Another call to "de-excommunicate" Luther

This story pops up every now and again. It is in vain that we try to explain that there is no point to lifting an excommunication from a dead man, when excommunication ends at the moment of death anyway.

But that misses the point. If we were honest, we would acknowledge that what Dr Gassmann is asking for in his call to “declare officially that its [the Catholic Church’s] excommunication of Martin Luther no longer applies” is a re-evaluation by the Church of the founding father of the school of theology to which Dr Gassmann belongs.

The fact is that that is a complicated business. We have seen that even with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, there is some question as to the exact degree of agreement that has been reached. (Chris Burgwald’s dissertation “The Sinfulness of the Justified” seems to offer enough evidence that, while the JDDJ does not actually succeed in doing what it claims to have done – ie. overcoming a “church-dividing” issue (if it had done so, why are we still divided?) – it does go some way to uncovering possible future directions along this line.)

On Saturday I am giving a lecture to our “School of Prayer” on Lutheran Spirituality. It may surprise some readers of this blog that in fact I often come across features in Catholic spirituality that are very close (if not identical) to Lutheran doctrine. Chris Burgwald cites one of them in his dissertation: St Therese of Lisieux’s statement

“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in our eyes. I with, tehn, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.”

The simple fact is that such ideas are more often to be found in writings on spiritual theology rather than dogmatic theology, which points to the fact that the greater part of Lutheran doctrine was concerned with pastoral and experiental theology rather than objective and metaphysical theology.

My point is that there are certainly aspects of Luther’s theology which can and ought to be re-evaluated. Not only is there much in his theology which agrees with Catholic theology, but there is much that could bring greater insight into the Gospel and a more lively application of the doctrines of the faith in the lives of Catholic believers.

At the same time there are real errors in his theology which the Church will never be able to grant or re-evaluate positively. Luther is a tree on which there is rich and healthy fruit, but also some fruit that is infected and unhealthy.

Perhaps then, the first step towards “rehabilitating” Luther would be to adopt a somewhat more nuanced judgement, one which neither attempted to declare everything he taught to be heresy, nor attempted to raise him to the level of a doctor of the Church. We need to learn to make distinctions – something which I believe Dr Martin himself once declared was the core of the theological endeavour.

My personal judgement is that we should make a distinction between Luther’s spirituality and the specifically Lutheran doctrines that arose out of an application of that spirituality in a polemical attitude towards the Catholic Church. When I describe myself as “a Lutheran in communion with the bishop of Rome”, it is Lutheran spirituality, not Lutheran doctrine which characterises my Lutheran-ness. In every case of dogmatic theology, I submit to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But, when divorced from the polemics which surrounded them in the 16th Century, Luther’s spiritual insights are truly valuable. Luther’s theology of the Cross, his Christocentrism, his understanding of the Deus revelatus and Deus absconditus, even the famous “simul” (when understood as simul justus et concupiscentius – David Yeago is surely right when he points out that Catholics and Lutherans do not differ in their doctrine of concupiscence, only in their moral evaluation of it as sin “in the strict sense”) all give life and depth to the true faith of the Catholic Church.

I believe that the ultimate error of the Lutheran Church (and perhaps even Luther himself?) was to raise the deeply mystical insights of Luther’s spirituality to the level of public dogma – and then to rob it of all vitality by developing it into a scholastic system. How else was it possible for them to make the claim that “justification by faith alone” (which is ultimately a spiritual and mystical insight) was “the article” (ie. a dogmatic proposition) “on which the Church stands or falls”? It may very well be an insight upon which the individual believer’s relationship with God stands or falls (this is spiritual and pastoral theology) but can it be said to be the doctrine by which all other dogma is to be judged (this is dogmatic theology)?

It is ironic that the Lutherans allowed a mystical insight to trump the actual dogma of the Church, because Luther himself was a critic of mystics and enthusiasts who did not submit their ideas to the “external Word”. For Catholic spiritual theologians, the “external Word” is always that which the Church teaches. Personal mysticism submits to public magisterium.

All this being said, when Luther’s spiritual insights ARE submissive to the dogma of the Church, they have great benefit and great power. I for one would happily see a refreshed evaluation of these aspects of Luther’s teaching in the Church today.

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122 responses to “Another call to "de-excommunicate" Luther

  1. Frank

    I’ve never heard of Luther giving life to the catholic Church! This is too much Mr Schutz. Wasn’t it the heretic Luther who said that if the Pope had power of loosing the Holy Souls from Purgatory he should let them all out? Really your idea of being a Lutheran Catholic is nonsensical, and if as you say it’s Luther’s spirituality you adhere to then if that spirituality is genuine then he got it from Catholicism. Read these words of Pope Leo X from his Bull Exsurge Domine

    “Rise, Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as mentioned above. Give heed to the cause of the holy Roman Church, mother of all churches and teacher of the faith, whom you by the order of God, have consecrated by your blood. Against the Roman Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.” Not much here about the spirituality of the heretic is there? And again”

    Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them.” Seems to me that you exactly fall under Pope Leo’s condemnation and you are an official of the Church…..this is really too much and if by chance some think the Pope went too far read on

    “Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures. Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church. ” Now tht’s true charity..I say along with Pope Leo cast out the Lutheran heresy.

  2. matthias

    Cranky franky

    what is your stance on Scripture? for you my friend from port melbourne- my football team- seem to be grossly ignorant of what the Bible counts as heresy.In fact not once do you ever quote scripture,so you must be ignorant per se, and i am sick and tired of your SSPX based tirades against SchutZ. t\The Lord rebuke you!! and were it not that Schutz is also a gentleman ,i wonder that he has not stopped you from commenting

  3. Frank

    On the basis of your comments matthias you are very discourteous and do not seem to understand the dogma of the Church which is based on Scripture and Tradition. I do not have to quote Scripture, I leave that to the heretics and their myriad denominations to squabble over. Catholics have the Truth and that is our Faith. My stance on Scripture is that of the Church. I do not need like some Jehovahs Witness to mouth off pieces from the bible to bolster my arguments. Like so many matthias you are simply unwilling to look at Catholicism pure and simple. It’s essence is Truth. And you are way off the track re what you so delicatley call my “SSPX tirades against Schutz”…..For the record I have NEVER supported their disobedience and I am quietly rejoivcing that the Pope is bringing them back to the Church. They will serve the cause of Catholicism well. As far as your desire for the Lord to rebuke me, I assure you He does so everyday and thats why I hear Holy Mass and go to Confession. It is such a pity that many folk these days can’t stand vigorous debate and dialogue without descending into the pit of personal insults. Really matthias you should know better. I am confident that mr Schutz will join the fray here and argue his position in a civil manner.

  4. matthias

    If I have offended you Franky then i apologise,but it is you who is being discourteous to our host,as for personal insults,if you think my questioning of your knowledge of Scripture is an insult,then you are wrong.
    Perhaps I should put you in touch with a Reformed Baptist minister i know,who could match you word for word in his Anticatholicism-he is an Ulsterman-and i have never met a more bigotted protestant.I grew up in an environment that was the Protestant version of what your comments are about. I disavowed it when i met a nun who was involved with CCR-no clown masses then- and i then worked at the Mercy maternity hospital as a nurse. Why the mercy and not the RWH-i do not like charnel houses!!!Perhaps i am heading towards Rome,which is far better than heading to Mecca,apologies to your fellow travellers Schutz.

  5. William Weedon

    Dear David,

    I would think a more positive evaluation is to recognize that he was indeed a doctor of the Church – and that being such by no means indicates that the Church accepts all his opinions. I think of Gregory of Nyssa who could at times skate uncomfortably close to Origen’s heresy. Though, in your thinking, perhaps Origen provides a nearer analogy. In any case, I affirm exactly highlighting the pastoral concern that guided so much of the Lutheran Reformation. How do you comfort a conscience who is terror stricken by the demands of the Law that they have not met and know that they cannot meet? St. Theresa puts it exactly right. When Lutherans speak of the chief article, I think that particular needs to be borne in mind: to such troubled consciences this article is the chief means of granting comfort: Christ rewards us according to HIS justice/righteousness and not our own.

  6. Frank

    Matthias, what is CCR? And by the way please have the courtesy to call me Frank and not ny that franky word.

  7. Frank

    I think this DE Fide statement sums up the Catholic dogma re Justification ” The sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of grace by which he is justified” That is the Catholic dogma and if you take the Little Flower’s example she prepared herself by her life of penance in the convent and was thereby made ready to receive God’s blessings. Also another De Fide statement which helps here “Besdies faith, furhter acts of disposition must be present”. (And this is avaialable in Fr Otts excellent compendium of dogma.

  8. matthias

    Frank it is Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Bishop Prowse has been associated with it ,as has Father Wahid Rias at St Augustines Church in Burke Street,near Spencer sorry Southern Cross station.In fact the latter church is where the HQ-for want of a better word- is based.

  9. matthias

    Frank here is the link

    http://www.ccr.org.au ,and it’s centre is now in North Fitzroy

  10. Son of Trypho

    @David

    It might be a profitable exercise to scrutinise material which is in accordance with Church teaching but surely you would recognise the potential dangers that such indulgence would have to the reader?

    And further, would not stringent conditions need to be applied to the reader to ensure that they don’t misunderstand the material itself?

