Monday, January 31, 2005

Have read, am reading, will read

0 comment(s)

+ _The Word, Church and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism_ by Fr. Louis Bouyer, C.O.

+ _Never Be Lied to Again_ by David J. Lieberman

+ _Living the Catholic Faith_ by Charles Chaput, O.F.M.


+ _The Robots of Dawn_ by Isaac Asimov

+ _The Holy Bible_ (NAB) by the Most Holy Trinity

+ _Catechism of the Catholic Church_ & the _Daily Roman Missal_ by the Holy Spirit in the living Tradition of the Church through her living Magisterium


+ _Veritatis Splendor_ by Pope John Paul II

+ _Dogsong_ by Gary Paulsen

+ _Evangelical Is Not Enough_ by Thomas Howard

+ _Rumors of Another World_ by Philip Yancey

+ _Covering Islam_ by George Said

Reviews? Recommendations? Rotten tomatoes?

Off the record...

0 comment(s)
Here're a couple quotes I recently added to my sidebar:

"...[T]he Church also maintains that the authority of the sacred writings is without meaning if the truth they express ceases to be the object of a living possession, and if this living possession is not itself preserved from degeneration and alteration by the presence of Christ's mandatories who, not now to sow but to keep alive [and reap? -- EBB] what the apostles alone could sow, have received from him, like the apostles and through them, the charism of speaking in his name and with his authority. ... [T]radition is not something other than Holy Scripture and added to it, but rather the entire living transmission of the truth, whose central organ is the inspired Scripture. Scripture is not illuminated or completed by tradition ... [but] keeps its true and complete sense only when it remains a vital part of that living tradition of the Church.... The Word of God is communicated to the Church and directs her through Holy Scripture, but through Scripture linked to all those things that make us see it as the deposit of a Word which is and always will be a word of life, which cannot be preserved apart from the life it itself creates and sustains."

-- Fr. Louis Bouyer, C.O., The Word, Church and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism

"What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail-foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on. I can understand the spectator saying, 'This is all hocus-pocus'; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. ... But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, 'Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,' is sensible. To say, 'Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,' is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street."

-- G. K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion

Blessed are the meek

0 comment(s)
Hi there. My recent reticence here on FCA is due to the fact that I had to plow through the last, exhausting days of winter classes before flying a combined 18 hours home to Jacksonville, FL. (I'm typing on my dad's PC.) I've hit the ground running: buying, banking, eating, visiting, talking, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to see a discussion (of sorts) on the papacy flare up while I've been away. Three comments.

First, to clarify, one of the main things I like about Fr. Taft, completely aside from his historical or ecclesiological claims, is his frankness. It's refreshing to find such "homespun" theologizing from a Jesuit, much less any professional academic.

Second, I agree with Diane[1] that the papacy can change its formal operation (and has done so over time) -- which is paradoxically why I'm willing to agree with Fr. Taft that the pope may very well be able to snip various strings of his bureaucratic authority without sacrificing his Petrine supremacy. This is, in fact, the message I get from His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his (in)famous 1995 encyclical, _Ut Unum Sint_:

With the power and the authority without which such an office would be illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. For this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life. ... He has the duty to admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances require it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.152 ...

95. All this however must always be done in communion. When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also "vicars and ambassadors of Christ".153 ...

I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility ... in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in "a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life ... If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator".154

...When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that "for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But ... it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry ... I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned".155 ...

97. The Catholic Church, both in her praxis and in her solemn documents, holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is—in God's plan—an essential requisite of full and visible communion. ... The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the one who speaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity of the community—all the while respecting the authority of James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem. This function of Peter must continue in the Church so that under her sole Head, who is Jesus Christ, she may be visibly present in the world as the communion of all his disciples.

I may be naive, but I hear Fr. Taft (from the Vatican no less) saying very much the same thing.

Third, I agree with Diane that Fr. Taft, as much as I respect him, is not a bishop and is therefore not the binding voice of the Magisterium. So, like a good Catholic boy, I happily submit his opinions to the judgment of the Magisterium with the obedience of faith. I mean that. I am seeking reunion with the Church with as much humble obedience as I can muster, and I mean that for the long haul. If Fr. Taft is flat-wrong or if he's basically right -- either way the bishops in communion with the pope will make that clear and I will follow their lead. I forget where I read it, but I agree that theologians should not be "a sign of contradiction" to the Church but to the world. Perhaps Fr. Taft has majored on the former at the expense of the latter. Perhaps he has not.

As a final thought, let me frankly admit that when it really comes down to it, all these technical disputes are secondary for me these days.[2] They are the mere shadows cast by the furniture of the world as I bow by faith in the immense light God's glory in the Church. The first thing I did the (Friday) morning after I got home was go to Mass with my dad. And it was beautiful. The cathedral was truly awe-inspiring. We went again today (Sunday) and it was even more beautiful. I glanced now and then at the people lined up for confession, hoping for Christ the judge to clear their hearts, minds and souls from sin before encountering Him at the altar of mercy. They stood, sat and kneeled so unassumingly. And then, as the lines formed for the communion feast, to see such a diversity of believers -- in fashion and in phenotype -- approach the altar of mercy was a dumbfounding foretaste of heaven. There was neither Greek nor Latin nor white nor black nor Asian nor rich nor poor nor male nor female nor young nor old. All those groups were there, but, somehow, they were all swallowed up into a manifold oneness in Christ.

After the service I spoke (in my mother tongue!) with "real catholics"[3], including a dad who converted 2 years ago from hardcore Baptist heritage and his wife who, by God's grace, did an about face a few years ago into the eternal life that is repentant holiness. We ate donuts. We drank coffee. We chatted. We smiled. We went home. All I could do between flashes of goose bumps was take in the fellowship like deep breaths of oxygen after nearly drowning. Today I finally got to feel the soil of obedient, daily Catholic faith fill in the gaps beneath my feet, so long dangling in the empty mists of theological abstraction.

Fr. Keene, a warm, witty and humble a priest as I've ever met, preached from today's reading in Matthew:

1 When he saw the crowds, 2 he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, 4 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
6 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 7 for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, 9 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.

10 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A very real part of my journey towards Rome has been relinquishing my intellectual and moral self-assurance and instead trusting the riches God my Father offers us all in His Church. I am, ever so slightly, more among the meek than I was before this Mass. In my emptiness, I continue to find greater riches than I could ever imagine, let alone ever exhaust. Hooray for the grace of faith to take the plunge. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

[1] You're right, Diane, we Catholics can disagree on some things. Thanks for youpr charity and clarity in expressing that fact as well as the substance of your disagreement with me on these things. Also, I'm glad you think my blog is beautiful!

