Every Minor Order Ministry

If you’re ever tempted to think that Rome’s church government is ancient, consider how much it has always been a work in process (with notable interventions from Trent and Vatican II):

On the Sunday of the Word of God this year, Pope Francis solemnly instituted lectors and catechists. They were drawn from nations around the world. The pope gave to each of the lectors a book of the Scriptures, and to the catechists a cross. There were prayers, and he enjoined these servants of the word to bring the Gospel to the world through their ministry. None of this was truly extraordinary, however. What made the event historic was that, for the first time, the rite included women.

It was a long time coming. In 1965, a subcommittee of the Consilium (the body of scholars and churchmen who crafted many of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council) gathered to study what was then called “minor orders,” including what we now call instituted lectors and acolytes. In Christian antiquity various people held these offices, but gradually they were restricted to seminarians on their way to being ordained to the priesthood. Over time, the priesthood assumed all the roles formerly held by a variety of ministers. The committee acknowledged the possibility of turning the page on this clericalization of ministry, but they did not discuss including women out of deference to those bishops who believed that the minor orders were part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, rendering women ineligible.

Nevertheless, a door was opened by the Consilium’s final report in 1967, which affirmed that the Church has considerable flexibility in reforming the offices below the level of deacon. The minor orders, although rooted in antiquity, can be reconfigured, they argued—some abolished, others added or adapted—to respond to the needs of the Church. The question of who receives them, and whether they are permanent or temporary, was not settled.

By the time of the council, everyone recognized that the Church’s practice of minor orders had become incoherent. The history was venerable, but modern-day seminarians were deriving little benefit from being ordained into these roles. It was more or less a formality they went through, with the rites serving as stepping stones in a cursus honorum that led to priestly ordination—their real goal. They moved through the minor orders quickly, sometimes celebrating two at a time. Some found it embarrassing to receive deputation, in solemn ceremonies, for tasks other people carried out. The role of doorkeeper was, for example, already filled by sacristans and ushers. Altar boys performed the role of acolyte. The priest read the readings at Mass. To be an actual exorcist was an advanced and specialized role quite separate from the “order of exorcist” conferred on them, which really meant nothing. One of the principles of the reform was “truthfulness.” By this canon, the minor orders were failing badly.

Pope St. Paul VI was interested in keeping the minor orders as a part of seminary formation. His focus was on renewing them and establishing a more coherent plan. Pastoral bishops saw this in a wider frame of reference, however, and had more ambitious goals. They wanted to simplify the preparation for priesthood and render it more realistic, but they also kept an eye on the horizon of lay ministry, which was a growing phenomenon. There was considerable interest, especially in mission dioceses, in strengthening lay ministries and finding ways to bless them. There were requests not only to institute women as lectors and acolytes, but also to consider instituting ministries of catechesis and various forms of pastoral service, which were already being filled successfully by women. There was also the question of allowing lay people to preach and conduct worship services in the absence of a priest. Some kind of blessing for music ministers, such as cantors, psalmists, and organists, was on the wish list too.

The topic of minor orders continued to be discussed among the various dicasteries of the Curia during the period immediately following the council, prompted at times by interventions from local churches and from the pope, but the conversation dragged on without resolution, at least in part because there were so many different discussions going on at the same time. It wasn’t even clear where this topic belonged in the flow chart of the reform: Holy Orders? Baptism? Blessings? Clergy formation? Liturgy? Evangelization and mission? All of the above?

In 1972, Pope Paul VI issued his motu proprioMinisteria quaedam, which put an end to the discussion. He suppressed the orders of doorkeeper, exorcist, and subdeacon. He changed the terminology of “minor orders” to “ministries” and defined the ministry of lector and acolyte as lay ministries. Following an obscure precedent set by the Council of Trent, he added that “ministries can be entrusted to the lay Christian faithful; accordingly, they do not have to be reserved to candidates for the sacrament of Orders” (MQ III). Nevertheless, he reserved the instituted lay ministries of lector and acolyte to males “according to the venerable tradition of the Church” (MQ VII). . . .

