Earlier this week Eutychus posted something that one of his RCIA instructor said.
One instructor said that the Catholic Church can be a very comfortable place for unthinking people, people who are happy to be told, ‘This is Right’ and ‘This is wrong’ and that’s that. The instructor said that the church can also be a very turbulent place for people who think.
This kind of crap really angers me. That someone who seems to have such a low opinion of the intellectual tradition of the Church should be allowed within a 1,000 feet of people learning about the Catholic faith is just plain wrong. I would like to look this guy up in a room with the writings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Edith Stein for a start. When I bought a domain for this website I wanted Splendor of Truth in honor of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
THE SPLENDOUR OF TRUTH shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:6).
There is only one good reason to become a Catholic, because it is true. In another of the Pope’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio, he says:
“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth�in a word, to know himself�so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
Wow that really sounds anti-intellectual and that the Church discourages thinking; yeah right. Too often the Church is said to be opposed to thinking because it does not accept the thinking of those who support abortion, contraception or same-sex unions. That you are not thinking unless you come up with a new thought. That we should dump scripture and tradition in favor of the teachings of an enlightened society. Instead of standing on the shoulders of giants, they want us to scrap the giants.
One of the things that attracted me to the Catholic Church was its intellectual treasure. I had previously thought that science and religion were opposed to each other and yet I found that through much of the Church’s history that it was the monks who were the scientists. That the monastery was not placed in the confines of a city, but that the cities built themselves around the monastery because they were the centers of learning. Many of the Church’s teachings did not sit well with my previous atheistic beliefs. Yet when I studied further I found that they were not mere arbitrary rules, but instead were based on deep intellectual reflections arising from scripture and tradition.
This instructor saying “‘This is Right’ and ‘This is wrong’ and that’s that.” is just so far off the mark. We can come to understand why something is right and something is wrong. It does not end in a kind of parental “Because I told you.” Our intellectual journey can start with the guide posts that God has given us through his Church. We do not have to reinvent the road to complete our journey.
I’ve been hearing this self-gratulatory excuse for years, and I don’t buy it. People who confidently name themselves “people who think” – and thus fall foul of Church teaching – don’t in my observation do much independent thinking at all. It’s just that they’re “happy to be told, ‘This is right’ and ‘That is wrong’, and that’s that” by the editorial page of the New York Times, rather than by the Magisterium. Thinking is really a much more unusual activity than is generally supposed. Most of what goes by that name is merely emotional reaction to events, and adopting opinions from the television news.
I totally agree. I remember when a guy at my school wrote an editorial saying most people of faith were not thinking for themselves, because they were automatons. Urrgh! Are people like this serious? These anti-authoritarians, these anti-dogmatists, have become authorities, spewing out their own fundamentalism, their own dogma. Unfortunatly, they make claims that are blindly conceived. Don’t they realize believing in God is an act of the will? Isn’t believing in Jesus and his divinity a free choice? Am I thinking for myself when I realize that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and is inspired by the Holy Spirit to this day? When I believe that a natural law exists? That the Church’s claims are sound? My prayer must be for true converion to the splendor of truth found in the Catholic Church.
This used to make me angry. Now that I understand more of what the Church asks of me . . . well let’s just say that I’ll take that as a compliment. I don’t have to bend over backwards or attempt any such mental calisthenics trying to excuse or justify intrinsically immoral behavior.
Need I say that I believe the instructor at thsi RCIA was stating something that seems true of many Catholics?
Take an issue like women’s ordination. The Holy Father won’t even allow theologians to discuss the matter. Yet, there are so many questions left unanswered by Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Responsum Ad Dubium and Inter Insigniores.
For example, even if the Responsum is correct in saying that the ordinary universal magisterium holds the doctrine definitively as part of the deposit of faith, what authority does ordinary magisterium HAVE vis-a-vis extra-ordinary magisterium?
These documents claim there were no women Apostles at a time when Biblical scholars and historians are comming to consensus that the Junia of Romans 16:7 was a woman, and was considered a woman by every commentor prior to the twelfth century – including Saints Jerome and Chrysostam, as well Origen and earlier writers!
There is emerging evidence of women priests during the first four centuries, but nobody is even permitted to discuss it or perform a peer review on the studies without fear of losing rights to teach in a Catholic institution.
It is not my point to debate women’s ordination here. Rather, I am trying to point out that the debate that should be able to occur in Catholic universities and seminaries is not even permitted! If that debate were permitted, conservatives might actually wind up “winning the debate” by answering the hard questions. But the Vatican does not even allow the question, much less the answer!
