Saturday, March 02, 2013

I'm A Weirdo

On the one hand, it's probably just an excuse to do what I want, but I would argue on the other that having a severe physical disability makes one a little weird. I've known too many of you, including myself, and I notice that we're a little off. It's an odd combination of desperately wanting affection and acceptance, while not giving a rat's behind about social mores, opinion, or other stuff.

I was doing one of those things last night: eating a salad with my hands. I don't know if forks offend me, or what. But this is not an uncommon thing. It's Friday in Lent, so it was a McDonald's side salad with two large fries. Side-bar, Your Honors: Those fries should never be part of a penance. How good are they? Honestly. So, I'm chomping away, and I nearly make it to the end of my salad. I'm not looking at the salad; I'm talking to my good friend and stuffing my face. And then...a shard of bacon. By the time I noticed, it was over. And clearly, it was an accident on their parts. That can't be a sin, right? And it was a shard; it was not a bacon-loaf made to look like stale bread. This is what I think about when you're not here. Right now, some guy is scheming to make bacon-loaf, and if he succeeds, he'll make Bill Gates look like a guy who won the door prize at Bingo Night.

Anyway, I have been assigned some reading of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. He was just the Bishop of Rome. That's kind of a big deal. But it strikes me as I read him that he is both brilliant and balanced. There are reasons he was chosen. He is not as the critics would have him, nor is he as the self-appointed paragons of orthodoxy would have him, either. If it is possible to remain loyal to the faith and the Church while being a rebel, that's who Ratzinger is. He was the perfect choice to be the guardian of doctrine for so many years before he was pope. Only someone who loves the Truth but is unafraid to ask questions (and hear them) fits in such roles.

On the other hand, our world fetishizes dissent and the expression of personal opinion. [Says the contrarian with a blog.--ed.] Shush. Contrary to Learned Hand and Miley Cyrus, the questions and the journey are not the point. Without a destination or a purpose, why are you leaving? If you didn't want an answer to the question, why'd you ask? Only a society that has relativized truth mistakes arrogance for bravery.

How does all this connect? How should I know? I'm a weirdo.

Friday, March 01, 2013

My Thoughts And Feelings On Yesterday

It's just been a day since Ratzinger relinquished the Chair of Peter. Bob Lozano and I knew we should do something, make an act of faith, hope, and charity, so we planned to do a Holy Hour right when it would happen. So we did. The bells tolled. I cried. Truly, I had no choice in the matter. We love our Pope, and we're supposed to. If St. Paul and the Ephesian elders can cry like babies, so can I, saying a special goodbye to the elder par excellence. And the man Joseph Ratzinger is worthy of no small amount of affection anyway, having written and spoken so well of the Lord and helping so many to understand and love Him.

But in those moments, we know that we aren't guilty of the idolatries with which we are accused. Because the man had left, and yet, Jesus reigns always. I spoke with Him. He's not going anywhere. It pleases Him to leave us a man to govern us, teach us, and protect us, and soon enough that seat will not be empty. And we will rejoice. I thought of that feeling we will have, and it made me happy.

I am praying for the men who will choose the next man to be our shepherd here on Earth. May the Holy Spirit guide them into all truth in a special way; may He give us that special joy we know we will have. Amen and amen.

I am not afraid of what will happen. I know good will come. God Himself said many times, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Jesus, I trust in You.

God, please use this next man to unite all your people, scattered throughout the world. May they be one with us, and we with them, so that there indeed may be one flock and one Shepherd. Amen.

Trent Had A Virtual Council, Too

I was talking about this with Bob Lozano yersterday. Our last Holy Father, Benedict XVI, just used that brilliant phrase to talk about the difference between the perception and the reality of Vatican II. Vatican II is a master-work of ecclesiology and pastoral sensitivity. And that is coming through now. But the most important thing is its continuity with Trent. It is Trent for modern life.

