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Secular pundits want the Pope to change his ‘policies’. How can we explain that he can’t?

Is this a gulf of incomprehension that simply can’t be bridged?

By on Friday, 5 August 2011

At the election of Pope Benedict XVI commentators wondered which policies he was likely to change (PA photo)

At the election of Pope Benedict XVI commentators wondered which policies he was likely to change (PA photo)

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has an interesting piece on his website this week about, inter alia, the journalistic use of the word “policy” to describe the teachings of the Church. He begins by quoting an article:

The headline was so familiar: Yet another group was “challenging the Vatican” on something, this time, on upholding the timeless teaching of the Church that only men are called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders… What one does find frustrating is the tenor of the headline and the article that “the Vatican” has these bizarre, outmoded, oppressive “policies” that need to be “revised” so that such “guidelines of Rome” are brought more in line with enlightened thinking of today…

… plug in whatever word you want in the boilerplate headline: “Group Challenges Vatican on its Policy of _______” – abortion, marriage, euthanasia, lying, stealing, artificial contraception, sexual acts outside of marriage, ordination of women – fill in the “flavor of the day,” but the headline is still inaccurate: these are not “policies” decided by some person in the Vatican; these are not “bans” put out by some committee. These are doctrines, timeless teachings not ours to alter.

The archbishop recalls that on being appointed, he was asked by a reporter how his “policy” on gay “marriage” would differ from that of his predecessor, Cardinal Egan. He tried to explain that the responsibility of any bishop is clearly and charitably to articulate the teaching of the Church, not to establish “policy” on which teaching he would follow and which teaching he would change.

The archbishop’s post reminded me vividly of a series of interviews and discussions I was involved in at the time of the death of the last pope and then a few days later, as we awaited the puffs of white smoke from the consistory chimney and above all at the moment when (blessed moment as far as I was concerned) the words “Cardinalem Josef [long pause] Ratzinger” were enunciated.

First, in the immediate aftermath of Pope John Paul’s death, what did I think of the “policies” of the late pope on the usual series of subjects: women priests, married priests, condoms and so on. What kind of changes of “policy’” did I think the Church needed, and what would the cardinals be voting for? Did I think that if a black African pope were elected, that would bring about a change of “policy” on contraception (answer, no, since the only African papabile was Cardinal Arinze, who on this as on all the teachings of the Church had views identical with those of the late pope, as did all the other African bishops I knew anything about. Reaction from interviewer, an astonished “really!”).

Then, in a television discussion, as I watched the horror on the face of a well-known Catholic commentator who shall be nameless, as the former Cardinal Ratzinger appeared in his brand-new white cassock, the inevitable question: does this mean there will be no changes of “policy” on women priests, condoms, etc etc. My answer: there will be exactly the same changes on basic teachings as if any other pope had been elected: ie zero, no change whatever. Why not? Because the fundamental purpose of the papacy is to make sure that that just doesn’t happen. Not at all, said the still apoplectic liberal Catholic commentator I mentioned earlier, there would have been major changes if Cardinal Martini had been elected: yes, I replied, of course: and that’s why he could never conceivably have been elected. Further splutterings: but I was of course right, and he knew it.

Archbishop Dolan’s piece prompted me to do a Google search for the word “policy”, in connection with the present Pope and his predecessor. I present two of the examples I found: both demonstrate nothing so much as the vast gulf of understanding there is between Catholics and the secular world, a world which really does have the notion that Catholic teachings are just like the “policies” of secular political leaders, infinitely variable in response to an ever-shifting public opinion, and above all a matter for the personal decision of any particular leader at any particular time. Here’s my first example, from a site calling itself About.com:

John Paul II was one of the longest-lived and most influential popes in the history of the Catholic Church. For good or for ill, his policies and personality helped shape not only the current character of Catholicism but also the direction Catholicism will take for generations to come. Because of that, it’s important to take the time to carefully consider what his policies were and how they affected Catholics around the world.

This is followed by a number of articles about his views on various subjects: quite interesting if you want to get into the atheist/ agnostic mindset about the Catholic religion. The second article was about the present Pope. A warning: this one is quite nasty (though its cutting edge is blunted by its almost comical crudity); it is, however, equally illuminating about the secular mindset:

Joseph Alois Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, grew up in Nazi Germany. In 1941, at age 14, he joined the Hitler Youth. Pope Benedict XVI worked at Pope John-Paul’s side to enforce the conservative papal policy. In this effort, he was John-Paul’s right hand man. Before ascending to the Papacy, his peers in the College of Cardinals at the Vatican disclosed a few of his descriptive nicknames. One was “Panzer Cardinal” in reference to the German Panzer tank. Other nicknames included “The Enforcer,” and “God’s Rotweiler.” He represents the extremely conservative faction of the Catholic Church that acts as a guardian of orthodox Catholic dogma.

