What a Catholic has a right to expect of the Catholic Church – and what he doesn’t.

I wrote this as a comment in the last post on this blog (see, I got it right this time, Tom!), but I think it deserves a separate posting (especially as the comments there have reached 29 already).

Tony kept asking what difference I see in the case of Ms Dickson and the case of St Mary’s.

The difference, I believe, lies in this:

There are some things that a Catholic has the right to expect of the Church – and somethings he does not have a right to expect.

A Catholic has a right to expect that in the Catholic Church he will:

1) Hear Christ and his Gospel proclaimed
2) Learn the Scriptures
3) receive valid sacraments
4) receive pastoral care
5) be formed as a disciple of Christ
6) be catechised according to the Catholic faith

He has a right to expect that his pastors, his parish priest and his bishops, will:

1) celebrate the liturgy according to the rites of the church
2) be faithful to the law of the Church
3) preach and teach, uphold and defend the Catholic faith
4) govern wisely and responsibly in imitation of Christ and his apostles
5) live lives in accordance with Catholic morals.

Above all, he has the right to expect that the Church which calls herself “The Catholic Church” will BE “The Catholic Church” (at least to this degree, PE and Christine are correct and fully justified in their critique of the contemporary Church).

He does not have the right to expect that in the Catholic Church he will, with the Church’s blessing, be allowed to:

1) believe and teach what is contrary to the Catholic faith
2) behave in ways that are contrary to Catholic morals
3) alter the way in which the sacraments and liturgy of the Church are celebrated according to his own tastes or reasons
4) break or ignore the Church’s laws
5) attack and defame the Church’s pastors when they act to uphold the faith and morals of the Catholic Church
6) bring into doubt and question the teachings of the Catholic Church
7) claim authority which he has not received from Christ or his Church
8) teach as “God’s Word” that which God has not spoken.

Above all, a Catholic does not have the right to expect the Catholic Church to be anything other than what she is, namely, the Catholic Church.

In this, and in this alone, namely, in what a Catholic has a right to expect from the Catholic Church and what he does not have a right to expect, lies the essential difference between the cases of Ms Dickson and St Mary’s. She expected that the Catholic Church would provide her with something that she had a right to expect it would provide her. St Mary’s expect that they have a right to things which they do not have the right to expect the Church to provide them.

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “What a Catholic has a right to expect of the Catholic Church – and what he doesn’t.

  1. Peregrinus

    I can’t agree. David.

    From your own earlier post:

    Now the important thing. Ms Dickson specifically mentions that she “wanted to learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God.” And you know what? That is a very, very healthy desire for any Christian, Catholic, Pentecostal or otherwise.

    And you know what else? We Australian Catholics don’t do that well. At all.

    But, in many ways, we do these things, David, and we do them better than Hillsong. Ms Dickson says that she wants a “deeper relationship with God”, but surely the Catholic church offers her the deepest possible relationship with God? The Catholic church offers her a sacramental relationship, a eucharistic relationship. Hillsong does not, and as far as I can see does not claim to, and does not attach any great importance to such a relationship.

    When Ms Dickson speaks of a “deeper relationship”, what she actually means is a relationship that she experiences as deep, a relationship which is deep in her terms. What are those terms? Well, the fact that she has headed towards Hillsong suggests that they are emotional, more than sacramental. She wants what you aptly describe as the spiritual “high”. But it is perhaps more than a coincidence that “high” is pretty much the opposite of “deep”.

    In short, she wants a relationship with God on the terms that appeal to her, not on the terms that she perceives the Catholic church to offer. In other words, she’s adopting precisely the stance that people accuse South Brisbane for adopting. The main difference is that South Brisbane is trying very hard to have its view accommodated within the communion of the church, whereas, full of goodwill as she may be towards the church, she sees no particular need to do this and, presumably, attaches no value to it.

    Pantleak: [Do I really need to define this one for you?]

  2. Schütz

    No, Perry, you don’t get it, because you don’t get what is meant by a “personal relationship with Jesus” in Proddy-speak.

    It isn’t to do with a “spiritual high”. It is more to do with a close and constant prayerful awareness of Jesus and of his love for me and his dialogue with me. In its worst form it can be a “Jesus and me” spirituality, but then everything can be twisted.

    And of course, I do not deny for one moment that objectively the Catholic Church and she alone is able to provide this real relationship with Jesus. I’m not defending Hillsong here. We have many spiritual writers, from Teresa of Avila to Therese of Liseux, from John of the Cross to Brother Lawrence for whom this “personal relationship with Jesus” was the core of their spirituality – even if they didn’t call it that.

    But a core point of what a Protestant means when he speaks of a “personal relationship with Jesus” is a relationship through a knowledge of his Word in the Scriptures. For a Protestant this has almost a sacramental sense. They find Jesus in the Scriptures in the same way we find Jesus in the Sacrament.

    And in fact, authentic Catholicism should place just as much emphasis on finding Jesus in the Scriptures AS in the Sacraments.

    And that is what we do not do well. We are not good – in practice – at connecting the outward and objective liturgical actions, devotions, and disciplines of the Catholic faith with the believers inward and personal relationship with Jesus.

