The Call Thickens

Jason and the Callers have nothing on Ross Douthat for explaining what’s at stake in current debates about marriage and what they mean for the Call to Communion:

. . . what’s being proposed and discussed and debated among some of the church’s bishops and cardinals — with, it would seem, the blessing of the pope — is something significantly different: An official mechanism whereby a divorced and remarried Catholic could, without having their previous marriage declared invalid, do penance for any sins involved in their divorce and then receive communion without their new marriage being a moral impediment to reception of the host. In practice, this would move the church in the direction of Eastern Orthodoxy, which has traditionally allowed pastoral exceptions for second marriages, but it would so in a more ambiguous way — effectively creating a kind of second tier of marital unions for Catholics, whose existence the church would decide to “tolerate” (in the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leading voice making the proposal) but “not accept.”

Now one can debate the practical effects of such a proposal (I have various thoughts, but again, I’ll save them). And one certainly can, as the Orthodox and many Protestant churches do, make reasonable theological and biblical arguments for accepting second marriages in some form. But here’s the crucial problem: The test for changes to Catholic practice isn’t just supposed to be “what practical consequences are likely to ensue?” and the bar that such changes need to clear isn’t just supposed to be “what can be reasonably defended by thoughtful Christians?” Rather, the primary test and crucial bar alike are supposed to be “what can be reasonably defended in the light of what the Roman Catholic Church has historically affirmed and taught?”

Seen in that light, it is very hard for me to understand how this kind of change wouldn’t create some pretty significant internal problems for Catholic doctrine as currently and traditionally understood. Saying, with Cardinal Kasper, that second marriages can be tolerated but not accepted implies a zone of human conduct that one might call “tolerable sinfulness,” which is an idea that church teaching does not currently support. (And which if it did support would have all kinds of moral and doctrinal implications, extending well beyond this particular debate.) And whatever individuals and pastors decide to take upon their own consciences, declaring the reception of communion licit for the remarried-but-not-annulled in any systematic way seems impossible without real changes — each with its own potential doctrinal ripples — to one or more of three theologically-important Catholic ideas: The understanding that people in grave sin should not generally receive the Eucharist, the understanding that adultery is always a grave sin, and/or the understanding that a valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble.

Which in turn would mean that if he actually made this kind of change — and, as I said in the column, I do not think he will, but it is being debated with his apparent encouragement, so the possibility has to be addressed — Pope Francis would be either dissolving important church teachings into what looks to me like incoherence, or else changing those same teachings in a way that many conservative Catholics believe that the pope simply cannot do.

Now I am obviously neither a theologian nor a church historian, so my judgments on an issue like this are hardly (ahem) infallible. But in following the controversy, the arguments that this sort of move would not require a doctrinal change seem fairly weak. There is the claim that it would be a strictly disciplinary change, not a dogmatic one … but unlike many other disciplinary issues (from Friday fasts to priestly celibacy), this seems like a case where the discipline is more or less required by a doctrine or doctrines, and to alter one is to at least strongly imply an alteration in the others. There is also the invocation of practices from the early centuries of the church, when some second marriages may have been handled in this manner, and the suggestion that under such a reform the church would be simply returning to an ancient practice. But the entire theory of the development of dogma, which is central to defenses of continuity in Catholic teaching, would seem to militate against the idea that the consistent witness (and to this layman, it really does look pretty consistent) of the second millennium of Catholic history, complete with martyrs and dogmatic definitions, can safely be set aside because of some highly ambiguous cases from the first millennium.

Now these are not points that would trouble many liberal Catholics, who often reject the intertwined ideas of consistency in Catholic doctrine and papal infallibility, and for whom the idea of a pope willing to alter doctrine might be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But for conservative Catholics, many of whom have spent the John Paul and Benedict eras arguing that on a range of controversial questions the whole issue isn’t just that the church shouldn’t change, but that it can’t … well, if a change like this did happen, however hedged and with however many first millennium antecedents invoked, that conservative argument would at the very least look weaker than it did during the last two pontificates.

And since it isn’t a small argument … since the church’s claim to a constant, non-contradicting authority lies close to the heart of why many conservative Catholics are conservative Catholics … well, that’s why the “schism” possibility seems worth raising, because hard-to-process theological shocks are where institutional fractures often start. It’s one thing for conservative Catholics to serve as a kind of loyal opposition during this pontificate — to learn to doubt a pope, or disagree with his rhetoric or decision-making, while remaining faithful to the office and the church. It’s quite another if one of those papal decisions seriously calls into question the doctrinal continuity that’s the very root of conservative-Catholic loyalty. And there just isn’t a recent model apart from the Lefebvrist schism for how that kind of more-Catholic-than-the-pope dissent would practically work.

