Remember the Paradigm

It feels like Old Life is on the cutting edge of commentary on Roman Catholicism. First, Edgardo Mortara surfaced last week for some at First Things and The American Conservative. Old Life was there and did that four years ago.

Now comes word that the pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin (so much for the spirituality of the church), thinks Pope Francis is tapping a paradigm shift in Roman Catholicism:

“At the end of the day, what resulted from Amoris Laetitia is a new paradigm that Pope Francis is carrying forward with wisdom, with prudence, and also with patience,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and effectively the most senior figure in the Church after the pope himself.

“Probably, the difficulties that came up [around the document] and that still exist in the Church, beyond certain aspects of its content, are due precisely to this change of attitude that the pope is asking of us,” Parolin said.

“It’s a paradigm change, and the text itself insists on this, that’s what is asked of us – this new spirit, this new approach! … Every change always brings difficulties, but these difficulties have to be dealt with and faced with commitment,” Parolin said.

Old Life was on paradigms a good five years ago.

But the bigger issue is whether Bryan Cross’ paradigm has caught up to his Holy Father.

What a Disciplined Church Looks Like

Orthodox Presbyterians left the PCUSA because practice did not match theology, especially when theology did not change but practice did. Turns out Pius X who opposed modernism was a model for Orthodox Presbyterians (sort of). Boniface explains:

Pius X was not content to simply speak the truth; he put his convictions into practice by taking positive action against Modernism. Pascendi decrees that Modernists be deposed from teaching positions. If they are clerics, their bishops are to place them in the most obscure of offices where they can cause little trouble. Their books are to be censured. The Oath Against Modernism is instituted. Anti-Modernists are promoted while it is made known that no Modernist has any future possibility of promotion (if only that had remained true!). SO vigorous was his assault that the Modernists and progressives complained about his heavy hand.

In short, Pius X never thought merely stating the truth was sufficient; he needed to use the power at his disposal to see it pushed through.

What could conservative bishops do, or have done, that they have not?

Vigorously punish heresy in their own dioceses. Keep strict watch on the activities of certain priests and suspend, dismiss or defrock those who clearly dissent from Church teaching.

Preach the truth boldly, including explicit condemnations of particular groups or ideologies, even condemning heterodox teachers or priests by name when necessary. Go beyond the typical non-offensive, wishy-washy bishop-speak.

Use the resources of a diocese to publish actual informative and instructional materials, not the sort of nonsense most dioceses put out.

Actually issue liturgical directives to promote tradition. The contemporary Church documents offer considerable leeway in how liturgy can be done; the upside of this is that the bishop is given the final call on all of these options. A bishop could easily say, “No guitars and drums at any diocesan Mass”, or mandate sacred chant, or compel every parish to offer at least a monthly Traditional Latin Mass. Novus Ordo Masses must at least incorporate Latin and be said ad orientam.

Dismiss lay persons or members of subversive religious orders from their diocesan committees.

Actually use the tool of excommunication against dissident theologians and dissenting Catholic politicians.

Use resources of the diocese for meaningful ( I stress meaningful) social activism. Example: One priest told me there used to be a scummy motel near his parish that was frequented by prostitutes. He raised some money, bought the motel, and had it torn down. What if the millions raised by our diocesan appeals were used for such uses?

Organize at the regional level and use their weight to push through appointments within the USCCB or elsewhere that were favorable to them while simultaneously using their influence to keep out liberal appointments.

Host guest-speakers friendly to tradition and forbid those who are not.

Forbid Catholic schools and hospitals from engaging in activities harmful to the Catholic faith and actually back up these directives with the appropriate force.

Fire all Catholic school teachers who are in immoral relationships.

Actually celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass and require all seminarians to know it and be comfortable with Latin.

Publicly censure books and films hostile or dangerous to the Catholic faith.

Mandate traditional arrangements in the architecture of sanctuaries and churches; stipulate that no parish has the right to undertake any renovations unless personally approved by him.

Promote priests who cooperate with this agenda and punish those who don’t.

In short, never, never miss an opportunity to promote tradition and actively punish and repress liberalism. Speak the truth boldly but also use the weight of the office to silence, retard, dismiss or dispirit the liberal opposition.

