Op-Ed 101

Ross explains his credentials:

A columnist has two tasks: To explain and to provoke. The first requires giving readers a sense of the stakes in a given controversy, and why it might deserve a moment of their fragmenting attention span. The second requires taking a clear position on that controversy, the better to induce the feelings (solidarity, stimulation, blinding rage) that persuade people to read, return, and re-subscribe.

He also explains what most people aside from the apologists (who are in denial) and the academic theologians (who are part of the mainstream and whom the apologists also refuse to acknowledge) see:

I hope we can agree that current controversies in Roman Catholicism cry out for explanation. And not only for Catholics: The world is fascinated — as it should be — by Pope Francis’ efforts to reshape our church. But the main parties in the church’s controversies have incentives to downplay the stakes. Conservative Catholics don’t want to concede that disruptive change is even possible. Liberal Catholics don’t want to admit that the pope might be leading the church into a crisis.

So in my columns, I’ve tried to cut through those obfuscations toward what seems like basic truth. There really is a high-stakes division, at the highest levels of the church, over whether to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to communion and what that change would mean. In this division, the pope clearly inclines toward the liberalizing view and has consistently maneuvered to advance it. At the recent synod, he was dealt a modest but genuine setback by conservatives.

And then to this description, I’ve added my own provoking view: Within the framework of Catholic tradition, the conservatives have by far the better of the argument.

Finally, Ross explains how liberal theologians and Roman Catholic apologists wind up engaging in privileged knowledge unavailable to anyone else — paradigm? — to maintain intellectual and denominational superiority — Bryan Cross and Richard McBrien together:

I have listened carefully when credentialed theologians make the liberalizing case. What I have heard are three main claims. The first is that the changes being debated would be merely “pastoral” rather than “doctrinal,” and that so long as the church continues to say that marriage is indissoluble, nothing revolutionary will have transpired.

But this seems rather like claiming that China has not, in fact, undergone a market revolution because it’s still governed by self-described Marxists. No: In politics and religion alike, a doctrine emptied in practice is actually emptied, whatever official rhetoric suggests.

When this point is raised, reformers pivot to the idea that, well, maybe the proposed changes really are effectively doctrinal, but not every doctrinal issue is equally important, and anyway Catholic doctrine can develop over time.

But the development of doctrine is supposed to deepen church teaching, not reverse or contradict it. This distinction allows for many gray areas, admittedly. But effacing Jesus’ own words on the not-exactly-minor topics of marriage and sexuality certainly looks more like a major reversal than an organic, doctrinally-deepening shift.

At which point we come to the third argument, which makes an appearance in your letter: You don’t understand, you’re not a theologian. As indeed I am not. But neither is Catholicism supposed to be an esoteric religion, its teachings accessible only to academic adepts. And the impression left by this moving target, I’m afraid, is that some reformers are downplaying their real position in the hopes of bringing conservatives gradually along.

What is that real position? That almost anything Catholic can change when the times require it, and “developing” doctrine just means keeping up with capital-H History, no matter how much of the New Testament is left behind.

Protestantism may be worse, but Protestants see this. Why don’t the really smart ones?

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33 thoughts on “Op-Ed 101

  1. “And the impression left by this moving target, I’m afraid, is that some reformers are downplaying their real position in the hopes of bringing conservatives gradually along.”

    So he noticed that the SJWs are lying. Of course, SJWs Always Lie.

    If conservative RCs continue to argue like he is, the SJWs will win again. RC apologists will have a lot more work to do.

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  2. But the loitering RC’s of OL have their champion:
    @MassimoFaggioli: Don’t read @DouthatNYT latest provocation. It is just part of indep study course in ecclesiology/Church history a few of us are giving him.

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  3. There are three grounds of belief.

    1) You believe.

    2) You don’t believe, it is all garbage and nonsense.

    3) You claim you believe, then you make $$$ saying why you shouldn’t believe, but you don’t have the guts and integrity to go to the 2nd option.

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  4. SJW is social justice warrior, coming from the murky underworld of Tumblr.

    http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/social-justice-warrior

    “Social Justice Warrior is a pejorative label applied to bloggers, activists and commentators who are prone to engage in lengthy and hostile debates against others on a range of issues concerning social injustice, identity politics and political correctness. In contrast to the social justice blogosphere at large, the stereotype of a social justice warrior is distinguished by the use of overzealous and self-righteous rhetorics, as well as appealing to emotions over logic and reason.”

    Folk my age are ripe for conservatism. The modern Left are the new Religious Right. But uh. That’s another topic.

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  5. SJG – The modern Left are the new Religious Right.

    But with less of a sense of humor and bluer hair. I like to think of the modern Left as the accusers in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Ah, the irony.

