Friday, May 28, 2010

Apologia Pro Mi Vita

I've been challenged that I am not in fact actually a Christian at all and that I merely blog on here for entertainment and to provoke controversy. For someone who has spent over 500 posts for 2 years or more, praying, weeping, searching, and longing for the truth, I'm not even going to honor such an utterly baseless and offensive charge. It is much easier to simply dismiss people, than deal with them as actual human beings.

Since I have been provoked, I will give a response.

Everyone keeps asking me about encountering Jesus. I don't think you can encounter Jesus. The article of the creed seems clear to me "he ascended into Heaven". The way Paul taught people about Jesus was not by administering the sacraments: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Cor 1:17 KJV).

I made the argument in another post that I think the catholic faith holds Tradition to be a deposit, not an ever-evolving system of new doctrines, or merely 'whatever the magisterium says at this hour' (Pace Cardinal Manning). The episcopate is a part of Tradition, Papal Primacy is an innovation. At least that's the "unoriginal" argument I put forth previously. When I converted to Roman Catholicism last year, I did so because I intellectually believed it was the only Christian worldview I could uphold. I sought for months - begging people to help me - find a way out. Intellectually, I finally found one, and I faced the question of: at a personal soul level, do I enjoy being Roman Catholic? or would I not prefer to be Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed?

My heart was not strangely warmed by the thought of nearly never receiving communion, being forced to confess to a priest even when my conscience didn't particularly trouble me (on pain of damnation), denying the hope and joy giving gospel I had been raised with, and having my friends and family desert me. (apparently it was all a scheme of eventual self-glorification...)

As I re-examined the Word of God in Scripture, the 3 'words' I received from God on pilgrimage, and my own experience, I found that I was free. If I am certain about one doctrine, it is Total Depravity. It is that absolutely nothing within me is worthy of condign merit, that I have no pure intentions, and that I can only be saved by looking to Christ Alone (with a capital A). If salvation is about anything I contribute, I am utterly hopeless. What do we have that we have not received? asks the apostle (1 Cor 4:7). The more I try to focus on my own improvement, the worse I do. The more I accept my total inability, and rest on the promises of Christ, and grasp his righteousness by faith, the more I am at peace. I have rarely been more peaceful, than in the last few days.

I took Communion at an Anglo-Catholic church today, and it was wonderful. I had confessed to God a hundred times my sin, I was not rid of it, but I received him in faith. In Lutheran theology the Eucharist forgives sin, in Roman Catholic theology it is not for the sinful, but the absolved, Jesus comes not to sinners, but to the righteous, those who have jumped through the hoops, followed the rules, towed the party line. Such are allegedly God's children. That I find repugnant. We do not bring anything to God but sin and suffering, and he accepts it and pours out grace upon us. The Eucharist is a means of grace for the believer, even if he is 'unworthy'. God after all "justified the UNGODLY".

There. There's my personal experience. I have no hatred for actual Apostolic and Patristic Tradition, for the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, for the Church and the Law (when applied properly with the gospel).

So to the question: Why is a priest/human/the Church necessary? To lead us to Christ. To say here is the Lord, here is his grace, it is free, it is yours, take it. Catholics claim they have the same view. Actually, what I've experienced, is the opposite. You receive the 'New' Law: do this and live, when you have done your part, God will do his. Clergy should be a special mediation of grace, not the sole mediation of grace. The Church is not the Holy Spirit, and Peter is not the Church.

At the end of the day, it is my soul. Perhaps God will look on me on the day of Judgment and say "you did not submit to the Roman Pontiff, enter into my wrath!" But as Luther says, we have the exterior witness, and the interior witness. By the exterior witness I have shown the the Roman claims to infallibility are seriously dubious, as is the exegesis and Tradition it is built on. The interior witness, is the freedom and grace of the gospel that I feel, the hope about the future, the certainty with which I know Christ will save me.

...but of course, everyone who throws their life away in a secret dishonest pursuit of God for their own glorification, attention, and desire for controversy says such things, why could I ever be trusted...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Problems: Tradition and Catholicism

A man who has been far too kind to a fool like me, sent me an article quoting the great theologian and priest Luigi Giussani, who advocates that the way we encounter Christ nowadays, is through the Catholic Church of today, it is the way we truly, really, and objectively encounter the witness to Christ.

My problem with the argument, is that the Scriptures, Fathers, and history also attest to Christ, and in general, anytime I want to know about someone lived on earth long ago, I go to the most contemporary sources. Luckily for me, there exist the witness to Christ and God's actions in history, preserved by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches throughout time and space in Scripture and the patristic tradition.

The Council of Trent argues that no interpretation of Scripture should be made without the consensus of the fathers or the appeal to Tradition. Indeed it said that the deposit of faith was given in written scripture and unwritten traditions and passed onto us. ...And yet after that controversial meeting, as Ultramontanism strengthened and the first Vatican council was about to be called, there was a shift in the Catholic Tradition.

The former Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and convert alongside Cardinal Newman, Henry Manning:

"But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church?...I may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. . . . The only Divine evidence to us of what was primitive is the witness and voice of the Church at this hour" - Henry Cardinal Manning "The temporal mission of the Holy Ghost"

Manning also writes: "the annunciation of the faith by the living Church of this hour is the maximum evidence, both natural and supernatural, as to the fact and contents of the original revelation. I know what are revealed there not by retrospect, but by listening" - 214

read for yourself :

It's very disturbing.

He says that before facts and history existed the faith existed and was taught. Thus because the Catholic Church now teaches Papal Infallibility, history, antiquity, the fathers, do not matter, because they are of necessity not true if they contradict the first truth, which is Papal Infallibility.

So there is no point in historically verifying it with Scripture or Tradition, it just is. In fact, to investigate is to negate faith.

... Such Traditionalism is not common after Vatican II which advocated EXACTLY what Manning is saying, but the fact is, even in the post-conciliar 'lights' you find the same problem:

"In every age the consensus of the faithful, still more the agreement of those who are commissioned to teach them, has been regarded as a guarantee of truth: not because of some mystique of universal suffrage, but because of the Gospel principle that unanimity and fellowship in Christian matters requires, and also indicates, the intervention of the Holy Spirit. From the time when the patristic argument first began to be used in dogmatic controversies — it first appeared in the second century and gained general currency in the fourth — theologians have tried to establish agreement among qualified witnesses of the faith, and have tried to prove from this agreement that such was in fact the Church’s belief...Unanimous patristic consent as a reliable locus theologicus is classical in Catholic theology; it has often been declared such by the magisterium and its value in scriptural interpretation has been especially stressed. Application of the principle is difficult, at least at a certain level. In regard to individual texts of Scripture total patristic consensus is rare. In fact, a complete consensus is unnecessary: quite often, that which is appealed to as sufficient for dogmatic points does not go beyond what is encountered in the interpretation of many texts. But it does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16-18. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical. This instance, selected from a number of similar ones, shows first that the Fathers cannot be isolated from the Church and its life. They are great, but the Church surpasses them in age, as also by the breadth and richness of its experience. It is the Church, not the Fathers, the consensus of the Church in submission to its Saviour which is the sufficient rule of our Christianity." - Yves Congar O.P. "Tradition and Traditions"

This is the issue. Not that Rome claims Scripture and Tradition as authoritative, but that rather, there is a 'secret tradition' that only the Magesterium knows, by which they interpret Scripture. So even though the majority of fathers deny Mt 16:18 being about Peter personally, or some successor of his, and even though no doctrine exists of Papal Primacy in Church Tradition, the fact that the Magesterium decided in 1870 that it is infallibly true, means that Tradition, the Fathers, and History must adjust accordingly.

This to me is a contradiction within the Catholic Tradition, which claims to be dogmatically immaculate. The entire argument of St. Irenaeus and the patristic proponents of Apostolic Succession was the exact opposite. That unlike the Gnostics, the churches claiming to be Catholic actually had a public Tradition which was clear as day for all to see. The idea that dogma 'develops' is a theory of Cardinal Newman's which has NEVER been accepted as Catholic Dogma. If dogma does develop then this implies progressive revelation, which is in contradiction to both the Catholic Catechism, and the orthodox Christian understanding of the Incarnation of Christ.

This is my problem, Rome has an un-catholic understanding of Catholicism, and has contradicted itself. It reminds me of the argument Stephen Colbert had where he said: The U.S does not torture. But it does waterboard. But waterboarding has been considered torture. But because the U.S waterboards, waterboarding isn't torture. It's the same with Papal Primacy.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar does a great job proving Papal Primacy from Scripture and Reason, but this is in contradiction to the Catholic method. Interestingly enough, only by using the principle of Sola Scriptura, is the doctrine of Papal Primacy and Infallibility plausible... but once one accepts this principle, one has ceased to be Catholic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Random Augustine

"[Referring to a Psalm]...For by "spontaneous rain" nothing else is meant than grace, not rendered to merit, but given freely, whence also it is called grace; for He gave it, not because we were worthy, but because He willed. And knowing this, we shall not trust in ourselves; and this is to be made "weak." But He Himself makes us perfect, who says also to the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Man, then, was to be persuaded how much God loved us, and what manner of men we were whom He loved; the former, lest we should despair; the latter, lest we should be proud. And this most necessary topic the apostle thus explains: "But God commends," he says, "His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Romans 5:8-10— Donavit Also in another place: "What," he says, "shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how has He not with Him also freely given us all things?" Now that which is declared to us as already done, was shown also to the ancient righteous as about to be done; that through the same faith they themselves also might be humbled, and so made weak; and might be made weak, and so perfected." - St. Augustine, On the Trinity, Book IV, ch. 1

Nothing particularly polemical here, just a quote I enjoyed.

