Tying Yourself Up In Knots

Yet another reminder of ecclesiastical superiority:

I am Catholic because Catholicism is true.

It is not a little true.

It is not some truth mixed with error; if I wanted that, I definitely wouldn’t be here. I am Catholic because the Catholic Church is the only place you will find the fullness of Truth. It is for Truth that I became a Catholic, and it is for Truth that I will die a Catholic.

So what’s a truth-affirming Roman Catholic supposed to do with the historical circumstances that reduce credibility, like the Index of Books?

The Index dated back to the Council of Trent, where the Council Fathers sought to protect the faith and morals of the Catholic population by preventing the reading of heretical and immoral books.

Even before that, at the Fifth Lateran Council and earlier, in the ninth century, the Church attempted to ban books which were considered inappropriate reading. And restrictions on the public’s right to read have been imposed, not only by the Catholic Church, but by the Puritans in the original American Colonies.

I remember first learning about the Index at my mother’s knee. In hushed tones she spoke of a neighbor, a woman who scorned the Church’s guidance and dared to read the banned books. At the same time, she raised an eyebrow at the thought that some might ignore the Catholic Legion of Decency’s “C” (Condemned) rating for films or its secular equivalent, the Hayes Code.

If the church has THE truth, and if it puts out an index on THE errors, then isn’t it odd that truth affirmers may now read error? The reaction to the Index on the anniversary of its abolition (that’s right) is mixed. According to Simcha Fisher:

“My take? The Index was a very bad thing, and it’s much more in keeping with a developed understanding of conscience for the faithful to make their own decisions about what to read…. At the same time, it would be a very good thing if the faithful had a clearer understanding that they do have a duty to make careful decisions about what to read.”

David Mills counters:

“…the idea of an index only sounds funny to us because we don’t think of ideas as dangerous. We recognise physical infections but not intellectual ones…. In that, the advantage goes to the men who invented the Index and kept it going. They took ideas seriously. They thought some ideas would poison you just like nicotine-filled smoke and that some people who might innocently indulge should be protected from poisoning themselves.”

Kathy Schiffer takes comfort from everyone doing it:

the truth is that censorship exists everywhere—and that frequently, those most determined to limit ideas are those on the left. Censorship is at play when people would ban the name of God in a public meeting, obliterate the Ten Commandments on a courtroom wall, prevent schoolchildren from being exposed to the Bible in the classroom. Christian parents, in a case of right-triggered censorship, may applaud the removal of the lesbian-themed “Heather Has Two Mommies” from the elementary school library, while at the same time celebrating as a victory for free speech the inclusion of a prayer by the valedictorian at a commencement ceremony.

Even Luther:

The heretical priest Martin Luther, whose rejection of Catholic teaching triggered the Protestant Reformation, engaged in censorship of ideas which he found incompatible with his personal worldview. Besides his inclusion into the Scriptures of the phrase “faith alone,” Luther reportedly burned St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae—his seminal survey of things social and moral and theological—as well as his other works on the nature of God and the world.

Where does this leave the one who says he’s found the truth in Rome? It leaves him in an awkward spot:

But one thing I had solved was the authority of the Church to teach these things. I knew that the Church was protected by the Holy Spirit from ever teaching error. And so I said to myself: Well, if the Catholic Church can not teach any doctrine that is false, then any remaining problems that I have are my own error, and not the Church’s.

That was a key moment for me: the realization that I am not the arbiter of Truth. The Church is, guided by the Holy Spirit. I am not the Church’s teacher; the Church is my teacher.

Except that the teacher no longer instructs about which books are bad, and the same teacher lets students make up their own minds.

Can someone tell the apologists (that includes Bryan and the Jasons) to act like Vatican II happened?

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Does that Apply to Justin Bieber and Global Capitalism?

Jason Stellman is back in apologist mode and thinks it great that Roman Catholicism loves paganism (not even Michael Sean Winters says this):

Our paradigm has at its heart the Christmas story, the coming-in-the-flesh of the Son of God. If divinity assumed humanity to the point where the second Person of the Trinity will forever participate in human flesh and human nature, then there simply is no option for pitting heaven against earth, spirit against flesh.

If the Incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God is all about affirming the world, not destroying it.

When a Catholic considers pagan culture, then, he doesn’t think of it as some kind of defective problem to overcome, but instead views it through the lens of Christ and sees a divine exclamation point placed after every true and beautiful pagan idea or endeavor.

In a word, we see kinship and commonality with paganism. Pagans may worship nature or bow before a sacred tree or stone altar, while we worship the Creator of nature and bow before the cross and venerate the altar on which the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered.

The problem for Jason is that Roman Catholicism didn’t embrace incarnationality when it came to Protestantism in the 16th century. And if what Jason says is true for contemporary Roman Catholicism, does that mean he has gone to the other side about the benefits of free markets and the beauty of Justin Bieber’s music (I seem to recall in the one episode of Drunk Ex Pastors that Jason was gleeful in mocking the teenage crooner)?

It also makes me wonder if Jason became a Roman Catholic because the communion now resembles liberal Protestantism. And that’s another wrinkle in Jason’s argument. Protestants of a certain kind also affirmed the incarnation to embrace the world. We used to call them modernists.

Some Protestants opposed modernism. So did Pope Pius X. Neither wanted Christians to embrace the pagan world the way Jason does. In fact, it used to be the case that Jason would need approval from his bishop to read John Calvin or David Hume. An index of forbidden books does not sound, in Jason’s words, like a “healthier avenue toward dialogue and mutual respect.”

So which Roman Catholicism is Jason talking about? And is that the one to which Bryan Cross is calling?