[2] As I'm on vacation, I don't plan on blogging too much. I'd rather sleep, read, pray, talk with my people and eat. But we'll see. The blog bug has to be scratched sometimes, right?

[3] I want to thank all of you, Catholics or non-Catholics, that have recently expressed your encouragement for the latest phase of my journey and for my written remarks about it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ecce venio, Domine, ut faciam voluntatem tuam!

0 comment(s)
Just to be clear, I hope Alexander of Macedon (in a combox below), or any other Orthodox reader, knows that I have as much respect and affection for Orthodoxy as I can muster short of entering it as the one full true Church. My submission to Rome is meant primarily as a positive acceptance of the good in the West AND the East. It just so happens, though, that it is also, consequently, a negative rejection of what I see as the few but crucial lacunae of Orthodoxy. My appreciation for the riches of Western Roman Catholic orthopraxis is meant in no way as a dig against the "inferior" Orthodox. Mine is not an anti-Orthodox faith but only a slightly more pro-Rome faith. Fortunately for me, appreciating the goodness of Orthodoxy does not weigh against the truth of Rome.

It's sort of like marrying the girl you love because it won't work out with the girl you first loved. Both relationships are full of love and splendor and holiness -- but marriage is more than affection. It requires the proper order of headship as well.

As I said...

0 comment(s)
[just notes for myself, carry on]

"golden line " - "heresy is a sin against the truth, against Christ" - "God-talk vs. Scripture" - "which Church sounds more like the 'I-am-infallible' Bible?" - "the Qur'an contradicts the Bible and thus removes itself from the Church but other heretical claims don't?" - "whether a sheet of sand or a mountain of rock, tradition is inescapable" - "the TRUTH shall set you free, not opinions" - "a unity of truth [dogmas] and a unity of worship [liturgy]"

What I should have also said...

"that all may be one" - "liberals are merely opinionated"

Monday, January 24, 2005

A cloud of witnesses indeed!

0 comment(s)
Ran across this little apology for the Catholic Church, "Why Stay Catholic?":

I recently wrote to a friend who was thinking of converting to Orthodoxy with my 127 reasons for staying Catholic. Here they are:

Karl Adam, Mortimer Adler, Lorenzo Albacete, Francis Arinze, Benedict Ashley, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Hillaire Belloc, Robert Hugh Benson, George Bernanos, Maurice Blondel, Louis Bouyer, David Burrell, Frances Cabrini, Odo Casel, Charles Chaput, G.K. Chesterton, Walter Ciszek, Paul Claudel, Yves Congar, Frederick Copleston, Jean Danielou, Henri Daniel-Rops, Christopher Dawson, Dorothy Day, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Jude Dougherty, Avery Dulles, Shusaku Endo, Josemarie Escriva, Joseph Fessio, Paul Hanly Furfey, Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Raymond Gawronski, Francis George, Etienne Gilson, Luigi Giussani, Mary Ann Glendon, Aelred Graham, Léonce de Grandmaison, Graham Greene, Benedict Groeschel, Romano Guardini, John Hardon, Dietrich von Hildebrand, James Hitchcock, Russell Hittinger, Caryll Houselander, Stanley Jaki, Pope John Paul II, John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Mark Johnson, Johannes Jorgensen, Charles Journet, Walter Kasper, Russell Kirk, Ronald Knox, Maximilian Kolbe, Joseph Koterski, Faustina Kowalska, Peter Kreeft, William Kurz, Thomas Langan, Janine Langen, Rene Laurentin, Pope Leo XIII, Ignace Lepp, Henri de Lubac, Gabriel Marcel, Jacques Maritain, Raissa Maritain, Therese Martin, William May, Ralph McInerny, Marschall McLuhan, Thomas Merton, Kevin Miller, Mother Teresa, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Courtney Murray, Richard John Neuhaus, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Aidan Nichols, Flannery O'Connor, John O'Connor, Pope Paul VI, Anton Pegis, Charles Peguy, Walker Percy, Marie-Dominique Philippe, Josef Pieper, Padre Pio, Saint Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Miriam Pollard, Jessica Powers, Johannes Quasten, Hugo Rahner, Karl Rahner, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Oscar Romero, James Schall, Max Scheler, David Schindler, Christoff Schoenborn, E.F. Schumacher, Frank Sheed, Fulton Sheen, Janet Smith, Robert Sokolowski, Edith Stein, Karl Stern, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sigrid Undset, Maisie Ward, Evelyn Waugh, John Wayne, George Weigel, Oscar Wilde, Robert Wilken, Christopher Wolfe, John C.H. Wu, Hubert von Zeller.

And that is incomplete and only covers the 20th century!

Similarly, as Dr. Blosser wrote of Thomas Howard's thoughts on conversion,

"Howard writes: 'The fundamental question, of course, is whether the Roman claim is true.' There can be only two possible answers to that, he says. If one says no, then he has Augustine and Bede and Gregory and Aquinas and Erasmus and Thomas More and Ignatius and Bellarmine and Bossuet and Suarez and Newman and Chesterton and Knox against him for starters, 'and that makes me nervous.' But infinitely more serene than that, he has the colossal securus judicat orbis terrarum looking passionlessly at him: 'The calm judgment of the whole world,' he says, against him. 'The Roman Church has, as it were, nothing to prove. Everyone else has to do the sleeve plucking and arm pawing to validate their cases.'"

Finally, Russel Reno says,

"The Catholic Church needs no theories. She is the mother of theologies; she does not need to be propped up by theologies. As Newman put it in one of his Anglican essays, 'the Church of Rome preoccupies the ground.' She is a given, a primary substance within the economy of denominationalism. One could rightly say that I became a Catholic by default, and that possibility is the simple gift I received from the Catholic Church. Mater ecclesia, she needed neither reasons, nor theories, nor ideas from me."

Come March 27, when I am at last chrismated into the Catholic Church, I may be in rank heresy and doomed to a perdition God predestined me for -- but at least I'll be in good company!

The Church is my mother...

0 comment(s)
But who exactly is my mother?

The following is what began as a comment on the Pontificator's blog in response to some discussion about John Henry Cardinal Newman. As always, I welcome all edifying comments (via Haloscan or email).

