Pope on "The Freedom of a Christian"

Martin Luther famously wrote a little tract called “On the Freedom of a Christian”. It is a topic that has long interested Pope Benedict too, and – given that we have been talking about the role of “law” in relation to St Mary’s in South Brisbane – I thought it would be interesting to stick up a few of the Pope’s ideas on the matter of freedom and obedience from his little talk given at Rome’s Major Seminary recently.

Somewhat characteristically, the Holy Father begins his talk on Galatians 5:13 (“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another”) with a reference to Luther. In fact, he makes the same point that he made in his final catechesis on St Paul:

At all times, freedom has been humanity’s great dream, since the beginning, but particularly in modern times. We know that Luther was inspired by this text of the Letter to the Galatians, and his conclusion was that the monastic Rule, the hierarchy, the magisterium seemed a yoke of slavery from which he had to free himself. Subsequently, the age of the Enlightenment was totally guided, penetrated by this desire for freedom, which it was thought had already been attained. However, Marxism also presented itself as the path to freedom.

To anyone unfamiliar with Benedict’s long study of these matters, his jumps from Luther to the Enlightenment to Marx will seem unjustified. (We can’t go into the matter here, but if you want to check it out further you might find a few more dots to connect in this essay “Truth and Freedom” (1996)). But of greater interest at the moment are these statements:

  • “We are free if we become one another’s servants”
  • “Dependency [on God] would be a fatal dependency only if this Creator God was a tyrant, not a good Being, only if he was as human tyrants are.”
  • “There is no freedom in being against the other. If I absolutize myself, I become the other’s enemy.”
  • “Only a shared freedom is human freedom”
  • “Only by accepting the other, by accepting also the apparent limitation that respect for the other implies for my freedom, only by inserting myself in the network of dependencies that makes us, finally, only one human family, will I be on the way to common liberation”
  • “We see that man needs order and law, to be able to realize his freedom, which is a freedom lived in common.”
  • “Freedom against truth is not freedom.”

To put it succinctly: God is a good God (this is a statement of faith, Tony, for your information). Dependant upon our good Creator, we are also dependant upon the other human beings whom he has created. We cannot be free apart from the other or against the other; there is freedom only in being for the other and in communion with the other, ie. there is freedom for myself only in shared freedom with others. If I make myself the absolute, I become the enemy of God and of the other. It is therefore necessary, for this shared freedom in communion with others that I accept an “apparent limitation” on my own “freedom”, and submit to common order and law. The ordering of human community requires law and organisation, not only for human society but also for the Church of God, in which the greatest freedom is found in the highest degree of communion.

Thus beginning from our dependance upon a good God and our desire for true freedom, we arrive at the necessity of “organised religion”, of Church law, and of submission one-to-another for the sake of the communion of the Body.



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51 responses to “Pope on "The Freedom of a Christian"

  1. Past Elder

    God bless me if I don’t know whether to post here or in the just earlier post. So I posted there. As to here, what you leave out is the implied final step, which is “the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church”.

    Just as with the words of the creed re church, it is possible to accept Benedict’s words on the relationship of freedom and community without the conclusion the community then means the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church.

  2. Schütz

    Then, dear chap, who does it mean?

    I grant that what he says can have a purely secular application – in the terms of human society in general. But note the globalising nature of even this assertion: if individuals are to be truly free, they must live in “shared freedom” bounded by “common laws” of a community. That community exists on various levels as the village, the shire, and the nation – but it necessarily implies that that human society is most truly free when the freedom is universally shared.

    Now if we wish to relate it to the ecclesia, we can say that in any ecclesial community, there must be “common laws” for the sake of the “shared freedom” of that ecclesial community.

    Yet once again, the notion tends toward the universal. The Church community exists on various levels also, but in order to live under the one Creator in common with all the baptised we can say that the fullest human freedom is experienced in the Church as a universal communion, bound together by “common laws” acknowledged by all.

    So to which community should we relate such a statement?

    Your difficulty, my dear PE, is that you cannot admit that the Church must, of necessity, be a real, visible community of real, visible human beings. Once you do, you must leave the ivory towers of Platonic ideals and come down to earth where human beings are being called into a real flesh and blood universal community.

  3. Past Elder

    Once again you want to understand “church” and when you are in it the same way you would understand if, say, the plane really did land in Melbourne.

    Jesus pointed out that if his kingdom worked that way, there would have been no crucifixion.

  4. Louise

    PE, we have already established the principle we all really believe in, Sola Ecclesia.

    Now, obviously, you and I disagree about what the Ecclesia is. Is it the Catholic Church or just the catholic church which down’t really exist anywhere in particular, but just kind of in the ether.