Rebuilding From the Ground Up (1) - The Irrationality of the Theology of the Cross

What is the basis of philosophical justification? Is it reason? Is it practicality? Is it authority?

This is the first problem when trying to rebuild the faith. Some will say Reason is our starting point - heck, I used to say that.

But let's think about that idea in a historical-genealogical way. The ancient Greeks stated that reason was the mark of the gods in man, and that if we shared anything it was reason. Aquinas and other scholastics say that reason is the image of God in man, and that man is essentially a rational animal. But what if we disagree? Is there a reason to attribute reason a special place? or is this just arbitrary.

Using reason we can argue for the necessary being, God. But then what. Can we say that we really understand God? Wouldn't we be saying that we - finite beings - could comprehend an infinite being? (and thus make him finite).

The truth of the matter - I think - is that while we can say 'some necessary being' was required to start this whole thing, you can't say much more than that.

To say that a being would need to give us revelation is irrational. The deists quite easily argued that for God to love or be involved with humanity is not logical, it is gracious, love has no reason, and yet "love alone is credible" (Hans Urs Von Balthasar).

Thomas Aquinas in good patristic tradition said that the only thing we could actually say about God was - what Pelikan called 'the metaphysics of Exodus' - that God is who he is (Ex. 3:14). God is, and so we are. So then the smartest question would then be to ask: what does God say about humanity, reason, revelation, etc. And how can we judge between revelations?

Why should I trust the Bible and not the Qu'ran? In the end, really, there is no argument for why the Christian revelation really is true, except the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This is where I find Rome to be no better than Wittenberg. The Protestant says "God's revelation is true because God said so, and there is no authority higher than God", the other says "God's revelation is true because we say so, and there is no authority higher than us (the Church)".

So what is the Christian supposed to do. By the common grace of reason, he knows some kind of Being must exist. Then we have the Revelation to Israel in the Old Testament, and from that community Jesus of Nazareth, and the apostles of the church. The problem is that reason is uncapable of giving me an answer to tons of issues. Why did God have to become a man? Ockham argued that God could've become a Donkey and saved us. How can we say our finite human reason is capable of comprehending an infinite being. Likewise, even if we just accept the Old Testament, God does some crazily irrational things. He orders Moses to kill his son against the natural law (unreasonable) as old Soren reminds us (Fear and Trembling), and he orders the slaughter of every man, woman, and child of foreign tribes purely by his will, he says he "will have compassion on whom he will have compassion", and when Moses asked to see God's glory, God showed him his backside (Luther implies Butt). None of these are rational things.

I can explain after the fact that Jesus had to be a God-man, as Anselm did, and that makes sense, how God saved us seems rational. Why he saved us, is entirely another matter.

So the Christian is left with reason which has already been shown an inadequate tool at arriving at an understanding of this irrational God. Hans Urs Von Balthasar (I believe paraphrasing Karl Barth) said that God's revelation is like an unfinished symphony of Mozart's. There is no way to 'reason out' an ending to it, it is purely gracious and benevolent, it has no reason to exist, but it does, and yet people's hearts are moved by it.

The grace of God is like music, it is a gift, and gifts are not rational, or rather, they are not for our fallen minds. Scripture and Augustine teach us that humanity is fallen and that their minds have been corrupted by sin. "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" asks Tertullian (with an implied answer of Nothing). And the Scriptures warn against vain philosophy, and Paul writes that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man (1 Cor 1:25).

Thus no such analogia entis, Analogy of Being, is possible for the Christian. Catholic Thomism proposed such an understanding, but really -as Barth claims- only an Analogy of Faith is possible, because if God is the ultimate truth of the universe, and he has given us his eternal word, and the deposit of faith once and for all (Jude 3), and reason is uncapable of 'explaining' him, then we can only use the faith. The Theology of the Cross is foolishness to the world of rationalism, which makes it's own Theology of Glory. But God is known by the Theology of the Cross, he gives life and takes life, his gratuitous and arbitrary grace and blessings flow where they will, and he descends to a stable to be born, dies on a cross between two criminals, and raises from the dead. There is nothing in Plato or Aristotle that will tell you that is logical, it is a theology of foolishness, a theology of the cross, not a theology of glory.

So for the Christian, we have our only epistemological foundation being God and what he reveals and enlightens via the Holy Spirit, who is "the light which enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9).

As to which books fall within the Canon, which councils are correct, and which fathers orthodox, I'll give you all of them. The next post will be on Authority for the Christian.

I will be defending the Book of Concord's formulation that doctrine must be:

"supported by firm testimonies of Scripture, and to be approved by the ancient and accepted symbols... [which] ... have... [been] ... constantly judged to be the only and perpetual consensus of the truly believing Church, which was formerly defended against manifold heresies and errors, and is now repeated."

And defend Scripture first, read within the ancient creeds, and in accordance with the first councils, and with the insights of the Fathers, Tradition, and a very careful and limitted use of reason.

The Next Necessary Step

So now that I've at least shown that there is good reason to doubt the catholicity and historicity of Catholic claims, I have of course to show why whatever confession I eventually adopt (Probably Lutheran, but possibly Reformed) is superior to my previous one.

I still have to figure out:
-Apostolic Succession
-Protestant Canon
-Christology (Lutheran and Reformed both have issues with either their understanding of the atonement or the Eucharist)
-Proper status of Tradition

And most importantly, I have to find a historical defense of the prime existential reason I'm switching, that crazy doctrine we call: Justification.

So far I think I can at least give sufficient defense of it with Augustine, Hippolytus, Prosper, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, and some others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

This Article Just Might Have Destroyed My Faith in Catholicism

I just don`t even know what to say... It is very difficult to argue against... Wow.

Well, I know what I`ll be thinking about for my day at work tomorrow.

Another Personal Rant: Melanchthon, Confession, and My Damnation

I read these things that Melanchthon said today and I could relate:

"The condition of Church affairs causes me anxiety which nothing can mitigate. Not a single day goes by on which I do not wish that my life was at an end."

"All the waters of the Elbe would not yield me tears sufficient to weep for the miseries caused by the Reformation."

He was not fully a Donatist, he cared about the unity of the Church (obviously not enough, but still). While others said that the Papacy was the Anti-Christ, Melanchthon said he would happily submit to it, if it only taught the doctrine of sola fide / the gospel as he understood it.

I also was re-reading the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. There were a few spots where I winced. This one especially to me seemed to be the entire Reformation summed up:

"when individuals voluntarily separate themselves from God, it is not enough to return to observing the commandments, for they must receive pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation"

This made me sad. It is this doctrine of Catholicism and Trent more than anything that frustrates me personally (though I understand the Church's defense of the doctrine, and it seems logical and scriptural and patristic enough for me). It is the idea that a person can cry out to God for salvation and not be received by him without the Church. The idea that God cannot save individuals, or rather that these individuals can have no assurance whatsoever of the efficacy of God's grace. Even the medievals said that to those who do what they can, God will not withhold his grace.

But let's make this really practical. Confession wasn't offered tonight (my only time off) and I was planning on going. As I've said before I COULD get up at 5 AM and go to confession at the scary Traditionalist parish. I theoretically could, just like theoretically I could get on a plane to Rome and find a priest there to give me reconciliation. But the reality is that it is not feasible, and that while I intend on confessing, it is not a practical possibility. For the last three weeks I have studied the bible and prayed and cried in repentance. But none of that matters. I am outside of God's grace. There is no assurance I can have. If my plane begins to crash on Thursday I can beg God to forgive me, but I can't know according to Rome.

None of this of course proves it isn't true, none of this removes Rome's claim to authority, etc. I am guilty, I freely admit it.

But there's just something that seems so wrong about it. So utterly unChristian. There is a complete revolting at this idea in my heart. It's the same thing Luther said in the 95 theses. Why doesn't the Pope empty purgatory? Why doesn't the church 'loose' the requirements for penance and declare the whole world saved, or at the very least, repentant Catholics who haven't received the sacrament yet.

This is the reason why I hate being Catholic. If this is Christ, bound in all the canon laws of the church, trapped by all the legal requirements. In the Lutheran confessions, the Eucharist makes the unworthy worthy, it remits sin, because it is Christ, and he loves and died for sinners. In the Roman Catholic confession, Christ is only offered to those who are worthy, those who have jumped through the sacramental hoops, it is a weapon to withhold from the politicians who disagree with the Church, or the remarried. It is a sacrifice where WE offer something to God, rather than receive something from him. It is a work first and foremost, and a blessing only after.

So while Catholicism might not teach that we are justified by the works of the Old Law, I hate that it teaches we are justified by the works of the New Law, or at least a work of the new law (confession). The whole purpose of confession is supposed to be that we are unworthy of God's grace, that Christ as highpriest has absolved us, not that if we do something, then God will forgive us.