Spirituality of the Roman Catholic Church

Massimo Faggioli complains about Americanism among U.S. Roman Catholics (for more on why this seems odd, see this):

As the Republican Party has been radicalized in the past decade, so have more than a few bishops. During the same period, some prominent conservative intellectuals have embraced Catholicism for reasons that seem purely political. This is not a new phenomenon. It has much in common with Charles Maurras’ Action Française, a nationalist movement condemned by Pius XI in 1926. Maurras had no time for the Gospel but saw Catholicism as a useful tool for the creation of an antidemocratic social order. The new enthusiasm for an older version of Catholicism on the part of conservative intellectuals with no interest in theology also mirrors the rise of Ultramontanism in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Jesuit John O’Malley’s latest book on the theological movements that set the stage for Vatican I helps us see the many similarities between nineteenth-century Ultramontanism and early-twenty-first-century traditionalist Catholic Americanism. In both movements, the game is played mostly by journalists and other lay intellectuals whose understanding of the church is essentially political rather than spiritual.

Notice that Faggioli concedes that we have at least a “newer” version that contrasts with an “older” version of Roman Catholicism. That puts some dent in the idea that Rome is the church Jesus founded.

Even more curious is the how short the life of the newer Roman Catholicism is. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the church was traditionalist and conservative, opposed in most cases to political and intellectual developments in the modern world. Vatican 2 opened up the church’s windows to — wait for it — modernity. For a brief time, between John XXII and John Paul I — 1959 to 1978 — the church experienced a modern Roman Catholicism, one that was more open, gracious, tolerant, forgiving (at least that is how some defenders of Vatican 2 put it). Then came the conservative crack down first with John Paul II and then his successor, Benedict XVI, which ran from 1978 to 2014, a much longer run than the liberal, open phase of “newer” Roman Catholicism. Only since 2014 has the “newer” version re-emerged as the official Roman Catholicism.

That means that, if you add 19 years to 5 years, only for 24 years has “newer” Roman Catholicism been available since the close of the Council of Trent (1563).

If I were in Faggioli’s shoes, or a defender of Pope Francis, I would not throw around words like “new” and “old.” If tradition matters to Roman Catholics, Faggioli’s version of Roman Catholicism has less antiquity than Pentecostalism.

As for Rome’s spiritual as opposed to its political character, why does Pope Francis write encyclicals about markets and the environment instead of Mary and the stations of the cross?

The Politics of the Holy Spirit

Michael Sean Winters first argues that the Second Vatican Council was revolutionary:

Douthat also insists that there was nothing revolutionary about Vatican II. I do not want to get hung up on semantics. If he wishes to make a Burkean point, that there is a difference between reform and innovation, and revolutionaries innovate, I am mostly in agreement, but while the Council did not itself innovate per se, it reformed a lot. Through much of the nineteenth and the first-half of the twentieth century, Rome carried on an extensive correspondence with the American hierarchy on the subject of interreligious events. The officials in Rome did not like the idea of a Catholic priest saying a prayer at a civic event alongside ministers of other religions. What caused Rome to change its mind? In the postwar era, they recognized that the needed America as a bulwark against communism and that non-Catholics would be needed too. Now, interreligious events characterize all local churches and all papal trips. If that is not a revolution, I am not sure what is and, I dare say, it might even qualify as an innovation, a necessary one to be sure and novel only because previously no country, like the U.S. had experienced the admixture of religious groups to the extent that we did.

And among confessional Protestants like Missouri Synod Lutherans and Presbyterians, participating in interreligious services can still get a pastor in trouble. Separated brothers or more like distant cousins seven times removed.

But Winters thinks the Holy Spirit was responsible for the revolution:

Most egregiously, not once does one grasp in his analysis of Vatican II that the Holy Spirit was active in the deliberations of the Council, and that this is not only testified to by those who participated in it, but by our Catholic beliefs about the Spirit’s presence in the Church. If the Spirit was not active at Vatican II, why should we think it was active at Trent or Nicaea? One can deride, as Douthat does, those who invoked “the spirit of the Council” to justify positions that were actually in conflict with the texts of the Council, but there really was a “spirit of the Council” and Pope Francis is not wrong to invoke it. Yes, the “spirit of the Council” was invoked to justify silly things but not by Pope Francis or Cardinal Kasper.

So will Winters allow that the Holy Spirit was also behind the U.S. Constitutional Convention or England’s Really Exceptional Glorious Revolution? Lots of churches adjusted to liberalism. American Presbyterians did in 1789. It took the Vatican longer. But why invoke the third person of the Trinity for something so ordinary?

