Speaking of Paradigms

What on earth would the magisterium have to learn from Southern Baptists about the family and marriage?

The Vatican will host religious leaders from across the religious spectrum later this month for a conference where they are expected to defend traditional marriage as between a man and a woman.

While hosted by Vatican officials and scheduled to open with an address by Pope Francis, the conference will include Muslim and Jewish representatives, as well as American leading evangelicals like megachurch pastor Rick Warren and Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore.

The gathering comes just weeks after Pope Francis and senior Catholic leaders wrapped up a two-week Vatican Synod of Bishops on the family, which highlighted tensions within the Catholic hierarchy over gays and lesbians and cohabiting couples.

Despite initial overtures toward gay and lesbian Catholics and the “gifts and qualities” they had to offer the church, the final synod report scaled back that language. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics said any attempts to soften the church’s teaching on homosexuality was a “betrayal” and akin to heresy.

Organizers say the new conference will show that while the Catholic hierarchy is split on how to address contemporary challenges to marriage and family life, the church can nonetheless seek common ground with religious leaders outside the Vatican.

If all those claims that Bryan Cross makes about logic and paradigms is true — and nothing I have posted has yet to disprove such truth — then why do his church rulers act like they aren’t?


While Bryan Cross ducks the question about whether his communion is more faithful now compared to 1960, the Archbishop of Philadelphia has apparently taken a stab. The questionnaire that the Vatican has prepared to acquire input from the laity on marriage and sexual relations has already gone public in Philadelphia and it includes the following estimate:

Challenges to the Gospel today include widespread cohabitation, same sex unions, the adoption of children by people in a same sex union, the marriage of people of varying religious affiliations, single parent families, polygamy, a disregard for the equality and dignity of spouses, a weakened sense of the permanence of marriage, a feminism hostile to the Church, a reformulation of the concept of the family, the negative impact of the media and legislation on the meaning of Christian marriage and family, and the increase in surrogate motherhood. Within the Church, faith in the sacramentality of marriage and the healing power of the Sacrament of Penance has declined.

Feeling Smug and Secure

Bryan Cross is the gift that keeps on giving:

. . . the term ‘conservative Catholic’ is a misleading and inaccurate term, because it imports a political concept into a theological realm, as though it is just as permissible to be a “liberal Catholic” as a “conservative Catholic.” In actuality, there are those Catholics who “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God,” and those who don’t. The former are orthodox Catholics, and the latter are either material or formal heretics. This is why you won’t find the term “conservative Catholic” in the Catechism or any other Church document. Of course there is a sense in which an orthodox Catholic is conserving the faith handed down from the Apostles. But that’s not the primary connotation of the term “conservative Catholic.” The term is derived from politics, and when applied to the Catholic Church, it implicitly connotes theological relativism, which is part of the heresy of modernism.

(funny how when you apply such literalism to the Catechism on the doctrine/discipline difference, you find nothing)

Bryan continuuuuuuues:

we Catholics are in the same Church that Christ founded and which was born on Pentecost, under the same magisterium that has extended down unbroken from the Apostles, using the same canon used by the Church for her first 1500 years, and affirming the same Apostolic Tradition that all the Catholics before us have lived and died upholding. You, however, are on the outside, not even having a bishop, something that no Christian could have imagined for the first fifteen hundred years of Church history, and yet you deign to tell us that our standard of authority has no clear precedent in the early Church? We are the same Church that held the Nicene Council in AD 325, where three hundred and eighteen bishops were present. We are the Church of St. Justin Martyr, of St. Athanasius, of St. Irenaeus, St. Cyril, St. Chryostom and St. Augustine. St. Paul wrote his letter (Romans) to our principal Church, and his bones, as well as those of St. Peter, are buried in Rome, St. Peter’s being under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. You have no Apostolic letters written to your congregation in Texas, or your PCA denomination founded in 1973. You have no bones of the Apostles. You have not a single bishop and no priests, because Protestantism abandoned apostolic succession four hundred and ninety three years ago. And this is why you have no Eucharist, by which agape is nourished in the soul.

And yet, such certainty may trouble other Roman Catholics:

“Students at some small Catholic colleges are being taught to feel that as Catholics living in America they are members of an alienated, aggrieved, morally superior minority,” says John Zmirak, who was writer-inresidence at Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire until resigning in 2012. “They are learning that they owe no loyalty to our institutions, but should be working to replace them with an aggressive, intolerant Catholic regime. In other words, they are being taught to think and act like radical Muslims living in France.” (Rod Dreher, “Benedict Option,” American Conservative, Nov/Dec 2013)

One other point, Bryan made this claim about the people in his communion:

I’m much more concerned that they are true. As the latest Pew study shows, if you want to know the truth about the Catholic Church, it is not a good idea to ask the average Catholic, since so many have been so poorly catechized. So, your method of determining what is the truth about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, is flawed, because you are drawing from people who are not sufficiently catechized.