I'm sorry this is a terrible rant.

I really like what Melanchthon wrote before he died:

"Thou shalt be delivered from sins, and be freed from the acrimony and fury of theologians" and "Thou shalt go to the light, see God, look upon his Son, learn those wonderful mysteries which thou hast not been able to understand in this life."

Lord have mercy on this confused Catholic trying not to be swept away on every wind of doctrine, but also to abide in your word.

Donatism and the Catholic Luther

"... if unfortunately there are such things in Rome as might be improved, there neither is, nor can be any reason that one should tear oneself away from the Church in schism. Rather, the worse things become, the more a man should help and cling to her, for by schism and contempt nothing can be mended. We must not desert God on account of the devil; or abandon the children of God who are still in the Roman communion, because of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, there is no evil that should destroy charity or break the bond of union. For charity can do all things, and to unity nothing is difficult." - Martin Luther (Feb. 1519) [cited from Dave Armstrong's blog]

There's an interesting article by ELCA Lutheran David Yeago, citing this case from Luther, as an example of why Donatism - while essentially being a part of Reformed and other Protestant confessions - was never Lutheran (according to him, obviously the claim is debatable).

While I still find Luther's doctrine of sin compelling and his theology of the cross, I don't think it is perfect. For instance, you can't square the Reformation teaching with that of the non-Pauline New Testament. For instance, just look at the book of Matthew: 6:15 makes salvation conditioned on a person's forgiveness of others, 7:21-23 says not all who call on Christ as Lord will be saved, and of course the famous 25:31-46 makes salvation conditioned on works or 'evangelical obedience'.

While they try to get around it by saying that they are not against works, in my opinion it still doesn't get around the salvic nature or assurance of salvation which Jesus clearly attributes to them. But no confession is perfect, there exists no explicit biblical prooftexts for the sacrifice of the mass, apostolic succession, or other key Catholic doctrines.

When it comes to the doctrine of the Church (Ecclesiology), I think Catholicism has nailed it dead on. Early Luther emphasizes the role of the keys of the kingdom and the existential assurance and peace people should have from having the church loose their sin by the administration of the sacraments. Hans Urs Von Balthasar makes the case that every wilfull breaking of communion is a case of Donatism, and that there is no reason ever to break the unity of charity, as God has declared that love "bears all things" (1 Cor 13), and that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church, which is visible.

I feel like alot of what Luther wanted reformed has been changed. The Liturgies are in vernacular, the bible is read (to the point that I've heard Catholics complain about having to stand for our long readings), and the shift in other doctrines and emphasis have made the doctrine of justification by faith and works declared by Trent to be either turned Protestant in practice, or at least interpretted in the most gracious way possible.

Notice what I'm not saying. I'm not saying the word is preached. I'm not saying Trent is gone. I'm not saying I find freedom and hope in the synergistic gospel. I'm just saying I know this:
1. It is always wrong to break the unity of the church
2. I as an individual have no right to arrogate my own interpretation over and against the Augustinian tradition which has been in force for over a thousand years.
3. I as an individual nonetheless am obliged by Christ to "abide in his word" if I want to be his disciple, and thus can only preach what I find there, which may sound similar though not identical to the doctrine of Faith Alone, or at least, to emphasize above everything else, that personal conversion to Christ and trust in him alone for salvation is the essential doctrine of Christianity.
4. I cannot accept the other innovations of the Reformation (priesthood of all believers, denial of apostolic succession of bishops, denial of reverance for the saints, denial of auriculur confession).

I find in Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Schillebeeckx, and Yves Congar, (and I'm told Henri De Lubac is similar) a form of Roman Catholicism that is 'evangelical, catholic, and orthodox'. The biggest problem is, outside of Balthasar, finding Catholics that are 'evangelical', just as the problem I found in the Anglican church was finding people who were 'catholic' and/or 'orthodox'.

I guess I must say that I despise indulgences (thank God for our episcopal chair being empty at the moment, so we don't have to put up with any more of those), I no longer feel obliged to pray to the saints, and I dislike the restrictions on communion. But that is a longshot from saying I like Calvinism, or even Lutheranism as a whole. I do like early Luther when he's being Catholic, and I like that they have such a high view of unity. I think what he does best - as does Protestantism - is remind Catholicism of that truth they never like to admit, that truth which they sometimes deny, that God is not bound to the sacraments, that salvation is "of the Lord" as Jonah teaches, and that we should look to Christ for hope, not to ourselves (which the sacramental system sometimes encourages).

The other doctrine I'm really examining, is the idea that the Eucharist forgives sins, I know we say this about venial sins, but not mortal ones. I'll have to investigate more on Luther's teaching here.

Good Short Article on Penal Substitution

This is the big problem I find with Luther and Calvin's theology of the cross. It either says God damned his own nature and separated the inseperable members of the Trinity, or it divides the one will of the Father and the Son. ... but of course as Luther aptly wrote: "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has"

Sunday, May 23, 2010


"The word "Church" (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to "call out of") means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose. Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people. By calling itself "Church," the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is "calling together" his people from all the ends of the earth. the equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means "what belongs to the Lord."" -Catechism of the Catholic Church

I'm tired of hearing people say "happy birthday Church", the Church is much older than Pentecost. It's a dispensationalist error to say the Church was born on Pentecost.

The Trinitarian founding of the Church was in some way instituted by the Father in the election of Israel, some way instituted by Christ with his institution of the apostolic ministry, and some way instituted by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Favourite Passages From Ephesians

"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived... But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." - Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-7

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

I remember a conversation about the freedom of the will and cooperation with God that was once happening between a Catholic and a Reformed guy, and the Reformed guy quoted Eph. 2:1 and said "how much can a dead person cooperate?". It was funny, even if unaccurate (as our Roman Church teaches that God takes the initiative to make us alive in his grace).

I like the line also in Chapter 3:

"through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him."

What a difficult verse to exegete after 1517. The gospel coming through the church, but the gospel of "confidence through faith" and in this case, clearly a 'fiducia' faith, a personal trust. Sometimes I wish I was born in 3rd century Corinth, the theology would be alot more simple. Although I would probably have become apostate at the first sign of persecution. As Flannery O'Conner once wrote, if they made it quick I could be a martyr, though I don't have the longsuffering to be a saint.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" - Ephesians 4:4-6

People always tell me you aren't allowed to make this dichotemy between the Church and the Gospel, but I'm having alot of trouble with it. Eventually one ideal will be sacrificed on the altar of the other.

I know it's out of context to understand it this way, but I like to imagine 4:32 as a declaration: "God in Christ has forgiven you.".

Anyway, early morning Mass tomorrow, enough Gospel, time for some Law (jk).


This is a completely personal post - there will be no dogmatic arguing, just me writing things for the sake of honesty. It will be Wesleyan to the core - that is - based on personal experience not Scripture and Tradition. I am literally just copying online what I wrote down and put in my wallet a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago I went as a pilgram to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, QC. I saw the steps leading up to the Church and there was a specific staircase to crawl on your hands and knees saying prayers. My first thought was - Luther in Rome. I kept trying to 'feel something' but it didn't work. We sat through the intolerable freewheeling liturgy they called Mass, and then proceeded to see all the statues and shrines to the saints. I went to the shrine of St. Joseph and prayed, and it didn't do anything (obviously that's not fair, as many of my prayers aren't answered, but I'm just saying).

Then we went up to the largest sanctuary, it was Gigantic, and in the middle was a giant crucifix. I was in a state of mortal sin, and there were no confessions (even at a shrine!) My friend was sketching the scene and I sat there staring at the crucifix and praying. I wrote 2 things down on the business card of my friend who is an Anglican priest. They were the first things God "said" (I don't even want to try to explain how this occurs) to me in a long time.

1. 'I love you more than you can hate me.' - I was in mortal sin, and I was thinking about how a Catholic friend said that when we are in such a state we are utterly forsaken by God, and in his wrath like Christ on the cross (she was a Traditionalist, and I don't know how orthodox what she said was). In any case, the thought was basically, that any sin, is too small for Christ's death to be invalidated by. In the middle of the giant room, there was Christ, his death, his atonement, his righteousness.

2. "My faithfulness is not dependent on yours". I was thinking about how in Catholicism the New Covenant is nullified by the unfaithfulness of the Christian. If I commit a mortal sin, even if I repent (without priestly absolution), I am still out of Christ, I am in condemnation. I was thinking when I felt this sentence, of the event in the Old Testament (Gen 12) where God pledges his faithfulness to Abraham, even though he doesn't do anything for it. I was thinking about Jacob, and how God chose him, even though he was a sinner, and even though he did some terrible things, God was still faithful to him.

Finally, we walked outside and saw a giant statue of Christ resurrected. At this point I felt this urging:

"Die already, and let me live." In dying I die to self, in living I live in Christ. This was much less revelatory, and pretty much just Galatians 2:20, but I wrote it on the card, so I figured I'd just put it in this post.