    It is one of these things, or possibly something else, but if it happens that David is right, then obviously there is nothing wrong with “the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church.”

    The main reason I came to believe the Catholic is the catholic church (or – to be more accurate – that the catholic church is definitely to be found in the Catholic Church) is because of the sacrament of baptism.

    In my early 20s, I had protestant friends pushing me to be baptised (because they did not recognise my infant baptism as valid). I listened to there arguments and went to the Scriptures myself. I searched for every verse containing the words baptise, or baptism. After careful reading and study of these passages, I could not see any definite need for a “proper” baptism, but I could see how my friends had come to their different conclusion. In short, none of it was very obvious from Scripture and I felt that it was a bit ridiculous to go against the teaching of the Catholic Church. I also thought it was a bit ridiculous to be reinventing the wheel all the time.

    So, who is right about baptism (for example)? And other points of dispute? I’m putting my money, quite reasonably, on the Catholic Church.

    valerses: obscure Scriptural texts

  5. Louise

    down’t ???

    bizarre typo! = “doesn’t”

    bactio: Italian bacteria

  6. Louise

    btw, in those days I was quite prepared to become a protestant if that was where the Truth was to be found, even though I was and obviously still am deeply attached to the Catholic Church. Which I only mention, because it seems relevant to my main point that I was searching for the truth about valid baptism.

    And I have had cause to say in these comboxes recently that baptism is pretty fundamental to being a follower of Christ, isn’t it? So, it’s a very important question.

  7. Schütz

    Yes, Louise – and an ecclesiology built upon baptism (rather than upon personal faith) has some rather radical conclusions:

    1) Baptism can only be received by external flesh and bone. We do not baptise “souls” or “spirits”.
    2) Baptism must be received – you can’t baptise yourself.
    3) Ipso: Baptism can only take place within a community.
    4) Moreover whenever someone is baptised, they are joined to a particular real existing community.
    5) the Community which baptises has pastoral responsibility for the ones who are baptised.
    6) The initiation begun in baptism is completed in the Eucharist. Like baptism, the Eucharist must be administered and received by flesh and bone external bodies within flesh and bone external communities.
    7) The sacraments of Baptism(/Confirmation) and Eucharist connect flesh and bone believers to flesh and bone communities.
    8) Because there is one baptism and one loaf and one cup there can only be one flesh and bone community into which one’s flesh and bone is inserted by Baptism and fulfilled in the celebration of the Eucharist.
    9) Thus the very visible and external nature of Baptism and Eucharist inevitably lead us to conclude that the Church herself must be a visible and external communion.

    One Lord, One faith,
    one baptism, one Church.

    Pretty simple really.

    (Hey, and I haven’t signed in yet, so I get to play:

    Monyls: odes to an absent Monica)

  8. Past Elder

    Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer!

  9. Vicci

    Ein Volk…

    I can get a little snippity, when posting..that’s for sure and certain.

    However, PE, you just jump straight in the gutter at times.

    Feel man enough to remove that rubbish. You are ..one would hope.

  10. Past Elder

    Same ideology, just applied to a different object. Pretty much all empires appeal to it.

    If it isn’t pretty, that’s because it isn’t pretty. But it’s most dangerous when, because one agrees with the object to which it is attached, it appears not only pretty but beautiful and right.

    At least in this case the object is an imperial religion that hasn’t had its empire for some time.

  11. Vicci

    “Same ideology..”

    Not it’s not. Quite the opposite.
    And the inference in your post remains most offensive.

    Should you wish to debate the point you made in another place about ” The Catholic Church being ‘god'” to some, then that’s a different matter entirely.

  12. Louise

    Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer!

    Well, if the “feuhrer” is Christ, then, yeah.

    I think St Paul would back me up on that.

  13. Past Elder

    Oh relax. Catholics have no fun at all. We say it about the “One Mission, One Message, One People” motto of the Ablaze! marketing campaign, whoops, movement, all the time.

  14. Schütz

    Actually, let’s take a look at PE’s suggested parallel, “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer”. It might be that he is right for the wrong reasons!

    The Devil always parodies God’s creation. We see this especially in the Apocalypse: against the Christ, we get the anti-Christ; against the Woman in Heaven (Rev 12) we get the Whore of Babylon; against the Lamb that was Slain we get the wounded beast. In fact, the whole of the Book of Revelation seems to play with this idea, especially the idea that the Roman Empire is the demonic parody of the Kingdom of God.


    If the Third Reich was also a demonic parody of the Kingdom of God, then one can say, in a sense, that PE has it exactly right.