As his policy, Benedict XVI has condemned women priests and married priests. He also labeled theologians who do not closely walk-the-line on the Church’s conservative leadership as heretics. The Pope fervently denounces gays, whom he says suffer from an “objective disorder.”

In 1987, he declared that Jewish history and scripture only lay a foundation for the Catholic religion. When the Jews around the world protested, the Pope insisted that “only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation”. Many Jews cried out that this position smacked of “theological anti-semitism.”

Blimey: but that’s what many people really do think about Pope Benedict’s “policies”, there’s no getting away from it. This confident piece was written by Diane Clover-Evans, a retired civil engineer: other literary products of her retirement include “Therapy Dog”, a short story in an anthology entitled “Unconditional Love of Pets”, “history articles” in Learning From History (a children’s magazine I suspect parents would be well advised to keep out of the house if they want their children to learn any history) and various short stories. She has also illustrated a work entitled The Four Bunnies.

What comes across vividly is that the teachings of the Church, though they seem to convinced Catholics to represent ultimate sanity, just look weird and “extremely conservative”, even anti-Semitic, to those outside the Church – people like Diane Clover-Evans (who is probably quite sound on doggies and bunnies). How to bridge the imaginative gap between Catholics and the modern world – even whether it’s actually possible for it to be done – is a question we have hardly begun seriously to ask.

  • http://twitter.com/perezDeFernando PerezDeSanFernando

    Just goes to show how utterly clueless the media is. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise – the entire journalist profession seems to be suffering from a problem of pushing an agenda for how they want the world to be, rather than simply reporting the facts of a situation and leaving it there.

    Laziness, too, is big in the media. It’s not just on matters relating to Catholicism, but religion, economics, science and so on. One cannot rely on the media in order to be informed. Thank God for the internet.

    One final point about media malpractice – anyone else totally unsurprised at how the media narrative on the Oslo killer was that he was a “Christian fundamentalist”? If the media had bothered to do ANY work, and actually read his manifesto, they would have realised that the guy wasn’t even a Christian (or perhaps it was intentional?)!

    But hey, the narrative comes first for them. Facts, second (if at all).

  • Anonymous

    So ‘secular pundits’ want the Holy Father to change his policies. I bet they do. Sadly since the misinterpretations of the Vatican Council many of our Bishop’s have been quite successfully doing just that. Thanks be to God the Holy Father has put the Magisterium straight to the top of his agenda.
    The teachings of Holy Church cannot be changed or adapted.
    Many need to learn to live with that basic fact, or stumble on in heresy.

  • lokionline

    What rubbish!  There is no such thing as “eternal law” and certainly not the sub-2000 year variety that the RCC seems to think represents reality. 

    Even the “fundamental laws” of the universe what have held since the big bang  are increasingly being recognized as “local” to our own bubble universe and most likely are not universal in other bubble universes. 

    So where does this leave the intellectual notion of “eternal law” that you and the pope and many other conservative catholics seem so fond of?

  • J Berkley

    Rubbish.  There is no such thing. Conservative Catholics.  RCC?   Boy, I guess you won the day with your well reasoned arguments.  Bro.  How can we reason together?  Is it possible?  Are you up for it? 

  • D_erford

    @lokionline: Your ‘argument’ is based on equating eternal laws of morality and doctrine with physical laws, which is a false premise.  So what you wrote does not disprove the existence of eternal law in any way.

  • Jacob Suggs

    “So where does this leave the intellectual notion of “eternal law” that
    you and the pope and many other conservative catholics seem so fond of?”

    Firmly entrenched in reality, right where it belongs. Of course there is eternal law. It’s a direct result of the eternal immutable God. God does not change, ergo He is not going to suddenly decide that gay sex is ok just because some people around the year 2000 really want Him to.

    As to your attempts to relate this somehow to physics – even if you are correct then our local laws would be subject to broader laws which would govern what “local laws” were even possible. This is because physical laws aren’t arbitrary rules which are made by scientists and should generally be followed, but rather built in aspects of physical reality. Whatever variation in the nature of things which would allow laws to be local is in fact part of the nature of things, and hence a physical law.

    Now, take the last two sentences of the previous paragraph, and replace “physical” with “Divine”/”Spiritual”, and replace “scientists” with “Popes” as appropriate, and you get a fairly accurate statement about eternal law as well. God’s Divine Law is not just a set of arbitrary rules, it’s the most fundamental description of what reality really is.