    Based on the general level of catechetical instruction nowadays such a thing would be, IMHO, a mine-field for the average Catholic unless they were properly guided in their reading/intepretations. And besides, how many people would be available to do this sort of thing?

  11. Peter

    I applaud you, David, for a more reflective and positive approach than my own response to the same story 🙂

    It is worth having a look at both the Catholic and the Lutheran ‘explanations’ of the JDDJ as they took the document back to their respective groups. I have linked the Catholic clarifications on my blog.

  12. Vicci

    SoT posted:
    It might be a profitable exercise to scrutinise material which is in accordance with Church teaching but surely you would recognise the potential dangers that such indulgence would have to the reader?

    It’s ‘in accordance’ with ‘The Truth’, but it’s (potentially) dangerous???

    And further, would not stringent conditions need to be applied to the reader to ensure that they don’t misunderstand the material itself?

    Good point. Tradition MUST rule over scripture. (as David has posted with some enthusiasm in several places)

    Based on the general level of catechetical instruction nowadays such a thing would be, IMHO, a mine-field for the average Catholic unless they were properly guided in their reading/intepretations. And besides, how many people would be available to do this sort of thing?

    How many? well, certainly less than 15%

  13. Son of Trypho

    Vicci
    I did not make my first point clear enough – I meant in terms of the whole text. If you went to the source texts, rather than merely extracts of them in accordance with Church teaching, then it could be very dangerous if the reader was not clearly instructed. My apologies for the confusion.

  14. Louise

    I confess, I am not particularly interested in Luther’s opinions on anything.

    It’s hard to say that, though, without sounding as though I have no time for Lutherans, or for you, David, which I hope you know isn’t the case.

  15. Louise

    And OT, but related to people whose opinions I care little about (I refer to Nietzsche, of the difficult to spell name), it turns out that Nietzsche is not only not the only philosopher worth reading, but indeed, isn’t worth reading at all.

    Hearken to my darling Chesterton:

    http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/orthodoxy/ch7.html

    This, incidentally, is almost the whole weakness of Nietzsche, whom some are representing as a bold and strong thinker. No one will deny that he was a poetical and suggestive thinker; but he was quite the reverse of strong. He was not at all bold. He never put his own meaning before himself in bald abstract words: as did Aristotle and Calvin, and even Karl Marx, the hard, fearless men of thought.

    Nietzsche always escaped a question by a physical metaphor, like a cheery minor poet. He said, “beyond good and evil,” because he had not the courage to say, “more good than good and evil,” or, “more evil than good and evil.” Had he faced his thought without metaphors, he would have seen that it was nonsense. So, when he describes his hero, he does not dare to say, “the purer man,” or “the happier man,” or “the sadder man,” for all these are ideas; and ideas are alarming. He says “the upper man,” or “over man,” a physical metaphor from acrobats or alpine climbers. Nietzsche is truly a very timid thinker. He does not really know in the least what sort of man he wants evolution to produce. And if he does not know, certainly the ordinary evolutionists, who talk about things being “higher,” do not know either.

    So, while he may have been right for the wrong reasons, or wrong for the right reasons, (or whatever it is) it would seem that perhaps he had no idea what he actually thought at all.

    Do we understand each other? 😉

  16. William Weedon

    Louise,

    It appears as though the current Pontiff disagrees with your assessment of the worth of reading Luther – at least going by how often he references him in his writings (and his apparent familiarity with the contours of his thought). As a Lutheran, let me say that I personally find reading Luther is a mixture of frustration, delight, and astonishment. He’s just that sort. He drops the most astonishing gems along the way and he doesn’t seem to realize he said them, and off he goes belaboring an obvious point. Classic instance is in *Babylonian Captivity* in which he observes that there is really only one Sacrament – our Lord Jesus – and that He offers Himself to us under so many different sacramental signs. And then he ploughs right ahead and doesn’t develop it at all. Typical Luther.

  17. Vicci

    Luther’s best works?

    1. German translation of Bible

    2. Tabletalk !

  18. matthias

    Sorry Vicci but if tradition overules Scripture then we have humanism
    Louise I am with you re Nietzsche.What was the end of his God denying philosophy-dying with tertiary syphilis (General paralyis of the Insane) in an asylum.For as he reasoned if there is no God there are no God given morals.Good old GK for hitting the nail on the head. Pity he is not around to deal with Singers ideals(!?)

  19. Son of Trypho

    William

    But Louise makes the point I was trying to – its an elitist pursuit.

    Those who are interested in that level of detail, and that is not everyone, and each person values different things in their reading and learning, will pursue those studies and investigation.

    The Pope has his own personal interests and I don’t think they are more authoritative for someone like Louise than for instance yourself or myself. I certainly don’t think he would suggest that reading Luther would be of benefit to everyone. True?

  20. frdamian

    David,

    pondering… pondering…

    I do wonder about the challenge to Luther’s spirituality posed by the so-called “New Perpective on Paul,” especially the challenge of Krister Stendahl’s “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” Not sure here I’m going with this thought…

    Much more importantly: should both justified and concupiscent be rendered “simul justus et concupitor”?

  21. William Weedon

    I’m not sure, Son of Trypho, what he’d say about that. He’s YOUR pope. Yet Luther does hold good reading (depending on what you’re reading from him) for just about any Christian at all. I’ve been told by a man who swears it is true that in the Philippines a Roman Priest first read the Small Catechism of Luther and decided that he needed copies to share with his parishioners. There indeed one finds “mere Christianity” and expressed with both simplicity and force. Can a Roman Catholic disagree with Luther that the 8th commandment enjoins upon us “to explain our neighbor’s actions in the kindest way”? Or that “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” as the explanation of the first commandment?

  22. William Weedon

    Fr. Damian,

    The “new perspective” on Paul, it seems to me, comes to shipwreck in Paul citing in Romans 7 from the decalogue and not from ceremonial law: “You shall not covet.” Clearly the “law” as Paul understands it cannot then be limited to ceremonial law, no?

  23. Louise

    I am not in the least bit surprised that the beloved Papa B16 reads Luther, since he even reads Nietzshe! The Holy Father, bless him, has greater intestinal fortitude than Yours Truly and I know my limits.

    I think SoT is onto something. Until Catholics get better catechesis, then in general, we had better find out more from our own teachers.

    It’s different for someone like David, because of his ministry passion (ecumenism) and experience etc. I would not for the world belittle any of this.

  24. Vicci

    Sorry, Matt.
    The comment was naughty. A gentle poke at David, to interrupt his packing. (btw: do men pack?).

    As for Luther:
    the little I know about him suggests to me that if he were offered ‘de-excommunication’ by the CC, he’d politely decline.

    (but I’m not so sure about the ‘politely’ )

    On a different tack: if Pope Leo
    dropped in, I wonder what Bxvi would make of him…

  25. matthias

    Pastor WW ,did Luther call the Epistle of St James the epistle of straw? And I think he did not hold the Book of Revelation in high esteem. But i could be wrong-my wife says i only have two faults-everything i say and everything that i do!!

  26. Louise

    I certainly don’t think he would suggest that reading Luther would be of benefit to everyone. True?

    I agree. Papa B16 will happily read anything of interest because he has a strong faith and a brain the size of a planet, but I doubt he’d recommend Luther to those of weaker understanding or faith.

    Having said that, I have no doubt that Luther has said many things I would agree with. It’s just the other bits that are of concern.

  27. William Weedon

    He’d have his chaplain preach to him about repentance, Vicci!

  28. frdamian

    Pastor Wheedon,

    I’m not especially advocating the New Perspective and I was wrong to tie the so-called New Perspective so clearly to Stendahl’s article (given that he precedes significantly the work of Saunders and Dunn and focuses on different issues). It is his question that interests me which concerns Luther reading Paul from a perspective foreign to Paul as an introspective individual weighed down by a fraught conscience.

    As to the “law” in Paul, it is a many splendored thing… Definitely not always a referent to circumcision and dietary laws. Dunn says this quite clearly and gets frustrated with those who misread him (personally, I think he leaves himself easily open to such a reading).

    I ponder what exactly Paul meant when he said he was “blameless as to righteousness under the law” (Phil 3:5). Does this mean he found the keeping of the law non-problematic?

  29. Louise

    Pastor WW ,did Luther call the Epistle of St James the epistle of straw?

    AFAIK that’s the case, but it may be a malicious slander. If not, I’d have grave concerns about his teachings.

    my wife says i only have two faults-everything i say and everything that i do

    LOL!

  30. Louise

    I ponder what exactly Paul meant when he said he was “blameless as to righteousness under the law” (Phil 3:5). Does this mean he found the keeping of the law non-problematic?

    I’m inclined to think he observed the law faithfully. But perhaps he still felt something deficient.

    But I’m just a housewife, so… you know, all the usual caveats and takings with grains of salt etc.

  31. William Weedon

    Luther did indeed so term James, but he was speaking of it relative to other epistles such as Romans or Galatians, which tend to be meatier. Luther (and the Lutherans) maintained the ancient distinction between the books that were “spoken against” in the Early Church and those that were unanimously accepted as apostolic. The practical result of that was that Lutherans insisted that the Church’s dogma is always to be founded in those books that were unanimously accepted – the so called homolegomena. Of course, not one doctrine of the Church is in any way compromised by keeping the distinction. If I may put it so, following Chemnitz, in the Lutheran Church James has as much an no more authority than the Wisdom of Solomon; he terms one the OT Apocrypha and the other part of the NT Apocrypha (James, Hebrews, 2, 3, John, 2 Peter, Jude, Revelation). In German Bibles, these books come at the end of the NT just as the deutero-canonicals come at the end of the OT. Still, historically, Lutherans read all of them in the Divine Service.