The Pontificator on Newman:

The Church is constituted as one kingdom because she speaks with the voice of Christ to whom all may unconditionally submit in good conscience. ... At some point Newman became convinced that since God had acted in history for the salvation of the world and had appointed Apostles to communicate this saving message to mankind, it is plausible, and indeed intrinsically probable, that he also would have created a divinely inspired and guided community that would faithfully, reliably, and authoritatively communicate this original revelation to subsequent generations. This would need to be a community that could speak and act in the name of Christ and with his authority. This would need to be a community that could rightly bind the consciences of her members. And therefore this would need to be a community that God would protect from grievous error in her dogmatic formulations of the divine revelation. Thus Newman’s famous dictum in Development of Doctrine: “A revelation is not given, if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given.”

It is considerations like these that make Newman's views so interesting for me. I'm deeply impressed by (as Ian Ker explains it) Newman’s pious gravity towards the biblical notion of a messianic KINGDOM. One of Newman’s earliest and strongest intentions was that emphasizing the messianic, spiritual character of the Church hardly detracts from its royal structure. It is well and good to pray for the Kingdom of GOD, but Newman's biblical view of the Church reminds me I am praying for the KINGDOM of God. And every kingdom but a chaos has a king, ranking princes, generals, laws and a living tribunal. As the Syrian Father, Aphraates the Sage (c. AD 330) said, "David handed over the Kingdom to Solomon and was gathered to his people; and Jesus handed over the Keys to Simon and ascended and returned to Him Who sent Him" (Aphraates, xxi, 13). Or as St. Macarius of Egypt (c. A.D. 371) said, "Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood" (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101).

As this thread shows, Newman's treatment of the patristic record (based on an astounding almost-encyclopedic knowledge of it) is constantly being disputed, by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Any way anyone reads him, though, should be willing to applaud him for approaching the Scriptures with a deeply patristic mind. And yet one, balancing factor I think it's important to realize is how Newman's dyed-in-the-wool Anglican instincts always led him to approach the Fathers with a deeply biblical mind. In this sense, I think Newman walks a peculiar line between the complaints of Orthodox about sola scriptura and Protestants about tradition. He suits the taste of every Orthodox by reading (or at least attempting to read) the Scriptures in, with, and under the Fathers (“patristic consubstantiation”?). And yet he also must tickle the fancy of any Protestant for daring to hold the Fathers themselves to the standard of the biblical, which is to say messianic, which is to say Davidic, vision of a true Kingdom established at Calvary, growing ever since like a body or a tree (cf. Eph 4:11ff. and Mth 13:31ff.), and capable of marshalling troops with one clear voice to the next battle on any section of the front. He simultaneously “subjects” the Scriptures to the Tradition and the Tradition to the Scriptures. In both cases, the submersion of one in the other actually draws out their deepest truths. In the case of Scripture-in/under-Tradition, Newman, like all catholic Christians, sought the continuous voice of God’s Word in the Church. In the case of Tradition-in/under-Scripture, however, Newman, like all biblical Christians, delivered the Tradition to its true messianic-regal telos in Christ the King and in His ranking apostolic princes.

Of course, as enchanting and invigorating as this would-be-précis of Newman is (for me, leastaways!), the cold reality is we must all stake our claim with the one true Church. And one of the issues I’ve been wrestling with for some time – all recent notorious debates about the patristic record aside – is which Christian body has the fullness, the unmitigated “biblicalness”, to walk and talk like a real KINGDOM waiting for its king to return? What Christian body has anything like a monarchial apostolic throne – let alone a royal capital city, a Christian Jerusalem, serving like a beacon for the coming of the Messiah’s New Jerusalem? What Christian body dips into the royal “treasury” (and so very “indulgently”) as if it truly were blessed “with every blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3; [Grk. eulogia, “bounty”])? What other Christian body has striven so arduously for so long in so many ways to put off the old nature, CHANGE into the new nature at both the devotional and structural levels, and be renewed into the image of its sovereign Creator (cf. Col. 3:9ff.)?

Believe me or not, these questions aren’t meant to have obvious knock-down answers. Maybe Orthodoxy really does say “Yes” to them better. Maybe Calvinism does. Maybe the Coptics do. But, as anyone familiar with my journey knows, it’s extremely hard for ME to see and say “Yes” to the biblical-royal nature of the Kingdom outside the Roman Catholic Church, with all its “bizarre” talk of the thesaurum meritorium, vicarius Christi, etc. Indeed, the Catholic Church is the only Church that, in my blinkered eyes, has the “balls” to dogmatize the fruit of that old saw, “Lex orendi, lex credendi.” On the one hand, why pray to and honor the Theotokos in worship as “immaculate” unless it is an apostolic truth? On the other hand, why anathematize the dogma if such an anathema has never been decreed by a council?

Indeed, if Aphraates and Macarius are right (and I myself hesitate to flout their word), how is a view of Peter as first among equals reconciled with a view of, say, Moses or David as a first among equals? If the OT people of God were (truly but dimly) led by Christ UNDER Moses and the Judges (cf. 1 Cor 10:1ff. and Jdg. 2:6ff.), how is it so hard to imagine that we, the NT people of God, follow Him (truly and now brightly) UNDER the bishops, as the new judges, and UNDER Peter as the new Moses? When did we, the popula peregrina Dei, cease to need an ordained earthly headship in the divine celestial Headship of Christ? This is Newman’s great vision, which in fact is the pulse of his supposedly “academic” theory of development.

Allow me to return to the images I alluded to in Matthew 13:31ff. I’m simply arrested by Jesus’ images of the Kingdom as a tree and as yeast. According to Him, the true Church of the kingdom of God – His called-out people – grows and changes to absorb and shelter the wild fullness of the natural world. According to Jesus, the Kingdom Church pervades the world and in fact only reaches its proper constellation – of yeast grain to yeast grain – AS and WITH the growth of the whole world (i.e., baked rising of the whole loaf). As renowned Evangelical-turned-Catholic Thomas Howard puts it, “Everyone is here.” There is an almost reckless, frenzied impulse toward incarnation in the Catholic Church. It is ridiculously culturally diverse and yet remarkably doctrinally unified. It is stupefyingly vast in its devotions and yet remarkably unified in its liturgy. It is breathtakingly abstract in its theology and yet almost embarrassingly simple in its local piety.

Ill be the first to admit I suffer from countless blind spots and errors about theology, soteriology, sacramentology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, patrology, history, philosophy and all the rest, but I have no illusions about how deplorable MANY Catholic believers, priests, bishops, parishes and even whole dioceses are. I’m not in it for the good co-workers and great staff, though. I’m simply trying to enter the Kingdom of God. I am not trying to be coy or brilliant or snide. I am just trying to be obedient. May God have mercy on me that the Roman Church (with all its many non-Roman rites!) is the only Christian outpost that even appears to combine “the four marks” of the Church AND the marks of a real kingdom.