But once again, I could be completely wrong, about either the problematic nature of the shift being discussed or the likely conservative reaction to the change. All I can say for certain is that a development like this would leave me more doubtful than before about the consistency of Catholic doctrine and the nature of the church. But I’m not sure what to read into these feelings: While I obviously fall into the conservative camp in the Catholic culture wars I’m also on the less-rigorous, more-latitudinarian end of the conservative-Catholic spectrum, so I tend to expect that what unsettles me should unsettle the more rigorous even more … but it could also be that if I were more rigorous I’d be more trusting and less suspicious, and less likely to see (invent?) discontinuities where they might not actually exist. I’m not sure …

Wouldn’t it show their Protestant past if the Callers were so candid in their descriptions of the communion to which they call.

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66 thoughts on “The Call Thickens

  1. Darryl,

    … if the Callers were so candid …

    We’ve addressed precisely the question Douthat raises. See comment #57 in the “What Therefore God Has Joined Together: Divorce and the Sacrament of Marriage” article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  2. Bryan Cross March 20th, 2014 7:10 pm :
    Burton (re: #51)

    Of course no one would call for a break with established doctrine.

    How is Cross, as opposed to Douthat here, so sure no one would do this?

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  3. Bryan,

    It took Darryl’s pressing and your subsequent linking to comboxxes to be candid. So (ahem) nothing you have written contradicts what Darryl says.

    In the sufferring of golf,
    Andrew

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  4. One of the commenters over at CTC points out the fundamental issue that we have with Rome’s claims:

    I would guess that those within the Catholic hierarchy who want to change the Church’s teaching on human sexuality would do so in a subtle manner under the banner of pastoral concern, not with direct calls for a break with established doctrine. You can hear this language from some of the cardinals who are calling for a change in church practice without calling for a change in doctrine, but wouldn’t this amount to the same thing?

    RCs seem content if no one fusses with the actual doctrinal statements, but they don’t seem to care if the understanding and application of them changes. How that doesn’t devolve into the PCUSA or the Episcopal Church in America escapes me.

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  5. Robert, an actual change in practice regardless of a lack of change in doctrine, is still an open contradiction. Even the trads aren’t going to be content with that. They’ll have to make a change in the annulment process to get by trad objections in dissolving that which is indissoluble. What I’m curious to see is if they care what the trads think or do. I can imagine a number of halfway measures they may institute, but they are too many to list.

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  6. I noted before how striking Bryan’s concession was on a previous thread,

    If the Church were (per impossibile) to declare this Fall that marriage is now dissoluble, and that persons living in a second ‘marriage’ while their spouse is still alive are not living in adultery, then you would know that just about everything I’ve claimed about the Catholic Church’s identity and infallibility has been falsified.

    There are a few things I find interesting here:
    1) Bryan is willing to stand in (private) judgment of Rome’s decisions. I do not see how that is different from what protestants have done other than that we conclude that Rome has violated older teachings (e.g., contradiction of the Gospel and Christian liberty as described by Paul in Galatians).

    2) Bryan believes he knows better than the Cardinals debating this issue. For him it is a slam dunk case, whereas, the princes of the church evidently disagree. This is quite a congregationalist type stance (i.e., we’re all protestants (baptists?) now whether you like it or not).

    3) Bryan’s “tone” stands in contrast to Douthat’s, “But once again, I could be completely wrong… All I can say for certain is that a development like this would leave me more doubtful than before about the consistency of Catholic doctrine and the nature of the church.” Bryan has a lot to learn about intellectual humility…he would likely benefit from reading more about Dreher’s involvement in reporting the sex abuse crisis and what it did to his intellectual pride.

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  7. In a round about way this issue brings to mind the dilemma in which the RCC found itself following the break up of the Soviet Union, where married men had been “secretly ordained” as priests (and even bishops) in Czechoslovakia during communist oppression of religion. This would have been in the early 90’s and I can’t recall how (or if) that issue was resolved by the Vatican. Seems like another one of those “exception clauses” might have been applied.