  • Oliver Stoops

    The Pope should change nothing, just keep on going at full speed ahead like “The Titanic”You mention timeless teaching as though Catholic teaching has always been. It is around 1680 years since the outcome of The Council of Nicaea 325. That is hardly timeless. However there is and old Persian adage translated from Farsi that states: “Nonsense is still nonsense, no matter how long it has been around”. For example, the Catholic Church teaches that two human beings (Jesus and Mary) ascended into heaven in outer space that is incompatible with life because there is no oxygen, water, or food. The atmospheric pressure is not compatible with life. The whole world is in a mess and Jesus and Mary are absent. Yet the Catholic Church demands that rational, logical human beings accept this superstitious fairy tale as the truth. In spite of scientific logic the Catholic Church still maintains that this impossible phenomena is reasonable and still teaches it as dogma. What of the integrity of earlier civilisations before Christianity? The Pharaohs were civilised and learning was highly advanced in 7000 BC, What of Mesopotamia 3100 BC, The Persians and The Phoenicians 1200 years BC. Like the Vatican, they did not read that “the writing was on the wall”, and that nothing lasts forever not even the Vatican. The biggest problem of all is that most people are quite nonchalant and indifferent about what the Pope or The Catholic Church teaches. Therefore, there is no need for the Pope, the Vatican or the Catholic church to change anything.

  • James

    The Church is not, and should not, be in a popularity context. We don’t need, “policies,” because we are not seeking election.

    The Church has merely to state the Truth, which the world is free to accept or reject.

    If the Church was popular in the present age, there’d be something far wrong.

  • David C

    “How to bridge the gap …” – sounds like the task of the New Evangelism in a nutshell.

  • Bethanie Ryan

    This is an example of why we need “Faith and Religion” sections back in our newspapers and other media. We need journalists whose only job is to understand other faith traditions and report what is actually happening in them. That is one of the ways that the world can begin to understand religion.

    This is an absolute shame, however, that the media is so clueless. Thank you for pointing this out.

  • Mark

    God Bless Pope Benedict XVI with wisdom, strength, and courage. And protect him from his enemies, both foreign and domestic. Now and forever, Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/FCacoperdo Francine Cacoperdo

    O ye of little faith!  God created the laws of nature and science.  And as their creator, He is not subject to them!  He can change them any way He wants.  Mankind can change them if God allows him to do so. God has allowed each Priest to change nature at the Consecration of the Mass. 

    Jesus and Mary aren’t the only people who ascended.  Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) did also.  They didn’t assume or ascend into outer space, they assumed or ascended into Heaven.  Big difference!!!  Heaven is outside the created universe and God can take any person into Heaven in a split second.  He doesn’t need a space shuttle! 

    Billions of angels, guardian and otherwise, are roaming around the earth right now.  But each remains in heaven, just as the devils “who prowl about the earth seeking the ruin of souls” take hell with them, no matter where they are.

    With God, nothing — absolutely NOTHING — is impossible!  Every human has a guardian angel.  The only reason you can’t see them is, well, first of all, they are spirits without bodies.  But even if they had physical bodies, you wouldn’t see them because of a ‘veil’ that separates what we humans can and cannot see. 

    And I guarantee you, the Vatican WILL last until the end of time, because Jesus said it will. 

  • http://twitter.com/FCacoperdo Francine Cacoperdo

    Keep it up!  You’ll find out when you stand before His Infinite Majesty for judgement!

    Got news for you.  The Big Bang is a theory and only a theory.  Mankind has not and can not prove it. So don’t assume it’s fact.

  • Parasum

    “Sadly since the misinterpretations of the Vatican Council…”

    If there have been misinterpretations of it, that is entirely the fault of the bishops, including Rome, for not providing a proper interptretation. They deserve no sympathy for a situation which is the result of their negligence and lack of foresight. Blaming the laity, as some do, is a form of Stockholm Syndrome – it is not our fault if they are too useless to do what they should. It’s hight time they stopped blaming everyone but themselves.. Do bishops have *any* useful function at all ?

  • D_erford

    Regarding Jesus and Mary going to outer space, you are showing your ignorance of Catholic teaching.  You really should not comment on something you have not done true research on as if it is fact.  It discredits you and can cause people to ignore any decently thought out objection or question you may pose.  Concerning past civilizations, they did not have God promising that they would not fall, but the Catholic Church has the promise.

  • Richard A

    Even Fox News had an observer of the last papal election who identified Cardinal Ratzinger as one who be as ‘conservative’ as his predecessor. One wanted to scream, “the word is ‘orthodox’, not ‘conservative’!”. But they can’t help it; everything is politics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Brian-Sadler/100000075821793 Gregory Brian Sadler

    The orienting question is an apt one: “Is this a gulf of incomprehension that simply can’t be bridged?”

    Practically speaking, the answer is unfortunately yes.  To be able to entertain the possibility that rational human beings could seriously recognize eternally grounded, better and better discoverable and articulatable truths about faith and morals, rather than just about natural science — and that they could not only rely upon, but regard as a necessity participation in, a community and institution that communicates and unfolds such truths — that requires a lot of rethinking and intellectual attentiveness, flexibility, and even charity on the part of an interlocutor.

    I can’t say that we see that as the norm even among Catholic intellectuals – and I’ll admit my own failings in these respects — so, despite use of a vocabulary of “openmindedness”, “seeking truth”, etc., we ought not expect too much of it from non-Catholic interlocutors.