    We don’t – in general – do discipleship well. This is as obvious as the simple statistic that you guys keep quoting at me: Why would only 13% of people who call themselves Catholic practice their faith? The answer is: poor discipleship. We don’t do it well. At all.

    This is what the Spirit is saying to our Church. He is challenging us to lift our game in the area of spiritual discipleship. He is challenging us to lift your game in the area of lay knowledge of the scriptures.

    What else was the Synod of the Word about? What else was the encouragement to a greater practice of “Lectio Divina” about?

    (nb. for Proddys reading this, Lectio Divina is just a fancy latin way of saying “daily bible reading”.)

    Hey! I got a verification code! I get to play!

    mismooff: a bovine error

  3. Peregrinus

    The two cases are of course quite different. My point is not so much about the two cases, though, as about our reaction to them.

    In Ms Dickson’s case, we attend to the voice of the Spirit in her desire for a greater engagement with scripture than she has been encouraged to make in her Catholic community, and in her desire to “deepen” her relationship with God, but we pass in silence over the egregious errors in her approach, and her apparent indifference to sacrament, eucharist and incarnation.

    This contrasts with the case of South Brisbane, where we draw attention to their errors while either saying nothing at all about their thirst for justice and their commitment to the social gospel or – in the case of some in the comboxes – casting doubt on it, without a shred of evidence to back up their position.

    The contrast is neatly brought out by those who repeatedly talk about the baptismal practices in South Brisbane, while remaining silent about the much more egregious baptismal practices which Ms Dickson has embraced.

    These differences in approach don’t tell us anything about either South Brisbane or Ms Dickson. Why are we so interested in pointing only to what is good in Ms Dickson’s approach, and ignoring what is bad, but pointing only to what is bad in South Brisbane and ignoring or in some cases attempting to deny what is good? Surely openness to the Spirit calls us to look for what is good in South Brisbane, to draw attention to it, and to treat it as a wake-up call just as readily as we do in Ms Dickson’s case?

    It seems to me that there are two differences between Ms Dickson and South Brisbane.

    The first is that, of course, Ms Dickson has chosen to leave the church, whereas South Brisbane has tried to stay.

    You can cut this two ways. You can say that Ms Dickson, while mistaken, is honest and coherent; she recognises that the logic of her spiritual conclusions takes her out of the church and she acts on that, while South Brisbane are trying to have their cake and eat it. Or you can say that Ms Dickson’s position is even further from an authentically Catholic one than South Brisbane’s because, in addition to her other errors, she discounts or rejects the need for, and value of, ecclesial communion. On that one, you pays your money, and you takes your choice.

    The second difference is that Ms Dickson is mislead by zeal for scripture, and a personal relationship with Jesus, whereas South Brisbane is mislead by zeal for something else – let us say for justice. And it could be, of course, that we respond to these two cases differently because we are already zealous for scripture, but perhaps not quite so zealous for justice. (Or, of course, vice versa., for those who applaud South Brisbane while discounting Ms Dickson.)

    In other words, we are at risk of only seeing the promptings of the Spirit where we have actually already seen them. We’ re ready to applaud, e.g., Ms Dickson’s love of scripture because we too love scripture, and we feel that our Catholic community doesn’t express and realise that love quite as much as it should.

    But we can’t ignore the possibility that, when the Holy Spirit calls the church to attend to something, we may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. If South Brisbane’s insistence on justice doesn’t resonate with us in quite the same way, could that possibly be that this is because we don’t love justice quite as much as we should?

    Seeing the promptings of the Spirit where the Spirit conveniently agrees with us is relatively easy. The challenge is to her the Spirit when he’s telling us something we aren’t disposed to hear. But that’s the time we most need to hear him.

    [Amblesin: the vice of walking slowly and aimlessly]

  4. matthias

    I do not believe that Miss Dickson is being mislead by zeal for the scriptures and for Christ. These are the heart of being Christian. But I question why Hillsong. I have serious misgivings about that Church.not the least being their prosperity gospel,the fact that there are questions about their use of government funds to assist aboriginals;(NB:a gay Catholic friend said to me that he could not get over the sexuality of the female singers at Hillsong. I nearly said flippantly there is hope yet for him,but realised that he was being quite serious,as he felt it was quite unbecomming!!)
    As I said yesterday,why did she not seek out CCR in her state,or better yet set up a Bible study group within her own Parish?

  5. Tony

    David,

    Supporting what Pere said, you seem to be avoiding the question.

    Could I ask you to respond to this proposition put as simply as I can.

    You imply that the words and actions of Ms Dickson have a ‘listening to the Spirit’ dimension to them.

    I would suggest that the same is true of St Marys.

    Can you explain why my suggestion is unreasonable?

    acced: a biting phrase spoken.

  6. Past Elder

    You are quite right in your analysis of the difference between Ms Hughes’ situation and that at St Mary’s.

    Peregrinus does not see this, and for the same reason that you do not get my “critique of the contemporary Church”, which has nothing to do with matters such as those illustrated in either the case of Ms Hughes or St Mary’s.

    Which reason is, your making everything ultimately about the Roman Catholic Church.

