Saturday, January 21, 2012

Faithful Catholics May Disagree

To which extent may faithful Catholics disagree with each other - or even disagree with a sitting or past pope?  This post is in response to one which began over on BeggarsAll.



A blogger who goes by the name of Constantine said...

I'm curious about the “freedom to discount” claimed by EA and John.
In 1879 Leo XIII writes in his encyclical Aeterni Patris, “Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others. Let the universities already founded or to be founded by you illustrate and defend this doctrine, and use it for the refutation of prevailing errors.” (Paragraph 31)
Earlier in this letter – paragraph 21 – Leo quotes half a dozen of his predecessors in support of Thomism as the official Catholic philosophy. One indicative example is Urban V, who Leo quotes as having written, “"It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same." (emphasis added). I take it to mean that when a pope “enjoins” something, it is necessarily official doctrine – not “semi-official”. (And Leo is here reaching back into 500 years of Catholic history for support.) Is it fair to consider these writings as mere opinions?So were one to feel free to discount Thomism as I take EA and John to mean, they would be undermining not just the opinions of one or another pope, but a whole series of them. And that, I think, casts some doubt on the idea of “Tradition”, no?
I wrote:
That one may disagree with the opinions of previous popes does not undermine "tradition" - and especially not "Sacred Tradition." Would it be wise to reject sound Catholic teaching in favor of more modernist views? Probably not! But so long as what is being disagreed with is not dogmatically defined (ex cathedra) statements from popes, then Catholics may disagree with them.

[January 22, 2012 addendum]
Constantine said...
Hi Scott,

So, if the language was right and the audience was right, then you could disregard papal bulls, right? I think that is your point. My question remains – where is that taught?
1) I never said one can "disregard papal bulls," but I will say some of THAT would depend upon the language and to whom the bull was addressed/intended.

Earlier you wrote,

“But so long as what is being disagreed with is not dogmatically defined (ex cathedra) statements from popes, then Catholics may disagree with them.”
Peace. So, the 60+% or Catholics who disregard the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae's teaching on contraception or the nearly 50% of Catholics who do not affirm the doctrine of transubstantiation are perfectly within their rights, according to your standard. Do I understand that correctly?
I respond...
You can see below where I point out even our first pope is disagreed with, so "where is that taught?" is answered in Scripture for you.  As for disregarding the Church's CURRENT declarations upon contraception - this is a precept which is binding upon ALL Christians, even non-Catholics (whether they choose to accept this binding is not relevant to the fact that it IS binding upon them!).  A faithful Catholic cannot pick and choose which current precepts they will accept or reject - and based on the FACT that most forms of contraception are abortificants, the premise of this precept is "Thou shalt not kill."  Those who participate in artificial birth control/contraception cannot be considered "faithful Catholics."


As for the alleged 50% who do not affirm the doctrine of transubstantiation, again, this teaching is quite clear and explicit for Christianity!  Those who reject the teaching cannot be considered faithful Christians/Catholics. 


Now, to the specifics you mention here, THIS discussion is not about contraception or transubstantiation, so let us not be distracted into tangential topics in THIS discussion.
[End of January 22, 2012 addendum]
A blogger who goes by the initials EA responds:
"But so long as what is being disagreed with is not dogmatically defined (ex cathedra) statements from popes, then Catholics may disagree with them."
Lumen Gentium (III,25):
In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
So there's a bit of an issue here. Pope Pius X insisted in some very assertive language that Thomism is the bedrock of and essential to Catholic teaching. But Cardinal Ratzinger stated that Thomistic philosophy needed to be discarded in order to save Catholicism.

In order to give some assent to both of these statements, somehow they need to be reconciled. Good Luck.
Constantine states:
I think Scott has to show where it is taught that the Roman Catholic in the pew has the authority to disregard papal bulls - ex cathedra or not.
I respond:
The most obvious evidence to present would be where our FIRST POPE was contradicted and corrected by St. Paul!  St. Paul chided St. Peter for although being a Jew, he lived as a Gentile and was expecting the Gentiles to take on Jewish traditions, this is recorded in Galations 2:14-21.  If even our first pope can be disagreed with - then why would you question our position of being able to disagree with later popes?  Now I understand non-Catholics do not accept that St. Peter was a pope at all - but the objective reader must understand as well that it is the Catholic position that he was indeed pope and thus this confrontation of St. Paul was against our first pope!  From the very beginning of what we recognize as the papacy we have faithful Catholics confronting them!