    Certainly, some can bridge that “gulf of incomprehension” — I’ve seen it happen, though it takes time and work — but most wont, and the culture in which they move and which provides them with unquestioned assumptions they’ll rely upon in their reasoning about these matters is not going to shift with those few — who then find themselves no longer as comfortably at home in that culture and set of taken-for-granted intellectual assumptions  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Brian-Sadler/100000075821793 Gregory Brian Sadler

    To be fair — and granting there are plenty of journalists who are, whether realizing it or not, just ideologues — one reason why religion reporting in the mainstream media (as well as on FOX news — I remember listening to three supposedly “catholic” reporters totally mangle a story because of their ignorance of history and doctrines) is because reporters are typically at a loss, resourceless, when it comes to what would count as doing good religion reporting, particular investigative reporting. 

    Some of them would like to do good, fair, well-informed reporting, but have no idea what they would have to do, learn, ask, reason out.  They’re literally ignorant about the degrees or depth of their ignorance, and will latch on to whatever “facts” they’re able to get their hands on.

    This does, to be sure, produce lousy reporting relying on stereotyped categories and shoddy information — which I’m not trying to excuse — but there is a qualitative difference between a reporter who works in good faith but ignorance and without adequate intellectual resources, and the ideologue steering a story into their favored narratives.

  • Oliver Stoops

    Well, I am very keen on research and I am always keen to learn new things. In keeping with the concept of  “The Propagation of the Faith” I feel as if you are duty bound to correct any doctrinal errors that I have made. Perhaps you can propose a suitable method of research that I may use and you could supply a suitable bibliography to assist me in my endeavours. Therefore, I await your guidance about the acension, assumption, angels, and the spititual world in general. I do not want conjecture or heresay, I would like cogent material.

  • D_erford

    It is unrealistic to believe the bishops could have and should have foresaw all of the possible results and consequences of VII.  Do you know what every result will be of the decisions you make and discussions you have?  By shifting all of the blame to the bishops, you are freeing from responsibility those who disregard Church authority and dogma.  You say the fault is entirely with the bishops, yet when they speak clearly about issues such as abortion, contraception, women “priests”, same-sex “marriages”, etc, they are ignored by a decent segment of the Catholic population.

    What useful function do bishops serve?  Without them, there would not be priests.  Without priests, there would be no Eucharist.  That right there should be enough for you to be thankful that we have bishops.

  • W Oddie

    What’s this RCC I keep hearing about, mostly from cranks? Never heard of it.

  • W Oddie

    Quite

  • W Oddie

    I doubt it.

  • Duncan McPherson

    If the Catholic Church lays claim to a hold on universal, eternal truths, then the core propositions must remain unchanged. The understanding or lens through which those propositions are seen can add nuance to text and tradition and are, conceivably, changeable (e.g. the Church’s initial opposition and eventual embrace of Galileo’s work). 

    The core propositions of the Church must ultimately support the concept of a loving, compassionate God that has set in place laws for humanity to create order, context and meaning for all people, much like the laws of physics — which would also have been created by this God — make life possible.

    Because the Church is for all people (i.e. “Catholic,” “universal”), these laws must apply to all people. The laws themselves cannot change, although a fuller understanding of the laws is possible… so long as this understanding does not undermine the assertions of the core propositions.

    I’m not saying that I’m a believer, but I am saying that, based on these propositions, the Church has a systematic means for asserting logical consistency. 

    It’s a shame that the journalists mentioned didn’t seem to understand or appreciate that type of thinking. A more philosophical debate surrounding those propositions would be more fruitful, but I’m probably overestimating the capability of those journalists. 

    Policy, on the other hand, should be understood as dealing more with matters of Church law, civic law and the Church, international relations between the Vatican City and other nations, and so forth. Policy is not the same as ethics, morals, theology, or philosophy and should not be confused with such things. Policy changes based on the actions and intentions of other actors, external and internal, while the Church’s _position_ — its authority — is based solely on Scripture and apostolic tradition.

  • Parasum

    That’s a *lot* of ground to cover. If you want to get a better sense of what the Church is driving at when talking about these things, why not choose one of them, & stick to it ? Without some grounding in the ideas presupposed by affirmations of the reality of these things, one only gets confused - & that would be a kindness neither to us, nor (more importantly) to you. It’s nice to come across someone who is “very keen on research and…always keen to learn new things”.

  • dolly

    Trouble is the pope does act more like a head politician than a humble servant of God.

  • Honeybadger

    Amen. Amen. AMEN!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CIC3RWXRB36OC3KNXZMNBH3DIE Gerry

    The ignorance displayed by secular media reporters and pundits towards Religion displays the reality of the parallel universe that the secular media inhabits vis-a-vis the Church.  Their world-view is materialistic and limited to the utilitarian and  sometimes expedient philosophies present in that environment and thus whether through ill-education or willful ignorance have little appreciation for the unchanging, essential beliefs of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Voices initiative which worked so well in terms of explaining the truths of the Faith to an often skeptical media during the time of Pope Benedict XV1′s visit to the UK, could be re-established and put on a more permanent footing to continue this necessary work.

