean,

    But an a priori commitment to organic developments of doctrine, not contradictions, as a trusting in the Holy Spirit to preclude just such an occurrence, combined with a personal confession of faith to embrace and submit to those things taught; “I believe that I might understand’, though a necessary faith commitment by a roman catholic is not a paradigm I share …

    I’m aware that you don’t share that paradigm.

    nor ultimately find credible. I find it not credible because it goes beyond a supernatural faith that asks me to believe in things invisible, but asks me, by faith, to reconcile those things which are contrary, …

    That’s just my point. Nothing has been shown to be contrary. That’s why I commented on this post in the first place. There has been no demonstration of a contradiction between Pascendi and Lumen Gentium, only an assertion based on question-begging assumptions read into the documents, assumptions that are not stated by the documents themselves.

    better said, exceed the apostolic authority of original apostolic authority.

    I don’t believe that any papal or magisterial document exceeds the original apostolic authority. An effect cannot be greater than its cause, and a servant cannot be greater than his master. The successors of the Apostles are not greater than the Apostles.

    I believe in perspicuity and the Holy Spirit’s illumining, and that through the church no less.

    The problem with this position, as you know from what I’ve written elsewhere, is that the term ‘church’ here reduces to ‘those who sufficiently agree with my interpretation,’ and ‘perspicuity’ is made an a priori unfalsifiable assumption no matter what percentage of interpreters come to conclusions contrary to one’s own, all explained away as either ignorant, malicious, or deceived by the devil. So it is a very self-serving presupposition that any heretical group could take to insulate and rationalize its own position.

    You, by faith, express organic development as an a priori faith posture toward non-canonical documents. I find no canonical basis for such a claim for non-canonical documents.

    The very notion that there must be a canonical basis for the claim presupposes the Protestant paradigm, and is thus question-begging.

    Certainly I reject the possibility of contradiction as it pertains to canonical documents, they of course have a testator who is both divine and shed his blood in attestation of those documents. The various conciliar documents of RC lack a similar attestation, and without it, they are the improper objects of a supernatural faith that embraces Jesus Christ and His church.

    That’s just the point in question, so that claim too, presupposes the truth of the Protestant paradigm.

    All this just shows how actually talking about the Protestant-Catholic disagreement in a non-question begging way is quite difficult, and requires a deep awareness of the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  18. Once again, Bryan demonstrates that according to Rome, all those who do not agree with her are begging the question.

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  19. Bryan, you wrote: “The very notion that there must be a canonical basis for the claim presupposes the Protestant paradigm, and is thus question-begging.” So that means that Rome lacks biblical basis for some of what it teaches and believes. Good for you to admit that.

    And you don’t think this is dangerous? Doesn’t it give incredible room for people to abuse the power of office?

    I know you believe in the Holy Spirit and that everything will work out in the end. What’s odd is that you only see danger on the Protestant side with all of our differences and diversity. Smart guy that I am, I see danger on both sides and can admit it. But why can’t you be honest about Rome’s dangers? I think I know the reason. You’re not allowed. That’s totalitarian, which would explain the Spanish Inquisition.

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  20. Darryl,

    Bryan, you wrote: “The very notion that there must be a canonical basis for the claim presupposes the Protestant paradigm, and is thus question-begging.” So that means that Rome lacks biblical basis for some of what it teaches and believes. Good for you to admit that.

    It is not a matter of *admitting* it, as though it is something we’ve been hiding. We’ve laid it out there all along, as I have explained in the “Scripture and Tradition” section of my reply to Horton at the end of the Modern Reformation interview.

    And you don’t think this is dangerous? Doesn’t it give incredible room for people to abuse the power of office? I know you believe in the Holy Spirit and that everything will work out in the end. What’s odd is that you only see danger on the Protestant side with all of our differences and diversity.

    I assume that by ‘dangerous,’ you mean dangerous to one’s soul. And the answer to your question is no. To be in the Church Christ founded, within His sheepfold under the magisterial authority He established, is the safest place to be with regard to the salvation of one’s soul, even if a brother or sister within the Church sins against oneself. To leave the Church and run after ‘shepherds’ He did not authorize, no matter what their tradition, men (or women) who made themselves out to be ‘authorities,’ that is a sure way to imperil one’s soul.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  21. How about following Shepherds who teach the things that Jesus taught?

