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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.

  • Oliver Stoops

    I am sorry old dear, I thought about the ascension and the assumption once upon a time because the biblical pictures showed Christ rising into heaven body and soul. I have a picture of Our Lady being taken into heaven body and soul. What does this mean? Where would a human body live other than this earth? So please explain to me why it is silly for Catholics to think that heaven is in outer space. I was responding to the gentleman confronting me with my ignorance. I have done my own research, many years and have discounted any concept of life hereafter (heaven or hell). He avoided my invitation to correct my errors, because there is no tangible answer to the question I posed to him.

  • Jacob Suggs

    “Where would a human body live other than this earth?”

    Wherever God wanted it to. Omnipotence, yo. Not the physical universe, according to nearly every Christian sect ever.

    I think you might have a problem with metaphors. When someone tells you the store is up the street do you get a ladder?

  • Jacob Suggs

    Bwuhahahaha? Seriously, loose the mad scientist vibe.

    Your argument would make a lot more sense (which is a kind way of saying not fall on it’s face quiet as quickly) if Christianity or religion in general was confined to stupid people. But it’s not. This is a myth generated by Dawkins and his ilk.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Bwuhahahaha? Seriously, loose the mad scientist vibe.

    Your argument would make a lot more sense (which is a kind way of saying not fall on it’s face quiet as quickly) if Christianity or religion in general was confined to stupid people. But it’s not. This is a myth generated by Dawkins and his ilk.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Ah. From your characterization of eternal law as something believed by conservative Catholics, I assumed that you were a liberal Christian of some flavor. My mistake. Let’s try it this way then.

    A physical or moral law is only a fundamental law if it is unchanging, hence eternal. Therefore, even if moral law is no more than “what the most people deem to be acceptable at any given time” – which I obviously do not believe to be true – then there would still be an eternal moral law. Namely, that “that which most people deem to be acceptable is in fact acceptable at that time.”

    Frankly, that’s a stupid law. It may be that whatever law you believe isn’t so stupid as that, but unless it’s undeveloped or illogical (and in some cases even if it is), it is in fact the result of some sort of assumed (though perhaps incorrectly assumed) eternal law.

    So – there is an eternal law. The question is – what is it? Answering this question is where philosophies like those that come from Christianity, or even the ancient Greeks so far as I remember what they said, shine and random calls for irrefutable evidence (whaddya mean there’s a law? I haven’t seen it lying around) are somewhat… lacking in their approach.

  • Oliver Stoops

    You are being obtuse and inane. I have a reasonable knowledge of quantum physics, cosmology, perception, concept formation, analogous reasoning and metaphorical applications. Therefore, there is no need for you to be dismissive. So I ask you again. If Jesus ascended into heaven body and soul, and Mary was taken up into heaven body and soul (I have just checked in a catechism that the catholic church still teaches this doctrine). Then how do they defy the laws of gravity and physiology? The laws of physics decree that energy can be detected from all living things, no matter how small. How is it that no energy about living human bodies Jesus and Mary have be detected by the most sensitive and sophisticated space stations throughout the world. There never has been one reading of any biological energy detected that would be consistent with living matter. Will you please give me a truthful, cogent answer without avoidance, or without you using invective. It does not help.The astral spiritual plain arguement is the stuff of astrology and charlatans, and is complete.nonsense

  • Jacob Suggs

    I also have a reasonable knowledge of quantum physics and the like (BS in physics and math, pursing PhD in math), but it means jack squat in reference to miracles and God.

    You persist in claiming the heaven is part of the physical universe. Now, I hate the caps lock key with a burning passion, but in this case I think it is called for.

    CATHOLICS DON’T BELIEVE HEAVEN AND HELL ARE PART OF THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE.

    I can repeat this in my next reply to you if you want. I’d just as soon not, but I can if necessary.

    Now, as for the how. I direct you to consider the implications of the word “omnipotent.” God accomplished this as easily as I might remove a lego man from one play set and place him on another. More easily in fact.