  • James H

    Oh, here we go, another ‘Multiverse’ believer.

    On what preposterous grounds do you insist that there are other ‘bubble universes’? Where/how/why did the time and space that they require for existence, arise? What prevents the bubble universes from bumping into each other? What creates the universal constants unique to each universe? How the hell do the bubbles arise? Bubbles of what – space-time? In what medium? Why are they all different? The multiple-universe idea is nothing but a frantic attempt to avoid a beginning for space-time, which makes atheists uncomfortable.

    And don’t make your appeal to (irrelevant) authority by mumbling ‘Hawking’. As far as philosophy goes, the man’s a great physicist.

  • Parasum

    One can be non-conservative, and orthodox. It all depends on the details of what or whom one is talking about. Conservativism & liberalism – both of them *relative* concepts – are good things in their proper places, but to make either an absolute or a cure for all problems leads to trouble. “Orthodox*ism*” is as harmful, because as one-sided (therefore inadequate), as its liberal counterpart (whatever that is to be called). It would help a lot if there were more appropriate & exact language to discuss these issues.   

  • Parasum

     “How can we reason together?”

    By doing it :) ? (Nice allusion to Isaiah 1, BTW)

     “Is it possible?” 

    ## Why should it not be ?

     “Are you up for it?”

    ## If you are.

  • lokionline

    I would be happy to reason
    as long as we can agree on the assumptions. For example, statements such as the
    one made by Jacob Suggs above contain an assumption, which simply defies argument:

    “Of course there is eternal law.
    It’s a direct result of the eternal immutable God. God does not change”

    This is simply a statement
    of belief. It is not verifiable. Such statements are not going to work as a starting
    point for any reasoned exchange. Arguments based on a supernatural explanation
    are not going to work with me, nor do they work with most reasonable folks as I
    am sure you have discovered to your frustration.

    That also goes for comments
    like this:

    “Keep it up!  You’ll find out
    when you stand before His Infinite Majesty for judgement!”.

    Stupid
    threats of hellfire and damnation are just that — “threats” and deserve the contempt
    of civilized folks. Catholics, Christians and other religious who have
    terrified children for generations with such threats should be ashamed and
    should be stopped from abusing children like this.

    Any argument based on
    statements like:

     “Oh, here we go, another ‘Multiverse’ believer”

    are not going
    to work either.

    I am not a
    “believer” I am an observer and a listener. I accept evidence verified
    via observation and evaluated by peers who are qualified to make a comment, but
    I do not accept unverifiable statements based on a “belief”.

    And let’s try to avoid stupid statements like this:

    ” What’s this RCC I keep hearing about,
    mostly from cranks? Never heard of it.”  

    If
    simple abbreviations for the Roman Catholic Church are confusing to you like
    they are confusing to W. Oddie – hardly a surprise there… then I do not think
    we will get anywhere.

    Why don’t you start with the assumption you appear to be making –
    that there is such a thing as an “eternal” set of rules.

     I question this assumption.
    I do not find there is any evidence for anything being eternal, which is why I
    find arguments about eternal laws or eternal concepts of morality to be weak.

  • lokionline

    This is a stupid comment accompanied by an ad hominem!  Is this how you play to your audience? 

    Why would I spell out the Roman Catholic Church when RCC does the job without the extra keystrokes?

  • lokionline

    What is your problem?

  • Julia B

    There is a great blog in the US run by a journalism professor called “Get Religion”.  
    It critiques media reporting on religion stories and those articles that leave out an obvious religious dimension  that a reporter missed.  There are favorable kudos given to good reporting.  The people who post are all working reporters of various faiths.  They knew all about the Times (of London) writer who is thankfully now behind a pay wall.  And cheered the retirement of the Times’ man in Rome who contributed many articles on Vatican doings that uncritically found their way to the NY Times, the Washington Post, etc. 

    http://www.getreligion.com 

  • Parasum

    “Secular pundits want the Pope to change his ‘policies’. How can we explain that he can’t?”

    Popes do have policies. How to treat the SSPX, whether or not to pursue a rapprochement with it, what to do about the SSPX bishops or the Transalpine Redemptorists, whether or not to give greater freedom for the offering of the pre-Coinciliar rite of Mass, whether or not to retain the title “Patriarch of the West” – all these things, and many more, have connections to doctrine; but none of them is a doctrine, let alone a dogma. They may be ill-advised; or they may not. The Church would not collapse if none had been done. So the fact that doctrines & dogmas are mis-called policies, is not a reason to treat all Papal acts & utterances as though they were sacred, infallible, inerrant, perfect & unalterable. Often enough, policies are just that, & nothing more.