    When I think about standing before God I think about pointing to Christ and his work as the only basis of my justification. If God were to ask why I was not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I think I would answer that on the basis of what I read in the Bible, there were things that that Church was teaching that I did not find there (or that were contrary to what I found there). Additionally, I think I would answer that I saw things in the behavior of the leaders of that church, up to the present day, that concerned me. One might say that this is my “private judgment”, but in the end what else does anyone really have if we are honest. We are all born into the world alone and we all die alone.

    I would make the same argument to anyone in a Reformed Church who insisted that I had to be a member of that specific church or denomination in order to be saved.

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  22. Will God judge those who refuse to be joined to a church that claims great authority for itself and yet allowed its priests to avoid prosecution for sexually abusing young boys and girls for many years in some cases? Think about it. What did Jesus teach about those who cause children to go astray? What are the long-term repercussions of childhood sexual abuse for the abused?

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  23. Bryan,

    Let me ask you a question for sake of clarity; Do you find a development in the teaching of the church as it regards sensus fidelium from Pascendi to Lumen Gentium? It’s not a gotcha, I’m just curious.

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  24. Bryan, but how do you know which are the true Shepherds? Paul and Peter faced many false shepherds. Rome has had three popes all at one time, for Allah’s sake.

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  25. Mark Henderson,
    Correct that it would be helpful to see contemporary perspectives on Pius’s encyclical and Newman’s development of doctrine. Bishop O’Dwyer defends Newman against the Modernists in 1908 in response to the encyclical here . Pius responds to that work approvingly here and praises Newman. Development and modernist evolution were not viewed as equivalent by Pius or Newman.

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  26. Bryan, I don’t think the point is about the spiritual safety of the church–Reformed agree and say that there is ordinarily no salvation outside her. The point seems to be whether you can admit that even in the Catholic scheme the church is comprised of sinners and so is just as vulnerable to danger as any Reformed church. Protestants can admit that sinners can and do find ways to undermine and take advantage of sola scriptura. Can you admit that popes have abused their infallible powers? If not, huh? If so, maybe Wills has a point?

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  27. Actually Zrim he can’t. To do so would be to substitute his own judgement for the judgement of the rightful authority of the church.

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  28. Actually Zrim he can’t. To do so would be to substitute his own judgement for the judgement of the rightful authority of the church. It’s a matter of faith.

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  29. Bryan,

    I’ve struggled with what else to say to you about the issue. All my profs interpreted Lumen Gentium as advancing the church’s understanding of Lay participation, up to and including consulting the laity during the formation of Vat II. Which leaves us with your faith commitment that such advancements are necessarily congruent with prior encyclical documents. This wasn’t a particular point of emphasis as I remember, it may have been an assumption on their part or it may have been a judgement that didn’t pass the credibility test, either way there wasn’t a lot of time spent trying to reconcile it with prior announcements. I think, as you know, even most clergy saw Vat II as a break with the past and an opportunity for a ‘new spring’ as I heard one priest/theologian currently describe Vat II. Going forward, JP II and Benedict’s papal interpretation of Vat II will be tested as to whether their interpretation was definitive or not, and we will all know soon enough. We both ascribe to
    truth claims, maybe more so, faith claims as derivative of authority, which is why I pursued that angle in response to you. We don’t share a faith that recognizes the same SOLE claims to authority, which makes discussion difficult, as you pointed out. I understand your paradigm and I’ve walked in those shoes probably longer than you’ve subscribed to it. So, it’s not a lack of consideration or unwillingness to hear the arguments from inside the RC paradigm. The issue is one of conscience, credibility and exclusivisity. In the final analysis I actually find it more ecumenical to clearly delineate the lines than try to find irreconcilable means to overcome them. At least then we don’t run afoul of willingly violating another’s conscience and impinge on a liberty granted them by the Holy Spirit.

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