He did write this before the recent Vatican questionnaire distributed to the well and poorly catechized, but I do wonder if Bryan’s certainty could explain the meaning of this survey for the those who are confused:

Nearly a week after news that the Vatican has asked for the world’s bishops to distribute among Catholics a questionnaire on issues like contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce “immediately” and “as widely as possible,” there is no consensus on what that direction means.
Moreover, comparing notes from recent Vatican statements, it is hard to decipher whether the call for consultation is unprecedented or something that’s happened for decades.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman said in an interview over the weekend that the Vatican’s request for the world’s bishops to survey Catholics on how certain topics affect their lives was part of a habitual “praxis.”

Yet the official who sent the questionnaire said Tuesday it is part of a wide-ranging project to reform how the Vatican reaches out to bishops and faithful around the world.

The questionnaire was sent Oct. 18 by the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops, which is preparing a global meeting of prelates for next October. Called by Pope Francis last month, the Oct. 5-19, 2014, meeting is to focus on the theme “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Three Things Joe Carter Needs to Know about the Vatican's New Secretary of State

From John L. Allen, Jr.:

First, Francis does not appear determined to dismantle the bureaucratic structures of the Vatican, but rather to make them work. If he wanted to blow things up, Francis would hardly have reached out to a career Vatican official, as well as an Italian churchman who hails from the Veneto region – two strong indicators of continuity.

In effect, this outsider pope has acknowledged he needs some insider help. In that sense, his reform shapes up not as a wholesale rejection of previous ways of doing things, but rather as a sort of “system restore” operation.

Second, by naming a veteran diplomat, Francis has signaled that he doesn’t want the church’s political and cultural relevance to dim while he puts out fires and fixes internal problems.

In Parolin, Francis didn’t just hire a CEO but also a statesman.

Third, Francis has also confirmed the moderate and pragmatic stamp of his papacy. Parolin profiles as basically non-ideological, a classic product of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps who prizes flexibility and realism.

What Oldlifers already know is that a spirituality of the church church needs no secretary of state. Not sure if Joe Carter knows this.

Do Jason and the Callers Think Much about Wadi al-Kharrar?

Recent discussion of John Paul II’s beatification resurrected parts of the pope’s career that I had completely forgotten, such as his 2000 trip to the place of Jesus’ baptism (Wadi-al-Kharrar). On that trip the pope said, “May Saint John Baptist protect Islam and all the people of Jordan, and all who partecipated in this celebration, a memorable celebration. I’m very grateful to all of you.” This was a year after John Paul II kissed the Qur’an during a visit to Rome by a delegation of Muslim leaders.

For some Roman Catholics like Robert Spencer, Islam and Christianity are fundamentally at odds and Islam is a threat to the United States. Others believe that John Paul II should never have been as friendly to other religions of the world:

I am an Orthodox Catholic (I do not consider myself ultra-conservative) and I cannot get beyond the incident at Assisi where the statue of Buddha was placed on top of the tabernacle (in the very presence of His Holiness), an act which Arch-Bishop Lefebvre called “diabolical.” Nor can I get the picture out of my mind of JPII kissing the Quran. And what about the joint prayer services with the pagans?

And then, of course, there is the condition of the Church under his watch. Need I say more?

Of all the popes- saints before JPII, would any of these things have happened under their watches? Does it preclude his sainthood? Should it? I don’t know the answers. But these are valid questions that cannot summarily be dismissed as “ultra-conservative” as Mr. Weigel attempts to do.

Then again, the reporters who cover the Vatican provide useful insights into what may drive Vatican policy (though it does not appear to be informed by Peter’s warnings about false teachers). This is from an old story about Benedict XVI’s 2009 visit to the Land many call “holy”:

When Benedict XVI lands in Jordan on May 8, it will be his first visit to an Arab nation and his first to a predominantly Muslim country since Turkey in late November/early December 2006. As it turned out, the Turkey trip became a kiss-and-make-up exercise in the wake of the pope’s famous September 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, which inflamed sentiment across the Muslim world because of its incendiary citation of a 14th century Byzantine emperor with some nasty things to say about Muhammad, the founder of Islam. The iconic image from Turkey was Benedict XVI standing inside the Blue Mosque, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, for a moment of silent prayer in the direction of Mecca.

Because the Turkey trip was hijacked by damage control, Jordan offers Benedict his first real opportunity to lay out his vision of Catholic/Muslim relations while on Islamic turf. That vision goes under the heading of “inter-cultural dialogue,” and it boils down to this: Benedict XVI believes the real clash of civilizations in the world today runs not between Islam and the West, but between belief and unbelief. In that struggle, he believes Christians and Muslims should be natural allies. As a result, he has deemphasized the fine points of theological exchange – how Christians and Muslims each understand atonement, for example, or scripture. Instead, his priority is a grand partnership with Muslims in defense of a robust role for religion in public affairs, as well as shared values such as the family and the sanctity of life. (Among other things, that means joint efforts against abortion and gay marriage.)

