“Come on in… it’s awful!”

"Come on in! It's Awful" by Joanna Bogle

Of course, this is the well known title of the book by Joanna Bogle (click the picture to go to the Google books page). But never was a truer word spoken. We Catholics are not under any illusions about how bad things are in Holy Mother Church. Past Elder, when he used to frequent this blog, delighted in calling her a “whore” rather than a “mother”. We can see how he might come to that conclusion.

Here is a less colourful, but rather more extended critique of things as they stand, from an article by Philip Blosser [ ‘The Kasper-Ratzinger Debate and the State of the Church’]:

With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of Tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like U.N. meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous.

No wonder a gap is widening between the Church’s official teachings and the actual practices of many local churches! No wonder the Church’s official positions are implemented with increasing reluctance or simply ignored! For over two generations our faith formation has been shaped by a media culture that has portrayed our Church as a dinosaur that is either an impediment to social progress or simply irrelevant. We are blinded by ignorance. Where there is no vision, the people perish. The truth is that our Church’s traditions and teachings have not been tried and found wanting; they have been found demanding and are no longer tried.

Many blame the Second Vatican Council and 1968 and all that, but the roots of the current problems in the Church (I have it on good authority) go back long before that. One scholar (in a yet to be published book) reckons the rot can be traced back to the rise of nominalism in the fourteenth century…

And yet still we say: Come on in! Still we urge our brothers and sisters in other communions to come into full communion with the bishop of Rome. Still we carry on evangelising and baptising and raising people in the faith in this Church. Why don’t we just give up on her and go elsewhere? (Of course, there are many – most of them over on Catholica – whose litany of woes in the Church would be the direct opposite of Blosser’s above, and yet who also show a decided attachment to the Old Mother and show no signs of bailing out just yet!).

I believe it is because we are convinced that this “whore”, this “old woman” is, warts and all, the Bride of Christ. The two texts that stand out most for me are: John 6:68 (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”) and Matt 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” They give one a kind of reckless optimism which nothing can extinguish.

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211 Comments

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211 responses to ““Come on in… it’s awful!”

  1. They give one a kind of reckless optimism which nothing can extinguish.

    LOL! Yes.

  2. PM

    As I have reached middle age and (at least sometimes) shed the intolerant streak that often goes with youthful enthusiasm, I have learned to love the messiness that goes with Holy Mother Church. A body of a billion people can never, Deo gratias, become a mere narrow sect for people who think they are perfect – and there is room in it even for spiritual mediocrities like me. ‘Here comes everyone.’

  3. Anne

    Our beautiful church is “The Word” of Jesus which He spoke from the Cross and it came to birth.
    Yes this “Word” is made up of many nuances but it is still the “Word” (bride) of Christ and beloved by Him.
    Anne

  4. Christine

    A sect? No, the RC is so roomy there’s never going to be any danger of her being a sect. As long as one maintains even the most tenuous connection to the institution and assents to the “unity” of the Bishop of Rome, all is well.

    There was an article in Our Sunday Visitor back around 1996 or so that opined that since most people don’t have the “gift” for truly religious life (meaning, of course, the consecrated life) the RC makes room for people at all levels. The most “gifted” will live at the “highest level” of religious life, those not so gifted will do a little more than just attend Sunday Mass and try to keep the Ten Commandments while the “least gifted” will just make do with the very basics.

    What a sad assessment. I have long since ceased to be impressed with the “billions” of Catholics on the planet, many of whom are basically baptized pagans, which John Paul II readily acknowledged. Perfection is not the issue, none of us is, faithfulness to the Gospel is.

    Christine

  5. Matthias

    These criticisms can also be levelled at other churches.
    Pentecostalism for their allowing of the prosperity heresy
    Anglicanism for not as a body standing up for the Gospel but revelling in cultural relevance
    Baptists and Church of Christ for letting in at times at their services a triumphalism that is praising what they have achieved ,rather than what God has done and is doing.
    Orthodoxy for allowing themselves at times to identify Christianity with nationhood or membership of a particular ethno-cultural group. ie look at Tolstoys writings “Amongst the Cossacks” to see this or The Fourth balkans war ie the troubles in the Former Yugolsavia ,serve as an example of this.But let us not forget that the Third Balkans War ie what occurred in the same area during WW2 when Croatian Catholic Ustashi Government persecuted Serbian orthodox .
    What about that long term Irish joke-Northern Ireland when protestants and catholics fought each other in the most horrendous way. Certainly no True Christian would sanction that.
    . i believe Christine has hit the nail on the head.Faithfulness to the Gospel , following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder)

    Your comment was called to my attention by another reader.

    Actually David, the “messiness” you discuss has nothing whatever to do with why the RCC is a whore rather than a mother let along mother church.

    Nor do I delight in the description.

    All church bodies, including my own, are full of messiness, and on any given day, I may be part of it.

    So, that is not at all why I came to that conclusion, or reject the Catholic Church (to be distinguished from Catholics) as the catholic church, or even these days, as the Catholic Church.

    I have made my case for why I came to that conclusion as much as I am going to on this blog.

  7. Christine

    Matthias, there is one very important factor that you have left out. None of the churches you have mentioned make the monumental claims for themselves that the Catholic church does, so the burden of proof is on her.

    I have found the evidence wanting.

    Christine

  8. Matthias

    Well i was not going to mention that seeing as i am a guest on this website

  9. Perhaps a couple of decades ago, David, Joanna Bogle might have been a hero in my eyes. Today I read these sort of people and all I want to do is run outside, stick two fingers down my throat and throw up. I honestly don’t believe they offer a “way forward” for Catholicism. The prospect I think we honestly face is the one Benedict predicted, or is trying to facilitate: “a smaller, purer Church” that is basically irrelevant to the vast masses in society. I think he, and they, are now almost deliberately fulfilling their own predictions and trying to create “a museum of the remnant”.

    The vast majority have just given up (thinking about anything much). Young people today don’t know what those of us who experienced the excitement, the dynamism and hope that was unleashed in the Church following the Second Vatican Council are talking about. That “excitement, the dynamism and hope” is not something that is easily conveyed by words. Pell, Benedict and Co believe they can re-evangelise the Church by appealing to the appetites of a small minority in the youthful population — those the vast majority of young people classify as “odd balls”, “social misfits” or “nutters” but this side of hell freezing over they’re never going to be able to communicate with the societal mainstream.

    The irony, as I and other writers/researchers keep suggesting, is that there is actually a tremendous amount of “spiritual vibrancy” in human civilisation at the moment. But the vast majority have turned elsewhere to find it. We see it in the rise of what I call “secular liturgies” — we see them at sporting events, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, News Years Eve in Sydney, Australia Day celebrations in other States, and a “local dynamism” in liturgy in, say, Catholic schools (but not in parishes). Young people almost universally report in surveys of attitudes about Catholic schools that they “love the liturgies”. They can’t find anything equivalent when they leave school and in addition they find a lot of “old lifer language” that turns them off in their droves. We also see it in the extraordinary growth of published, commercial literature on what are broadly “spiritual” subjects and themes.

    You, David, are an interesting character — and, if I may say so, something of an abberation. You’ve recently come wandering into Catholicism and seem magnetically attracted to a particular view or “culture” of Catholicism. It is the one shared by Benedict but it is not the one shared by the vast, vast majority who were brought up Catholic from the cradle. You seem to love a particular liturgical feel, a particular type of language (that many today find quaint), similarly for a certain type of (what do you call it?) “Christian manners”. I humbly submit, a lot of the rest of us have “moved on” from all of that. We no longer believe it leads to salvation, happiness or the peace ‘which surpasses all human understanding’ promised by Jesus Christ. We’ve given up waiting for priests or popes to provide even a semblance of leadership spiritually.

    I think the stark choice the human family faces in regards to Catholicism today is between the picture broadly presented by the likes of yourself and the essayists in Joanna Bogle’s book and this search for what I label as “real Divine Truth” — what is the Spirit saying to me in my life today/how do I make the real meaningful and truthful moral choices in my life that really do lead to salvation and what Jesus Christ promised. We are disillusioned with the leadership who are unable to acknowledge the damage done by sexual abuse. We no longer believe God speaks down through some exclusive “hotline” to the Pope. He, and his predecessor were very fallible human beings driven by ego, wanting to please our mums (or the archetype models of perfection they planted in us along with their breast milk) and all the things that drive you and me. There is not “priesthood” of the “especially annointed by God”. Our Creator-God speaks not through any particular individual, including the Pope, but “through all of humanity”. The role of the priesthood — if it should survive into the future — has to be pastoral rather than dogmatic or as the “magic men” who confect Divine miracles on an altar. They have to become the facilitators of the world-wide conversation of what our Creator-God is saying “THROUGH ALL PEOPLE”. They have to re-envisage themselves as the ones who help us (the whole of humanity) discern what is of Divine Origin amidst the cacaphony thrown up by our own egos and our own fears and the white noise generated by technology and civilisation itself.

    I genuinely feel sorry for people who think the likes of Joanna Bogle, Ann Widdencombe (did you see the online debate where she recently got trounced?) or by the thinking of men like Pope Benedict or your own local hero, Cardinal Pell. All they have to offer us is a “museum for the remnant”. They might have some short-term success still appealing to the under-educated masses in the Third World but if the long term trend in human civilisation is maintained within a few more decades the “vast masses in Asia” will have access to the same levels of affluence, secular education and social sophistication we take for granted in the First World and perhaps only a few generations after them the great masses of the poor and uneducated in Africa and South America will be experiencing or aspiring to it all as well. Where will the “great recruitment policies of Benedict and JPII” be then?

    Cheers, Brian Coyne

  10. Christine

    The two texts that stand out most for me are: John 6:68 (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”) and Matt 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

    With the understanding, of course, that they are read differently by millions of Orthodox and other Christians outside of Rome’s jurisdiction.

    Christine

    • Christine et al,
      As it happens, I recently added some patristic comments on the second verse David quotes over at lutherancatholicity.blogspot.com, and I have more to follow.

      (Blatant link bait, I know, but it is relevant.)

  11. Christine

    I do feel compelled to point out to Mr. Coyne that Christianity is doing quite well in Africa and Asia, and not only among the “uneducated” (the “anawim”, who were so beloved of Christ).

    But then, the liberal version of the Gospel is so far from the mind of Christ and the Word of God I hardly know where to start.

    Christine

  12. Matthias

    Could Brian Coyne perhaps consider joining the Quakers as what he has talked about under the area of “the search’ fits them,nad at least he would be theologically comfortable and find people of his own perusasion.
    I also concur with Christine around the orthodox and other denominations reading Scripture and who has the keys of the kingdom differently. and yes mr Coyne the Christian church is doing very well-Catholic,orthodox,protestant and charismatic-in Africa and Asia,at the interface with islam and often under extreme persecution.they hold to the truth of the Gospel.
    and nice dig at schutz being an aberration mr Coyne and sayig that you have moved on from where he sits. All you are doing is repeating the modernism of Protestantism i saw in the 1960s’ but as Solomon says “there is nothing new under the sun”.

    Christine i need to ask are you Proddy,Catholic or Orthodox,anyway thanks for the stimulating conversation before i go to Church

  13. I genuinely feel sorry for people who think the likes of Joanna Bogle, Ann Widdencombe (did you see the online debate where she recently got trounced?) or by the thinking of men like Pope Benedict or your own local hero, Cardinal Pell.

    Bizarre.

    A few years from know I suppose you will have “moved on” from the Trinity.

    A few years after that you will likely “move on” from reality.

    Re: the interpretation of the Bible. Whose Bible is it? Who decided which books are in the canon and which are not and by what authority? Who had the authority to determine which ideas were truly Christian and which were heretical, as regards the identity and nature of Christ?

  14. There is not “priesthood” of the “especially annointed by God”. Our Creator-God speaks not through any particular individual, including the Pope, but “through all of humanity”. The role of the priesthood — if it should survive into the future — has to be pastoral rather than dogmatic or as the “magic men” who confect Divine miracles on an altar. They have to become the facilitators of the world-wide conversation of what our Creator-God is saying “THROUGH ALL PEOPLE”.

    Who says? Do you just have fun making up all this stuff?

  15. Matthias

    I think Louise that Brian is trying to show us he credentials for being “progressive”.I repeat that if he were honest ,that he would find himself very comfortable in the Quakers or in the UCA where the pastoral priesthood as in all protestant churches has been present for a long time.

  16. Well, Brian, all I can say in reply is that if my take on Catholicism is the same as the Pope’s, it can’t be too much of an abheration!

  17. those the vast majority of young people classify as “odd balls”, “social misfits” or “nutters” but this side of hell freezing over they’re never going to be able to communicate with the societal mainstream.

    Actually, it’s very easy to show that “progressive” ideas (particularly in relations to that pesky commandment about adultery) are pretty well insane, so being described as a “nutter” for holding contrary views is hardly a problem.

    They might have some short-term success still appealing to the under-educated masses in the Third World

    Patronising much?

    I honestly don’t believe they offer a “way forward” for Catholicism.

    Why would the Church need a “way forward”? Towards what?

    The only question of any relevance is whether or not the Church is right.

  18. Interesting article here, Brian:
    http://gkupsidedown.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-modernist-christianity-will-die.html

    Also, some non-religious reasons to consider the current milieu to be nuts:
    http://www.takimag.com/article/stuff_white_people_like2/

    Flouting ancient moral codes is the postmodern version of the proverbial rich guy lighting cigars with $20 bills.

  19. It’s aberration, David, in the sense that 86% of the baptised have walked out the door across the face of the Western world. Who’s the minority who believe they alone know the truth or are the guardians of the truth? Certainly if you believe God speaks exclusively through the Holy Father and our only pathway to salvation is by agreeing with everything the Holy Father says in a role that you believe he has been appointed to by the Almighty Himself then it is not an aberration. The vast majority of the baptised though no longer seem convinced by that picture.

    Time will be the ultimate decider as to who got the correct picture in their minds. We are all effectively betting our lives, and salvation, on that aren’t we?

    • Tom

      Brian, I’m sorry – but what you’re saying just doesn’t make sense. If one wants to be a Catholic, one must be a part of the Catholic Church, which is formed by communion with the Holy Father. If you don’t want to be in communion with the Holy Father, then be a schismatic, but don’t pretend you’re still being a Catholic, because that’s just not what a Catholic is.

    • 86% of the baptised have walked out the door across the face of the Western world

      Have you ever heard the word “apostacy”, Brian? It is a real possibility, one which the Scriptures warn us is in fact an eschatological likelihood, and one which does not respect democratic majorities and minorities.

      • David, I think apostacy is a real problem but not as big a problem as you seem to believe. If we take the 86% figure of those who have left across the Western world I am sure Benedict and JP’s arguments about apostacy and them (to use my words) being sucked out of the Church by the allures of secularism, consumerism, nihilism, etc. does carry SOME credibility. Some of left for those reasons. I don’t know if anyone has done deep research into it but my anecdotal sense is that it could be perhaps half of the 86%. A heck of a lot though have not left because of apostacy. They simply do not believe the agendas that Benedict, JPII and friends have endeavoured to impose on the institution since Vatican II. They disagree with the direction these pontiffs have endeavoured to take the Church (while all the while proclaiming that what they’re really doing is finding the ‘true spirit’ of Vatican II. What utter bullsh#t. Where are you George Orwell and NewSpeak?) The vibrancy and energy that was in the Church through the sixties, seventies and even into the 1980s has all been snuffed out as these zealots, at every turn, have endeavoured to undo Vatican II and return Catholicism to some feudal, clerical state where salvation is promised through a formula of “Pray, Pay and Obey”. Many, many people no longer believe it and have gone off searching for alternative — principally into a private exploration. The needs of those people are not being attended to while this incessant panding to the insecurities of a tiny minority of the Catholica population goes on.

        So, yes, I agree with you that to some extent apostacy is a problem. But what about all those who have left but not for reasons of apostacy — losing their faith and belief in God altogether?

  20. vynette

    I followed a link to this blog from Catholica and I would like to ask you, Louise, what you consider to be the answers to the rhetorical [I think] questions you posed.

    “Whose Bible is it? Who decided which books are in the canon and which are not and by what authority? Who had the authority to determine which ideas were truly Christian and which were heretical, as regards the identity and nature of Christ?”

    What answers would you provide to these questions?

    • Well, the Church wrote the New Testament and decided which books were to be included in the canon and which were just ordinary books (or letters).

      • vynette

        Louise,

        I cannot believe that you are serious when you say that the “Church wrote the New Testament and decided which books were to be included in the canon…”

        Surely you don’t believe this…do you?

        • Well… who did then?

          • vynette

            Louise,

            I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that when you used the word “Church,” you were referring particularly to the Roman Catholic Church. If you were, then your statement is erroneous.

            • I was. Why is it erroneous?

              • vynette

                Louise,

                From apostolic times, the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were in possession of the various materials which form our present New Testament.

                The formation of the canon was due to a growing grass-roots consensus rather than a decision that was handed down by ecclesiastical authorities. The canon was not imposed by Eastern or Western church leaders or by councils. They stand at the end of the process rather than at the beginning.

                When the first official canonical list identical to the New Testament we have today appeared in 367 AD, it was not compiled by the Bishop of Rome but by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria. This list merely ratified the books considered “canonical” which had been in use in the various communities for nearly three centuries.

                No action of a council or a synod was early enough to have had a decisive influence on the course of events. The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.

                • From apostolic times, the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were in possession of the various materials which form our present New Testament.

                  I know that. Thanks. These writers were members of the Church, yes?

                  The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.

                  I’m assuming your comment is correct. The point is that someone with legitimate authority was able to ratify the general opinion of the Faithful.

                  By comparison, during the Reformation, which person decided to remove certain books and portions of books from the canon? By what authority did they do so?

                  • vynette

                    Louise,

                    When you say “These writers were members of the Church…” you still don’t specify which Church you are referring to.

                    Is it an Eastern church, or a Western church, or what?

                    • *The* Church, vynette, *the* Church; the one that Christ founded.

                      “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”

                      (not churches)

                • Son of Trypho

                  The Christian communities were guided by Apostolic Tradition and had their own recognisable hierarchies (presbyters, deacons) or if you prefer authorities/leadership who were derived from the Apostles.

                  This Tradition is where the Church derives non-Scriptural doctrines noting of course that the NT is itself an example of the process of living Tradition.

              • vynette

                Son of Trypho,

                I only accept doctrines based on the New Testament. If they are not tried and tested against the teachings of the New Testament, then they are worthless, in my opinion of course.

                Let us not work backwards from tradition, but forwards from the New Testament. Only then will we be able to see if the Hellenist and Latin “fathers” were correct in their formulations of doctrine.

                Now, unlike the Hebrews apostles and the Hebrew Jesus, Hellenist theology extolled “virginity” and “virgin” mothers. The minds of the Hellenist fathers, including Ignatius, were set in the key of a different structure to that of the Hebrews and they retrojected onto the New Testament documents elements from their own prevailing religions. They did not understand the Hebrew mindset or its modes of expression. They did not understand Hebrew messianic expectations or the Hebrew concept of God.

                Ignatius introduced the idea of a “virgin-birth” because such a notion was already present in his mind. In reality, it was an attempt to explain away what the infancy narratives clearly reveal – that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of man other than Joseph.

                So, does the New Testament record a virgin birth/virgin conception or not?

                A complete analysis will be very lengthy so I will leave it up to David as to whether I proceed on this thread. Or on any thread.

                • Son of Trypho

                  vynette

                  Being a Hebrew Catholic myself, I’m fascinated by your seeming assertion that virgin birth ideas were unknown to the Hebrews or ancient Jews – I recall Isaiah 7.14 referring to such a concept.

                  You do recognise the OT don’t you?

                  Similarly, I disagree with your assertion that Ignatius was unable to understand the Hebrew mindset etc. Antioch had a significant Jewish population and many of the Christians of Antioch were Jewish converts, many would have been first and second generation converts. Ignatius was clearly aware of Jewish issues cf. his letter Ad Magn.

                  And again, if the NT was a product of Apostolic Tradition how then can you deny non-Scriptural doctrines which originate from Tradition?

                  • vynette

                    Son of Trypho,

                    Well, your assertion that Isaiah 7:14 refers to a virgin-birth merely proves my point that Ignatius and others simply did not understand ancient Hebrew thinking. Proximity does not mean understanding.