    Whereas in the Catholic Church God offers us the true spiritual paradigm of “one Lord, on Kingdom, one People” (all teachings readily to be found in the New Testament), in Hitler’s Third Reich we see a perfectly demonic blasphemous parody of this reality. The Third Reich is a mirror (reversed) reflection of the Church. But the Church is of God and the other is of Satan.

    So, say what you like PE. I am not going to delete your comment. You have not, by showing us the demonic parody, done nothing other than alert us to somet that is true and essential in the spiritual reality which it parodied.

  15. Past Elder

    The sense in which you say I am “exactly right” is exactly what I meant. At least you got that.

    Maybe you are wrong for the right reasons.

    First though, two things. “Third Reich” is not the name of the state in question. Nor is “reich” in German associated with that state particularly.

    Germany under Hitler retained the same name as it had after the Empire in the Weimar Republic, Deutsches Reich, and in 1943 expanded that to GroBdeutsches Reich, Greater German “Reich”. “Third Reich” is an English expression, taken from the Nazi idea that their state was the third great German state in line with the first, the Holy Roman Empire, and the second, the German Empire recently defeated in WWI. The word “reich” is cognate with the English reign, and in fact is the word in the Our Father at the phrase “thy kingdom (dein Reich) come”. It would be given in Latin as imperium, the root of the English “empire”.

    Holy Roman Empire is a translation of its actual name, in German Heiliges Roemisches Reich, in Latin Sacrum Romanum Imperium. It existed from 962 to 1806, if you take Otto as the first real Holy Roman Emperor, or from 800 if you count Charlemagne as the first effective what would later become Holy Roman Emperor. What the hell, the pope at the time crowned both of them. Its state religion was Roman Catholicism and it was in that context that the Reformation of the church began.

    Which context was understood by those involved as the translatio imperii, the transfer of rule, from the Roman Empire to itself. And since 380 by decree of Emperor Theodosius Roman Catholicism had been the state religion of that too.

    During which Babylonian Captivity the church, while not extinguished as it can never be, in its visible element as the state religion became a demonic parody indeed of the kingdom of God and the church of Jesus Christ, altering its self-understanding according to the state it served.

    I do not equate the Catholic Church with Nazi Germany. They are separate entities. And they are entities, along with the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Empire whose state religion the former was and whose successor the latter thought it was, which are if not demonic then secular parodies of the Kingdom of God and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ, and exhibit the same parody of behaviour.

    Which is why Vatican II was inevitable. A state religion without a state is a little bit embarrassing, so it must re-invent itself to preserve its secular turned spiritual claims.

  16. Schütz

    Thanks for your little German and history lesson. I didn’t really need it, and it wasn’t relevant to my point.

    The question of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire is a subject for another blog, not mine. Perhaps Cardinal Pole has a point of view on this? I have made it quite clear for some time on this blog that the Catholic Church has moved beyond the idea of a Catholic Confessional State. Please do not take us back there.

    Your comments relating the Catholic Church post 1806 to the Holy Roman Empire (of the West) are about as valid as relating the current Orthodox Church to the Holy Roman Empire (of the East) after 1453. Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are in a different place now. Both predated the Empire; both outlasted it. It may once have been the context of the Church; it is no more. Thus your continued insistance that the Catholic Church is simply the Empire of Rome continued is invalid. So stop it.

    Again you have side stepped my point: There is ONE Church, there is ONE people of God, there is ONE Lord. This is a fact witnessed to by the New Testament. Demonic empires of the State (and NOT all states ARE demonic, although all have the capacity to become so) are parodies of this one spiritual reality.

    From what you have written, it seems that you would wish to argue that the Catholic Church herself is a demonic parody of the “catholic church”.

    To which I say: THAT is blasphemy.

  17. Schütz

    Another thing that the true Church of Christ and the demonic empires of this world both have in common is: they are made up of real flesh and blood human beings living in real societies, with laws, authorities, customs etc. binding them together.

    It is just that the former gives life and the latter kills it.

  18. Louise

    I have made it quite clear for some time on this blog that the Catholic Church has moved beyond the idea of a Catholic Confessional State. Please do not take us back there.

    ohhhhhh. *pouts*

  19. Louise

    THAT is blasphemy.


  20. Past Elder

    What the Catholic Church has moved beyond is Catholicism. And if I still believed Catholicism as the Catholic Church taught it to me, the last place on earth I would be is in a “Catholic Church” as it is now under nouvelle theologie apostates and crypto-Protestants.

    That is the first parody of the “different place” as you yourself call it where the Catholic Church is now: it is a parody of the Catholic Church.

    And on those grounds alone, Catholicism, the “different place” of the “Catholic Church” is to be utterly, totally, completely and finally rejected for the gross parody it is of what it claims to be.