    The quotations may be confusing the two, but the solution is to explain the difference, rather than to rush into the opposite confusion and imply that all Papal acts are irreversible dogmas. The fact of the Incarnation belongs to the Deposit of Faith – whether or not to have a nuncio in Singapore, does not. One is a dogma – the other is a prudential decision taken for the good of souls, dictated in part by the the Vatican’s relations with the People’s Republic of China.  X & Y are both Papal acts =////= X & Y are of the same value in their relation to the Deposit of Faith.

  • Anonymous

    It’s unfortunate that V2 arrived shortly before the cultural revolution of the 60′s and 70′s. It surely must have provided ammunition for those seeking to upend traditional society, as they could claim to be taking their cue from its changes to the liturgy. The relationship between V2 and the sexual revolution, feminism, multiculturalism, and all the rest might make an interesting topic for a book.

  • Anonymous

    Right. Nothing in the Bible is strictly speaking illogical or nonsensical, in the sense that a four-sided triangle or intersecting parallel lines are illogical. Certain events are, rather, supernatural.

    Science determines the laws of nature through examination of available evidence. It is not able to observe every event which occurred at every moment in history. Thus, it is perfectly scientific to admit the possibility of the sort of supernatural events we read about in the Bible.

    In fact, it would be more in keeping with the spirit of empirical skepticism to admit that since our available evidence is limited, it is quite possible that such supernatural events have occurred, albeit rarely.

  • Anonymous

    “This is simply a statement of belief. It is not verifiable.”

    Why not? Isn’t “it is not verifiable” itself a statement of belief? Have you, in the stillness of your heart, listened for God?

    “[S]tatements [of belief] are not going to work as a starting point for any reasoned exchange.”

    Why not? They seem like a perfectly reasonable starting point. I might add that it is more than a bit pretentious to imply that your beliefs are not, in fact, beliefs, but rock-solid, irrefutable Knowledge, and that all of us naive children are of a lower order altogether.

    “I do not find there is evidence for anything being eternal, which is why I find arguments about eternal laws or eternal concepts of morality to be weak.”

    The classic relativist logical sleight-of-hand. Put more simply: Every position is tentative and limited, except the position that every [other] position is tentative and limited. This is what the pope calls the “dictatorship of relativism.” It is not surprising that you “do not find there is evidence for anything being eternal,” because you have excluded the eternal and supernatural a priori. Circular reasoning.

    Loki, you do not seem to be sincerely interested in a discussion in which your core beliefs are actually in play. You are unwilling to admit even the possibility that Catholicism is right, and would rather dictate to us the terms of debate.

  • Jdmatthew

    One of the reasons I became a Catholic was the fact that the Church doesn’t change with whatever cause the secular world deems important or relevant at the time.  I like the fact that I can look back on a thousand (or more) years of history and see a continuity of doctrine from then to now.  We have seen what is happening to our Anglican and Episcopalian brethren with their efforts to remain politically correct.  It seems there is little emphasis in many churches on the will of God and much on the trends of men.  If conservatism means not changing God’s revealed will, then praise God for a conservative Pope.  The Catholic Church has become a refuge for those who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church Fathers.

  • lokionline

    Is this your argument for there being something eternal about the reality we inhabit? 

     “Have you, in the stillness of your heart, listened for God?”. 

    Not that good of an argument is it?

    I have been unequivocal in my core “belief” as you like to term it. I would call it an understanding.

     I see no evidence for eternity but I am willing to consider the implications of infinity. Having already had a couple of heart events, I find little comfort in the thought of a still heart.  I find comfort in the murmur that tells me I am alive.

  • Oliver Stoops

    Your words were  “It discredits you and can cause people to ignore any decently thought out objection or question you may pose”. You suggested that I am ignorant and that you are not. I have genuinely posed a question that you guide me in by errors, and that seems reasonable and fair, but you have avoided the issue.   You say “Without some grounding in the ideas presupposed by affirmations of the reality of these things, one only gets confused”. What does that mean?  Is it not one of the ‘Spiritual Works of Mercy’ to instruct the ignorant, that you have supposed me to be. To repeat, you are obliged by you confirmation oath and within the context of the propogation of the faith to do as I have requested.

  • Anonymous

    “My answer: there will be exactly the same changes on basic teachings as if any other pope had been elected: ie zero, no change whatever. Why not? Because the fundamental purpose of the papacy is to make sure that that just doesn’t happen”
    This is, of course, nonsense.
    The Church has changed its “policies” in relation to the historicity of the Bible, religion and science, salvation outside the Church, Judaism, theological dissent, ecumenism, religious tolerance and democracy  etc, etc. The current position on the ordination of women is based on a flawed 19 century ecclesiology which will have to go. The current position on homosexuality is based on a flawed, largely Augustinian view of human sexuality which will also have to go.     
     