                    Virgins were not extolled in ancient Hebrew thought.

                    The text of Isaiah 7:14 reads “hinneh ha-almah harah” – “behold, the young woman is pregnant” – and refers to a young woman in Isaiah’s own time.

                    I can most easily deny doctrines which are not based on the New Testament. New Testament writings first, everything else second – that’s the only safe and sure way to proceed.

                    If we cannot agree to debate the content of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament only, there is no point in continuing.

                    • Dear Vynette,

                      (Is that your name? It’s nice, but I’ve not heard it before)

                      You wrote:

                      “If we cannot agree to debate the content of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament only, there is no point in continuing.”

                      Well, have you not noted the very title of this blog: Sentire cum Ecclesia – “To think with the Church”?

                      As Catholics, the blog owner and many of us poor commenters here do hold that “to think with the Church” means embracing not the Scriptures alone (I note you are amusingly P.C. about referring to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Scriptures, yet still call the New the New, in contradistinction to-?), but accepting the Church’s own declaration that we embrace Divine Revelation mediated through the canonical Scriptures and sacred Tradition.

                      Hence, it would seem by your argument that “there is no point in continuing” – but I hope you will continue to learn from us! 😉

                    • Son of Trypho

                      Vynette

                      I agree – I see no further value in continuing the discussion with you.

                      You are requiring everyone else to agree to the parameters that your setting which define your positions – a stance which is not conducive to open and free discussion.

        • Also, I believe in the Trinity, Virgin Birth etc, so you could hardly be surprised that I might see other things differently.

        • Son of Trypho

          God is the author of Sacred Scripture.

  21. Matthias

    brian only one pathway to Salvation,Jesus Christ,not the Pope.Deny that then why call yourself a Christian let alone a catholic

    • I am not implying that communion with the Holy Father is a means of salvation (although communion in God’s Holy Church is, and the Holy Father is the Universal Pontif of the Holy Church, so go figure), but I am saying that communion with the Holy Father and submission to his teaching authority is a requirement for Catholic faithfulness. Which is not, I think, too big a thing to say.

  22. You might find this hard to believe, Matthias. I don’t think I am denying one bit of what you write. In fact that is my very point. I think it is others who substitute Popes, and rules, and other things in place of the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ. That is in fact the whole thrust of my argument and all that I stand for.

    • If you think I “substituted Popes, and rules, and other things in place of the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ” you are much mistaken, Brian.

      However, I believe your difficulty is that you believe that the “Popes, and rules, and other things” of the Catholic Church are somehow in opposition to “the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ”, rather than (as most readers of this blog believe) a reliable guide to the “The Way” of Christ.

      • David, by coincidence, the extract from Tom Lee’s exploration of the origins of Christianity which we published on Catholica today covers Vincent of Lerins who was the first to try and formulate a response to heresy and how the people decide when the Church has run off the rails. Why are you so sure Benedict has the right formula? My confidence is not so much buoyed by the 86% the “majority” that interests me far more is what the “majority” of bishops in the Church discerned the Holy Spirit was saying at the Second Vatican Council. The anecdotal evidence is that the vast majority of bishops did not expect Vatican II to result in any radical departure from the past. Vatican II was not some plot by the radical bishops of the world. By and large they were very conservative men. Yet something happened at that Council and they did end up moving the Church in a completely new direction — one away from clericalism and re-envisaging the Church as in a real sense “the Body of Christ” — priests and the laity working together … a ‘communio’ or true communion of the people of God. That has been overturned by this small gaggle of malcontents who, at every turn, have plotted and schemed to undo the express discernment of the vast majority of bishops. Since then we have had these attempts to stack the College of Bishops on a number of continents and it is truly disgraceful. Our bishops have been effectively gagged from representing their people and have been turning into “branch managers of head office”.

        I appreciate one of the things that attracted you to Catholicism, and it has long been embodied in the very title of your blog is that you do sincerely believe Benedict and JPII have been on the right track. Many disagree with you. After long discernment over a decade and a half, I disagree with you. I think JPII was a disaster. More people left the institution during his pontificate than in any other pontificate in history. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when he was called to account and see how all the stage acting and ‘media savvy’ stacked up against the real facts? Benedict, by his policy decisions, particularly those of the last 18 months-2 years has only accelerated the whole process.

        • Brian, note that, by and large, Vatican II, in Dei Verbum, actually rejected Vincent of Lerins formula for deciding what was and was not true Tradition, true Catholicism.

    • matthias

      Well I hope so brian .i am not catholic ,just Baptist,and like Luther-no offence here to my brethren in Christ ,who are Catholic-i stand bound by Scripture and my conscience.

  23. I can see your argument, Brian, but I don’t agree with it. It seems to show you don’t agree with the Catholic Church, in which case, why not do a South Brisbane? I believe Gamaliel’s advice is pertinent here. But remember that truth lies not with the majority vote in matters of revealed truth. The crowd will always choose Barabbas. I do know what you mean by your caricature of those who are in the faithful-to-Pope side of the equation, but it is a little cruel. There can be a tendency to look down one’s nose…

    I myself turned away from liberal modernism because of its bitterness and nastiness as well as because of what I learnt of religion. Increasingly, I came to see it as a manifestation of left-wing intolerant ideologues (anyone wanna burn a climate change denier? ).

    I don’t believe your examples (e.g. Yay, we had a liturgical dance and hand-waving at school Mass) suggest any great flowering of a free, happy, vibrant non-Papal Catholicism, just a lot of wishy-washy ideas that lead to nothing much (yes, the parish liturgies – apart from the very few in the EF! 😉 – are terrible, but they’re terrible because of tired seventies gits; and no, them youf who like the school carryings-on are not thereby impelled to do anything; they just drift off). Time will tell.

    But do you really think that if – for argument’s sake – we Aussie Catholics (from Pell down to you and me) could thumb our noses at nasty ol’ BXVI and do as you say, producing a sort of imitation Anglicanism of the Spong variety, that it would actually achieve your desiderata of a liberated mass movement back to God, delivered from outmoded morality and antiquated notions of faith? If anything, it would only speed the total victory of religious apathy I firmly reason.

    Catholicism in Australia is simultaneously too weak and too strong – it is too weak, in that nearly all its local instantiations are embarrassingly vacuous; and too strong, because everyone knows the basics of official Catholic teaching, which are yet not believed nor even given much apologetic explanation, producing the fatal image of an organization whose members only pretend subscription to its tenets, which, unexplained, appear as nonsense for silly fools. The schizophrenia within Catholicism is fatal, and scandalizes even those outside – ecumenical dialogue partners routinely report that the Catholics they discuss with will cheerfully deny Catholic teachings in a most disconcerting manner, repelling and repulsing those who are there out of some sincere interest in discussing these vexed issues, and not very impressed to find their putative defenders unashamedly bagging them!

    • Yes, Joshua, I can understand you moving in the opposite direction to me. Some do. It just so happens the vast majority seems to have been swimming in the direction I’ve found myself moving. For a long, long time I bucked the trend and was as fervent and committed for the sort of agendas that some of you in this place are still trying to push.

      You’ll probably get upset when I write this but I write it with sincerity. Yes, I honestly do think writers and thinkers like John Shelby Spong, Hans Kung, Karen Armstrong, Michael Morwood and others do present, or are exploring, alternative theologies, Christologies and Pneumenologies that provide a better understanding of the relationship God calls his people into. I don’t necessarily believe slavishly everything they say — and on some matters I disagree with some of what they write just as they sometimes also disagree with one another. I do think our God is speaking to humanity in new ways and through the sciences (which are not some human invention but an “uncovering of the very structure and laws of Creation which were created by the One whom we believers worship as God”) and through advances in knowledge in other disciplines and it is incumbent upon us to adapt our thinking to the new understandings and insights these things give us into the nature of the Mystery we try to condense into the word “God”. God is not static. Never has been. I believe deeply that our Creator-God is in dynamic relationship with Creation, and each of us. The heart of the spiritual quest is to try and discern what God is say to me (each of us individually) and us. That implies, ipso-facto a very personal and dynamic relationship. We are not here primarily to obey a whole set of laws that were inscribed on tablets of stone back in the mists of time.

      We are called on to make intelligent decisions, make the right moral call, in the nitty-gritty of lived life. How do you respond when your daughter comes home pregnant and wants to have an abortion? How do you respond when you find your boss has his hand in the till but if you squeal you’ll lose your livelihood? Catholicism is not some game of running around the streets of civilisation trying to demonstrate that we know God’s Right to Life Agenda. It is demonstrating that when the shit hits the fan in your life, or in your family’s life, you can demonstrate you can actually make the correct moral choice that enables all the parties that are involved make intelligent moral choices and grow in their own sanctity and goodness.

      Sadly, under JPII and Benedict, Catholicism has been turned into a grown-ups version of the schoolyard game “Nerny, Nerny my Dad’s (my God’s) bigger ‘n your God! I know God’s laws and all of you heathen (who are having abortions, fornicating, getting divorces or advocating euthanasia or whatever), you don’t and you’ll all go to hell!” Give us a friggin’ break. That is not the pathway to heaven, salvation or however one defines the end-objective of our beliefs and practises.

      As events are unfolding, particularly in Ireland, it is becoming increasing apparent that the sexual and other forms of abuse that has gone on in the Church has not been been because of the sinful behaviours of a few misguided or immature priests. It’s been caused by the entire structure of clericalism and putting priests on a pedestal as though they were superhuman. They are not superhuman. They are individuals who struggle just like you and me to make sense of their lives — and to make intelligent moral decisions. The true horror of the abuse revelations is not the abuse itself, as horrific as the scale of that has been, it has been the cover-up of bishops and men who should have known better even under the moral and civil laws of the time. That is a failing of a system that took all ties of accountability off its ruling classes. They ended up protecting “the system”, and their own backsides, rather than protecting the most vulnerable of God’s children who were placed in their care. It has been brave bishops like our own Geoffrey Robinson, and now the Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who have had the guts, and moral judgment, to “blow the whistle” and still the Vatican is dragging its feet acknowledging that this is an endemic problem and not merely some failure of a small group of individual priests and nuns whose power had gone to their heads (or other more private parts of their bodies).

      Cheers,

      • Last things first: I, and anyone not completely confused, fully agree that the shameful scandal of child abuse is today’s number one proof of arrogance, hypocrisy, duplicity and every other vice on the part of priests. As I heard preached in an EF Mass in NZ, this is not traceable to modernism – since in Ireland way back when, before the Council, dissent was unheard of – but to a Pharisaical, Old Testament mindset, retreating from the New Law of the New Testament (which is the Holy Spirit written on our hearts) into a cruel parody of old-time religion. Of course, after the Council when everything was being questioned, it’s easy to see how the unscrupulous and the wicked and the weak indulged and/or permitted filthy crimes to be hushed up (as society then required). This is an outrageous shame.

        However, mark that clerical sexual abuse is largely a problem of the Irish diaspora – which is why it crops up in the US and the old “White Dominions”. A downtrodden culture, with the almost stereotypical problems with drink, and with weak father figures… you don’t need to be a psychologist to see the issues here.

        I think, though, that to tie clerical abuse to faults of the right or left is actually to mistake the problem. Certainly a part of it was exalting priests as if they were sinless, but that was always a perverse thing.

        ******

        I find your caricature of Catholicism under JPII quite bizarre, since it more accurately caricatures the Divine-command theory of morality (which is in essence nominalistic and inhuman, as BXVI pointed out w.r.t. a certain rival system at Regensburg) that used to be pushed, and which is itself fundamentally unCatholic. Natural Law and virtue ethics, as Thomists prefer, is far better than some appalling bastardized version of “thou shalt nots” with no rhyme nor reason to them. I would argue that the strange image you hold up is so far from the truth that it is but a straw man: it may have been that way in the 1950’s I suppose. (All of this is just rehashing the Fundamentals of Christian Morals courses I took some years back at CTC and JPII.)

        And I don’t get the implied contrast between difficult moral decisions and some sort of struggle that validates them… what are you trying to say?

        And you can’t seriously think poor Michael Morwood is any kind of deep thinker? LOL! No, I find these modern pseudo-intellectuals of the type to whom you refer desperately uninteresting and superficial. I prefer something a good deal weightier and more profound.

        I find, rather as did Chesterton, that Catholic writers, not pompously deriding all before in the conviction that they and they alone have discovered the truth, but delving into the riches of our tradition, are far more profitable.

        Silly talk about ongoing revelation and science (as if science is a new thing, it’s been around for centuries) doesn’t really appeal. I do have a B.Sc.(Hons) in astrophysics you know, I’m not some Creationist fool hiding under a rock!

        All this puts me in mind of the wimpy ageing blokes and mannish peevish nuns and middle-aged women with chips on their shoulders whose company I had to bear while doing my B.Theol.: so boring, so last generation.

        What I cannot understand is your assertion that you, dear Brian, and your ilk are being oppressed, when in actual fact in my experience and those of all whom I know, it is persons of your general sort who do exercise all the power – the grey cardigan brigade, or “Fr Beige” as they say in Melbourne.

        Take the obvious example: it was only after twenty years of a blind eye toward them, once the most egregious shenanigans were made international news, that Bathersby finally and with the greatest reluctance picked on the South Brisbane shamozzle.

        Contrast that with the persecution of orthodox priests, who are hated with a vengeance and often suffer at the hands of their bishops and fellow priests! Just imagine if you will the incredible storm that would descend upon a priest who said Mass facing east (which all contemporary research shows is Catholic and universal, as the Eastern rites all testify; and which the very rubrics of the modern Missal presuppose) – I have seen this happen to a young priest who, out of devotion, said Mass at an altar in the Lourdes grotto next to the church, and he got into heaps of trouble! And as for those who actually prefer the ’62 Mass, well, they may as well get themselves nailed to a cross in the Philippines and be done with it.

        No, it is the liberals who are in power, even despite some more recent appointments (many of whom are quite disappointing in their caving in to liberals).

        But I return to my thesis, which I perceive you can see: the Church suffers from schizophrenia or cognitive dissonance, because what is said, believed and practised at one level is the reverse of what is said, believed and practised at others. Now, the Church having a robust hierarchical structure, it will bend and even break on the diocesan and national levels (e.g. Netherlands, Switzerland, parts of Germany, Austria), but not at the centre. This is why Anglicanism has fallen apart, but our one stay is the Pope. It seems fair to say, even leaving aside issues of faith on this point, that the Church is very unlikely to do a complete volte face tomorrow on the usual list of controversial issues: which is why liberal dissent, even when in the majority and in control, is ultimately frustrated and futile.

        Best wishes, Josh.

        • Son of Trypho

          Hear! Hear! with regards to pointing up the glaring error of Coyne’s argument – it is the liberals who are running the show, especially at the local level, and they have, and continue to cause most of the problems which Coyne is complaining about.

          Similarly, throw his desire for genuine liturgy which is in touch with people and ask the obvious question – why has Islam’s relatively unchanged religious functions/services (liturgy) not suffered the same failure and has shown growth?

  24. Why not, Brian, establish the Majority Catholic Church of the 86% (or whatever it was), within which all irrelevant and archaic balderdash will be discarded? I somehow can’t see that this body – a Personal Ordinariate perhaps? – would pack them in, apart from the usual ageing nuns, brothers and REC’s (see previous remarks re: South Brisbane).

    Any updated Catholicism that totally agrees with the spirit of the age would be completely superfluous, since it would exist only to affirm the sufficiency of the world: it would die of inanition, since it would not be needed by post-modern human kind.

    Amusingly, what you call for is in fact what is already largely provided by our Aussie clergy: as a friend said to me this weekend, look at the congregation at the cathedral of ____; they are all conservatives, and yet look at Fr ____ at the altar, doing his best to preach to the liberals! This is very widespread, as for instance in Adelaide. The clergy are by and large possessed of a more aCatholic view than their congregations (apart from the usual pro-Father clique).

    This produces Catholic cognitive dissonance, or ecclesiastical schizophrenia.

    Note that those who don’t darken the door are hardly likely to do so (bar a miracle), even if tomorrow the Pope did a U-turn, ordained women, and permitted everything now forbidden. Given the even faster fall-off in more progressive denominations, versus the strength of stricter, less-changing sects, I think that sociologists would agree.

    • Actually, Josh, that is a good point. I know Brian says below that he isn’t interested in starting a new Church, and I believe him, but if these “86%” – or even half of them – left because the Church was doing something wrong, wouldn’t they have gone to a Church that was “doing it right”? Eg. the Liberal Catholics or the Independant Catholic Church, or, for that matter, the Uniting Church and the Anglican Church?

      But they don’t. They have simply stopped practicing Christianity entirely.

      That tells me that something more is wrong than just “they don’t like the Pope and Cardinal Pell”.

      It tells me that what has been lacking is real evangelisation and catechesis, and it is real evangelisation and catechesis that will turn the tide, not marketing ourselves to be more attractive to the world.

      • Son of Trypho

        Schutz

        There is another reason of course why they (chronic dissenters) usually don’t go off and establish a new church – its too hard. The Church has a massive and well established infrastructure and is financially solvent. Its much better to be on the Church’s payroll and use its infrastructure than it is to go off and set up something which is responsible to itself.

  25. Oh, and when I crossed swords with Brian Coyne on this blog earlier, I got a bit hot under the collar, so I hope he will accept me in my new slightly more irenic mood, and overlook matters past.

  26. Joshua,

    I am not interested in starting some new Church. I am interested in seeing Catholicism return to its roots — roots way back with the original direction Jesus seemed to give it and not some power plays from the Holy Roman Empire or later periods of history. It’s prime mission given by Jesus himself was to go out and bring to Good News to ALL nation i.e. ALL people. Quite frankly, for some reason, it is blatantly failing in that task today. The reasons for the failure are well debated on Catholica and in other places.

    My honest prognosis is that you people have won. Benedict will achieve his dream of a “smaller, purer Church” — a remnant. I don’t expect that is going to be the end of the matter though. The situation will be different nation-to-nation. The situation here in Australia particularly interesting because the Church draws the great proportion of its income today from government, not from collection plates and members. What is going to be interesting is whether the Australian public, through their governments will tolerate a remnant continuing to control all those public moneys in another 20, 30 or 40 years down the track. I expect we might see enormous changes in the infrastructure if the institution is controlled by those with the remnant agenda. What is perhaps more interesting though is that there is a huge amount of what might be called “spiritual vibrancy” in the world at the moment. At the moment it is largely searching and directionless except from the point of view that it is not accepting the agenda of the remnant. What is going to be interesting is what happens to them and the question of who eventually claims the name to be “authentically Catholic”. You think you might have all that sown up. I wouldn’t bet on it. There are huge social forces at work in all these matters and it would be a fool who predicts confidently where it will all end up in another 100 years time.

    What at heart though is up for contention is two mutually exclusive, incompatible views about how God interacts with human civilisation and all of Creation. Is it through some exclusive royal telephone through the Pope? Or is it via ALL of humankind and the role of our ecclesial leaders is one of assisting the human community discern what our Creator-God is saying? My own personal view is that why the institution has lost contact with the great majority of the baptised is because it has gone off on a little tangent believing that God speaks through the Pope alone. Most people would appear to have given up believing that. You can accuse them of not being authentic Catholics all you like, or invite them to go off and start their own churches. They seem pretty keen though to still consider themselves “Catholic” when it comes to designating their allegiance on a government census form.

    At the end of everything all of us have to make a choice: will following the present direction given by Rome lead to our salvation or will it not? I don’t believe it will. I believe those who have been responsible for making the institution irrelevant to the vast majority of the baptised will, at some point, be called to account for their behaviours. I do believe the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council, freely assembled and voting surprised even themselves at what happened at the Second Vatican Council. They were NOT engaged in some liberal or progressive plot. The outcome of that Council was an authentic work of the Holy Spirit. At every turn since though a small gaggle of reactionaries have never accepted that and at very turn they have endeavoured to return Catholicism not to the authenticity of Catholicism as discerned by St Paul and the early Church leaders but some feudal, semi-monarchic system from a much later phase of human history. There endeavours have been an unmitigated disaster to the point where the vast majority of the baptised have simply given up listening and participating. The remant can rave on all they like about how secularism has sucked people out of the Church or that it’s all the fault of the people who have left why they left. Try telling that to the Almighty when the time comes given what his Son had to say about tending to the needs of the single sheep that had gone missing let alone the 86!