Conservative Protestants who object to contemporary Roman Catholicism are not applying an artificial or alien standard. Protestants who convert to Roman Catholicism were likely never clear about the dangers of modernism or what its chief characteristics were. Modernists didn’t change doctrine. They came along side the world and felt its pain. Real conservatives (Protestant and Roman Catholic) did more than shrug.

Meanwhile, Bryan and the Jasons have been awfully quiet in their call amidst papal visits and convening cardinals. The most recent items are from May and April 2015, and November 2014. Timeless.

Jason and the Callers' Worst Day

Pope Francis denies the rationale for Called to Communion:

“Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms,” Francis said. “All of us are at the service of the one Gospel!”

Although Francis has repeatedly called on Christians to invite others to the faith, he has also condemned “proselytism” on multiple occasions, by which he means coercive or aggressive missionary techniques.

The pope said that by answering the call to spread the Gospel, different Christian denominations will find a privileged setting for greater cooperation.

Christian unity, Francis said, won’t be achieved by subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions.

“To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity,” Francis said. . . .

“A fruitful exchange of experiences,” Francis said, “can prove beneficial for the vitality of all forms of religious life.”

“To plumb the depths of the mystery of God,” said Francis on Sunday, “we need one another, we need to encounter one another, and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts.”

But John Allen thinks Francis is really singling out Pentecostal proselytism among Roman Catholics in South America. Even so, it’s the targeting of groups that seems to be behind the pope’s remarks:

Here’s something to think about: When Pope Francis blasts “proselytism,” he really may not be talking about, or to, Catholics at all.

In that regard, it’s important to remember that Francis’ primary frame of reference is as a Latin American pastor. There’s no part of the world that’s seen more organized and aggressive campaigns of proselytism in the last quarter-century or so, and for the most part Catholics have not been the architects of those efforts.

Instead, they’ve been more akin to the targets.

Arguably the most dramatic religious realignment of the late 20th century was the transition in Latin America from an almost homogeneously Catholic continent to a flourishing spiritual free market, with Evangelicals and Pentecostals posting massive gains.

Does make you wonder, though, if Francis knew about CtC would he be pleased? So the good news for us is that Jason and the Callers aren’t even on the pope’s global map. The bad news for them is that they’re out of sink with the officer who gives them the superior paradigm. Audacious. The pope doesn’t even care about them.

Word of advice to Jason and the Callers: indiscriminate Protestants prefer alliances to communion:

A high-profile alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants is set to issue a sweeping manifesto against gay marriage that calls same-sex unions “a graver threat” than divorce or cohabitation, one that will lead to a moral dystopia in America and the persecution of traditional believers.

“If the truth about marriage can be displaced by social and political pressure operating through the law, other truths can be set aside as well,” say the nearly 50 signers of the statement, which is to be published in the March edition of the conservative journal First Things.

Folded or Dirty

It’s still laundry that most of us don’t get to see. It’s a little old at this point, but the exchange between Ross Douthat and James Martin, editor at large of America magazine, displayed an honesty that conversations between conservatives and liberals in American Protestantism never revealed. It also exposed us outsiders to a range of views that Jason and the Callers keep under wraps (whether out of duplicity or ignorance is anyone’s guess. Here are a few highlights:

Douthat admits that papal supremacy won’t fix what ails Roman Catholicism (contrary to Jason and the Callers):

. . . to the extent that some conservatives ultimately find themselves in sincere disagreement with statements this pope makes, or experience sincere disappointment with some of his appointments, that experience might help cure them of the unhealthy papolatry that sometimes built up under John Paul II, and help them recognize the truth of a point that more liberal Catholics have often raised—that the Vatican is not the church entire, and that many worthwhile experiments in Catholic history have been undertaken without a stamp of approval (quite the reverse, indeed) from the hierarchy.

But with all of this said, on some of the issues we’re debating right now, I think there’s also an important asymmetry between the position of progressive Catholics and conservative Catholics vis-à-vis a pope who might seem at times to be on the “other team.” By this I mean that for Catholics who desire some kind change in church teaching around sex and marriage and the family, by definition the continuity and integrity of the current teaching isn’t essential to their understanding of what the church is, why it’s worth belonging to, and so on. As much as they may have been disappointed under the last two pontificates, that is, their fundamental reasons for being Catholic were not shaken by what John Paul or Benedict taught or said on divorce or same-sex marriage or other issue, because they had already decided that what any specific pope says about sex or marriage can be taken as provisional, subject to the future revision by the Holy Spirit.