The dangers of exceptionalism are everywhere.

From Mortara to Murray

Michael Sean Winters reviews a new book on John Courtney Murray, the man whom many believe is responsible for warming up the Roman curia and the magisterium to America’s version of political liberty. In his first part, Winters highlights the real change that took place at Vatican II on a theological assumption that Rome had defended longer than any other Christian communion:

Hudock quotes from a 1948 article in Civilta Cattolica that stated:

The Roman Catholic Church, convinced, through its divine prerogatives, of being the only true Church, must demand the right to freedom for herself alone, because such a right can only be possessed by truth, never by error. As to other religions, the Church will certainly never draw the sword, but she will require that by legitimate means they shall not be allowed to propagate false doctrine. Consequently, in a State where the majority of the people are Catholic, the Church will require that legal existence be denied to error, and that if religious minorities actually exist, they shall have only a de facto existence, without opportunity to spread their beliefs. If, however, actual circumstances….make the complete application of this principle impossible, then the Church will require for herself all possible concessions…..

This is a decent emblematic statement of the received position. The preferred arrangement, known in theological jargon as the “thesis,” was legal unification of Church and State wherever Catholics were in the majority. In countries like Murray’s United States, the “hypothesis” of Church-State separation could be accepted given the circumstances. The double standard was obvious to all, but trapped inside a closed theological circle, the authorities in Rome, with plenty of assistance from conservative Catholic theologians in the U.S., simply persisted in saying the double standard was appropriate, because truth had rights that could never be extended, in principle, to error.

As hard as it may be for boomer and millennial Roman Catholics to believe, Murray’s positive reading of American political liberty got him in trouble with the bishops:

That same year, 1948, Murray gave a paper at the Catholic Theological Society of America meeting in which he criticized the “thesis-hypothesis” approach. He noted, correctly, the rights inhere in persons, not in propositions, and so the claim that “error has not rights” was meaningless, that “if it means anything, it means that error is error; but it is hardly a ‘principle’ from which to draw any conclusions with regard to the powers of the state.” Murray also introduced an historical analysis of the issue, arguing that the current teaching was rooted in the experience of the Middle Ages, in which Church and State were “coextensive and united,” membership in the one was essential to membership in the other, and in this context, deviation from Church doctrine really was understood as a threat to the common good of society. . . .

Attacking a “received opinion” made Murray enemies on both sides of the Atlantic and Hudock relishes telling the cloak-and-dagger, better to say ferriola and quill, struggle that ensued. The reader is introduced to Francis Connell and Joseph Fenton who would not only oppose Murray in theological journals, but use their extensive contacts with Roman authorities to place Murray under a cloud of suspicion. Hudock ably recapitulates Murray’s ideas as they developed, which may be the best contribution the book makes. But, despite Hudock’s comments in the introduction to the effect that this is a story both contemporary conservatives and liberals can celebrate, on nearly every page of the tale, Murray is the good guy pitted against the various bad guys. To be clear, some of Fenton’s shenanigans really strike the modern reader as underhanded, although it is clear that Murray was also pushing the less powerful levers of ecclesiastical power to which he had access as well. The author might have delved more deeply into what motivated Connell and Fenton.

In the second part of his review, Winters unintentionally shows the bind in which Roman Catholic bishops have operated since Vatican II. Is political freedom good or is it destructive?

Murray favored a political-historical argument for religious freedom that was more accessible to unbelievers and relevant to the work of lawmaking in the modern world. Among European bishops and theologians (Yves Congar, for example) there was a preference for a more scriptural-theology approach. Murray explained privately that the text produced in March [by the Europeans] dialed to “do justice to the political-social argument” and that the Europeans were “over-theologizing” the concept of religious freedom.

Hudock does not cite which scriptural and theological arguments the Europeans wanted. Nor does he explain why the difference of opinion was important – at the time, and even more, subsequently. Murray wanted the Church to embrace the negative conception of liberty, freedom from, that is at the heart of the American constitutional framework. But, the European theologians perceived the difficulty here. A formal freedom was not the contentless, free market of religious ideas Murray claimed it to be, but rested on an ontological prioritization of freedom over truth. As well, the dualism he suggested between the temporal and the spiritual was too absolutized, and while it might work in a country in which the Christian moral framework largely held sway through democratic means, it was ill-equipped to use the power of the State to achieve the common good if that framework atrophied.