    Cheers, Brian Coyne

    • Tom

      But Brian – I don’t think anyone thinks the Pope has a royal telephone. Part of the Catholic understanding of such things as the Scripture is that it is a way of understanding God, and understanding God’s will for one’s life. Yes, in matters of faith and morals, the Pope’s word is the final word, but even then it still passes through x,y,z dichastry who, serving the people, help us to understand who and what God is. The important thing is, God is not natural, his nature cannot be known without the assistance of revelation (except a shortlist of about 8 features, existence, simplicity, omnipotence, omnipresence, and I forget the rest). Natural Theology is quite explicit in the very limited knowledge it can give of God.

      Supernatural Theology, that is, revelation, requires the Church. It’s not possible to have something like the Bible without having someone tell to us that the Bible is the word of God. That is, it is not self-evident (otherwise it would not be possible, or reasonable, to deny). Further, this means that the Church does not have a ‘royal telephone’, no-one suggested it does. It DOES have a Deposit of Faith, one that it must keep true to, one that it must keep pure. It further has a tradition of interpretation that helps us non-theologians to understand the will of God without having spent 20 years studying theology (it is just not possible for everyone to study theology, that’s why tradition and traditional interpretation is so important). Finally it has an authority to teach, granted to it by Christ himself through the Apostolic tradition, which we call the Magisterium.

      Calling the Deposit of Faith, Tradition and the Magisterium a ‘royal telephone’ does not make a good argument Brian. You’re right, God can talk to everyone – but sometimes when people hear what they think is the Voice of God, it turns out to be their own ideas, or any sorts of possibilities. The Church exists for the very important reason of keeping us anchored to a true God, not a manufactured, self-fulfilling God, that ultimately wont be able to help us because he doesn’t exist.

      Once more, if you want to be a Christian, you can’t follow your ‘own Christ’, you must follow Christ. That means things that a lot of people just don’t like. Further, if you want to be Catholic, you must be in communion with the Pope, just as the first Church was in communion with Peter. Remember, communion does not mean always agreeing with the Pope, (St. Paul had a rather public disagreement with him) but it does mean obedience to the Pope. The Church, in matters of faith and morals, has the final word. Nothing to do with a royal telephone.

    • You start with the admirable, evangelical concern for those who’ve gone away from the Church; but I think your diagnosis of cause and treatment is erroneous.

      As my old P.P. Bp Jarrett said, people have a sort of idea of the pre-Constantinian Church as “the Dreamtime” – whereas, let’s be honest, I suspect few of us would be up to the rigours of Primitive Christianity, with the everpresent threat of persecution, and much stricter penitential disciplines, and much higher moral expectations, than we have nowadays!

      “The Dreamtime” is a pretend account of the early Church, akin to dreams of “Celtic spirituality” that are a world away from the frightening austerities of the Irish monks and hermits.

      We do all agree that the Church’s mission in the West is in bad shape.

      We could do without so much government money: he who pays the piper call the tune, after all. And if the Church of the future will be a remnant, well, already most in Catholic schools are baptized pagans. (Not that I want this, but it’s true.)

      I really can’t see your theory that suddenly everything was changed, but evil forces a la Dan Brown are frustrating this right development. On your theory, everything pre-Vatican II was wrong; and if that’s the case, the Church failed long centuries ago, ergo Christ’s promises were not vouchsafed her, and she is a false Church to be abandoned – this is Past Elder’s logical deduction. Have you considered Lutheranism, dear Brian?

      It is the fault of secularism and false teaching by the clergy et al. To imagine that a vast right-wing conspiracy (surely you know the most persecuted, marginalized, and smallest, group in the Church are the “right-wing”, such as Traddies and conservatives like poor me?) has overthrown the Council is just not credible. Read the Council documents, and see if what you pretend it called for actually was! If V II had been implemented, frankly things would be far different, but in a quite more conservative mode than has actually transpired: think of how we’d be if the 1965 Missal – the actual “Conciliar” Mass – was still in, for example.

      You rightly have great anxiety for the unchurched, an anxiety that is a lesson to me because I am so shy and unsure how to evangelize.

      I think your egregious caricature about the Pope having a royal telephone to heaven is quite offensive, and smacks of Protestant bigotry. Why is it that, Proddies no longer attacking Catholics as ignorant Papal brainwashed slaves, we Catholics now slag off ourselves with this canard? This is the hallmark of the cultural Catholic, a transient generational form between ancestors who believed, and the descendents who will have forgotten even what religion their forebears abandoned.

      You know quite well that the Pope’s role is to preserve the Deposit of Faith, and not to innovate contrary to the dynamic unfolding of the Scriptures – see St Vincent of Lerin’s beaut comments about the latter to revise the difference between true development versus monstrous deviation.

      And Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle – God preserve us from neo-Gnostic faffing about and navel-gazing in place of holding to Scripture and Tradition.

      In any case, thank you for being so civil; I do honestly get your argument, and in fact probably once held it, but I have come to disagree.

      • Son of Trypho

        Joshua

        I would agree with your view. Folks like Coyne have a poor understanding and knowledge of the primitive Church and their calls to go back to that sort of thing is actually quite reactionary – they have been unable to deal with the historical developments of the Church and keep harking back to an earlier, golden age. Ironically, much like the “remnant” that he keeps criticising all the time. You also see this with his romanticising of the time of the V2 Council with the emphasis on excitement and energy etc.

        Additionally, Coyne ignores the fact that much of the local parish infrastructure eg. liturgy committees, councils etc are run by people of his generation and outlook, certainly not by those of the “remnant” who are indulging in their EF antiquities. In that way its folks of his generation and outlook that have driven the youth away and are responsible for much of the travails of the modern Church.

        I agree though it was nice not to see any dehumanising language used in his comments here.

        • Interesting about calls to be more like the Primitive Church.

          Just trying to recall when it was that the Primitive Church condoned fornication, sodomy, abortion, contraception and all those other things irritatingly prohibited by the Commandment against Adultery. (Abortion is actually covered by the Commandment not to Kill, but is heavily associated with promiscuity).

          Seems to me that pelvic issues are the crux of it for the aCatholics.

    • Ann Baumber

      At 66 years of age and having been a Catholic all my life, baptised at 2 weeks of age, I object to anyone telling me whether I can call myself Catholic or not.

      I would ask all the young people writing to bear this blog in mind as they go through life and encounter all the issues that come up while you are trying to do the best you can to be a Christian Catholic.

      Try having more children than you want or can afford, try living in a distastarous marriage that is sending you mad.

      Then you might start thinking that perhaps the Pope doesn’t have all the answers.

      My relationship is with God and his Son and the Holy Spirit. With their help and guidance I face each day and all the issues it brings me.

      That is the kind of Catholic I am.

      • Son of Trypho

        Anne

        I would suggest that I wont be bearing this blog in mind, nor your projections of your own issues and baggage here as I go through my life.

        Rather in times of struggle I will be bearing in mind Jesus’ own words: Matt. 5:19

        “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

      • Hang on, do your kids know you didn’t want them all, Ann?

        Does it actually ever occur to unhappy people that you might be making other people unhappy?

        Nobody has to remain in any marriage that is truly awful (as opposed to just ordinarily challenging). The Church doesn’t say they have to live together. It just says – rightly – that marriage is sacred and people ought not play pass the partner.

        I dunno, Ann, I’m not necessarily going to say you’re not a Catholic, but if you didn’t believe most of the contents of the catechism, I’d consider that the label would become a bit stretched. (Obviously you believe in the Trinity, so I’m not going to quibble with you about the title of “Catholic”).

  27. Please forgive the typos in the previous reply. I pressed the submit button accidentally before I’d proof read what I’d written.

  28. Son of Trypho

    “will following the present direction given by Rome lead to our salvation or will it not? I don’t believe it will.”

    -wow.

    I guess the “remnant” need to make a decision – Jesus’ own words (Matt 16.18ff) or Brian Coyne’s personal judgement?

  29. I’m just thinking further about Church authority.

    Seems to me that the only Church which has the authority to speak up for Sanctity of Life issues and traditional morality is the Catholic Church. Which other group does so with authority?

    The Jews do not necessarily oppose abortion and neither do any of the Protestant churches (though obviously some individuals do).

    I suppose the Orthodox churches have specific teaching on the Sanctity of Life, but do they have any central authority which can navigate the ethical nightmare created by modern technology?

    Although many baptised Catholics (the 86%) disagree with Church teaching, nevertheless, the teaching is there for all to see and is authoritative. Those who disagree, disagree with the final word of the Church on these matters.

    I cannot think of any other organisation which presents and defends the Decalogue, which most commenters here believe in.

  30. Gareth

    I challenge Brian Coyne’s assertion that surveys prove that young Catholics find the liturgies presented at Catholic colleges to be stimulating, yet lose ‘connection’ with the church at parish level.

    In my experience, catholic liturgy at year 11 and 12 or anythink presnted at catholic schools did next to nothing for me and it was only through reading material on the Internet that I came to have some knowledge of the church.

    As in most cases, Mr Coyne makes wild accusations with no substance and fails to put forward an alternative vision.

    I will stick with the community I deal with.

  31. Son of Trypho

    “That has been overturned by this small gaggle of malcontents who, at every turn, have plotted and schemed to undo the express discernment of the vast majority of bishops.”

    -This is just bizarre. The bishops who were at the Council returned to their dioceses and implemented the reforms, managed the seminaries and formation of their priests and exercised significant freedoms within their diocese to run them how they saw appropriate.

    How can you credibly suggest that the “malcontents” (whoever they are? you never actually elaborate…) undermined all of this control and influence at the local level? Certainly the Vatican wasn’t interfering on the local level (unless it was exceptionally egregious) even a small percentage of the time.

    If anyone failed on a massive scale it would be the bishops of the Council and their immediate successors.

    Additionally, too many parishes have been dominated by these aging V2 and 68ers who have so much baggage and have driven off anyone who disagrees with them. They claim that they are open to robust discussion and debate but I’ve found they aren’t – they merely use the power at their control to ostracise and marginalise anyone who they disagree with. That is also the reason why the “cockroaches” (h/t Coyne) hide away from them.

  32. Son of Trypho

    “How do you respond when your daughter comes home pregnant and wants to have an abortion?”

    Refer them to the Commandment which states You Shall not Murder?

  33. Mike

    One big problem with Brian’s argument is that his great 86% did grow up in Catholic schools, where sooooo much effort was put into “vibrant” liturgies, with drums and guitars and dancing and “themes” and banners and cushions and incense sticks and passing the communion plate around with “real bread!” The priests at their schools and their parishes sounded like Brian most of the time. I expect even Brian would say that probably most priests today would agree more with him than with Pell. They would pay out traditional Catholic beliefs as being backwards and hint about hoping for a more progressive pope to follow JP2, downplay the sacraments except for the communal aspect of the Eucharist, and put social justice front and center. There was very little discussion of Catholic sexual morality, and most of it was tangential and more about generally respecting people. They’d talk about “mature” spirituality – which sounded kind of like what Brian speaks about in his posts above. Yes, I know because I’m considerably younger than Brian, and I was actually there.

    Some of it was subtle, and some more direct, but basically it was mostly in that same “direction”.

    And guess what? It didn’t keep many people in. All these school-leavers didn’t leave the Church because they ran into some hard-core priest in year 12 and were interrogated about their morality or beliefs. Most of these lapsed youths have never even met such a priest.

    So I find the contention that this is the kind of approach that would win the 86% back just bizarre. We’ve already tried it! Okay, so it’s a small number of youth who are currently attracted to a more conservative Catholicism. But while a survey of the population might have more preferring a liberal approach, very very few put their money where their mouth is.

    They actually prefer just not to bother with religion at all. They’re not generally very impressed with talk of all religions having something to offer or with concepts such as the priesthood of all believers. They would say that women should be able to be priests, in principle, but they wouldn’t really care whether or not any actually chose to be, because it’s completely irrelevant to them.

    Now there are a group of people like Brian, old enough to remember the excitement of the Second Vatican Council, and who are still excited. But for them it’s something of a crusade – a project to change things in a certain direction. That in itself will have a certain appeal, and it’s understandable to see people so dead-keen on it. But take a look – it doesn’t mean anything much to the youth brought up right in the middle of its fruits.

    You see, unlike actual Catholicism, this liberal project has been tried – and found very much wanting.

    • Son of Trypho

      Pretty much spot on with my views as well.

      Coyne’s yearnings reminds me of Muggeridge’s comment:

      “The early monastic founders asked everything of their followers and they got everything; the moderns ask little and they get nothing.”

    • Yep, playing the theme from the “Rocky” movies during the Mass (organised by the priest at our school who sexually abused one of my classmates) didn’t keep many of my cohorts coming to Mass.

      And are you serious, Brian? The Opening of the Olympics was some kind of rival to the Mass? A secular liturgy?

      Blech.

    • Too true, too true – why doesn’t Brian realize this?

    • They actually prefer just not to bother with religion at all.

      Yep that’s it.

      Which is why they don’t like “real religion” OR “pretend religion”. It’s religion per se what they’ve gone off.

    • Gareth

      Good post Mike,

  34. Mike

    I should have distinguished above: I do not mean that VII had no meaningful fruits, and I certainly am glad for a lot of the reforms. But the accompanying excitement carried with it a lot of things that get justified with catchphrases such as “the Spirit of Vatican II”. I think most readers of this blog are familiar with the distinction, whether or not they think it’s valid – but I was criticising the latter; not the former.

  35. Matthias

    Well Brian looks like the some of the 14% Remnant in the RCC have spoken. Good point Joshua about the connection of irish catholicism and child abuse. The priest at St Mary Magdalene in Brighton England on his blog tore shreds off the Jansenist heresy that he believed imbued irish RCC But then it was ultra calvinism that was at the back of the Dutch reformed church ‘s support of apartheid in South Africa.

  36. matthias

    Louise i think youwouldfind that the Salvation Army and the Lutheran church of australia are as pro life as the RCC. aS a midwife working in a Catholic hospital I nursed Salvo officers and they like my Orthodoxjewish patients only went to catholic hospitals because of the Sanctity of Life stand.,which is also why i did my obstetric nursing course in aRCC hospital As for the rest ,your comment does stand more or less.

    • My point, Matthias, was that there is not much that is likely to keep them pro-life. They have no central authority guaranteed by Christ not to fall into error.

      Certainly, there are *many* Christians and even churches who are pretty good on the Sanctity of life issue, but what is their ability to assess the various challenges of modern technology re: end of life issues for example? (I was talking about the lack of authority in these churches for making definitive kinds of proclamations).

      Of course, they have reason and they have Scripture, but who exactly is the authority to make definite decisions? How do we know they won’t eventually go the way of the UCA, which says abortion is just ducky under some circumstances?

      I just can’t imagine the RCC ever going down that path.

      • matthias

        Louise good point but
        For the Sallies it is their army like structure as well as THE BIBLEand their conscience. For orthodox jews it would be the Rabbinical writings ,the Talmud ,the Torah as well as their current Sandhedreins. But like the Sallies it differs .Thus amongst the hasidic it would be the Rebbe-their leader who they believe is appointed by God. ChaimPotok has written good books about Hasidic life especially MYNAME IS ASHER LEV andthe GIFT OF ASHER LEV
        For the Amish their central authority are their bishops.
        For the UCA well just the prevailing culture and God’s leading….well the latterthey leave to a Committee of theologians ,usuallyradical feminist or Marxist.

  37. vynette

    Good morning all,

    I am a new commenter here and I would like to make everyone aware of my position.

    I am a baptised Roman Catholic who was raised in a convent. I am, however, avowedly anti-papal.

    I do not accept that Peter founded the church in Rome and therefore there is no Apostolic Succession residing in the Catholic church.

    I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings. I always offer Biblical evidence in support of my contentions.

    I am a regular contributor to Catholica and followed a link from there to Sentire Cum Ecclesia.

    I hope we can have many fruitful discussions here.

    • Son of Trypho

      Being a former non-Christian I always enjoy keeping in touch with them. Welcome – I hope you can give us some interesting insights.

      • vynette

        Thanks for your welcome.

        I hope to demonstrate that the doctrines I mentioned are not based on the New Testament but on the writings of the Hellenist-Latin fathers.

        This does not mean, however, that I’m a “non-Christian.” I hope to be counted among the followers of Jesus when the “books are opened.”

        • Son of Trypho

          What about the resurrection? Did it happen or made up by Greek/Latin Fathers?

          What about the references to the Holy Spirit? How do you understand that?

    • “I am, however, avowedly anti-papal.”

      Well, so was St. Peregrine before his conversion. I will pray to him for your conversion, and would ask other readers to join me in doing so (you could just recite a short prayer like ‘St. Peregrine, pray for us, particularly Vynette. Amen.’ right now).

      “I do not accept that Peter founded the church in Rome and therefore there is no Apostolic Succession residing in the Catholic church.”

      Do you think that Our Lord intended to found, and actually did found, any perpetual earthly institution (a Church, if you will)? If so, what is this institution and what does it do?

      “I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings. I always offer Biblical evidence in support of my contentions.
      (my emphasis)

      But that’s what they all say; if you want me to admit the principle of private judgment then you’re going to have to go to the end of a very long queue. You’ll offer your Biblical evidence, and the Lutherans will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Calvinists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Baptists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Seventh-Day Adventists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses will offer their Biblical evidence, and so on and so on. And it’ll all be at least superficially plausible. So how does one attain the certainty of Faith about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not, when the competing interpretations of Scripture all seem more or less credible? If Scripture is God’s Revelation (which, I take it, you think that it is), and if God wants unity among His believers, then wouldn’t God have provided some living earthly authority empowered to produce final, irreformable judgments about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not?

  38. I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings.

    Kind of a non-creed. I’m not being snarky, however.

  39. matthias

    vynette welcome and ifyou “do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings” then why stay a catholic. be a bit more comfortable theologicallyand join the UCA or the JWs’ .The latter have the same beliefs around Christ.Can you tell us Trinitarains what Bible verses you use to substantiate your position which is neo-Arian? Oh and I am not Catholic ,just non-papal

  40. vynette

    Thanks Matthias,

    Generally speaking, those denominations you mention both hold to doctrines which I believe are not derived from the New Testament.

    If by “Arian” you mean the theological positing that Jesus was some sort of lesser deity born before time began and creator of the world, then my position is most definitely not one of Arianism or “neo-Arianism.

    The doctrine of the Trinity stands at the end of the doctrinal process. It all began with the teaching of the Virgin Birth so it is there we must begin if we are to proceed in an orderly fashion and gain understanding.

    If you don’t wish to proceed this way, then what aspect of the Trinity would you like me to begin with?

    • Son of Trypho

      The canon of Scripture (including the NT) is itself a product of apostolic Tradition.

      If you accept the NT as your authority then you must concede that material/doctrines derived from apostolic Tradition are also valid.

      An example would be the belief in the Virginity of Mary – refer to St Ignatius of Antioch. Ad. Eph. 19.1

      It would also behoove you to note that St Ignatius notes that the Virginity of Mary was hidden from the Prince of this World (i.e. Satan)…

      And I’m not a traddie!

    • Vynette, could you provide some kind of credal statement for us? We know what you don’t believe, but what do you believe?

  41. matthias

    The Virgin Birth and please all you Traddies hop in

  42. vynette

    Son of Trypho and Matthias,

    I was feeling so overwhelmed by all your responses that I actually managed to post a reply to your comments in the wrong place! – somewhere towards the top of this thread. Sorry.

    Son of Trypho,

    See my comment to Louise re canon.

  43. vynette

    Cardinal Pole

    This thread is becoming so fragmented, I think I’ll just post at the end.

    Yes, Jesus did found a perpetual earthly institution. It was called by him the Kingdom of God. The only way a person could gain citizenship in this Kingdom was by the living of a “christ-like” life. It is obvious, therefore, that persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion.

    I realise that all Christian denominations teach a variety of non-Scriptural doctrines. My position is that the only doctrine preached by Jesus and the apostles was love – love of God and love of humanity. Not a weak, sentimental sort of love but the love which is the sign of a truly great character, the only kind of love whereby it is possible to ‘love your enemies.’

    You ask: “If Scripture is God’s Revelation (which, I take it, you think that it is), and if God wants unity among His believers, then wouldn’t God have provided some living earthly authority empowered to produce final, irreforma! ble judgments about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not?”