In closing, I commend to you Henri de Lubac’s, SJ, superb meditation on the Church, “The Church: From Paradox to Mystery”. God bless you.

The mother of my Lord is my mother...

0 comment(s)
I was seized by these words today in Mass during the pre-Eucharistic prayers (II):

By the power of the Holy Spirit
he took flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary.

Pretty familiar stuff, I know, but what hooked me was this: insofar as the Mass is a re-presentation and indeed re-offering of Christ to the Father in the Church and the Church to the Father in Christ, we receive Christ in the Eucharist FROM Mary as a sacramental mystery, just as the world recieved Him from her as a historical fact. I accepted the Christological dimensions of the priest's role quite easily, but I never realized the mariological dimensions of the Mass till today. Pretty cool.

Insofar as we re-approach and approproate the life-giving horror of Calvary in the Mass, so too we approach Mary to receive Christ from her in the ordo salutis. This is what I call "charismatic realism," and figures quite largely into a meditation on Mary's role in the Redemption which I hope to post some time in the coming weeks or months.

Friday, January 21, 2005

One of my favorite Jesuits

0 comment(s)

Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ

I've recently been involved in some discussions of the papacy and Eastern Orthodoxy, so I thought I might splash some jesuitry into the mix.

Taft is an expert on the life of the pre-Schism Church, especially its liturgies, so his word has some weight. He speaks simultaneously like a salty Rhode Island cabbie and elite Jesuit scholar. I like his style. Consider some of his words:

The post-Vatican II goal of the ecumenical movement was full structural unity. Is that a pipe dream with the Orthodox?

No, it’s not a pipe dream, but it depends what you mean. The only possible aim for ecumenism is communion. The old notion that the church begins with God, then the pope, and on down in pyramidal fashion, is gone. What we’re dealing with now is sister churches. That’s what we had before the East/West schism. Does anybody think that Rome had anything to say about who became patriarch of Constantinople? Or who became the metropolitan of Nicomedia? Of course not. These guys were bishops there just like we had bishops here, and when they met they’d say, “You’re a bishop? Hey, I’m a bishop too. How’s it going?” They were all in communion. It’s not like Rome was telling them what to do.

How do we get communion?

First, let’s be clear that this is all we’re ever going to get.

When will we get it?

I don’t know. Certainly not in my lifetime. I would suspect that it’s going to take a few more centuries.

Do you agree that the central problem is the papacy?

Of course. What we’ve made out of the papacy is simply ridiculous. There’s no possible justification in the New Testament or anyplace else for what we’ve made out of the papacy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a Petrine ministry. I believe that Rome has inherited that Petrine ministry. But there’s no reason on God’s earth why the pope should be appointing the bishop of Peoria. None whatsoever. So we really need a devolution, a decentralization. The Catholic church has become so big that we need some kind of a synodal structure in the West the same way you have in the East. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ought to be a kind of synod of Catholic bishops in the United States. They ought to be able to elect the bishops. Leave Rome a veto, if you want. By the way, this would be no guarantee of better bishops. The notion that the locals will necessarily pick better people than Rome is obviously false, as anybody who knows the East understands. But at least people will see these guys as their bishops and not Rome’s. Make your own bed and sleep in it. The pope could say: ‘You don’t like the archbishop of New York? Hey, I didn’t name him.’

Given all the hassles, is there a case for simply forgetting about dialogue with the Orthodox?

The Catholic church never calls anybody else a “church” if they don’t have an episcopate. In that strict sense of the term, the Russian Orthodox is the largest church in the world after the Catholic church. To ignore them would be like the United States’ policy on China for so many years. There are a billion people over there, and the U.S. tried to pretend they don’t exist. How stupid can you be? So we’ve got to come to terms with Moscow, but they also have to come to terms with us. Like it or lump it.

I also wanted to pass along his great essay on liturgy in the East and West, "'Eastern Presuppositions' and Western Liturgical Renewal".

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Me iuvat Latinus

0 comment(s)
Got this following from today's cycle-I missal reading:

Ecce vénio, Dómine, ut fáciam voluntátem tuam. (Here am I, O Lord, to do your will.)

Salvátor noster Iesus Christus destrúxit mortem, et illuminávit vitam per Evangélium. (Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought light to life through the Gospel.)

It's so very, very beatiful to me. I've been floating on these words for the past several hours. Meditating on them brought an almost painfully sudden bloom of peace in my soul, like fresh cold water being poured on a dry old wound. I really need to brush up on my Latin. (And if I made any Latin errors in this post, please notify me.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Anima Christi

0 comment(s)
I recently heard this prayed in Spanish by an 84-year-old priest in Taipei (as recorded and brought back to Taichung by Fr. Ramón on his cell phone). Absolutely soul-wrenching. I just about fell out of my chair for the power and humble beauty of it. Take a seat.

Alma de Cristo, santifícame.

Cuerpo de Cristo, sálvame.

Sangre de Cristo, embriágame.

Agua del costado de Cristo, lávame.

Pasión de Cristo, confórtame.

¡Oh, buen Jesús!, óyeme.

Dentro de tus llagas, escóndeme.

No permitas que me aparte de Ti.

Del maligno enemigo, defiéndeme.

En la hora de mi muerte, llámame.

Y mándame ir a Ti.

Para que con tus santos te alabe.

Por los siglos de los siglos.


In English:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me

Body of Christ, save me

Blood of Christ, inebriate me

Water from Christ's side, wash me

Passion of Christ, strengthen me

O good Jesus, hear me

Within Thy wounds hide me

Suffer me not to be separated from Thee

From the malicious enemy defend me

In the hour of my death call me

And bid me come unto Thee

That I may praise Thee with Thy saints

and with Thy angels

Forever and ever


In Latin:

Anima Christi sanctifica me

Corpus Christi salva me.

Sanguis Christi inebria me.

Aqua lateris Christi lava me

Passio Christi conforta me

O bone Jesu exaudi me

In tua vulnera absconde me

Ne permittas me separari a te.

Ab hoste maligno defende me.

In hora mortis meæ voca me

Et jube me venire ad te.

Ut cum sanctis tuis laudem te.

In sæcula sæculorum.


Home again, home again

0 comment(s)
I go home for 15 days in 8. I'll drop off my gifts -- yes, Christmas gifts -- to my peoples and pick up mondo books waiting for me in a handful of houses. I plan to stay in Jacksonville, FL, Montreat, NC, and Norfolk, VA. Whoosh!