One of the things that helped me to break out of my ecclesial deism was to realize that I had no principled reason to say that St. Thomas in the Summa Theologiae was wrong, even in his sacramental theology. That is not to say that I had adopted it, but there was no obvious reason to charge him with the moral taint with which we viewed the whole Council of Trent. But then, the realization: This whole Council is a giant footnote to St. Thomas. If that's the case, it could be true no matter what evil--scandalous as that is--the officials of the Church got into. If there's a gap between practical Catholic life and revealed truth, it's our fault, not God's. This is why my probing question as to the Reformation, "Do you have a moral objection to the Church, or a theological one?" is phrased the way it is. Because God's revelation cannot change. And if ascertaining the truth of God proceeds from the reality that God wishes to be known, and the best way to know God is to know the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, then He must have entrusted the truth about himself to men after he left. Plenty of non-debatable Scriptural warrant for that. But after they died, then what?

See, that "ecclesial deism" is actually the assumption of error. So there are two things that undo it, very simply: 1. Both Catholics and children of the Reformation say, "The early Church agrees with us." That makes the writings of the Church Fathers in some sense a measuring-stick for the whole thing. And 2. The Reformation communities' acceptance of the creeds in some sense. Because that qualified agreement is essentially a statement to the effect, "We agree that they didn't mess that up." But real agreement consists in accepting the terms upon which a question turns, and not simply its result. I had the right to disagree with some authoritative decision in history, but I do not have the right, I reasoned, to agree with those persons on other terms, and ultimately, on my terms. This is why I wrote, "It caused me to kidnap our ancient brethren in the faith, to claim them as my own against their wills." Though that was in reference to Sola Scriptura, it holds. That deism is flatly inconsistent with the reality of the Incarnation as God's loving self-revelation in history. That's why history is vital to the questions of authority and continuity. If Jesus didn't fulfill his promise here, in the very same dust He walked, what good is it?

So the Church must be visible. I must, if I wish to be part of the Church, accept the determinations of said Church. If Trent is false, so is Nicea. Add to that this plain reality: I cannot be both the arbiter of the true faith, and a receiver of it at the same time. The Church must give me the means to discern what is speculative, and what is beyond question, and she does. This is why Peter Green's objection fails miserably. Indeed, if the Church did not do this, our profession of faith would be pointless.

I think one of the reasons John H. Armstrong's ruminations about the Catholic Church frustrate me is that he assumes that it's all a merely human enterprise. "Divine and human" for the Catholic means, "Like Jesus in the Incarnation," not "perfect" and "flawed" respectively. And of course, we're sinners. But that's the capacity of human freedom to cut himself or herself off from the Incarnate Word, not some mistake on Christ's part. But the Catholic Church cannot just decide to change her ecclesiology or doctrine, even if one thinks she should. On the level of human preference, I would find this wholly undesirable, anyway. But at the level of faith, I know that Christ will not allow it. He promised, and I'm very happy about that.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thank You, "Papa"

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I know that Blessed John Paul II was more...popular, but Benedict XVI is the pope with whom I will most identify.

4. This man is a great biblical theologian, and he will be credited with revitalizing biblical awareness in the Church.

3. When the time struck, I felt it. That moment, versus 2 minutes prior, was distinct.

2. Now I understand more fully what "faith like a child" is.

1. We were with Jesus, or he was with us, so everything will be fine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

5 More Pro-Life Thoughts

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. If a fertilized egg is not a human being, then who is?

4. I'm sure you are aware that we all were once zygotes. I suppose I'm glad you are here to argue the point, but surely you see the irony.

3. When this radical autonomy you are so fond of produces the rankest kind of economic injustice, I'm going to laugh at you, while I help the people your "freedom" has produced.

2. I'm so glad that you don't define human beings by their ability to produce for others. Oh, wait.

1. I was trying to understand how your position empowers women, but I gave up. It's above my pay grade.

You Force Me To Be This Snarky

5 Thoughts For Today

5. If a baby is a parasite, and you are a victim, why should your political opponents suffer scorn for lacking the "compassion" to subsidize your victimhood post-birth?