As for then Fr. Ratzinger disagreeing with Pope Pius X (a pope nearly 100 years prior) said about teaching - which is where this discussion stemmed from, allow me to retrace a bit.  James Swan found a couple of blog entries from "Catholic Champion" which intrigued him.  One was "A Warning to Those Who Oppose St. Thomas and Scholasticism" and the other, in Swan's words "a real gem" was: "Contradictions, You Decide..."  My guess would be that Swan is impressed with the perceived contradictions put forward by Matthew Bellisario (aka "Catholic Champion"). 

First off, I'd like to say that the encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X are essentially stating that the scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas should be used by Catholic schools and universities.  While they use some pretty strong language to "exhort" such to use St. Aquinas' works, it is not "demanded."  In fact, Pope St. Pius X says in Doctoris Angelici: "We renew and confirm them and order them to be strictly observed by all concerned."  This sounds very forceful, and the document is even a "moto proprio" - BUT - it is directly addressed to "Italy and the adjacent islands," therefore is specifically NOT binding upon the whole Church! 


The next thing I'd say is that the quote from then Fr. Ratzinger is an obscure quote from an obscure source making it very difficult to check on the context.  Therefore, without being able to see the context, I reject this quote from Fr. Ratzinger.


Now, the above being said, it is clear that Catholics CAN disagree with papal statements - and I reiterate that we Catholics see St. Peter as our first pope - and Scripture provides evidence that faithful Catholics can contradict and confront even the sitting pope.


I'm not sure that those over on Beggars All will be satisfied with these answers - but clearly I have presented the case where we CAN contradict a pope - within reason.  Below I provide opinions of other Catholics and I will respectfully consider further challenges by those who have initially challenged me.


Faithfully yours,


Scott Windsor<<<
CathApol


Roman Catholic theologian, Ronald L. Conte Jr.
http://ronconte.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/to-what-extent-may-a-faithful-catholic-disagree-with-the-pope/


Marcus Grodi offers his opinion:
http://chnetwork.org/2011/09/defragging-our-minds-by-marcus-grodi/

12 comments:

  1. The following is Constantine's response found on BeggarsAll, my response will follow:

    Constantine said...
    Scott,

    I’m sorry to have read about the impending anniversary your family is anticipating and I pray that God will console you all.

    Because it’s been a few days, let me just establish that the issue James brought to us is that of the contradictory nature of Roman Catholic teaching and the anthropocentric means to resolution suggested by the “champ” – i.e. ‘you decide’.

    You have subsequently added on your blog, “You can see below where I point out even our first pope is disagreed with, so "where is that taught?" is answered in Scripture for you.”

    First, let me applaud you for relying on Scripture. But Scripture nowhere makes the claim you do that Peter was a “pope”; in fact, it everywhere makes quite the opposite claim.

    Secondly, Vatican I has this to say on the issue of obedience to the pope:

    Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church throughout the world. (Decrees of the First Vatican Council, First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Session 4, chapter 2, section 2.) emphasis added.

    V1 goes on to say that any departure from this teaching is a danger to one’s “faith and salvation”.

    So, according to this most sacred council - and your example - the Apostle Paul is in danger of losing his salvation!

    At any rate, we are still where James brought us originally. And that is, how can a Catholic know what is acceptable to believe?

    Peace.

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  2. Constantine said:
    First, let me applaud you for relying on Scripture.

    Thank you, I did indeed - but not "Scripture alone!" ;-)

    Constantine continues:
    But Scripture nowhere makes the claim you do that Peter was a “pope”; in fact, it everywhere makes quite the opposite claim.