    I will answer your question this way.

    Why would we be given any advantage that the disciples were not? Why would we be given any “certainties” when they were not?

    The disciples had to choose between the teachings, authority and weight of tradition represented by the priestly establishment, and the weight of moral authority represented by the values and principles espoused by Jesus.

    They chose Jesus and what he represented over the priestly establishment and what it represented. They chose Jesus because their own fundamental set of values were in accord with his and because the witness of the Hebrew Scripture supported their views.

    The disciples had only the Hebrew Scriptures to guide them. They chose the witness of Scripture over the weight of tradition. I choose to follow their example.

    • Now Vynette: You said that

      “Yes, Jesus did found a perpetual earthly institution. It was called by him the Kingdom of God. The only way a person could gain citizenship in this Kingdom was by the living of a “christ-like” life. It is obvious, therefore, that persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion.”

      But here we have our first contradiction: You say that Jesus founded the Kingdom of God, but that people at any time–including presumably before He founded it, unless you think that before Him everyone was utterly depraved–could be part of it.

      In answer to your two rhetorical questions:

      “[Q1.] Why would we be given any advantage that the disciples were not? [Q2.] Why would we be given any “certainties” when they were not?”

      A1. The disciples had the huge advantage over us of having the Lord Himself there to resolve any difficulties in interpretation in His teachings and in the Hebrew Scriptures–we see this after the Resurrection, where He enlightens them as to the true meaning of the Scriptures (I don’t know the chapter and verse for the reference, though).

      A2. The disciples also had the advantage of seeing for themselves the Risen Lord, so they did have certainty–the certainty of seeing with their own eyes. But, as Son of Trypho requested, we need to know what you understand by ‘Resurrection’.

      “They chose Jesus because their own fundamental set of values were in accord with his and because the witness of the Hebrew Scripture supported their views.”

      But that required certainty about the veracity of that “fundamental set of values”, and, as I mentioned, they had the Lord to overcome any ambiguities in the Hebrew Scripture.

      “The disciples had only the Hebrew Scriptures to guide them. They chose the witness of Scripture over the weight of tradition. ”

      And this choice, and their understanding of Scripture, was validated by the Resurrection (though I still need to know what you understand by it), which they saw (and touched) for themselves. What validates our understanding, what can resolve the difficulties in interpretation, if not an infallible teaching authority?

      And more on that point: if “[t]he only way a person [can] gain citizenship in this Kingdom [of God] [is] by the living of a “christ-like” life”, how do we know that we are living a Christ-like life? The life of Christ does not give us clear direction as to how to resolve all the moral dilemmas which we face, and these moral dilemmas are sometimes, perhaps even often, the product not merely of uncertainty over how to apply moral principles, but uncertainty over the moral principles themselves. Again, we have a need for a teaching authority.

  44. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    You asked me for a “creedal” statement. Here are just a few things that the Bible teaches us –

    * That Almighty God made man in his own image but that man fell from his exalted position by choosing lies and disobedience of his own free will.

    * That the need for a Messiah arose from issues that began in the Garden of Eden, which issues may be defined as the eternal conflict between the Truth and the Lie – “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:25)

    * That this Messiah, the ‘anointed’ one of Israel, was Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans on a charge made by the priests, of whose unscriptural teachings he had warned the people to beware.

    * That this Jesus of Nazareth would one day sit upon the earthly throne of his father David, rule the world in righteousness, and judge the living and the dead.

    * That God ‘anointed’ Jesus with his Holy Spirit and endowed him with full power and authority to speak and act as his representative on earth. (Acts 10:37-38)

    * That Jesus was the son of God by human parentage (John 1:34, 45, 49) though not the son of Joseph as commonly supposed at the time (Matt. 1:25).

    * That his ‘sonship’ of God is of a purely ethical and spiritual reciprocal nature.

    * That he was the ‘only-begotten’ of God because he was the first-born from the dead, not because he was born to a virgin. (Acts 13:33-34)

    * That for would-be citizens of the Kingdom of God, the New Testament identifies the one road to follow – the “way, the truth, and the life” – and that road is love: ” A new commandment I give to you…love one another as I have loved you…” (John 13:34)

    * That by subordinating the will of his own flesh, and by choosing the truth of God instead of lies, and obedience to God instead of disobedience, Jesus reversed the sin of Adam. Through the grace of God, man was given another chance, a new creation came into existence, and all those who emulate the example set by Jesus are, like him, begotten children of God.

    That’s the Biblical position anyway.

    • Although, as you indicated, you did not intend this creed to be exhaustively complete, nonetheless there are several significant omissions from it:

      1. As Son of Trypho asked, what are your understandings of the Resurrection and the Holy Ghost?

      2. What happens to us after we die, and what happens after Christ’s judgment of us?

      3. You said that

      “Through the grace of God, man was given another chance, a new creation came into existence, and all those who emulate the example set by Jesus are, like him, begotten children of God.”

      But given that you think that “persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion”, you can hardly speak of the grace of God and new creation, surely?

      Finally, I’m still wondering: Do you call yourself Catholic? Also, are there others who adhere to your doctrines?

  45. vynette

    Joshua,

    The reason I call the Old Testament the “Hebrew Scriptures: has got nothing to do with being “PC,” which I’m certainly not, but because our Old Testament contains more books than the Hebrew canon. I think it’s presumptuous of us to dictate to the Jews what should be the content of their own canon.

  46. Kyle

    I think Coyne is a bit misguided about the youth. As someone who graduated from a Catholic high school two years ago and has since visited it, I can say that most young people do not care about the liturgy. There is a pervasive apathy. As an innovation, the principal introduced Exposition. When I was there, most of the students looked bored or were quietly sniggering. For class Masses, most students do not know what to do and say and generally look very confused. To say that young people almost universally ‘love the liturgies’ is wrong. The only time I have seen any enthusiasm was when Ash Wednesday meant that they would lose a period.

    On another point, to Ann Boumber, I understand the difficulties that parents have to face and I can see why the Church’s teaching on contraception and marriage can be a huge problem. All I can say is that, from my own experiences, the alternative is not much better. Before I met Catholicism, I had never seen a functional relationship. My own father had gotten an abortion for his girlfriend when he was sixteen. At a young age he had me but then moved on. He later had two children but has since separated from their mother. My step-father too had a child from a previous marriage. But they too had experienced torn families. My father’s parents had separated, then moved on, then separated from their new partners. My stepfather had been abandoned by his mother. The result of this is a lot of bitterness, a lot of confused child-maintenance schemes, and a lot of children who don’t whom to call father (is it the biological father or the stepfather?) or grandparent. One of the most valuable things I have found in the Catholic Church is its insistence on the sacredness of each marriage and the importance of family life.

    • Yes, sadly this is the kind of mess most of us are seeing in our families, especially where the members have no faith. It is tragic and is certainly no better than the real difficulties we practicing Catholics experience in marriage and family life.

      Thank Heaven you are here to tell the tale, Kyle. May God bless you.

  47. matthias

    Vynette thanks for your creed but ibelieve it is nothing new.Sorry .It is more Ebionite or even Essene along the lines of the Teacher of Righteousness and quite,notquite,is certainly the doctrinal position of the Unitarians today. You are honest in your position .
    You have turned Jesus into a victim ofpolitical intrigue andseem not to have accepted that the Cross was no accident.

  48. vynette

    Matthias,

    Wot? Unitarians who try to be all things to all men? God is whatever you think he is, or maybe he’s not there at all? The many beliefs but one faith crowd? The humanists cum Eastern mystics, cum earth-mother bunch? Certainly not.

    Others have tried to pigeonhole me but with no success because my sole, sole aim is to discover what the Bible tells us about Jesus. That’s all, finito. Whatever resemblances there may be between me and some other group is incidental and totally irrelevant.

    No, the Cross was no “accident.” The religious and political intrigue that sent Jesus to the Cross was all foreshadowed and foreknown in the Hebrew Scriptures – that is if you believe the New Testament, which I do.

  49. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    For the Kingdom of God question, the exact same “contradiction” exists within the Church. What happens to those righteous ones born before the time of Jesus?

    There are two phases to the “Kingdom of God.” The one inaugurated by Jesus which proceeds on a steady basis like the “mustard seed” principle, is a just a precursor of the one to be established in the apocalyptic Age to Come.

    But we must remember that the Kingdom of God [New Covenant] did not replace the Abrahamic Covenant – the New Covenant added to the old by including and embracing the entire world and not just the Hebrew peoples.

    Jesus himself assured us that in the apocalyptic Age to Come, when the Kingdom of this world finally becomes the Kingdom of God and of his Christ, “many would come from the East and West and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

    How did the disciples know he was the “Lord” before the Resurrection? They didn’t, as we can see by their various responses to him. But they still hitched their star to his before the Resurrection for the reasons I have stated.

    Let me ask you a question. If Jesus turned up today preaching on some street corner, how would you know him?

    Let me assure you that there are no “certainties.” That’s the whole point. How else would each individual be judged except by how they reveal their inmost values by their responses to various situations? God searches the heart.

    How can there be uncertainty over moral principles. As revealed by Jesus’ words and actions, they are: truth versus lies; the spirit of the law rather than the letter; humility versus arrogance; personal integrity versus institutional formalism; selflessness; justice tempered with mercy; and commitment to principle to the extent of laying down one’s own life.

    And how do we put this into practice every day? Confront the perpetrators of manipulation, injustice, cruelty, distortion and lies wherever and whenever they may be found. And challenge any and all authority if necessary to achieve these ends. Every individual is expected to do this and not rely on any institution to do it for them. It’s a hard road, as Jesus said.

    The only “teaching authority” is Jesus himself.

    The Resurrection question I’ll address in another post.

    • Kiran

      But how do you have access to Jesus himself?

      Why pick the Bible? Why not the Quran? Or The Guide for the Perplexed? Or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Show me someone who claims to be able to interpret the Bible by itself, and I’ll show you someone who is unconsciously relying on what the Church had taught.

    • The only “teaching authority” is Jesus himself.

      Who founded a Church, with St Peter as its Rock, and promised it would be led into all truth and would conquer hell.

      • vynette

        Louise,

        You are assuming the Peter founded the church in Rome. There is actually no evidence whatsoever for this claim. It was not even asserted prior to 170AD.

        • Presumably, given what you’ve told us, you won’t accept any extra-Scriptural evidences, but I would’ve thought that the extensive archaeological work done down underneath St Peter’s has given a very substantial body of circumstantial proofs – literally, given the great body of ancient inscriptions – that “Here Peter is buried”. If buried, then surely once active there? (I would of course say that the Church in Rome was founded by both SS Peter and Paul – the latter having got there first, as the Acts makes clear.)

          Speaking of things just outside the New Testament, do you accept at all the historicity and dogmatic testimony of the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch? These seem to give a very full-blooded early attestation to a monarchical episcopate, a threefold ministry, a high doctrine of the liturgy, the Eucharistic sacrifice…

          So you put any weight on what the Apostolic Fathers have to teach us, whose writings are the earliest Christian documents extant after the N.T.?

          • “… do you [that is, Vynette] accept at all the historicity and dogmatic testimony of the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch?”

            Or, for that matter, of St. Clement I’s Letter to the Corinthians.

        • But Vynette, you haven’t answered Louise’s objection directly. How do you interpret the Petrine passages of the Gospels?

    • Vynette, you asked

      “What happens to those righteous ones born before the time of Jesus?”

      They went to Hell, to the ‘Limbo of the Pagans’, where they enjoy wonderful happiness (but a happiness which is as nothing compared to the glory of Heaven). Now please tell me: What happens to any of us, righteous or un-righteous, Christian or non-Christian, after we die?

      You asked me

      “If Jesus turned up today preaching on some street corner, how would you know him?”

      That’s a useless hypothetical, but I think that I can give you the answer you’re after by answering the question of ‘if I were around during the pre-Resurrection ministry of Our Lord, how would I know that he was the Christ?’. And my answer would be: By His teachings, but primarily by His miracles. Do you, Vynette, think that Jesus did indeed work miracles?

      You said

      “Let me assure you that there are no “certainties.””

      And you’re quite certain of that? Jokes aside (though that was, obviously, not intended purely facetiously), you are at least being more logical than those in other private-judgment-based sects: Private judgment can never give the certainty of Faith, and, given human weakness, it is often unlikely even to produce moral certainty. And your rejection of the need for certainty is itself quite logical, since you think that that which is necessary to be a child of God is simply to choose moral good. And how does one recognise moral good? By the principles of Situational Ethics, as you indicate here:

      “How else would each individual be judged except by how they reveal their inmost values by their responses to various situations?”

      The problem, of course, is that many people’s sincerely-held “inmost values” will lead them to reject Jesus.

      Now when you said

      “How can there be uncertainty over moral principles.”

      Did you mean that as a question? Because the list you provide throws up uncertainties of its own: So for instance, in respect of truth versus lies, is it permissible to tell a ‘little white lie’ in order to avert a great evil or procure a great good? (And, if so, is it evil of itself, or only evil insofar as it might lead one to develop a habit of mendacity?) The Catholic answer would be that one should be prepared to die rather than tell an officious lie, however great the good which one would have expected to attain thereby. And two of your items, namely “the spirit of the law rather than the letter” and “personal integrity versus institutional formalism” are tendentiously-constructed false dilemmas.

      “The Resurrection question I’ll address in another post.”

      Yes, please do, and also please tell me, like I asked earlier, whether there are others who adhere to your interpretations. I am also wondering what expertise, if any, you have in the scholarly disciplines involved in Biblical interpretation. You quoted Hebrew earlier; are you fluent in the languages in which the Bible manuscripts are to be found? If not, whose translation do you use and why do you trust its translator?

      • Gareth

        I was recently having a good debate with an (un) Orthodox priest on whether St Peter did actually form a church in Rome or as he claims the whole western world has been brainwashed into thinking something in which there is actually no evidence what so ever.

        Sadly, for the poor Eastern priests views, there is much more historical evidence to suggest that Peter was in Rome for a number of years and led the church there.

        I believe Cardinal Pole has already pointed out some of this evidence above.

        There is a stronger case to suggest that Peter actually lived in Rome for a number of years, albeit under persecution and established and maintained some sort of ministry there.

  50. Matthias

    vYNETTE yes Christ’s death was foretold in the words of Isaiah “he was wounded for our transgressions ” .the political aspects were all part of the Divine plan.
    I am not labelling you but your creed is similar to Marcion although you have the anaBaptist belief that the Old testament is no longer equal to the New .Here endeth the lesson

  51. (I’ll be back on Monday.)

  52. vynette

    Matthias, I don’t know how you could have formed the idea from anything I said that my views are similar to those of anaBaptists or Marcionites.

    Separation from the world, as practised by some AnaBaptist groups achieves nothing whatever. Besides I’m definitely not an unreserved pacifist? Change from within is my motto, which is why I persevere amongst my own kind. Besides, with the addition of re-baptism, they still believe in the orthodox doctrines.

    Marcionites rejected the writings of the Old Testament and taught that Jesus was not the Son of the God of the Jews, but the Son of the good God, who was different from the God of the Old Covenant.

    Exactly the opposite of my “creed” as you put it.
    Both Old and New Testaments are two parts of one whole – The NT cannot be understood without reference to the Old.

  53. vynette

    Cardinal Pole and Gareth

    The “finding” of Peter’s grave under St. Peter’s is a triumph of excessive piety masquerading as archaeology. It was an “inside” job, and the insiders found exactly what they wanted to find. The box supposedly containing the bones of Peter actually contained the unidentifiable remains of a man aged between 60-70. No mention is made of the fact that the box also contained sheep, ox and pig bones, plus a complete skeleton of a mouse.

    Now I don’t mean to sound derisive but it’s hardly possible to remain otherwise. You can check the facts yourself, but I’d recommend the works of archaeologists committed first to the science of their discipline and not the works of those whose religious zeal overcomes their good sense.

    As for the Ignatian Epistles, several are known to be spurious, but even the so-called “genuine” letters are so riddled with interpolations, anachronisms and historical improbabilities that they are practically useless in any discussion. The letters don’t reflect the conditions present in Ignatius’ own time but rather reflect a much later period when the hierarchical episcopacy was being established and doctrine was being developed. Even Catholic scholars only support the letters conditionally, because of their interpolations.

    Moreover, the Miraculous Incarnation is completely at odds with the New Testament accounts of the birth of Jesus.

    Clement’s letter to Corinth, however, is an entirely different matter. Clement put his name to a letter, “From the congregation of God at Rome to the congregation of God at Corinth.”

    We know nothing of Clement except what is told in the letter. He is not named as head of the church in Rome.

    Clement makes his appeal to the Corinthians on the values of self-abasement, humility and love, as did Jesus in his sermons. The churches, he says, are a figure of derision by all and sundry because of the widely known dissension in Corinth.

    The letter refers to both Peter and Paul twice and to Apollos once. It differentiates between the ministries of Peter and Paul in a way that precludes Peter was ever in Rome, in a similar way that Paul’s letters do.

    Nowhere does Clement assert the primacy of Rome over other churches.

    Many times it refers to “Jesus Christ the High Priest by whom our gifts are offered,” and nowhere is Jesus considered to be divine, virgin-born, or part of any “Trinity.” Jesus is always presented as a man of God.

    Because this letter so closely resembles the original teachings of the New Testament, I consider it to be genuine.

    No, I don’t put any weight at all upon the writings of the early Church fathers because their theology is so obviously gentile and so obviously against the teachings of the New Testament.

    • Gareth

      Dear Ynette,

      Your responses seem like a cut and paste job straight out of an anti-Catholic website?

      Many commentators even use the simple fact that Peter in his letter in the Bible writing from ‘Babylon’ (i.e a code name for Rome) is enough extensive proof that Peter established a ministry in Rome.

      Anyway, there is simply not enough evidence on the other side of the arguement to have a case that Peter did not establish a church in Rome and if he did not – WHO DID?? and in the early history of the church when such an important diocese in secular terms, being it was home of the the most powerful Empire on earth – why does no evidence exist to suggest that see of Rome was established by someone else other than Peter – cos if this did occur – the whole world would want to know about it.

      The hard truth is citations given by Cardinal Pole could be multiplied.

      Also refer to Lactantius, in a treatise called The Death of the Persecutors, written around 318, noted that “When Nero was already reigning (Nero reigned from 54–68), Peter came to Rome, where, in virtue of the performance of certain miracles which he worked by that power of God which had been given to him, he converted many to righteousness and established a firm and steadfast temple to God.”

      No ancient writer claimed Peter ended his life anywhere other than in Rome. On the question of Peter’s whereabouts they are in agreement, and their cumulative testimony carries enormous weight.

    • Vynette, I think that you’re thinking, in your first main paragraph, of St. Paul’s tomb, not St. Peter’s.

      • vynette

        Cardinal Pole,

        No, I was not referring to the alleged tomb of Paul.

        In 1939, Pope Pius XII ordered a systematic excavation under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The four excavators were all Vatican habitués. On 23 December 1950, Pius XII announced that the tomb of Peter had been found. In 1951, an official report was published which drew fire from archaeologists for its haphazard and faulty methods.

        Pius XII then appointed the classical epigrapher Margherita Guarducci who soon discovered drawings, mystical cryptography, and an inscription allegedly stating that “Peter is within.” She also claimed that previous excavators had gathered some bones together and placed them in a wooden box which had then been “forgotten” for years. In 1953, a Vatican sampietrini showed her this box in a storeroom. It is this box to which I referred in my post.

        Guarducci eventually published her results which were, understandably, greeted by the scholarly community with derision. After the anthropologist Correnti examined the bones in the wooden box, Pope Paul VI announced publicly on June 26 1968 that the remains of Peter had been found in a section of the tomb discovered previously.

  54. vynette

    Joshua,

    See my response to Cardinal Pole and Gareth.

  55. Matthias

    thanks for the clarification vynette. Your position on Christ as not being the Incarnate Son of God but rather a Prophet and Priest, is somewhat akin to the Muslim view of Christ.
    But as St peter said-remember i am not catholic- ‘we do not follow any cunningly devised fables”
    St Thomas’s confession ‘ My Lord and My God” is good enough for me. Sorry if that is at variance with your theology,but i would rather accept the words of men who died for their faith believing in the Risen Christ ,than any theological posturings from modern writers, referred to collectively as ‘scholars” . Have a nice weekend

  56. vynette

    Matthias,

    I don’t regard Jesus as just another “prophet and priest.”