  7. Joshua

    Tony,

    There is no voice of the Spirit in doctrinal, liturgical and moral deviation. (The first test of any purported apparition of Our Lady or private revelation is, is the message in complete agreement with the Holy Faith? If it’s not, it’s a false message.)

    Of course, though, there very much is in true exponents of justice and equity.

    I simply doubt, based on my own experiences, that these persons (who never tire of extolling their own commitment to justice) have anything other than a purely natural, even secular, notion of justice, and one fears, a political and ideological commitment that heedlessly follows the fashions of the world.

    An absurdly simple litmus test: do the votaries of South Brisbane take a stand against abortion? Honestly, I think blind Freddie would perceive that they are likely to be rather quiet about it, and even argue that it’s not a bad thing given circumstances.

  8. Schütz

    PE, you mean Ms Dickson.

  9. Vicci

    Schutz posted:
    And of course, I do not deny for one moment that objectively the Catholic Church and she alone is able to provide this real relationship with Jesus..

    Did he really mean this?
    Or did the negatives get jumbled?

    My powder remains Victorian until he has a fair chance to clarify!

    wifen Obedient husband.

  10. Schütz

    Perry and Tony,

    This is SOOOOOOO not about Ms Dickson or St Mary’s.

    Tony said:

    “Could I ask you to respond to this proposition put as simply as I can.

    “You imply that the words and actions of Ms Dickson have a ‘listening to the Spirit’ dimension to them. I would suggest that the same is true of St Marys. Can you explain why my suggestion is unreasonable?”

    You have mistaken me from the very beginning. I am NOT saying or implying “that the words and actions of Ms Dickson have a ‘listening to the Spirit’ dimension to them.”

    What she – and by analogy St Mary’s – has done is irrelevant.

    My point is that NO-ONE should ever in any sense be justified in the complaint that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God.”

    That anyone might even possibly be justified in such a complaint (and I am suggesting that there just might be more than a smidgeon of validity to this complaint) is what I have called “an indictment upon the Catholic Church in this country.” Thus I said that we should hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

    This is therefore a issue that concerns us Australian Catholics. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Ms Dickson – as I said right at the very beginning of this discussion in my first blog on the matter. (Sorry, Tom, POST).

    In regard to the other instance, I have never doubted nor cast doubt upon the undoubtedly good work that St Mary’s does in the field of social justice. They reportedly do tons of good work.

    Ms Dickson’s case shows us something that, as Catholics, we should be doing well but may (in fact) NOT be doing well. In other words – without any reference at all to any personal failings on the part of Ms Dickson or Hillsong (neither is my piont here) – in what way does this case show us Catholic that WE are failing?

    Now to turn that around, you tell me how and in what way the case of St Mary’s shows a failure on the part of the Catholic Church.

    I think it does show up a couple of failures on the part of the Catholic Church, and yes, perhaps these are also would be a case of “listening to the Spirit”.

    Among those failures could perhaps be a lack of prudence and fortitude in the governance of the Church.

    But I don’t want to point the finger, because I am not one of the pastors of the Church. I am a lay person, and I can only do what is within my power.

    So, since the governance of the Church is not placed in my hands, I do not presume to tell those in whose hands it has been placed what they should do.

    But God has given me a gift for teaching the scriptures (which I use every Monday night at 6:30pm at Mary Glowrey House, 132 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy – All Welcome!) and I can do something about helping Catholics to learn more about the bible. So I will stick to what I know, and not what I do not know. I will excercise the gifts God has given me, and not the gifts he has not given me.

    And I urge you all to use the gifts that God has given you for the sake of his Church and his Kingdom, in full submission to his Son, his Holy Word and his Holy Church.

  11. Schütz

    Vicci said:

    Schutz posted: “And of course, I do not deny for one moment that objectively the Catholic Church and she alone is able to provide this real relationship with Jesus.”

    Did he really mean this?
    Or did the negatives get jumbled?

    Thanks for pulling me up on this one.

    Of course, wherever God’s Holy Spirit working through the means of grace are to be found, there one can enter into a real and saving relationship with Jesus. I should have made that clear. I want to make that clear now. Otherwise my wife and children would be in a pretty horrible state – and they really, really DO have a real and personal relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. I don’t want to cast any doubt on that matter.

    I guess what I meant was slightly different. What I should have said – to be quite accurate in this – is that that “objectively the Catholic Church and she alone is able to provide FULLY this real relationship with Jesus.”

    In other words, when we talk about the difference between the “communion” with Jesus which is possible in the Catholic Church and the “communion” with Jesus that is possible in the protestant churches, it is something like when we talk about the “real but imperfect” communion that our separated brothers and sisters have with us.

    All who are baptised (with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) and believe in the Lord Jesus are in real communion with Jesus, and with all the baptised people of God, whatever Church they belong to.

    But apart from communion with the Catholic Church (symbolised by communion with the Bishop of Rome), this real communion is imperfect, ie. incomplete. It is “incomplete” in the same sense that we could say that one who is baptised but who does not have a living faith in Jesus has a “real but imperfect” communion with Jesus. The real communion established in baptism must be completed – perfected – by active faith. Another example of a “real but imperfect” communion would be a baptised Catholic children who have not yet been admitted to the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist: their communion is real but their initiation into the Church needs to be completed by confirmation and Eucharist.