    I think it’s time for caps lock one more time. Truly, I do apologize, but I feel that it is necessary.

    GOD IS NOT BOUND BY PHYSICAL LAWS IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.

    Omnipotence. Omnipotence. Omnipotence. Omnipotence. Omnipotence. Omnipotence.

    Reality is not limited to the physical universe. And even if it were, this would not actually be a problem for an omnipotent God. He could make it possible for us to dance on clouds, breath vacuum, and eat suns if He so chose. Omnipotence again. If you’re going to try to show inconsistency in Christianity, it’s gonna take more work than saying “miracles break the laws of nature.” Duh. This is why they are called miracles.

    Also, I apologize for my inanity. It’s my way of handling getting the same question asked about why we believe something we don’t in fact believe over and over again.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    It is not Church teaching that clerical celibacy is ‘timeless teaching’ – I think we need a canon lawyer here to explain canon law to the writers / readership

  • Oliver Stoops

    I thank you for you explanation, and I sincerely admire your faith (not being condescending). I wish that I could accept those things in the way you do. So to paraphrase, it seems to me that you mean: “IF YOU BELIEVE IN GOD, IT DOES NOT REQUIRE AN EXPLANATION, AND IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD, NO EXPLANATION IS ANY GOOD.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Not entirely, though there is some truth to that. What I was really trying to point out is that it does not make much sense to decry a lack of natural explanation for the supernatural, in much the same way that it doesn’t make sense to deny the existence of a computer programer because his existence isn’t written to the code of the program he made.

    Or, from another perspective, you can tell a believer that miracles are naturally impossible and he won’t care because he does not think that laws of nature completely describe reality, and you can tell a non-believer that they are technically possible because one cannot know for sure that there is not something outside of your total experience and he won’t care because he doesn’t think they ever happened. So the possibility of miracles is not really what needs to be discussed, but rather whether or not they have ever happened, together with the logical consistency of those views that claim either that they never have and never will or that they have, and have for particular reasons.

    Well, that and that we don’t think that heaven is physical. But I think I may have said that already.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent, Julia, except it’s http://www.getreligion.org .

  • J Berkley

    If someone was to attack me.  Would I have the right to defend myself?  I presume that the answer is yes.  My question is where does that right come from?  If the the right exists; how? 

  • Anonymous

    Oh, well if Melanie the seven-year-old doesn’t believe it, clearly, it’s rubbish. Good thing Melanie’s here to solve all of the philosophical problems of the past thousands of years.

  • J Berkley

    On a some what related matter;   can the assumption be made that the universe and or multiverse(s) is in expansion?

  • Markus Castilano

    Be as sarcastic and rude as you wish to be, but it is open minded people like Melanie and her descendents who will decide the fate next thousand years, and not superstitious, gullible fools.

  • Mars96

    Jesus and Mary did not ascend into outer space. They ascended to heaven. God created time and space. He is not limited by them as is his creation. It is very shallow thinking to be so certain that nothing exists outside of that which is perceptible with five senses, to think that “science” has answers for any and all questions about existence. Science, which formulates hypotheses and then conclusions from observable data will never be able to answer why there is anything at all instead of nothing. oh, and Jesus and Mary are no more fictitious than you are. There is no sound reason to disbelieve that he was and is and ever shall be. Good mday sir 

  • Anonymous

    I think I was making a perfectly valid point which is the beliefs of a seven-year-old are totally irrelevant. When you make a deference to the authority of a child instead of making an argument, you’re inviting sarcasm.

    Having said that I suggest you look beyond Europe. Christianity may be in decline in Europe, but Europe itself is becoming less and less important globally. Worldwide, Christianity is increasing in numbers and influence, and atheism is declining.