I had today off since I had no finals to invigilate. After a nice morning of sleeping in, praying and trying to learn the Nicene Creed in Mandarin, I spent most of this afternoon and evening with my good friend doing-sorting-and-folding laundry, cleaning my filthy room and apartment, and cooking -- and now I'm no longer naked, hungry or in a filthy room and apartment. (All I need now is to take a shower. Four days is long enough, right?)

Life here is wonderful, but it will also be nice to get away for a bit.

Take your pick

0 comment(s)
Let's say, for hypothetical purposes, I wanted or needed to pick a saint's name for my reception into the Catholic Church. (It's always tickled me a bit to imagine having a saint's name, since so far my only "Christian name" is, well, just my name as a Christian.) I'm considering either someone paired with my birthday (July 9) or with this coming Easter (March 27).

Any thoughts?

How does one go about picking a name saint? Inchoate spiritual affinity? Vocation and patronage? Mere good taste for names? (For that matter, what about godparents and sponsors?)

I'll continue to pray and think about this idea, but for now here a few "favorites" I've bounced around:

Augustine Zhao Rong (July 9, China, missions)

Godfrey of Duynen (July 9, Real Presence, anti-Calvinism) or perhaps any of the Martyrs of Gorkum

Ignatius of Loyola (July 31, the Exercises, Counter-Reformation) or perhaps some other Jesuit, such as Francis Xavier (December 3, Far East, missions, healing) or Peter Claver (September 9, missions, slaves, Africans)

Francis de Sales (January 24, writers, practical piety, anti-Calvinism)

John the Apostle (December 27, writers, theologians)

Apropos el bueno padre...

0 comment(s)
Fr. Ramón called me today asking for help. Apparently the religion department at Providence University will be hosting a symposium[1] this April on human dignity. Fr. Ramón is too busy right now to submit a proposal as soon as they demand one (i.e., pronto), so he's asked me to draft such a proposal. He asks that I emphasize the bodily basis of human dignity, as well as perhaps tie it into this being the year of the Eucharist.

The follwing are the notes I've written tonight (including two links to articles I'd like to read for more ideas). I welcome edifying comments.

Also, though it may sound strange, I would like to hear any ideas for activities about dignity and/or the body (e.g., the human pretzel game, etc.). Fr. Ramón tells me the Chinese don't do too well with abstract theology, so something practical or hands-on would be better. My experience has shown me as much, but that doesn't butter my bread, so to speak.

The Human Body the Body of Human Dignity

It is often said that Christianity is the religion of the book. The truth, however, is that it is the religion of the body. The Bible begins with God forming a man-body and woman-body from the body of the earth. The New Testament is rooted in the bodily life and death of Christ and it continues that mystery in the bodies and souls of the Church. >> Jhn 1:1-5, 14; Col 1:21-23; 2 Cor 3:2-3

The mystery of Christ’s Incarnation is the key to understanding embodied human dignity. By becoming man, Christ not only showed the value of the human person, but also the human body. God did not merely reach us in Christ as a vague personal force. No, he chose to become a human being with a human body. The Christian gospel shows us that God values the body not only as worth being redeemed but in fact as a vessel capable of effecting redemption. Indeed, Christ’s incarnation was a bodily event through and through. He did not merely appear in the world, like a man stepping from one room into another. No, as the creeds of Christian faith make clear, he was born of the virgin Mary.

Humans are embodied people. Humans are not merely souls in flesh houses. We are a body-souls, unions of body and spirit. Any religious or social impulse that avoids or denies the reality of the body is an attack on the dignity of humans. Christian theology exalts the importance, and thus the dignity, of the human body. St. Thomas Aquinas, using Aristotelian terminology, called the body the form of the soul, meaning a person body is the proper manifestation of her soul. To denigrate the body, therefore, is to denigrate the soul.

A common confusion about the Christian attitude towards the body stems from the huge ascetic and monastic tradition of the Church. St. Francis of Assisi, for example, called his body “brother ass” – a stubborn, hungry, dirty mule that must be beaten and pulled to accomplish the greater work of the soul. Any anti-body tendencies in the monastic tradition, however, stem from honesty about sin. The biblical idea of “flesh” is not simply about flesh and blood. Rather, “flesh” refers to the spiritual blindness, moral disorder and pervasive lack of love for God that makes not only the body but also the mind and soul of humans the enemies of God.

The Bible and the holy Fathers are, in one sense, against the body because in its current “fallen” state, it wars against the life of the soul. Yet, these same ascetics are for the body because they know it has an inseparable place in God’s redemption. The body is good because it can and will be transformed into holy glory – and yet, it is bad precisely because it MUST be transformed. Christ’s redemption, as the New Adam, is a reversal and glorification of the order of creation as it was marred by the original sin of the first Adam. Man was first formed as a body and then received a rational and moral spirit. Christians, by contrast, first receive a new heart and mind by faith and baptism, and await the final redemption of their bodies. >> 1 Cor 15. Christian salvation is not just a mental or spiritual reformation; it is a total recreation of the whole person: body, blood, soul and mind.

Christian salvation is not only a bodily event, it is also a communal event. Nobody is saved apart from his body and no “body” is saved apart from others. The summit of redemption is to be reborn in the Church, the body of Christ. And the summit of this life in Christ’s BODY is the Eucharist. The Eucharist continues and applies the redemption of the world – both by offering the forgiveness of sins Christ won in his crucifixion and by infusing the new life Christ brought in his resurrection. TO understand the whole biblical message, we can imagine our world as a darkened room. The messianic hope of Israel was God’s continual knocking on the door of our world. The incarnation of Christ was God’s grip on the doorknob of our world. Christ’s crucifixion was the key that opened the door of God’s paradise to our world. His resurrection was the light switch that freed our world from its darkness. And now, in our present age of ongoing redemption, the Eucharist is the meal we enjoy in the very presence of God. >> Lke 22:17-20; 1 Cor 10:16-22, 11:23-29

Pope John Paul II has declared this to be the year of the Eucharist. More generally, it is no coincidence that two of the greatest themes of the Pope’s twenty-five year pontificate are the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and his “theology of the body.” For the Eucharistic theology is nothing less than theology of the body. The Eucharist is the glue that holds the Body of Christ together as the Church and it is the glue that holds each Christian together as a member of that Body. It cannot be stressed enough what dignity the Eucharist gives the body: the highest act of worship a Christian can do** is to receive the BODY and BLOOD of the Lord. No abstract pondering. No anti-body frenzy.

Some implications:

Because human dignity inseparable from the human body, dignity is at the very least coextensive with the life of the body. The span of our dignity is never any shorter than the span of our lives. Thus, any attempt to separate the “real person” from the body in which we find him is an assault on human dignity.