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  6. Douthat is correct. The magisterium includes the laity, the sensus fidei. Contra Darryl Hart, it’s not solely a top-down religion.

    At which point we come to the third argument, which makes an appearance in your letter: You don’t understand, you’re not a theologian. As indeed I am not. But neither is Catholicism supposed to be an esoteric religion, its teachings accessible only to academic adepts.

    Then Dr. Hart fails to include the point of the whole affair:

    Now it may be that today’s heretics are prophets, the church will indeed be revolutionized, and my objections will be ground under with the rest of conservative Catholicism. But if that happens, it will take hard grinding, not just soft words and academic rank-pulling. It will require a bitter civil war.

    The Church will not be hijacked by its elites–including the pope himself. Aquinas agrees.

    http://www.romancatholicism.org/duty-resist.html

    …as did–get this–the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition!

    “Although it clearly follows from the circumstances that the Pope can err at times, and command things which must not be done, that we are not to be simply obedient to him in all things, that does not show that he must not be obeyed by all when his commands are good. To know in what cases he is to be obeyed and in what not, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles: ‘One ought to obey God rather than man’; therefore, were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the Sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands, to be passed over.” (Summa de Ecclesia)

    Oh, Dr. History, you have so much work to do.

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  7. Tom,

    Douthat is correct. The magisterium includes the laity, the sensus fidei. Contra Darryl Hart, it’s not solely a top-down religion

    You wouldn’t get that idea from reading the RC apologists.

    The Church will not be hijacked by its elites–including the pope himself.

    We’re already seeing what will happen. Decades upon decades upon decades of a failure to discipline has given Rome a church with a liberal laity. The modernists captured the seminaries years ago, and now we’re seeing the fruit. The modernists are capitulating to the spirit of the age, and the laity, which has already been there for decades is following suit. You’ll end up with a full-on liberal Kasperite church in the West. Some traditionalists will break away and proclaim the see is vacant. Others, like the CTC, will double down and say that only the discipline has been changed. They’re akin to the conservatives left in the PCUSA, if there are any.

    Elsewhere in the world, its less clear. The developing world as a whole tends to be more conservative. You’ll see some of the liberalizing trends there, but not much. In Africa and Latin America, Rome has far more to worry about with Pentecostals. It’s one of the reasons why Francis was chosen.

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  8. vd, t, well check with James Young who says that the difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics is the infallibility not of the people but the papacy.

    Now you question THE SECOND infallible dogma also?

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  9. Darryl,

    Um, Tradition and the sensus fidelium can be a source of infallibility. You’re still stuck in “only the pope is ever infallible” – that’s never been taught in RCism nor advocated by me.

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  10. Cletus said:

    Tradition and the sensus fidelium can be a source of infallibility.

    But what he really means is:

    Tradition and the sensus fidelium can be a source of infallibility, as long as the Magisterium signs off on it. No one cared much when the census fidelium was taking Western Europe away from Rome during the Reformation. At that point tradition and the census fidelium wasn’t infallible. Why? Cause the Magisterium said.

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  11. Robert,

    Arianism wasnt part of the sensus fidelium either. An authoritative judge of S and T no more undermines the authority and infallibility of S and T than Christ and the Apostles binding and normative judgments of both did. Regardless, Darryls been corrected countless times on this score so theres no excuse for his continued caricatures.

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  12. Robert
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
    Cletus said:

    Tradition and the sensus fidelium can be a source of infallibility.

    But what he really means is:

    Tradition and the sensus fidelium can be a source of infallibility, as long as the Magisterium signs off on it. No one cared much when the census fidelium was taking Western Europe away from Rome during the Reformation. At that point tradition and the census fidelium wasn’t infallible. Why? Cause the Magisterium said.

    The splintering of the Reformation into dozens if not 100s of sects makes any claim to the sensus fidei self-refuting.

    Had the Reformation created one church instead of hundreds, as Eastern Orthodoxy did, it would have an arguable claim.

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  13. Robert
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Douthat is correct. The magisterium includes the laity, the sensus fidei. Contra Darryl Hart, it’s not solely a top-down religion

    You wouldn’t get that idea from reading the RC apologists.

    D. G. Hart
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, well check with James Young who says that the difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics is the infallibility not of the people but the papacy.

    You both seem interested only in winning arguments, not in seeking truth.

    Now you question THE SECOND infallible dogma also?

    The story of the Assumption is instructive. The faithful asked the pope for clarity. He consulted the bishops, the faithful, and Tradition.

    http://is.gd/WmXl28

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  14. James Young, so everyone in Rome is infallible. Got it.

    As if.