    So this is what I meant to say: Only the Catholic Church can objectively give the fullness of the relationship (ie. communion) with Jesus that God intended his baptised children to have.

    (Nb. that’s why I am a Catholic today!)

  12. Tony

    Sorry David I simply can’t reconcile this:

    This is SOOOOOOO not about Ms Dickson or St Mary’s.

    with this:

    But it would be very remiss of the Catholic Church in Australia if it didn’t do a bit of soul searching in reaction to the the news that “Mary”/Marina Dickson has decided that for the sake of her relationship with God she has to leave the Catholic Church and join the pentecostal Sydney mega-church Hillsong

    So it’s not about her, but the church should ‘soul search’ and ‘listen to the spirit’ in the wake of her news.

    And this construction simple doesn’t make sense to me:

    My point is that NO-ONE should ever in any sense be justified in the complaint that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God.”

    That anyone might even possibly be justified in such a complaint (and I am suggesting that there just might be more than a smidgeon of validity to this complaint) is what I have called “an indictment upon the Catholic Church in this country.” Thus I said that we should hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

    How can you hold that ‘NO-ONE should ever in any sense be justified in the complaint’ and, at the same time, say that the ‘such a complaint’ has a ‘smidgeon of validity’. Not only that, what is a ‘smidgeon’ is then escalated as an ‘indictment of the Catholic Church’.

    susco: a dodgy enterprise

  13. Schütz

    I am saying, Tony, to spell it out:

    “Woe unto our Church in this country if anyone is ever justified in complaining that that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God.””

    I am saying that IF we were following the commandments of the founder of our Church, no-one SHOULD ever be justified in making this complaint.

    That IF they ARE justified in making the complaint, WE ARE AT FAULT.

    THUS: Let he who has an ear to hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

  14. Christine

    8) teach as “God’s Word” that which God has not spoken.

    And that point, ultimately informs all the others.

    Simply teaching the Bible is not the answer as long as the Bible is made to conform to Roman law instead of the other way around.

    herdshed: bovine motel

  15. Past Elder

    Oh yeah, Hughes is the one who wrote the St Mary’s article. Well, if I ever make it to a blognic, I hope I can get Catherine Deveney to be my date.

    I get what you mean in that one SHOULD not have to leave the Catholic Church to find what Ms Dickson seeks, and if people do, we need to look at why that is.

    Others’ point seems to be that one SHOULD not have to leave the Catholic Church to find what St Mary’s seeks, and if people do, similarly it reveals a problem in the Church.

    Your point is that what the former expects of the Church is what one should expect of the Church because it is what should be found in the Church, whereas what the latter seeks is not.

    My point is, all this appears rather different when it isn’t, whatever the foreground issues may be, always, always, always, about the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church.

    This is the same point I was trying to make some months ago in saying re other foreground issues that ultimately Catholicism is simply a religion about itself, tangentially related to Christianity since it has some common themes.

  16. Salvatore

    “Woe unto our Church in this country if anyone is ever justified in complaining that that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “learn more about the Bible and have a deeper relationship with God.”

    But I’m with Peregrinus here – we do do these things, and in many ways, we do them better than anyone else. As you of all people should know there are always opportunities for Catholics who wish to deepen their knowledge of Scripture to do so. But it has to be admitted that the private perusal of Sacred Scripture does not (and never has had) the sort of pre-eminence in Catholicism that it has in Protestantism; and no more it should. After all, why would one prefer an “almost sacramental” relationship with Our Lord through his word in the Scriptures to a real sacramental relationship with him through the Liturgy of his Church? In other words Catholicism is (it seems to me) first and foremost a liturgical and sacramental vocation. For us it is the Liturgy whish is “the primary and indispensable source from which … to derive the true Christian spirit”. (SC#14)

    And I would submit that the deficiency of the introduction to the Bible Ms. Dickson received as a modern Catholic is likely to be as nothing compared to the abject poverty of the Liturgical formation she was offered.

    Phratr – The proper form of address for an inebriated Mendicant.

  17. Christine

    David, are you familiar with former ELCA pastor Jennifer Ferrara’s conversion experience?

    http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=3083

  18. Christine

    Hmm, not having much luck linking it but it’s in the January 1999 edition of First Things.

  19. Vicci

    Salvatore:
    “After all, why would one prefer an “almost sacramental” relationship with Our Lord through his word in the Scriptures to a real sacramental relationship with him through the Liturgy of his Church? In other words Catholicism is (it seems to me) first and foremost a liturgical and sacramental vocation. For us it is the Liturgy whish is “the primary and indispensable source from which … to derive the true Christian spirit”. (SC#14)’

    2 things:
    why do you say ‘prefer’?
    most Protestants (can)rejoice in BOTH!

    “Catholicism is (it seems to me) first and foremost a liturgical..”