  32. Louise

    As a Lutheran, let me say that I personally find reading Luther is a mixture of frustration, delight, and astonishment. He’s just that sort.

    He sounds human!

  33. William Weedon

    Mega-human, Louise. It’s one of the things that endears him to us. His foibles are so obvious that none can be deceived into thinking they are virtues; his virtues he seems completely unaware of himself. His zeal is to talk about the Passion and Resurrection, and he does at every opportunity.

  34. matthias

    Thanks for the information Pastor WW you have corrected what some of the non Lutheran preachers I was a parishioner of ie Baptist/Church of Christ, use to call Luther’s theological faults.
    Louise “just a housewife”? An eclectic one then with a ?science degree.

  35. Schütz

    Well, friends, it seems as if I have to make myself a little clearer – although I am not surprised that I would be misunderstood. I expect that really only Peter is capable of making a real judgement on this issue – he, like me, has lived under both “regimes”! I will try to do what Frank suggests and “join the fray here and argue [my] position in a civil manner.”

    Frank said: if that spirituality is genuine then he got it from Catholicism..

    Yep, that’s right. But post-Luther both Catholic spirituality and Lutheran spirituality developed in different directions. My contention is that there is much in Luther’s own spirituality which is genuinely Catholic. Pastor Weedon is correct when he points out that Pope Benedict appreciates this, which is why he so often refers to Luther in his writings and teaching (even in his second Encyclical SS §7 in which he offers a corrective to Luther’s interpretation of Hebrews 11:1). Pope Benedict has certainly read a lot of Luther’s writings – so I guess in your judgement he comes under Pope Leo X’s condemnation?

    Exsurge Domine is an interesting read, which I have promised to post on one day in detail. Suffice it to say many of the doctrines that are spelled out there and condemned are not familiar to me from my own reading of Luther. There is the possibility that Leo and his advisers were not well informed about what Luther actually taught, or (perhaps more likely) were familiar with only a very few of his writings.

    Exsurge Domine was published in 1520 – three years into Luther’s reformation career. Luther lived until 1546 – and kept writing all that time. Leo’s condemnation could not possibly apply to all that Luther said and taught. For instance, was he condemning Luther’s stand on the Real Presence against the Zwinglians (which took place in the following decade)? Hardly.

    It is true that there is not much about Luther’s spirituality in the condemnations of Exsurge Domine. That too argues in favour of the position I am putting forward – that while specific doctrines that Luther (may have) taught were condemned, not all aspects of his spirituality were specifically condemned.

    I am arguing that that leaves open the possibility for a re-evaluation of Luther’s spirituality in our own time in a way which does not contradict Exsurge Domine.

    Pastor Weedon said: I would think a more positive evaluation is to recognize that he was indeed a doctor of the Church – and that being such by no means indicates that the Church accepts all his opinions. I think of Gregory of Nyssa who could at times skate uncomfortably close to Origen’s heresy. Though, in your thinking, perhaps Origen provides a nearer analogy.

    Actually, I think it will be impossible to ever call Luther a “doctor of the Church” no matter how good, beneficial and truly Catholic some aspects of his spirituality may be. I think the comparison to Origin is absolutely spot on. Origin will never be declared a saint, let alone a doctor of the Church, for precisely the same reasons that Luther never will be. His theology is simply dangerous to the uninitiated. That certainly does not stop us, however, from reading Origin profitably – in fact he is an acknowledged forerunner of many genuinely Catholic doctrines, including that of the Trinity. Without his theological speculations, the Catholic Church would be much the poorer. We just can’t give a rubber stamp to his theology as a whole. I think the same goes for Luther. We could treat him a little more charitably just as we do with Origin.

    Pastor Weedon went on to say: “In any case, I affirm exactly highlighting the pastoral concern that guided so much of the Lutheran Reformation.” This is now recognised by theologians on both sides of the fence. Cf. Chris Burgwaldt’s dissertation.

    Pastor also said: How do you comfort a conscience who is terror stricken by the demands of the Law that they have not met and know that they cannot meet? St. Theresa puts it exactly right. When Lutherans speak of the chief article, I think that particular needs to be borne in mind: to such troubled consciences this article is the chief means of granting comfort: Christ rewards us according to HIS justice/righteousness and not our own.

    And that is exactly as I said it: Coram Deo, even someone like Therese whom the Church objectively declares to have been a saint could only confess her sinfulness and plea for mercy and pardon on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. Thus I think we need to make a distinction between the objective fact of the relationship between God and his forgiven and justified saints as we see things from outside, and the very intensely personal situation of a soul who is placed in the presence of the Creator.

    Frank said: I think this DE Fide statement sums up the Catholic dogma re Justification ” The sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of grace by which he is justified”.

    Interestingly, the only source I can find for this quotation is Ludwig Ott. Any idea where he got it from? I don’t deny it is true, but I think the way it is put is difficult and problematic and certainly open to misinterpretation. If we are talking about the initial reception of grace by one who is in original sin, then it is absolutely true that “the help of actual grace” is necessary for the “reception of [saving/justifying] grace”. The business about a sinner “preparing himself” for the “reception of [saving/justifying grace] must itself therefore be seen entirely as the work of God’s grace. This is, of course, a necessary corrective to the popular notion that Luther taught that the unregenerate sinner was like a “block of wood” until he had received saving/justifying grace – but I am not sure Luther ever taught it in the sense that that implies. Still, I think the way Ott states it goes beyond Catholic dogma in that it places the emphasis on the action of the sinner rather than upon the initiative of God’s grace.

    Frank said: if you take the Little Flower’s example she prepared herself by her life of penance in the convent and was thereby made ready to receive God’s blessings.

    True. That’s what I meant by judging her relationship with God objectively, or “from outside”. She, of course, did not choose to emphasise or dwell upon that point in her prayer to God himself!

    Frank said: Also another De Fide statement which helps here “Besides faith, further acts of disposition must be present”. (And this is avaialable in Fr Otts excellent compendium of dogma.

    Indeed, and once again the only source for this statement appears to be Dr Ott. Was he a Pope? Was he even a bishop? What is the magisterial authority of his compendium of Catholic Dogma (other than that he had an imprimatur for his book – a point that proves very little and certainly does not make his book a part of the Catholic magisterium).

    But it must be pointed out that one of the fruits of the 20th Century ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans is that Catholics are beginning to understand that what Lutherans mean by “faith” actually includes much more than bare “belief”. It precisely includes what Ott asserts, namely other “acts of disposition”, such as trust in and charity towards God. Again this only strengthens my point: a better comprehension of Luther’s spirituality of faith would be beneficial to modern Catholics, who too often DO reduce faith to a matter of bare belief.

    Son of Trypho said: It might be a profitable exercise to scrutinise material which is in accordance with Church teaching

    Such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Such as the writings of the Holy Father and the magisterium? Such as the Fathers of the Church? Such as Scripture, even? Absolutely. I always do.

    but surely you would recognise the potential dangers that such indulgence would have to the reader? …Based on the general level of catechetical instruction nowadays such a thing would be, IMHO, a mine-field for the average Catholic unless they were properly guided in their reading/intepretations.

    Well, of course, what I am asserting is a job for scholars. Reading Luther’s own material can be very beneficial for many reasons, but I am suggesting that the job of re-evaluating his spirituality is a work for those who are well educated in both the Catholic faith and in Luther’s own writings. The analogy with the works of Origin hold good here too. Nevertheless, recognising that none of his writings can be recommended entirely and in every respect, even a lay catholic will benefit from reading such works as his Christmas sermons, or his Small Catechism (yes, I have quoted his meaning of the 8th commandment many times in a Catholic context – it is perfectly compatible with Catholic teaching but put in a much more pithy and memorable way), or even (yes, Vicci) his table talk!

    And besides, how many people would be available to do this sort of thing?

    Very few, I would imagine. Just as there are not many who are available to do this with the works of Origin. However, the fruits of this investigation could be made available to all so that it is not an “an elitist pursuit”.

    Fr Damian, regarding the “New Perpective on Paul,” I believe this is presents a great opportunity for rapprochement between Catholics and Protestants. (BTW, I take Tom Wright’s perspective on the new perspective rather than Dunn or Saunders). That is, I don’t think Luther understood Paul in the way Paul originally intended him to be understood. For that matter, neither did Augustine. That doesn’t mean either was necessarily wrong about Grace and Faith and justification and all that. Understanding Paul in his own terms has its own benefits in enabling us to see beyond the medieval and reformation disputes.

    I don’t know, Pastor Weedon, if the new perspective DOES come a cropper in Rom 7. Paul is specifically talking about the law as a “written code”. The new perspective does not divide the Torah into a “ceremonial” and “ethical” section, the former not applicable, the latter still applicable.

    And now I had better post this before you guys get beyond me!

  36. Son of Trypho

    @David

    I was thinking of Origen when I wrote my point earlier! Or really any complex theology/topic could apply.