     

  • Mark Castellano

    Fr Heythrop is correct!
    Yes, The Catholic Church will last for another while, but not without making radical changes.
    The Present day problem Vatican rests with the Papal ambitions of Pacelli family in Rome as early as 1899 when Eugenio Pacelli was ordained a priest. Within three weeks of his ordination he was appointed to the Vatican Diplomatic Service. He came to England to represent the pope in 1901 when Queen Victoria died (two years after his ordination). He was never a parish curate or a Diocesan Bishop. It was the Pacelli family plan to have Eugenio Pacelli appointed as Pope (not elected) and later to be declared The Holy Roman Emperor. The plan was conceived by Francesco Pacelli won later negotiated the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini in 1929. Ten years later the plan started to fall into place when his brother Eugenio Pacelli later to become Pius XII, in 1939 just months before the outbreak of WWII.
    An agreement had already been made with Hitler concerning the process and outcome of the war [Concordant (Reichskonkordat on July 20, 1933)] that was signed by Franz von Papen, The German Vice Chancellor. The Concordant was drafted by Francesco Pacelli and signed by Eugenio Pacilli (some of the secret codicils are still embargoed). As we know, the whole plan went wrong because Hitler and Mussolini were both syphilitics, with psychotic delusions of grandeur who could not imagine anyone else to be more important than themselves. If Pius XII had been more worldly-wise in terms of human sexuality, he would have been able to read the signs.
    It was only after the war when the truth came out and General Dwight Eisenhower witnessed the Nazi Concentration camps, that the full impact of what Hitler, Mussolini and Pacelli had planned. Another significant person was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) who also witnessed at close quarters the mass murderous legacy of Hitler, Mussolini and Eugenio Pacelli. It is for that reason that Vatican II was called and irreversible changes were made to the Roman Catholic Church. When Pope John XXIII was elected in 1958, Dwight Eisenhower was the President of the United States, and it was agreed that the concept of kingship would be removed from the Roman Catholic Church forever. At first John XXIII refused to be crowned, but the arrangements had been made by the Vatican machine, and he went along in the knowledge and belief that he would be the last papal coronation. However in June 1963 President John Kennedy pressurised Pope Paul VI to be crowned, which he reluctantly was. Pope Paul VI made sure at Vatican II Papal Coronations would be abandoned forever. Although pressure was brought to bear on John Paul I to be crowned, he refused, as did John Paul II. At Vatican II the concept of “Novus Ordo Seclorum” from the Great Seal of the United States was adopted. And from there the “New Order of the Ages” came into being: “Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas; Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo, iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna, iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto” All this information is embargoed and will be made public in 2050. There is a very rare book called: “Conoscenza Vietato” (Forbidden Knowledge) where all this information is documented, but is clearly not in the public domain. I was told this by an old dying priest in 1989 who had worked in the Vatican during and after the war, and he came across this information inadvertently. He told me that he could not believe his eyes, and the depth of pernicious ambition of the Pacelli family. Francesco and Eugenio Pacelli had planned a dynastic inheritance like: The della Rovere, The Borgias, The Medici, The Barberini and The della Chiesa etc. The reign of Pius XII and his successors was to be “The Pacelli” and was to last 1000 years like “The Third Reich” (Francisco Pacelli died in 1935 aged 66 and never saw the fruits of his labours. Before replying with insults and abuse please read.Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes [Paperback] George L. Williams Paperback: 271 pages Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc; New edition edition (30 Sep 2004) Language English ISBN-10: 0786420715/ ISBN -13: 978-0786420711
    When Pope John XXIII was elected in 1958, Dwight Eisenhower was the President of the United States, and it was agreed that the concept of kingship would be removed from the Roman Catholic Church forever. At first John XXIII refused to be crowned, but the arrangements had been made by the Vatican machine, and he went along in the knowledge and belief that he would be the last papal coronation. However in June 1963 President John Kennedy pressurised Pope Paul VI to be crowned, which he reluctantly was. Pope Paul VI made sure at Vatican II Papal Coronations would be abandoned forever. Although pressure was brought to bear on John Paul I to be crowned, he refused, as did John Paul II.
    At Vatican II the concept of “Novus Ordo Seclorum” from the Great Seal of the United States was adopted. And from there the “New Order of the Ages” came into being: “Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas; Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo, iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna, iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto” All this information is embargoed and will be made public in 2050. There is a very rare book called: “Conoscenza Vietato” (Forbidden Knowledge) where all this information is documented, but is clearly not in the public domain. I was told this by an old dying priest in 1989 who had worked in the Vatican during and after the war, and he came across this information inadvertently. He told me that he could not believe his eyes, and the depth of pernicious ambition of the Pacelli family. Francesco and Eugenio Pacelli had planned a dynastic inheritance like: The della Rovere, The Borgias, The Medici, The Barberini and The della Chiesa etc. The reign of Pius XII and his successors was to be “The Pacelli” and was to last 1000 years like “The Third Reich” (Francisco Pacelli died in 1935 aged 66 and never saw the fruits of his labours. Before replying with insults and abuse please read.Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes [Paperback] George L. Williams Paperback: 271 pages Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc; New edition edition (30 Sep 2004) Language English ISBN-10: 0786420715/ ISBN -13: 978-0786420711 Great Seal of the United States was adopted. And from there the “New Order of the Ages” came into being: “Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas; Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo, iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna, iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto” All this information is embargoed and will be made public in 2050. There is a very rare book called: “Conoscenza Vietato” (Forbidden Knowledge) where all this information is documented, but is clearly not in the public domain. I was told this by an old dying priest in 1989 who had worked in the Vatican during and after the war, and he came across this information inadvertently. He told me that he could not believe his eyes, and the depth of pernicious ambition of the Pacelli family. Francesco and Eugenio Pacelli had planned a dynastic inheritance like: The della Rovere, The Borgias, The Medici, The Barberini and The della Chiesa etc. The reign of Pius XII and his successors was to be “The Pacelli” and was to last 1000 years like “The Third Reich” (Francisco Pacelli died in 1935 aged 66 and never saw the fruits of his labours. Before replying with insults and abuse please read.Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes [Paperback] George L. Williams Paperback: 271 pages Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc; New edition edition (30 Sep 2004) Language English ISBN-10: 0786420715/ ISBN -13: 978-0786420711 George L. Williams Paperback: 271 pages Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc; New edition edition (30 Sep 2004) Language English ISBN-10: 0786420715/ ISBN -13: 978-0786420711