4. I don't know much, but I know that "free love" is not a biological imperative.

3. What do you say to women who have the audacity to tell you that killing your own child is wrong?

2. Public Service Announcement: "Human being"= zygote. The unique human organism that is formed from the gametes of a man and woman. No, that isn't in the Bible. That's basic science.

1. As much as I value freedom, it is not limitless, and it is more than the freedom from coercion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Yes, It's A Struggle Being This Hot

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. We're stuck with this guy. Forgive me; I just hope, God love him, that he's not as big a tool as he's shown previously. I don't even like Israel, and I still feel that way.

4. No Chelsie Hightower on Dancing With The Stars? Party foul.

3. It's not true that I've been alone all this time; Music and I have been conducting a torrid affair for about 30 years. [Graphic, no?--ed.] Oh, relax. Everyone will chuckle.

2. Have you seen this? Sheesh.

1. My patience with that person has "entered the holodeck."

A Few Brief Comments

I hope that you all have been following these exchanges the last couple of days, because it inspires me to make a few clarifying comments as a Catholic about our paradigmatic differences. First, I cannot deny that you may find a Church Father or a whole group of them that hold opinions that sound like what would later become Protestant opinions. Let me say it rudely, and then explain: So what? People of great importance have opinions and even disagreements. The Fathers are not a norm in and of themselves, except rarely, and I will grant the possibility that the average apologist overstates these occasions. The Church, in her teaching authority, sets the norm of faith. I don't doubt that one could construct a theology consonant with a later Protestant one; it might even be convincing. But it doesn't mean you've read the Fathers, nor are in harmony with them. The most important thing the Fathers tell us is about the nature of the Church, the authority to which they submitted. This is when the claims of the Catholic Church get really strong. It's based on the "Three Things" that we've talked about before. When I or another Catholic tell you that your interpretation is "novel", we are talking about one of two things: Either you have explicitly changed the meaning of "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" or you hold a theological view on some particular thing contrary to the faith defined by the Church that possesses these marks indelibly as a part of her nature.

Some of you lament the fact that an ecumenical council "slammed the door shut" on a particular line of theological inquiry. That's what councils do. If you are prepared to consider the possibility that whatever they determine is from the Holy Spirit and belongs to the riches of Christ, then you are thinking like a Catholic. If "councils may err," then you are not. If someone Catholic persists in this opinion and even acts upon it by separating (or doing or believing something such that you separate yourself), it doesn't matter how sympathetic a figure you may be, or how fervent you are in other things, you are a heretic, (false opinion) a schismatic, (having separated from the Church) or both.

I realize that not all Christians even realize that the Catholic Church is the one Christ founded, and that's OK. It's not even my purpose to convince people of that, though I don't mind it. But I do want you to understand me. I do want to clue you in that it may, and should happen to you: to realize the truth that the Catholic Church is that Church. I wrote a poem called "The Darkness" that sort of sums up what has culminated in, well, me. Catholic me. You can see a temptation in that poem to settle the disunity of Christians by retreating into "Mere Christianity," but as you may be realizing, that is no way to live. Indeed, we could choose a "room" in the big house (and Lewis says we should) but it would seem, only to the extent that we accepted the proposition that none of the rooms has the corner on what Christianity is, in its wholeness. Do you want minimalist Christianity? Is that how you live? Why does this explanation content anyone? It doesn't even begin to do justice to anyone's quest for the Truth. But as I explored the roots of Christianity, the very record of the outworking of the dominion of the Son of God--despite all our sins, that's exactly what history post-Paschal Mystery (let the reader understand this to be the totality of Christ's work here) is--I began to see the Church in her reality. Along the way, things I thought I knew became things I was wrong about. And things I was right about found a basis, a ground, that is Christ Himself. So, for me, Catholic is not my tribe while Christian is my name. We are not content to be one among many. We are not one room in a bigger house. We are the house. I only know that because I never lost what I knew after I gave the Catholic Church a fair shot. The proximate cause of being a Christian separated from the Catholic Church is the equivocation, or outright re-definition, of terms in the science of theology. Either culpably or not. I digress.