    And those grounds alone are the ones on which I came here. Nonetheless, others have come up. So re that, for the above to have happened, what was “moved beyond”, the place from which it is now in a “different place”, must have been false too.

    For twenty years I thought that meant Christianity itself was false from first to last. That is because I did not see the second parody, believing as I did it was the real thing, namely, that what was moved beyond, the place from which it is now in a different place, was a parody too.

    Hence the “history”. The whole sorry history of the Roman Catholic Church indeed has a hermeneutic of continuity, the continuity being the invention of a new parody to replace the centuries old parody when that from which it was drawn had ceased to exist.

    So while I would not apply demonic to it in the same way as to Hitler’s Germany — the church of Christ can be found in the Roman Catholic Church despite itself and eve despite being headed by an office bearing the mark of AntiChrist — I say indeed the Catholic Church, pre and post Vatican II is a secular parody of the Kingdom of God and the catholic church of the creed and the faith of Christ.

    And even if one were to deny this second, grosser, parody, in fact, even if it is false and not a parody at all, the first one is fatal to any credibility whatsoever to the Catholic Church as found now as an institution. Any.

  21. Schütz

    I would not apply demonic to it in the same way as to Hitler’s Germany

    I’m glad to hear it. For whatever may be the ecclesiological status of any group of Christians in which the the name of Jesus is proclaimed, baptism celebrated according to Christ’s insititution, and the Triune God glorified, it could never be accredited to the Evil One.

    What the Catholic Church has moved beyond is Catholicism.

    Okay, PE. Let’s get this straight. There is something which you call “Catholicism” which you say that the Catholic Church today isn’t.

    Could it be that what you call “Catholicism” is not what the Church is meant to be? For instance, to you, “Catholicism” is the Church from 313 or whenever to 1806 or 1965 or whenever.

    For me, Catholicism is from Pentecost till now until the Eschaton.

    For you, it appears that it is the Church-State relationship which characterised the Catholic Church in the West from Constantine until 1806, and the Orthodox Church in the East from Constantine till 1453 or October 1917, which defines “Catholicism”.

    In other words, you would say that Archbishop Lefebvre was right: what he was on about was true “Catholicism”.

    You call the Catholic Church (“pre AND post Vatican II”) a “secular parody of the Kingdom of God and the catholic church of the creed and the faith of Christ.”

    I say: Bollocks.

    Why “secular”? Because it is a real living visible society? You could level the same accusation at Christ himself: he is a “secular parody” of the Messiah, because he was a real flesh and blood human being who ate and drank and had a family etc.

    The Christian Church – and that is all that the Catholic Church has ever been and ever strives to be – is a real community of incarnate human beings.

    You cannot have such a “real community” in thought alone. It must be real. It must involve real relationships between real people.

    Where those relationships are broken, there is no communion, no community. The One Church of Christ cannot be said to exist in myriads of scattered Christian communities that are not in communion with one another.

    The Orthodox have it spot on here: if we share the one bread, we must be one body. How can we be one body, if we do not share the one bread? If we share the one bread, we must be in communion with the one who administers it, and with the others who receive it. One real, flesh and blood Eucharist means one real flesh and blood Church.

    You enjoy saying, PE, that in seeking the Catholic Church I did not find “Catholicism”. Well that is due to the definition of “Catholicism” you use.

    In seeking the Catholic Church, I was seeking no “ism” but Christianity. I have found it. Authentically. Fully. In a universal real human communion of flesh and blood people.

    And that includes some pretty flawed characters. It includes Fr Kennedy and the Parish of St Mary’s (at the present time, at least). It includes Jennifer Hughes (but not Catherine Deveny). It included Archbishop Lefebvre – until his excommunication. It includes Bishop Williamson – at least potentially. And it includes all baptised Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church in a real, though imperfect, sense.

    Because it is a REAL human community, it is not an IDEAL human community. A community of saints, it yet is a community of sinners.

    I used once to think that the one holy catholic Church was not to be found in any real communion because no communion was perfect. I used to think it was just an article of faith.

    Well, it IS an article of faith – but the faith that is required is to look at the one who appears to the world to be a whore and see in her the spotless bride of Christ. It does not EXIST in faith, it exists in reality. But to see her for what she is – THAT takes faith.

  22. Christine

    The Christian Church – and that is all that the Catholic Church has ever been and ever strives to be – is a real community of incarnate human beings.

    Lord have mercy! So are Jews, Presbyterians and Hindus! They’re all a real incarnate community of human beings too!

    And Holy Baptism? I don’t think anyone ever wrote of it as beautifully as Luther did. The daily drowning in those waters and rising again to the new life that is ours in Christ.