By the time we got to this part, my friend (a former Anabaptist) asked if I wanted to go see the heart of Br. Andre, soon to be another Canadian saint. I told him no, and that I thought it was stupid, even though I knew the bible verse in Acts 'proving' relics. I just felt confused, and after all that experience, I read Hans Urs Von Balthasar and then was ok with the Papacy and everything.

I think my problem is not that I have a problem with the Church or Catholicism, if I could live up to the standard, and fulfill all the works of the (new) law, then I'd be fine. If I had the ability to break my sin habits, and remain in 'sanctifying grace' for more than a day, and remember not to eat meat on fridays (or substitute a prayer), then I'd be fine. But the only verses I seem to find whenever I look at myself, are basically the list of proof-texts for the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Hence why I enjoy reading Luther.

I don't know what I'll do. I ended up deciding against Anglicanism, which was the closest thing to Rome (I thought at least). Lutheranism is closer in doctrine (no Calvin snuck in), but I don't know. I'm going to mass tomorrow morning with a Catholic friend. If I eventually leave Catholicism, I want to do it after making a final sacramental confession, just to prove to people that it's not about me being too 'embarrassed' to confess. But like I said, I just don't know.

I find my biggest pet peeve is ignorance. I HATE sitting through a Protestant service where the pastor smuggly mocks a viewpoint without even trying to understand it, and I HATE listening to Catholics talk about how 'no one but us' have preserved due respect for the Eucharist / believe in the real presence / are sacramental / read the Fathers, etc. Perhaps I'm just a theological snob.

I also found out a priest who served in my parish for over a year just got tried for molesting children and was also secretly married (though strangely it has nothing to do with my feelings about justification and/or the Church)... Lord have mercy.


I'm reading Martin Marty's biography of Martin Luther. I can't make myself like Calvin, but there's something about ol' Martin, he of all the Reformers I think really knows Catholicism. It's funny because I thought as a Catholic Luther would be less appealing, but actually his writing becomes more appealing, because all of his complaints I can now truly identify with. I've heard other Catholics ask the same questions he asked, and heard priests give me his solutions to the same problems (I guess he was more successful than Catholics would like to admit).

Lutheranism I also find appealing because of it's faithfulness to regenerative baptism and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (and I think Consubstantiation/Sacramental Union is more defensible than Transubstantiation). The main appeal though - the reason a friend of mine said he is Lutheran - is the appeal of the Theology of the Cross, rather than the Theology of Glory.

Of course the other reason I like Lutheranism is because I haven't actually been to a Lutheran Church service, so I can't come up with any personal complaints. It is still an ideal, not a reality.

I'm not saying I'm converting or anything, I'm just saying I really like alot of what Luther had to say, and can empathize with his story. (I spent literally 8 hours today thinking about Justification, all day at work, trying to find SOME way to make Catholicism sound luck so far)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More on the Faillure of Anglicanism

I want to enumerate more the reasons why Anglicanism failed in my eyes.

I could maneuver around the Caesaropapism if I tried hard enough. Surely a ruler choosing a bishop does not invalidate the sacrament of Episcopal Consecration.

The best defense I had of Anglicanism was my argument that a portion of the Church - validly ordained in apostolic succession - voted (even under duress it is still valid) to separate with Rome. Under the six articles of Henry VIII which were very Catholic, this could be defensible. It would be the same case the Eastern Orthodox made with Photius.

The problem arises not even with the Edwardian ordinal (making Anglican ordinations basically presbyterian ordinations of elders, rather than priests). Rome can argue all it wants about the invalidity of the liturgy, etc, but theoretically one could argue that Rome cannot change the catholic tradition of Episcopal Ordination and make requisite that "roman innovation" of the addition of "intent" to matter and form, for a sacrament.

The problem arises when one looks at the theological history of Anglicanism. Under the former Presbyterian John Tillotson as ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury), transubstantiation was declared a horrifying and immoral error in accordance with the 39 articles. However, Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI could substantially agree (pun intended) on the Eucharistic presence.

If the argument is made that a body of bishops in the historic episcopate of England are allowed to descent and remain catholic, and that I may submit to them, then that means I have to submit to them and commune with them. This is the problem. If I live in the era of Elizabethan Calvinism, I can't talk about infusion of righteousness, and likewise after 1930, I can't in the Anglican church declare contraception (and eventually homosexuality) to be disordered acts. If I follow the logic of my apologia of Anglo-dissent, it leads me to Liberalism, not to Confessional Protestantism. Perhaps in the days before Women-Bishops and gay clergy, in the 1928 and the glory days of Anglo-Catholicism I could make my case and proudly be Anglican. But the reality of the situation is that if I wanted to cross the Thames, I would not be in Nigeria with the Anglican Church in North America or the Reformed Episcopal Church, I would be with Desmond Tutu and Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It is as Cardinal Newman so wisely prophesied: there is only Rome and Liberalism, and Anglicanism is the half-way house.

As I've previously noted, if I was in search of the 'comforting doctrine', that is, justification by faith alone, which would free me from perpetual fear, guilt, and necessary auricular confession, then I would not be obliged to look for it in an apostolically successing episcopate. The Presbyterians or the Lutherans, or the Baptists would do. As I cannot conceive of a non-episcopal church as in any way catholic, and as I am unable to conceive of women in the presbyterate -much less the episcopate- as being in any way catholic, I am forced to deny both the Anglican communion, and the Protestant communions.

This - I think - is my killer argument against Anglicanism. That it was possible to be one pre-1967, but after that, not likely. Luckily my argument only grows stronger as time goes on, as the Anglo-American churches are slowly killing their apostolic succession by adding women into the mix, who cannot receive the sacrament.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Private Judgment Revisited

One commentator noted that Protestants see final authority as resting in Scripture alone, and Catholics see it in the Church alone.

But one could say that in another way: for Protestants the final authority is their own private judgment of the Scriptures, and for Catholics the final authority is the consensus of the Church / Magesterium / Tradition.

When it is phrased that way, I clearly side with Catholicism.

As Tertullian teaches:

"They [Heretics] put forward the Scriptures, and by this insolence of theirs they at once influence some. In the encounter itself, however, they weary the strong, they catch the weak, and dismiss waverers with a doubt. Accordingly, we oppose to them this step above all others, of not admitting them to any discussion of the Scriptures.

If in these lie their resources, before they can use them, it ought to be clearly seen to whom belongs the possession of the Scriptures, that none may be admitted to the use thereof who has no title at all to the privilege.


Truth is just as much opposed by an adulteration of its [Scripture's] meaning as it is by a corruption of its text.


Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: "With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?" For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.


Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, ‘as many as walk according to the rule,’ which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, ‘Who are you?’”" - Tertullian "The Prescription Against Heretics"

In football (soccer) games in England, the home team shouts at newcomers and the opposing sides: "who are you!?" (which sounds like: Eww AHHH YAAHH). That reminds me of Tertullian here.

Personal Clarifications

As for my very near conversion to Anglicanism, it was based on the desire to be accepted by God, even when in a state of Mortal Sin, or at least the desire for grace before I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Similarly, I've always had issue with the Scholastic / Greek Patristic understanding as humans only 'wounded' by original sin, and not totally depraved. I find Trent troubling in it's understanding of Concupiscence light, and tend more towards Augustine and Calvin.

I thought Sola Fide could be supported by many passages in scripture, but also that it was not justification by imputation, but rather by infusion or transformation. Philippians 3:12 seems to me to entirely repudiate the 'bare dogma of double imputation' as Cardinal Newman called it.

So for a while, based on my personal experience, I wanted to leave Catholicism. Which would've made me a Methodist/Wesleyan (using personal experience as an authority). But instead I've simply decided to do as Hans Urs Von Balthasar says, believe in love. Love alone is credible, and it is completely unbelievable. There's no reason why God would love us, or accept us, even if we 'jump through the sacramental hoops'. So I have decided that when I am in mortal sin, it is time for me to - in good Thomist tradition - practice the theological virtue of hope. Hope in God's good providence, that I will not die in a state of mortal sin, and hope that if I did, God would accept me based on his mercy, and my congruent merit (the fact that I tried to get to confession).

I've also decided to read my bible more often, and to try to find some good Catholic Biblical Theology if there is such a thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sola Scriptura and Private Judgment

I argued that Sola Scriptura is the same as Solo Scriptura, and that in the end there is no formal difference between the two.

Called to Communion did a post on this a long time ago which was brilliant. Please read it, or at least part 4 where the Catholic argument begins (

Their basic argument is that Protestants define 'the gospel' being preached as a necessary pre-requisite for a Church. With Sola Scriptura, the individual reads and defines what the gospel is for himself, and then picks the church that agrees with him. If at any time the church disagrees with him, he leaves and either establishes a new church or joins a new church that agrees with his view of the gospel. Therefore, sola and solo scriptura are the same thing in the end.

Their argument is more nuanced but that is the basic line of it.

Protestants can talk about submitting to the Councils, but if I say to them "one baptism for the remission of sins" they deny it, saying baptism cannot remitt sins, because the bible says: x. If I show them the second council of nicea (787) that declares iconic veneration of Christ and the Virgin, they say it can't be true because of what the bible says. Thus even the universal agreement of the Church is not enough to trump their own private interpretation. Which is why Solo and Sola Scriptura are no different.