I can say with confidence and boldness that I do theology without fear, because the Church indeed teaches me and all of us what belongs to Jesus Christ. So I can read and consider anything you would like, from Barth to Barthelemy. But we have to define our terms. I do know that I cannot both receive the faith once delivered as a son, and define it for myself. Something had to give. All I can tell you is that the Catholic Church makes a strong case that she is our mother.

It's not just a room in the house, because God is good, and those elements of truth and sanctification outside the Church really do impel us toward unity. She doesn't achieve unity by denying those gifts that belong only to her, contrary to what you may have heard. She woos--Christ woos--because He knows that most of us who are his never meant to be far away. If we saw clearly, we would run back as quickly as we could! I'm getting sentimental here. Wow, this turned into a love-rant. Anyway, think about it. Pray about it. Whatever you do, look for Christ first; wherever He is, falsehood cannot be.

JK Strikes Back

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. Migraines are not our friends.

4. James Horner has composed the score for 3 of my favorite films: Field of Dreams, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Land Before Time. Each film is dramatically enhanced by its music, and I daresay he was robbed, not winning an Academy Award for one these long before Titanic.

3. My desire for taking this small test has "entered the holodeck."

2. He's not exactly working on all thrusters. OOH, Trek Burn!

1. Seriously, The Land Before Time soundtrack is killing me. No wonder this movie is so popular.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thompson, Revisited

Mr. Thompson said this in response:
 After reading through it I must say I don't think your friend understood my points, read my whole paper, or else he is deliberately distorting it. For example in the third paragraph he suggests my interpretation is novel when I quoted fathers and academics affirming it before I was born. In the fourth paragraph he accuses me of creating a tension between the key of David and Christ and proceeds to argue it is connected to Christ since Christ is connected to David (of course); when in my article I clearly say Christ has that key according to Rev. 3:7 and never once created such a tension between it and Christ. Thanks anyway though."
Within that essay, he quoted Anglican scholar George Salmon to this effect:
“You see, then, that the fact that Christ is called the rock, and that on Him the Church is built, is no hindrance to Peter’s also being, in a different sense, called rock, and being said to be the foundation of the Church . . . If there be no such fear, the context inclines us to look on our Lord’s words as conferring on Peter a special reward for his confession. For that confession was really the birth of the Christian Church. . . . Jesus fulfilled His promise to him by honouring him with the foremost place in each of the successive steps by which the Church was developed. It was through St. Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost that the first addition was made to the numbers of the disciples whom our Lord Himself has collected, when on one day there was added to the Church 3000 souls; and it was Peter’s mission to Cornelius that the first step was made to the admission of Gentiles to the Church; thus causing it to overlap the narrow barrier of Judaism and to embrace all the families of the earth. Thus the words of our Lord were fulfilled in that Peter was honoured by being the foremost among the human agents by which the Church was founded.”

Is this not perfectly consistent with the Catholic position? Here's D.A. Carson, whom he cites in support for his position against the papacy: “Peter, on confessing Jesus as Messiah, is told that he has received this confession by the Father’s revelation and will be given the keys of the kingdom: i.e., by proclaiming “the good news of the kingdom” (4:23), which, by revelation he is increasingly understanding, he will open the kingdom to many and shut it against many. Fulfillments of this in Acts are not found in passages like 15:10 but in those like 2:14-39; 3:11-26, so that by this means the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (2:45), or, otherwise put, Jesus was building his church (Matt. 16:18)"

How can I say this? I AGREE COMPLETELY, and so does the Catholic Church. You're right, I did accuse you of false dichotomies, and this is the proof: your scholars bolster the Catholic position. There is no dichotomy between people and doctrine, between jurisdiction, and the message Peter preaches, if indeed he had received it.

As I was trying to say before, no Catholic worth his salt would even try to deny any of this. I maintain that you do not understand the nature of the Catholic position if you believe these quotations to refute it.