    Again, I’m uncertain as to how a non-scholar, or average Catholic if you prefer, could determine what would be suitable reading from his corpus? And how would one question or scrutinise the recommendations of those who profess to know? I think the exercise is more risky than profitable and would suggest avoiding such luxuries unless you were sufficiently grounded to begin with – something I admit readily that I am not.

  37. frdamian

    David,

    in response to Frank’s statement, “The sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of grace by which he is justified,”
    you say, “Still, I think the way Ott states it goes beyond Catholic dogma in that it places the emphasis on the action of the sinner rather than upon the initiative of God’s grace.”

    I think you are right: Trent seems very careful when dealing with the justification of sinners to begin with a brief exposition on prevenient grace. Grace does not simply help us to receive the grace which will justify us, it first moves our hearts to conversion.

    As to the need for “further acts of disposition,” this does not sound like a correct reading of Trent’s Decree on Justification 6:

    “Now they (adults) are disposed unto the said justice, when, excited and assisted by divine grace, conceiving faith by hearing, they are freely moved towards God, believing those things to be true which God has revealed and promised,-and this especially, that God justifies the impious by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves, from the fear of divine justice whereby they are profitably agitated, to consider the mercy of God, are raised unto hope, confiding that God will be propitious to them for Christ’s sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice; and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation, to wit, by that penitence which must be performed before baptism: lastly, when they purpose to receive baptism, to begin a new life, and to keep the commandments of God.”

    It is not so much that “acts” are required but that the grace of God disposes the human heart in a certain manner so as to receive the free gift of God’s justifying grace.

  38. Louise

    Louise “just a housewife”? An eclectic one then with a ?science degree.

    Well, I meant “just a housewife” as opposed to a theologian! Indeed, while I know my limits, housewifery (wife, mother etc) is the greatest calling in my life.

    And yes, as a pleasant little achievement along the way, I did gain a Bachelor of (civil) Engineering.

    baggish: how David feels!

  39. Louise

    Mega-human, Louise. It’s one of the things that endears him to us.

    Perfectly comprehensible.

  40. Schütz

    Guys (and girls): I have removed a large no. of comments, not because they were not friendly, but because this isn’t a chat room. Sorry, but it gets hard for those who want to discuss the topics to follow the thread if they have to wade through chat. Even nice chat. Exchange one another’s emails. Do it in your own time! (it is like having a private conversation at the table during the after dinner port and cheese).

  41. Joshua

    But David! This is where we all hang out – I certainly don’t have the emails of all these good people!

    *****

    syners = plural of simultaneously in cyberspace and sinner

  42. frdamian

    Joshua said

    “in cyberspace and sinner”

    Simul in interreti et peccator

    vel

    Simul in tela totius terrae et peccator.

  43. Vicci

    David:
    “Well, friends, it seems as if I have to make myself a little clearer – although I am not surprised that I would be misunderstood. I expect that really only Peter is capable of making a real judgement on this issue – he, like me, has lived under both “regimes”!

    Just a touch sycaphantic, David -and almost certainly untrue.
    As your own story shows.

    Unbridled admiration for the New.
    Some bitterness, and other assorted feelings for that which has been left.

    Hardly basis for ‘real’ judgement.

    But, totally understandable. Very similar to divorce, one might imagine.

  44. Joshua

    Vicci, may I suggest that something of your tone is a bit harsh toward David, and indeed others commenting? Why so bitter?

  45. Joshua

    Now for my own ha’pennyworth…

    1. What of the Theologica Germanica? (As I recall, an anonymous treatise of the Rhineland School of mediæval mysticism, a treatise rediscovered and published by Luther, who highly praised it: this would underscore David’s contention that Lutheran piety is in continuity with Catholic piety, and therein lie sparkling stones as Bl Ruysbroek would have said.)

    2. What of Tauler, Bl Henry Suso, O.P., and the whole gang of mediæval German writers? – whom I believe some decades ago, before their rediscovery by Catholics, some Lutherans lauded as Lutherans before Luther – again, not because of any doctrinal deviation, but rather because their piety savoured of all that is good in Luther’s own devotional outlook (and clearly there has to be good in it else no one would ever have been attracted by it; more’s the pity that in his separation from Catholic unity he magnified opinions into heresies).

    3. What of current Lutheran liturgical and paraliturgical books? – while visiting Fraser Pearce, I was able to peruse his very large collection of such: they seem to consist of a potent mixture of liturgical forms, more or less based on the traditional Western Office (in some cases virtually a straight translation from the Roman Breviary!), but with large slices from Lutheran authors and the Book of Concord; I was amazed that one LCMS publication went so far as to have a feast, not just of Luther, but of his wife – ! – with a bizarrely humorous letter of him to her as the appointed reading – !! – !!!

    These Lutheran liturgical devotions clearly point to the existence of a sizeable and well-catechized pious laity: would that the like Catholic demographic were both flourishing and as well catered for…

    ******

    David, can you give now some concrete examples of, say, prayers, ways of praying, etc., stemming from your Lutheran upbringing and ministry, that you value and profit from even and precisely now that you are in Catholic unity?

  46. Schütz

    1. What of the Theologica Germanica?…2. What of Tauler, Bl Henry Suso, O.P., and the whole gang of mediæval German writers?

    You are right on the money here, Josh. The German Theology, Tauler, Bernard etc. all featured heavily in my original lecture on Luther’s spirituality, but it all got a little archane for such a short session. I will email it to you for you to read for yourself. This part of the Luther tradition was largely forgotten by the later Lutherans, but rescued by the Pietist traditions. Still, it demonstrates that Luther’s theology was, as Bengt Hoffmann and Louis Bouyer both realised (and indeed as the current Finnish school attests) rather more mystical than systematic.

  47. William Weedon

    The coram Deo is the key, of course. Josh, that must have been our beloved Treasury you looked at. Yes, even some of us were scratching our heads over the letter to Katie!

    A resource that might interest you also can be found here:

    http://www.llpb.us/

    The Brotherhood Prayer Book is pure Gregorian and a fine office book.

    About examples of Lutheran piety that Rome could easily own as its own, I think above all of the morning and evening prayers. They both begin with the invocation and sign of the Holy Cross and then Our Father and Creed and finally (just the morning prayer for example):

    I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger, and I pray that you would keep me this day from sin and every evil that all my doings and life may please you. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

    Then one goes to work singing a hymn or whatever one’s devotion suggests.

  48. Frank

    “Chap. 5. On the Necessity of Preparation for Justification of

    Adults, and Whence it Proceeds

    797 It [the Synod] furthermore declares that in adults the beginning of that justification must be derived from the predisposing grace [can. 3] of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from his vocation, whereby without any existing merits on their part they are called, so that they who by sin were turned away from God, through His stimulating and assisting grace are disposed to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and cooperating with the same grace [can. 4 and 5], in such wise that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself receiving that inspiration does not do nothing at all inasmuch as he can indeed reject it, nor on the other hand can he [can. 3] of his own free will without the grace of God move himself to justice before Him. Hence, when it is said in the Sacred Writings: “Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you” [Zach. 1:3], we are reminded of our liberty; when we reply: “Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted” [Lam. 5:21], we confess that we are anticipated by the grace of God.”
    “Chap. 7. In What the Justification of the Sinner Consists, and

    What are its Causes

    799 Justification itself follows this disposition or preparation, which is not merely remission of sins [can. II], but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts, whereby an unjust man becomes a just man, and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be “an heir according to hope of life everlasting” [Tit. 3:7]. The causes of this justification are: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Christ and life eternal; the efficient cause is truly a merciful God who gratuitously “washes and sanctifies” [1 Cor. 6:11], “signing and anointing with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance” [Eph. 1:13f.]; but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, “who when we were enemies” [cf. Rom. 5:10], “for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us” [Eph. 2:4], merited justification for us [can. 10] by His most holy passion on the wood of the Cross, and made satisfaction for us to God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the “sacrament of faith,”* without which no one is ever justified. Finally the unique formal cause is the “justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but by which He makes us just” * [can. 10 and 11], that, namely, by which, when we are endowed with it by him, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed, but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the “Holy Spirit distributes to everyone as he wills” [1. Cor. 12:11], and according to each one’s own disposition and cooperation.”

    Seems to me you don’t like Fr Ott whose magisterial tome is second ONLY to Denzinger from which the preceding quote comes. These quotes are straight from the Council of Trent and are to believed by all Catholics.

  49. frdamian

    Frank,

    Can I assume that your responding to David?

    I don’t have an opinion on Ott. My understanding is that Ott’s work is a precis of Catholic teaching. In my opinion, the only “magisterial” precis of such teaching is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    My preference is usually to go to the teachings of the popes and councils themselves. Thus, when we were discussing indulgences, my interest was in the Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences and not in the incredibly brief summary of the Catechism. Similarly, I re-read Trent’s Decree on Justification before posting above.

    Denzinger is helpful for two reasons: it collates all these primary sources in one place and its numeration is used even in Vatican decrees – it’s not too hard to find the prior teachings referred to in an encyclical or in the Catechism.

    I would be concerned on relying on a text which is a translation from the German… which is a precis of teachings in Latin… I think it could open itself up to problems.

  50. Cardinal Pole

    Exsurge Domine is an interesting read, which I have promised to post on one day in detail. Suffice it to say many of the doctrines that are spelled out there and condemned are not familiar to me from my own reading of Luther.”