This was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back for me with Anglicanism. I wanted to refute what the priest was saying in his sermon on sunday, but I know that all I can do is offer my interpretation of scripture and the councils and Tradition of the Church, but in the end, Anglicanism allows the individual to decide and interpret whatever they want.

True submission, is accepting the teaching of the Church when you DON'T personally feel it is right. This can never happen in Protestantism, because the Church always has to remain subject to Scripture, which means it has to remain subject to the individual's interpretation of scripture.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Usual Suspects: Original Sin, The Fall, and Concupiscence

So I guess I'm not ending my inquiry. Although of course we will be playing by Wesleyan (prison) rules I guess, Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience, are all fair play.

The main issue of contention that has remained since the Reformation between Protestants and Catholics and is chronologically the first battleground, is nature (and thus grace).

What is Nature? Was it perfect without grace? Was Adam merely natural, or did he also have sanctifying grace? What is original sin? etc.

I'm going to try to keep posts shorter so that you don't have to read as much, with the sacrifice being extra prooftexts.

Pelagius argued that Nature was perfect in itself, and that Adam was not given any gift of grace, because nature itself is a gracious gift. Protestantism agrees with Pelagius in arguing that Nature was perfect and was without grace, it was "good", and man likewise "very good" ('no one is good but God alone' as Jesus said).

The Cappadocians and Augustine argued on the contrary that man was not without grace, and that the 'breath of life' implied more than life, but actually the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and/or Sanctifying Grace. God blessed them in the garden before the Fall, and this seems to me, to indicate a divine gift (grace). This is "Original Righteousness" in Thomas. It thus follows that Original Sin is merely "not having Original Righteousness/Sanctifying Grace".

Fr. Hardon (man I feel gross typing that name) has an article on it here:

Called to Communion also has good posts on it as well (here's just part 7 in the series:

The Faillure of Anglicanism: Papists & Puritans

I guess I didn't clarify my choice enough yesterday. Paradoxically, the RCs criticized me for denying Anglicanism, and the Protestants didn't reprimand me for 'mindlessly' lapsing into Romanism.

I went to the Anglican Church in North America (the conservative one) yesterday with the intent to communicate, to give up Rome (at least for the day), and to have my cake and eat it to (get married & be a priest). But while I was there, I heard a sermon on Church Unity. He argued that structural unity with heretics is sinful (which is why their church broke with the ACC and TEC), and that the church has an obligation to follow the bible.

The argument the former Jesuit and almost Cardinal (died 2 days before the red hat arrived) Hans Urs Von Balthasar made was fairly simple. He had alot of proofs from both Scripture and Patristics, but I will just lay down the steps in the argument:

1. The Church existed as a visible reality.
2. The Church is allowed to teach, and it is a Christian's duty to obey rather than make private judgments.
3. The Church as a communion must exist until the end of time in the same form it initially had. (apostolic succession)
4. The flock/communion is fed by Peter as Christ commanded (Petrine Supremacy)
5. All who deny to commune with Peter's successor and refuse to accept the teaching of the church are lapsed.

The quote I used from Thomas yesterday was showing how Petrine Supremacy is a biblical doctrine, and how if the Church is a succession, that doctrine must find it's place in the structure of the communion.

The issue I have with Anglicanism is that it has historically proposed two models for church reform which I find uncatholic.

-Erastianism / State Interference, even yesterday we prayed for the supreme governess the Queen. Caesar/Rome/Pagan State Power is the Anti-Christ, and Caesaropapism is a heresy. Many can claim that the Vatican IS a State and thus falls under the same condemnation, but there is a difference. The Roman Church is related to the state incidentally, the English Church is related to the state fundamentally. This is one reason why the Puritans could not conform to the Church of England, which makes the Presbyterians preferrable to the Anglicans.

-Protestantism / Sola Scriptura. It's in the 39 articles, and in the end, the question is begged: what is the point of being an Anglican if you want to be a Protestant. There is a line in the articles which says that the first 7 councils of the church catholic are only to be trusted in as much as they agree with Scripture. Depending on your interpretation that could mean: bishops are unnecessary, infant baptism is an innovation, images in worship are forbidden, etc. It sets up private judgment as the second principle on which reform is to be made.

IF Anglicanism had said: the English Church will reform itself (as Richard Hooker claimed it did), then it should have done it by the authority of the church and through councils. Instead, parliament legislated doctrine (BCP), the English Civil War occurred, parliament re-legislated doctrine (WCF), and eventually monarchy was restored and we have the BCP again.

There is no place for the teaching of the church. The bishops are chosen by the State, and so the church is not allowed to teach, and every one of the churches teachings is subject to the judgment of the individual Christian and Scripture.

In such a case, it would be as Johann Adam Mohler wrote: "Without a doubt, if the Church were a historical and antiquarian society, if she had no self-concept, no knowledge of her origin, of her essence and her mission...She would be like someone who, by researching documents he himself has written, tries to discover whether he really exists!"

You have to start with Tradition. This is why - I think - Jaroslav Pelikan chose Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy allows no 'new' exegesis. It is TRULY an antiquarian society. If you find a 'new' reading of scripture (like sola fide) which none of the Fathers found, then you're reading it wrong. Anglicanism doesn't work because it is neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy, both have their own interior logic, whereas Anglicanism is a Reformed Protestant church that forgot that during the Oxford Movement (which was universally repudiated by it's teaching authorities / the English bishops), and then eventually decided to either enter the Roman Church, or exist on the fringes of the ecclesiastical realities.

To break communion to 'purify' the Church is to simply become MORE Protestant, not less. It is only proving that there is no principle of unity, no structure able to keep the Church "one" as the creed declares she must be. It is Donatism.

Likewise, even the Anglican Church in North America ordains women to the presbyterate, which is so obviously a heresy, that I need not bother to refute it. I love the Book of Common Prayer, I love many Anglican authors and churchmen, and alot of their mission and understanding. On most days I prefer their liturgy to the butchering of ours that occurs weekly in the Roman Communion in Canada. But if I just decided my preference was what made my religion, that it was built on nothing else, I couldn't look an atheist in the eye again. I couldn't claim to be a reasonable person, or truly be a Thomist/Christian Aristotelian.

As Our Lord teaches:

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them...You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?" - Matthew 23:1-4, 33

The teaching authority, Moses' seat, which in Roman Catholicism is replaced by St. Peter's Chair, and it is to be obeyed, even if the people sitting in it are corrupt. Dante wrote that many Popes will be in Hell, and this verse seems to be a worthy proof-text for such a belief. But this is the fundamental difference: Protestantism like the Early Modern Revolutionaries and Calvin's Geneva Bible commentary, argue that you can legitimately resist an authority if it is tyrannical. The problem with this is, that only authorities can authoritatively define what tyranny constitutes, which means there is a necessary regress to anarchy.

God-fearing Englishmen and Commonwealth citizens on the other hand (like us Canadians), submit to "the powers that be" (Rm. 13:1). Catholics are called to the same thing. When Pope Paul VI spoke to the World Council of Churches, he declared "I am Peter". If the Church is a succession through all time, and an apostolical succession, one must submit to the Bishop of Rome. If the Church is not a succession, but can fundamentally change in structure and teaching, and only exists as a pure spiritual reality and sometimes visible, or partially incarnate (as the WCF says it is), then one must fully embrace Protestantism and Sola Scriptura, and become a dissenter of some kind (whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, or Quaker).

And while Mr. Bennett has made an argument against it, I still contend, that Sola Scriptura of necessity leads to Liberalism/Socinianism/Unitarianism. As Adolf von Harnack said "A dogma without infallibility has no meaning". Dogmatics are based on interpretations of Scripture. Without the Protestant Confessions claiming their own infallibility, what use is the Westminster Confession? Although the swift excommunication of the Federal Vision & New Pauline Perspectivists from the Presbyterian fold makes their case a little stronger in empirical reality if not in philosophical abstraction.

Thus between Papists, Puritans, and Prelates, it seems the last category is untenable. Now I'll have to find an argument against Presbyterianism, though I don't know of any off the top of my head aside from lumping them with Donatism (though that kind of inaccuracy is the kind of thing they sink to when they call the Roman Confession 'Pelagian', so I might need to go elsewhere).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aquinas and Balthasar ftw...

"...a Church cannot be a "branch" of a historical unity which no longer exists" - Hans Urs Von Balthasar (The Office of Peter) p. 91

""our Lord says: “There shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

But let one say that the one head and one shepherd is Christ, who is one spouse of one Church; his answer does not suffice. For, clearly, Christ Himself perfects all the sacraments of th Church: it is He who baptizes; it is He who forgives sins; it is He, the true priest, who offered Himself on the altar of the cross, and by whose power His body is daily consecrated on the altar—nevertheless, because He was not going to be with all the faithful in bodily presence, He chose ministers to dispense the things just mentioned to the faithful, as was said above. By the same reasoning, then, when He was going to withdraw His bodily presence from the Church, He had to commit it to one who would in His place have the care of the universal Church. Hence it is that He said to Peter before His ascension: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17); and before His passion: “You being once converted confirm your brethren” (Luke 22:32); and to him alone did He promise: “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 16:19), in order to show that the power of the keys was to flow through him to others to preserve the unity of the Church.