Murray was asked about this difference at a colloquium at the University of Notre Dame after the Council concluded its work. He admitted that the document “skated around” the difficulty of whether or not the Church can embrace a negative conception of liberty. But, the ice was thinner than Murray imagined and the skating would not last for long. As we have seen in our own time, and despite his argument to the contrary, an immunity from government coercion can be strengthened or weakened by civil law for which a negative conception of liberty has no answer. That is what the fights over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are all about.

No one said church-state relations in the modern era would be easy. Nor did Protestants ever think that an infallible magisterium would figure those relations out. That’s why pastors are called to a different and higher work.

What Would Happen if the PCUSA and OPC Started Ecumenical Dialogue?

If the OPC began to enter into ecumenical discussions with the PCUSA would someone be justified in thinking that the OPC had changed its estimate of the PCUSA? And would this change indicate a shift within the OPC itself to the point that you might plausibly argue that the denomination’s teaching had changed? In other words, what would it take for the OPC to recognize the PCUSA at least as a conversation partner?

On the matter of confessional statements, the OPC would have to get around the Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967. That’s enough to end the conversation.

On matters of practice and discipline, the OPC would have to overlook the ordination of women, the ordination of homosexuals, and the recognition of gay marriage. In questions about worship, the OPC would have to come to terms with a PCUSA hymnal that has some clunkers and that took the stuffing out of good hymns.

So with all these reservations, if the OPC went ahead and opened up discussions with the PCUSA, onlookers might well think that the OPC had lost its way, that the doctrine and practice that had once characterized the communion were no longer important, and that the OPC’s understanding of Reformed Protestantism had changed?

So now as folks like Ross Douthat wonder if changes surrounding sex and marriage will change not just discipline but the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, why don’t those same folks wonder about what Vatican II did in reclassifying Protestants as separated brethren? Sixteenth-century bishops only knew those outside the church as infidels, schismatics or heretics. Separated brethren did not become part of episcopal language until the 1960s. And this came at a time when the Protestant churches were liberal (at least from the perspective of communions like the OPC). Sure, they weren’t in the ballpark of going soft on homosexuality and marriage. But the Protestants the bishops had in mind were not in communions like the OPC but were in denominations like the PCUSA where Reformed orthodoxy was hardly firm.

What would allow the bishops to change that understanding of Protestantism? And isn’t this indicative of a change in doctrine — not technically in the language of the catechisms or papal documents? Doesn’t this reflect a change in the understanding of the doctrine that defined Roman Catholicism or the degree to which doctrine or liturgy matter? If folks who were once in error and whose views needed to be anathematized now look like Christians who are worthy of dialogue, hasn’t something changed?

Called to Discombobulation

I wonder if Stellman needs some coaching from Mark Shea:

It was around here that I entered the Church (1987) and fairly quickly surveyed what I took to be the lay of the land. The Church, I gathered, was divided between the loopy left and what Peter Kreeft called “non-revisionist Catholics”, aka “faithful conservative Catholics” who accepted the whole of the Church’s teaching, including the inconvenient and difficult Pelvic Bits, and tried to live that out. Having endured numerous nutball Seattle liturgies (“in the Name of the Creator and the Redeemer and the Sanctifier, may God our Father/Mother bless you”) with edited scripture readings sanitized for my protection and commentary such as “This passage is a crock” from the Seattle priestly caste, as well as instructions to just feel free to blow off the Church’s more inconvenient teaching, I came into the Church ready to stick it out defiantly against the lefty Seattle fiefdom with its sneering contempt for orthodoxy and its naked disdain for the Holy Father (my DRE loved to mock the Polish accent for the benefit of the RCIA class and tell the newbies what a buffoon the pope was for upholding the Church’s teaching. It made my blood boil. Only silly ultramontanes believed all that junk JPII said, I was assured.)