    Here’s a sample of 17 Asian nations whose Christian population has grown significantly over the past centuries. It isn’t an exhaustive list – just indicative. The first number is the percentage of Christians in a nation in 1910, the second the percentage in 2010. Source: the Atlas of Global Christianity (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) Japan: 1.0% (1910) 2.3% (2010) China: 0.4% (1910) 8.6% (2010Mongolia: 0.1% (1910) 1.7% (2010)N. Korea 0.4% (1910) 2.0% (2010)S. Korea 0.5% (1910) 41.4% (2010Taiwan 0.3% (1910) 6.0% (2010)India 1.7% (1910) 4.8% (2010)Bhutan 0.0% (1910) 1.3% (20101Nepal 0.0% (1910) 3.1% (2010)Pakistan 0.4% (1910) 2.3% (2010)Kazakhstan 4.9% (1910) 13.4% (2010)Indonesia 1.4% (1910) 12.4% (2010)Brunei 0.5% (1910) 15.3% (2010)Laos 0.6% (1910) 3.1% (2010)Malaysia 1.5% (1910) 9.1% (2010)Myanmar 2.2% (1910) 8.0% (2010)Singapore 4.0% (1910) 16.1% (2010)

    So when you say, hey look at this seven-year-old English girl, she doesn’t believe in God anymore, it’s a very sad commentary on the wishful thinking of secular atheists. It’s parochial, and it disregards actual facts.

  • Anonymous

    Nonsense! They are based on what Jesus said. ‘I have not come to change the law’ – according to the law of the time, same sex acts were considered disordered and sinful. Find me a passage in the Bible where Jesus says same sex acts are ok. Women priests: women cannot be priests because priests are fathers. If Jesus wanted women priests, he would have chosen women to be his priests. He did not do it! WAKE UP!

  • Anonymous

    Nonsense!

  • TeaPot562

    There is no necessary conflict between the cosmological Big Bang theory of Creation and the existence of an intelligent all-powerful creator whom we call “God”.  Reading Stephen Hawking’s popularized accounts of his theories lets one know of the intellectual disturbance in Hawking’s thought when he was told this in a conference in the 1970s.  Believers in God have no trouble with an account of physical creation that could easily be described by “And God said, ‘Let there be light!  And there was light!’”
    TeaPot562

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    “Because the fundamental purpose of the papacy is to make sure that that
    just doesn’t happen…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.”

    Which begs a very important question: How and why do these people get to be cardinals in the first place?

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    “Because the fundamental purpose of the papacy is to make sure that that
    just doesn’t happen…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.”

    Which begs a very important question: How and why do these people get to be cardinals in the first place?

  • David Devinish

    Your comment “the beliefs of a seven-year-old are totally irrelevant” suggest that you are not a parent, if you are then may God help your children. The Irish Christian Brothers taught the very same thing that the beliefs and opinions of children were totally irrelevant, and what a pernicious legacy they left to Ireland and the Catholic Church. I earnestly listen and heed the beliefs and opinions of my grandchildren. Your Edwardian beliefs are an anachronism, and a disgrace to God and humanity. Imagine what you would be like on a night out in Atlantic City. Wow!, you would be a hoot!

  • Anonymous

    Obviously, children have the same human rights as anyone else. That’s not what I meant. Yes, I may not be very much “fun” but life isn’t always about “having fun” but taking responsibility for the future. My parents were harsh and while I didn’t enjoy it at the time, today I am grateful that I have self-discipline and have become a responsible and productive adult.

    Again, you refer to traditional child-rearing as an “anachronism,” but it is quite the norm almost everywhere in the world. The Chinese and Koreans do not indulge their children, which might explain why their governments are not deep in debt, their economies are not in decline, and they are not reliant on foreign military protection.

    I hope you are not an airline pilot or something similar, asking your seven-year-old daughter if she’d like to try flying the plane.

  • Anonymous

    The right to defend oneself surely arises from the right to life.