    Interesting that you say that, Mr. Schütz; at the website of the on-line edition of the Book of Concord there is a copy of Exsurge Domine, and the Editor’s note says that

    “What is rejected in this document would form and shape the subsequent formal confessions of the Lutherans, ten years later at the Diet of Augsburg.”
    (http://bookofconcord.com/exsurge-domine.php)

    Also, you said that

    “There is the possibility that Leo and his advisers were not well informed about what Luther actually taught, or (perhaps more likely) were familiar with only a very few of his writings.”

    I think they knew quite well what Luther stood for; some of the propositions are extracted virtually word for word from, if I recall correctly, the 95 theses, and others come from remarks that Luther made at, if I recall correctly, the Leipzig disputation (these remarks were on the Papacy, Ecumenical Councils and Hussitism). I suspect that one could go through the list of propositions and match them to propositions in the writings and recorded remarks of Luther.

    I’ll mention again that I would be interested to read your post on Exsurge Domine, and any other material on its composition, history, the Lutheran reaction to it (other than the fact that they destroyed any copies they got their hands on!), &c. As I showed, the Book of Concord website seems to think it's significant; what do Lutheran readers think of it? To which of the propositions would you assent? And how significant are those propositions in Lutheran theology?

    As for the original topic of the discussion: obviously it would be collosally imprudent to recommend that Catholics read Luther's theological writings, and as for his spirtual writings/spirituality: since there's nothing of value in them that can't be found with Catholic spiritual writers, let's stick with those writers. And if there's anyone whose excommunications ought to be annulled it's Msgr. Lefebvre, Msgr. de Castro Meyer and the S.S.P.X. Bishops.

  51. Joshua

    CP,

    As David said at the outset, excommunications are not lifted against the dead – they have, after all, already appealed such decisions at a Higher Tribunal.

    It is as if Pope Honorius III died and went (via purgatory) to heaven, only to be demoted therefrom after his posthumous condemnation (for failing to act against the monothelite heresy) at one of the early Councils.

    A family I know are quite Catholic, still offering up their prayers and sacrifices for the holy souls in purgatory – but if one of them does something silly or unfortunate, they say in jest, “All the souls went back to Purgatory!”

    I think a sense of humour is a Catholic sine qua non: think of St Teresa of Avila – “God deliver me from silly devotions and sour-faced saints!” and (upon nearly being drowned) “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”

  52. Joshua

    So what is it about St Bernard that so greatly appeals to Lutherans – PW, I know you like him; but I take it you would leave aside certain themes of his Marian sermons…

  53. William Weedon

    Dear Joshua,

    St. Bernard’s devotion of the Holy Virgin obviously took a form at times that Lutherans are uncomfortable with. But how could we not love the man of whom we read, in the Life of Bernard, chapter 12:

    “When he appeared to be drawing his last breath, as his mental powers failed, he seemed to be presenting himself before the tribunal of his Lord. But there was also present over against him Satan, assailing him with wicked accusations. But, when he had had his say, the man of God also had to speak on his own part. Undaunted and unperturbed, he said, ‘I confess that I am not worthy and that I cannot obtain the kingdom of heaven through any of my own merits. However, my Lord is obtaining it with a twofold right, namely, through the inheritance of the Father and by the merit of His suffering; with the one He is content, and the other He gives to me; because of this gift, since He vindicates this to me by right, I am not disturbed.’ By this word the enemy was routed.

  54. Vicci

    I think Cardinal Pole is right when he said:
    I think they knew quite well what Luther stood for; some of the propositions are extracted virtually word for word from, if I recall correctly, the 95 theses, and others come from remarks that Luther made at, if I recall correctly, the Leipzig disputation (these remarks were on the Papacy, Ecumenical Councils and Hussitism). I suspect that one could go through the list of propositions and match them to propositions in the writings and recorded remarks of Luther

    Pope Leo was clearly acting in receipt of the facts.
    No amount of subsequent ‘hand-washing’ will alter that.

    Frank continues to delight:
    Now tht’s true charity..I say along with Pope Leo cast out the Lutheran heresy.

    More Far Right than right, however.

    ..and Pastor Weedon is simply correct:
    But how could we not love the man of whom we read, in the Life of Bernard, chapter 12:

    rantize: to post with excessive enthusiasm.

  55. Schütz

    Josh, I will send you an article from the Concordia Theological Quarterly on Luther and Bernard.

    Your Eminence, I am suggesting in fact that there IS something of spiritual value in Luther’s writings that you won’t find simply from reading post-Reformation Catholic spirituality – just as, I guess, one can say that there is stuff in St John of the Cross that you won’t find in St Francis De Sales. And yet, just because you don’t find it in St Francis doesn’t mean St John was wrong. Just so, Luther has insights that are not contrary to the Catholic faith and yet are not to be found exactly as such in other spiritual writers. One has to allow each their own genius in these matters – we are not dealing with dogmatic theology here, after all. Nevertheless, caution is always wise – even in some Catholic writers. Eg. reading some writings of Thomas Merton can be very beneficial – but I would recommend caution to the unwary there too!

    As regards analysing Exsurge Domine, naturally this is something that will take more time (which I don’t have right now), but my first impression is that one will not get an accurate idea of Luther’s theology (either dogmatic or spiritual) from reading it. I, of course, as a faithful Catholic, assent to NONE of the propositions condemned in ED, but then I would posit that few actual Lutherans would recognise their own faith in the propositions which ED condemns. As for it shaping later formulations of Lutheran doctrine – I would not be surprised if later Lutheranism specifically avoided teaching the doctrines that Leo condemned in the form that he condemned them and hence that is the reason why I do not recognise them as being accurate representations of Lutheran doctrine. But I would have to check this out further.

    And Frank, its a funny thing, but I find no difficulty with the formulations of the Counci of Trent – which are quite precise and also very nuanced in the way they state their case, always making sure that grace has the upper hand at all times – and yet I cannot bring myself to embrace what your friend Dr Ott sees as a simple precis of Trent. In fact, Ott seems to put his own emphasis into the matter. Which is not surprising – the same would happen if you or I attempted a synthesis of all Catholic doctrine. You and I would say what we thought it meant. Hence, Fr Damian’s advice is quite correct: always go to the original and most authoritative magisterial source on a matter.

  56. Schütz

    Pastor Weedon,

    I would say these “death bed confessions”, such as that of Bernard or Therese or even of Luther himself, are classic “Coram Deo” statements, rather than dogmatic statements about the doctrine of justification in general. Death seems to have a way of sharpening and narrowing one’s theological focus!

  57. William Weedon

    David,

    But that is precisely the meaning of the doctrine of justification: it has to do with that coram Deo moment we will all face when everything else is stripped aside. As I like to say it, the Lutheran doctrine seeks to prepare you to die a blessed death in the confidence that he who knows how to do so will then understand how to live the blessed life.

    Kind regards!

  58. Vicci

    Correct again, Pastor.
    To have no fear of death enables live to be lived.

    Doctrine of Justification >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> theory of purgatory.

    rester – God, Day 7

  59. Siddha Jacky

    Why would you submit your personal mysticism to a public magisterium that has no knowledge of mysticism? What would they know?

  60. matthias

    Siddha jacky,I would say that the RCc Hierarchy does know and does have knowledge about mysticism. One only needs to read some of JPII’s writings to get a handle on that.
    by the way you are writing gives me the impression of gnosticism

  61. Vicci

    Frank quoted:
    “Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them.” Seems to me that you exactly fall under Pope Leo’s condemnation and you are an official of the Church…..

    Looks like you’re going down, David!
    Looks like B16 is going with you!

    (or to state the obvious: which Pope is wrong? )

  62. Siddha Jacky

    Gnosticism! Perish the thought! Go and wash your mouth out!

    Matthias, where does the church teach, systematically, the pathways to mystical experience? How can anyone pontificate (yes I know) about such matters when he has not experienced them himself?

  63. Carlo

    Indeed, Vicci: which pope is wrong? This is what modernist Catholics refuse to face up to.

  64. Siddha Jacky

    And Matthias, knowledge about mysticism is worlds away from mystical experience.

  65. Schütz

    Pastor Weedon said: But that is precisely the meaning of the doctrine of justification: it has to do with that coram Deo moment we will all face when everything else is stripped aside.

    I don’t think that is the way St Paul was arguing it in the letter to the Galatians, Pastor. There his concern seems much more to say how it is that Gentiles can have a claim to the inheritance that was promised to the sons of Abraham. Quite a different kettle of fish – although undoubtedly related on a different level of theology.

  66. Schütz

    Vicci said (re Exsurge Domine): Looks like you’re going down, David! Looks like B16 is going with you!

    Carlo responsed: Indeed, Vicci: which pope is wrong? This is what modernist Catholics refuse to face up to.

    Well, Carlo, one could also say that this is something the Traditionalists refuse to face up to as well! 🙂

    The simple matter is that neither is wrong. Leo acted in the way that he saw as pastorally responsible for his time (and he was right), Benedict acts in the way that he thinks is pastorally responsible for the very different situation today five hundred years later (and he is right too). Quite simply, Pope Leo’s authority to forbid the reading of Luther’s works does not apply beyond his pontificate.

    Jacky said: knowledge about mysticism is worlds away from mystical experience.