This is why abortion is such an outrage to the Church. It is beyond question that a human body begins at conception. Further, it is only occasionally denied these days that a human life begins at conception. What is denied by many pro-choice advocates, however, is that this human bodily conception entails the same dignity as a born or fully grown person. Abortion assaults human dignity because it seeks to split the human person into a undignified primitive body and a later-dignified body person.

Euthanasia commits the same error by forcing a wedge between a person’s dignified, pre-hospitalized life and her hospitalized, valueless life.
[1] When I first wrote this, I wrote "referendum"! But no, Taiwan is not voting to suspend human dignity. They'll just violate it without a vote like everyone else. ;o)

Missal me much?

0 comment(s)
At last, oh God at last, I have a copy!

Rightly called the Cadillac of missals, Our Sunday Visitor’s latest sixth edition (NASB) has many Latin-original texts, all the year's reading weekday and Sunday readings, a calendar of the solemnities, feasts, memorials and saints, and oodles of prayers and advice. My copy is a loaner from Providence University, care of Fr. Ramón, but considering I'm one of probably only two people in the whole Prov. U. area that needs or wants an English missal -- well, I hope to borrow it indefinitely (care of Fr, Ramon, of course). Now I can read along WITH the Church! I can keep pace with the liturgy each week (each day, for that matter!) and not be -- quite as -- disoriented when I make it to Sunday Mass.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The ecumenical warm fuzzies

0 comment(s)
[Sure enough, I kicked up a tiny yellow poop storm with my comments about the papacy recently over at Dr. Blosser's Catholic Tradition blog. Daniel Jones replied to me in no uncertain terms that I'm being presumptuous about his motioves. Worse, I haven't even made an argument. Some of Daniel's more prolific blog compadres added their two cents, to which I replied as follows...]

Garsh, it's a regular roast in here. Nice to see all the pats on the back, guys, I'm sure you appreciate them. With my ears still burning, let me say I'm honored. To see an Orthodox, an Orthodox Catholic and a catholic Calvinist so readily circle a Catholic Presbyterian -- I'm swooning with the ecumenical warm fuzzies! Yuck yuck yuck. ;p


Thanks for your paternalism. Pots, black kettles and whatnot. How’s your patristic rhetoric rhetoric (series) coming along?


I apologize if I came across as harsh. It's just that I found it very unsavory that I've seen you apparently speaking for some time out of both sides of your mouth about your allegiances. (The painful irony is that I, as a would-be-Catholic Protestant, have had my motives impugned enough times [yep, by Tim Enloe more than anyone else] that I should have curbed my cynicism.) On the one hand, I've heard you defend yourself as "only canonically Roman Catholic" when your competence or genuineness about EO was challenged. On the other hand, as with Diane, I've heard you play your Catholic card for all its worth when your objectivity was challenged. So, my first "argument" was/is about your MO. It's very nice to hear about your prudence, truly; but it's just as difficult to detect much other than anti-Latin orientalism in some of your comments. I (from my own experience) understand how liberating it can be in the midst of a total theological "identity crisis" to create arguing space on both sides of the line so you can explore all the angles with immunity. So, please forgive me of any undue harshness. But [if it even matters to you] also try to understand that to me, at least, you sometimes come across a little less than genuine.

Perry (and Daniel):

As for my "argument" about ADS, I'm happy to admit LOUD AND CLEAR ONCE AGAIN I am not competent to critique your philosophical or theological arguments. The thrust of my reservation, however, is that neither do I think you're competent to push the arguments as you do.

First, as the Pontificator has pointed out, ADS just doesn't have the full heretical effects in RCism you think it should. (Wasn’t it you, Perry, that actually insinuated RCs worship a different God?) ADS or not, the RC Church still affirms creatio ex nihilo and all the binding dogmas you insist its ADS negates. I'll give a half-dozen ecclesial eggs for six doctrinal ones: if not submitting to the papacy still enables the EO Church(es) to remain, well, orthodox after all this time, then ADS clearly enables the RC Church to do the same.

Second, please point me to one universally binding council that anathematizes ADS (not to mention Vatican I ecclesiology). Show me the EO council that trumps the dogmatic decrees of the Catholics AND ORTHODOX at Florence (all cries about forced complicity and conciliar imperialism aside for the minute, please). It’s no secret EO has been warming up for some time for “the next great council,” so, until that council does so, by what authority do you renounce ADS as a heresy and defend Maximian (and Palamite) theology as anything other than a hugely successful theologumenon? You guys are incredibly smart, and I respect you both a great deal more than any of my inveterate cheekiness might suggest, but the painful truth is neither of you are bishops and neither of you have the conciliar authority to bind me, Catholics, or even yourselves to the views you are defending. I’m sure this offends you (and your graduate acumen) as a mind-numbingly arrogant and low-brow case of petitio principii, but, hey, leave it us to salt of the earth Catholic types to kowtow to the bishops in a council.

And now, a final request: I’ve heard both of you say the Fathers I shamelessly ripped out of context and manipulated for my own dark papal schemes quoted do not support Catholic ecclesiology (nor even imply it!?), and that they are all of them perfectly compatible with EO ecclesiology. I’ve followed up on the works you guys have suggested, and am “in country” now trying to make my way through it all. But in the meantime, I’d like you – in all humble, unsneering honesty – to explain in as few words as necessary how or why any EO layman, priest or bishop would ever say what the Fathers said in my post. How, in as few words as necessary, do you reconcile all the Eastern papalism of the pre-schism Church with EO ecclesiology? Further, why does the East still have to make space for the apostate Roman see, when any other apostate see would go the way of, well, apostate sees – into the margins? On the one hand, why can’t (or doesn’t) the East just ignore the Pope and, on the other hand, how could it ever embrace him?

Notice I am NOT implying you CAN’T answer of these questions; I am simply admitting in a roundabout way (and now in a direct way) that I’m just too dumb to see how it can be done. I genuinely want to hear your explanation. (And please don’t pay too much mind to the Calvinist up above; since he’s withdrawn from the apologetics biz, I’m his hobby hunting great white whale.)

Many thanks and God bless you,

Lord, to whom shall we go?

0 comment(s)
Dr. Phil Blosser has written a splendid essay (largely drawn from Thomas Howard's writings) about why Episcopalians, in particular (or anyone in general) should become Catholic. Some choice quotes:

"The apparent strangeness and uniqueness of Catholicism, from a cultural and historical point of view, may consist, in the final analysis, in little more than its more complete and universal embodiment of what is already present, if only partially and incompletely, in the experience of other Christian communions."