Martin identifies the bottom line for Roman Catholic progressives (would Jason and the Callers agree?):

I can surely understand the frustration of some who feel that what they view as essential is up for grabs. Seeing something that you deem essential being held up for debate would be disturbing indeed. But, for me, the essentials are contained, first, in in the Gospels and, second, in the Nicene Creed. So no pope—no Christian—could say, “There is no need to love your enemy, to forgive, or to care for the poor.” Nor could any Christian say, “Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead.” After the Gospels and the Creed, I look to the whole rest of our church tradition, through the lens of the hierarchy of truths, understanding what has a greater level of authority over us.

That’s a brief answer to a big question, but as for the essentials, I would—and I’m not being metaphorical here—die for them.

One more — Douthat identifies the state of U.S. Roman Catholicism (and makes me wonder whether Jason and the Callers are calling to this communion):

These are all clearly persistent temptations for the church—a version of the commercial temptation helped bring on the Protestant Reformation, after all—and much of what we think of today as liberal Catholicism was forged in reaction to their pre-Vatican II manifestations. The ritualistic spirit of Eat meat on Friday, go straight to hell, do not pass go, the God-as-accountant image inherent in say these seventeen different prayers to thirteen different saints and receive in return exactly 4,544 days off Purgatory, the culture of shame and silence around sexuality, the punitive visions of hell immortalized by James Joyce, the pomp and circumstance embraced by princes of the church…these are stereotypes, of course, of a richer and more complicated reality, but they are grounded in real aspects of the pre-1960s church, which were in need of correction and reform.

But as someone who came of age long, long after the battles of Vatican II, I simply don’t recognize the Catholic culture that many liberal Catholics seem to believe they’re warring against or seeking to undo or overthrow. The “traditionalist” church, the church of lace and legalisms if you will, that the current pontiff is particularly quick to critique, is simply not part of most American Catholics’ everyday experience. It may exist in some parishes and precincts, or among certain bishops or cardinals. But the dominant experience of Catholic life, Catholic liturgy, Catholic preaching, has nothing in common with the stereotype of a Pharisee lecturing people about their (mostly sexual) sins.

What it has more in common with, and I speak from experience, is certain forms of Mainline Protestantism and megachurch evangelicalism: Notwithstanding what still emanates from the Vatican, we’ve become a church of long communion and short confession lines (and you’re more likely to find me in the first than the second), of Jesus-affirms-you sermons and songs, of marriage preparation retreats (like mine) where most of the couples are cohabitating and nobody particularly cares, and of widespread popular attitudes toward the divine and toward church teaching that mostly resemble H. Richard Niebuhr’s vision of a God without wrath, men without sin, and a Kingdom without judgment.

Would that we would ever hear this kind of frankness from Jason and the Callers (and the entire team of apologetical salesmen).

The Call Goes Only So Far

To communion but not to education:

The ascendant liberalism at modern Catholic colleges is a problem that has perplexed parents with traditional Catholic beliefs for decades now. Bishop Sheen went so far as to recommend that Catholic parents steer their children toward state and private colleges rather than Catholic institutions, contending it would be better to have their faith ignored at a secular college than actively undermined by liberal Catholic professors at a Catholic college.

Not everyone agrees with Sheen. I can remember an exchange on this topic in Triumph magazine back in the 1970s. I can’t recall who it was who disagreed with Sheen’s position, but his point was that even a Catholic college with a theology and philosophy department dominated by liberation theologians was a better choice than a secular college. The writer in question contended that the odds were good that a student would be able to find at least a few professors loyal to the Church at liberal Catholic colleges to help them grow in their faith, something not likely at secular colleges. Beyond that, he felt that spending four years in a Catholic atmosphere of available daily Masses, and the trappings of stained-glass windows and statues of the saints would have a favorable influence on the spiritual life of young people of college age.

My own view? I went back on forth on the question, but I did send my daughter in the 1990s to a Jesuit college that I knew was far more liberal than the Jesuit college I attended in the 1960s. She learned little about Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain while in attendance, but I did not regret my decision. I am convinced that the Catholic cultural environment in which she was immersed was a healthy influence on her spiritual growth.
I was recently surprised to discover that there are professors at Catholic colleges these days who ponder this very issue, who worry about what it will mean if the Catholic identity of their institutions is lost.

Why don’t Jason and the Callers ever talk about Boston College?