    Jesus is the man chosen by God to be his Messiah, his plenipotentiary here on earth. As such, he is much, much more than a prophet and priest.

    As for John 20:28, this is a proof text completely devoid of context. In John Chapter 20, Jesus draws a previous and definite distinction between himself and God: “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” (verse 17) Verse 28 must be viewed with this already stated distinction in mind: “Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” Thomas is here addressing two separate entities – both Jesus as Lord (which denotes authority) and the God who raised Jesus from the dead. In any case, even if he were addressing Jesus as a god, those to whom the word of YHVH came were themselves regarded as “gods”[Elohim] This is a little known fact of Hebrew thought.

    Of course, all this confusion stems from the fact that the name of God, the four-letter Tetragrammaton YHVH, was not translatable into Greek. Therefore, YHVH was also sometimes translated as “Kurios.” The Greek word “kurios” conveys the same meaning as the Hebrew word “Adonai” – “lord,” “master,” “owner.”

    This inability to properly distinguish between YHVH and Adonai, between the sacred name of Almighty God and a word which could refer to any authority, earthly or otherwise, has caused endless apparent problems.

    I say ‘apparent’ because these problems can easily be solved if one refers back to the Old Testament texts from which much of the New Testament was taken.

    • Tom

      quick aside: I was under the impression that Adonai meant more than just ‘lord’ ‘master’ or ‘owner’ – that Adonai was the word that the Hebrews used to refer to God. Thus in the Shema: Shema Israel, shema Israel, adonai elohenu (spelling?) adonai ehad (spelling?).

      Listen Israel, listen Israel, The Lord is God, The Lord is one.

      At least in this context, the use of Adonai is not a general term – Adonai is a direct reference to God, a reference which obeys the injunction against saying the name of God, but at the same time, definitely denotes God (as opposed to any Lord), and is translated as ‘The Lord’.

      That’s what I learnt anyway.

      • vynette

        Tom,

        I’m afraid that is not correct.

        The divine name YHVH was considered too sacred to be pronounced so the consonants of YHVH are written in the text but the word that is read aloud is Adonai.

        This feature is called the Kethibh [as it is written] and the Qere [as it is read].

        The English translation of the Shema is:
        Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one

        The written Hebrew text of the Shema is:

        Shema Yisrael YHVH Eloheinu YHVH Echad

        The read Hebrew text of the Shema is:

        Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad

        I’m sure you’re aware that there are no vowels in the original Hebrew text. The mediaeval Masoretic system of vowels [niqqud] and cantillation marks was introduced so that pronunciation would not be forgotten. To avoid accidentally pronouncing the divine name when reading aloud, the consonants of YHVH in the written text are given the vowels of Adonai. This device produces an impossible, unpronouncable form which effectively checks the reader.

        This impossible word has been rendered into English as Jehovah. I’m sure that it causes amusement to some that an entire Christian denomination is named after a gibberish word.

        But back to the point. Some translations of the Hebrew into English even substitute Ha-Shem [the Name] for YHVH thereby demonstrating that there is nothing special about the word Adonai.

    • “Thomas is here addressing two separate entities – both Jesus as Lord (which denotes authority) and the God who raised Jesus from the dead.”

      Preposterous–“Thomas answered and said unto him” (my emphasis), as your own quotation says; St. Thomas is clearly addressing one Entity who is both Lord and God.

      And which is it which you believe: Was St. Thomas addressing two separate entities, or one entity who was literally Lord and metaphorically god (sic)? You seem to be trying to have it both ways here.

      “This is a little known fact of Hebrew thought.”

      Hardly. Before I read your comment I already knew that from St. Robert Bellarmine’s Treatise on Civil Government, and after reading your comment I checked The Catholic Encyclopedia‘s entry on “Elohim”, where we read, among other things, that

      “If we have recourse to the use of the word Elohim in the study of its meaning, we find that in its proper sense it denotes either the true God or false gods, and metaphorically it is applied to judges, angels, and kings; and even accompanies other nouns, giving them a superlative meaning. The presence of the article, the singular construction of the word, and its context show with sufficient clearness whether it must be taken in its proper or its metaphorical sense, and what is its precise meaning in each case.”
      [italics in the original,
      http://newadvent.org/cathen/05393a.htm%5D

      Undoubtedly in John 20: 28 the word is used properly, not metaphorically; and as you note in another comment, the Divine name was never pronounced out loud anyway.

      • vynette

        Cardinal Pole,

        The very point of the discussion was that Thomas refused to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Thomas’ response in verse 28 was an acknowledgment of that fact.

        To lift a single verse out of its context in any way you like just to support a doctrine of choice is a flawed method of exegesis. The Pope himself in the Foreword to his Jesus of Nazareth said that: “The aim of this exegesis is to read individual texts within the totality of the one Scripture, which then sheds new light on all the individual texts.”

        In New Testament usage, the word “theos” often refers to YHVH, but sometimes it doesn’t. In context, there is no doubt that Thomas was addressing Jesus as his “Lord [Kyrios],” and “God” as the God [ ho Theos] who had raised Jesus from the dead. Thomas could hardly respond to anyone else but Jesus – “to him” – as the discussion was between the two of them.

        If you are wondering what words Thomas actually spoke, as opposed to what is written, then we are hampered by the absence of Hebrew originals.

        Just as we use the generic word “God,” so also did people in the time of Jesus. As revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most common word used in speaking to God around the time of Jesus was “El.” Given this fact, the words Thomas actually spoke were most probably “a·do·nai [my Lord] “ve-lo-hai” [and my God]

        We can be certain of one thing, however, it was not the Tetragrammaton.

        When I said that those to whom the word of came were themselves regarded as “gods” I was merely indicating that whatever argument was presented about John 20:28, there was no cause to believe that Thomas addressed Jesus as YHVH seeing as the opposite is stated in verse 17. For more clear distinctions between the “Lord” and the “God” who raised him from the dead see 2 Cor. 4:14, Heb. 13:20, Gal. 1:1.

        What is truly “preposterous” is to believe that a Jew like Thomas would ever conceive of a mere man as being the God of Israel – the very antithesis of Hebrew thought.

        As for the Catholic Encyclopaedia article “Elohim,” I don’t see how that somehow contradicts anything I said.

        • “To lift a single verse out of its context in any way you like just to support a doctrine of choice is a flawed method of exegesis.”

          Only if the context contradicts the proposed explanation, which you have failed to demonstrate.

          “In context, there is no doubt that Thomas was addressing Jesus as his “Lord [Kyrios],” and “God” as the God [ ho Theos] who had raised Jesus from the dead.”

          Vynette, what more can I say: “said unto him“, where ‘him’ is Jesus–St. Thomas is addressing the one Entity.

          “Thomas could hardly respond to anyone else but Jesus – “to him” – as the discussion was between the two of them.”

          But both ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ were said unto Jesus; you cannot get round that fact.

          “If you are wondering what words Thomas actually spoke, as opposed to what is written, then we are hampered by the absence of Hebrew originals.”

          Which implies that, all else equal (though of course we agree that all else is not equal here, though for different reasons), neither mine and Matthias’s interpretation nor your interpretation is to be preferred, so this sub-thread has reached a dead end.

          “We can be certain of one thing, however, it was not the Tetragrammaton.”

          No argument there.

          “there was no cause to believe that Thomas addressed Jesus as YHVH seeing as the opposite is stated in verse 17.”

          But of course the opposite–‘Jesus is not THE LORD’–is certainly not stated there or anywhere else in the Bible.

          “As for the Catholic Encyclopaedia article “Elohim,” I don’t see how that somehow contradicts anything I said.”

          It flatly contradicts your assertion that the description of some humans, such as magistrates of the Old Law, as gods is a “little known fact of Hebrew thought”.

  57. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    Your question about what happens to all of us when we die, I will address in the Resurrection post as it all really one issue. This will be a quite lengthy exercise.

    As for ‘miracles,’ yes, I do believe Jesus performed great signs and wonders, as did some before him. But we must remember that not all those who witnessed the ‘miracles’ became his followers, so why didn’t they recognise him as the Christ?

    You also said that “many people’s sincerely-held “inmost-values” will lead them to reject Jesus.”

    This, of course, is entirely correct. That’s the whole point of the exercise – to separate the wheat from the chaff so that people may be justly judged.

    “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. [Heb 4:12]

    As for “truth,” I think everybody knows the difference between an active and a passive lie. Jesus himself did not have any problems separating truth from lies – the “devil was a liar from the beginning.” He also said to Pilate that bearing witness to truth was the entire purpose of his life.

    “For this reason was I born,
    And for this purpose came I into the world
    That I should bear witness to the truth
    Those that are of the truth shall hear my voice.” (John 18:38)

    And we all know Pilate’s response to that. If a person wishes to be a follower of Jesus, then it follows that the pursuit of truth must be the purpose of his life also.

    No, I don’t know of any other persons who adhere to my “interpretations.”

    As for language expertise, I was extremely fortunate to be taught Biblical Hebrew at university by Professor Francis Anderson, an internationally renowned authority on the Hebrew language of the Bible. I also studied Modern Hebrew.

    The single-minded study of the Greek of the New Testament has masked the fact that the Greek copies of the gospels we now have are based on Hebrew originals. It has been demonstrated convincingly by Professor Claude Tresmontant, Father Jean Carmignac of DSS fame, Professor David Flusser, and many other eminent scholars, that the original accounts of Jesus’ life were composed in Hebrew before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The New Testament is full of Semitic syntax, vocabulary, idioms, and thought patterns. Some of its apparently difficult passages can only be understood by studying the underlying Hebrew text. Because I have studied Hebrew, it is obvious to me also. This view also knocks on the head the assertion that the gospels were orally transmitted for years and years before being committed to writing. It’s pointless bothering with Greek at all so, I don’t.

    Because Greek is one of the foundation languages in the development of English, English-speakers can avail themselves of many excellent and authoritative Greek lexical materials to check the exact meaning of each and every word of the New Testament.

    Because Hebrew is so totally different to any European language, however, English-speakers must rely on translations because without some proficiency in the language they cannot hope to study the Old Testament in the original. This is of course the reason why I studied Hebrew – to check meanings for myself and not rely on translators, some of whom I discovered were following religious agendas when translating certain words vital to the maintenance of doctrine.

    • “But we must remember that not all those who witnessed the ‘miracles’ became his followers, so why didn’t they recognise him as the Christ?”

      Because as I said, both the miracles and the teachings had to be recognised. And external proofs must be joined to internal aids from the Holy Ghost (cf. Vatican I, Session III, Chapter III). Also, why the inverted commas around “miracles”? (I, of course, have just there put inverted commas around the word in order to indicate that it is the object of my interest here.)

      “As for “truth,” I think everybody knows the difference between an active and a passive lie.”

      I don’t; I have never heard of such a distinction. What is a “passive lie”? Is it like lying by omission? In any case, I’m more interested in your understanding of general ethics than particular applications. What, to you, is the good and what is evil? That might seem like such a basic question as to be insulting, but it has to be asked, given that presumably you would regard mainstream Christian moral theology as being polluted by Hellenism.

      • vynette

        Cardinal Pole,

        You are trying to draw me into the same discussion as did Pilate when he said to Jesus “what is truth?” Jesus refused to be drawn, so I’ll follow his example if you don’t mind.

        I only discuss general moral principles and certainly not personal morality so, seeing it has inevitably taken that turn, I won’t be drawn further into that area.

        That said, I never implied that “Catholic moral theology was polluted by Hellenism.” I said that doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, the Divinity, and the Trinity were Hellenist inventions of the church fathers.

        • “You are trying to draw me into the same discussion as did Pilate when he said to Jesus “what is truth?””

          No, I’m trying to understand what you mean by ‘lying’. Lying is speech contrary to one’s mind; one can say something which is the truth but which one thinks to be false, or say something objectively true but withhold accompanying information which one might reasonably have expected to be imparted with it, and lie (by omission, in the case of the latter) thereby.

          “I only discuss general moral principles and certainly not personal morality”

          I’ve asked you about some “general moral principles” but your answers have been hardly satisfactory. I’m still wondering: What, for you, are the objective and subjective norms of morality?

          “That said, I never implied that “Catholic moral theology was polluted by Hellenism.””

          My expectation was that your contempt for Hellenism in dogmatic theology might have extended to contempt for it in moral theology, but you’ve proved me wrong: Apparently for you Hellenist-influenced moral theology is acceptable, but not Hellenist-influenced dogmatic theology.

  58. Gareth

    Brian Coyne: For a long, long time I bucked the trend and was as fervent and committed for the sort of agendas that some of you in this place are still trying to push.

    Mr Crowe keeps on ‘spinning’ this story.

    But one increasingly finds such a fallacy hard to believe.

  59. vynette

    Gareth,

    I am most definitely not “anti-Catholic.” I am, however, anti-papal as I made clear in my very first post here. It is my fervent hope that my brethren will come to discover the truth. I don’t have to “cut and paste” from other websites. I test all things for myself.

    It’s your affair entirely what you believe about Peter establishing the church in Rome but there are no “hard truths” in the citations given by Cardinal Pole.

    We know that there was a Christian community in Rome when Paul arrived but as to who established it, we have no evidence, as opposed to assertion. If Peter did establish the church then he must have arrived prior to Paul.

    This presents a great problem even for Catholic scholars.

    An authoritative Roman Catholic textbook, A Popular History of the Catholic Church by the acclaimed Church historian Msgr. Philip Hughes, has this to say on the subject of Peter’s residence in Rome:

    “…The precise date at which the Roman Church was founded we do not know, nor the date at which St. Peter first went to Rome. But it is universally the tradition of this primitive Christianity that St. Peter ruled the Roman Church and that at Rome he gave his life for Christ in the persecution of Nero.” (p14)

    Hughes goes on:

    “…About the origins of Christianity in Rome we know nothing. It is already a flourishing church in 56 AD when St. Paul refers to it. Three years later he arrived in Rome himself, a prisoner, for the hearing of his appeal to Caesar.” (p17)

    “…St. Peter first appeared there apparently some three years later, about the time St. Paul, acquitted, had left the city.” (p18)

    According to Hughes then, Peter’s arrival in Rome took place no earlier than 62 AD although the Catholic Encyclopaedia’s Official Pope List boldly states that Peter’s “bishopric” extended from 32AD to 67AD.

    There are many more problems than this and I could go on and on but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

    • Kiran

      You still haven’t answered the question. Why the Bible, and why Jesus? Which Jesus anyway?

    • “We know that there was a Christian community in Rome when Paul arrived but as to who established it, we have no evidence, as opposed to assertion. If Peter did establish the church then he must have arrived prior to Paul.
      [my emphasis]

      Non sequitur: There were Catholics in Australia, for instance, before the canonical erection of the first Australian Ecclesiastical circumscriptions.

      “the Catholic Encyclopaedia’s Official Pope List boldly states that Peter’s “bishopric” extended from 32AD to 67AD.”

      I.e. the Papal jurisdiction was conferred upon him in around the year A.D. 32, as related in John 21:15; when he reached Rome is another matter.

      • vynette

        Cardinal Pole,

        Where is the non-sequitur in this statement?

        “If Peter did establish the church then he must have arrived prior to Paul.”

        If Peter arrived in Rome after Paul, and there was already a Christian community there, then obviously Peter did not establish the church in Rome.

        The facts are that it is impossible to reconcile all the inconsistencies in the Peter in Rome stories presented by Catholic scholars.

        For instance, did Peter find his way to Rome in 32 AD as claimed in the Official Pope List?

        And, similarly, as claimed by the Very Rev. Joseph Fa Di Bruno, D.D., in Catholic Belief, 1884?

        “St. Peter was the first to preach the gospel in Rome, and owing to his sanctity, zeal, prudence and power of working miracles, it was not long before he made many converts.”

        Or in 42 AD, the second year of Claudius, as claimed by Jerome? [Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, trans. by Ernest C. Richardson (Vol. III, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953; p. 361), Chap. 1.]

        Or not before 62 AD as claimed by Msgr. Philip Hughes in the Roman Catholic textbook, “A Popular History of the Catholic Church?” [pp 17-18]

        It seems to me that by quoting John 21 and claiming papal jurisdiction for Peter, you are asserting something new and different from the above-mentioned scholars – an early papacy “in absentia.”

        • “Where is the non-sequitur in this statement?”

          The non sequitur was demonstrated using the analogy which I provided, and the fallacy from which it follows is clear here:

          “If Peter arrived in Rome after Paul, and there was already a Christian community there, then obviously Peter did not establish the church in Rome.”

          Your fallacy is to identify a mere collection of individuals (the Christians who were in Rome in the mid-first century) with a an Ecclesiastical circumscription (the Church of Rome). The fact that there are Catholics in some place does not necessarily mean that that place is a Diocese/local Church. St. Peter erected the Diocese of Rome; that there were Christians there before he did so does nothing to refute this.

          With this fallacy pointed out, it’s not necessary to respond to your subsequent quotations; you’re hung up on precisely when St. Peter is supposed to have erected the Church of Rome, yet the case for the Petrine foundation of that Diocese does not stand or fall on a particular date; it’s like watching an atheist try to refute the veracity of the Gospels by demanding to know precisely when Jesus is supposed to have been born. St. Peter could have founded Holy Roman Church at any point in time between receiving Papal jurisdiction and being martyred.

          • Jon Edwards

            Fair enough, but recognize that you are now making a statement about ecclesiology rather than a statement about history. Essentially, your argument runs thus: “Only Peter (or his successor) can establish a local church; therefore, any local church extant during Peter’s lifetime must have been founded by him.” Likewise, “John Paul II founded the diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, in 1988,” is true as a matter of canon law, but not particularly informative regarding the history of Catholicism in Lexington either before or after 1988.

            • Mr. Edwards,

              First of all, I do not hold the major premise (“Only Peter (or his successor) can establish a local church”) in the argument which you constructed, so neither do I hold the conclusion (that “any local church extant during Peter’s lifetime must have been founded by him”). In fact, each of the Apostles had the power to erect new Dioceses.

              Furthermore, you said that

              “Likewise, “John Paul II founded the diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, in 1988,” is true as a matter of canon law, but not particularly informative regarding the history of Catholicism in Lexington either before or after 1988.”

              There are two problems for you in raising that point:

              1. I haven’t asserted that St. Peter’s foundation of the Diocese of Rome tells us anything about the history of Christians in Rome before then.

              2. That would seem to be a very dangerous thing for a denier of Papal Supremacy to point out, because it seems to imply that the Papal Supremacy could have been perpetuated without St. Peter ever setting foot in Rome! (Though I hasten to add: No, I don’t think that St. Peter never set foot in Rome. He did indeed go thither, and his blood was the seed of the Church of Rome.)

        • “It seems to me that by quoting John 21 and claiming papal jurisdiction for Peter, you are asserting something new and different from the above-mentioned scholars – an early papacy “in absentia.””

          Ah, I think that I see what’s going on here: You’ve misunderstood an important point of the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy. You seem to be under the impression that the point when St. Peter received Papal jurisdiction, and the point when he reached Rome, and the point when he erected the Diocese of Rome have to be one and the same (and that this one point had to be before any other Christian first set foot in the City); in fact, they don’t, and so, as I said, St. Peter could have erected the Diocese of Rome at any point–whether before or after other Christians came to Rome–between the event related in John 21–were you also not aware that, in Catholic teaching, that is regarded as Christ’s establishment of the Papacy?–and his martyrdom. It seems that your anti-Papal stance is based, at least partly, on a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. I might well be asserting something “different” from your “above-mentioned scholars”, but I’m not asserting anything “new”–see Vatican I’s teachings on the Papacy; St. Peter’s pontificate began on the shores of Lake Galilee as related in John 21, so one way or another there had to be a period of his pontificate which was, as it were, in absentia.

  60. vynette

    Kiran,

    Because I believe this to be true:

    “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness:” [2 Tim 3:16]

    I don’t know what you mean by asking “which Jesus.”

  61. Kiran

    But the Bible is not self-authenticating. You can’t cite the Bible as justifying the Bible. The question is why the Bible over the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Why should I cite the calming effect of “Do not panic!” as evidence.

    Which Jesus? The Jesus of John (which I think not), or the Jesus of Mark, or the Jesus of St. Paul. Catholics believe that they are the same, but no one outside the Church has any reason to accept that.

