Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Exploring Catholicism: Part 5

[Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4]

I haven't heard from my long-lost Catholic in a while but he emailed me recently with an update and a few questions. He gave me permission at the beginning of our dialogue to post our messages on my blog for the benefit of others. Here are his words and my response.

  • I have been visiting a few Catholic churches near my house and meeting with the priests. One priest gave me a pretty big book and I am basically ingesting it and it is answering a lot of questions (Catholicism by Richard P. McBrien. Have you heard of it? What is your opinion of it?).
I have never read it myself, but I have heard several negative things about it. In 1985, it was criticized by the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine. Fr. McBrien is outspoken in his defense of women's ordination and married priests, and he was very critical of the bishops when they stood up for life and taught that abortion was a non-negotiable issue.

Here are some articles on Fr. McBrien that address these concerns:I personally would not recommend his book.

  • At one of the churches they offer a group that helps you explore so i have been attending that. So what I have come to is a place where by the time I have a question usually between the book or the group it is answered fairly quickly. This is good and bad. I am glad to have my questions answered so quickly but I have enjoyed our dialogue. I greatly appreciate the time you put in to answer my questions no matter how ridiculous. So I imagine our correspondence will be even less than it has in the past (and it was pretty scarce there anway) but if you would like I will let you know where I end up at the end of this journey. thanks again for your time.
I am just thankful that you are still on the journey and that you are finding answers to your questions. Remember, the first place to go with any doctrinal question is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

[After my first response, he wrote me back the following:]

  • I am glad that I wrote to you. Its funny because one of my first questions was what is the modern layout of the church because i didn't want to stumble into a misrepresentation. Maybe i have, but i am not tied to this one. Anyway, I have noticed McBrien's tendency toward liberal views, but he also gives an overview of other views that i have found helpful. Can you recommend a more conservative theology book? I have found that format to be very helpful.
I think a worthy replacement would be Catholicism for Dummies, by Fr. John Trigilio, PhD, ThD. Fr. Trigilio is a very good and wise priest who has been teaching the faith and answering people's questions about Catholicism for many, many years. He hosts the show "Web of Faith" on EWTN and is the president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

  • And for that matter, how might I find a church in correct belief? Are there any indicators? or i live in the Cleveland ohio area, have you ever visited any? I also visited a Byzantine Catholic church, any thoughts on that? thanks
This goes back to the whole "liberal" vs. "conservative" thing that I wrote about earlier, and in that post I mentioned a few indicators of each label.

As for your local Byzantine Catholic Church, that is a Catholic church of the Byzantine Rite, instead of the Roman Rite. It's still Catholic, it's just culturally different. By that I mean, Byzantine Catholics express their beliefs in a different way than we do (for example, we speak of "grace", they speak of "divine energy." We speak of "salvation," they speak of "theosis"), and their sacraments are celebrated differently. They even have their own Canon Law (the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches). Since your introduction to Catholicism has already been so "Roman," you may want to stick with a church of the Roman Rite.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,


Anonymous said...

Maybe he would get something out of a DVD? Something from the "Footprints of God" series, maybe?

bilbannon said...

My view is that as long as we overstate the papacy's wisdom when it is not using infallibility, we will not understand how such people like McBrien are not de-chaired from teaching as Curran and Hans Kung were de-chaired and as Heinemann in Germany or Austria was. How many sinners could you admonish before fainting in that area? Popes are like us all. It's worse in the area of biblical scholarship in which Raymond Brown in the early works was a rationalist at times and yet served on the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Paul VI and John Paul II despite his having denied that Mary ever really said the Magnificat on page 349 of Birth of the Messiah...and he gives paltry proof but at the time he was vying with Protestant high church scholars on how much he could disbelieve just like them. The Popes did nothing except issue general warnings....which can be a cop out....John the Baptist went straight to Herod.
Keep in mind that the Catholic community has a bad habit of constant flattery of each Pope and yet the Church....the Catholic Church....has only canonized two Popes since the 13th century with several others being at the blessed stage. There were many Pope saints prior to that. But to listen to Catholic blogs is to think every Pope is a Gregory I. The Catholic Church alone has the fullness of the means to salvation in de fide dogma and in the sacraments. But in papal discipline, it can be found wanting varying with the century. Six Popes in the Rennaisance had illegitimate children...4 prior to being cardinals...2 as Cardinals...Alexander VI and Julius II. At least we do not have that problem anymore.
Jacob was married to Rachel (first principle) and to Leah whose eyes were weak according to the passage. The Church has both vision and weak eyes in some areas. Vatican II said this by saying in Lumen Gentium that the Church itself always follows the path of repentance and will not be fully perfect til the end of history. That means that She cannot be perfect now even though She has the fullness of the means of salvation.

