Show Me Jesus

Unam Sanctam helps sort through the confusion about canonization (especially those of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II):

By virtue of this fact, the second aspect of the person’s canonization, that they are a person of heroic virtue who should be seen as a model for the faithful is not a question that is at all up for dispute. Simply because a Saint makes mistakes in his life, or even makes objectively wrong choices, has no bearing on the matter. A Saint is not a person who lived their whole life perfectly; but rather, a Saint is a person who, by the end of their earthly pilgrimage, demonstrated the fact that through God’s grace they were able to attain to an eminent degree of perfection. For this reason they should be seen by all as a model for the faithful of heroic virtue, and the fact that they have been canonized dispels any doubt there might be in the matter.

This is not to say that elements of the pontificates of John XXIII or John Paul II are not problematic; they certainly are. This is for history to assess. Because of the changes in the process and the manner in which these canonizations are proceeding, it has been the position of this blog that there is an unfortunate confusion in modern canonizations when it comes to saints who also held ecclesiastical office vis-a-vis the question of whether a saint who was personally holy but had significant failures in the exercise of their office should be considered a model of heroic virtue (see here and here). Without reopening that argument, it suffices to say that a saint must always be a role model for heroic virtue in so far as we are talking about their personal holiness, which is the fundamental reason for their canonization. In the case of John Paul II, Cardinal Amato said very plainly that the canonization is based on the late pontiff’s personal holiness, not how he administered his papacy or the impact he had in the world. We may not appreciate that distinction or think it is helpful, but at least in making this statement the Vatican has, in a certain sense, sorted out the question of whether John Paul’s canonization means he was also a model pope. The answer is clearly no, and Cardinal Amato’s answer thankfully allows us to maintain this point whilst simultaneously affirming the legitimacy of his canonization as a true exercise of the infallibility of the pope.

“An eminent degree of perfection” in this life? When did Rome become Wesleyan?

What did Paul say?

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
(Romans 7:18-25 ESV)

This is one of those thorny matters the Callers need to ‘splain (like how such perfection is possible apart from Christ).

28 thoughts on “Show Me Jesus

  1. When did Rome become Wesleyan?

    Rome was Wesleyan before Wesley. It is not surprising that Wesley read and was profoundly influenced by Catholic mystics (e.g., Kempis). And institutionally, the whole logic of the sacramental system in Rome, together with the concept of purgatory, is to bring the faithful into a perfection of their own.


  2. Next time I screw up at work I’m going to tell my boss that he can take comfort in the fact that I’m nearing perfection at home.

    Next time I screw up at home I’m going to tell my wife that she can take comfort in the fact that I’m nearing perfection at work.

    Remind self to not let boss and wife talk to each other…


  3. I’m with you Erik. I suck at what I spend 80% of my life doing, but I rock everywhere else, sort of, within reason, I mean I still kick the dog and get grumpy and grouse at everyone within immediate vicinity and sometimes imagine getting back at the curia, violently, and asking Maciel for some help with the renovations and tell the vatican bank that they need to make it do what it do. But, other than that, I’m golden. I’m JPII! Damn’t. Kiss the ring. Kiss it.


  4. Sean, after reading the link you provided, I (all about) have changed my mind about a piece I read yesterday.

    I thought it was way, way over the top. Now, I would say it is within the bounds of permissible hyperbole. Just when I start to feel like I ought to cut the RC some slack, something like the piece you linked shows up, or the Los Angeles Times investigative report of a few months ago. Synagogue of Satan seems to be an inadequate description.


  5. The RCC didn’t care two shakes about the americans, other than as a cash cow. JPII and Maciel were tight his entire pontificate. And the Vatican’s primary care for thirty years is that all lawsuits terminate at the diocesan offices and never find traction in Vatican City. When you cut the Irish Bishops, IRELAND!!!!!, off at the knees and throw their limp bodies under the bus to avoid Vatican involvement in their sex abuse scandals, you’re nothing more than an ethnocentric, toolish, monarchical court beyond help other than to raze it to the ground. Let the Italians simmer in their stew. And this is all before we get to the banking scandals.


  6. “An eminent degree of perfection” in this life? When did Rome become Wesleyan?

    Yep, that was the first thing I picked up on too. Rome is works righteousness and that, people, is impossible and not the gospel. Who’s the anathema?