  62. vynette

    Kiran,

    You said,

    “But the Bible is not self-authenticating. You can’t cite the Bible as justifying the Bible.”

    I did not imply any such thing. What I did say was that “I believe it to be true.”

    I identify with the values and principles embodied in Jesus. That’s why I’ve chosen the Bible over any other religious document.

    The values expressed in the New Testament resonate with me. The values expressed in, for example, the Koran don’t. It’s a simple matter of personal choice – a choice which I don’t have to justify to anyone. What I do have to justify, however, is any statements I make about the content of the New Testament.

    As for “which Jesus.” It is only the doctrines imposed upon the original texts which make it “appear” that John’s Jesus is any different from the other gospels. It’s also a matter of John’s personal style and the episodes which he wishes to emphasise for his own particular purpose which was to portray a conflict of values between the establishment and Jesus.

    • Tom

      But vynette, why should the Bible be considered any kind of authority on the nature of Christ, without the authority of the Apostolic tradition to confirm it? I’m sorry to any Protestant brothers here, but it simply is the case – the Scriptures are no more self-authenticating than you or I.

      The reason we trust that the Scripture is the Word of God is because we have been told so, by an authoritative source. This is not something we can affirm for ourselves, or you have transferred revelation into the natural order. You are no longer talking about a revealed God who comes, through Christ to share his nature with us, but a God with whom we can affirm or deny.

      God is not ‘natural’ in the strict sense of the word; he is completely super-natural. Metaphysicians like to use the term ‘otherwise-than-being’. That is: something can be (it exists) or not be (it does not exist). God does not have being (or he would be limited), nor is he non-being (or he would be said to not-exist), nor is he being-itself (being-qua-being, as Aristotle called it, since this is essentially monism, and that’s just rife with problems from the get-go). Instead, he is referred to as something otherwise-than-being. A sort of unique third state that belongs to God alone.

      The point of all this, is that as a natural entity, you or I cannot be the authenticator of a super-natural entity. The only one who can be the authenticator of the super-natural is the super-natural, which is why Christ had to be fully divine (and his salvific work necessitated his being fully human). So you saying that the ‘values in the Scriptures resonate with you’ is either expressing something else altogether (regarding an innate knowledge of the natural moral law) or is completely wrong (regarding an authentication of the divine). Christ himself was the authenticator of God – and to Him was given all power in Heaven and on Earth. With this, he gave Authority to Peter.

      So Kiran’s question still stands – given that you ‘believe the Bible to be true,’ and that the Bible makes some pretty express claims about the nature of God, why is the Bible true? Saying ‘it simply is’ is not sufficient, and certainly an inadequate response to justify your anti-papist stance.

      Ultimately, what you are using to attack the Pope, comes through the Pope, and the apostolic tradition. You can’t argue that something that takes its authority from an institution rejects that institution. You can use it to criticise, certainly (the Church should focus on this, that or the other). You cannot however, use the Scriptures to attack the ultimate authority of the Pope, because the Scriptures themselves have come through that authority. To refute such an authority does, eventually, require refuting the authority of the Scripture.

      Further more vynette, there will be an event in your own history, when someone told you that the Bible was the Word of God. Whether it was your teacher, or your parents, or a friend or whoever, at some point, someone told you that the Scriptures are a reliable source regarding the nature of God. You are not the ultimate arbiter of truth about the Bible – it may be that your own thinking or reflection on the Scriptures has not lead you to think they are incoherent, contradictory, or what-have-you, and thus your affirmation of them seems solid, but that is not an affirmation, just a lack of condemnation.

      Humans, and human authority cannot affirm the Bible as Scripture. A super-natural authority is required. That’s basically it.

      • vynette

        Tom,

        You said:

        “Ultimately, what you are using to attack the Pope, comes through the Pope, and the apostolic tradition. You can’t argue that something that takes its authority from an institution rejects that institution.”

        If you are saying that the Scriptures take their authority from the Pope, then you are totally mistaken.

        If you are saying that the Pope takes his authority from Peter, then you are totally mistaken on that point also.

        • Tom

          The Scriptures do not take their authority from the Pope, they take their authority from the Truth. However, the Truth dealt with in Scripture is supernatural, and it is not identifiable AS Truth with natural means (that is reason, emotion, etc.) It requires a supernatural authority to identify its truthfulness. That supernatural authority is the Apostolic Tradition and the Pope.

          Now, even if you want to argue the Scriptures do not take their authority from the Apostolic tradition (embodied in the throne of Peter), then from where does Scriptural authority come? re: my post above, if the Scriptures are an authentic source on the nature of God, then they rely a supernatural authentication. Otherwise there would be no good reason to accept (as Kiran pointed out) the Bible over, say, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, or the Koran.

          The point about all this, is that if the authentication of the Scriptures comes from a natural source, instead of a supernatural source, then you have a problem in that there is no way to identify what actually is the nature of God. You say that ‘it resonates with you’ – that’s good, but its hardly an authentication. In short – you believe in the Scriptures, fine, good. What makes the Scriptures true? Who says they’re true? In the end, without an authority from which to claim their truth, aren’t you just treading water? Or alternatively, aren’t you simply establishing yourself as the authority of authenticity? And if you are establishing yourself as the authenticator of the Scriptures, by what right?

          Now, if you wish to reject that the Pope takes his authority from the succession of Peter, then I don’t know what to say. Peter was the first Pope, Benedict is the 265th Pope. Goes down the line. And once more, even if you wish to argue this point, you still have a problem that without the Apostolic tradition to authenticate the Scriptures there is no reason to accept the Scriptures as authentic.

        • Vynette, I think that Tom is just trying to say what St. Augustine said (paraphrased here): “I should not have believed the Gospel if not moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church.” It is simply not feasible for any one person to be expected to be able successfully and with certainty to work out which purportedly Scriptural writings are canonical, and how to interpret those writings which are canonical. The bewildering and ever-increasing variety of private-judgment-based sects proves this. An authority is needed.

          • vynette

            Cardinal Pole and Tom,

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but you both appear to be claiming that the church in Rome decided which documents would be included in the canon of Scripture.

            If you are, please provide me with the evidence on which you base this claim.

            • Tom

              Since this kind of early history is far more the realm of his Eminence than I, please allow for a limited logical proof.

              As far as I am concerned, the historical evidence is that this is what the Church says – for me, this is enough. It is because I accept Her authority, that I accept the Scripture. This is why being a Catholic is being in communion with the Pope. Anyway, onto the logical discussion.

              In-so-far as we can accept the existence of Y, part of understanding and interpreting Y is giving a full account of it. While a full account requires several things, matter, form, purpose, in this instance what I am interested in is the efficient cause.

              That is, in order for Y to exist, there must have been an X to bring it to be. Now, whatever else you may believe, the Scriptures did not just plonk out of the sky one day, you know, The Vulgate, edn 1, by God. That is to say, to give an account of Y, we need to know the X that bought Y to be.

              This X is indicated IN Y – re: the references that Schutz discussed previously (You are the rock and on this rock I will found my Church etc.) The cause, that which brought the scriptures to be was the Church.

              Now you want historical evidence for something on which I have not studied, and, as I said previously, if either myself or his Eminence knows this, it will definitely be his Eminence who knows it 🙂 However, the Scripture did not collate into one canonical book in one instant – some letters and Gospels are not included in the Scriptures.

              Therefore, if you wish to argue that the Church does not have the supernatural authority to authenticate the Scripture, please tell us: who does? To whom has been given the authority to establish an institution that will not pass away into the ages, that will hold the Truth and defend it for the whole world, and has the strength and power to declare ‘here is the Truth’.

              Because if you claim that the Scriptures are the Word of God, then you need an institution like that, as a necessary and logical precursor to authenticate what cannot be authenticated by natural means. As far as I know, no-one else is claiming that authority at the moment.

              The Scriptures, as a supernatural authority on the nature of God, require a supernatural authentication. It cannot be natural, or the authentication is completely bogus and unreliable. Or, the authentication is good, and the subject matter is not supernatural, but natural (in which case its not about God at all).

              If the Pope, and the Apostolic Tradition did not declare the Scripture to be authentic, who did, and why should we accept their authority?

            • “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you both appear to be claiming that the church in Rome decided which documents would be included in the canon of Scripture.”

              No, it was decided finally by an Ecumenical Council, namely Trent, in an exercise of the Extraordinary Magisterium; before then, it was known from the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium.

  63. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    Of course your position is the same as that of the church.

    Glossing over all the inconveniently conflicting statements about when Peter arrived in Rome, the church rests its claim to Apostolic Succession solely on the assertion that Peter died in Rome.

    Peter’s alleged death in Rome constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.

    The church claims an “historical foundation” for Apostolic Primacy yet it can provide no historical evidence whatever on which to base this claim.

    If you can provide any evidence, as opposed to assertions post 170 AD, please provide it. The only evidence we do have, the New Testament, points to Peter travelling eastwards, away from Rome, and not westwards, towards Rome.

    As I think I’ve said before, the fact is that these traditions about Peter being in Rome did not surface until after the Clementine romances and their elaborate and fanciful tales about Peter and Simon Magus began to be circulated in the latter half of the second century.

    • “Of course your position is the same as that of the church.”

      Which you only now seem to have discovered: Hitherto you’ve been trying to refute the doctrine of the Petrine foundation of the Church of Rome by appeal to conflicting dates and the presence of Christians there before him, but now you’ve quietly abandoned that line of attack.

      “The only evidence we do have, the New Testament, points to Peter travelling eastwards, away from Rome, and not westwards, towards Rome.”

      On the contrary, for reasons which Gareth has already mentioned. I’d be interested to see how you interpret the New Testament as saying what you say it says regarding St. Peter’s Apostolic labours.

  64. vynette

    Tom,

    You asked:

    “If the Pope, and the Apostolic Tradition did not declare the Scripture to be authentic, who did, and why should we accept their authority?”

    Well, the Pope, and the Apostolic Tradition certainly didn’t.

    From apostolic times, the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were in possession of the various materials which form our present New Testament.

    The formation of the canon was due to a growing grass-roots consensus rather than a decision that was handed down by ecclesiastical authorities. The canon was not imposed by Eastern or Western church leaders or by councils. They stand at the end of the process rather than at the beginning.

    When the first official canonical list identical to the New Testament we have today appeared in 367 AD, it was not compiled by the Bishop of Rome but by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria. This list merely ratified the books considered “canonical” which had been in use in the various communities for nearly three centuries.

    No action of a council or a synod was early enough to have had a decisive influence on the course of events. The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.

    Catholic scholars know these facts to be true, as we can see by referring to the Catholic Encyclopaedia article “Canon of the New Testament” –

    Until the close of the fourth century, the list of New Testament works recognised as “apostolic” by Rome and the other Western Churches excluded Hebrews, James, II Peter and I Peter. It was not until that time, as the Encyclopaedia states, that the “West began to realize that the ancient Apostolic Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch, indeed the whole Orient, for more than two centuries had acknowledged Hebrews and James as inspired writings of Apostles, while the Alexandrian Church, supported by the prestige of Athanasius, and the powerful Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the scholarship of Eusebius behind its judgment, had canonised all the disputed Epistles.”

    Now, as to your question “why should we accept their authority?”

    None of us can rely on anyone to tell us what to think or what to believe. The whole narrative of the Bible confronts man with his personal responsibility before God. The abdication of this responsibility begins with the Garden of Eden story and permeates all of Scripture.

    It was the same choice that confronted the disciples. Whether to accept the institutional authority and tradition of the priesthood, or whether to accept the authority of Jesus, whose teachings and personal example resonated with them. They chose Jesus over the priesthood, and so do I.

    • Kiran

      But then again, the canons in question, as is generally admitted by scholars are in conflict, and at any rate, their interpretation is seriously in dispute. So, the question still remains, even accepting the “scriptures” (whatever they are), what are they anyway, and what do they say?

      Who is this Jesus guy anyway? How do you know about Him? I mean, the Scriptures plainly see him as God, and the sources you cite for your Scriptural canon see Him as God, and the Apostles saw Him as God. So, if you are going to give a “Jesus who was only morally Son of God” line, what do you base it on, apart from your own feelings?

    • Tom

      You claim that these doctrinal notions are so imbued that they are almost inseparable, but you have your own unproven first principles.

      You are claiming that the Biblical narrative is (at least partly) of man being confronted by his personal responsibility before God. To then use this as an argument to back up a personal interpretation is circular, you cannot use an interpretation of Scripture in order to justify your interpretation of Scripture. Its utterly circular, and is no more a justification than ‘because I said so’.

      Further, to argue that the canon was formed by ‘a growing grass roots consensus’ is just outlandish. A grass roots consensus is a modern idea, and to apply it retroactively over a 2,000 year period is anachronistic. The historical evidence, even from the Scriptures themselves indicate an hierarchical Church, with elders, and people who gave catechesis – this began with the Apostles, and they elected people to take their place. Thus there were elders in the community etc. etc. If this is what you mean by ‘grass-roots consensus’: That the Apostles, and the tradition they handed on to the communities was the key to interpretation, well then yes, we can agree. But that’s just because you’ve renamed the Apostolic tradition as grass-roots consensus.

      Finally, even accepting your argument that there was a true ‘grass-roots consensus’ (that is, not the Apostolic tradition, but a kind of consensus reached by all Christian communities), why should we listen to a grass-roots consensus? You still have not explained why it is reasonable for us to have a natural authority for a supernatural subject. Why listen to the grass-roots consensus at all?

      What authority does the Scripture actually have, and why does it have it? If the Scripture is the Word of God, how do we authenticate this, without being directed to a subjective interpretation?

      You saying you ‘choose Jesus over the priesthood’ is an interpretation: by what Authority do you interpret the Scripture this way? At least the Lutherans are honest – they up and up say each individual has that right (I’m not going to get into sola scriptura, further more there are at least a dozen people here who can give a better explanation than I).

      What I’m asking for is a reasonable account of why the Scriptures should be considered an authority on God.

      • “You are claiming that the Biblical narrative is (at least partly) of man being confronted by his personal responsibility before God. To then use this as an argument to back up a personal interpretation is circular, you cannot use an interpretation of Scripture in order to justify your interpretation of Scripture.”

        “Finally, even accepting your argument that there was a true ‘grass-roots consensus’ (that is, not the Apostolic tradition, but a kind of consensus reached by all Christian communities), why should we listen to a grass-roots consensus?”

        Good points, Tom.

    • “None of us can rely on anyone to tell us what to think or what to believe.”

      How, then, do you envision your gospel being preached to the illiterate, or to, say, people who belong to a primitive non-literate culture, or to those who have not the opportunity or the aptitude to acquire university-level training in Classical Hebrew and Greek, and so on?

      “The abdication of this responsibility begins with the Garden of Eden story and permeates all of Scripture.”

      The sin of Adam was a sin of pride and grave disobedience, the sins which are at the root of the principle of private judgment. What staggering pride it takes to convince oneself that one’s unaided interpretation of a book as difficult as the Bible will be the right one.

      “Whether to accept the institutional authority and tradition of the priesthood …”

      But didn’t Our Lord say something like ‘do as they say, not as they do? In any case, comparing the present-day situation to the situation during Christ’s public ministry is an apples-and-oranges comparison at least insofar as the necessary means for safeguarding Revelation while Revelation is still being disclosed will be different to those necessary once Revelation has been completed.

  65. vynette

    Kiran,

    Jesus never said he was God, the apostles never thought he was God, and the New Testament does not claim he was God. These ideas are Hellenist-not Hebrew.

    As I’ve said many, many times before, none of the doctrines which claim “divinity” for Jesus can be found in the New Testament.

    The conditioning in doctrinal beliefs is so pervasive that even non-Christians and atheists find it incredibly difficult to separate the New Testament writings from the doctrinal claims supposedly based upon it.

  66. Kiran

    Also, where is this magic pill that is supposed to free me from the conditioning? Or is it the Bitter Pill?

    Surely you see just how absurd it is to claim that somehow you are totally free from a conditioning that is so all-embracing? This is conspiracy-theory stuff…

    • “Surely you see just how absurd it is to claim that somehow you are totally free from a conditioning that is so all-embracing?”

      It is remarkable how every believer who adheres to the principle of private judgment thinks that he (and his co-religionists) are somehow immune from the insuperable problems which beset every other private-judgment-based sect. Why don’t they look at the tens of thousands of other sects based on the same principle as they adhere to yet divided on countless points of doctrine and admit that an authority is needed if the Gospel is to be preached without any taint of error?

  67. vynette

    Tom,

    As I keep saying, over and over, it is the individual that must decide whether the Bible is an “authority on God.” If the ideas expressed therein resonate with you, then accept them and use them as your guide. If the ideas expressed in the Koran resonate with you, then accept them and use them as your guide, etc, etc, etc,

    If you don’t like my answer, then don’t keep asking. It is your responsibility to choose for yourself, not mine.

    As for “grass-roots” consensus, the church itself accepted this principle. You seem to confuse terminology with ideas. The term “grass-roots” may be modern but the idea behind it is ancient and enduring.

    Besides, I used that term in relation to the canon of Scripture. I note that you did not address the main issue of my post which was the admission by Catholic scholars that the church did not decide what books should be included in the canon, and their admission that Rome was very late in accepting an already held consensus by the universal [Eastern and Western] Church. If you have a problem with that, then you should take it up with Catholic scholars.

    First you accuse me of using the wrong terminology [grass-roots] and then you accuse me of dishonesty for not using the right terminology [“sola scriptura”].

    I don’t know how many times I have to repeat myself and say that the ultimate authority for me is the teachings of Jesus, what he said about himself, and what others said about him, as recorded in the New Testament. If you wish to call that position “sola scriptura” then do so, but I reject all these labels. They are just an attempt to restrict, pigeonhole, and ignore. If you refuse to accept my position and insist on sticking labels on me then go ahead but I am only interested in discussing the contents of the New Testament and not all these round-about ways of avoiding important issues.

    I don’t have to answer to any earthly authority for my “interpretation” of the scriptures. I do, however, have to answer to God, and I am fully aware of all this entails.

    The only thing that should matter to anyone is whether what I say about the content of the New Testament is true, or not.

    • Tom

      Vynette,

      Sorry – I was not trying to accuse you over the ill-use of terminology. It is a small and fairly unimportant point. I was making the point about the ideas, and attempting to show that the notion of a ‘grass-roots’ acceptance (as you called it) is anachronistic.

      But, it seems that your answer is straight forward, if incomplete. You say,

      “As I keep saying, over and over, it is the individual that must decide whether the Bible is an “authority on God.””

      So it seems your are not anti-Papist at all. Just that we should all be Popes. It is a task, thankfully, that I will never have to take up.

      Still, you give no reason why we should accept this authority. At least no reason that does not overstep the bounds of reasonableness.

      To claim a personal authority is flawed because as I attempted to show previously, a natural authority cannot authenticate a supernatural subject. Just doesn’t work – because it WILL turn the subject into a natural subject. I’m surprised, because I would have though people prefer God with a little more oomph.

      To claim that personal responsibility or something akin to it, is vindicated by the Scriptures themselves and is therefore the hermeneutic we can use to interpret is circular. Your justification cannot inherently rely on itself: it is, as I said previously, like saying ‘because I said so’.

      Finally, to claim that the teaching of Jesus is your ultimate authority, then I might as well ask one more time: why is the Scripture a valid authority on the teaching of Christ? Because in the end, your ultimate authority will not be Christ, since you are the one (as you have argued) that authenticates Scripture. Your ultimate authority, therefore, is you. I’m sorry if that’s blunt, but I’m running out of ways to express this.

      As for the important issues you were discussing – such as The Church admitting that it did not authenticate the Scriptures, then yes, that might well be a problem for me if the Church did not today claim that authority. I have had my Bible handed to me, by my Parish Priest – it is for me to read, but not for me to interpret. The Scriptures are not self-explanatory, some things require explanation. For this, I have the Church. Ultimately, all I can have is obedience to the Church, unless I want to establish myself as the new authority.

      Vynette, right of reply is yours – but I have no new arguments, except to keep repeating what I have said, so I will cease butting heads with you over this 🙂

      • “It is a task, thankfully, that I will never have to take up.”

        And which, apparently, none of us is equipped to take up without training in classical languages, a training which, as I mentioned earlier, most of us do not have the opportunity and aptitude to acquire.