No good Catholic will ever try to "prove" Catholic dogma from Scripture; we might say that the Scripture has more teaching in it than an alternate theology will allow. We inquire of Scripture to know the depths of God's love in Christ, and the faith once delivered.

The questions are these: Why does the early Church find Peter's primacy so easy and natural if it is so obviously wrong? Why would God even allow that to happen, given the promise He has just made to the Church in this verse? How could we read of Peter's prominence all over the New Testament, and somehow conclude that the early Church misunderstood Him? What in Scripture even remotely indicates Jesus' meaning to be, "He's the leader, but not like that"? Are you sure you haven't made a false dichotomy?

I don't blame you for thinking I have misread you, but I don't think I have. I acknowledge the possibility that I don't understand some points of your essay. As for me perceiving you trying to create a distance between Christ and David, I read that here:

The proof the sets of keys are not the same is this: In Isaiah 22:22 Eliakim is given the “key” (singular) of the house of David. Peter on the other hand is given "keys" (plural) of the kingdom of heaven. The key of the house of David which was given to Eliakim in Isaiah 22:22 is not given to Peter much less the bishops of Rome. In fact this singular key of the house of David remained with Jesus Christ himself and is messianic in nature. Revelation 3:7 affirms that Christ holds the key of the house of David:

“. . . The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).

This was written long after the events of Matthew 16 demonstrating Jesus has the key (singular) of Isaiah 22:22 right now, not Peter’s alleged Roman successors. There are three vital differences between the key of the house of David in Isaiah 22:22 and Peter’s keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19: 1.) the plural and singular forms, 2.) the titles (key of David vs. keys of the kingdom of heaven), and 3.) the handler of the keys (Jesus has the key of the house of David and Peter had the keys of the kingdom of heaven)."
Again, this is why I went back to the Incarnation: You have allowed the fervor of your position to drive a wedge between the texts in Isaiah and Matthew. Eliakim was the viceroy of David. Draw the parallel. It doesn't matter if Rome's position is correct or not; if you rest your "refutation" of the Catholic position on singulars and plurals in the text, you're inadvertently challenging Jesus' position as the king over David's house. In other words, none of these texts proves succession or any other Catholic claim. But every Christian had better make the connection between the texts, because Christ's authority in a real sense derives from the promises to David; that is, He is the fulfillment of those promises. Even if you do not wish to provide "papists" with biblical support for their claims to authority, you must acknowledge the link between the texts!
Pardon me in this one way: this blog has long been a rumination of comparative ecclesiology. I do not know you; perhaps you do not know in detail the fine points of those competing paradigms. If my challenge to your own authority sounded like a dismissal, it was not intended as such. But questions of authority and continuity come first here.
I do maintain that the keys of the Kingdom and the key to the house of David are the same. Ultimately held by the same King, which is Christ. If you wish to argue that it would be presumptuous to draw a straight line from this biblical reality to the jurisdictional authority of the successor of Peter, once again, I agree enthusiastically. All biblical passages, and any other information are simply pieces to a puzzle. It is only when all things are considered does the Catholic Church's claim on all of us become clear.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Well, That's Interesting

    Ahem. I'm really not equipped to get lost in the weeds of either Scriptural exegesis, or scholarly debate. I'm just not. But I feel it important to state a couple of points, as a Catholic, a budding Catholic theologian, even, and see how they strike one:

    1. The Catholic Church does not concede that the basis for its authority is found solely in the Scriptures of either the Old or New Testaments. Certainly, it's fair to say she believes that authority does not and cannot contradict it. But that God-breathed witness to Jesus Christ, the living heart of it, is a product of the ecclesia, the ones called out of the world by God to bear witness to his saving intentions for humanity. Simply put, the Catholic Church is claiming that it is that community, and that the New Testament is the inspired written witness of God's establishment, upholding, and remaining with that community.