The price of admission to that partnership, Benedict believes, is for Islam to denounce violence and to accept the legitimacy of religious freedom. In that sense, he sees himself as a friend of Islam, promoting reform from within a shared space of religious and moral commitment. To date, however, he has not found an argot for making that pitch successfully to the Muslim “street.”

All of this, and you can find a lot more about the Vatican’s relations with Muslims, adds up to a relationship between Roman Catholicism and Islam that is decidedly contested, with popes doing damage control and pursuing inter-religious dialogue in ways that would have made liberal Protestants proud, and some laity incredulous that the Vatican could be so indifferent to the claims of church dogma, with others willing to bless the popes in ways that John Paul II wanted John the Baptist to bless Islam.

But one additional item caught my eye while trying to take the pulse of Vatican-Muslim relations. It was a comment on the proper way to conduct inter-religious dialogue:

I am all for dialogue between Muslims and Christians when it is honest and not based on false pretenses. There doesn’t seem to be any use to dialogue that ignores difficulties and points of disagreement rather than confronting them. . . . One thing that must be recognized is that for many Muslim spokesmen and leaders, dialogue with adherents of other religions is simply a proselytizing mechanism designed to convert the “dialogue” partner to Islam, as the Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb explained: “The chasm between Islam and Jahiliyyah [the society of unbelievers] is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of Jahiliyyah may come over to Islam.”

In line with this, 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Pope Benedict XVI, inviting him to dialogue. The title of the document they sent to him was A Common Word Between Us and You. Reading the entire Qur’anic verse from which the phrase “a common word between us and you” was taken makes the Common Word initiative’s agenda clear: “Say: ‘People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims’” (3:64). Since Muslims consider the Christian confession of the divinity of Christ to be an unacceptable association of a partner with God, this verse is saying that the “common word” that Muslims and the People of the Book should agree on is that Christians should discard one of the central tenets of their faith and essentially become Muslims. Not a promising basis for an honest and mutually respectful dialogue of equals.

Which brings us back to Jason and the Callers. What kind of ecumenical dialogue do they encourage when some think it is really a form of proselytizing? And what kind of conversation do they facilitate when the Protestant paradigm is off limits? Rhetorical questions, perhaps. But given the way they call others to communion, one suspects they can’t be all that pleased with the recent popes’ outreach to Islam. (Or maybe they are.)

The Proverbial Pot and Its Black Friend

From the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department comes the Baylys’ complaint about the doings in Vatican City. Turns out, the U.S. pastors for whom almost everything is sexual, believe Rome’s problem reduces to sex. The Cardinals, you see, dress like girls, so how could you ever trust them?

Serious men do not parade in embroidered dresses. Men who carry the cross of Christ do not wear fanciful costumes more than once a year, and then only in the company of their children. These men, “princes of the church” resplendent in their papal-conclave regalia, are not serious men. They are men with an unmanly love of finery, fancy and ceremony. They are as serious as Hollywood, as normal as Liberace.

Tim Bayly piles on with quotations from John Calvin about lascivious attire, which the modern day Gilbert Tennent uses to berate those who don’t see anything particularly wrong with how the Cardinals dress. First Calvin:

No bishoprics are so opulent, no abbacies so productive, in short, no benefices so numerous and ample, as to suffice for the gluttony of priests. But while they would spare themselves, they induce the people by superstition to employ what ought to have been distributed to the poor in building temples, erecting statues, buying palate, and providing costly garments. Thus the daily alms are swallowed up in this abyss.

Then Tennent Tim:

We could go on with such condemnations by our Reformed fathers all day, but there’s no use. Reformed men today in the richest nation the world has ever seen have left their fathers in the faith far behind.

As one of the best-known Reformed theologians of our day put it to me concerning such straighforward condemnations of Rome by Luther and Calvin, “They were sinning when they wrote that way.”

Meanwhile, the advertisements for the upcoming Clearnote Pastors Fellowship Conference feature a picture of the famous Reformers Wall in Geneva. In it we see Calvin dressed, you guessed it, in a skirt. To the eye not trained in fashion, it could look like a dress or house smock. Granted, it may not have the embroidery of the Cardinals’ attire, but a gown functions like a skirt and hides what’s going on below.

Which again proves that the Baylys are a tad obsessed with sex. Gowns could look like dresses. But they also may connote authority. Hence, the robes that judges wear. And yet, when you can draw a straight line between outward appearances and spiritual truths, something C. S. Lewis identified with paganism (and which by the way seems to afflict 2k’s biggest critics), you see Rome’s troubles as having less to do with sin, the sufficiency of Christ, and scriptural authority, and more with gowns, celibacy, and sexual scandal.