Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Because Morality Changes over 800 Years ...

That must be why we see responses like this (link to response) from Roman Catholic human being Mark Shea. Of course! How could we be so dim! Christifideles Laici overrules 800 years of tradition, and the moral basis underlying the canonical provisions we previously identified (link).

But wait, does Christifideles Laici actually contradict those earlier documents in any way?

Does it permit any lay person to "engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith" contrary to Pope Alexander IV's decree? Does it permit any lay person "publicly make a speech or teach, thus investing himself with the dignity of a teacher" contrary to the degree of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council? Perhaps you have to read between the lines with special golden spectacles.

So let's see, when a really old document matches what Mr. Shea believes, it's those evil Calvinists trying to throw off tradition, but when the 800 year old document disagrees with Mr. Shea, it's so much out-dated rubbish.

Got it.

-TurretinFan

P.S. For those who haven't yet become accustomed to my style, I think it is absolutely absurd to think that it was immoral of laity to teach 800 years ago, but perfectly fine, in fact their duty, to do so today. Morality doesn't change, because God (the God of the Bible) doesn't change.

61 comments:

Mark P. Shea said...

I realize Christifideles Laici has a lot of big words, but really. If you are actually serious about "what Catholics think" about the role laypeople are called by the Church to have, you really should read it instead of dismissing it.

Oh, I forgot. You're not actually looking for information or an answer to your fake question. You're just playing Gotcha to impress your peers.

It would be an interesting experiment to go through your site and eliminate every blog post that isn't written in reaction to something in the Catholic faith. I wonder if there would be anything left?

Well, Merry Christmas anyway, Turretin.

Turretinfan said...

I'm guessing I've read it more thoroughly than you have, Mark. Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, a lot of my blog posts are related to Roman Catholicism. I suppose you might imagine that is to impress my peers. A better inference to draw, though, is that I am concerned for Roman Catholics.

-TurretinFan

Jonathan Watson said...

I think it is absolutely absurd to think that it was immoral of laity to teach 800 years ago, but perfectly fine, in fact their duty, to do so today. Morality doesn't change, because God (the God of the Bible) doesn't change.

Dude. Morality doesn't change. Circumstances do. A traditional community will condemn a young couple having sex one day when the very next day they positively cheer them on. What could be the cause of such inconsistency? Oh right, a wedding.

So there are any number of reasons why you might forbid someone from teaching in one situation while you cheer him on in another. It might have to do with the relative availability of a decent religious education to laypeople now vs. then. Nah, that couldn't be it. Or, perhaps, the kinds of authority that people in those kinds of positions tend to claim for themselves. (Laypeople in the Middle Ages have lots of ordained folks running around teaching according to the authority of the church, but not a lot of books to study. Maybe laypeople had a tendency to claim a different kind of authority: an ecstatic or mystical authority that tended to lead people astray. You rarely have that kind of issue today in the Catholic apologetic crowd, which bases their authority purely on that of the magisterium and have available to them beaucoup copies of nearly all magisterial documents of the church: surely an unprecedented situation.)

My point is that no matter how closely you've read the document itself, you're not fully educated in the logic of the decree or the teaching until you've read it in its historical context and in the context of previous teaching and in the context of how it was received, understood, obeyed, and modified by those to whom it was addressed, and in how the issuing authority (or its successor) responded to said reception, understanding, obedience, and modification.

All this is wicked complicated, but such is the world God (the God of the Bible) made. Attempting to simplify things down to the point where you can cogitate without studying the circumstances and context of that about which you are trying to cogitate is a poor Modernist, Cartesian (and losing) game.

Jonathan Watson said...

Aaaand this is merely because I want follow-up emails and totally forgot to check the box.

Turretinfan said...

Jonathan,

If you can point me to a place where the Magisterium says "due to a change of circumstances," I'd be more willing to think that your comments aren't just wishful speculation. The marriage analogy is interesting, but there is no reason for us to think it applies. Do you see what I mean?

Christifideles Laici (since Mark has selected that one), when it speaks of what the Laity can and can't do, tends to justify it on grounds that are not linked to a change of circumstances. There is some reference to the Second Vatican Council, which certainly gave many folks the appearance of a massive amount of change of circumstances - but is there anything in that council akin to marriage that would make moral something previously immoral (analogous to the wedding)?

-TurretinFan

Jonathan Watson said...

If you can point me to a place where the Magisterium says "due to a change of circumstances," I'd be more willing to think that your comments aren't just wishful speculation.

But that's the kind of "everything that is not permitted is forbidden" attitude that so screwed up American Catholicism for the first 60 years of the 20th century. Why don't you go and ask Magisterium why they don't seem to have a problem with it anymore? Seriously, find a Jesuit, a Dominican, or a really smart priest who knows how to speak Reformedese and ask them what's up. If you don't like his answer, take your case to the bishop. If you don't like his answer, take it to a council of bishops. And if you don't like their answer, take it to an Ecumenical council of bishops or (failing that) just ask Benedict. I'll bet he could tell you.