  • David Devinish

    When my son was eight he could service the car. There were limitations regarding his strength and physique. He did the tyre pressures, changed the spark plugs (with assistance) and changed the oil and serviced in general, he always did it right, because I had taught him and trusted him. In turn his children can ‘fly a plane’ i.e. plot a course with the correct co-ordinates, and ensure take off and safe landing.  The software is identical to that used to train pilots, and there are hazards and problems built into the programme that require immediate, fast adjustments. They can do this with accuracy. Because of legal and physical limitations, they could not yet fly a real plane, but they have formulated the concepts of aerodynamics, meteorological variables, adapting to stress and making decisions. It would be better if these concepts were taught in Catholic schools rather than teaching about daft fictitious deities and scourging, crucifixion, fairy tale apparitions, gravity defeating antics of resurrections and ascensions into oblivion. At university, people talked about such things after a generous helping of LSD or some other hallucinogenic substance like magic mushrooms. As for you arguments that parental strictness (forbidding you to do things) is a good thing, is completely irrational. Inflicting physical or emotional pain ( punishment) can never be justified.Education and experiential learning is more likely to be effective, than ‘a good telling off’ or inflicting punishment. Thank goodness that it is now illegal for parents and teachers to inflict punishment. I wish that had been the law regarding the savagery of Christian Brothers and the Jesuits when I was a boy.

  • Bobbyspen

    Policies change all the time – work policies, IRS policies,  even our Constitution has changed, considering America is reeling on the hem of Socialism, being controlled by the government.  These external things will always change, eternal doctrines stand forever.  God’s word, eternal doctine or Catholic doctrine and early church traditions stand forever, because God says, He doesn’t change,nor does God’s will change.  God did not make policies, He made doctrines.-commandments to be followed precisely, without change.  What was taught by Jesus from 30-33AD has been preserved by His very church, the Roman Catholic Church, whom is persecuted continually, physically, spiritually, emotionally…since the beginning of the Christ’s church. I  watched Stephen be stoned because I stood in Saul’s shoes hailing accusations that the church doesn’t follow the Bible. Reading, to prove the “church” wrong, is when I realized, I as wrong. Then,  I had to destroy  all the “denominationally interpretations and policies”.  I came back to the one and only truth, the doctrine of our Lord, a doctrine that doesn’t change by society’s whims…The Roman Catholic Church.  If you disagree, go do your homework and read the historians during Christ’s time and after.

  • Anonymous

    Frankly Doctor Oddie I care a damned sight less over what secular pundits think about our ‘changing of policies’ and rather more about the millions of Catholics – misinformed, dispossessed and disenfranchised from authentic Church teaching and praxis – who are of exactly the same mindframe!!!!

  • Mark Castilano

    It is right for people to believe anything they like whether it is traditional or modern Christianity. People must be free to be religious or to be atheists if they so desire. No one should condemn or criticise those who believe in astrological or theosophical concepts. Masonic, Rosicrucian and all other spiritual and esoteric orders should be allowed to practice what ever they please. It seems fine that people should practice as fortune tellers, palmists, and any other kind of tomfoolery, if they desire providing that these things are practiced under a government licence, by membership a contract and in private.It is not alright for any organisation to claim that it possess a special knowledge of, and to be in communication with a deity, and to use this ploy to indoctrinate vulnerable children and to shape them into narrow minded bigots with tunnel vision. If parents discovered that astrology was in the school curriculum and children were been taught to base their lives on the signs of the zodiac, there would be national outrage and mayhem all around. (even though the church calendar is based on astrological principles).It is right that religious doctrine must be treated as unfounded superstition in the same as astrology and other such esoteric phenomenon and must never be allowed to contaminate the developing minds of children.  I find it very sad to think that mature adults can allow themselves to believe in apparitions, angels, saints, fairies, elves. Leprechauns, Lourdes and Lucifer, not to mention transubstantiation, indulgences, banshees and ghosts and goodness knows what else. It is time that European legislation curtailed, and outlawed the continuous teaching and Christian, (especially Roman Catholic) and other Charlatan claims of unfounded and unsubstantiated, mendacious Jiggery-Pokery. It should not be a crime to believe this foolish stuff, but it should be treated as criminal to purvey and promote such nonsense by trickery for money.