Anonymous said...

The comment above is taking Lumen Gentium out of context and using a poor "red herring" argument to make its point. It seems that this writer would have us believe some form of the Donatist heresy. Christ himself stated that he would preserve his church from evil (Mt 16) and confirmed this when sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within her (Acts 2).

While it is true that there are levels of assent required to various forms of Church doctrine, this does not mean that we are free to directly contradict consistent Church teaching in the area of faith and morals.

McBrien is not dissenting on the use of incense during mass. His arguments are often just wrong, contradicting even the dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentuim. I have not read the latest version of Catholicism, but the first version went so far as to say that the Pope had to have the consent of a majority of the world’s theologians before making an infallible statement. That's just wrong. Lumen Gentium is pretty clear on that point. It's not a matter of papal opinion on world affairs.

Arguments like these make it appear that we don't have to listen to papal encyclicals or apostolic exhortations if the Pope is a moral wreck or theologians disagree with him. We forget that we are not listening to the man but to the Spirit which preserves the Church.

These kinds of arguments are the reason why people become cafeteria Catholics and disregard documents like Humanae Vitae. Thank you Mrs. Pelosi.

bilbannon said...

Poppy cock. Christ will preserrve His Church but not in the strict sense you are inferring otherwise the last book of the Bible is incorrect since in it God rebukes several of the 7 churches....7 in scripture stands for complete.
We are conflating all authority levels into one and that results in a herd that does little thinking on its own. In 1520 in "Exsurge Domine", Pope Leo X "after consulting Cardinals and learned theologians" denounces as "against the Catholic faith" Luther's statement that "burning heretics at the stake is against the Holy Spirit". Guess what? In "Splendor of the Truth" section 80, Pope John Paul II says that torture is "intrinsically evil".
By slavishly not using your own brain in 1520, you in the long run would have been wrong right now in 2008 and Luther would have turned out on that one issue to be in accord with John Paul II.
Infallibility brooks no dissent and that takes place in the extraordinary magisterium usually when it raises one issue from being in the ordinary magisterium up to the status of the universal ordinary magisterium. In 1966 in an audience, Pope Paul VI stated that Vatican II introduced nothing that was infallible but had great authority because it was the supreme ordinary magisterium.
So you have encyclicals and bulls at the ordinary magisterium level/ you have Ecumenical Councils at the supreme ordinary magisterium level/ and you have infallible issues in the universal ordinary magisterium and they are announced as being there by the extraordinary magisterium....not by Catholic writers etc.

In that first level of ordinary magisterium, you have repeatedly had mistakes such as the one I noted above from Exsurge Domine. Another was 1455 "Romanus Pontifex" which in the middle of the 4th paragraph gives Portugal the right to "perpetually enslave" anyone in the newly discovered lands that resists the Faith. But in Splendor of the Truth, John Paul II says that slavery is intrinsically evil. In 1537, Pope Paul III wrote against that enslaving bull in his own bull and noted that his bull voided any such permissions. It did not work though as to Portugal's leaders because the first bull had included a caveat that no future authority could rescind it. Ergo Portugal became primary for the next hundred years and then some in the slave trade.

Salvery and torture are still only at the level of both the ordinary magisterium and the supreme ordinary since an encyclical was against those two (ordinary) and a Council (supreme ordinary). The reason one must still use one's brain on those two matters is that God in the OT allowed both (see Leviticus 25:46)....so that John Paul II may have been going a little too far in calling them intrinsically evil since God does not allow the intrinsically evil.

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