    55. The sensus fidei fidelis is infallible in itself with regard to its object: the true faith.[69] However, in the actual mental universe of the believer, the correct intuitions of the sensus fidei can be mixed up with various purely human opinions, or even with errors linked to the narrow confines of a particular cultural context.[70]‘Although theological faith as such cannot err, the believer can still have erroneous opinions since all his thoughts do not spring from faith. Not all the ideas which circulate among the People of God are compatible with the faith.’[71]

    Does that mean the Vatican document is infallible? Your defense of infallibility is infallible? Or only that you are always right when you argue with Protestants?

    Was it the sensus fidelium that came up with Papal infallibility? John Henry Newman didn’t think so.

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  15. Robert, James Young is bluffing:

    The teaching office

    888 Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command.415 They are “heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”416

    889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417

    890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

    892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

    He thinks he’s infallible. That might be a reason to convert, or a source of delusion.

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  16. Darryl,

    the correct intuitions of the sensus fidei can be mixed up with various purely human opinions, or even with errors linked to the narrow confines of a particular cultural context.

    Did Pete Enns write this part of the CCC?

    All of this criticizing us for no infallibility and for ignoring the sensus fidei and here we have the census fidei being mixed with the fallible intuitions such that it has to be strained out by another body. The Magisterium of course!

    This is why the idea that the sensus fidei can be a corrective is simply laughable. You get one of two outcomes—if the orthodox sensus fidei questions the Magisterium too much, you get kicked to the curb. If the sensus fidei clearly wants to go with the flow, the Magisterium will follow suit and then say, voila, it was the Magisterium all along.

    It’s getting hard to call the fouls, balls, and strikes. If only we had an impartial umpire who can tell us the Assumption ain’t important but the sacramentalism of Lutherans and Anglicans is even though the same umpire will say they don’t have apostolic succession…

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  17. Darryl,

    Did you read the doc you cited – it affirms SF is infallible. Not Pope alone is infallible. Nor does that mean anyone individually is infallible. So no, you dont got it and probably never will if you actually did read the document you linked to and still reply as you did above. The CCC citation corresponds exactly to what I said to Robert, hardly a bluff. Thanks for the CCC citation btw – it is something that a Protestant confession could never even attempt to echo, thus showing again the stark contrast and difference between the 2 systems’ claims and what those claims can then yield.

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  18. D. G. Hart
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 10:26 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, but Protestantism gave you the American creation and a reason to blog.

    the thanks we get.

    Who’s “we,” white man? Your edition of Calvinism had nothing to do with it. You think Sarah Palin’s the enemy. Calvin and Beza would puke in your face.

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  19. Cletus van Damme
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
    Darryl,

    Did you read the doc you cited – it affirms SF is infallible. Not Pope alone is infallible. Nor does that mean anyone individually is infallible. So no, you dont got it and probably never will if you actually did read the document you linked to and still reply as you did above. The CCC citation corresponds exactly to what I said to Robert, hardly a bluff. Thanks for the CCC citation btw – it is something that a Protestant confession could never even attempt to echo, thus showing again the stark contrast and difference between the 2 systems’ claims and what those claims can then yield.

    Oh, look, Dr. Calvinism: My Calvinism is actually shamed into doing some actual research into the actual Catholic Church source materials, [Although still just skimming.]

    Keep giving ’em heck, pal. It’s not about trying to win, it’s about seeking the truth.

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  20. James Young, I understand you are verbally challenged since you put your hopes in church princes (not the word), but paragraph 891 doesn’t mention the faithful in determining doctrine (which is what you’ve been arguing for, remember, Rome superior because it has an infallible mechanism):

    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

    Pope, bishops, magisterium. No James Young. Yup.

    And sure, a Protestant would never attempt to claim this because we believe God’s word is infallible, not what priests and bishops decide is infallible — bodily assumption of Mary anyone?

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  21. Cletus,

    Arianism wasnt part of the sensus fidelium either.

    Actually, at one point in history it was, what with the majority of the church going Arian and all, and the majority of the bishops standing with them.

    Unless of course you define the true sensus fidelium as being whatever the church of the moment says it is. In which case you’re back to sola ecclesia.

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  22. SJWs Always Lie is a book by a culture warrior about the tactics that are being employed by progressives right now. I think that two of the three “laws” mentioned in the book were employed by the progressives here against Douthat.

    The author argues that the use of logic and reason against SJWs is a tactic that is sure to be of no help to your position or organization. In fact, it will most likely backfire as you are not battling their rhetoric with your own. The whole book eerily reminded me of Machen’s ouster, seeing through the eyes of those out for blood.

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  23. As a gamer, I was there since the start >_>

    Though I will say, GamerGate today is blagh. It’s been hijacked by Leftists, understandably so, since they don’t see how their political ideas lead to censorship.

    Anyway. I’ll uh, walk away now.

    Like

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