But it cannot be said that, although He gave Peter this dignity, it does not flow on to others. For, clearly, Christ established the Church so that it was to endure to the end of the world; in the words of Isaiah (9:7): “He shall sit upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom to establish and strengthen it with judgment and with justice from henceforth and forever.” It is clear that He so established therein those who were then in the ministry that their power was to be passed on to others even to the end of time; especially so, since He Himself says: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” (Mat. 28:20).

By this, of course, we exclude the presumptuous error of some who attempt to withdraw themselves from the obedience and the rule of Peter by not recognizing in his successor, the Roman Pontiff, the pastor of the universal Church." - St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 4, 76.

ok. I submit, and reject Anglicanism and other expedients as attempts for me to escape the divine command of being converted, the painful reality of sanctification, and my need to repent. It's not that I like Catholicism, it's that there is nowhere else. Henceforth, I will continue trying to find a way to like it.

I'm sorry for disappointing everyone who reads this at some point, either today, or in the last few weeks.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Textual Realism and Philosophical Realism

In my endless ruminations over the Reformation and amidst the constant disquiet of my heart and mind, I've been thinking about an important issue.

Catholicism affirms philosophical realism, where free agents who participate in Being are able to access the objective truth through their senses. It argues against any Cartesian or Berkeleyan attempt at undermining the reliability of the senses, or (at least after Thomas) a prioritizing of Platonic spirit over matter (see Transubstantiation).

One famous Lutheran rationalist Immanuel Kant, argued for subjectivism, that is, each person is only able to see from their own perspective. A person cannot be objective because they are a subject, and they can only know what they empirically see or can rationally prove. Catholicism reacts against this because it holds the priority of the objective metaphysical reality of Being, over and above the individual subjective and existential experience.

However, there is one area they seem to despise objective reality. Scripture. As a Roman Catholic I remember arguing with someone over exegesis, and exasperated they simply said: no matter what this verse says, there is no way that you can or would ever interpret it differently than the Church teaches you must. The Protestant was arguing that Scripture had an objective meaning and that we as subjects could understand it. By contrast I had to argue that Scripture is by nature murky, unclear, and has a hidden meaning that only the Magesterium can truly discover and declare.

The perfect example is my oft-repeated complaint about concupiscence, and where St. Paul calls it "sin" and Trent says that even though the apostle says sin, it is not formally "sin". Or perhaps the admonision of St. Paul that a bishop should be the husband of one wife, where the Magesterium declares that a bishop should not be the husband of one wife.

So as I ponder this, I'm starting to wonder who the real Realists are? It seems like we are just so many Cartesian exegetes, while claiming to be the children of St. Thomas in all other areas.

The Convert's Defense

Here is an article written by R.R. Reno, one of the converts mentioned in the previous article, defending himself, it is also interesting:

Converts: Philosophy, Liberalism, and Justification

I was reading an article on more people who converted from Protestantism to Catholicism:

The interesting thing that I'm starting to notice about all the conversions to Catholicism is that they're usually based on two things:

In general, people tell the tale of how on the road to persecute more of God's faithful, a blinding light shone and Lo! Aristotle stood before them saying 'why do you persecute me!'. And then they have a conversion to Thomism. Certainly that's where alot of people have gone to hide from postmodernism, and continue to 'give medieval answers to contemporary questions' (as one Church historian described Trent). This is at least a good reason to convert, philosophy is important, and Catholicism offers the best philosophical system I've seen in a long time. So I don't mind this option, as it's kind of why I converted (the philosophical argument about the canon and infalliblity of the church), although it has nothing to do with Christ and God whose ways are above our ways, and who calls us to be 'fools for Christ'.

The second of course is that their church had 'suddenly' grown liberal, and that because our Roman Catechism and Pope Benedict XVI are conservative, that means our Church must likewise be conservative. I think this is a bad reason, as you will find almost immediately, just as many liberals in Catholicism as in the Episcopal Church or the ELCA. The only difference between Catholic and Protestant liberals - and it's a big difference to be sure - is that the Catholic liberals are just biding their time, slowly undermining things, destroying Catechesis and the ministry of the Word with Historical criticism. In Protestantism they do the same thing, except they're open about it, and declare themselves (which really only makes them easier to avoid, but also means they are better organized).

A final observation is that I've never heard of a convert from Classical Protestantism say that they were overwhelmed by the Catholic doctrine of justification and synergistic soteriology (Scott Hahn doesn't count as he was a FV/NPP/Neonomian). Interestingly enough, in every account, justification is either stated as not mattering anymore, or the ludicrous claim is made that because of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the Reformation is over. In NO way did the JDDJ solve any Reformation issue, but it did mark the Lutherans' willingness to sell their heritage and doctrine in order to fulfill some high-minded ecumenical pipe-dream.

Anyway. I just think it's funny that no biblical exegetes and Classical Protestants are converting to Catholicism, but certainly, alot of intellectuals shopping for moral philosophy and epistemological certainty arrive there. Similarly, Evangelicals who never understood Confessional Protestantism in the first place and likewise threw away their birth right like Esau, without knowledge of what they were doing end up here.

In the end, perhaps Cardinal Avery Dulles was right when he noted that Catholics don't primarily care about Justification, and prefer discussing the sacramentology and the liturgy, to the issue, let alone worry about it. This seems to be the real conversion these Protestants had, no longer carrying about that doctrine which their spiritual ancestors once called "the article on which the church stands or falls".

(Those are just my observations as a Roman Catholic, looking back on)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Catholics I Like

My Lutheran friend and I were talking the other day and I told him that I was tempted to leave the Roman fold, and he told me to keep reading Balthasar and I'd change my mind. We then talked about (Hans Urs Von) Balthasar and he described that man as 'the only Catholic anyone likes'. I laughed, and realized that there aren't alot of fun Catholics to read. I was thinking about all the authors I love reading: C.S. Lewis, Jaroslav Pelikan, John Henry Newman, Rowan Williams, von Balthasar, (RJN & Schillebeeckx when I get the chance), and now (thanks to a faithful commentator of the blog), Luigi Giussani. Not all of them are Catholics, but all of them have this one thing in common that I love: they are honest.

There are some great moments in Pelikan where he just lays out the plain problems in the confessions, the contradictions, the inconsistencies, and doesn't try to hide it. It is something that has to be dealt with.

Rowan Williams has a way of just addressing the true pastoral reality of the faith being lived. He has that wonderfully Anglican quality of trying to unite two things, people, or ideas that traditionally have been at odds.

Newman - though the Calvinists hate him - has some wonderful moments where he openly confesses his ineptitude on a subject, discusses the problems with even his own theology, and always warns against accepting his views against those true authorities on the faith. He describes a humble, honest, and living faith that he has, not one that he learned in a textbook.

I was reading an article Fred posted by Giussani, and there was this wonderful reference summing up everything I am trying to say here:

"[describing a scene from a novel:] Abbé Gaston, the hero of the book, To Every Man a Penny, has to hear the Confession of a German soldier whom the French partisans have arrested and is to be executed; since he is a Catholic, and all trembling, the partisans allow him to make his confession, though they are Communists. Abbé Gaston says, “Confess yourself well, my boy, because you have to die. So, what have you done?” And, naturally, he says, “Women.” “Now you must repent, because you have to appear before the court of God.” And the other, with some embarrassment, says, “How can I repent? It was something I liked; if I had the chance, I’d do it again now. How can I repent?” So Abbé Gaston, all worried because he couldn’t send that individual to heaven, suddenly has a stroke of genius and says, “But are you sorry you’re not sorry?” and the other says, “Yes, I am sorry I am not sorry.” This is the last remnant of truth in that individual; this is the acknowledgment of the truth. On that infinitesimal point God builds the man’s defence. “Father, they don’t know what they are doing,” after three years of persecution at their hands."

and his description of Confession:

"This is what keeps you away from Confession–not desiring the good, not accepting to ask for the good; only this. It is not the fact that you foresee that without a miracle you will go wrong again, because a miracle can happen, and you have to ask for it if you really want the good, if you want the “something more,” if you want to be true. The miracle could happen in twenty years’ time, when your concubine dies."

These are the Catholics I like, the ones who are honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the faith, and most of all dwell on the beautiful. The ones who always consciously center on Christ. These are the ones who make my faith about something beyond mere intellectual assent to a rational argument/apologetic.


"He made us to believe in Christ, who made for us a Christ on whom we believe. He makes in men the beginning and the completion of the faith in Jesus who made the man Jesus the beginner and finisher of faith" - St. Augustine of Hippo (The Predestination of the Saints 31).

When I read that quote, I almost thought it was Calvin. Catholics generally abhor the doctrine of predestination, and ever since Augusti--err Jansenism was condemned, it's been almost impossible for Catholics to even mention predestination without getting knocked out and mysteriously waking up in a locked cell next to a pile of Molina's works. That might be a little exaggerated... As a one-time Calvinist (this blog testifies to that), I personally/existentially find predestination to be perhaps the most comforting doctrine ever proclaimed.