    We can all see that a retreat to expert scholarly opinion can be endless, and not definitive. I note with a mild bemusement that Mr. Thompson cites a great many experts who do not share his particular interpretation of this or any other passage. I must in all frankness ask what this suggests about the plausibility of Thompson's notion of this ecclesia. We are more than willing to consider another candidate to be this community when the principled means of identifying it have been offered. In other words, tell us what or of whom this "Church" is composed, and how it came to be that this unique definition (and interpretation) was purposed by God to be conveyed through you. In Judge Judy terms, "Who sent you?"

    2. There seems to be a number of false choices here, between rules and the gospel, between Peter and Christ, between us and God more generally. This is bewildering. In the first place, if Peter were not appointed by God as his spokesman in Acts 2 at Pentecost, for example, those events that led to the conversion of thousands would not have occurred. In short, they trusted him. If you want to know what God says, you go to the one God sent. Whether it continues and whether we should still listen to that guy (and his successors) is perhaps open to question. I do know that those gathered at Pentecost did not do extensive exegesis or historical study on those "texts" that they heard. The words were accompanied by the Holy Spirit's power, extraordinary authentication of the one who conveys the message. In this text here, as this author readily grants, Jesus Christ doesn't see a tension between elevating Peter, commending him, and his own glory. We can legitimately debate what that means, but let's not get it twisted at the start because we have the hermeneutical priority of human debasement that prevents us from reading the text! We are not debating whether Peter is the rock. He is. The question which precedes this much-debated one is, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter has been invited to "name" Jesus, to declare truth about Him. And he does. What's important here is that Jesus does the same thing. He noted before he did it that Peter's confession doesn't even belong to Peter; it came from God the Father. That says to me at the very least that whatever this text means for the exercise of authority in the Church, the one who does so is ever the servant, is ever bound, to the truth of that confession. No Catholic has the right to deny this, and so, it ought not be held up as though it were in dispute or tension.

    I also want to know why Mr. Thompson sees a tension between the house of David (and the key to it) and Jesus Christ. In the flesh, that is to say, by human lineage, Christ is a son of David. The genealogy at the start of St. Matthew's gospel wants us to know this. In fact, the truth of the entire New Testament rests on a prior promise to David and his house! (2 Sam. 7:14) It is David's key(s); they are Christ's keys; if the Lord Jesus Christ wishes to give his keys to Peter (whatever the meaning) we are duty-bound by faith to say that it is part and parcel of God's enduring faithfulness to his people in history. Indeed, when John says, "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth," what are we to understand, but that this Jewish hope is realized here? Let no radical discontinuities be permitted between these testaments, because God is the Master of this one plan than spans the centuries.

    Indeed, the Incarnation is the basis for all that the Catholic Church says and believes concerning the succeeding centuries. It is a visible Church precisely because of the Incarnation. That's why St. John says, "That which we have seen, that which we have heard, that which we have groped with our hands..." concerning Christ. Forgive me, much of this is not in dispute; but I felt it necessary to say that I cannot allow this animus toward the Catholic position to threaten that real but imperfect communion between all the brethren. If you should find the Catholic position for the time going forward unpersuasive, that is your right. But tendentious arguments that put the very heart of that communion--the Incarnate Word--in doubt are to be summarily rejected, whether by tone or substance. Therefore, if you will allow the Catholic Church to speak on her terms, whatever you believe, you honor the Lord and his saving intention in the Incarnation. The Catholic Church rests everything she teaches on the saving reality of the Word made flesh. Which part of that good news strikes you falsely?


    It's Sunday morning! Go to church, you hapless pagans! Better yet, go to Mass. Sorry; had to be done. Why are you still reading this? It will be a mortal sin if you read 10 more words. [You can't say that.--ed.] True. I'm just kidding. But seriously, get out of here.

    This is a shameless ploy for more pageviews, since I noticed that they drop when I cannot post when I'm in class. But here at Safe Haven, I'm here to serve you, the reader. I mean, make you feel bad. I mean, convert you! I mean, fill your mind with ham-handed cliches and low-brow chuckles. All of the above!

    I love the internet. Have you gone to Mass yet? Honestly.