So I entered the Church in 1987 and set out to seriously live by the profession “I believe all that the holy, Catholic Church, believes, teaches, and proclaims is revealed by God.” Found a great parish in Seattle (Blessed Sacrament) full of wonderful Dominicans who taught me that the key to happiness as a Catholic was what Sherry Weddell has come to term”intentional discipleship”. That means not merely getting the sacramental card punched once a week, nor figuring out strategies for doing as I pleased while checking off a minimum daily adult requirement checklist on bare minimum cooperation with the Holy Spirit when he doesn’t get in my way, but making a serious stab at asking “What do you want me to do today, Jesus?” In this, I assumed that the great secret underground of Faithful Conservative Catholics was my allies and that the mission was to infiltrate, undermine, and destroy from within the regime of liberal dissent I’d seen up close and personal here in Seattle. Seemed reasonable.

Consequently, I took the formulation of the Five Non-Negotiables (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem call research, human cloning, and gay “marriage”) as common sense as, I have no doubt, did whoever formulated them. I can’t remember when I first ran across them (sometime in the 90s I think) and I have no idea who came up with them, but they seemed (and seem) to me to have a certain prima facie common sense to them: Here are five big issues that, at the very least, Catholics should agree on. The “at the very least” was always, for me, the key phrase. It never occurred to me that Catholics would insist that these are the only things Catholics should care about, much less that Catholics should seize on these things to attack other aspects of the Church’s teaching. That was, I assumed, what the Liberals did with their hyperfocus on protesting the Trident base over at Bangor while turning a blind eye to Seattle’s abortion mills. So I happily embraced the five non-negotiables as as a sort of quick and dirty summary of bare minimum adherence to the Church’s fundamental teachings about the dignity of human life, and the family. It didn’t and shouldn’t exhaust our understanding for the Church’s social teaching. But it sketched out the floor of that teaching, below which we cannot go. If you wanted a much fuller teaching, there was the Seamless Garment, which always impressed me as a fine, nuanced, balanced, and sane approach to articulating the whole of the Church’s consistent ethic of life. Indeed, back in the day, I once wrote a piece for the National Catholic Register, sketching out the sanity of the Seamless Garment and more or less naively assumed all Catholics agreed with this obvious, catechism-based, common sense.

At least conservatives in the PCUSA used to claim that their communion before 1967 had not changed its doctrine. An entire Christian tradition, from Augustine of Hippo to Zoe of Rome, boiled down to five moral claims?

I still wait for the Callers to acknowledge the discrepancy between their Call and their Communion. The former may have a certain logic, but the latter has all the marks of the Protestant mainline circa 1970. Here’s a piece of advice to Jason and the Callers — the Call needs to address the conservative Presbyterian opposition to modernism. How those converts got around the modernist trends in Roman Catholicism since Vatican 2 has to owe to the Callers’ divorce of history from truth.

Ending Liturgical Embarrassment

When on the road, the missus and I will visit the congregations of Protestant road teams (non-Presbyterians) and we find that liturgical churches (Lutheran and Episcopal) save us the embarrassment of sitting through very strange and often irreverent worship in settings where prayer books, liturgical orders, or lots of Scripture reading are absent. A set form of worship generally covers the liturgical food groups and restrains those preachers or congregations who wind up asserting more of themselves into the service than a visitor without local knowledge can take.

The one exception to the liturgical service is the so-called Passing of the Peace, after the confession of sin. This used to be performed, as I understand it, by the priest or pastor in the form of a declaration of pardon. Now in most liturgical churches the assurance of forgiveness is a communal exercise in which everyone plays a part. I’ve even been in Missouri Synod congregations where the pastor felt compelled to shake hands with everyone while church members embraced, shook hands, and exchanged greetings — with the missus and I looking on stiffly and anxiously. It is a moment when liturgical worship becomes even more awkward than standing through praise songs you’ve never heard. At least you can stand during the song in relative impersonal safety; with the peace passed, you have nowhere to hide.

But the Vatican may have come to the rescue (and may be making up for Vatican II’s liturgical reforms which kicked off the Passing-of-the-Peace painfulness). The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has clarified what the “sign of the peace” means and how it is to be observed. I was especially heartened to read this:

. . . [Bishops] should do everything possible to end “abuses” such as:

— “The introduction of a ‘song for peace,’ which is nonexistent in the Roman rite.”

— “The movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.”

— “The departure of the priest from the altar in order to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.”

— People using the sign of peace at Christmas, Easter, baptisms, weddings, ordinations and funerals to offer holiday greetings, congratulations or condolences.