    This remains THE problem!
    The Catholic church repeatedly gets the heirarchy wrong.
    God’s Word FIRST .. not a Man-compiled interpretation. (and I’m not Anti-liturgy, btw)

    think about this:
    the Protestant church (in theory, anyway)is where the Catholic Church should be.
    It remains untenable to cliam the Catholic church to be The One when, as David has clearly stated, they aren’t about the Key Business of their Boss.

    yersice The problem wif yer golf-swing…

  20. Tony

    David,

    Thanks for SPELLING IT OUT. 😉

    Let’s see if the same construction works for South Brisbane:

    “Woe unto our Church in this country if anyone is ever justified in complaining that that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “work for justice.”” [taking that as an example]

    I am saying that IF we were following the commandments of the founder of our Church, no-one SHOULD ever be justified in making this complaint.

    That IF they ARE justified in making the complaint, WE ARE AT FAULT.

    THUS: Let he who has an ear to hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

    Yep. Works for me!

    fungeri: an Italian association devoted to the appreciation of mushrooms

  21. Schütz

    Tony said:

    “That IF they ARE justified in making the complaint [that in the Catholic Church we do not offer Christians EVERY opportunity and the FULLEST assistance to “work for justice.”” ], WE ARE AT FAULT.”

    But I do not think this is what the St Mary’s case is about. No body is trying to stop them “working for justice” – on the contrary, this is encouraged. But does Church law have to be broken in order for them to continue their ministry of justice?

  22. matthias

    I know Schutz that when you are referring to Church law you also mean the Law of Christ? I will be Devil’s advocate here and ask ,if Fr Kennedy is letting woman preach ,is that not a recognition of the priesthood of all Believers? Perhaps more concern might be what they are preaching about.
    PE i think if you were to get to a blognic with Catherine Deveny,you may find the taxi ride there a bit uncomfortable- you would have to make room for her ego!!!

  23. Schütz

    Salvatore said:

    “After all, why would one prefer an “almost sacramental” relationship with Our Lord through his word in the Scriptures to a real sacramental relationship with him through the Liturgy of his Church?

    Vicci responded:

    why do you say ‘prefer’?
    most Protestants (can)rejoice in BOTH!

    I’m with Vicci here. We cut off our noses to spite our faces if we say “private bible reading is a protestant thing, we don’t do that”. The Scriptures are a gift to the Church. The spiritual fathers and mothers of the Church spent long hours in “private bible reading” (aka “lectio divina”). The Scriptures – whether read in liturgy, read privately, or memorised and meditated upon (the way in which it was done before there was printing) – are always God’s word to us and Christians should always be encouraged to get to know them and to meditate upon them.

    That being said, in describing the relationship that one can have with the Lord through the scriptures as “almost sacramental”, I did not in any way want to suggest that it was any less REAL than the relationship we have with the Lord through the sacraments. The mode by which God speaks to us through Scripture is not Sacramental in the strict sense, but that does not make the graces received from reading Scripture in any way INFERIOR to the graces received from receiving the Sacraments. We have a term in the Church for “sacramental grace” – perhaps we need a term for “scriptural grace” as well, but certainly REAL grace comes through the reading and hearing of and meditating upon the scriptures.

  24. Schütz

    Matthias,

    Church law (officially: Canon Law) is the codification of the laws of the Church which are found in Scripture, in the canons of the Councils, in decrees, and sundry other decisions.

    The purpose of Canon Law is that we have a clear statement of the laws of God as applied to the concrete situations of the Church. While not fully identifying Canon law with the Law of Christ, the former works to defend and uphold the latter. You could compare it to the relationship between the actual laws of a nation and Natural Law – the two are not the same, but the one is intended to defend and uphold the other.

    I trust that our Canon law is in accordance with the Law of Christ. Many may disagree.

  25. Tony

    But I do not think this is what the St Mary’s case is about. No body is trying to stop them “working for justice” – on the contrary, this is encouraged.

    I know that, I chose that as one example of how the Spirit might be speaking to us through St Mary’s.

    Another example might be that the Spirit is telling us that it is OK to be as flexible as St Mary’s is with liturgical forms.

    The logic still works IMO.

    But does Church law have to be broken in order for them to continue their ministry of justice?

    Not necessarily, but it is possible that the Spirit is telling us that there are more important things than the Law? Isn’t this a lesson we draw from the parable of the Good Samaritan? Would not some law-abiding Jews have been quite affronted by the ‘voice’ of Jesus in this case?

    retrormi: looking at pictures of myself from the past.

  26. Schütz

    Tony said:

    the Spirit is telling us that it is OK to be as flexible as St Mary’s is with liturgical forms…

    it is possible that the Spirit is telling us that there are more important things than the Law? Isn’t this a lesson we draw from the parable of the Good Samaritan? Would not some law-abiding Jews have been quite affronted by the ‘voice’ of Jesus in this case?

    Tony, I do not believe you are right. Recall the title of this blog: I am convinced that the closest way to become close to Jesus and to imitate him and think and act in accordance with his loving heart is to “sentire cum ecclesia”. Since the law of the Church is not and cannot be compared to the law of the pharisees, I respectfully suggest that the parallel you attempt to draw does not work.

    In the example you cite, that of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cannot be said to be encouraging his listeners to “break the law”. In fact, I do not know of anywhere in the whole of the Gospels where Jesus suggests such a thing.