The Church does have a very rich intellectual tradition in people like Augustine, Aquinas and others you mention. These folks were given some latitude to hash out issues until a firm solution was defined. Augustine and Jerome disagreed on a number of issues – even the canon of Scripture! Aquinas and Bonaventure disagreed on a number of issues, and both are great saints and doctors of the Church!
Whether you agree with “liberals” or not, part of what we are saying is that the greatness of Catholic intellectual tradition in the past was that we never feared questioned – we encouraged them. It was Catholicism at its worst when we departed form this freedom of inquiry (i.e. – the inquisitions).
We fear that the Church is turning back to a day when the great tradition of inquiry and debate was squashed instead of encouraged and permitted to run its course to the development of doctrine.
Right. And we feel that the principal danger of modernism is that it wants to make the normal experience of Catholicism into a process of designing a comfortable Sunday-morning routine and a moral game plan that fits into your lifestyle. There really are points which are settled, finished, set in stone. There not only will not be women priests, there cannot be: if the Holy Father and all the bishops in the world simultaneously laid hands on a woman and said the word of rite of ordination, she would still not be a priest, because a priest is a man, not a woman. That’s just the way it is. Being Catholic absolutely requires a willing submission to the teaching authority of the Church, and the Church has spoken on the question of female priests. Nobody has to agree with that, but then nobody has to be a Catholic, either.
I am so glad that you are showing your obedience by not discussing this topic.
Hey why don’t we also discuss if Jesus was God or if there is a Trinity. Why not spend all of our time talking about settled items.
Thanks for this discussion, Jeff. I’ve read about all of these forbidden topics, so your point that we are all clearly free to be intellectual is well made. It’s difficult to compare the Methodist Church to the Catholic Church, but over the last half year I have certainly felt intellectually challenged by readings in the Catholic Faith. The arguments made for Catholic belief are made to the mind, while the Methodists seem more focused on the heart… for what it’s worth. 🙂
Oh, puh-leeze: the debate has gone on for thirty years. Tons of ink have been spilled, conferences held, theses debated — where have you been? Theologians have debated this in the halls of academia, and I’ve read and heard all this stuff, beginning when I was a freshman in college in 1980. To claim that there has not been ample discussion and free debate on the topic of women’s ordination is patently false. What is true, and what you should be arguing, is that the promoters of women’s ordination have simply not done their homework, and have not made their historical case sufficiently, ala Vincent of Lerins. Hence, the call for official silence on the topic: don’t debate unless you know what you’re talking about. Please note that the Church hasn’t called for a ban on all studies of this topic, or for further research on this issue. Read Chinnici on this issue — historically, it’s pretty definitive.
The other aspect you fail to address is that those who question the Magisterium, and more to the point, fail to convince that Magisterium to come over to their way of thinking, have already decided that the Magisterium is not being guided by the Holy Spirit, i.e., that the Magisterium is teaching error. One either believes that the Holy Spirit keeps the Church from error — and as the Magisterium is the teaching authority of that Church, that’s the ministry of ecclesial infallibility — or one does not believe that the Holy Spirit keeps the Church from error. The first believing one is called a Catholic; the second is called a Protestant.
debate all you want BUT IF YOU CALL YOURSELF A TEACHER OF THE FAITH, TEACH AT ANY LEVEL IN ANY CATHOLIC ORGANIZATION —- TEACH THE TRUE FAITH AND NOT THE CRAP THAT IS BEING SPEWED!!!
Father Stanley – your post was perfect – thank you for your leadership!
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an infallible, because ex cathedra, teaching.
Maybe it would help if some of these errant RCIAinstructors would read the Catechism.
When I taught the “moral theology” part of RCIA in our parish I started by saying that the Catholic Church has a core of moral teachings that it’s followers are required to believe without question…NOT! There is a core of moral beliefs, but the Catechism says clearly that the individual must follow his or her conscience. Of course, you also have a lifelong duty to form your conscience, which includes reading Scripture and other sources (like the CCC and encyclicals), prayer, and THINKING.
I have read that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not infallible because the teaching already “has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church” thus it was not even open to debate when the statement was made. Everything that the Pope said in that statement, if it had not already been a teaching of the Church would have made it dogma. It would have been an ex-cathedra statement because it qualifies on all grounds.
“Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church�s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church�s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church�s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).
If this doctrine were to change, I would be forced to leave the Church on grounds that the gates of hell had prevailed, but I confidently go on knowing that the promises of the Church are true. It isn’t open to debate because it is the truth.