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  8. All of the controversy over issues once thought to be “slam-dunks” begins to break down the idea that somehow the “person” of the Church is more perspicuous than the “text” of Scripture. Even if Rome does not change it’s doctrine on divorced and remarried Catholics this whole dust-up begins to show the philosophical problem with positing the Church as “someone” who exists to clarify. This discussion has exploded at the behest of Francis–As Douthat previously reported, Francis has already pastorally informed a divorced & remarried woman she is “doing nothing wrong” in taking the Eucharist. I’m sure we will be told that they possess the power to clarify “in principle,” but the pastoral value of this is exceedingly weak for people embroiled in the complexities of daily life.

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  9. Very interesting.

    effectively creating a kind of second tier of marital unions for Catholics, whose existence the church would decide to “tolerate” … but “not accept.”

    Reminds me of a mormon friend of mine, whose marriage was “sealed in The Temple”, and then she divorced him, and even remarried. Everybody’s still Mormon. I bet he’s looking forward to the afterlife, where he’ll be stuck with her forever…

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  10. If the Church were (per impossibile) to declare this Fall that marriage is now dissoluble…

    Wow! That’s a bold statement! But surely he’s not worried, the Church will not explicitly declare that marriage is dissoluble in so many words, it will make that effectively so using so many more words. Reminds me of an episode of Frasier, where Roz is telling Niles about her love life, and Niles is failing to stumble through a reply. Roz blows up, “I’m a slut, is that what you’re trying to say?” Niles: “That’s what I’m trying NOT to say!”

    Marriage is dissoluble is what Rome will be trying NOT to say.

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  11. SDB,

    1) Bryan is willing to stand in (private) judgment of Rome’s decisions. I do not see how that is different from what protestants have done other than that we conclude that Rome has violated older teachings (e.g., contradiction of the Gospel and Christian liberty as described by Paul in Galatians).

    You misrepresented my position. I’m willing to stand in judgment of Rome’s “per impossibile” decisions. The difference between that and “what protestants have done” is that we in submission to divinely established teaching authority accept whatever the Magisterium of the Church teaches; you don’t.

    2) Bryan believes he knows better than the Cardinals debating this issue.

    No, I don’t, and attempting to mind-read isn’t helpful. If you read the link I provided you’ll see I’m actually agreeing with a number of Cardinals who have written on the issue.

    3) Bryan’s “tone” stands in contrast to Douthat’s, “But once again, I could be completely wrong… All I can say for certain is that a development like this would leave me more doubtful than before about the consistency of Catholic doctrine and the nature of the church.” Bryan has a lot to learn about intellectual humility…he would likely benefit from reading more about Dreher’s involvement in reporting the sex abuse crisis and what it did to his intellectual pride.

    I read Dreher’s report when it first came out; again, don’t quit your day job to become a mind-reader. Douthat’s uncertainty about x does not mean that anyone who knows x is intellectually arrogant. Or should we assume that your claims to know x (including those claims here in your comment) entail that you are intellectually arrogant? The anyone-who-claims-to-know-what-I-don’t-know-is-intellectually-arrogant card is a double-edged sword, because there are always people less knowledgeable than yourself who can use your card against you. Or if you mean more broadly that anyone who claims to know something that someone else doesn’t know is ipso facto lacking the virtue of “intellectual humility” then your position entails that there can be no teachers, and no schools, and that parents cannot teach their children without succumbing to the vice of intellectual arrogance. But if one person can know something that another does not know, without being intellectual arrogant, then your accusation is unjustified.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  12. sdb, but don’t forget the theory of infallibility and apostolic succession. Wait. That means the cardinals know more than Bryan. Wait. Bryan knows more than anyone.

    Lord come quickly.

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  13. Sean, I was at a luncheon the other day where a couple of my RCC friends were in attendance. They are both very active in their respective parishes and the diocese. They both expect the annulment process– which they already consider to be a scandalous joke– to be further loosened, if not this fall, soon.

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  14. “Now I am obviously neither a theologian nor a church historian, so my judgments on an issue like this are hardly (ahem) infallible.”

    Douthat would make a poor Caller.

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  15. Robert – RCs seem content if no one fusses with the actual doctrinal statements, but they don’t seem to care if the understanding and application of them changes. How that doesn’t devolve into the PCUSA or the Episcopal Church in America escapes me.

    Erik – Also the Reformed Church in America, which sees no need to change Confessions. They leave them intact and just ignore what they no longer like.

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  16. You misrepresented my position. I’m willing to stand in judgment of Rome’s “per impossibile” decisions. The difference between that and “what protestants have done” is that we in submission to divinely established teaching authority accept whatever the Magisterium of the Church teaches; you don’t.