Building Bridges or Revoking the Call

Rick Warren thinks he is trying to find common ground between Roman Catholics and Protestants. He doesn’t realize he just cut off Jason and the Callers at the knees:

Warren, whose Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church books have sold millions of copies around the world, recorded a video interview for the Catholic News Service in which he said: “We have far more in common than what divides us.”

He continued: “When you talk about Pentecostals, charismatics, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians … Well they would all say we believe in the trinity, we believe in the Bible, we believe in the resurrection, we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ. These are the big issues.

“Sometimes Protestants think that Catholics worship Mary like she’s another god. But that’s not exactly Catholic doctrine.”

He also referred to the Roman Catholic practice of prayer to the saints, which Protestants reject, saying: “When you understand what they mean by what they’re saying, there’s a whole lot more commonality.

“Now there’s still real differences, no doubt about that. But the most important thing is if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team.”

He said that Church unity would realistically be “not a structural unity but a unity of mission. And so, when it comes to the family we are co-workers in the field on this for the protection of what we call the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of marriage. So there’s a great commonality and there’s no division on any of those three.”

I wonder why Rick Warren is on Pope Francis’ A-list but not Bryan Cross. Audacious?

Do You See What I See?

Haven’t heard the carol yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.

This post from Guy Noir at the Pertinacious Papist brought the Christmas carol to mind and it concerns our peaceful interlocutor, Bryan Cross, and why he doesn’t see what others do.

First Guy quotes a critic of Called to Communion but does not link to his source (and yes, I had hoped it was — all about — me):

I think the point is that Bryan Cross and the whole Called to Communion project is almost entirely out of step with modern Roman Catholicism post-V2. … It’s why you don’t see very many cradle RCs calling us to communion. They understand that the Vatican now sees us as true Christians, having in practice renounced the anathemas of Trent even while still nominally claiming them. The religion that Bryan and CtC promote is very heady and not at all in touch with the average RC in the pew. …[T]he church basically renounced its earlier doctrines and practices at V2… Bryan et al don’t see it at all, which is why we get 10,000 word tomes trying to make the square peg of Tridentine Romanism fit the round hole of post-V2 RCism. The blindness of CtC is seen in their refusal to admit that if Francis and any nineteenth century pope sat down together, neither one of them would recognize each other as a true RC.

Then Guy comments, I think in support of both the critic and of Bryan Cross (though I may be mistaken):

I really don’t know. Does proposing something that seems simply beyond the pale — just because it seems beyond the pale — make a suggestion out of the question? If a nagging suspicion or claim won’t go away, is the best policy simply to ignore it? If Francis to so many Catholics sounds unCatholic, isn’t that a reason to address to underlying issues, versus continuing to exist in a faith-anestithizing environment where we just pretend it ain’t so? And while I am at it, since when is a Pope who talks like Universalism is an option and Being Good is good enough, a pope than evangelicals think sounds evangelical?! B. B. Warfield and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, please call you offices, stat!

In which case, it looks like Bryan doesn’t see, contrary to what his paradigms tell him, either what the state of affairs is in the contemporary church or who his allies are in the contemporary church. One thing I do know — it would be worth the price of admission (a cheap bottle of Irish whiskey?) to be around the Callers when they read Crux and National Catholic Reporter.

Unexpected Development

Converts to a communion may often display a zeal that old-timers find off-putting. In Reformed circles, we have the phrase “cage phase” to denote the over zealous and new Calvinist who expects every Reformed pastor to sound like Calvin and every congregation to be as rigorous the New England Puritans.

It turns out that Roman Catholics have their own problems with converts. One instance, largely forgotten (perhaps another indication of Vatican II’s epoch-making shift) was the exchange between Orestes Brownson and John Henry Newman. Both were converts, but Brownson, admired by some contemporary conservatives, was not impressed by Newman’s theory of development of doctrine. In fact, Brownson believed it would kill Roman Catholicism (which makes it odd that Jason and the Callers do not regard Brownson as the model convert). Here is a short sampling of what Brownson said about the idea of the development of doctrine:

. . . we could not accept Mr. Newman’s Essay, even ,if its theory were susceptible of a satisfactory explanation. It deserves to be excluded from every Catholic library for its unorthodox forms of expression, as scandalous, even if not as heretical, erroneous, or rash. Words are things, and used improperly by men of eminence, or with inexactitude, become the occasion of error and heresy in others. Not a few of the errors which have afflicted the Church have come in under shelter of loose or inexact expressions, which great and sometimes even saintly men have suffered to escape them. The vain, the restless, the proud, the disobedient, seize on them, ascribe to them a sense they will bear, but not the one intended by their authors, and lay the foundation for ” sects of perdition.” Sometimes even better men are deceived and misled, as we see in the case of Fenelon. One cannot be too careful to be exact in expression, or to guard against innovation in word as well as in thought, especially in this age, in which there is such a decided tendency to abandon the scholastic method for the rhetorical. The scandalous phraseology of the Essay is no charge against its author, writing when and where he did, but is a grave charge against the Essay itself.

Finally, we repeat, from our former article, that we object to the Theory of Developments the very fact that it is a theory. We see no call and no room for theories in the Catholic Church, — least of all, for theories concocted outside of her by men whose eyes are dim, and who have nothing but their own reason to work with. From the nature of the case, they are theories, not for the conversion of their authors, but for the conversion of the Church, — framed to bring her to them, not them to her. They can do no good, and may do much harm. It is natural for us to concoct them when out of the Church, for then we have, and can have, nothing but theories, and can do nothing but theorize ; but, if we are wise, we shall not attempt to bring them into the Church with us. The more empty-handed we come to the Church, the better ; and the more affectionately will she embrace us, and the more freely and liberally will she dispense to us her graces.

Lest anyone miss the implicit significance of this exchange for the future of Roman Catholicism and its conservative (or traditionalist) members, readers should know that some Roman Catholics believe that Newman prevailed and Brownson lost at Vatican II. Here is how one traditionalist puts it:

. . . Brownson foresaw the future danger should Newman’s theory become accepted in the Church. Unless his theory was renounced, Brownson affirmed, it would either ultimately lead Newman himself out of communion with the Church or, much worse, be wrongly absorbed into the Catholic Church (p. 1).

In fact, the latter happened. His “pioneer” work established the idea of the development of dogma as a principle later held by the Modernists. Taken up by the Progressivists, it was consecrated at Vatican II, invoked in both the Declaration of Religion Freedom and the Constitution on Revelation. (2)

Newman alleged he was simply showing that the Catholic Church of his time was in continuity with that of the Apostles and the Fathers. But Vatican II did what Brownson feared could happen – it used this ‘theory’ to justify new advances and actual shifts in doctrine, such as its teaching on religious freedom. Jesuit Avery Dulles singled out Newman as anticipating the thought of Karl Rahner “to the effect that every dogmatic proclamation is not only an end, but also a beginning.” (3)

Someone could object that this work was written when Newman was a Protestant, and, therefore, should be disregarded as irrelevant after Newman’s conversion to Catholicism. The objection would be pertinent if he had rejected its theories or buried it, as Brownson suggested. On the contrary, he offered the work to the public and continued to defend its thesis until the end of his life. Thus, the objection is invalid.

Most American Catholics have not read Newman’s suspect theological works, such as the Essay on Development of Doctrine. His fame and popularity rest on his letters and sermons on piety and religious devotion. Let those well-meaning Catholic take the time to read at least Brownson’s criticism of Newman’s Essay, and they may begin to question the orthodoxy of the “oracle from Littlemore.” They may also begin to wonder if the beatification of Newman, rightly called the Father of Vatican II by the progressivists themselves, has the underlying purpose of giving needed impetus to the Council at a time when dissatisfaction with it is significantly increasing.

These tensions within Roman Catholicism may be obscure to recent converts, as difficult to perceive as the real fault lines between conservatives and other varieties of Roman Catholic communicants. For instance, John Zmirac has wondered (a la Brownson about Newman) whether Protestant converts to Rome understand what happened at Vatican II or whether they can find their way to the genuine Roman Catholic liturgy:

7) The Novus Ordo Missae was crafted by an ecumenical committee (including Protestants) that aimed at Christian unity. In a creative compromise, the committee cut large sections from the Mass — those that made it screamingly obvious that the Mass was a sacrifice and a wedding. The committee also trimmed away many rituals designed to underscore those doctrines, adding other practices to boost the role of the laity and undercut the role of the priest.