In any case, my "wishful speculations" were reasonable attempts to understand an actual situation: a non-nefarious Magisterium allows, nay encourages, lay apologists and they didn't used to. Either the situation has changed and the scripture cited in the former document no longer applies, or the Magisterium is engaged in a really, really transparent fraud. But your transparent fraud argument places a lot of the burden of proof on the idea that circumstances have not changed. Frankly, since 800 years have past since this decree - 800 years that included multiple Ecumenical councils, a Reformation, a Counter-Reformation, the breakup of Europe, the Enlightenment, the Revolutions of America and France (and others) the unification of Germany, two World Wars (and a thousand little others), the rise of universal literacy and the translation of the Bible and the Church Fathers into many local languages and the invention of the Internet to help give people access to said translations - I think my "wishful speculations", which assume these changes are significant to the immediate teaching of the Magisterium within a specific historical context are slightly more likely than your "transparent fraud" hypothesis.

Turretinfan said...

Jonathan,

It's not on me to try to disprove your speculation - I can just point out that you are speculating. You don't know why the Magisterium seems to be permitting something that was previously so seriously bad it led to excommunication.

"But your transparent fraud argument places a lot of the burden of proof on the idea that circumstances have not changed."

No it doesn't. If you want to claim that they are justified in departing from tradition based on changed circumstances, you have to produce the circumstances.

I couldn't care less if it was a knowing fraud or ignorance of the history of their own church. I haven't set out to prove that they knew about those old rules and set out to set them aside: I don't necessarily ascribe that much knowledge to your magisterium. But you hold your magisterium in higher esteem than I do, and you want to excuse their departure from tradition.

So feel free to try, but just speculating that the circumstances might have changed in some way that might be relevant doesn't cut the mustard.

If you don't know, why don't you ask your magisterium, preferably before wildly speculating that the situation may be analogous to sexual relations before and after marriage.

-TurretinFan

Anonymous said...

Has it ever occurred to you that Alexander may not have been referring to teaching as in teaching children their prayers and reminding grown ups that stealing is wicked? Do you honestly think that this edict meant that if a mother told her child "Jesus said blessed are the meek" that she would be excommunicated? Possibly you do - possibly you learned everything you need to know about the 13th century by watching Monty Python movies.

Turretinfan said...

He's talking about things like debating James White.

louis said...

The change probably is due to a change in circumstances. You see, if you disagreed with them before, they could just burn you at the stake. Now they have to argue with you, and they need all the help they can get.

Jonathan Watson said...

He's talking about things like debating James White.

Good point. Alexander probably didn't want the laity wasting their time. Ooooooo, snap!

Seriously, how do you know? What do you know about the situation of medieval Europe?

Jonathan Watson said...

You see, if you disagreed with them before, they could just burn you at the stake. Now they have to argue with you, and they need all the help they can get.

See, it's comments like that that encourage people like me to write you guys off. You obviously have no idea what you're talking about and are merely regurgitating the most extreme talking points of the modern humanists (and everyone since the Enlightenment). Take a history class.

Coram Deo said...

Turretinfan said...
He's talking about things like debating James White.

Thursday, December 24, 2009 2:00:00 AM


Now all the Romanist lay apologists can breathe a collective sigh of relief because everyone knows that James White hadn't yet been born when Pope Alexander issued this decree.

Case closed.

Move along folks, nothing to see here.

In Christ,
CD

Jonathan Watson said...

Nuts. I lost a post somewhere. I have an MA in theology. My "wishful speculations" are actually informed hypotheses based on actual knowledge of and reading in medieval and early church history, including a fair amount of philosophical knowledge (though not near enough), and a lot of courses and training in theology.

I'm not "wishfully speculating". I have very good reason for giving the Magisterium the benefit of the doubt on this one. If you can't see how universal literacy, cheap texts, and 800 years of history with all the attendant philosophical and practical changes don't significantly alter the apologetic situation on the ground, all I can say is, phew.

louis said...

Jonathan,

Sorry, I was half joking, but I admit the comment was a little mean. I'll delete it if you want.

Still, I thought there was some truth to it, so I'm not sure what you mean by "take a history class." Are you saying Rome never really burned "heretics"? That's just modern humanist misinformation?

Turretinfan said...

You are wishfully speculating as far as we can see until you provide evidence to support your assertions. You yourself characterized your assertions above tentatively initially. But if you're sure that's the reason, just provide us evidence. Given your MA, you should be familiar with demands to document your claims.

In fact, thanks to an interlocutor, you've got a competing "change of circumstances" argument that could be less inflammatorily (ha) described as the "loss of political influence" circumstance. That circumstance is easily documented, and its presence intuitively explains the change in policy, without the change in policy actually reflecting a morally significant alteration.

-TurretinFan

Jonathan Watson said...