"The accelerated disintegration within the Catholic Church over the last four decades has so many potentially depressing aspects that I hesitate to mention them. But honesty compels me to admit that the Catholic Church in the West, since the 1960s, has passed through something that looks a bit like a delayed adolescence."

"Catholic tradition--the richest treasure trove of spiritual, devotional, moral, ecclesial, and liturgical resources imaginable--is virtually ignored today. The oldest liturgy in world history--older than the celebrated Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox tradition--is the traditional Latin Mass of the Roman rite, which can be traced back to the beginnings of Church history...."

"If the Church has not budged a single inch from the apostolic Faith on points of orthodoxy, such as the divinity of Christ and the inviolable authority of Scripture, neither has she strayed one iota from such fidelity in her moral teaching on such issues as the sanctity of life, family, and marriage. In fact, the Church has stood against the prevailing tide of modern opinion by her consistent opposition to abortion, homosexuality, extra-marital cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and a host of other ethical issues. In a Church whose membership constitutes roughly a fifth of the world's population, this fact speaks volumes. It says that Church teaching on matters of faith and morals is not dictated by prevailing opinion."

[from Thomas Howard:] "Perhaps I ought to phrase this last point as a question, then: if the Roman Church has nourished that sort of thing (and the writings of Lady Julian and Richard Rolle and Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila and ten thousand others whose work towers above the terrible flea-marked junk filling religious bookstores these days), then I must ask myself whether that source is worth finding. Nearly all mere arguments--about Petrine claims, about Loreto, about indulgences and the Immaculate Conception and the Perpetual Virginity and infallibility and the Infant of Prague and bingo and the Mafia and horrible Mexican cults and Borgia popes and Torquemada and the Duke of Alba--die away in the light of this question of spirituality. Not that doctrinal questions do not matter. But one pauses before some such syllogism as this: "If the Church that makes those claims has nourished this spirituality, then what is one to make of it?" Of course there are riddles and horrors. Anything as old and enormous as the Roman Church is bound to be a horror show. But then one remembers how Christ insists on calling His poor Church, who paints herself up like the Whore of Babylon sometimes--how He insists on calling her his spotless Bride."

[from Howard:] "The holy Catholic Church looks more like the five thousand whom the Lord fed on the hillside than it does the small group of insiders in the Upper Room. That is, everyone is here: the earnest and the preoccupied; the poor and the rich; the fashionable and the unfashionable (more of the latter than the former); the ignorant and the luminously wise; the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (to reach for anachronistic categories); the pathetic and the impressive. It is just "us" whom this very ancient Church comprises. None of us has any credentials at all other than the fact that we are baptized into this Church."

"It is both more conceptually transparent in its intellectual expression and yet more sacramentally opaque and mysterious in its material incarnations. It is simultaneously more spiritual and yet more physical; more otherworldly and yet more earthy; more culture-transcendingly universal and yet more particular, physically and culturally rooted, locally incarnated and expressed."

[from Howard:] "But everyone--both in the world and the Church--knows that there is a desk on which the buck stops, so to speak, and that when Rome has spoken on the issue, it is concluded. Oh, to be sure, Father C. or Father F. over here can keep on burbling--Rome cannot stop that. But Rome can say and does say to the Church and the world, "This which you hear Fathers C. and F. teaching is not Catholic teaching. It is not in accord with the Faith once for all delivered to us by the apostles." A pressure group organized by trendy nuns in favor of abortion exists explicitly in rebellion against what Rome teaches. No one needs be in the slightest doubt on the point; whereas another denomination, if it can ever get up the votes, can only pass a resolution. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has not in our lifetime said, "No. That is heresy." Rome has."

"The Church universal has never said, "Geneva locuta est, causa finita est" ("Geneva has spoken, the case is closed") when it came to doctrinal definitions. But to pit one city against another in this way does little more than raise the hackles of partisanship and factionalism, which is hardly becoming among Christians. Howard's point is simply that the only history which we Christians do have in this world, very early on, settled upon the city of Rome as the locus and seat of pastoral authority for the universal Church."

"As Evelyn Waugh put the matter: "Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly." Once that is clear, all I would add is that one must have no illusions, but come aboard Peter's Barque quickly and help bail. The philistines are ravaging the Ark of Salvation and we need all the help we can get from any who love God and His Church."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A fork in the zoad

0 comment(s)
Props to Dr. Seuss (via the Pontificator) for this little parable:

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad, who came to a sign at the fork of the road.

The Zoad had to make up his mind what to do.

Well, the Zoad scratched his head, and his chin, and his pants—and he said to himself “I’ll be taking a chance.”

If I go to place One, that place may be hot, so how will I know if I like it or not.

If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool, in that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.

So Place One may be best and not Place Two. “Play safe!” cried the Zoad.

“I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce. I’ll simply start off to both places at once.”

And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance went no place at all with a split in his pants.

This tale quite nicely describes my life for the past year few years. The good (?!) news is I have decided to take a risk. Abba didn't raise no Zoad.

Veritable yellow poop storms

0 comment(s)
[I posted this comment on Dr. Phil Blosser's blog (well, one of his blogs) in reference to his modest and legitimate claim that "the conception of a legitimately exercised universal Petrine jurisdiction is attested to in Church history well before the Eastern Schism of 1054, even by an Eastern father such as St. Maximus the Confessor."]

It caused a veritable yellow poop storm the last time I drew it to readers' attention, but I encourage you to have a look at my post about Eastern testimony to Roman primacy/supremacy.[1]

I'm bracing myself once again for waving hands about how (supposedly) none of these quotes DEMANDS a Vatican I-style papacy and thus can’t be used to support it.

Never mind how any of it ALLOWS for contemporary EO autocephalism. Never mind how RCs are the only folks on the planet willing and able to echo these Eastern Fathers. Watch for shifting burdens of proof and semi-heretical M.O.’s. The patristic and ecclesiological rigorism of EOs that deny juridical papal supremacy was explicitly and unexceptionally taught/lived in the pre-schism Church is exactly how JWs and Mormons argue against Nicea from the pre-Nicene Church (and how Reformeds deny the validity of Nicea II). Strange bedfellows all.

[1] The sweetest irony is how St. Maximus' theology of supraontological unity allegedly avoids and even dissolves the papalism he spouted!

Kerygma, gooses, ganders

0 comment(s)
In his book, _The Shape of Sola Scriptura_, Keith Mathison argues that Luke's preface to his gospel undermines the integrity of apostolic tradition apart from or prior to the enscripturation period.