  • Jacob Suggs

    If you truly believe that all 2000 years of Catholic theological development, which includes the labors and thoughts of some of the most intelligent people who ever lived, and is accepted as true by a fair number of the rest of the most intelligent people who ever lived, is on par with leprechauns, then you should stop complaining because it’s quiet obviously true that nothing was taught about Christianity where you grew up.

    Lemme give you an analogy to show you how you sound. I’m a math PhD student. As part of the deal, I teach calculus and the like to undergrads. When we are talking about infinite series, I occasionally throw some fact out there like “and this stuff can be used to show that e^(i*pi) = -1.” (Which, as far as real math goes, isn’t much more complicated than 2+2=4.) Without exception, some student will say that that’s not possible or “doesn’t make any sense”. Usually, they take my word in the end because I know more about math than they do, but imagine if you will that the student doesn’t go that route and simply refuses to accept it. Then, when I start to offer an explanation, his eyes glaze over and you can see the words going in one ear and coming out the other, barely slowed down. Afterwards, he says “it doesn’t make sense” and that if I want to believe it that’s fine but I should keep it to myself. Also, only fools and morons actually believe in any numbers that aren’t Reals anyway, so the statement itself made no sense from the start, is entirely unexplainable, and hence false.

    This is what you sound like when you call Transubstantiation ridiculous without even considering the implications of Christianity.

  • Mark Castilano

    Clearly, what you have written is what you believe from an Esoteric, Soul-Lotus and Astral Plain, perspective. I would never challenge you about your beliefs, or would I be disrespectful about your etheric concepts except to say that after much study I find this phenomena to be totally incomprehensible.It is over 30 years since I graduated as Ph.D. But in my university and academic circle it was considered the height of bad manners to throw ones academic weight about. I suppose you will call yourself ‘Doctor’ when you graduate, I never have used the title, even within professional academic activity. We can all ‘brow-beat’ others if we have the mind to do so, but it always backfires. I am a Catholic who has studied and graduated at DD level within an Ivy League University, and I will not take lessons from you about any religion or academic protocol. There is more ‘Love of God’ in a pagan child learning to speak it’s first sentence, taking it’s first steps, or doing it’s first calculation than in all the words, actions and ceremonies (Mass’s etc)., than in all the words ever spoken by Popes, Bishops, priests, and the whole Catholic Church put together. If you have a formula for God, or a graph to support your theory, then please let me know.In the meantime, please solve this conundrum “ How many Monday’s are there in a Thursday”?

  • Simon Platt

    There’s a headmaster of a large catholic comprehensive not a mile from here who has exactly this secularised view of church teaching.

    I had a long telephone conversation with him a few years ago in which I repeatedly responded to his “Vatican policy” with “church teaching”.  He didn’t seem to notice.

  • Simon Platt

    It must be a conspiracy.

  • Simon Platt

    Hey,

    I’m here, maybe Jacob isn’t, so here goes.

    He didn’t “throw his academic weight around”, he was providing some useful context.

    “[n?]or would I be disrespectful about your etheric concepts” – nonsense.  “Etheric” is ipso facto disrespectful, as are “Esoteric”, “Soul-Lotus” and “Astral Plain”, none of which have anything to do with catholisicm.  And you have “studied and graduated at DD level”?  At an “Ivy League” university?  Good heavens!

    And that nonsense in your final paragraph!  Words fail me.  So I’ll stop.

  • Theathleticchicken

    “As for you arguments that parental strictness (forbidding you to do
    things) is a good thing, is completely irrational. Inflicting physical
    or emotional pain ( punishment) can never be justified.Education and
    experiential learning is more likely to be effective, than ‘a good
    telling off’ or inflicting punishment”

    So, just as an example, if you had entered a room to find your child at age 6 trying to open up the goldfish with a butter knife to find out where the batteries go this wouldn’t be a situation which would be deserving of ‘a good telling off’ then? Well fair enough, I guess it is – in a way – a form of experiential learning. The experience in this case being that of how to make unwilling sushi.