Let the clergy run the show. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

What Talking to Bryan Cross Feels Like

John Zmirak (apparently no relation to Zrim) has frustrations remarkably similar to mine. Liberal Roman Catholics and Protestants together:

Q: Do you think that Vatican II taught heresy when it said that the use of coercion by the state in matters of religion is a violation of natural law—you know, like sodomy or (even worse) contraception?

A: Vatican II was a merely pastoral council, which must be interpreted in the light of sacred tradition, not in a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

Q: Are you saying that the state’s right to torture and execute Protestants is an infallible truth of faith or morals, which the bishops of the Church and Pope Paul VI somehow failed to recognize when they issued Dignitatis Humanae? So the Society of St. Pius X is right, and Pope Benedict XVI was defending heresy when he refused to accept them back into communion unless they acknowledged this point?

A: Dignitatis Humanae is a profoundly ambiguous document. It is hard to tell what it means, if it means anything at all. Remember that it states that the Council maintains the traditional teaching about the “duties of societies” toward the true religion.

Q: Are you a totalitarian? You know, along the lines of Benito Mussolini, who proclaimed, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”?

A: Of course not. Mussolini was an anti-clerical, whose father was a Freemason.

Q: You do realize that only totalitarians equate “society” and “state.” The classical definition of society includes the family and all sorts of other voluntary associations—including the Church, but also clubs, fraternities, labor unions, and the whole rich fabric of what political scientists call “civil society.” When the Council Fathers wrote that “society” owed allegiance to the truth, they were stating a simple fact—that everyone ought to acknowledge the kingship of Christ. They were not saying that people who didn’t fulfill this duty deserved to be tortured until they confessed, then burned at the stake and put into prison. Since in the same document the bishops of the Church, with papal approval, said that using state coercion to override people’s consciences violated the natural law—again, like adultery or perjury—isn’t it disrespectful of a universal council of the Church to assume that their statement was meaningless, or self-contradictory, or some piece of public relations that the Church would later stuff into the memory hole?

A: You are engaged in a neo-Catholic apologetic for the Americanist Catholicism of the 1950s which no longer exists, and which led directly to abortion on demand, homosexual “marriage,” and the radical imbalance of wealth in America that denies proper compensation to those who teach the liberal arts.

Q: Who would you call the authoritative interpreter of the Council—the popes who presided over it and those who came after it, and the Catechism they published? Or a network of bloggers?

A: Perhaps we serve the role of the faithful laity, which also preserved the Church from Arianism in the time of St. Athanasius.

Q: Did a Church council ever teach Arianism?

A: No.

Q: Was the only opponent of Arianism a band of schismatically consecrated bishops and illicitly ordained priests?

A: There’s a first time for everything.

Q: What confuses me is the fact that you point to the American vision of freedom as the greatest danger to the Church, when in fact the Church’s enemies are throwing that vision of freedom onto the trash heap, in order to hasten the persecution of the Church—and the Church’s friends are citing such freedom in the Church’s defense.

A: The American notion of freedom is profoundly corrupt, and lies at the heart of all the evils we face today.

Q: Is there an alternative political theory out there that anyone, anyone at all outside of infinitesimal Catholic circles, finds attractive, that would protect the Church’s liberty?

A: That is beside the point.

Q: Hasn’t the Church historically taken whatever is true in the secular world, used it as a common ground by which to approach the unbelievers, and tried to baptize and elevate it—rather than tear it all down and start from scratch in a barren wasteland. Wasn’t Augustine a patriotic Roman citizen? Or did he endorse the barbarian invasions in some text that you have uncovered from secret archives?

A: There is no call for sarcasm. The situation was different then. The Roman state endorsed the use of authority in defense of the Good, but merely had an imperfect vision of the Good. The American system has no notion of the Good at all. It is inherently nihilistic, and ought to collapse. Once it is gone, we can figure out what to construct in its place.

Q: Isn’t the classical liberal notion of freedom an outgrowth of the elevated Christian notion of the person, and the deep moral significance of his freedom and his conscience? Those seem to me like good things that the Romans knew nothing about. Was Pope John Paul II merely deluded when he praised those things in Memory and Identity? Was he being disingenuous when he apologized, on behalf of the Church, for the times that Catholics had violated those goods?

A: None of those statements by Pope John Paul II were infallible.

To Bryan’s credit, he is not so Americanist. But he is like this catechumen, thanks to the wonders of logic, elusive. Some call it hair-splitting, others Jesuitical.