OK, to clarify a little language. It is certainly open to debate as all things are, but the position of the Church isn’t changing.
Where are the references to Junia or Rom 16:7 in either Inter Insigniores or the CDF’s commentary on Inter Insigniores? Or in OS?
You know as well as I do that this is a critical issue. If Junia was a woman, and she was also an Apostle (like Paul and Barnabas – who had authority to found churches, direct bishops and presbyters, etc…), this is critical.
Has it been debated for 30 years. Absolutely. And despite the Pope’s efforts, it continues to be debated, while the curia seeks more and more canonical methods to shut down the debate.
But 30 years is nothing for a debate of this import and you know it.
It took centuries to develop the doctrine of the Trinity!
Heck, even the canon of Scripture was not infallibly defined until Trent!
And even papal infallibility was not developed to its current understanding until Vatican I!
I’m not saying these truths were not true before they were defined. They were. However, they were not understood with the certainty or clarity that occurs once an infallible definition is reached – and such a definition is reached through a lengthy process of open debate.
Being a good Catholic does not mean that you shut off your brain, stop asking questions, and blindly obey that which violates your conscinence, or blindly obey that which is unreasonable or irrational just because the current Pontiff says so – especially when he isn’t making a formal ex cathedra definition with extra-ordinary authority.
I am not denying infallibility. I am denying that we owe blind obedience to non-infallible teachings that don’t yet make sense.
“I am not denying infallibility. I am denying that we owe blind obedience to non-infallible teachings that don’t yet make sense.”
AHA, but make sense to whom?? Do they have to make sense to you? Who made you more important than everyone else, including 2000 years of church teaching and all the councils?
Just because I’m a thinking person doesn’t mean that I’m always right. That’s why we have a church that God Himself promised to keep us in the right direction.
Look, jcecil, it’s OVER. This is an ex-parrot. (Pace Monty Python.) Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It is NOT GOING TO CHANGE. Go on gassing about it all you like, but if you think it’s going to have any effect on the Church’s teaching, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. This discussion is starting to remind me of an old New Yorker cartoon which pictures the never-say-die suitor, in an attitude of supplication to the girl of his heart, who is taking a walk with her husband, two young children, and a baby carriage. She tells him in exasperation, “HAROLD! I said NO and I meant NO!” Take this as final: “JCECIL! They said NO and they meant NO!”
There were 12 Apostles, all of them men. This Junia sounds like another modernist invention, much like the Mary Magdalene of the Jesus Seminar.
Seems like jcecil is using a wilted club…
jcecil3’s no longer giving us blessings with his peace?
One thing you have failed to mention about the ordination of women: if a priest were simply a sum of duties and responsibilities, the prohibition against women would be considerably shakier. However, a priest is first and foremost an ~icon~ of Christ himself. Through the human male standing at the alter, Christ himself speaks to us during the consecration, turning a chalice of wine into His blood and a piece of bread into His flesh. The iconographic aspect of the priesthood is why the Vatican states that individuals known to be disordered by homosexual tendendies should not be ordained to the priesthood. This is also why the earliest church councils forbade men who had voluntarily sterilized themselves to be ordained. The ideal is to ordain a person who will most closely represent Christ himself in mind, body, and spirit.
I am wondering. If it were determined that women ought to be admitted to the priesthood, in effect, that substance did not matter with regard to the sacraments, could we then use tortilla chips for communion?
Now think about it. Of course they would have to be baked tortilla chips, not fried, because that would just be silly. But a nice little round baked tortilla chip would be JUST AS GOOD as a piece of wheat bread wouldn’t it? Who’s to say that wheat bread is BETTER than a tortilla?
Now, we all know that being suitable for consecration does not make the wheat bread better than the tortilla chip, just as we know that being suitable for the priesthood does not make men better than women.
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People are so confused on all this.
The Catholic church has always had a fine regard for intellectual inquiry. In fact, the first universities were founded under the aegis of the Church. The classical European philosophy which even pagans study was written by the likes of people like St. Thomas Aquinas, who was a thinker par extraordinaire. There is nothing wrong with thinking according to the church, now or then.
However, disputing already settled questions on the basis of popularity, desire or novelty is not thinking, I caution you.
Nor is speculative theology or philosophy suitable material for encoding into basic education programs for non-philosophers and non-theologians.
The Catholic Church makes well-known and completely founded Truth Claims, based on Scripture and Revelation. Affirming and exploring those truths can be a thinking enterprise of the highest order. Conversely, defying those truths for the sake of defying them is a waste of time.
It’s a bit like working for years to prove you don’t exist……a fool’s errand.