    If I follow the thrust of your argument you are saying that it would be better for children to be taught technical skills pertinant to living and functioning in the world rather than religion in Catholic schools. I can respect that. However after 70-80 years when you are getting close to your final job on earth – that of pushing up the daisys and marginally raising the fertility of the soil – being able to say you are right with God is a damn sight more useful than being able to fly a plane.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Just to confirm what Simon said – I was simply trying to provide context, not attempting to impress anyone with my academics. After all, if I tried to use a (not even complete) PhD in math to lend weight to my arguments about religion, then I’d have to say that Stephen Hawkings (who I admit is brilliant) and Richard Dawkins (who I admit is… nevermind) get some clout on the subject from their degrees as well.

    Also, what does the rest of what you said have to do with anything at all? Child development is, of course, wonderful, but why we would even care to pit a child’s first words against a papal encyclical I have no idea. I mean, I suppose a 2nd graders singing presentation thing is probably more charming than a symphony concert, but we’re all pretty clear on where the better music is.

    You call yourself Catholic, and yet insult every Catholic belief you mention (discounting the child’s first steps thing, I still haven’t figured out what that’s supposed to mean). I suppose you would know, but frankly I have no idea what you’re trying to get across here.

    For the Monday’s in a Thursday question, I’m gonna go with pi/2. Always a safe bet. And I don’t do formulas. I plan on studying topology; formulas are for people who are interested in math that’s actually useful.

  • Stan Harris

    Of course the church has Policies – as opposed to Doctrines! Policies can change as knowledge grows; e.g. the strict ban on Catholic burial for suicides enforced for centuries was cancelled out after Vat II Celibacy for Clergy is a policy, not a doctrine. Going to hell for eating meat on Fridays was a policy – also dumped after Vat II. Catholics forbidden – also under pain of Mortal sin-hence hellfire-from attending ANY Protestant service, including friends funerals, also was cancelled out. etc.
    As Pope JPII explained at the rehabilitation of Gallileo; the ban was “the result of interpreting Scripture according to popular cultural bias…”  Once Biologists are certain Homosexuality is genetic, and not chosen (seeing it is already known to exist in nature-so cannot honestly be condemned as “contra Natura” any more) , then the Church will stop interpreting those four or five “anti Gay” scripture quotes according to cultural bias and stop this homophobic attitude. But all in God’s good time.

  • David K

    The instant I saw the words “outer space” I knew you were not to be taken seriously.

  • Cristoferlee

    Honestly, I don’t expect a fair assessment from the liberal media. There is very little good intention in their reporting which stresses on so-called “objective analysis” to be fed to the people. Liberal, non-Catholic Protestant Churches that celebrate modernist, secularist ideas such as women clergy, homosexuality, divorces, contraception and abortion are given very favorable reporting. What ever has become of the age-old values of wholesome goodness, charity and support for life? I wonder whether these liberal reporters will still be around should their mums decide to abort them as foetuses in the name of woman’s rights.

  • Mark G.

    Yes Simon, unfortunately I teach RE in a Catholic School in Australia and I face the same ignorance from many in the faculty. I hold to the firm unshakable foundations of the Churches teachings and try to teach this within the scope of a curriculum that while wonderfully diverse and ‘inclusive’ ignores such things as the Saints and the heritage of the Church. Thanks be to God we still teach the Sacramental nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Its the only unit where finally the kids can be exposed to some solid truth in line with the teaching of the Magesterium.