    I kept telling myself for over ten years that the Catholicism I was living was the real thing I had seen in my youth, that if I just waited a little longer, gave it sufficient time, it would resurface.

    It won’t.

    When I read Anne Roche Muggeridge’s The Desolate City years ago I was not yet Catholic so I could read it with disinterested objectivity. This women knows the Catholic faith backward and forward. She is intelligent, articulate and knows what she is talking about. I remember thinking, oh, come on, things can be THAT bad in the Catholic church.

    They are. And will continue to be. I was in denial about that for over ten years.

    The church is now a strange hybrid of Protestantism and Catholicism with a “Catholic” veneer that holds it all together.

    It’s not a matter of sexual scandals, individual Catholics, lay and clerical who are less than “stellar” in their fidelity or any of that. The way the Catholic church understands herself, the world, and Christianity itself has changed.

    To be authentically catholic I had to leave Catholicism.

  23. Past Elder

    Archbishop Lefebvre was not right. The SSPX is not right. The Catholic Church is right, and they continue to teach what it teaches, though the Catholic Church does not. That’s the Catholic side of what I have to say.

    For the post-conciliar Catholic Church to maintain that what it presents now is the true church and faith of Christ, having “moved on” from what it went through for most of its recorded history, is on a par with an angel showing up with golden plates and a new book to restore the church. Vatican II is your Moroni.

    No, the Church-State relationship begun with Constantine does not define the church, nor does it begin the church, whether one means by that the catholic church or the Catholic Church or thinks they are the same thing.

    A divinely instituted and guided organic community of flesh and blood in real relationship does not pass through a millennium and a half of not being what “it is meant to be” to be recovered by dissenters from it who “move on” with their new theology and new order (their own names for it) at a council in the 1960s. It will change and grow as all organisms do, but it will not do that.

    And when an institution does that, it shows itself to not be the church of Christ but a human institution whose goal is simply its own existence, a corporation whose only interest is the sale of its products which it alters to suit the changing marketplace.

    The catholic church is indeed from Pentecost through now until the eschaton. Which is precisely why the catholic church cannot be the Catholic Church, or the Eastern Orthodox Church. These are later, human institutions, who only came to understand themselves as the “catholic church” of Christ and the creeds by analogy from the states in whose long history they were the state religion.

    Now that those states have passed into history, the Western Roman Imperial church seeks to redefine its parody of the catholic church in terms of the world’s current secular situation, and the Eastern Roman Imperial church, for example in the “third Rome”, scrambles to regain the position it had with the Tsars in a post-Communist post-Tsarist state.

    The church of christ exists in reality indeed. The “communion” of which you speak is on the world’s terms of communion, not Christ’s. Which is why you seek the “true Church” like a search for Atlantis. The world has changed its terms and these institutions race to catch up, with new parodies of Christ’s terms drawn from the changed terms of the world. To see the “spotless bride of Christ” in them requires not faith, but delusion.

  24. Anonymous

    PE’s argument, insofar as it is historical, is a lot of nonsense. In making a distinction between “the catholic church” and “the Catholic Church” he is postulating a “catholic church” unknown to both History and to Christians before the Reformation, and in which “before the Reformation” also comprehnds “before Constantine.”

    His argument seems to be based on the premise that there exists a “catholic church” which, if it is not the fictitious “invisible church” of most of the Reformers, seems to be a “catholic church” that includes more than one “visible communion.” This may well be good Lutheran ecclesiology, but it is imcompatibe with the ecclesiology, so far as we can discern it, of that visible communion that5 condemned and excummunicated the various Gnostic terchers and their followers, the “reformed church” of Marcion, the “spiritual church” of Montanus, and the “pure church” of Novatus and the Novatianists. In other words, that body which did all of these things, at the same time regarded it self as solely, uniquely and visibly “the Catholic Church” — both “Catholic” and “catholic.”

    It seems an idle and rather ridiculous waste of time and mental energy to construct a theory about how the claim of both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church to be THE Catholic Church is a function of their post-Constantinian status as the “Western Roman” and the “Eastern Roman” Empires’ “State Religions” when the pre-Constantinian Catholic church of which the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each claim to be the authentic representative today, made the same claims about itself, as they make. In other words, it knew nothing of the kind of catholic church of which PE is the protagonist, and no doubt would have rejected the notion of such a “catholic church” as a strange and heretical conceit, had it been presented with it.

    Much more honest to acknowledge that such an ecclesiology has no foundation in the Fathers’ teaching, no more than does that other pet idea of sola fide.