These changes didn’t vitiate the sacrament, but they did cloud its symbolic and catechetical clarity. They also reduced its dignity, gravity, and beauty. The Dies Irae gave way to “Gather Us In.” Or, as then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “In the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”

8) The most important elements that distinguish the priest’s role from the people’s, and hence Catholic sacraments from Protestant prayer services, are the following: The priest facing the altar; the prayers of the old Offertory (which survive in the First Eucharistic Prayer); the exclusive claim of the clergy (priests and deacons) to handle the Sacrament; the all-male priesthood; and kneeling for Communion on the tongue.

9) Each practice we add to the liturgy that blurs the difference between the people and the priest adds to confusion about what the heck is going on up on the altar. It’s no surprise that after 40 years of liturgical “renewal,” only 30 percent of American Catholics still believe in transubstantiation. More troublingly, those who are receiving Communion rarely bother with the Sacrament of Penance. The old terror of blasphemy that was underlined by gold patens tucked under our chins gave way to a shrug and a smile as we take in our hands a wafer from a neighbor.

10) Dissenters from key Catholic doctrines of faith and morals took ruthless advantage of the hype surrounding the Second Vatican Council and the symbolic confusion sowed by radical liturgical changes — which seemed to signal, like a new flag flying over a country, a new regime in the Church. Maybe a new Church altogether. Some of these dissenters, like Archbishop Rembert Weakland, were also involved in creating the new liturgy itself.

11) That liturgy kept on metastasizing, “renewing” itself seemingly every year. The same bishops who pushed relentlessly for Communion in the hand, extraordinary ministers of Communion, altar girls, and standing for Communion were the men who appointed feminists and pro-gay, pro-contraception, and even “pro-choice” delegates to dissident conferences such as the Call to Action (1976). Such bishops also persecuted adherents of the old liturgy and clergy who preached Humanae Vitae. The same men repeatedly defied Pope John Paul II, who avoided a schism and decided instead to replace them as they retired with more faithful bishops. He mostly succeeded.

All of the above is simply, uncontroversially true. And in saner times, it would be none of a layman’s business. We have enough on our plates pursuing our own vocations and staying in a state of grace, and we really shouldn’t have to shop around for the least sacrilegious parish, or fight with our bishop’s religious education office against nuns who deny the Creed. But here we are, still gasping for breath as the smoke of Satan slowly lifts, and there’s no excuse for pretending the air has been clear all along. The Bride of Christ has been battered, hounded, and hunted by the Enemy — but she’s still standing, as we were promised. Now it’s our task to bind her wounds, repair the rents in her gown, and lovingly comb her hair.

Although Zmirac is no traditionalist, one Trad Catholic has picked up on the problem that Protestant converts post-Vatican II face when trying to adjust to and find a place within Rome’s traditionalism:

Catholic converts from Protestantism bring to the Church a certain mentality that can make it difficult for them to accept Traditionalist arguments in favor of restoring a lot of the discarded “externals” of our faith’s tradition. In the post I used myself as a reference point (being a revert to the faith from charismatic Protestantism) and explained how it took some time for me after my return to the Church to start seeing the beauty of Traditional Catholicism, and perceive that much had been lost by rejecting this beauty. . . . I deny that a convert from Protestantism is not as “good’ as a cradle Catholic; I did say (and I maintain) that a convert-from-Protestantism-mentality does color the way we see things once we return to the Church.

It is interesting, however, that John Zmirak . . . talks about the non-Trad confusion over apparent Trad fixation on “mere externals.” This is, I think, one of the central ideas of Traditionalism – that alleged inessentials were not as inessential as once thought.

I often wonder if Jason and the Callers got more than that for which they bargained. They have a lot to make sense of over there on their side of the Tiber. Here is how Boniface puts it:

Then why bother even pointing out the differences? Because the Catholic Church as a whole – Trad, non-Trad, liberal, mainstream, whatever – is in an identity crisis. Who are we, and what does it mean to be Catholic? What does a Catholic life look like? These questions of identity;,far from being useless and divisive, are I think some of the most important issues Catholics can examine. I tend to take the position that Traditionalism exemplifies a more perfect continuity with the fullness of Tradition than other non-Trad manifestations of the faith, and part of what I do here is defend that proposition against those who take a more negative approach to Traditionalism. We may disagree on what Catholic identity should look like, but let’s not say that these questions are not important; if only our fathers in the 1960’s and 1970’s had more of a concern for Catholic identity, we might not be in a liberal crisis.