    Hmmm… what happens when the church rejects some aspect of the magisterium (per impossible). Of course that is what is under debate among the Cardinals (if the reports are accurate) which would suggest that this isn’t just some crazy hypothetical that could never actually happen. The “per impossible” qualifier seems a bit out of place.

    No, I don’t, and attempting to mind-read isn’t helpful. If you read the link I provided you’ll see I’m actually agreeing with a number of Cardinals who have written on the issue.

    I make no claims at mind reading to be sure! The Cardinals are actively debating a change in the church’s understanding of marriage that would allow Catholics who have divorced from valid sacramental marriages and are living in an adulterous relationship to receive communion. You said that if that were to happen (per impossible), it would falsify your claims about the church. I don’t think they see this as a purely academic exercise. The fact that you see this as an impossibility indicates while some Cardinals are advocating for it (and others are arguing openly about it) implies that you and they disagree. Given your certainly why isn’t it fair to conclude that you think you know better than they?

    I read Dreher’s report when it first came out; again, don’t quit your day job to become a mind-reader.

    It isn’t his report I’m referring to. I should have been clearer. It is his subsequent writing about what that reporting did to his faith and why it was so fragile in retrospect that I was referring to.

    Douthat’s uncertainty about x does not mean that anyone who knows x is intellectually arrogant.

    Indeed. A number of writers are quite arrogant about what they don’t know (or what they believe to be unknowable). The problem is not that you are confident in your belief that the church hierarchy could never implement a change that would contradict what she has taught on some topic. It is the “tone” of your writing comes across to me as intellectually proud. I don’t know what’s in your mind (or your heart) and make no pretense of judging either. Perhaps you are just a poor writer and your writing doesn’t accurately reflect what is in your mind. Or perhaps you aren’t as careful on your blog as you are in other venues (I’m certainly not!). But whatever the case, the tone of what you write comes across as intellectually arrogant.

    But if one person can know something that another does not know, without being intellectual arrogant, then your accusation is unjustified.

    The fact that one person can know something that another does not know with out being intellectually arrogant does not get you off the hook for being intellectually arrogant (or writing with an arrogant tone). Yet you seem to think that you add to a discussion by turning it into a syllogism – this is an example of the kind of thing that comes across as arrogant. Apart from the fact that you’re incorrect, you’ve shown no interest in perhaps getting clarification, allowing the possibility that you’ve misunderstood something, conceded the possibility that something you said was unclear and needs clarification, or given any indication that just maybe your “opponent” (though I don’t like to think of it in that term) may have a worthwhile point buried in there somewhere. You know, the kinds of things that intellectually generous people do.

    Or should we assume that your claims to know x (including those claims here in your comment) entail that you are intellectually arrogant?

    No need to assume or infer it. I confess that I am intellectually arrogant – it is a constant struggle on my part and certainly something I am not proud of. I myself have much to learn from the generosity of Douthat and humility of Dreher (even if they are hopelessly misguided non-reformed).

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  17. sdb,

    Of course that is what is under debate among the Cardinals (if the reports are accurate) which would suggest that this isn’t just some crazy hypothetical that could never actually happen.

    I’ve addressed that in my comments at the link. The history of the doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth century is enough to show that your conclusion does not follow from your premise. A defined dogma can be subsequently disputed even by bishops and Cardinals.

    It is his subsequent writing about what that reporting did to his faith and why it was so fragile in retrospect that I was referring to.

    I read that too, when it came out. The principle of charity calls us not to assume that our interlocutor has not read something, but instead, if unsure, to ask him.

    I confess that I am intellectually arrogant

    That could be why you misinterpret my intentional discipline of sticking to argumentation as intellectual arrogance. A better approach, in my opinion, is to avoid all personal attacks (including suggestions of intellectual arrogance), and to stick to the evidence and argumentation, i.e. stick to argumentation and the evaluation of arguments. The constant trade of jibes and barbs is unhelpful, unproductive, uncharitable, and even harmful to the possibility of genuine dialogue.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  18. Bryan, what can be equally harmful to ecumenical dialogue is thinking that linking to set of stringed together comments on the website where you blog is somehow helpful in elucidating your positions. We are left only to wonder what you truly think, when you interact with us in that way.

    I think Darryl makes some great points here, that you need to work on being candid, given the gradiose nature of the task you have decided to undertake, being, fostering religious dialogue between catholics and reformed Christians. Critiquing of one’s own view points is something all we Christians should love. Take care.