  • Mark Castellano

    The information I sent is not as I sent it. I would like to know why the original information shows to be disjointed and duplicated. Does anyone know why this happens?

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    It’s important to realise that the Catholic church has both policy and doctrine. Policy can be adjusted to meet the ends of the doctrine, but doctrine can never be altered – mainly because the Catholic church has no authority to do so.

    The grave error occurs when people refer to the doctrine/teachings of the Catholic church as “policy” – implying that they can be changed to fit a changing world -  when in fact, the teachings aim to guide those who would like to be closer to God. So unless God changes his mind in 4 or 5-year election cycles, these teachings must necessarily remain timeless.

  • J Berkley

    Good.  Do you have the right to defend yourself? 

  • Jacob Suggs

    Actually, you have just said that you are keen on research then asked him to do it all for you. In most other cases where someone has made this kind of statement (do it for me, be nice to me, instruct ME, your faith says you must focus on memememememe), we would not actually be instructing the ignorant, but rather throwing books at a brick wall.

    If you are the exception – the person who sincerely wants to do research without actually doing any research – then start with the Catechism, do some searches on google, newadvent.org, and catholic.com, and generally read stuff that doesn’t start by assuming Christians are stupid. I also suggest C.S. Lewis – he’s not Catholic so we don’t agree with everything he says, but he is extremely intelligent and a good writer.

    “You say “Without some grounding in the ideas presupposed by
    affirmations of the reality of these things, one only gets confused”.
    What does that mean?”

    Well, for one thing, one might decide that Christians believe that God lives in outer space for some reason, which is a pretty silly thing to think.

  • Oliver Stoops

    Forget about empirical scepticism and try Empirical Evidence.  What I have written below is the truth.A friend of mine was telling me a story about how her seven year old granddaughter got into trouble at a Catholic school. The teacher was talking about transubstantiation in a simplified form of teaching. She was explaining how Jesus has not gone away, but he is with us in communion.The girl, Melanie said to the teacher, “You’ve got to be bloody joking, no one believes that old hat any more”. This is what the Vatican calls modernism, intelligent people refer to it as modernity.Melanie (and many like her) can take her computer apart and replace new hardware within a matter of minutes,(after her parents have ensured that the electricity is switched off) with clear understanding of what she is doing. At seven, I believed in Santa Claus and tooth fairies. Daddy’s and Mummy’s teaching what is good and bad, right and wrong is over. My grandson aged seven understands what is meant by Meiosis and Gametes and where we come from and why. How is the Vatican going to cope with this degree of social, intellectual and technical change.How would explain your religious theories to someone very intelligient like Melanie? She would burst out laughing, na there is nothing that you, her parents, her teacher or the Catholic church can do about it. NOTHING !!! 

  • lokionline

    What kind of a question is that?

    What am I defending?  My statement that I think the idea of eternity or eternal laws lacks evidence?

    You will have to be a little clearer and a little more forthcoming. As it stands your comment is not very inviting.

    I am put in mind of the closing comment in Bill Oddie’s blog above

    “How to bridge the imaginative gap between Catholics and the modern world – even whether it’s actually possible for it to be done – is a question we have hardly begun seriously to ask”.

    I think he is making a good point. You might ask yourself if this exchange is a good example of your effort in answering that question.