  7. One of the money quotes from Douthat’s piece:

    “One is what you might call the late-Soviet scenario, in which Catholic doctrine is officially unaltered, but the impression grows that even the pope doesn’t really believe these things, and that when the church’s leaders affirm a controversial position they’re going through the ideological motions — like Brezhnev-era apparatchiks — and not actually trying to teach a living faith.”

    Modern Rome reminds me of the Episcopalian Church and the ELCA and the PCUSA until recently. Formally orthodox but, “wink-wink, nudge-nudge, we’ll do whatever we want anyway.” The aforementioned bodies finally got honest and revamped their teaching on human sexuality in an official manner. How long before modern Rome does something similar?


  8. Douthat: “…in which the annulment requirement is dispensed with and (perhaps) a temporary penance is substituted.

    I don’t think this will happen. Rome has never worked its matter/anti-matter will so recklessly.

    But the pastoral need is undeniable. A doctrine expounded that is at odds with the majority of those in the pews, regular folk who regularly attend, can’t stand in practice. If an understanding of the American social state escapes one, then polls will supply the deficiency.

    Easter Mass opened with a power point (small scale screen) reading of The Easter Bunny: One that had escaped into Jesus’ tomb, so trapped by the placing of the stone that it caused him to witness the great light of His resurrection. It was sweet and maybe to the young (it was a children’s Mass) it was powerful but I doubt it.

    The covering of the Crucifix with purple drape during Easter week was powerful but a decent percentage of those who had experienced it left the Church too. What they had a hard time leaving behind was the love that they had learned to feel for Jesus. The other day I remembered “Day by day, Dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”

    Pope Francis, as it relates to “the people” is so much more Mazzini than Ratzinger or Wojtyła. He views trads as neo-pelagians, he attests he is a son of the Church and he’ll work his will and no one will be satisfied which seems noting short of historical continuity.

    Trads have a few healthy congregations but not enough to make an impact doctrinally or financially. They are a people attached to the Iron Rod and that, today, presents as an absurdity. A trad priest, if assigned to a mixed congregation, will not be able to brandish it. If he tries, the likelihood that’ll he’ll be reassigned by his bishop is quite good. He can give full vent to his interpretation of the faith only if he remains in the Ghetto.

    What trads and conservatives don’t understand is that the Iron Rod isn’t feared at all. It’ll be grasped and hurled back with all the scorn fallibilists can muster.


  9. “… What trads and conservatives don’t understand is that the Iron Rod isn’t feared at all. It’ll be grasped and hurled back with all the scorn fallibilists can muster …”

    True dat. And it’s being made quite evident by the existence of groups like SNAP who seem to have developed a jaundiced and suspicious view of the priesthood as a whole.


  10. We heard a good sermon on Acts 4 yesterday. 4:19 ” But Peter and John answered them, ” Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.””

    This made me think about the Callers argument that without a divinely instituted authority to tell Peter and Paul what the Scriptures teach (the high priests certainly were that in the Old Covenant) it would just be everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.

    Jason and the Callers would have been logically compelled by their reasoning to advise Peter and John to defer to the divinely instituted heads of the old covenant order. “Slow down on the preaching and healing boys, God has divinely ordered His church, come to Temple and pray.”.

    One could re-play all their logical arguments to prove that in the Old Covenant God did set up institutions (Priests and Kings) to protect, lead and guide the church. Of course the whole point of the Old Testament is the record of the FAILURE of all those leaders and institutions, and the necessity of the Spirit being poured out in the New Covenant by the work of Christ. The prophets were sent by God to prosecute this case over and over until Christ came as the final prophet. He will mediate his authority through Word and Spirit.

    Perhaps the most fundamental error of Rome is the failure to understand the nature of the Old and New Covenants. They attempted to re-vivify the hierarchical leadership and sacrificial systems of the Old Covenant with their popes, priests and sacraments. Wonder why Peter, John and Paul did not think that was their task ?


  11. Doug,

    Perhaps the most fundamental error of Rome is the failure to understand the nature of the Old and New Covenants. They attempted to re-vivify the hierarchical leadership and sacrificial systems of the Old Covenant with their popes, priests and sacraments. Wonder why Peter, John and Paul did not think that was their task?