    I quite agree. It is just as true as to say learning about (eg.) philosophy is a different matter from doing it. What you say is not in contradiction to what I have been saying on this blog. No human being can intervene in the individual’s direct experience of the divine – except of course the man Christ Jesus without whom any true experience of the divine is impossible. That is not to say that the individual can therefore claim his own religious experience to be the supreme authority in his life – that would be gnosticism. Christians believe in the direct, mystical religious experience – that after all is what the work of the Holy Spirit is all about – but since Christianity is a communal religion in which the Church (ie. the body of Christ – there’s Christ in his human mediatorship again) has an essential role in the life of the Spirit, external authorities such as Scripture, Tradition, the Pope and the Magisterium all come into play.

  67. matthias

    Sorry Siddha Jacky but my experience of people with the same outlook as you -and I am only going by what you have said here-indicates that they want more and get disappointed when they discover that what is required is
    -Acknowledgement that they are sinners
    -That Christ has died for their sins and that He rose again and that they have faith by accepting Christ and His Atoning work.That we worship the Triune God by assembling with other Christians-an exoteric mystic approach but what you allude to is the esoteric which includes :
    The various levels within catharism of adherent,believer and finally Perfect.
    Sufism,where the sufi wants to be united with God . There are debates about Sufism as to whether it is science or mysticism

  68. Schütz

    Interesting too that the word “mystical” in the Catholic tradition almost always refers to either the Church or the Eucharist (both called “the Mystical Body of Christ”). So, Jacky, mysticism yes, but external body, also yes. That’s what the difference is between Christianity and either Gnosticism or Eastern religions.

  69. Siddha Jacky

    In other words David, it’s the same old story: you want to interfere in the direct experience and skew it an a particular direction (“the man Christ Jesus without whom any true experience of the divine is impossible”), which of course makes a complete nonsense of the experience itself. It is possible to talk about mystical experience in this way only if you don’t know what it is.

  70. Siddha Jacky

    “That’s what the difference is between Christianity and either Gnosticism or Eastern religions.”

    That’s the problem. Christianity has suppressed and persecuted mysticism for hundreds of years, and is now groping its way towards some feeble accommodation with it, without any real sense of what it is all about. It is largely foreign to Christianity (especially in its Western manifestations), which has always been much more comfortable with power and coercion. The Eastern religions, by contrast, have always been founded on it and have never really departed from that foundation.

  71. Siddha Jacky

    A couple of points Matthias: “exoteric mysticism” is an oxymoron, and “mysticism/science” is a false dichotomy.

  72. matthias

    Siddha jacky refer to Wickepedia re Sufism. If you want to look east go for it,but mysticism that you say is not in Christianity has been there always eg Brother Lawrence,Thomas aKemphis,Richard Rolle,Julian of Norwich,Hildegaard of Bingum.
    A Christianity accomodating to mysticism in the eastern sense or new age is no longer Christianity but syncretism-for Christ is removed.

  73. Siddha Jacky

    Of course you’re right about the mystics throughout church history Matthias, but they have always been regarded with suspicion by church authorities and have often been disciplined and forced to recant statements they have made about their experiences.

    The reason the church has had some mystics among its number is because the religion itself was founded, as all religions are in my opinion, on the direct experience of the divine, and there have always been a few who have held on to that knowledge despite the attempts of the church to suppress it. There may be no evidence to prove it, but I have little doubt that Jesus himself was the source of that knowledge, but he was certainly not the first or the last. I also have little doubt that he would not recognise the institution of the church as something he had founded.

  74. Louise

    That’s the problem. Christianity has suppressed and persecuted mysticism for hundreds of years, and is now groping its way towards some feeble accommodation with it, without any real sense of what it is all about.

    Let’s see now, I could have mysticism OR I could have God-made-man. Hmmmm. Mysticism. Or God-made-man. Hmmmm. Tough choice!

    (Assuming there it is even an either/or and not a both/and).

  75. Siddha Jacky

    Whatever does God-made-man mean Louise?

  76. Schütz

    but they have always been regarded with suspicion by church authorities… despite the attempts of the church to suppress it.

    On the contrary, Jacky. The Catholic Church has always been a potent breeding ground for mystics precisely because of its dual nature, at once external and internal, both mystically invisible and starkly visible.

    And of the names that Matthias quoted, Dame Julian gets into the Catechism. Not too suspicious, eh?

  77. frdamian

    I know that this is not truly on the topic of the post, but:

    I’ve been earnestly contemplating the claim of Ott that it is “de fide” that “Besides faith, further acts of disposition must be present.” The German reads, “Zum Glauben müssen noch weitere Dispositionsakte hinzukommen” which is probably better translated as “to faith must further acts of disposition be added” – this is clearly an attempt to summarise Trents teaching that faith, as understood by Trent, is insufficient for justification and that the exercise of free will by Adults is necesssary, namely their cooperation with God’s grace.

    But, I can’t help but feel that Ott misses the mark in his summary – Trent talks nowhere of “ACTS of disposition.” Is it best described as an “act of disposition” to turn to consider the mercy of God or to hope that God will be propitious, or to love God as the fountain of all justice? Is purposing to receive baptism an action?

    Further, Trent is concerned, here (in chapter 6 of the decree), as far as I can tell, not with what people must do to be justified but with how God justifies sinners. The particular chapter is full of the language of grace, of God who excites and assists the sinner to turn toward him, to repent of sin, to love him, to desire baptism and new life in and under him. To summarise the chapter only in terms of what is necessary on the part of man is deficient.

    The same critique can be levelled at the summary “The sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of grace by which he is justified.” If I were Ott, I would summarise chapter 5 of the decree ( and the 3rd and 4th canons) thusly, It is by the prevenient grace of God and the cooperation of man’s freewill with said grace that the sinner is disposed to seek to be justified.

    Is trent dealing with Luther here or with Calvin?

    Anyone know of an online source for the decrees and canons of Trent in Latin.

  78. Vicci

    “God-made-man” ?

    try Genesis?

    soon after the bit about: “In the Beginning..”

    (sorry, it’s Friday…)

    dogma: bitch with pups

  79. Siddha Jacky

    “The Catholic Church has always been a potent breeding ground for mystics…”

    That is a truly extraordinary claim David. I repeat the question I put to Matthias earlier: where does the church teach, systematically, the pathways to mystical experience?

  80. matthias

    Good point Louise. But I am moving on to the next com box as i think Siddha jacky fails to understand that Christianity is about a relationship with God through Jesus His Son,and anyway the Church-whatever denomination,sorry Frank and Carlo- is fair game these days.”Religion” is out spiritual is in and has greater significance . ‘repentance” and “salvation” are not even considered. I have even seen the concept of Atonement nicely broken up into ‘At One Ment” and a new Age meaning attached. Ah… pass the incense er sorry Dark ale please Schutz
    inyorendo: what happens when you break too quickly at traffic lights

  81. Siddha Jacky

    And furthermore, how can an experience bound by rules and subjected to doctrinal scrutiny and institutional disciplines possibly be an experience of boundlessness, as true mystical experience must be?

  82. Siddha Jacky

    Matthias, of course “repentance” and “salvation” are considered, they just have a different (and dare I say more profound) meaning than you allow. As to your comment “I have even seen the concept of Atonement nicely broken up into ‘At One Ment’…”, you are showing your ignorance here. Check the etymology of the word from Webster’s Online Dictionary:

    atone
    Function:
    verb
    Inflected Form(s):
    atoned; aton·ing
    Etymology:
    Middle English, to become reconciled, from at on in harmony, from at + on (one)
    Date:
    1574

    Looks like those hippies were right on this one!

  83. matthias

    Yes i know what Atonement means and for us Christians it is being reconciled with God through Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
    you just want to water down Christianity to suite your spiritual experience and cannot believe that Christ died for us whilst we were yet sinners-we still are yet forgiven.Which is why the people who blog here attend Confession and Mass or Holy Communion to maintain their relationship with the God Who is here and He is never,never Silent.
    You have every right to hold your beliefs but i believe that you should have a look at salvation and repentance as we see it .

  84. Frank

    Mr SChutz as some here have noted Pope Leo’s Bull is enitirely correct in it’s estimation of the pernicious error of Luther. I am stunned that you can defend a man whose venality led him to urge the rapacious German nobles to flay the peasants, and who also according to the record was a vicious anti Jew. I will say this of Luther; he stands condemene and all that he brough to the Church was error and division. Next we’ll hear you telling us what agood chap Mahomet was!!!!!! ANd by the way on whose authority can you say that Pope Leo’s Bull is only for his lifetime. I tell you that the teachings of the Popes are for all Catholics and at all times.

  85. Schütz

    Is trent dealing with Luther here or with Calvin?

    It is answering both, Fr Damian. Luther said someplace that the unregenerate man is a “block of wood” with regard to free will – completely passive to the grace of God – before regeneration the will was “in bondage”. This is what the arguement with Erasmus was about.

    Luther was dogmatically wrong, but rightly motivated if we keep in mind once again the distinction between “coram deo” theology and objective metaphysical theology. Luther was attempting to disqualify any person boasting in their own merits. Trent would have equally been aghast if anyone attempted to say that it was by their own merits that they came to faith. Nevertheless Luther was wrong to disqualify free will (as Trent decisively decided long after Luther was dead and gone). To do so finally ends up with Calvinistic double predestination: you are saved if God wants you to be and damned if God wants you to be and you don’t get a say in it: God is sovereign.