    1) Your point is irrelevant to the position of a Catholic! Whether or not YOU agree that St. Peter was our first pope - the challenge was from OUR perspective what is OUR teaching that a pope can be contradicted, right? So, based on this fact it is our position that St. Peter was indeed our first pope AND he was contradicted, as recorded in Scripture, by St. Paul. Thus, I have fulfilled the request to demonstrate from OUR TEACHING and OUR PERSPECTIVE how even a pope can be contradicted. The point here was NEVER whether or not you agree with our view of the papacy - that's a whole different argument!

    2) At the risk of digressing a bit, I disagree with your opinion that Scripture "everywhere makes quite the opposite claim." Why is St. Peter almost always listed first in lists of Apostles? Why is it that St. Peter is constantly THE spokesperson for the apostolic choir? Why does Jesus Christ single out Simon Bar-Jonah and rename him Cephas (Peter)? Why does Jesus Christ make mention of "keys" to St. Peter ALONE and NEVER mentions "the keys" to the other Apostles? Why does Jesus Christ single out St. Peter in the presence of all the other Apostles and tell HIM to "Feed My sheep" in a three-fold command of THE Good Shepherd passing on the reins for one to do HIS JOB just as He is about to ascend into Heaven? So to state "everywhere" Scripture makes the opposite claim is simply false.

    Now, as for what Vatican I taught, I do not disagree! IF a given pope is addressing ME, directly or indirectly (by addressing the entire Church and demanding obedience) then YES, I am so bound to obey his instruction. However, as I pointed out, THIS IS NOT THE CASE in the examples cited above!

    Constantine continues:
    So, according to this most sacred council - and your example - the Apostle Paul is in danger of losing his salvation!

    No, not really - because St. Peter YIELDED to St. Paul's correction! Now, IF St. Peter had come back and stated St. Paul was wrong and demonstrated HOW St. Paul was wrong - IF St. Paul had remained insubordinate to St. Peter THEN there may be some danger to his soul - but that was not the case! St. Peter was properly rebuked and accepted it.

    Constantine concludes:
    At any rate, we are still where James brought us originally. And that is, how can a Catholic know what is acceptable to believe?

    No, we're not still where James brought us originally! I was asked where it is taught that one can contradict a pope - and I demonstrated it. The question was not "how can a Catholic know what is acceptable to believe?" In fact, James' ONLY participation in this discussion have been:
    1) Presenting Matthew Bellisario's article and commending him on it.
    2) He presented his opinion of my apologetic (completely ignoring the topic at hand).
    3) He commented on my alleged "empire."
    4) He minimized his "empire" comment and explained it as "a feeble attempt at humorous sarcasm."

    Respectfully,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  3. These talks get exhausting at times because many Protestants either cannot see or refuse to see basic distinctions. The worst of these is when Protestants conflate official teaching with those who disobey official teaching.

    I believe this is mostly out of ignorance, since Protestantism generally does not teach critical thinking. None the less, it makes discussions maddening at times. The good news is, once consistent thinking takes hold, the result is almost always towards the Catholic Church.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the comments. This response was due, in part, to prodding from the folks at BA. There was somewhat of a prediction that I would be silent on the point - I wasn't. There was implication that I would use other people's work, and not credit them for it - while I did quote from other sources, I cited them as well as PROVIDING, with links, primary sources for some of the documents cited by those on BA. Some seemed to be speculating that I could not present OUR position from OUR perspective - I provided Scripture supporting our perspective of our position.

    As for "maddening" - I almost never get mad anymore. It takes quite a bit to get me riled. A calm, sober approach to their criticisms (no matter how poorly rooted) will, IMHO, do much more good than an emotional retort. I pray that God continues to give me calmness and would increase the gentleness in my responses to non-Catholics.

    May consistent thinking abound!

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete
  5. OK, it's not been a real long time, but typically they (not just EA) are quick to respond. If they're not going to comment further, I'll close for now by quoting EA, letting his words be "the last word..." Of course, if they rejoin the conversation, I will too.

    EA said: I'll interpret silence as a tacit admission of defeat.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Scott,

    I'm not entirely understanding. You can ignore Pius X's encyclical enjoining Thomistic philosophy, but you can't ignore Paul VI's encyclical prohibiting condoms?