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  19. Andrew B,

    We are left only to wonder what you truly think, when you interact with us in that way.

    If in fact you want to know what I “truly think,” you can read the post or comment I have written to which I link. If you are not even willing to read it, then you don’t actually want to know what I truly think, in which case you have only yourself to blame for your state of confusion about what I truly think, and you shouldn’t be surprised that you are “left only to wonder what [I] trulyl think.”

    Moreover, if you genuinely want to know what I “truly think,” you have my phone number and my email address. Nothing is stopping you from *asking* me what I truly think if you sincerely want to know what I truly think.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    P.S. Darryl, no, I don’t have a comment index.

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  20. Ok, while I still have the floor, my deepest sympathies for continuing..(weak nervous chuckle):

    The primary reason, it seems to me, that we are doing what we do out here, is because these chatrooms can be helpful for people who have not entered these discussions up to now. The idea that anyone who values their time is going to spend time scouring old blog posts (let alone old combox statements!) for answers is a bit foolish. I think we should make every effort to make clear what our positions are, and encourage any and all who post in these chatrooms to do the same.

    While I get down off my soapbox, I hope you won’t mind a quote:

    Christian religion flourishes not in the darkness but in the light. Intellectual slothfulness is but a quack remedy for unbelief; the true remedy is consecration of intellectual powers to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Next.

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  21. Bryan, this is Darryl’s website, so I leave you to your discussion with him. Just next time, maybe consider sharing your views in your initial statement along with linking to support your views. I’m not looking to school you or lecture, just talk. We are all public, those of us who have strong convictions and wish to share with others the reasons for why we believe what we believe. Take care.

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  22. Sorry, my time is wayyy used up. But CtC did allow a protestant (Brandon?) to post an article on Presbyterian Polity, which was very good. I hear the rebuttal essay is in the works, and undoubtedly it is, without needing to be told. I appreciated that, and was surprised, after several years of reading what is on that website. We’re all paying attention out here, and if the World is as well, let’s consider that as we post. Bye for now.

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  23. Andrew B,

    Just next time, maybe consider sharing your views in your initial statement along with linking to support your views.

    One of my working principles is not to make any positive case in contexts not committed to civility and charity. Hence here I only explain what is wrong with Darryl’s accusations. But, as I said above, if you actually want to know what I think, you know where to find me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  24. You know you can’t sustain an intrusion of clerisy into the sexual intimacy of a married couple, even one of faith. That’s a reality that threatens to make a greater mockery of truth and unity than any rethinking of what is supposedly incapable of being rethought.

    The EO does not intrude, dogmatically, between husband and wife the way Rome does. So, Ross is right in that the lessening impact of a truce on all matters involving sexuality between husband and wife, and then second husband or wife, makes rapprochement with the EO that much easier.

    Relatedly, IIRC, the child of a lesbian couple was recently baptized in SA. How are you going to withstand the normalizing imperative of such a practice? Even if it’s only relevant to a small percentage of Christians in your charge?

    You can only pretend for so long that the views of a very large portion of your members don’t matter. And even given the convenience of latae sententiae, you can’t stand to actually lose that many members. The excommunication of such a large number of members for what can be taught as divinely revealed primarily by way of Tradition doesn’t seem possible to me.

    TCI posted a chart the other day that shows those parts of the world where Christianity is growing to be evangelicals overtaking the planting of churches. How can RC possibly withstand such a trend without altering its thinking and practice as it relates to contraception and divorce? I don’t think it can.

    Philosophy/tradtion can provide the distance to believe in a Jesus that is much larger, less harmfully paradoxical than the Jesus of Scripture but such an approach to His acceptance isn’t capable of life among the faithful.

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  25. Rube,

    The difference is that having a large number of members is not a part of the OPC’s apologetic. It is a part of the RCC’s (and The Callers’) apologetic. Just ask Bryan or Jeremy Tate.

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  26. Rube,

    I’ll also add that something is very wrong with one’s idea of the church when one can conveniently cast aside obvious contradictions to Rome’s idea of unity, as Bryan and the Callers do by pretending the vast majority of RC and their failure to obey the church does not matter.

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  27. Rube, I offered description not prescription. My first comment wasn’t in response to Bryan. I didn’t read his comments. It was a response to Douthat/Hart.