(Thanks to our southern correspondent for the image.)

Obsessive Confession Disorder

Jason Stellman may think I am obsessed with Jason and the Callers, but every time he root root roots for the Vatican team, he winds up jeering at his former teammates. So when he tries to vindicate Roman Catholic ecclesiology, he dissects the Confession of Faith:

Consider first the realm of ecclesiology (which is related to Christology most obviously because the Church is the Body of Christ). In Protestantism, there is no single visible church, there is no single visible entity that can serve as an analogue to the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. While the people of Galilee and Judaea could have pointed their fingers and said, “That is Jesus Christ, right over there sitting under that tree, see him? No, not that guy, the one to his left. Yeah, him.” Protestants today cannot point to anything and say, “This is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church right here. No, not that one, this one.” In Protestantism, the church becomes more or less visible depending on the circumstances, fading in and out, as it were, of one’s field of vision:

This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them (WCF xxv.4).

But why dismiss Protestants when he could simply exalt and magnify his own magisterium (which has all that supremacy and infallibility)? Here is what Jason’s Catechism has to say about visiblity:

779 The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.

This might appear to vindicate Jason’s point about Protestantism lacking a single visible church. But then Vatican 2 raises its traditionalist-defying head. And what we find is that the singularity of Rome pre-Vatican 2 is subdued, thus leaving Jason to quote the Confession of Faith against HIS OWN understanding of the church:

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life – that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is “the all-embracing means of salvation,” that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. This people of God, though still in its members liable to sin, is ever growing in Christ during its pilgrimage on earth, and is guided by God’s gentle wisdom, according to His hidden designs, until it shall happily arrive at the fullness of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem. (Decree on Ecumenism)

For the bishops at Vatican 2, the issue was not visibility but unity.

And if Jason spent as much time looking through the teaching resources of his magisterium and less combing Protestant teaching to which he objects, he might also find a rebuke to his own dealings with Protestants:

The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.

At the same time, the Catholic faith must be explained more profoundly and precisely, in such a way and in such terms as our separated brethren can also really understand.

Moreover, in ecumenical dialogue, Catholic theologians standing fast by the teaching of the Church and investigating the divine mysteries with the separated brethren must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a “hierarchy” of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened by which through fraternal rivalry all will be stirred to a deeper understanding and a clearer presentation of the unfathomable riches of Christ. (Decree on Ecumenism)

So again, why doesn’t Jason get on board with the kinder gentler version of Roman Catholicism that has only been around for as long as he has been alive? OCD?

When This World Elbows Its Way Past the World to Come

In addition to reading about Turkey, I also brought along materials that have to do explicitly and implicitly with Roman Catholicism. The explicit source is David I. Kertzer’s The Kidnaping of Edgardo Mortara – the case of the Jewish boy abducted in 1858 by the Vatican that led to the 1870 collapse of the Papal States. But I also brought along some back issues of magazines and that includes several issues of First Things.

Last Friday I ran across two remarkably different statements on the relationship between the Christian faith and the world’s affairs. The first, the classic pre-Vatican 2 perspective, ran like this:

. . . this life has not been given to us so that we can use it to enjoy the pleasures of this world, pleasures that alienate us from God, that pervert the heart, that cloud our judgment, that overwhelm our will, pleasures that unfortunately simply produce agitation, rancor, competition, jealousy, affliction, and unhappiness. (Archbishop of Bologna, Christmas letter, 1858)

The second came in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis:

All men of good will . . . believe that there are energies in the free human spirit whereby man may fulfill his destiny on earth, which is to be, not God, but the image of God. All men who believe in God are agreed that He is the Master of history. Man, therefore, manifests himself as the image of God chiefly by his intelligent, confident efforts to master the course of historical events and direct it toward the common good of the peoples of earth. (John Courtney Murray’s response to Pacem in Terris, quoted by George Weigel in First Things, February 2013)

Protestants used to call the difference between these outlooks like these a contrast that separates historic Christian orthodoxy. And those differences invariably attended the church’s embrace of a nation’s mission. I have no idea how conservative Roman Catholics account for such changes in outlook — Americanism used to be the explanation. But speaking about the political order — as if the church has that task — does seem to be the precondition for forgetting that the differences between the citizens of City of God and the City of Man cannot be correlated to life in the earthly city.