  • David Devinish

    My wife’s parents bought my nine year son a carpentry set for Christmas fifty years ago. We were spending Christmas with them The parcel was left in the children’s bedroom. However his little brother was attracted by the saw and wanted to see how it worked, so he sawed the leg of a dining room chair (a precious Chippendale heirloom). My snobby parents in law went mad and wanted him to be severely punished and locked in his room and there was major melodrama all around. I took a different view that the tool set should not have been given to a child without adult supervision (as it is today). To me the Chippendale chair was just an arrangement of carbon and was no more valuable than the handle of the sweeping brush. When things had settled down and we got back home I went to the garden shed and found some wood and I taught them both how to use a saw, and the dangers of a saw and why a saw should always be kept in a locked place.Regarding the goldfish, I would teach him that using knives without the supervision of a grown-up was very dangerous, and we would come to an agreement that in future he would only use a knife with permission and if an adult was present. In my experience, children tend to keep their word, if they are given the reason why.You must be a mind reader, because I am in the (octogenarian chronological epoch ) and I have made arrangements that the fires of the crematorium be a precursor to the fires of hell. I think that Lucifer and I will get on well. I have just finished reading: John Julius Norwich book “The Popes. A History”, so I expect to be in very good company when I get there.

  • Oliver Stoops

    Well, I am taking you seriously, and I value your opinion just as I value the everybody’s opinion, especially when it differs from my own. To me it immediately presents an intellectual challenge, and I want to find out why it is different, and what I can learn from the situation. A wonderful Jesuit taught me that; he taught me how to think and to use reason. Because of his incisive logical teaching, I cannot make any sense of the Church’s doctrine, especially nonsensical doctrine like the ascension and assumption. So, I put it to you: If Jesus and Mary are in heaven (BODY AND SOUL) how do they live and why can their electrical energy not be detected? Therefore you avoiding the answer and being dismissive, says more about you than it does about me. You do not know the answer, because there is no answer other than childish superstition.

  • Mark Castilano

    Your originality and sharp wit are certainly formidable. You are of “The Cambridge Lights”, no doubt!  A scholar or renown (dream on). You were unable to supply an answer the question so you used rudeness and invective that are the hallmark of all ‘good’ Catholics.

  • Anonymous

    The Catholic Church has often changed its policies over the centuries. What you have to understand is that in Vatican-speak, “reversal” or “change” or “abolition” or “scrapping” is described as “clarification”. Because the Magisterium cannot change, women will become priests and gay relationships will be affirmed through “clarifications”, just as “Humanae Dignitatis” (1965) “clarified” “Mirari Vos” (1832) by overturning it completely, and the “Note on the force of the Doctrinal Decrees concerning the Thought and Work of Fr Antonio Rosmini Serbati” (2001) “clarified” the condemnations of “Post obitum” (1887) by abolishing them.

  • Mark Castilano

    I find it absolutely mind boggling, and I am surprised how anyone is astounded how a child uses linguistics to form sentences and how to use present and past tense without being taught how. The child may say “the cat broked the cup” The syntax is incorrect, but the context is correct. How has the child learned this complicated phenomenon. I am astounded, to miraculous proportions as to how children learn linguistics. Considering the neurochemistry and synaptic adaptation alone that are required for a child to walk and talk is a miracle to me as that is why I equate it with The Love of God. (but not the cruel Christian God). At infants school the nuns had canes stuck in their belts like swords, that they used frequently at the least infraction of the rules. Later on with the Irish Christian Brothers it was worse and they used thick leather straps to inflict punishment. Even though the psychology of learning and teaching skills were well advanced and well understood, they were completely ignored, even though the work of Abraham Maslow et al., were well understood . The fact that you a Roman Catholic admit that you cannot see the ‘Wonder of God’ in a child’s learning astounds me. You dismiss children as non-entities as did the Irish Sisters of Mercy and The Irish Christian Brothers over sixty ago. Little seems to have changed insofar that you appear to suppose dogmatic indoctrination and freedom to learn are synonymous. You seem to be devoid of “Lateral Thinking” (Edward deBono) and “Positive Thinking” (NormanVincent Peale).  Ref. Abraham Maslow, “The Effect of Varying External conditions on Learning, Retention and Reproduction” Journal of Experimental Psychology 17 (1934) p.36-47 . G. Leibniz, New Essays Concerning Human Understanding (Open Court, 1949), Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (Mouton & Co., 1957).