Given Jason and the Callers’ covering their eyes to church history — ancient and recent, I am not sure they are up to the task of accounting for such developments. But they sure know they aren’t Protestant (as long as they don’t know about Brownson).

Development of Loophole?

While Jason and the Callers continue to lay it on thick with the Protestantism-equals-individualism-and-anarchy-and-Roman-Catholicism-represents-everything-that-is-glorious-and-certain meme, the history of Roman Catholicism continues to yield considerations that render Jason and the Callers virtually gnostic in their quest for a visible church. Today’s stroll into things to which Jason and Callers don’t pay attention is John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Blessed John Henry Newman by the Callers’ reckoning.

It turns out that Newman was not so keen on Pius IX’s efforts to raise the stature and authority of the papacy. He gave the “audacity of the papacy” a whole new meaning. Look, for instance, at his comments on the Syllabus of Errors:

What does the word “Syllabus” mean? A collection; the French translation calls it a “Resumé;”—a Collection of what? I have already said, of propositions,—propositions which the Pope in his various Allocutions, Encyclicals, and like documents, since he has been Pope, has pronounced to be Errors. Who gathered the propositions out of these Papal documents, and put them together in one? We do not know; all we know is that, by the Pope’s command, this Collection of Errors was sent by his Foreign Minister to the Bishops. He, {277} Cardinal Antonelli, sent to them at the same time the Encyclical of December, 1864, which is a document of dogmatic authority. The Cardinal says, in his circular to them, that the Pope ordered him to do so. The Pope thought, he says, that perhaps the Bishops had not seen some of his Allocutions, and other authoritative letters and speeches of past years; in consequence the Pope had had the Errors which, at one time or other he had therein noted, brought together into one, and that for the use of the Bishops.

Such is the Syllabus and its object. There is not a word in it of the Pope’s own writing; there is nothing in it at all but the Erroneous Propositions themselves—that is, except the heading “A Syllabus, containing the principal Errors of our times, which are noted in the Consistorial Allocutions, in the Encyclicals, and in other Apostolical Letters of our most Holy Lord, Pope Pius IX.” There is one other addition—viz., after each Error a reference is given to the Allocution, Encyclical, or other document in which it is proscribed.

The Syllabus, then, is to be received with profound submission, as having been sent by the Pope’s authority to the Bishops of the world. It certainly comes to them with his indirect extrinsic sanction; but intrinsically, and viewed in itself, it is nothing more than a digest of certain Errors made by an anonymous writer. There would be nothing on the face of it, to show that the Pope had ever seen it, page by page, unless the “Imprimatur” implied in the Cardinal’s letter had been an evidence of this. It has no mark or seal put upon it which gives it a direct relation to the Pope. {278} Who is its author? Some select theologian or high official doubtless; can it be Cardinal Antonelli himself? No surely: anyhow it is not the Pope, and I do not see my way to accept it for what it is not. I do not speak as if I had any difficulty in recognizing and condemning the Errors which it catalogues, did the Pope himself bid me; but he has not as yet done so, and he cannot delegate his Magisterium to another. I wish with St. Jerome to “speak with the Successor of the Fisherman and the Disciple of the Cross.” I assent to that which the Pope propounds in faith and morals, but it must be he speaking officially, personally, and immediately, and not any one else, who has a hold over me. The Syllabus is not an official act, because it is not signed, for instance, with “Datum Romæ, Pius P.P. IX.,” or “sub annulo Piscatoris,” or in some other way; it is not a personal, for he does not address his Venerabiles Fratres,” or “Dilecto Filio,” or speak as “Pius Episcopus;” it is not an immediate, for it comes to the Bishops only through the Cardinal Minister of State.

Development of doctrine, indeed, with a splash of Jesuitical casuistry?

I am not competent to know what Newman was up against in England, nor do I know the workings of canon law regarding a Cardinal who dissents from his pope. I don’t have the right paradigm (even if I do have the right chromosomes). But Newman hardly seems like the model of conservative Roman Catholicism, even if he does serve as a model of Roman Catholic reasonableness in the face of the Vatican’s attempt to double-down on its supremacy. In fact, Ian Ker’s biography of Newman gives much more evidence that the Cardinal was hardly the font of conservatism that some contemporary Roman Catholics assert. Just after Vatican I, Newman was figuring out how to reconcile himself to the doctrine of infallibility. According to Ker:

Privately, [Newman] confided to Ambrose St John that he would not know what to say to anxious enquirers if the Pope did in fact take advantage of what was “a precedent and a suggestion to use his power without necessity, when ever he will, when not called on to do so.” He was so concerned, [Newman] admitted, at the danger of an attempt to extend the definition, that “we must hope, for one is obliged to hope it,that the Pope will be driven from Rome, and will not continue the Council, or that there will be another Pope.” (656)

Ker adds that Newman’s hope was that things would get so bad they could not get any worse. In Newman’s own words:

We have come to the climax of tyranny. It is not good for a Pope to live 20 years. It is anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contract him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it. For years years past my only consolation personally has been in our Lord’s Presence in the Tabernacle. I turn from the sternness of external authority to Him who can immeasurably compensate trials which after all are not real. . . (659)

Some have tried to explain Newman’s views, though Jason and the Callers are not among them. It does make you wonder if the development of doctrine notion is really a way to explain away aspects of papal teaching that converts find troubling (a version of Protestantism within the Roman Catholic fold). It also raises questions about whether Newman really is a model for Protestant converts to Rome since you don’t find any of Newman’s reservations about the papacy among the Callers. And then we have the matter of Protestant “interpretation” and Roman Catholic “reception” of infallible teaching. If Jason and the Callers followed Newman’s example, they might be questioning the magisterium as much as Cumberland Presbyterians dissent from the Westminster Assembly.

Called to Call the Mother of God

No news for anyone on line who is using more than Comcast’s news updates (all about cleavages at the Grammy’s, I’m afraid) that Benedict XVI has resigned the office of pope, effective February 28, 2013. What may be news, however, is the last paragraph of his resignation:

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

It is an odd phenomenon for Protestants to think of praying (i.e., “implore) to Mary. For a recent convert like Christian Smith, Protestant discomfort is simply a symptom of evangelicals’ “allergy” to Mary. He goes on to write (How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic):

Evangelicals trust in the Bible, on which they say they base their beliefs. But, when it comes to things even only remotely and by association “too Catholic,” like Mary, the verses are read over and past and ignored. It is like Mary hardly matters, as if the verses were not in the Bible, as if Mary deserves no theological reflection. (48)

Never mind that Smith never cites any verses associated with Mary, or shows the theological reflection of the apostles (like Peter and Paul’s epistles) on the mother of Jesus. (He does get a lot of mileage in his case for Mary — wow! — out of the discovery that “Faith of Our Fathers” was a Roman Catholic hymn.) Never mind as well that even the Catholic Encyclopedia says of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture.”

Still, the allergy, if that’s what we want to call it, is the idea of praying to Mary. Praying to Mary is not something that should be surprising to Protestant observers. For instance, this is how Pius IX concluded Nullis Certe Verbis:

And so that God may incline His ear to Our prayers and yours and those of all the faithful, We ask first the recommendation of the Virgin Mary, who is our most beloved mother and most trustworthy hope and ever present guardian of the Church. Nothing is more powerful with God than her patronage. We also implore the support of Peter, then of his co-apostle Paul, and of all the heavenly citizens who reign with Christ in heaven. We do not doubt that in the light of your outstanding religion and priestly zeal, you will obey these Our prayers and petitions. Meanwhile as a pledge of Our burning charity toward you, from Our deepest heart and with a wish for all every true happiness, We lovingly impart Our Apostolic Blessing to you yourselves and all the clergy, and faithful laity committed to each of your vigilance.

And when Pius XI wrote an encyclical (Ad Caeli Reginam) which asserted the queenship of Mary over all other creatures, he closed with this:

Earnestly desiring that the Queen and Mother of Christendom may hear these Our prayers, and by her peace make happy a world shaken by hate, and may, after this exile show unto us all Jesus, Who will be our eternal peace and joy, to you, Venerable Brothers, and to your flocks, as a promise of God’s divine help and a pledge of Our love, from Our heart We impart the Apostolic Benediction.

But since Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God the Father (as in the Lord’s Prayer), the idea of praying to Mary is odd. I know apologists like Smith try to distinguish veneration from worship of saints. I also know that the CTCers have made their peace with Mary as Co-Redemptrix. But I am still wondering how praying to someone doesn’t give the impression that the entity to whom the prayer is being directed is anything less than divine. I also don’t understand why you wouldn’t simply pray directly to Christ, whose work as priest now is to intercede at God’s right hand. Is he too busy to hear?