    (The most obvious candidate for such a possibility would be his various defences of his own and his disciples actions with regard to keeping the Sabbath or observing ritual purity. In both cases, what he is attacking is a particularly pharisaical interpretation of the law, not the law itself.)

    Of course, the law of love is always supreme. I am told (I have not been able to verify this) that the final canon in the Code of Canon Law is that all the previous canons in the code are subject to the highest law of all: the law of love.

    I just cannot see why it is argued that it is necessary for the sake of love to be “flexible” with the liturgical norms to the point of disobeying them, or that in order to act justly it would be necessary to break the laws of the Church.

    If there WERE a case to be argued here, THEN I would agree with you that the Spirit is trying to teach us that “there are more important things than the Law”.

    But you really need to ask yourself whether this does not lead to a position of “antinomianism” and how such an attitude would actually impact on the reality of the Church as a “society” – that is a “communion” – of real human beings living together in love?

    Try answering this question: WHAT, if anything, could actually be “more important than the law” in the sense that it would excuse acting according to the Church’s law in the name of authentic, Christ-like love?

    The Law of the Church is not designed to hinder us in showing the love of Christ, but to enable us to live it out fully in compliance with God’s will. Only if there were indeed a conflict between the Church’s Law and God’s will could you make such an argument. Then your argument would in fact be that the laws are wrong in some way. That is a different argument altogether.

  27. frdamian

    David,

    The final canons relate to the procedures for transferring parish priests. They are preceded by the canons related to the removal of parish priests (which seem to be the ones followed, or not, in the case of South Brisbane).

    It is in the Apostolic Constitution promulgating the Code that reference is made to the primacy of love (and grace and charisms). To quote:

    “the Code is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms, and especially charity in the life of the Church and of the faithful. On the contrary, its purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.”

    Damian

  28. Past Elder

    You’re still trying to have a Protestant Catholic Church.

    Salvatore sounds like a Catholic.

  29. Tony

    Since the law of the Church is not and cannot be compared to the law of the pharisees, I respectfully suggest that the parallel you attempt to draw does not work.

    You’re reading the parable and context far too narrowly David. It was not just about Jesus’ contemporaries, it was also about the very human tendency to make rules an end in themselves. So any human institution — and the church is no exception as history attests — is capable of this kind of elevation of rules above human needs and compassion.

    In the example you cite, that of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cannot be said to be encouraging his listeners to “break the law”. In fact, I do not know of anywhere in the whole of the Gospels where Jesus suggests such a thing.

    It seems to me that he is saying that there are more important things than the law. In fact you allude to it later with your canon law reference.

    I just cannot see why it is argued that it is necessary for the sake of love to be “flexible” with the liturgical norms to the point of disobeying them, or that in order to act justly it would be necessary to break the laws of the Church.

    I’m not sure if anyone is arguing necessity here.

    But you really need to ask yourself whether this does not lead to a position of “antinomianism” and how such an attitude would actually impact on the reality of the Church as a “society” – that is a “communion” – of real human beings living together in love?

    Yes, it’s risky business. But there are risks too, in trying to make the ‘law’ too rigid. There are no magic formulas here and I believe we have an obligation as members of the ‘society’ to genuinely listen to the ‘law makers’.

    Try answering this question: WHAT, if anything, could actually be “more important than the law” in the sense that it would excuse acting according to the Church’s law in the name of authentic, Christ-like love?

    The question for me is does that law facilitate or impede my capacity to act in a Christ-like way. I think it’s in the nature of tradition to change, to discard that which impededes and create that which facilitates. It may be that the Spirit is telling us some ‘discarding’ needs to be done.

    The Law of the Church is not designed to hinder us in showing the love of Christ, but to enable us to live it out fully in compliance with God’s will. Only if there were indeed a conflict between the Church’s Law and God’s will could you make such an argument. Then your argument would in fact be that the laws are wrong in some way. That is a different argument altogether.

    No, that is my argument … or at least my question. Is the Spirit challenging the law (or its interpretation) through St Mary’s? It seems to me that you’re saying that’s impossible and, if so, I disagree.

    impane: a small window

  30. matthias

    Just received the newsletter of Aid to the Church in Need ,and it’s secretary general in his introduction for Lent makes the comment
    that
    “The Catholicism of mere custom has had its day:now we must make a radical option for the Faith”
    This is applicable for Protestantism and Lutheranism.

  31. Joshua

    By their fruits ye shall know them.

    Does the Spirit speak through the South Brisbanites?

    Nope – their fruits are disloyalty, rebellion, flaunting of sinful relations, etc.

    Simple, really.

    (I’ve already commented on how their love of social justice is more about secular fashions than real justice.)

  32. Schütz

    Dear Fr Damian,

    Thanks for that reference. It is what I was looking for. You’d be surprised how often I have been told it was in the Code itself.

    When I wrote that “the reality of the Church as a “society” – that is a “communion” – of real human beings living together in love” requires a law that governs that community and a willingness on the part of all members of that community to abide by that law for the sake of love, I was saying exactly what the Apostolic Constitution meant when it said:

    “the Code is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms, and especially charity in the life of the Church and of the faithful. On the contrary, its purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.”