    • “If the ideas expressed therein resonate with you, then accept them and use them as your guide.”

      You talk about how you believe the Bible because its “values” resonate with you, but isn’t the Gospel concerned with, among other things, the conversion of sinners? Isn’t it aimed at people who need to change their values?

      “I don’t know how many times I have to repeat myself and say that the ultimate authority for me is the teachings of Jesus”

      As interpreted by you.

      “what he said about himself”

      As interpreted by you.

      “and what others said about him”

      As interpreted by you.

  68. vynette

    Kiran,

    It’s not absurd at all. It’s merely an observation that the idea of Jesus’ divinity is so widespread [pervasive] that etc, etc …

    I didn’t say everybody believes it so please stop trying to inject into my words more than is really there.

    Anyway, thanks for asking the first important question of me, which is:

    “Before Abraham was, I AM.” How do you explain that?

    I’m glad you asked this particular question because it is one of those classic examples demonstrating how little the Hellenist and Latin framers of doctrine knew about Hebrew thought patterns, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew Language and, in this case, even the content of the New Testament.

    It is asserted by Trinitarian advocates that when Jesus said “I am” he was claiming to identify with the “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” of the Burning Bush. (Ex.3:14)

    Firstly, Jesus could not have spoken the words translated into English as “I am” because “am” was not spoken in Hebrew but merely understood.

    The simple copulative forms of present tense “to be” are merely implied e.g. I (am) sick; she (is) pretty; we (are) happy. The appropriate form, in this case AM, has been simply added, first to the Greek and then to the English, to conform with linguistic demands. The original words which Jesus uttered were simply “I, (am) he” or, “I (am) the one.”

    The “I am” of John 8:58 is a translation of the Greek “ego eimi.”

    Now let us look at how this same Greek phrase “ego eimi” has been translated into English in some other NT texts:

    John 4:26 – “I who speak to you am he [ego eimi]
    John 6:20 – He said to them, “It is I: [ego eimi] do not be afraid
    Acts 10:21 – “And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one [ego eimi]

    The fact is that theological considerations drove the translators to render John 8:58 incorrectly as “I am.”

    Now, we can turn our attention to the “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” spoken at the burning bush.

    Without going into laborious detail about Hebrew tenses and linguistic forms, the Hebrew words actually spoken at the burning bush were “Ehyeh” [1st person singular imperfect form of the verb “to be”] “Asher” [relative pronoun] “Ehyeh” [1st person singular imperfect form of the verb “to be”]. The verbs here are in the ‘imperfect’ meaning that the action may have begun in the past but will be completed in the future, or will continue in the future.

    ‘Ehyeh’ being an imperfect tense, it is more correctly translated as “I will be,” as it is just two verses previously [Ex 3:12] and in Judges 6:16 and Hos.1:9.

    Be that as it may, however, scores of scholarly articles and the whole history of Jewish and Christian tradition testify to the ambiguity of “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.”

    The Temple establishment opposed to Jesus consistently claimed that their descent from Abraham, and then Moses, conferred upon them the authority to pronounce judgement on him because they had been divinely appointed according to Scripture.

    Jesus responded on this occasion (John 8:56, 58) by saying that his coming had been expected before Abraham ever existed. They picked up stones to stone him because he was claiming a greater authority than either Abraham or Moses, indeed that he was the Messiah.

    The meaning of of Jesus’ statements in John 8:56 and 58 is that he was claiming to be the expected one, the anointed King, the Son of God (synonomous terms). The Messiah came first in the creative intention of God, before the time of Abraham. Abraham was able to look forward and see his “day,” the day of the realisation of God’s plan for mankind, the day of the advent of the Messiah, the day when God would create man anew.

    But we can ignore all of the above and play pretend that Jesus could have said the linguistically impossible “I am,” and it would still mean nothing at all as it was not YHVH who spoke the words at the burning bush.

    “This Moses whom they refused, saying, who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.” (Acts 7:35).

    The “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” words of the burning bush were actually spoken by an angel so the assertion that Jesus was identifying with YHVH by repeating the angel’s declaration of the existential “being” of YHVH is utter nonsense.

    • Son of Trypho

      Makes me think of 2 Peter 3:16. Readers should bear it in mind in these conversations.

      • Kiran

        Okay.

        “for in him all things were created,
        in heaven and on earth,
        visible and invisible,
        thrones and dominations,
        principalities and powers.
        All things were created through him and for him:
        he is before all things,
        and in him all things hold together.”

        Also, whatever makes you think that Jesus and his disciples (Paul and John primarily) are free of Hellenic influence? So far as I can see, there is not a shred of evidence to support the idea that Hellenism is absent from the Scriptures, and much of the Scriptures do not make any sense apart from their location within a Roman colony suffused with a Hellenic culture.

        Also, Hellenism or not, we are speaking of first and second century Christians, such as Ireneus and Ignatius and Justin Martyr. What makes you think you, twenty centuries on, can interpret the Scriptures better than them? History, and community, is written into language and interpretation of the Scriptures.

    • “… it is one of those classic examples demonstrating how little the Hellenist and Latin framers of doctrine knew about Hebrew thought patterns, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew Language and, in this case, even the content of the New Testament.”

      So we don’t need the Pope or the Church in order correctly to interpret Scripture–just university-level proficiency in a language which you yourself acknowledge (at least implicitly, when you mentioned how different Hebrew is from the European languages) is particularly difficult to learn!

      • vynette

        Unfortunately, the mind-boggling complexity of Hellenist-inspired doctrines requires a “fight fire with fire” approach.

        Once these superimposed ideas are discarded, I hope, it is very easy to understand what the New Testament is all about. It was never meant to be a message requiring theological degrees to understand . It was meant for the average person who can read and think for themselves.

        • “It was meant for the average person who can read and think for themselves.”

          But the average person ought to be logical and humble enough to recognise that his or her interpretation of a book as difficult as the Bible is unlikely to be completely correct. Recognising this, he or she will seek to consult the interpretations of others, whereupon he or she will be confronted by a bewildering array of different permutations, each of whose advocates will come from a certain ‘angle’ from which to show how everyone else got it wrong. In the face of such a cacophony, I would have thought that a person with “average” humility and logical skills would simply have to concede that the truth is out of his or her reach.

          There is another problem in you assumption: You speak of “the average person who can read and think for themselves”, but how then (as I asked earlier) do you expect your gospel to be preached in ages when the vast majority of people are illiterate, or in non-literate cultures, or before the printing press and the resulting wide dissemination of the Bible? The successful preaching of the Gospel in such circumstances requires a preacher whose has authority.

  69. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    I haven’t “quietly abandoned” any line of attack. On the contrary, it is the church that has abandoned trying to reconcile all the differing accounts of Peter’s arrival and sojourn in Rome and have adopted the fall-back position of relying on Peter’s alleged death in Rome for its claims to Apostolic Primacy and Succession.

    After the crucifixion, Peter’s whereabouts are stated in the Bible to be:

    Palestine (Acts Chs. 8-12)
    Syria (Gal. 2)
    Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13)

    The Papacy lays claim to Peter’s presence in Rome on the single biblical reference in 1 Pet. 5:13: “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.”

    1 Pet.5:13 is the only biblical “proof” text that the Papacy can adduce in support of their claims to Primacy and Apostolic Succession. The other supposed references such as the “feed my sheep” injunction depend entirely on this “proof” text.

    Centuries before Jesus was born, the nations of Israel and Judah had both been defeated in war and much of their populations deported to the East: Israel by the Assyrians circa 700 BC and Judah by the Babylonians circa 600 BC. Many Jews did not return from Babylonian exile and their descendants were still there at the time of Jesus. For example, Hillel, the great Jewish sage of Herod’s day, was a Babylonian by birth and Philo (“Legatio ad Cajum,” ß 36) recorded that a large number of Jews were still resident in Babylonia. [It is important to note that Babel, (Babylon) was the name of a city as well as the province between the Euphrates and the Tigris where they most closely met.]

    As well as the Jews of Babylon, Josephus, a contemporary of both Peter and Paul, recorded that “…the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates even till now, and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated by numbers…: (Ant. XI V 2).

    According to the New Testament, Peter ministered to those of the “circumcision,” and according to Josephus, the majority of the “circumcision” resided somewhere “beyond the Euphrates”.

    So, east of Jerusalem there was a substantial number of both Jews and Israelites who had never heard the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Peter, being an apostle to the circumcised, had every reason to travel East with the “good news” to the dispersed brethren of both Israel and Judah while Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles, travelled West to Greece, Asia Minor and Rome.

    The “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13 refers to either the city (which in ancient times was situated right on the Euphrates) or to the province, which lay between the Euphrates on the west and the Tigris on the east.

    The assertion that when Peter made reference to his physical location in “Babylon,” it was in fact a cryptic reference to the city of Rome, cannot be sustained. The only possible reason for using cryptic references is if the congregation is in danger of persecution.

    The Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scriptures states that Peter wrote his first letter in the period between Paul’s first and second captivity in Rome, i.e. between 62 and 64 AD, yet Nero’s persecution did not begin until August 64 AD so why the necessity for secrecy? Paul openly referred to Rome in his letters to and from that city so he obviously did not share in Peter’s supposed fears.

    If we now turn our attention to Acts and Paul’s letters, we discover that Paul had long cherished a wish to preach the gospel in Rome (Rom.1:10, 15:23) and received his instruction to do so in a night vision (Acts 23:11). Rome already had an established Chistian community, “…all over the world they tell of your faith” (Rom. 1:8), but the New Testament is silent about who founded it, and when.

    Paul’s Roman citizenship by birth gave him the right of appeal directly to Caesar in any dispute over which he felt aggrieved. It was precisely because governors Felix and then Festus would not make a decision after two years of “open captivity” that Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:12).

    When Paul eventually arrived in Rome some time after 60 AD, it was to have his appeal heard by Caesar. He is the only apostle recorded in the New Testament as having travelled west of Greece. Paul was greatly heartened when a group of Christian converts came to meet him as he approached the outskirts of Rome (Acts 18:15).

    Paul was placed under “house arrest” for about two years while awaiting trial. During this period, visitors freely came and went and Paul wrote and received many letters (Acts 28:15-31). After he had settled in a house for which he paid, Paul requested a meeting with the leaders of the Jewish community apparently to discover their attitude towards him. The leaders assured him they knew nothing to his discredit as they had not heard from Judea. They expressed a wish to know more about Paul’s “sect” as it was spoken ill of everywhere (Acts 28:21) so a meeting was arranged at which an exchange of views would take place. So, it can be established that before 60AD, the Jewish community in Rome had never heard of Peter, the apostle to the Jews.

    On his second visit to Rome some years later, again on trial, Paul said: “…only Luke is here with me…all forsook me” (2 Tim 4:11-16). He asks Timothy to come to him and to bring Mark with him.

    If, as tradition encourages, Peter was nearby, why didn’t Paul on either of his two visits to Rome, make some reference to him? If Peter had established the Roman Church, why no recognition of this by Paul or the Chistian congregation in Rome? If it was Peter’s mission to take the gospel to the Jews, why did the Jewish leaders of Rome have no knowledge of Peter?

    In Paul’s letters to and from Rome – Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Phillipians – he mentions numerous friends and helpers; in Romans alone almost 30.

    Proponents of the “Peter in Rome” tradition often assert that he is not mentioned by Paul because of some residual animosity between the pair. Paul had some years earlier in Antioch strongly disagreed with Peter, as he also had with Mark and his uncle Barnabas. Yet Paul asked Timothy to seek out Mark and bring him to Rome. These men occasionally expressed sharp disagreements, but where the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth was concerned, they buried personal differences and spoke with one voice. In fact wrangling within congregations was often a major topic of concern for them.

    In the Roman setting, no mention is ever made of Peter by any person, whether directly or indirectly, for the simple reason that Peter was never there.

    Contrast the preponderance of this evidence against Peter ever being in Rome with the single supposedly cryptic reference in 1 Peter 5:13 on which the Papacy relies.

    Also check to whom 1 Peter is addressed: It is addressed to Israelites of the Diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia – the very persons to whom his ministry was dedicated. The ten dispersed northern tribes of Israel had also settled in this area.

    • “the fall-back position of relying on Peter’s alleged death in Rome for its claims to Apostolic Primacy and Succession.”

      You can call it a “fall-back position” or whatever you like, but the fact is that, logically, St. Peter could have erected the Church of Rome at any point between about A.D. 34 and his martyrdom.

      “1 Pet.5:13 is the only biblical “proof” text that the Papacy can adduce in support of their claims to Primacy and Apostolic Succession.”

      But as you know, in Catholic theology Scripture is not the only source of Revelation; there is also Tradition. And so in order to refute, from Catholic premises (which obviously you need to do if you’re to win converts on a Catholic forum such as this), the Primacy of St. Peter you need to show how Tradition disputes it. Now absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You say that the Petrine foundation of the Diocese of Rome was not asserted till the late second century. But why, once it was asserted, were objections not raised to the assertion? Given that presumably you would regard the Church at the time as being corrupted by “institutional formalism”, why didn’t, say, any of the other Sees of the Pentarchy object to this assertion in order to aggrandise themselves at Rome’s expense? What better way for, say, Constantinople to assert its own supremacy than by denying that the Prince of the Apostoles founded Rome? (H/t to Henry VIII, who made a similar argument in Assertio Septem Sacramentorum.)

      “The other supposed references such as the “feed my sheep” injunction depend entirely on this “proof” text.”

      How so? I could imagine you arguing the contrary and saying that we interpret 1 Peter 5:13 as we do because of our prior interpretation of John 21:15 and other verses.

      • vynette

        Well, Cardinal Pole, there must have been objections because there is a rival claimant to Apostolic Succession from Peter.

        The Syrian Orthodox Church claims an unbroken Apostolic Succession beginning with Peter founding the Church at Antioch and continuing to this day. They give the dates 37AD-67AD for Peter’s headship.

        Even though I place as little credence in their supposed line of succession as I do that of the Popes, there was at least a great deal of apostolic activity at Antioch recorded in the New Testament and Peter was recorded as being there twice.

        And, as you know, the bishophric of Antioch was recognised at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) as one of the Patriarchates of Christendom. It is worth mentioning here that all Ecumenical Councils before 900 AD were held in the Greek East and all were convoked by the Emperor from Constantinople. At these Councils, where the ‘Nature of God’ was defined and determined for all generations, Latin bishops were numerically insignificant and made an insignificant contribution.

        For example, out of a total attendance of 318 at the Council of Nicea, the Latins could boast of only 7 representatives.

        • “Well, Cardinal Pole, there must have been objections because there is a rival claimant to Apostolic Succession from Peter. …”

          Not a “rival” claim, just a parallel one–not a rival claim to the universal Headship, but merely a claim to the Headship of a local and particular Church, hence merely parallel. It is at least a small-t tradition of the Catholic Church that St. Peter erected the Church of Antioch too. But neither any of the schismatic Churches nor anyone at all has ever asserted that Antioch is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, so Antioch is irrelevant here. Indeed, my expectation would be that the Syrian schismatics would agree about the Petrine foundation of the Diocese of Rome (though presumably they would, of course, reject the doctrine of her iure Divino supremacy over the Universal Church); after all, St. Ignatius of Antioch showed himself submissive towards her.

          “It is worth mentioning here …”

          Why? I don’t see what relevance your subsequent points have here.

          • vynette

            You say that “the Syrian schismatics would agree about the Petrine foundation of the Diocese of Rome”

            If so, how do you reconcile the dating issue? Peter was allegedly head of the church in Antioch until 67AD.

            Ignatius of Antioch accorded the See of Rome a primacy of honor because it was the capital city of the Empire, not because he recognised any primacy of jurisdiction.

            Episcopal Authority is seen by him as derived directly from God or Jesus.

            • Vynette, firstly I want to thank you for provoking a fascinating, if often perplexing, hour or so during which I did a little research into the Syriac (apparently they prefer “Syriac” to “Syrian”) Orthodox Church.

              Now you said that

              “If so, how do you reconcile the dating issue? Peter was allegedly head of the church in Antioch until 67AD.”

              But from what I can tell, they have no problem with a scenario in which St. Peter departed the Diocese; perhaps he remained Head of both Dioceses simultaneously. When do they regard Evodius as having become Bishop of Antioch?

              Furthermore, according to Wikipedia’s “Patriach of Antioch” page,

              “5. The Syriac Orthodox and the Syriac Catholic both recognize that Andrew Akhidjan was legally elected Patriarch in 1662 who re-entered communion with Rome but later Patriarchs severed that Communion.”

              Although the notion that Andrew Akhidjan’s unity with Rome was a re-union seems dubious (Wikipedia’s page on Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch does not list him), nevertheless, didn’t the Syriac Orthodox (a.k.a. Jacobites) re-unite with Rome at Florence? I recalled the Jacobites being mentioned in Denzinger, and I checked the on-line version (http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma8.php), where we find a ‘Decree on Behalf of the Jacobites’. Now even if the re-union never eventuated, the mere fact that they were seriously considering it indicates that that they did not regard St. Peter’s headship of Antioch and his headship of Rome as mutually exclusive.

              (And I was amused to read the following at the “Patriarch of Antioch” page:

              “In contrast to the Hellenistic-influenced Christology of Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople, Antiochene theology was greatly influenced by Rabbinic Judaism and other modes of Semitic thought”

              These are your guys, Vynette! It seems that your ‘angle’ is nothing new!)

              So that accounts for the Syriacs; as for the other schismatics, the mere fact that they are engaged in discussions on the “Petrine ministry” suggests that they don’t object to the Petrine foundation of the Church of Rome.

              “Ignatius of Antioch accorded the See of Rome a primacy of honor because it was the capital city of the Empire, not because he recognised any primacy of jurisdiction.”
              [my emphasis]

              Really? Where does he say that he does not “[recognise] any primacy of jurisdiction” in Rome?

              “Episcopal Authority is seen by him as derived directly from God or Jesus.”

              The power of Order, but not the power of Jurisdiction, unless he was mistaken on that point.

  70. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    The Council of Trent was convoked to deal with the religious differences arising from the Reformation in Western Europe. The church at Rome never had any authority, at any time, to decide what books would be read in all Christian churches and regarded as “canonical.” It certainly had no such authority in the Eastern churches. The only authority the church at Rome had was to decide what books would be regarded as “canonical” and read in Catholic churches. As we know, the church eventually accepted the 27 books of the New Testament first proposed by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 397 AD.

    • “The Council of Trent was convoked to deal with the religious differences arising from the Reformation in Western Europe.”

      Well now you’re just insulting me; my pseudonym is “Cardinal Pole” and you think that I don’t know when and why Trent was convoked?! As I said, Trent was the first time when the Canon of Scripture was defined (‘defined’ in the sense used in Catholic theology–a solemn, irreformable pronouncement from the Extraordinary Magisterium):

      “… If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical, entire with all their parts, as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition, and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid traditions let him be anathema.”
      [Dz. 784,
      http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma8.php%5D

      Before then, the list of contents of the Bible was handed on by the Ordinary Magisterium.

  71. vynette

    Tom,

    You said that my use of “grass-roots” was modern and anachronistic. Just to show you that the idea behind it is not anachronistic, I will quote from the Muratorian Fragment – a variant list of New Testament books. The provenance and dating [between 2 and 4th centuries AD] of this work is still hotly debated by scholars. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the process whereby the community decided what should be accepted, and what should not:

    “The Apocalypse of Peter is mentioned as a book which “some of us will not allow to be read in church.”

    Dare I say it? A growing “grass-roots” consensus? [smile]

    You say a “natural” authority cannot authenticate a “supernatural” subject. What or who is the “supernatural” authority that can authenticate this “supernatural” subject?

    If your answer is the Papacy, then you must demonstrate how the Papacy acquired this a “supernatural” authority. This is a reasonable request.

    The only things we know about Jesus are recorded in the New Testament. As someone who aspires to follow him, I must expose any untrue thing which is said about him.

    Now, why do I accept that the New Testament has recorded the truth about Jesus? Because I believe that both the writings themselves, and their eventual selection in the canon, was directed by God.

    • “If your answer is the Papacy, then you must demonstrate how the Papacy acquired this a “supernatural” authority. This is a reasonable request.”

      How do you interpret John 21:15, Vynette?