    I offered my thoughts on the situation on the ground and the ineluctable movement it portends vis-à-vis contraception and divorce, primarily and gay-marriage and abortion, secondarily.
    The OPC doesn’t have to concern itself w/the lives of its members in the same way Rome does because it provides discipline on an ongoing basis. At least based on what I read here. The RCC church didn’t even provide hands on discipline when I was growing up in the late 60s-70s but even in parishes of modest means your formation was such that if, say, you were living with someone outside the bonds of marriage, you didn’t show up for Mass. You didn’t feel slighted or put upon because you were taught the difference between holy and profane conduct from the terrifying beginning. And so you confessed your sin to yourself, honestly, and just stayed off the premises with an easy conscience as it relates to Church teaching; in the bargain avoiding the sting of “anathema in the corner of a priest’s eye” should you meet it on the street.

    Latae sententiae may have been designed because of the nature of the universality of RC membership and the often low priest-to-member ratio but it’s only effective if it’s a serious part of one’s formation. If it hasn’t been part of one’s formation, then the clergy has little choice but to prepare for the fallout, and, it’s likely they’re honest enough to know that mass-excommunication isn’t really an option. That collapse, especially due to a long-standing lascia fare approach to discipline, won’t redirect the Barque of Peter to holy harbor. Not to mention the awful roll-out of explaining annulment when you’re face to face with a spouse who isn’t hot for a new- flame and sacrament two-some. Pope Francis is trying to navigate the choppy waters without risking capsizing.

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  28. In terms of contrasting the church I find myself in, with the one Bryan finds himself in, I found this a helpful summary:

    The OPC does not accept the books known as the Apocrypha as the Word of God.
    The OPC believes that the Word of God in the Scriptures is the supreme authority.
    The OPC believes that church councils and tradition are not on a par with the Scriptures, but are required to submit to the Scriptures.
    The OPC believes that salvation is all of grace, persons being justified by grace through faith alone.
    The OPC believes that good works do not merit salvation but flow out of having been saved.
    The OPC believes that even those who attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do, which is to deny that “Saints” have done works of supererogation (that is, works above and beyond the call of duty).
    The OPC believes that Jesus Christ died once for all for the elect, who were predestined before the foundation of the world.
    The OPC believes that Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church and that the Pope of Rome cannot, in any sense, be head thereof.
    The OPC believes there are only two sacraments ordained by the Lord Jesus for the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
    The OPC believes that the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper remain bread and wine and that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is superstition and idolatry.
    The OPC believes that the popish sacrifice of the mass is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect.
    The OPC believes that heaven and hell are the only two places men go in death, and purgatory is denied as being an interim place.

    Still looking for golfers..

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  29. The OPC believes that even those who attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do

    … including Mary.

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  30. Bryan, “One of my working principles is not to make any positive case in contexts not committed to civility and charity.”

    And you blog (get out much)?

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  31. DG, I picked up on that too, and thought that would mean I would have to stop bragging about my monster drives on the 8th hole every time I hear the group behind me use colorful expletives. Not my working principles, no sir. Hail Brother Martin.

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  32. I’ve addressed that in my comments at the link.

    Yep, but your comments were not compelling. The subtle arguments over the formulation of the trinity 300 years after pentecost (in an era during which church infallibility hadn’t been established) are not parallel to the case today. What you take to be impossible, the Cardinals are debating – clearly they don’t think this is an absurd possibility. I still find it interesting that the pope could conceivably make an ex cathedra announcement that you would stand in judgement of. Nothing you’ve said thus far presents a principled difference between what you would do in such a case and what Luther did.

    I read that too, when it came out. The principle of charity calls us not to assume that our interlocutor has not read something, but instead, if unsure, to ask him.

    What is the “that” you are referring to? These are ongoing comments as he realizes what this had done to his faith – not a once in time article. I don’t assume you haven’t read anything he says nor has anything I said entail that I think you haven’t read him. I stand by my comment that you would benefit from reading more about what his intellectual pride did to his faith. Someone who was more humble might have a different response. Rather than instruction about the perils of mind reading, maybe a “Thanks, I’ll think about it”, or “I read _Little_Way_ did you have something else in mind? ” or “I follow his blog daily and have found the series on Dante challenging – is there something I might have missed?”.

    That could be why you misinterpret my intentional discipline of sticking to argumentation as intellectual arrogance. A better approach, in my opinion, is to avoid all personal attacks (including suggestions of intellectual arrogance), and to stick to the evidence and argumentation, i.e. stick to argumentation and the evaluation of arguments. The constant trade of jibes and barbs is unhelpful, unproductive, uncharitable, and even harmful to the possibility of genuine dialogue.