  • Mark Castilano

    SYNTAX CORRECTION   (because I expected that you would find fault with the previous post).I find it absolutely mind boggling, and I am surprised how anyone is cannot be astounded about how a child uses linguistics to form sentences and how to use present and past tense without being taught how. The child may say “the cat broked the cup” The syntax is incorrect, but the context is correct. How has the child learned this complicated phenomenon. I am astounded, to miraculous proportions as to how children learn linguistics. Considering the neurochemistry and synaptic adaptation alone that are required for a child to walk and talk is a miracle to me as that is why I equate it with The Love of God. (but not the cruel Christian God). At infants school the nuns had canes stuck in their belts like swords, that they used frequently at the least infraction of the rules. Later on with the Irish Christian Brothers it was worse and they used thick leather straps to inflict punishment. Even though the psychology of learning and teaching skills were well advanced and well understood, they were completely ignored, even though the work of Abraham Maslow et al., were well understood . The fact that you a Roman Catholic admit that you cannot see the ‘Wonder of God’ in a child’s learning astounds me. You dismiss children as non-entities as did the Irish Sisters of Mercy and The Irish Christian Brothers over sixty ago. Little seems to have changed insofar that you appear to suppose dogmatic indoctrination and freedom to learn are synonymous. You seem to be devoid of “Lateral Thinking” (Edward deBono) and “Positive Thinking” (Norman Vincent Peale).  Ref. Abraham Maslow, “The Effect of Varying External conditions on Learning, Retention and Reproduction” Journal of Experimental Psychology 17 (1934) p.36-47 . G. Leibniz, New Essays Concerning Human Understanding (Open Court, 1949), Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (Mouton & Co., 1957).

  • Jacob Suggs

    Whoa man. I never said that I “cannot see the ‘Wonder of God’ in a child’s learning.” I said I have no idea why you are bringing it up. I still don’t. I certainly don’t dismiss children as non-entities. What the crap are you actually reading?

    I completely and totally disagree that any problems which may or may not have existed with the teaching methods used by all teachers in the past – not just Catholic ones – has anything to do with has anything at all to do with anything we have previously discussed. Particularly whether Catholicism is on par with leprechauns.

    Are you actually responding to what you read, or are you just saying random stuff about what you would like to assume you’ve read?

  • Issac Lazarus

    Mr Stoops, why do you bother? There is a old adage roughly translated from Yiddish that says: “Do not try to teach a pig to sing, because it does not work, and it annoys the pig” That is the situation that you are in. In July 1984 The Bishop of Durham England; David Jenkins an eminent theologian stated that the resurrection was “just a conjuring trick with bones”. The context of the ascension is impossible, and could not happen, and it never did happen.The church now accepts that the Jewish race had no part to play in the crucifixion of Christ and in fact it never happened. The content of The Nicene Creed (Latin: Symbolum Nicaenum) was concocted by Constantine and the rest of the Catholic doctrine is “Mishegoss”(crazy or senseless activity, without any purpose).Jesus was an important prophet who travelled to India with his mother after his Bar Mitzvah. He returned to Israel as a Rabbi and taught in the temple. He was never crucified or as the David Jenkins said [the whole debacle was a hoax]. The Catholic Church is miffed because it no longer has any power or any method of keeping the lid on the truth. Modern communication prevents their censorship, and few Catholics give a hoot about excommunication, or what the Pope teaches

  • Mark Castilano

    Crap is a synonym for excrement. You excel yourself in your sophistication. It little behoves you to resort to such crude jargon in the public domain. I do not communicate with the unsavoury or with such vulgar repartee, and I expect better from a PhD student.

  • Jacob Suggs

    Ah ha! a response to something I actually said. And probably a valid one at that. Now, perhaps a response to the substance of something I actually said? We are getting there though.