    Jacky: And furthermore, how can an experience bound by rules and subjected to doctrinal scrutiny and institutional disciplines possibly be an experience of boundlessness, as true mystical experience must be?

    If you knew the heart of man truly, Jacky, you would know that true freedom does not come from freedom from “rules”, “disciplines” etc. Can I suggest you have a read of Papa Benny’s address to the Roman Seminary? You will find the link to it here: http://cumecclesia.blogspot.com/2009/02/pope-on-freedom-of-christian.html.

    Please read it and tell me what you think of it. It is authentic Christian teaching on the nature of freedom.

    The Church has a long and glorious history of teaching in the area of mysticism, but has not systematised it for precisely the reason you point out – you cannot make one person’s path of spiritual experince normative for all. Objective truth, on the other hand, is normative for all.

    Thus in personal experience there is freedom and in community there is submission.

  86. Frank

    Matthias it is well said what you wrote, I would put it simpler to jacky : Consider the claims of the Catholic Faith and accept them for they only are the Truth and all men must be subject to Holy Roman Pontiff.

  87. Schütz

    Here’s a puzzle for you, Frank.

    You condemn any who have read Luther on the basis of Pope Leo X’s bull Exsurge Domine.

    You claim that Exsurge Domine is an accurate portrayal of Luther’s writings.

    Pray tell, how is this possible if you have not read him? If you have read him, are you not condemned?

  88. Frank

    Mr Schutz now we have Luther dogmatically wrong but “rightly motivated”…….please spare us….is that what led him to forsake the cloister and cohabit with a nun?

  89. Frank

    I can condemn Luther BECAUSE the Pope comndemns him. As they say these days that’s Catholicism 101 and it is fundamental Catholic belief, you don’t need to swim in the sewer to know it stinks.

  90. frdamian

    David,

    Thanks for the clarification re free will. Its years since I read documents related to the Erasmus – Luther debate…. I’ve forgotten sso much

  91. Schütz

    Frank,

    It is very possible to be wrong for the right reason. You’re still wrong, but it is somewhat more understandable.

    You can certainly feel justified in condemning Luther because of the condemnation of Pope Leo X if you like. What you cannot do is assess whether Pope Leo X had an accurate handle on what Luther was on about and whether what Leo condemned was in fact what Luther taught. You can only learn if that is true by studying Luther. Condemnations in the past have been overturned on the basis of scientific investigation, you know. Remember Gallileo?

  92. Schütz

    And here’s a thought: the rather stringent prohibition of reading Luther’s books seems to me to be something new to the Catholic world. In fact, the free availability of books WAS very new – thanks to the invention of the printing press not fifty years earlier. Luther monopolised on this invention. He set up shop in the local printing house. He was a new kind of heretic – the kind whose views were spread by through writing rather than through preaching. Leo’s attempt to shut down Luther by forbidding people to read his books is the equivalent to calls for Internet filters these days. Understandable but ultimately in vain (as the doomed Index of Prohibited books goes to show). Interesting if you look up the Index in the 1911 CAtholic Encyclopedia. You get this entry:

    “The Index of Prohibited Books, or simply “Index”, is used in a restricted sense to signify the exact list or catalogue of books, the reading of which was once forbidden to Catholics by the highest ecclesiastical authority.” My emphasis. I wonder if the prohibition of Exsurge Domine can likewise be seen to have “once” applied?

  93. Schütz

    Wikipedia says that “The Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“List of Prohibited Books”) was a list of publications prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church. It was abolished on June 14, 1966 by Pope Paul VI.”

    Do you know if Luther’s works were on the banned list? If they were, can we assume that Paul VI has overturned Leo X?

  94. Schütz

    Yes, I just checked here:

    http://www.beaconforfreedom.org/search/censored_publications/result.html?author=&cauthor=&title=&country=8052&language=&censored_year=&censortype=&published_year=&censorreason=&sort=au&page=214

    All of Luther's works were on the Index. Pope Paul VI has removed the Index. Hence we can read Luther's works. Poor old Pope Leo X and Exsurge Domine not withstanding.

  95. Schütz

    Next question, does anyone know the document in which Pope Paul VI suppressed the Index? I can’t find it..,

  96. Frank

    Mr Schutz you seem far too interested in the pestiferous Luther for my taste. Your sr on the Index proves nothing. You seek to criticise Pope Leo when you know full well that if Luther and his cohort had obeyed you would ahve been a Catholic and not a heretic having to convert! Why are you so insistent on justifying a heretic? Why do you think that you know beter than Pope Leo did? Mr SChutz you and I are laity and NOT the Pope. I understand your mixed marriage situation but I feel that you do a whole lot better by burying old Luther and his rot. In the words of a wonderful old irish priests many years bac’ ” what do we owe the protestants? Absolutley nothing!”

  97. Siddha Jacky

    ‘Siddha jacky fails to understand that Christianity is about a relationship with God through Jesus His Son.’

    Matthias, I don’t wish to be indelicate but I feel duty-bound to inform you that Jesus is dead, and the possibility of a personal relationship with him has long since passed.

    ‘If you knew the heart of man truly, Jacky, you would know that true freedom does not come from freedom from “rules”, “disciplines”…’

    You misunderstand me David. I am fully aware of the need for rules and disciplines in the spiritual life. What is antipathetic to progress on the mystical path, however, is the sense that one can’t trust one’s own experience unless it is filtered through the interpretations of others. And what kills it stone dead is being told that it must conform to a set of predetermined conditions before it can be accepted as genuine. (“No human being can intervene in the individual’s direct experience of the divine – except of course the man Christ Jesus without whom any true experience of the divine is impossible.”)

    The truth is that no formula, no form of words, no hierarchy, no imaginal being, no learning however profound, no theology, nothing whatsoever in the phenomenal world has the power to contain, restrict or define this experience, but they all have the power to destroy it, and they have been busily doing exactly that, unwittingly or otherwise, for a very long time.

    Furthermore, I was not suggesting that the church should systematise its teaching about mysticism, but rather that it needs to approach its practice in a systematic fashion. There is a big difference.

  98. Carlo

    I’m with Frank on the Luther question. The Church has said all that needs to be said about him, and there is no point in trying to rehabilitate the reputation of a man who was the most notorious heretic in Church history and who is already burning in Hell for all eternity.

  99. frdamian

    On Hell: Pope John Paul II

    Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the Spirit of God who makes us cry “Abba, Father!” (Rm 8:15; Gal 4:6).

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_28071999_en.html

  100. matthias

    Thank you Frank for your comments.It is people like you and others here,including our host, who are the defenders of the Historic Christian faith and have no patience with a watered down faith. Judging by the name “Siddha” perchance there is a Buddhist influence there. Perhaps I am wrong on that point.Siddha Jacky you have highlighted the difference between you and me,and others on this blog,-your rejection of Jesus as the Resurrected Lord.I think you have stated your case clearly,need we argue anymore?

  101. Carlo

    There have been many popes and saints before John Paul II. Here are a couple of samples to meditate upon:

    Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439, ex cathedra: “We define also that… the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go straightaway to Hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”

    St. Alphonsus on the damnation of the impure: “Continue, O fool, says St. Peter Damian (speaking to the unchaste), continue to gratify the flesh; for the day will come in which thy impurities will become as pitch in thy entrails, to increase and aggravate the torments of the flame which will burn thee in Hell: ‘The day will come, yea rather the night, when thy lust shall be turned into pitch, to feed in thy bowels the everlasting fire.” (Preparation for Death, abridged version, p. 117)

  102. Frank

    Luther’s Spirituality:

    “It is right and lawful to slay at the first opportunity a rebellious person, who is known as such, for he is already under God’s and the emperor’s ban. Every man is at once judge and executioner of a public rebel; just as, when a fire starts, he who can extinguish it first is the best fellow. Rebellion is not simply vile murder, but is like a great fire that kindles and devastates a country; it fills the land with murder and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and destroys everything, like the greatest calamity. Therefore, whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly, and should remember that there is nothing more poisonous, pernicious, and devilish than a rebellious man. Just as one must slay a mad dog, so, if you do not fight the rebels, they will fight you, and the whole country with you.” From his Against the Peasants.

  103. frdamian

    carlo,

    the only sites which seem to include the direct wording you have posted above, including the rather obvious misspelling of the name of the Decree of Union of the Council of Florence are sites which question the orthodoxy of the Popes. The very first google search brings up a site on Benedict XVI’s latest heresy.

  104. Carlo

    I just read this. It is truly astonishing. What was Luther, if not a rebellious man?

  105. Vicci

    Hi David,

    “ANd by the way on whose authority can you say that Pope Leo’s Bull is only for his lifetime. I tell you that the teachings of the Popes are for all Catholics and at all times.”

    “I’m with Frank on the Luther question. The Church has said all that needs to be said about him, and there is no point in trying to rehabilitate the reputation of a man who was the most notorious heretic in Church history and who is already burning in Hell for all eternity.”

    – welcome to Catholicism 101 !
    Just makes you want to open your arms and embrace, doesn’t it!

    (have a lovely trip. Have a think.
    Keep close to your wife. And make sure you find a ‘Catholic Church’
    that your heart can embrace…not just your intellect. It’s really that important.Very sincerely, V.)