    No. If that is how you want to chat, more power to you. My impression of your intellectual arrogance comes from this sort of pedantic refereeing. Its funny, but a lot of us here do engage in genuine dialogue offline with our RC friends and family members. Amazingly, I learned quite a bit about the Catholic faith during my time at ND and none of the conversations ever required formal argumentation – indeed the sort of pedantic interaction you exhibit here would have been more than harmful to genuine dialogue.

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  33. I find it a bit ironic that Bryan uses the comment section of called to communion in order to share his treatise on what a reformed blogger like Tim Challies thinks of the council of Trent. Does Bryan have his own blog? Yes – principiumunitas [dot] blogspot [dot] com. Why not blog on his own, and whomever may come to his blog to read his thoughts, would come?

    Called to Communion is specifically geared towards a Christian such as me, who finds himself at home with the reformed tradition. But how can any of us be expected to follow what goes on at CtC? This call just thickens and thickens. Thanks, but no thanks, to the boys at CtC. Enjoy the theology land you have created between your ears, and come talk to us Oldlifers, anytime you want a combox that doesn’t span ten spirals of your computer’s mouse wheel to see how long it is.

    Next.

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  34. *Mispelled Bryan’s blog above, so here it is.

    One last thought while I’m visiting this blog here. I find it actually a sign of health that the Christian religion finds itself in the divided state we are in. What do I mean? Well, I could link to my golf post centering around Isaiah 55:8-9, but no one, and I mean, no one has a lock on the Christian religion. Not even Presbyterians (shocking, I know). Or think of it this way – one can decry our two party system in America, and so we might all feel the constant devouring of one another among the two political parties does get tiresome. But – the situation as it is, does force the voices on both sides to explain their side to detractors. Who doesn’t enjoy the presidential debates when those happen every four years? Our system of government in the United States creates such a forum for debate and discussion.

    You see, I can get on my soap-box and preach in a combox too, all I like. The point though, is we should be thankful that the Christian religion is divided as she is, and is represented by strong, intelligent, passionate voices on each side. If Bryan understood this, as I believe is a better way of veiwing the situation we are in, maybe his combox statements wouldn’t be 10 rolls long, or he would learn to post his views on his own webpage, without putting it on a webpage that purports to advance ecumenism (which is also important, don’t get me wrong) towards someone such as myself. Food for thought, just maybe, and I’ll learn to blog about it, instead of combox preaching, next time (emoticon).

    Now….next 🙂

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  35. AB.

    What is the complaint now? That Bryan posted something in a comment and didn’t post it on a different blog?

    Maybe Bryan should have you clear everything he ever publishes online so that you can dictate where and how he presents it?

    Then you’ll have a good idea of what he really thinks before anybody else does and your previous complaint about that will prove vacuous, even to you.

    Like

  36. Sean, do you think reformed Christians should leave that tradition and instead join the tradition you are in (Roman Catholicism), and if so: why? I’d prefer an answer that doesn’t include the phrases Church that Jesus Founded or having found the fullness of the Reformed Faith in Catholicism, or a link to a post on your blog. But however you want to answer is fine. Take care.

    Like

  37. Sean, also, while I may appreciate it if your answer (if you answer) includes your desire to convert me to Catholicism, know that I won’t return the favor, knowing what I know of your church right now. At least not yet (because I agree with this blogger, emphasis added by me):

    These responses to Carnell deal with the overarching question of how the Christian is to handle official ties to those who claim the name of Christ but deny the essence of the gospel. The modernists in the Presbyterian church had eviscerated the gospel, and those who were not modernists tolerated it, like Eli who apparently failed to act against his sons who committed grievous offenses in the ceremonial temple worship. Carnell’s view that Machen should not have separated from the Presbyterian church is deficient. It is true that the individual impiety of officers of the church may not provide reason to separate, as Calvin said. The marks of the true church are 1) the preaching of the Word of God, 2) the administration of the sacraments, and 3) biblical church discipline. These marks may persist in the midst of serious personal failings of the ministers and congregation. However, when ministers practice, or condone the practice of replacing the gospel of the Bible with a false gospel (e.g., a “social gospel), the church, having abandoned the Great Commission, has ceased to be the true church. It has ceased to have biblical authority over believers. Believers may choose to work within that institution in a missionary capacity, reminding it of its own creeds and confessions and calling it to repentance. That is what Machen did for a time. But when the nature of Christ and his atonement are replaced with heretical teaching, the church has committed spiritual adultery, following after another god. The believer has the right to secede from that unfaithful church, not removing himself from all ecclesiastical authority but placing himself under the authority of a remnant that has remained faithful to the gospel. That is, after all, what the first Christians did–they separated from the synagogues and formed churches that did not reject Christ and his atoning work.