    I can see how the parable of the Good Samaritan may be seen as a critique of the Jewish laws of purity, of belonging and alienation. But the law of Christ already makes quite clear that the category of “pure” and “impure” does not work this way, and that all human beings are our “neighbours” and indeed our “brothers”, especially those in need.

    I think the social justice work of St Mary’s is a red herring. It is not necessary for the sake of justice that the law of the Church be treated so flagrantly as Fr Kennedy has done.

    Human community needs order. Disobedience to the laws of any community creates disorder. To put it in a negative way, the Apostolic Constitution could have said that disobedience to the laws of the Church

    “create such a disorder in the ecclesial society that, while claiming legitimacy in the primacy of love, grace and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development harder in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.”

    To say that Canon law is more important than “love, grace and charisms” is, of course, false. Canon law provides the environment in which “love, grace and charisms” can flourish and produce their intended result.

    Canon law is thus to “love, grace and charisms” what a glass is to wine. The wine is the important thing – no argument about that from yours truly! – but without a glass to put it in, it would simply flow through our fingers and be wasted on the ground.

    Living in obedient submission to the authority of the Church is, for me at least, the key to living a life in which God’s “love, grace and charisms” can flourish not only in me as an individual but in the whole Church as a community.

    That is why the result of the St Mary’s situation has been injury to the communion of the Church.

  33. Tony

    (I’ve already commented on how their love of social justice is more about secular fashions than real justice.)

    A ‘comment’ is not evidence.

    Simple really.

    tanut: grateful almonds

  34. Schütz

    Dear PE,

    You say that my error is in “trying to have a Protestant Catholic Church”.

    Well, I don’t know about “protestant”, but I would agree if you had said “evangelical”. Blame the Lutheran in me! (I was once an evangelical catholic, now I am an evangelical Catholic!).

    But is this a wrong desire? I don’t think so. Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II before him both spoke of an exchange or sharing of gifts. Is the Bible only the property of the Protestants? Is discipleship only a Protestant calling? Surely not. Do they sometimes do it better than us. Yes. More than sometimes.

    Perhaps one of the gifts that ths Spirit is offering to his Church in this hour is the large number of biblically literate, committed disciples of Jesus who are converting from the protestant Churches to the Catholic faith. With them, they bring the gifts that God has ordained for the whole Church.

    In the much-prayed-for future reunited Christendom, the authentic Christian riches of all traditions will be celebrated and valued together.

    In this, Matthias’ offering from Pierre-Marie Morel is most fitting:

    “The Catholicism of mere custom has had its day:now we must make a radical option for the Faith.”

  35. Salvatore

    Vicci,

    To respond very quickly to your comments.

    My original post included:

    “After all, why would one prefer an “almost sacramental” relationship with Our Lord through his word in the Scriptures to a real sacramental relationship with him through the Liturgy of his Church?”

    And you asked:

    why do you say ‘prefer’?

    “Prefer” wasn’t a word selected after great deliberation, and was meant in the sense of “to give preference or priority to” something. It was I s’pose a reaction to our host’s “list of Catholic Rights” which placed the right to “learn the Scriptures” at #2. As you’ve probably gathered I think that ranking’s a bit high.

    most Protestants (can) rejoice in BOTH!

    Respectfully I must disagree – but perhaps I haven’t explained myself well. It is my understanding that Protestants enjoy access to two Sacraments – Baptism and Matrimony. The remainder are (for various reasons) unavailable to them. In short they don’t rejoice in both (the scriptural and the sacramental) as they don’t have both. Of particular relevance in a discussion about ‘discipleship’ is the absence of the Sacraments of Confirmation, the Mass and of Penance.

    It is my contention that the Liturgy opens a deeper and more potent relationship with the Lord than any private devotion ever can. Indeed one might hypothesize that the (to my mind) exaggerated emphasis on a “relationship (with Our Lord) through a knowledge of his Word in the Scriptures” arises in Protestantism in order to fill the void created by the abandonment of the more profound relationship offered by the Liturgy and Sacraments.

    This remains THE problem!
    The Catholic church repeatedly gets the heirarchy wrong.
    God’s Word FIRST .. not a Man-compiled interpretation.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean here, though as a matter of simple historical fact the Liturgy precedes the final settlement of the Canon of the Scriptures by a considerable margin. In other words the Scriptures grew from the Life and Liturgy of the Church and not the other way ‘round. As you can imagine I don’t agree with the definition of the Liturgy as a “Man-compiled interpretation.”

    think about this:
    the Protestant church (in theory, anyway)is where the Catholic Church should be.

    If I believed that I’d be a Protestant (and I’m not)!

    It remains untenable to cliam the Catholic church to be The One when, as David has clearly stated, they aren’t about the Key Business of their Boss.

    “Do this in memory of me” was one of the Boss’s final orders – and he wasn’t talking about Bible reading! 😉

    In case I haven’t made myself clear, I should point out that I am in no way trying to argue against the study of the Scriptures, any more than I would argue against the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross. Private devotional activities are an important part of Christian discipleship. But at the same time the unique place of the Liturgy must also be protected. This was one of the principal insights of the C20th Liturgical Movement and it consequently underpins much of Sacrosanctum Concilium itself. To quote to the Council, private devotions should “lead the people to (the Liturgy), since, in fact, (it) by its very nature far surpasses any of them.” (SC#13).