      • vynette

        Cardinal Pole,

        I interpret John 21:15 in the same way as I interpret any single verse of Scripture i.e is my interpretation consistent with the whole of scripture, or is it at variance?

        I look at Matt. 26:33 where Peter said to Jesus, “If they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!”

        Then I consider the subsequent three-fold denial of Peter. The correspondence between the three-fold denial and the three-fold question of John 21 cannot be denied.

        Peter is reminded that the measure his love is not found in words but in actions. If Peter truly loves Jesus, then that will be evidenced by his care of the sheep.

        • Could I dig a little more deeply into your interpretation of John 21:15, Vynette?

          1. What do you understand by the distinction between the “sheep” and the “lambs”?

          2. You say that

          “If Peter truly loves Jesus, then that will be evidenced by his care of the sheep.”

          Do you acknowledge, then, that Our Lord was giving St. Peter some kind of pastoral mandate? If so, why do think that it would be unreasonable to expect that that mandate might have been communicable to successors?

    • Tom

      Hrmm, I had intended to let this matter drop and be happy with a Medieval style ‘disputed question,’ but you are asking for a reply. So to the first part.

      re: the question of a ‘grass-roots consensus’, your example is hardly a grass roots consensus. The point about a grass roots consensus is that it has a political force that brings about change. That’s what we mean by grass-roots, and a grass-roots consensus as an authority on Scripture is hardly a viable strategy anyway.

      Besides which, where on Earth do you imagine there was a consensus? Maybe in community to community (since groups of people like to do things a little differently here or there) but you’re saying the canon of scripture came out of a grass-roots consensus over the depth of Christendom? Let’s be realistic, there’s no radio, telephone, movies, there’s no printing press, there’s precious little in the way of literate people. A grass roots consensus simply wasn’t possible.

      The whole point of a grass-roots consensus is that it is only possible in a highly-technological, highly-communicative world. It’s one of the reasons that grass-roots campaigns have come out of the 60’s, because mass-access to television and radio started around this time. It’s nothing to do with the idea – a grass-roots consensus is anachronistic because it simply cannot belong anywhere but in the 20th and 21st century. You are attempting to transpose a contemporary idea back 2 millenia. This is anachronistic.

      2nd: re- supernatural authority and why does the Pope have this authority. I claim that the historical evidence of the Apostles, given to the communities growing around the early Churches (Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and Corinth?) was given by their historical announcement of the Gospel. Part of that announcement of the Gospel was that Peter had been declared, historically (that is, in a time and place) as the rock upon which Christ would build his Church. This is the supernatural authority on God. Peter’s authority as Rock of the Church gives to him the authority to authenticate Truth. I can hardly imagine this answer was unclear, or even unexpected.

      Further to this, the Authority of the Scriptures themselves, as a list of books that contain authentic teaching about God, Christ, and the Salvation of Man is an Authority that is derived from Truth, but authenticated by the Pope. There was no ‘Bible’ from the beginning. Why would the community in Ephesus have had the letter sent to the Philippians? Why would the Romans have had the letters to the Corinthians? At the start of the Church there was only itinerant Preachers. They wouldn’t have carried full copies of the Bible, because once again, back then there wasn’t double-sided small-font on thin paper. The whole of the Torah alone was massive enough that it required a pedestal to be read. Let alone every single addendum that is added by the New Testament.

      Everything you are trying to argue Vynette, puts you at the center of the Truth. You have attempted to make yourself the authenticator (by going to the ‘Source’ as it were, you have left unclear why the Scripture IS a valid Source of Truth) much as Luther attempted to do when he criticized the Church in the 16th Century. The problem with seeking a greater, or ‘more authentic’ interpretation of the Scripture than the one given, is that it assumes such an authenticity can be found by man. The original authenticity was given to us by God, by Christ.

      Now, you’ve claimed that Christ is not God – here we must differ. That is irreconcilable, Christ is God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. This has been the teaching of the Church since the earliest times. The Scriptures themselves have always been interpreted, by the Church, in this light (a Christological lense, if you will). If you want to say, I love the Teaching of Jesus, as it is, in the Scripture, but this that or the other has polluted the common interpretation, i’m going to seek the true interpretation. You know, all well and good, at least, it’s a good intention. The problem is the Scripture itself arose out of a Tradition, and must be interpreted in that Tradition. Otherwise you can put whatever meaning you like on it – this is why the Church emphasises that the meaning of certain passages in the Old Testament must be interpreted according to the local traditions and customs. The covenant of Abraham for example, was sealed by the tearing of animals in two and passing through them. That’s what people did at the time, that’s how you did a contract. It is also why the Church calls that reference in Genesis to ‘put someone between you [the snake] and man’ (or something along those lines) is called the proto-evangelion. The First Gospel, because it is the first announcement of Christ. The one who would stand between us and the Devil.

      Finally, you say that you think the Scriptures are true because you believe they come from God – the difficulty with this is why do you believe they are from God? Either someone has told you so, and you have accepted their authority as binding on the matter, or you have determined this yourself. If the first, well, it’s Good to be Catholic. If the second, then we’re back to the problem I argued before.

      • vynette

        Okay Tom,

        My final words in reply are that you cannot establish any valid link between Peter and the church in Rome, hence no Papal Primacy or Apostolic Succession.

        And as I went to some detail to point out, the Pope did not “authenticate” Scripture.

        The views you hold are simply unhistorical, but you are entitled to them, just as I am entitled to mine.

        As far I’m concerned, I have as much right to speak on these matters as the Pope himself because, in my view, he has no authority at all and neither had any of his predecessors.

  72. vynette

    Kiran,

    Firstly, there is no “Hellenic” influence in the New Testament. It is just a furphy concocted by those who wish it so in order to support doctrine. In its concepts and language, the New Testament is thoroughly Jewish.

    Now to your Firstborn of all Creation Canticle derived from Colossians 1:12-20.

    Unfortunately, you left out the most important part of this Canticle.

    “He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead”

    The writers of the New Testament recorded that a New Creation had come into being – that a revolution in thinking had taken place. Where before, the earth had been filled with death and corruption, the apostles saw it spring to life once again in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Just as the earth responds to rain and brings forth life more abundantly, so too did these men respond to the love that was in Jesus of Nazareth and brought forth new life in the preaching of the word of the Kingdom of God. They witnessed a New Creation coming into existence, brought into being by and through Jesus.

    The New Creation is Love. In the beginning, as recorded in the Old Testament, Almighty God made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens (Jer. 10:12).

    But in the new ‘beginning’ as described by John, when the Word of Eternal Life was made flesh in Jesus, the world came into existence in the presence of love. The old things passed away, they became new (2 Cor. 5:17). The one great element which had been lacking, and over which no earthly authority has any power, was supplied, and life was received through the Gospel of Love. (2 Tim. 1:10)

    It is in this setting, and in the knowledge that the apostles had been been transformed by the renewing of their minds, that the New Testament becomes clear in its meaning. The difference between the Old Man and the New Man, the Old Creation and the New Creation, is that whereas the ecclesiastical teaching is that God became manly, the apostles preached that man became Godly.

    The application of the apostles’ teachings will become clear when the difference is grasped. Unfortunately, the subtle similarity of ecclesiastical teachings has led to a misinterpetation of some texts while rendering others completely unintelligible.

    What came into existence by means of Jesus was Life. [John 1:4, Acts 3:15].

    Jesus is the firstborn of the dead, the firstborn in the New Creation of Life, the first of many brethren to follow who, together, constitute the Kingdom of God. It is to Jesus as the architect of this New Creation of Love and Life, not as co-creator of the Old World of matter, that the following texts apply:

    “…who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him.” (Col 1:15-17)

    “…yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.” (1 Cor 8:6 )

    “And he is the head of the body; the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” (Col 1:18. See also Rev. 1:5)

    And other similar texts.

    This simple message of the New Testament, that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” because he is the “firstborn from the dead” in the New Creation has somehow managed to elude the complex minds of theologians for nearly two millennia.

    • “This simple message of the New Testament … has somehow managed to elude the complex minds of theologians for nearly two millennia.”

      The notion that an omnipotent Deity would let His final Revelation be lost for two thousand years–spanning countless generations–strains credulity.

      • Kiran

        There is absolutely nothing to support your interpretations except your say-so. And your say-so ain’t enough for me.

        Well, I think this discussion is getting exactly nowhere. If you want to believe what you believe go ahead. I cannot stand in judgement over your conscience, and insofar as I can, I have ensured that I am not going to be required to answer for you on the Dies Irae.

        But on the other hand, I think what you are saying makes about as little sense as any conspiracy theory. Last I checked I wasn’t required to believe in the infallibility of vynette. So, I shall leave you in peace.

      • vynette

        His final Revelation hasn’t been “lost” – it’s just been waiting in the wings all this time.

        I think it is perfectly reasonable and perfectly just that it should now come on stage – just what could be expected from a perfectly just God.

        Jesus castigated the Jewish religious leaders of his time for not understanding their own scriptures.

        It could be argued that the Christian churches have a more serious case to answer. They ostensibly preach Jesus of Nazareth while, at the same time, through their doctrine, they misrepresent him and actually further the viewpoint of those who crucified him. The personality cult built up around the person of “Jesus Christ” effectively destroys the central figure with far greater definition than the crucifixion itself accomplished.

        For many centuries now, the “Jews” have been blamed by Christians for crucifying their Messiah. They have been ridiculed, crammed into ghettoes, calumnied, persecuted and murdered. Christian religious leaders have much to answer for.

        I do believe in the working out of divine justice.

        Just as the Jewish religious leaders were castigated by Jesus for not understanding the Old Scriptures, perhaps it’s now time for the Christian religious leaders to be castigated for not understanding the New Testament.

        But I hope that God, being also merciful as well as just, will not exact the lex talionis

        • “His final Revelation hasn’t been “lost” – it’s just been waiting in the wings all this time.”

          And will continue “waiting in the wings” indefinitely. You would agree that, realistically, you are unlikely ever to convince anyone that your interpretations are correct, would you not? So to all intents and purposes God’s final Revelation was, is, and probably will always remain lost.

          “I think it is perfectly reasonable and perfectly just that it should now come on stage”

          Why? Why now of all times? You say that the resonance of the Gospel’s values with your values is sufficient for you to believe, but do you seriously think that Gospel values are more prevalent now than at any other time during the era of human Redemption?

          “Jesus castigated the Jewish religious leaders of his time for not understanding their own scriptures.”

          But here we have again the apples-and-oranges comparison which I mentioned earlier, the fallacy of comparing the period during which Revelation is still being disclosed to the period when it has been completed. When misunderstandings of Scripture arise while Revelation is still being revealed, those misunderstandings can be corrected relatively easily–God simply needs to send a prophet–whose prophetic vocation he can prove (externally) by predictions and miracles (and are proved internally by the aids of the Holy Ghost, of course)–who will preach authoritatively against those misunderstandings. But once Revelation has been completed (which, you agree, it has), that’s it; misunderstandings will never be corrected. Unless, of course, God had the foresight to accompany that final Revelation with an authoritative teaching ministry.

          Some possible counter-arguments to this might be:

          1. The final Revelation was perfectly perspicuous: But clearly it wasn’t, as the number and variety of private-judgment-based sects and the warnings contained in that very Revelation (Son of Trypho mentioned 2 Peter 3:16, for instance) show.

          2. Adherence to the correct interpretation isn’t all that valuable to God: But then why the afore-mentioned warnings? And why bother revealing the unintellible?

          • vynette

            It is not my responsibility to “convince” anyone. It is my responsibility to expose as many as possible to the truths of the New Testament. Once I have done this to the best of my ability, my responsibility in the matter is discharged.

            For those who have not heard the Gospel preached, it is sufficient that they live, or have lived, a “Christ-like” life. Whether they know it or not is irrelevant. Belief is nothing, character in action is everything. A lesser responsibility lies upon those who have never heard the gospel preached. In this, they hold the advantage.

            But for those who have heard the gospel preached, as I have, the greater responsibility is upon me/us/them to ensure that lies about God’s Messiah are not spread abroad. In this, those who have heard the gospel preached and still hew to false doctrines, without attempting to discover the truth for themselves, are at a distinct disadvantage.

            These different levels of responsibility are what we would expect from a perfectly just and perfectly merciful God.

            And this is why I do what I do! To remove any disadvantage to my brethren. My prayer is that, at least, some will start thinking about what they believe and why.

            “Misunderstandings” can be corrected by a love of truth. Without this love of truth it is impossible to please God –

            “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such worshippers.” [John 4:23]

            Any person or institution which claims a “teaching authority” must be subjected to this same truth as revealed in the New Testament.

            The duty of all those who would be followers of Jesus is to make their faith, in the words of Paul, a “logiken latreian” [Rom 13: 1], a fully reasoned worship.

            “Why now?” you ask.

            There are two reasons:

            1. Until the Reformation, Rome’s alleged “teaching authority” has only ever embraced the Christian West. This Western “teaching authority” is gradually being eroded by disbelief in traditional doctrines and by scandals, as I’m sure you will agree. With ever increasing access to information and education, this process will extend to Latin America and Africa. It is unstoppable.

            2. The natural process of history itself. Owen Chadwick, the great Cambridge historian rightly observed:

            “You do not correct the legends…. The only thing that corrects them is more history, and history takes time, too long a time for people’s comfort, but it is the nature of history that it is only little by little that the truth about the past is found.”

            • “Belief is nothing”

              That is, on so many levels that I won’t even bother trying to list them (you can probably predict them, and will have counter-arguments for them, no doubt), an astonishing statement. Thanks for your candour, though.

              “In this, those who have heard the gospel preached and still hew to false doctrines, without attempting to discover the truth for themselves, are at a distinct disadvantage.”

              Why? Belief is nothing, right?

              ““Misunderstandings” can be corrected by a love of truth. Without this love of truth it is impossible to please God”

              Without Faith it is impossible to please God, St. Paul tells us, yet you think that belief is nothing (and I know, I know, you’ll tell me about how ‘faith’ means something completely different for those with Master’s degrees in Hebrew language and culture than it does for poor, benighted Hellenists). And I won’t insult people who believe in private judgment by denying that they have a “love of truth”, but a “love of truth” alone won’t compensate for the problems of the principle of private judgment. Do you seriously think that you ‘love truth’ more than the members of any private-judgment-based sect? If not, then you can’t deny that just a “love of truth” will not bring one to the truth. (And then there’s the whole problem of your denigration of the very concept the certainty with which one apprehends the truth, but I’ll leave that aside.)

              “This Western “teaching authority” is gradually being eroded by disbelief in traditional doctrines and by scandals, as I’m sure you will agree.”

              I agree that many nominal Catholics have abandoned the Rule of Faith. I disagree that they’ll find your interpretations any more compelling than those of any other private-judgment-based sect. (On the one hand, they’ll probably find them a good deal less so, since it seems illogical to waste time weighing up the religious beliefs of someone who thinks that belief is nothing. On the other hand, and by the same token, I suspect that many people already believe that ‘belief is nothing’ (ha, ‘believe that belief is nothing’–a bit like being certain that there are no certainties) and that if one does good and avoids evil then one will go to Heaven (or, as Mr. Coyne likes to say, ‘whatever you call the end objective’). (Though their ideas of good and evil are so debauched as to make that kind of Pelagianism all the more problematic.)

              “With ever increasing access to information and education …”

              Any Australian high-school graduate can apply to study Classical Hebrew and Greek at uni and, if successful, there will be affordable payment options. Funnily enough though, not too many take the opportunity. I don’t know why you think that the inhabitants of Latin America and Africa will be any more likely to do so.

  73. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    I’m posting my response here at the bottom of this thread to avoid excessive fragmentation.

    You ask about the distinction between “sheep” and “lambs.”

    It usually goes unremarked that there are several other synonyms besides “sheep” [probata] and “lambs’ [arnia] in John 21:15-17: there are two words for “love” [agapao, phileo],
    two words for “know” (ginosko, oida), and two words for “tend” (bosko, poimaino).

    This is a stylistic device known as Hebrew parallelism. Parallelism expresses the same thought twice using synonyms. Of all the gospels, John’s has the most transparently Hebrew undertext and for Hebrew speakers like Jesus and John, parallelism is one of the most beautiful forms of the language.

    As I said in my previous post, the notion of “apostolic succession” did not exist for Ignatius. Neither does it exist in the New Testament.
    All the apostles, not just Peter, had a mandate to preach the gospel to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus’ directions are quite clear on the matter.

    “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [Matthew 15:24]

    “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 10:5-6]

    “Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.” [1 Peter 5:1-4]

    This injunction to care for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” is of course further evidence that Peter travelled eastwards where the majority of the circumcision resided.

    Preaching to the uncircumsised, together with their isolated pockets of Jews, was left in the hands of Paul who had not received this personal injunction from Jesus.

  74. “This is a stylistic device known as Hebrew parallelism. Parallelism expresses the same thought twice using synonyms.”

    But a lamb’s not just any sheep, it’s a young sheep.

    “Jesus’ directions are quite clear on the matter.”

    They sure are:

    “16 And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 19 Going therefore, teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
    [Matthew 28: 16-20,
    http://newadvent.org/bible/mat028.htm%5D

  75. Yesterday I tried to publish the following message, but for some reason the attempt was unsuccesful, so here it is:

    Vynette, I’ve returned from my weekly break from the Web and have made several comments for you; their respective U.R.L.s are:

    https://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/come-on-in-its-awful/#comment-11714
    https://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/come-on-in-its-awful/#comment-11715
    https://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/come-on-in-its-awful/#comment-11716
    https://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/come-on-in-its-awful/#comment-11717

    Mr. Edwards,

    I responded to your comment here:

    https://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/come-on-in-its-awful/#comment-11718

    (And Vynette and Mr. Edwards, I would appreciate it if you could leave any further comments at the bottom of the main thread so that I don’t have to check all those sub-threads).

    Vynette, a couple of things I was wondering:

    1. Do you regard Jesus as the Redeemer? If so, then how could the suffering of a person whose suffering only had finite value atone for Adam’s substantial turning-away from an infinite good, a sin which requires an atonement which is infinite in value?

    2. How do you interpret the phrase ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’?

    Finally, I’d just like to note that at his website Mr. Coyne has linked to this discussion:

    http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?mode=thread&id=38147

    [And Vynette, I’ve also responded to your latest comment at the sub-thread on Antioch.]

  76. vynette

    Cardinal Pole,

    I don’t know where you are situated in the world but here in Australia the summer school holidays have begun and four of my grandchildren have arrived to spend some time with me.

    This means that I will have to suspend our conversation temporarily.

    Before I go however, I’ll just leave you with a couple of thoughts regarding your questions.

    The commonly understood meaning of the “all nations” of Matthew 28:19 needs further explication.

    If the disciples had received the injunction to preach to “all nations” i.e. Gentile nations, why did the issue of preaching to the Gentiles cause such problems between Peter and Paul? Even after Paul had presented and justified his case, Peter and the others refused to follow his lead:

    “…they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles,just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.” [Gal.2:7-9]

    The Greek word “ethnos,”translated as “nations” in Matthew 28:19, mostly refers to the Gentiles peoples, but is also used to describe the “ethnos” [nation] of Judea. So, Jesus’ use of the word could just as easily refer to the “nations” of Israel i.e. the twelve tribes. This interpretation is consistent with his statements about the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” i.e. the twelve tribes.

    The commonly accepted meaning of Matthew 28:19 “all nations” blatantly contradicts not only everything that Jesus had to say about the subject, but also everything the disciples later did when carrying out his commandments.

    You are quite right to think that I would have something to say about the word translated in the New Testament as “faith.”

    Neither the Greek word “pistis” nor the English word “faith,” convey the same meaning to us as their Hebrew counterpart “emunah” did to Hebrews. The Hebrew concept of “faith” is not just a mental belief in a proposition but implies persistence, loyalty, unwavering conviction and “faithfulness” TO “someone.”

    This inward “faithfulness” is demonstrated by outward good works and righteous behaviour.

    In New Testament terms, to have “faith” in Jesus is to be convinced that he is the Hebrew Messiah, a man approved by God, and to demonstrate that conviction by emulating his good works and righteous behaviour [character in action]

    Thank you for your many thought-provoking posts. I hope to engage with you again sometime in the New Year.

  77. “I don’t know where you are situated in the world …”

    Sydney, Australia.

    “Thank you for your many thought-provoking posts.”

    You’re welcome, Vynette. See you in the new year.