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  38. DG.

    Do you endorse AB’s comments here? Is this what your website, this place for “reformed faith and practice” is all about? Incessant questioning of motives and empty complaints?

    No, I am not Bryan’s Secretary of State. He doesn’t have one I am afraid. I simply find myself highlighting the absurdity of what passes muster here in the off-chance that somebody is watching who is mature enough to appreciate how desperate these attacks on Bryan have become.

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  39. Your question is ridiculous. It would be like saying, “Hey Andrew Buckingham, tell me why I should be Calvinist but you can’t say anything about election or the sovreignty of God or TULIP or link to any other answer you’ve ever given….but however you want to answer is fine.

    Forgive me for not taking your question seriously.

    Like

  40. Sean, but see, I’m trying to get us to think about these issues, where the heart of the disagreement lies.

    I actually don’t care if my questions are ridiculous. I am trying to have a conservation with you. And Bryan.

    Or do you prefer the 1200 (or what number now is it up to) comments on Jason Stellman’s blog? Look, I’m not here to attack you or Bryan or Jason, or anyone. I don’t know what you expect, being that you are part of a group that is seeking to explain the reformed faith, as the Catholics that you are. I honestly feel a bit offended and feel like the whole enterprise is somewhat provoking to those of us who care about the reformed faith. By all means, continue to pour your heart into CtC. Again, I really don’t care what you think of my words, not because I don’t care about you or your opinions. But because my opinions mean spit. If you are here just to call me immature, vacuous, ridiculous, or whatever other colorful word you can use, go ahead. Despite this comment being long, it’s not long because you got a reaction out of me.

    Take care. Enjoy your conversations here. You’ll here no more from me (you should be glad).

    Like

  41. I find it actually a sign of health that the Christian religion finds itself in the divided state we are in.

    1 Cor 11:19: there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

    Like

  42. I picked up a bottle of Templeton Rye yesterday and have it sitting on the corner of my office desk. I’m considering putting a sign on it: “Open in Case of Callers”. No one will have any idea what that means, but I’ll be comforted by it.

    Like

  43. Andrew,

    I don’t know you personally and you can feel free to disregard me completely.

    You seem like a nice and sincere person, but my opinion is that while you’re interested in Catholic-Protestant dialogue, there are still things that you are trying to wrap your mind around. Sometimes your comments stray or miss the point entirely. I think if you tried to avoid being a primary interlocutor and just stuck to asking for clarification on things that are unclear or lurking (reading without commenting) it would be a more beneficial use of your time.

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  44. Brandon,

    Noted. Thanks.

    I’ve no beef with your assertion that I am still working to wrap my mind around some things, but I welcome your further comments about what you think those specific things are. Alternative to posting here publicly and drag this down about me and my issues, you can contact me directly, at your discretion. I do appreciate the feedback, truly.

    Take care.

    Like

  45. Bryan Cross
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
    Andrew B,

    “Just next time, maybe consider sharing your views in your initial statement along with linking to support your views.”

    One of my working principles is not to make any positive case in contexts not committed to civility and charity. Hence here I only explain what is wrong with Darryl’s accusations. But, as I said above, if you actually want to know what I think, you know where to find me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan
    __________________________________________________________
    D. G. Hart
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
    Bryan, “One of my working principles is not to make any positive case in contexts not committed to civility and charity.”

    And you blog (get out much)?

    Old Life Theological Society motto: Swine Before Pearls

    Like

  46. Brandon,

    Andrew does an essential job here with certain Old Life antagonists. It’s similar to the role of the mechanical hare at the greyhound track. Just watch and enjoy.

    Like

  47. DG, with callers (and victor), it’s a road I’ve been down before. I’d like to see any of these guys tango with liberal protestants. I’m still looking for the guy to challenge my subscription vow to WCF chapter 1, the way that guy did. And as always, Erik, you provide me with a smile.

    Lates.

    Like

  48. Erik Charter
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
    Tom, on the other hand, performs a role similar to that of a leech in one’s underpants.

    Oh, that Calvinist wit!

    Like

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