    Sorry for banging on.

    pergyr – an Arabic emetic

  36. Past Elder

    I am very glad that Salvatore has joined the gallery of blog commenters. For once, someone around here sounds like a Catholic.

    Exchange of gifts pig’s bum. This is newchurch newspeak.

    There is nothing foreign to Catholicism whatever about a dedication to the study of Scripture, and there is nothing about it to be had as a gift from outside itself.

    Indeed — here from a Catholic mindset — what indeed could be had from outside it from those separated from the very font from which Scripture came, other than the myriad understandings of “Scripture says” that characterise them from the start of an effort to study the church’s sacred writings apart from the church? Nothing. Period. And if Scripture study has lost the place it should have, this is in no way corrected just by the imitation of those who study Scripture, it is recovered by restoring Scripture study to the place it rightfully has, which is not the place it has in Protestant communions and is not received as a “gift” from them in the least. Rather too the unfortunate reaction to regard any significant study of Scripture as Protestant needs to be overcome as an unwarranted reaction to the errors attendant upon Protestant Scripture study.

    Same with the idea that ashes on Ash Wednesday are some sort of “gift” from Catholicism to Lutheranism, but I will post on that under the ashes thread.

  37. Past Elder

    PS — Matthias:

    Any speculation about what may or may not be comfortable in the back seat of a taxi between Catherine Deveney and myself would surely get me deleted from the combox quicker that the strongest of rants against the Whore of Babylon!

    And too, we in America are well familiar with the heroic efforts of firefighters, and there will be many both praying for your son’s safety and that of his co-workers and in gratitude for their work, including myself.

  38. Anonymous

    Salvatore said:

    It is my understanding that Protestants enjoy access to two Sacraments – Baptism and Matrimony. The remainder are (for various reasons) unavailable to them.

    I’ve read similar statements before, but I’m not sure this is a necessary conclusion of Catholic ecclesiology. For example, regarding the Eucharist, a well-respected Catholic academic theologian has written:

    “Even a theology oriented to the concept of succession, such as that which holds in the Catholic and in the Orthodox church, need not in any way deny the salvation-granting presence of the Lord in a Lutheran Lord’s Supper.”

    persph: decorative embroidery on a purse

  39. Anonymous

    That theologian’s name? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

    bratest: bratwurst of the highest quality

  40. Schütz

    Yes, Ratzinger did write that once – somewhat speculatively. But one needs to understand quite clearly what he was saying:

    He was saying that it would be too much to say that Christ and his salvation was absent from the Lutheran Eucharist.

    I go to Lutheran Eucharists regularly, I can tell you he is quite plainly and obviously present with his Word and grace for the salvation of the faithful souls who gather there.

    His saving presence as such then is not the issue. The issue is whether his true body and blood are sacramentally present in the consecrated elements. In the years since Ratzinger himself mused on the point above, the magisterium of both JPII and BXVI have made it quite clear that Christ is not present in this way in Lutheran or any other protestant Eucharist due to the lack of validity of Lutheran and other protestant orders.

  41. Anonymous

    According to this interpretation of Ratzinger’s remarks, he said nothing more than did Unitatis Redintegratio. Why, then, do you describe him as speaking “Somewhat speculatively?” Also, these remarks were made in 1993. To what subsequent magisterial teaching do you refer?

    lysonat: a type of insecticide

  42. Tony

    His saving presence as such then is not the issue. The issue is whether his true body and blood are sacramentally present in the consecrated elements. In the years since Ratzinger himself mused on the point above, the magisterium of both JPII and BXVI have made it quite clear that Christ is not present in this way in Lutheran or any other protestant Eucharist due to the lack of validity of Lutheran and other protestant orders.

    When I read stuff like this I’m inclined to rush out, buy a microscope and see if I can count the number of angels on the head of a pin.

    How do you measure a difference between ‘saving presence’ and ‘sacramental presence’?

    God is not present to us more or less according to our actions surely? We are present to God according to our actions. Is, for example, God ‘more present’ in a poorly celebrated Catholic Eucharist than a Lutheran service celebrated with reverence?

    korcanne: spelling suffers when you’re high

  43. Christine

    In the years since Ratzinger himself mused on the point above, the magisterium of both JPII and BXVI have made it quite clear that Christ is not present in this way in Lutheran or any other protestant Eucharist due to the lack of validity of Lutheran and other protestant orders.

    Find me one instance, please, in the NT where the priestly terms of sacerdos or hiereus are applied to any Christian pastor.

    Please don’t give me presbuteros. That is NOT a sacerdotal term.

    I’m not at all concerned anymore whether the Catholic hierarchy recognizes Lutheran orders.

  44. Tom

    Tony, just out of curiosity, what precisely do you mean by

    “When I read stuff like this I’m inclined to rush out, buy a microscope and see if I can count the number of angels on the head of a pin.”

    Just for clarity’s sake.

  45. Tony

    Tom,

    I’m talking about the notion that we can somehow measure the Divine ‘presence’ (at all, let alone) according to ‘validity’.

    relve: digging into the family tree