    Bingo. And I continue to question why the stress on the need for an infallible Magisterium given the covenantal realities. If this is the age of the greater outpouring of the Spirit, why do we need ecclesiastical infallibility? They certainly didn’t have it in the age of the lesser outpouring of the Spirit (the old covenant), and somehow the faithful people could discern truth from falsehood. Why in the world do we need such infallibility today. It’s almost like we’re going backwards or something.


  12. George, I don’t know much about SNAP but a jaundiced view of the priesthood dates way back. The peasant had no means to avoid any depredation, nor protection from elevated leadership, should it occur but the bourgeois always had the knowledge and the means for each.


  13. The Chicago area is heavily RC and plenty of abuse charges are aired on local television all the time. So SNAP is always part of the foray and one or more of their representatives are usually interviewed.

    Whenever there’s blood in the water the predators come from every direction and one has to wonder whether some of these past abuse incidents are really genuine or if someone is just looking to either make a buck in court or just has it in for a given priest for other reasons. So I’ll steer clear of any judgement. But it when you listen to these SNAP people talk about the alleged incidents you get the impression that they have a pretty high suspicion of priests in general. ‘Course, protestants aren’t immune to these crimes, either, and it seems like every other week we hear news stories about the how the pastor of some mega-church ‘fesses up to some infidelity.


  14. Abuse happens in all denominations. What makes the RC situation worse, in my opinion, is the shuffling of abusers from one parish to the next with seemingly little regard for the people in those parishes. And the apologies by Ratzinger and even Francis make it a little worse because no one can apologize for the acts of others. One can only quietly put into place policies and safeguards to reduce the possibility of instances and increase the potential for swift follow through. But it needs be said that unlike Orwell’s view of a saint being presumed guilty and needing to proven innocent, a man accused of any crime isn’t guilty just because someone alleges that he is.

    From my recollection of the damn breaking during Dreher’s days of reporting, it was really a pederasty as opposed to pedophile scandal. Older kids, admittedly not of an age of consent, but still older.

    There’s little doubt in my mind that there’s some bandwagon jumping going on relative to abuse charges but the other side to that is that of those who were abused and took their wounds to the grave.


  15. Yeah. Just to underscore that a bit, here’s a piece from a 2002 ESPN interview with former MBL outfielder Tom Paciorek:

    “… In the spring of 2002, Paciorek told the Detroit Free Press in a report that priest Gerald Shirilla had molested him and three of his four brothers while working as a teacher at St. Ladislaus Catholic High School in Hamtramck in the 1960s. “I was molested by him for a period of four years,” Paciorek is reported to have said. “I would refer to them as attacks. I would say there was at least a hundred of them.” The former All-Star said he didn’t tell anyone because no one would have believed him. “When you’re a kid, and you’re not able to articulate, who’s going to believe you?” he asked. “The church back then was so powerful, there’s nothing that a kid could do” …”


  16. George, I don’t think there is a legitimate case to be made that the RC culture of celibate priests and consecration of children to the religious orders did NOT foster, hide, cultivate and provide access for predators to victims and help create both. You couldn’t walk into a room of more than three priests and throw a rock and not hit a deviant or someone who had either broken their celibacy vows, were in the process of breaking their vows or was oozing out at the seams other vices to offset it.


  17. George, I say that and I still have fond memories of priests I knew and thought well of, but this is a culture in deep crisis and I don’t think is repairable. It’s just a bad model. It doesn’t work.


  18. That is sad to read. And being a woman, I cannot imagine what it was like to have a priest approach me during Paciorek’s time line. It’s likely unfathomable to a Protestant what that could mean.

    Everything from the Mass to the confessional fostered faith, majesty and fear. During those years Christ as Pantocrator (sp?), priest as indelibly ordained, was still deeply rooted.

    The Latin Mass began with prayer at the foot of the altar, that prayer, if memory serves was the 42nd Psalm, which is exquisitely poignant in its call to God to not hide but to show His face. So you can see the beginning of the affect of the priest’s petition on your behalf.

    A lower-class RC kid could look to no one within the hierarchy to protect him.


  19. To echo Sean’s points, not long ago I read through a “Parish Guide” for one of the two Catholic Parishes in Ames (university town of 50,000). Let’s just say that the priests were not front and center. I think Catholic laity have a lot of ambivalence about their priests these days.


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