    William Tighe

    William Tighe

  25. Christine

    Question, please. How many of the Catholics who post here have hands-on, living experience with the preconciliar Church?

  26. Past Elder

    Yeah, and they found Atlantis too.

    Sure wish I’d have gone to a Lutheran university where I wouldn’t have had to hear all this before.

    To answer your question Christine, I’m one, though I would not call myself “Catholic” and only wish latae sententiae came with a certificate so I could display it proudly.

  27. Christine

    Yes PE, you certainly are (and as a former Catholic I’ll proudly display the latae sententiae with you) as were my father, half my grandparents, and my husband (who, when I told him I was leaving the Catholic church because it’s no longer the Catholic church said “I warned you!)

    I had enough glimpses of the preconciliar world with my dad to know that the duck that is the RC now doesn’t quack properly anymore.

    I did, however, very much enjoy my stint in my Catholic kindergarten (in Europe) before the madness of Vatican II.

  28. Mary

    Poor Jesus-He suffered and died, left Peter and all subsequent Peter’s to guide His Church thereafter and even today the doubt and distrust continues.Without the powerful protection of the Holy Spirit and the heroic devotion of the saints known and unknown down through the ages Holy Mother Church would never have survived but Jesus does not break His promises The gates of hell will never prevail against His beloved Church even if the Church ends as it began with only a small band of frightened followers deeply wounded by our own sinful natures .With our spiritual Mother Mary to protect us we will endure.

  29. Louise

    I don’t think anyone ever wrote of it as beautifully as Luther did.


    I have no connection with the pre-conciliar church, given that I was born in ’69.

    All I can say at this point is that many of the commenters here would have been hopeless in a real crisis, such as the Arian heresy.

    Christine, it would seem that you merely lack patience.

    I ask again, who has the authority to determine whether a baptism is valid or not valid?

  30. Past Elder

    Well let’s take a look at these churches that claim to be the same institution as the catholic church of the creed. Let’s see, the RCC says the EO are the real thing, and the EO says the RCC is the real thing, except for the EO who say it isn’t, except for the EO who say we just can’t tell.

    Looks more like a cloud than witnesses. They don’t agree on what it is or who has it. That’s the Holy Spirit all right. Hey Bill, you forgot the Monarchists. And was Damasus the pope, or the guy who would have been elected had Damasus not killed all his electors? On and on.

    Maybe we should ask, who’s had some hand on experience with excommunication here? I have, and I don’t mean my own if in fact it be.

  31. Salvatore

    Well, I can’t claim to have known the Church prior to the Council, having been born during it. However, I think it’s fair to say that I encountered enough as a child to know that what I was offered later was a species of robbery – I knew I wasn’t being given the whole story, without knowing exactly what it was that was being with-held. However, I’ve also had “hands-on, living experience with the preconciliar Church” since then as well. Not all that often, but often enough to convince me that what exists now as the Roman Catholic Church is the same as what existed then.

    You see I’m with our host in believing in the necessity of the Church as a “real human communion of flesh and blood people.” It seems to me that the nature of human beings – as matter and spirit – has determined the means by which God effects our salvation. So the Faith is not some abstract philosophy simply received intellectually; but rather comes to us incarnate (if you will) in real, physical things. This in turn means that the Faith will necessarily be transmitted via an institution, and more-over, that that institution will exist – really and visibly – over time. As far as I can see the only Churches which can make any credible claim to such continuous, institutional existence are the Churches of Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

    I agree that when one looks at the current state of the Roman Church (I can’t speak from experience of any other Catholic Churches) the degree of discontinuity in her current teaching and practice appears very high, but as I say, I have seen sufficient evidence that despite this, she is the same Church that she always was. (You might say I’m a Catholic despite the modern Church rather than because of her.) I can also understand that many others – perhaps less fortunate than I – have not been able to see this continuity and have simply walked away.

    Annis – Middle English form of “Agnes.” (True actually!)

  32. Past Elder

    There we go, a new sola — sola historia.

    How about we keep the Incarnation to be about Jesus rather than a metaphor about church.

  33. Christine

    Louise, with all due respect patience is something I don’t think I lack. Ten years was more than enough.

    Salvatore is the only Catholic poster here who seems to grasp what PE and I are saying.

    To try to establish continuity with what the Council of Trent codified, what Pius X addressed in his encyclicals with the near disastrous papacy of a John Paul II is simply not possible. The rapid bailout of so many priests and religious in the near aftermath of the council is significant, nor have their numbers ever been replaced.

    Nor are the Orthodox of one mind with Rome on many issues.

    Sola historia alongside sola ecclesia. Yep, that about does it.

  34. Louise

    Ten years was more than enough.

    Ten years is nothing.