    This:
    "A faithful Catholic cannot pick and choose which current precepts they will accept or reject"
    by the way is much to the tune of what I was trying to say in my comments. I was not trying to imply that you think the pope is impeccable or make reference to infallibility, but rather this, that you are not free to pick and choose about something the pope clearly expresses for you to believe and/or do.

    In Christ,
    JL

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  7. John writes: I'm not entirely understanding. You can ignore Pius X's encyclical enjoining Thomistic philosophy, but you can't ignore Paul VI's encyclical prohibiting condoms?

    John, I remind you of what I said above:
    In fact, Pope St. Pius X says in Doctoris Angelici: "We renew and confirm them and order them to be strictly observed by all concerned." This sounds very forceful, and the document is even a "moto proprio" - BUT - it is directly addressed to "Italy and the adjacent islands," therefore is specifically NOT binding upon the whole Church!

    On the other hand, Humanae Vitae opens with:
    To His Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, to the Clergy and Faithful of the Whole Catholic World, and to All Men of Good Will.

    See the difference?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott,

      Thank you, I can see how the address could represent a principled reason for those wishing to ignore these papal injunctions on Thomistic philosophy, that it is not an arbitrary decision but based I guess on the geographic jurisdiction of the encyclical. I think it is a violation of the spirit of papal teaching authority, but I can see how it serves the letter.

      So then what of Benedict? This is more to the topic. Benedict is a philosopher living in Italy, and he is much more inclined to more modern German philosophies than scholasticism (or so I gather from my best friend studying scholastic philosophy at the Center of Thomistic Studies). Is the current pope allowed to ignore Pius on this issue?

      Thank you again for your time in clarifying for me

      In Christ,
      JL

      Delete
  8. Again, since Pope Pius X's decree was quite local in its address, yes, Pope Benedict XVI does not have to abide by it. I don't know that he's utterly rejecting Thomist philosophy, it is my understanding that he's open to other philosophies beyond Thomism.

    Back to your comparison to HV, I am of the position that any "Catholic" who rejects this teaching on contraception is not a faithful Catholic. The precept involved here does is not limited to a single pope's or council's decree - but overwhelmingly is of the Will of God and the sanctity of not only "the marriage act" - but of LIFE ITSELF (since most artificial forms of contraception also involve abortificient properties which KILL the newly conceived child. Even those which do not directly kill the unborn are still a corruption of "the marriage act" as God intended it to be - so it is still contrary to His Will.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  9. Scott,

    I guess the point of my question was that Benedict currently resides on that locality to which Pius' encyclical was addressed - Italy and the surrounding islands. The pope also often makes addresses using philosophical structures other than scholasticism. So what is going on there?

    As to contraception, I really didn't mean to bring it up. There's nothing about it in Scripture and I think the position of HV is a pious one worthy of respect. I've never had need of contraception, so I don't really have any thoughts. When I get to the point of considering marriage then I will also consider HV more. I brought up HV merely because it is an encyclical that proclaims something that otherwise I don't think is dogmatically defined and yet that I knew you would find important - I didn't bring it up to argue its contents.

    Thank you, as always. I am truly enjoying our conversation :)

    In Christ,
    JL

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  10. I'll let the HV discussion go, it's not really pertinent to this topic, I just didn't want you to feel unanswered.

    As for Pope Benedict residing in Italy, etc., the very fact that Pope Pius X's decree is NOT binding upon the whole Church also means it does not have the permanence of a dogmatic decree as well. Any future pope could amend or abrogate the teaching altogether, if they so chose to do so. That is why I stated from the very beginning on BA, it depends on the wording and context as to how binding and whether or not such a binding is in perpetuity or until another pope changes it.

    I reiterate, the fundamental matter of Pope St. Pius X's Doctoris Angelici which we were discussing is wholey a matter of DISCIPLINE being that this is what he and (and others) desired to be taught in the universities of Italy and the surrounding islands - but - even if it extended beyond Italy, it's still a matter of DISCIPLINE and would not be a matter of DOGMA so would never be binding in perpetuity.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  11. Scott,

    It sounds like you are implying that HV is a dogmatic and infallible doctrine. Am I correct in this? Could the current pope retract it?

    In Christ,
    JL

    ReplyDelete

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