As one commenter noted, Catholics traditionally have found comfort in the notion of the gift of perseverance (as have Calvinists), except that after Trent, it has been heretical to claim you know with any certainty that you are elected (which now makes it fun to exegete St. Paul's "For I am Certain"). Anyway, perhaps we'll rehearse this debate over again and I'll read some more Augustine (which is never a bad thing).

My theology reminds me of Nietzsche's cosmology, a continual meaningless repetition of the same thing over and over for a presumed infinite time, but only consisting of finite materials, or like Camus' take on the Myth of Sisyphus, rolling the ball up the hill for eternity, only to have it roll back down and start over again.

lord have mercy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clarification on Contrition

In Catholic dogmatics, I just wanted to clarify, as the Catechism says: "imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins".

You can read on Catholic encyclopedia, that perfect contrition is sorrow for sins because of a pure motive / love for God without reference to one's own damnation or existential position. It is the idea that you love God even if he damns you, or as Rowan Williams notes 'the Catholic doctrine of pure love' so detestable to Protestants.

When perfect contrition is united to a desire to go to confession as soon as possible (again this part is another issue, what does the word 'possible' mean), then sin can be remitted if someone dies. But, to go back to the example, I'll use myself.

Currently I have 24 mortal sins and counting on my soul (last confession was about 3 weeks ago). Right now, I am sorry for my sins and I would guess that it is mostly because I'm going to Hell, if I could just be accepted by God without having to confess, then I wouldn't worry about confessing it, meaning that I guess I'm not really sorry or 'sorry enough'. So if I was on my way to confession on saturday and got hit by a bus or died somehow, God would not accept me into Heaven. Christ's death, my baptism, my faith, my desire to repent, none of it would have any effect on my soul. It would remained stained, I would be damned.

But again as I've previously noted, the Catholic position is not based on Existentialism. What happens to me does not matter, what matters is what is objectively true. The objective fact of Catholicism is that God has established the Church and the Sacraments as the means of Grace. No matter how much I might find that fact inconvenient or frustrating, doesn't matter, because the truth of the matter is that I find myself in the situation, I do not make my own situation. So I get it, I'm not saying the Catholic Church is wrong because I can't be saved in it 6 days out of the week, that's just bad philosophy. Likewise if one goes the Existential/Protestant route, one has equally troubling issues like "have I picked the right church?" or "how can I be sure Justification is by faith alone?".

As they say, there is no rest for the weary.

Which is more relevant?

At the risk of greatly oversimplifying things, I believe these two quotes consist of the main disagreement between Protestants and Catholics:

"...unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and the judgment which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 11.1, A.D. 1559).
(yes I stole that from Jay's blog)


"Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?" - Martin Luther

Which is more important? The Existential (what must I do to be saved? - the question asked of Our Lord) or the Systemic (how can I know unless someone shows me - Ethiopian Eunuch). How does one choose between Aristotle and Kierkegaard?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Rome any better than Oxford in Discipline?

""Protestantism and Popery are real religions ... but the Via Media, viewed as an integral system, has scarcely had existence except on paper." I grant the objection, though I endeavour to lessen it:—"It still remains to be tried, whether what is called Anglo-Catholicism, the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson, is capable of being professed, acted on, and maintained on a large sphere of action, or whether it be a mere modification or transition-state of either Romanism or popular Protestantism." I trusted that some day it would prove to be a substantive religion." - John Henry Cardinal Newman "Apologia"

"That there is no perfect equation between the ideal and the real, that actual Catholicism lags considerably behind its idea, that it has never yet appeared in history as a complete and perfect thing, but always as a thing in process of development and laborious growth: such is the testimony of ecclesiastical and social history, and it is unnecessary to establish these points in detail." - Karl Adam "The Spirit of Catholicism" Ch. XIII

The criticism Newman levelled at his own religion after he had abandoned it, that is the via media (Anglo-Catholicism), was that it was merely a paper religion. From my experience in the Roman Catholic Church, I often wonder if my own religion exists merely on paper. It seems like the Catechism and a few conservative theologians (Balthasar, Pope Benedict XVI, and popularizers like George Weigel) are the only places you'll find 'confessional' (if I can use the phrase) Roman Catholicism.

Two examples of this spring to mind:

The first is my recurring problem with Concupiscence and Original Sin. I've asked many priests and Roman Catholics about this issue, and EVERY one of them has given me the Lutheran answer to the issue. Every priest and layperson has in one way or another argued for 'simul iust et peccator' (at the same time just and a sinner, or more idiomatically: at the same time a saint and sinner). I've heard the former bishop of St. Catharines come so close to teaching the doctrine, as well as openly heard another priest in my parish teach it, that I wonder whether there is any realm in the Church where Trent is still "believed and confessed" to be the work of the Spirit. I've heard Anglicans pray to "our mother Jesus" (Julian of Norwich is such a troublemaker), but I've heard Catholics deny the doctrine of Original Sin, claim that they've never heard of Purgatory, much less believed in it, and held views on Justification at odds with those of the Council of Trent. Perhaps Protestants are right in rejoicing at how "Protestant" many Catholics are, and indeed how many -by the Reformers standards- are 'saved'.

The second thing I find ironic in our Communion is how contradictory our doctrine and practice are. Listen to Vatican II's theology of the Liturgy: "every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ... is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 7). Furthermore the council declared "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows." (Ibid 10).

It all sounds great on paper, but what is the liturgy actually like in the Roman Church? I went to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, probably the biggest Catholic location in our country, where a Canadian saint is to be canonized and celebrated later this year, and the abomination I experienced there, they dared to call a mass.

During the Liturgy, the priest invented random prayers, he added phrases and stories, he changed liturgical actions, he removed the Kyrie, he added another great Amen after the consecration and then continued to talk in a conversational matter about the acoustics of the room while holding the consecrated host. It was abysmal. The liturgy of the word was nothing more than: God is love, be nice to people, don't be bad. The thing I find ironic, is the claim that the Anglicans only have liberalism and moralism. If that is the case, then we have quickly surpassed them. Throughout all the heresy I've heard (by our own Magesterium's definition) from priests and Catholic teachers and theologians alike, from the disgusting liturgical abuses, I honestly ask this final question:

Is there any point in Roman Catholics retaining the argument that their religion is an empirical reality and that other confessions (specifically Anglo-Catholicism) are merely "paper religions"?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sacred Scripture, and I

"If it is true that the Scripture is so easy to understand, what is the use of so many commentaries made by your ministers, what is the object of so many harmonies, what is the good of so many schools of Theology ? here is need of no more, say you, than the doctrine of the pure word of God in the Church. But where is this word of God? In the Scripture? And Scripture-is it some secret thing ? No-you say not to the faithful. Why, then, these interpreters and these preachers? If you are faithful, you will understand the Scriptures as well as they do; send them off to unbelievers, and simply keep some deacons to give you the morsel of bread and pour out the wine of your supper. If you can feed yourselves in the field of the Scripture, what do you want , with pastors? Some young innocent, some mere child who is able to read, will do just as well. But whence comes this continual and irreconcilable discord which there is among you, brethren in Luther, over these words, This is my body" - St. Francis de Sales "The Catholic Controversy" Chapter X

I have to agree with St. Francis, even as someone who has done a year of biblical studies and read through the whole bible, and studied theology, I cannot boast to understand it on my own. I can come up with something that might sound like a valid interpretation, and indeed for myself this is enough. But teaching others the scriptures is really difficult. I get some very complex questions when I do bible study.

What I find as I wrestle with the Scriptures now, is that God is not calling me to Protestantism or Catholicism, he is calling me to holiness. That is the only true call I hear from Our Lord, the call to conversion, but also of the sufficiency of Christ. It is a paradox, and I can't quite grasp it perfectly, though I know of 3 or 4 schools of thought that would give me interpretations, none of them is exact.

I am thoroughly enjoying Acts, and I love the Pauline epistles, but what does "Righteousness of God" mean? what does even "Justification/logozomai" mean? These - at least to an only partially learned Christian - are extra biblical debates that require Tradition and Authority. Sorry if that is an unsatisfactory view, or if I just repeated what I've already said, but those are my thoughts on Sacred Scripture.

It is the Revelation of God, and in it God calls me to follow Christ, but in many areas, it is a mystery, and only through Tradition and Authorities is it understandable to me.

The Exegesis Issue

I've been reading even more of Acts, and some of Hans Urs Von Balthasar's great apology for the Papacy, and the two have left me with the same old thought.

The Problem

I was reading Acts, and there are some parts that seem so "Catholic". For instance, the church binds on the consciences of believers that they are not to fornicate in the council of Jerusalem. They call a council, Peter stands up among them, and they declare a moral discipline - albeit a shortlived one, but one just the same.

There are some mentions of Bishops or "overseers" and some heirarchical mention that is uncanny. But in the next chapter there is simply 'the brothers', and every time the Eucharist (presumably) is described it is "bread" that is broken, not the body of Christ. This of course, not being a problem for consubstantiators and Reformed guys, but certainly is a problem for the Catholic, as transubstantiation means that it literally ceases to be bread. Anyway, it's a weak argument, but it's there.

Then I realized, how am I even supposed to know what the Scripture says? Who am I? to ask the great question of the Psalms.