  35. Christine

    Sheesh Louise, some converts who became disillusioned with the RC leave within the first two years!

  36. Past Elder

    Sorry for being so long to jump back in the ring. Just going over my alumni magazine. Trying to wrap my mind around two things.

    One is, we used to have a School of Theology and a Seminary, both for the diocese and the monkery. Now we apparently have a School of Theology * Seminary. As in dot. I guess dot has gained significance since I’ve been gone.

    But our school of theology dot seminary now graduates “pastoral assistants” who do everything the priests and nuns used to do because there aren’t any priests and nuns to do it now, and there’s a big feature on the recently graduated pastoral assistant doing everything but say Mass at two parishes that have been “twinned”, apparently newchurchspeak for consolidated so the same priest can cover both while she (sic) takes care of the rest.

    With the usual accompanying text about what a great new era in the church, Vatican II, lay involvement.

    So either the big result from “renewal” is just around the corner, like they’ve been saying for forty some years now, or is already here!

    Right. Let’s see, Atlantis is in the Indian Ocean according to one guy.

  37. Tony

    Your words from an earlier post:

    God is good. [Ms Hughes is very certain that she knows what God is like, and what his will is.]

    And, in this post:

    God is a good God (this is a statement of faith, Tony, for your information).

    Perhaps you’d care to explain how two different authors, using the same words, can be treated so differently?

    preni: verb, past tense prenis, present tense prenas, future tense prenos, conditional mood prenus, jussive mood prenu.

  38. Schütz

    Perhaps, Tony, you would have prefered if, rather than saying “God is a good God (this is a statement of faith)” I had said “I believe God to be a good God”, which is what I meant.

    I believe that Ms Hughes was not making a statement of faith, but of what she believed to be fact, because she followed it with the statement “Organised religion often is not”. That was to be taken, not as a statement of faith, but of fact. She was informing us that such is the case.

    I think that is the difference.

  39. Schütz

    Christine said:

    And Holy Baptism? I don’t think anyone ever wrote of it as beautifully as Luther did. The daily drowning in those waters and rising again to the new life that is ours in Christ.

    Oddly enough, there is very little in Luther’s baptismal theology that speaks of the communion that arises as a result of baptism.

    In other words, Luther is very good on the personal benefits of baptism – I agree, even “beautiful” – but he overlooks the ecclesial consequences.

  40. Schütz

    Christine said…
    Question, please. How many of the Catholics who post here have hands-on, living experience with the preconciliar Church?

    Now, the period of the “pre(-Second-Vatican-)conciliar Church” was a very long time indeed – a little over 1900 years. So even if there are those around who have had experience of, say, ten years of that period – nay, let us be generous and allow that there may be a reader of this blog who could claim to have had 40 years experience of that Church – that is still a very, very short fraction of the entire period, which encompasses every phase of the Catholic Church from the apostolic age to the 1960’s.

    Your point, therefore, is?

  41. Schütz

    Dr William,

    I must thank you so very much for bringing into this discussion the quite pertinent point of the way in which the pre-Constantinian Church dealt with heresies – of which, as you point out, there were many.

    As Louise put it “All I can say at this point is that many of the commenters here would have been hopeless in a real crisis, such as the Arian heresy.

    I have in fact heard this argument somewhere and from someone once before, and I rather suspect it was from a good Lutheran friend known to many readers of this blog…

    It goes something like this:

    Elaine Pagels, Dan Brown and co. would like us to believe that the pre-Constantinian period was a rich free-for-all stew of Christian ideas, and that it was the nasty old secular power-hungry emperor who invented the Catholic Church.

    But long before Constantine, the post-apostolic Church faced many crises of heresy, and dealt with each decisively by excluding the heretical teachers and their followers and communities.

    This implies the existence of a (more or less) clearly defined entity or (indeed) “insitution” (what I would like to call a “flesh and blood communion”) that knew itself to be “the Catholic Church” over and against the heretical “churches”.

    When Constantine came upon the scene, he did not have to invent “the Catholic Church”. It already existed. He knew who its leaders were – such that it was a simple matter to command them to gather for the first “ecumenical council”. The idea that he “invented” the Catholic Church is simply fanciful. I do not believe that any reader of this blog would seriously entertain such a thought. You are all much to intelligent to be taken in by that myth.

    William Tighe is absolutely bang on the money. So much so that I am going to post it as a separate post on this blog so that whenever PE comes back at us with his twisted history and logic, all we need to say is “I refer you to the learned opinion of Dr William Tighe”.

  42. Schütz

    Christine and PE,

    I don’t know if either of you have done anything to incure a “latae sententiae” excommunication (you haven’t punched the pope on the nose lately, I hope…).