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The key phrases for Mathison -- "write an orderly account...that you may have certainty" -- pertain to Luke's motives for enscripturating the kerygma. Prior to Luke's "orderly [textual] account", Theophilus apparently had no certainty of his faith. Thus, according to Mathison, a written summary of it is superior to some alleged scattered oral tradition. Further, he claims Luke wrote a record of all things, thus negating any alleged extra-biblical tradition(s). Hence, sola scriptura is better -- so nah!

His argument bothers me for numerous reasons. First, it's sheer nonsense to claim Luke wrote the totality of the tradition since we find other things in the NT not available in his gospel, and since the Bible itself admits the intentional narrowness of the Gospels (cf. Jhn 20:31-32).[1] Presumably, the sufficiency of Luke (early) gospel would render anything written after it excessive and questionable.

Second, how did Luke himself have any certainty ("perfect knowledge") of the faith prior to his own "superior" written summary? The reliability and integrity of the pre-scriptural paradosis is the entire basis for the written Scripture's material worth! This truth shines on every page of the NT. Every epistle supposedly meant to "perfect" the sufficient albeit unwritten traditions presupposes those unwritten traditions. The great irony is that every thump upon the Bible in defense of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) admits the faith was already in finished form PRIOR to the (written) addition of Jude itself (or any other book written after it)! You can't claim the Bible is and always was the only sure and total source of the paradosis when the Bible itself admits the tradition pre-dated the writing of the Bible. You can’t claim the paradosis (and the Church) was still in need of enscripturation when the Scriptures themselves defend the sufficiency of the tradition prior to any particular enscripturation (e.g., Jude, 1-3 John, etc.).

Third, Mathison, like all Protestants, makes a sola scriptural mountain out of a particular pastoral molehill. Why did Luke write his gospel? Not to sneer at the disorder of the oral paradosis -- which he himself believed! -- but to help his friend, Theophilus. Luke is not attempting to rectify the inferiority of unwritten paradosis, but to give a particular Christian a particular summary of that paradosis. Indeed, Mathison’s "graphocentric"[2] argument explodes from the gate. Luke admits others had already attempted to "draw up" IN WRITING (Greek: αναταξασθαι) the paradosis and that he was writing (Greek: γραψαι) an account drawn from these and other sources. So, if anything, Mathison's argument collapses into the chief problem of Protestantism: the canon. If anything, Luke's written gospel undermines the sufficiency of other early written Christian literature, NOT of unwritten tradition itself. Luke added to Theophilus’s certainty, not to the reliability of the tradition about which Theophilus needed certainty.

[1] John defends the canonicity of his gospel, but how does he help us out of the quagmire of canonicity without an authoritative Church?

[2] Renaissance-Enlightenment-Modernist snobbery was, at this point, dripping from Mathison’s pen. “Books and written truth is so much better than crude oral culture.” Oy. How small a God.

Strings on my fingers

0 comment(s)
Elliot, read Al Kresta's testimony (part 1 and part 2) when you get a chance.

ATTN: Eric Giunta!

0 comment(s)
About Catholic moral theology, fornication and contraception, try here (Austin Ivereigh) and here (Martin Rhonheimer).


0 comment(s)
Story idea:

A book of short stories, each about the writer's worst fears (e.g., a truly Machiavellian/Orwellian Catholic Church, totally erratic physical "laws", always being at a loss for words, perpetually catching only glimpses of would-be soulmate's face, etc.) Each story is connected by a brief intro by the writer. The final such "monologue" is, in fact, the final fear: to be trapped in a book and to be closed away forever once all the stories are read.

"I haven't been completely forthright. Not all of these fears are just nightmares. One of them is reality. ... I can feel it coming. You're getting tired of me. We're reaching the end. The light is fading and soon you will slip me into an abyss as dark and staid as the ink on this page. But, please, don't go, please. I'll keep talking, just odn't put me down. I'll never forget your touch, your fingertips, your breath. ..."

Monday, January 3, 2005

Recently read...

0 comment(s)

Yann Martel's much touted _Life of Pi_ (Pi being the self-chosen nickname of the protagonist, Piscine Molitar Patel). The book was chock full of interesting zoological observations and piquant quips about faith and rationalism. (I'm very curious what sort of research Martel did to learn so many zoological trivia.) Martel's re-telling of the "one big story" of the Cross was one of the most riveting tellings of the divine mystery of crucified love I have ever read. He could stand to sharpen his wit and comic angles, but Martel's style is on the whole refreshingly simple, whimsical and refreshingly optimistic.

As for its vision, or moral, _Life of Pi_ is a delightful and very subdued odyssey of hope which unfortunately sacrifices faithfulness on the altar of faith. Faith per se is, for Martel, apparently the _summum bonum_. Not the object or effect of that faith, but faith itself as a general faculty of the human person. ("Don't just stand there, believe _something_!") Martel all too coyly enshrines Jesus the Savior-Man in the frenzied pantheon of Hindu piety without honestly facing Jesus the Lord-God. Indeed, at times Pi's (or Martel's) goggle-eyed zest for all things Hindu-Christian-Islam bleeds through in some tacky blotches of affected prose.

In terms of the novel's integrity, I can't tell if Martel deliberately left some major themes (and motifs) inarticulate or if he simply botched their development. I also am not savvy enough in literary analysis to tell whether Martel wrote an intentionally fragmented book (along postmodern lines) or if he simply failed to forge strong enough narrative bonds between Pi's life in India and his trials on the sea. But the boy sure seemed to get over the loss of his family a little spritely for my tastes.

I could say much more. I've waited quite a while to read this book and I wasn't disappointed. I may very well read it again. Its subtelty speaks of a deep and surprising philosophical riddle. Bravo, Mr. Martel.

Went to a posh banquet last night...

0 comment(s)
for poor people. (I know, I know: "Please pass the cynicism.") But I wonder: would all those many people have paid as much as they did for the same cause _without_ the snazzy meal? Would I?

At least the event was eye-opening. A divorce happens every 8 minutes in Taiwan. Taiwan is the second worst nation for suicide behind Japan. Paradoxically, there's little better to make you feel at home than to know the horrors of your home. The deeper into the darkness of Taiwan I see, the more I know I am (for now) in a place rightly called home. The hordes of once-anonymous Taiwanese behind scooter masks and in cluttered shops now have stories all their own. God calls me to write His good news into their stories -- albeit first by hearing them out.

"Here am I, O Lord, send me."

The worst thing about learning is...

0 comment(s)
the more you learn, the more you forget.

Thus spake Fakespeare.