I was reading Balthasar and he cites Jn 21:3 as an example of Petrine Supremacy: "Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.”". I burst out laughing in the car when I read it. What a ridiculous prooftext. But then I thought about it, and it holds up. That could certainly be one interpretation of the text, and who is to say it is right or wrong?

As the American philosopher Alan Watts says: the judge and the prosecuter are the same person in such a case.

Once more, I was reminded that you cannot read Scripture without a Tradition. And how does one arbitrate between Traditions except by the creeds formulation: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church", it is the 'map' left by the fathers for us.

There is one way out, that I've mentioned before:

The Inner Light

Protestants like Kierkegaard have promoted this view, and talking to a friend about Jonathan Edwards, he seems to (in a much lesser extent) agree with this epistemology, basic structure. George Fox the famous founding Quaker, claimed that the personal witness of the Holy Spirit is above all other authorities: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, etc. Only if I accepted this idea, could I leave what I see is a binding authority placed on me by the Catholic Church. It would lead to subjectivism, which would lead to relativism, and it would be fideism, which means I could have no witness to my university atheist friends, except that of inner peace and tranquility, etc.

I thought about it long and hard, and 2 minutes later, I decided that I am sticking with logic, Aristotle, and Augustine, who declared with the African bishops: "Whoever has separated himself from the Catholic Church, no matter how laudably he lives, will not have eternal life, but has earned the anger of God because of this one crime: that he abandoned his union with Christ' (Epistle 141)". Even the famously 'liberal' Vatican II states: "They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it" (Lumen Gentium 14).


So no matter how much I may hate the freewheeling liturgies of aging hippy priests. The moralizing and lack of the gospel of the work of Christ everywhere. The liberalism which misses the goodness of both the Protestant and Catholic gospels. The almost exclusive focus on social justice. All of the things I hate about Catholicism. Despite all of that, I am bound to observe it, unless I throw away my entire brain, and live in peace and freedom for a while, only to regret it eternally.
I think my favourite Augustinian slogan (and probably the one I quote most) is: "The Church is a whore, but she's my mother".

until next time, pax Christi tecum.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Council of Jerusalem

"Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you... who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.’" -Acts 15:24-29

If Dogma doesn't develop, then really, we should consider the 'essentials' of Christianity: food regulations and no pre-marital sex. I wonder if Catholics agree whether this was a church council or not.

I mean it's a great prooftext, and as long as you make the dogma/discipline divide (distinction) then you can get around their dietary rulings, and say it was a council.

No one can really win though, because it seems like Petrine supremacy from "Peter stood up" (15:7), but also congregationalism as "the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided".

Hurray, 2 more polemic readings that anachronistically interpret the text in light of later ideas. I would make a terrible exegete, I should stick to Anglo-American History.

Concupiscence and Original Sin Revisited.

So the other day I was at my Chaplain's apartment and we were talking about la Nouvelle Theologie, and he asked if I knew about it, and I said "oh ya, when the modernists won out". For example Pope Leo XIII and others condemned many modern ideas as heresy (see Syllabus of Errors) that would later be -if not approved- at least painted in a much better light.

Now when you have an institution of highly trained philosophers like you do in Catholicism, you can get out of any claim of contradition, there's always some reason why technically it isn't a contradiction. 2 examples. Religious Freedom, which was condemned by Leo XIII or at least people thought it was condemned, because he wrote 'it is against reason for truth and error to have equal rights'. But Vatican II said, those in error had rights, so technically, Leo's statements are made meaningless, and the respect for other religions shown in the Vatican over the last 100 years have been a de facto contradiction of Leo's claims. I'm not with SSPX and those condemning religious freedom, I'm all for it, I'm just showing how dichotemies can emerge and how things can "change" within Catholicism without using the word 'change'.

Secondly, the Development of Doctrine used to be considered a hereetical modern idea because it said Dogma could 'change' over time. The Tridentine doctrine was that every Tradition was actually passed on by the apostles. So St. Paul was walking around Ephesus expounding the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and giving Indulgences. Obviously, most Catholics today would not hold this view, and Cardinal Newman is probably responsible for this. I don't disagree that Dogma develops, again I'm just saying that it's place has 'changed' (or developed) in the Catholic view.

So the Modern/Contemporary Church can "re-interpret"/Develop/Change it's own previous teaching it seems, to the point that previous teaching is superfluous, but can they do that with Scripture? This has troubled me. I know we're "never supposed to put a dichotemy between Scripture and Tradition", but it is something we have to engage in, even as we engage in solving contradictions in the bible.

The Council of Trent said in Session 5, First Decree, Canon 5:
"...concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin."

So to simplify. Concupiscence, is not properly sin according to Trent, even though St. Paul (the apostle referenced) called it sin.

Luckily for Trent, St. Paul does not appear to have engaged in Aristotelian definitions in his epistles, so he didn't say "sin materially but not formally dwelleth in me", but only "sin dwelleth in me" (Rm 7:20).

"Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." (Rm 7:20)

The problem for Catholic theology is that a distinction is made between Original and Actual sin, and further Mortal and Venial sins. For a sin to really "count" as a sin, someone has to willfully and knowingly commit it. Then Catholic teaching is that when someone has done this, they have clearly shown that they are rejecting God.

The problem is that Paul attributes the bad action to the sin which dwells in him, for the Reformers: (Formally) Original Sin, for Trent: Concupiscence (Materially Original Sin).

Pastorally, whenever I've asked Catholics about this issue, they have sided (unknowingly) with Luther and Calvin. Calvin said that man was nothing but a heap of Concupiscence, and he and Luther argued the biblical definition of sin was: anything that fell short of the Glory of God. Thus every human action was sin. Luther said the only mortal sin, damnable sin in the end, was unbelief. The problem I see personally in Tridentine doctrine is the fact that Christians who know the law, ALWAYS sin mortally, because they know it, and they do it. The Catechism says 'with full consent of the will', but one might argue phenomenologically, that obviously any act committed is done with the full consent of the will, how else could it occur if not from a completed decision of the will? (maybe they could half commit a sin?)

As well, I don't know any Catholics who would agree that every time they lied, masurbated, or dishonored their parents, they really thought "I hate God, and by this action I willfully reject him, because my faith and works are so closely tied!".

Rowan Williams paraphrases St. Augustine by saying "most sins are committed by people weeping and groaning" (De natura et gratia xxix 33 - though this is a fairly liberal paraphrase, I checked, it is not inaccurate).

Now I dont deny that Catholicism offers forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation/confession/penance, and I don't deny that the best in the Catholic tradition have basically disagreed with Church teaching on mortal sin - or to put it sophistically - have had a very open view as to what constitutes perfect contrition (basically any contrition = perfect). Some pre-Tridentine Catholics even taught justification by faith alone like the Spirituali and Cardinal Pole (although the Catholics get out of this by saying that they taught it by infusion, and had a view of the Chruch that they would've submitted, and indeed did submit, as Cardinal Reginald Pole did). BUT, if you read the Catechism, it still says that if you are in a state of mortal sin (and most would be amazed at how many things are dogmatically mortal sins) and you don't have a perfect love for God (which must be the result of an actual grace from God), then you are not allowed to hope you will be saved. Imperfect contrition does not equal forgiveness, repentance does not equal forgiveness, only perfect love for God (perfect contrition) and a desire for immediate sacramental confession = forgiveness. My friend who I have bible study with (a Catholic) always says "I hope we don't get hit by buses before saturday (the day we have Confession)", because technically speaking we would go to Hell.

We almost got into a car accident the other day, and even though I'm planning on going to confession, I'm still in mortal sin (I didn't go to mass yesterday, among other things), and even though I've asked God for forgiveness and confessed to him, I wouldn't say I have perfect love for God. If I did have perfect love for God, why would I sin in the first place? Riddle me that.

Now the Reformers argued that when we physically died, Original Sin is gone because it is tied to our 'flesh', and of course Catholcs jump on that and say "AHA! gnostics! Manichees!, etc". Except that St. Paul seems to say exactly what they do, and I doubt we'd want to account him a gnostic or a manichee. But that isn't a sufficient rebuttle to that criticism, I know.

There are so many prayers we find in medieval history for a good death, and people genuinely terrified that after all their lives of repentance and attempts to follow Christ, at that last pivotal moment when they died, they could lose it all. I reminds me a bit of musical chairs. When the music stops, you have to rush and hope there's a chair. Not a very comforting image, not very Romans 8:1. And I know of course, good Aristotelians don't use such existential arguments. Just because something horrifies a person almost to the point of insanity with fear and guilt, doesn't mean you can't 'technically' call it love, or grace.

Don't worry Catholics, my head is still holding the gun to my heart. Aristotle has not been "put to death" as Luther admonished. But I'm assuming that eventually one of two things will happen: 1) I'll give in to my emotions and become an Existentialist, and thereby become Protestant, or 2) My heart will just die, and my reason will finally have control of my passions as Aristotle and Kant spoke so highly of.

But sometimes I picture all of the people of the world, the Protestants, and the Catholics and Orthodox who don't go to confession, or die without it. It is like a scene from "Watchmen":

On that last day, we will look up to Christ and shout "Save us!", and he'll whisper "no".