    Sorry to disappoint you. As far as I am concerned (and probably His Holiness as well) you are both just very naughty Catholics. All you need to do is repent, spend a bit of time in the box, and then all will be right as rain between us again…

  43. Schütz


    Thank you for your kind vote of confidence! I think you and I are on the same wave length on this one.

    When PE responded to your comment by saying: “How about we keep the Incarnation to be about Jesus rather than a metaphor about church?”, he simply showed how absolutely removed his ecclesiology is from ours.

    For us, we cannot think of Christ without the Church any more than we could think about the Church without Christ.

    It is not you and I, Salvatore, who have invented the use of the “incarnation” as a “metaphor for the Church”, but St Paul who called the Church “the Body of Christ.”

    And did not Christ himself refer to the Church as the new Temple of the Holy Spirit? and did not the Evangelist say that in speaking in this way, he was speaking of his own body?

  44. Schütz

    Christine said:

    “Salvatore is the only Catholic poster here who seems to grasp what PE and I are saying.”

    But do you grasp what HE is saying?

    Do not think I do not understand you. I understand you all to well. I have as much experience of Lutheranism and (now) Catholicism as you do, Christine. You and I speak the same language even if we use it to say different things.

  45. Schütz

    Christine said:

    Sola historia alongside sola ecclesia

    History and Church are necessary because Christ “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man”.

    Any religion that is Solus Christus must also be sola historia and sola ecclesia.

    Nuff said.

  46. Past Elder

    Good God what a stream of inference taken as revelation. Incredible.

    To sum up:

    1. Perhaps you could leave the Incarnation as the Incarnation, rather than a metaphor and theoretical model for church. Even more, perhaps you could leave a metaphor as a metaphor.

    2. Salvatore has not come to the conclusions I have, or that Christine has, but he understands the issues and what is at stake. You, bluntly, do not.

    3. If you think I imagine the same thing that Elaine Pagels, Dan Brown et hos genus omne do re church, pre and post Constantine, or that I am saying Constantine “invented” the Catholic Church, you have not understood the first word I have to say.

    4. Interesting that in your sentence which states the “implied” existence of the Catholic Church, the “clearly defined entity” is parenthetically also said to be “more or less” a clearly defined entity.

    5. I have responded to your “learned opinion of Dr William Tighe” in that post’s combox.

    pummous: pumice that has been pummeled.

  47. Christine

    David —

    As regards baptism, Gott hilf mir — it isn’t being Catholic that makes baptism efficacious, it’s the Word joined to the water. Luther made baptism personal in a way that gives tremendous comfort when the world, the flesh and the devil assail. Not too many Catholics think of their baptism as a daily drowning of the old man with the new rising up.

    PE and me being naughty Catholics? Don’t think so. Don’t know what’s going on in Oz these days but I assure you that if I call the chancery and tell them I have returned to the Lutheran Church, no longer identify as a Catholic I think I can convince them to remove me from the rolls. And if I can’t who cares.

    As for you and I speaking the same language — nein. My experience of Catholicism in Europe was different than yours as a postconciliar Catholic, and PE has us both beat. He lived through the preconciliar time (as did Anne Roche Muggeridge) and experienced Catholicism in a way the post-Vatican II generation simply couldn’t. I still remember one of the older parishioners at the parish where I was received as a Catholic sadly lamenting that so much had changed.

    The future of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is embodied in the Church of the Resurrection in Solon, Ohio. Except for the pastor and the pastor emeritus the place is run by lay women. Guest speakers will always focus on Joan Chittister et al. The entire place breathes a Catholicism entirely foreign to what it was before the Council.

    As for Constantine, there’s still scholarly debate about his motives for making Christianity legal, although God can certainly work through that.

  48. Past Elder

    Well you sure as hell won’t get off the mailing lists asking for money! I got two this week!

  49. Louise

    Sheesh Louise, some converts who became disillusioned with the RC leave within the first two years!

    Please forgive my terseness, Christine. I acknowledge that you may have plenty of good arguments for acting as you have done (and I don’t think you owe me any explanations) but I don’t think the 10 years thing is one of them. The two years thing just means that others have even less patience!

    I have no objection to hearing your other reasons, when you choose to share.

  50. Louise

    Also, you get Brownie points for not saying the highly unoriginal “geez Louise.”

  51. Christine

    Well you sure as hell won’t get off the mailing lists asking for money! I got two this week!

    That’s a guarantee! I’ll be on the mailing lists forever too!

    Louise, no offense taken, but please keep in mind I had one Catholic parent. My dad exposed me to the RC during the preconciliar years long before my formal ten years of membership.