  106. Carlo

    Truth can be found anywhere Fr Damian. I don’t have the sort of reference library that a priest might have access to, so I am reduced to finding this material on these out-of-the-way websites. Nonetheless, their authenticity still stands. Perhaps you could post some of these quotes from popes and saints on your parish website so that faithful Catholics like myself don’t have to put our souls in peril by straying into these dangerous waters.

  107. frdamian

    Carlo,

    “Truth can be found anywhere…”

    Even in Luther’s writings? 🙂

  108. Frank

    I don’t think that’s funny Fr given that Luther caused and obviously continues to cause great distress for some…and yes if Truth is found anywhere it is Catholic Truth anyway.

  109. Siddha Jacky

    Matthias, I don’t reject Jesus any more than I reject you. In fact I am fascinated by the man and venerate him, but I have not the slightest interest in the endless nonsense that is spoken and written about him by those who are pleased to call themselves his followers. And for the record, no, I am not a Buddhist, but I have a great admiration for their guy as well.

  110. Siddha Jacky

    Vicci, I salute your generous heart.

  111. Louise

    I am fascinated by the man and venerate him, but I have not the slightest interest in the endless nonsense that is spoken and written about him by those who are pleased to call themselves his followers.

    I can’t quite work out why you would venerate a man who went round behaving like a god. It is as CS Lewis said, either he was a lunatic or a liar or the Lord (ie God).

    There is nothing in the Gospels which shows Him to be just “a good man.”

  112. Siddha Jacky

    Depends what you mean by “behaving like a god”. On one interpretation of that phrase, it would seem to me entirely appropriate to venerate such a man. If he was “behaving like a god” because he was living at all times in the divine presence, why wouldn’t you venerate him?

    I don’t recall ever saying he was “just a good man”. For one thing, he wasn’t entirely good. He had a bit of mongrel in him. We know very little about him for certain, and a lot of what we think we know is contradicted by the other bits. The one thing I am sure of is that he was a heretic. I am also sure that that is why he was killed, and I think it is deeply ironic that his followers went on to do the same thing to those who disagreed with them. I doubt he would have approved.

  113. matthias

    You know what Louise ,i would forget engaging on this any further because we have here someone who doubts the Scriptures,who would even doubt what Josephus would say about Him. Jesus attended the synagogue as was His normalpractice. “Mongrel in Him” for upsetting the merchants who were selling merchandise in the Temple-more righteous indignation.
    No I think your problem my old Hippy friend is that you have read to much of certain theologians like John AT Robinson,bultmann ,spong and Funk,who talk in the same manner as what you do.He was “killed” for our sins ,as prophesied in the prophet isaiah and as David spoke of in the 22nd Psalm. I saw my brother descend into the same spiritual beliefs as you have Siddha,and he was at one stage a protege of Gordon Moyes,but his theological education (?) turned him into a cynic. Now a socialist ,he has expressed the belief that were he to return to Christianity it would be as a Catholic-after visiting ci.stercian abbeys in France and Belgium .Perhaps Siddha my last word to you is to look up Taize and see what they have to say.
    Schutz aufwedersein.

  114. Joshua

    Well, for those without faith Christ is “just a man” as that song from Godspell put it – but for those who believe, He is Lord, the Second Person of the Trinity become Incarnate to save us. From the outside it must look like madness, but we hold it to be true.

    Of course I can offer no proof of this – else it would not require faith – but I can demonstrate that it is reasonable and possible: if God exists, it is possible for God, without ceasing to be divine (for that is obviously impossible) to so unite a human body and soul to Himself that the godhead and the human nature are one person: the Athanasian Creed puts it somewhat like this – “As soul and body are one man, so divinity and humanity are one Christ.”

    It is foolish to look at the history of Christianity and see only the black spots, and so magnify them that the great good effected by Christian doctrine and morals is obscured; only in our age of license and disbelief could such a fraudulent misrepresentation find acceptance – not because it is true that Christianity overall brought evils, but because modern unbelievers want to believe that, so as to salve their own consciences and allow themselves the better to wallow in the mire.

  115. Siddha Jacky

    How wrong can you be Matthias? I’ve read too much of “John AT Robinson,bultmann ,spong and Funk”, have I? I’ve vaguely heard of Spong but the best I could say about him is that his name is splendidly Pythonesque. As for the others – never heard of them. I wouldn’t waste my time reading Christian theologians, especially Protestant ones, because they all labour under the same delusions that afflict 99% of Christians. They cannot approach questions of ultimate reality without several sets of blinkers on, so anything they have to say has no value to me. Frankly, I’d rather read poetry.

    I’m sad about what happened to your brother, especially the bit about him wanting to become a Catholic, but I wouldn’t touch Gordon Moyes with a 12.192-metre barge pole. I’d never heard of Taize before you mentioned it, so thank you for advancing my education, but after having a quick look at a few websites it sounds like my idea of purgatory. Maybe even hell. I’m sure you mean well, but no thanks.

  116. Siddha Jacky

    You make quite a lot of presumptions Joshua. You presume that faith can only be defined as denial of reason; you presume that I see only the dark side of Christianity; you presume that my denial of your version of Christian history condemns me to wallow in the mire; and finally, you presume that I somehow make an active choice to wallow in that mire.

    A few facts for you to contemplate: I have faith; I acknowledge the positive contribution of Christianity to human culture; and I have felt much freer, lighter and closer to God since I left the church behind than I ever did while I was in it.

  117. Joshua

    Easy there, I wasn’t speaking of you (about whom I know almost nothing) but of agnostics and atheists.

    Could you tell us a bit about what church you were a member of, and why you disassociated yourself therefrom?

    I ask because I have heard priests talk about women who had once been active members of their parishes, but who, ten years later, had given up on organized religion altogether, and said similar things about it to what I have gathered you say…

    After all, this is an ecumenical blog, so let’s share.

  118. matthias

    Siddha this is mylast com here in this topic,but the theologians I mentioned might be proddy’s but it is questionable as to whether they are Christian. Go look them up ,as for Moyes I agree with you there,but as for Ultimate Reality i will disagree with you and agree to differ but after you die in many years time let me know what ultimate reality is will you?? Yes i too knew the freedom when i left the church,and felt closer to God ,but I missed the company of Christians-frail fallible weak human beings that they are.

  119. Siddha Jacky

    Well first of all Joshua, I’m not a woman. I’ll leave you to choose from the alternatives. I was raised a Catholic, but left it as soon as I grew up.

    Where do I start with the reasons? The teachings on sex and contraception; the culture of coercion, driven by fear of damnation; the obsession with sin and the little ‘self’; the scandalous indoctrination of children before their critical faculties were developed – and that’s just for starters.

    As I grew older and discovered that it was possible to live the life of the spirit without any of these encumbrances, I came to see just how destructive the institution of the church was to genuine spirituality. The older I get, the more I am confirmed in that judgement as I begin to shake off the legacy of my “Christian formation”.

    I regard the church as terminally moribund, and if anything is to rise from its ashes, it will be something entirely different from what we have had for the last couple of millennia.

  120. Siddha Jacky

    Matthias, call me naive, but I hope to discover the nature of ultimate reality well before I cash in my chips. We were put on this earth to live, not just to die.

    Nothing wrong with frail, fallible, weak human beings Matthias, but let’s not hold that up as some sort of ideal. We can’t let Jesus hog all the enlightenment.

  121. Joshua

    I suppose we come from different spheres; I really don’t perceive any culture of coercion in the Church (frankly, if Christians did fear damnation at least that’d be a start – but really, who does these days?), these days no one obsesses about sin (again, if only they did!), and I have no idea what you mean by “the scandalous indoctrination of children before their critical faculties were developed” – what indoctrination? Do you mean teaching children their catechism like they did in the olden days?

    As for the hoary old chestnut about sex and contraception, well, most Catholics seem to ignore all that (not that they should!), and if you were to read JPII’s Theology of the Body you’d find there’s a lot of very well reasoned theological argument in favour of the traditional teachings on the subject.

    Myself, I would imagine that being separated from the doctrine, sacraments and liturgical life of the Church would rather disembody belief and let it float off into some vague spirituality or mysticism (using these terms in the pejorative sense).

    No offence meant, of course: obviously we have very different viewpoints, and may consider each other’s opinions as odd, but quot homines tot sententiæ.

    Do you believe in God, and if so, in God as the Trinity? (I am curious, please humour me.)

  122. Siddha Jacky

    So Joshua, I shouldn’t worry about all these problems I have with the church, because no-one believes in those things any more, but you and others like you think they still should. Well, forgive me if I don’t find that argument compelling.

    Now, as to belief in God, that is a question I always find hard to answer because the idea of God is so ill-defined, and because “belief” in this context seems an odd concept to me.

    Firstly, the Trinity is a nonsensical and utterly unnecessary complication. It alienates thoughtful and well-intentioned people, sometimes estranging them from the spiritual life permanently, which is a tragedy.

    Secondly, the divine is something to be experienced rather than believed in. We can believe what we like about the divine, but that won’t alter in any way what it is in itself. I see it as my task to discover the divine, not to erect a huge edifice of belief in honour of it. I want to find out for myself what it is rather than adopting someone else’s ideas about it, or constructing ideas of my own. God is just a concept, and I want to go beyond that.