Thanks, louis. That was gracious. And I'm sorry if I've gotten a little heated as well.

I didn't mean that people under the authority of Rome never burned people at the stake. Everybody burned people at the stake back then. It's what the authorities often did when people incorrigibly spread dangerous ideas that were likely to cause significant danger to the commonwealth.

We may disagree with the point at which those ideas become dangerous enough to deserve public sanction, but ideas are dangerous. Marx's killed a heck of a lot of people, just as an example. Surely we can understand where the medievals were coming from, even if we don't agree with their methods of punishment.

Furthermore, burning at the stake was not a method of argument. Serious disputes among scholars and churchmen (i.e. the people who knew enough to dispute these sorts of things) happened all the time without people getting burned at the stake. The modern insinuation that the standard reaction to heresy or disagreement with the church was burning at the stake is just plain false.

Turretinfan said...

A little heated now, eh? Some more stake-burning humor?

Turretinfan said...

Nevertheless, the fact remains that persecution (and even death) was not out of the question for those who severely criticized those who had political authority in Rome. That naturally tended to suppress debate, and I can't think of any serious person who would suggest otherwise.

Viisaus said...

Well, 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia gave us a very clear teaching:


"By a decree of Alexander IV (1254-1261) inserted in "Sextus Decretalium", Lib. V, c. ii, AND STILL IN FORCE, all laymen are forbidden, under threat of excommunication, to dispute publicly or privately with heretics on the Catholic Faith."

...

"The terms Catholic Faith and dispute have a technical signification. The former term refers to questions purely theological; the latter to disputations more or less formal, and engrossing the attention of the public. There are numerous questions, somewhat connected with theology, which many laymen who have received no scientific theological training can treat more intelligently than a priest. In modern life, it frequently happens that an O'Connell or a Montalembert must stand forward as a defender of Catholic interests upon occasions when a theologian would be out of place. But when there is a question of dogmatic or moral theology, every intelligent layman will concede the propriety of leaving the exposition and defence of it to the clergy."

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05034a.htm


This was the no-nonsense position of the pre-Vatican II Roman church. Pharisaical and unbiblical policy for sure, but free from the inconsistent hypocrisy that post-Vatican II Romanists are forced to indulge in.

Jonathan Watson said...

Yeah, unfortunately, I'm currently teaching mathematics and science and my books are packed away until I can move into a place big enough to hold them.

The most speculatively expressed of my assertions was the one about the laity claiming mystical experience or knowledge as a kind of competing authority with the Magisterium. In fact, I was too tentative with that one.

1. People do, in fact, claim mystical visions even today (often Marian apparitions) that are be some considered authoritative in some way. Just google "marian apparition" or "marian prophecy", and I'll bet you'll find some whacked-out stuff. The Church takes a very dim view of this kind of teaching. People who are into Marian apparitions are always talking about the mean bishops harshing their mellow.

2. This happened in the Middle Ages as well. I don't remember the name of the book, but it was a historical survey of Christian attitudes towards, and theology regarding, the body from a respected scholar of Church history. She pointed out that there was a tendency of lay people (often women) to claim mystical experiences as a kind of parallel and, to some extent, competing teaching authority. The Church has always pointed out that while mystical experiences and visions and all that can have some value, it needs to be taken with a great dollop of salt, and teaching has to be in communion with the Magisterium. You don't get to strike out on your own without the fellowship and fraternal correction, and help from the Holy Spirit that comes from being in communion with the apostles and their successors.

Furthermore, in your original post you definitely asked me to doubt my position. I'm merely pointing out that I am confident that I have good philosophical, theological, and hermeneutical reasons for not doubting my position.

Turretinfan said...

Well done, Viisaus! So, we've narrowed down when the "circumstances change" must have been, if we are to accept Jonathan's speculative justification.

Jonathan Watson said...

That naturally tended to suppress debate

Of course. That was the whole point. Most human beings before the modern era have been pretty sure that some ideas are pretty darn dangerous, and if you're going to indulge in them, you'd better not do it in public, where you could deceive a bunch of people and potentially bring down the community. You know, like in, say, 18th century France ... or 20th century Russia ... or Germany ... or China ... or Cambodia ... or Cuba.

The only reason we in the West have been able to be so sanguine about "free and open debate" is that there's been a generally accepted level of adherence to Christian ideals.

When adherence to those ideals degenerates, then once again those ideas become more and more dangerous and will tend to do significant damage to more and more people.

Viisaus said...

What's more, not even ordinary priests are allowed to dispute heretics whenever they'd like to:


"But the clergy are not free to engage in public disputes on religion without due authorization. In the Collectanea S. Cong. de Prop. Fide" (p. 102, n. 294) we find the following decree, issued 8 March, 1625: "The Sacred Congregation has ordered that public discussions shall not be held with heretics, because for the most part, either owing to their loquacity or audacity or to the applause of the audience, error prevails and the truth is crushed. But should it happen that such a discussion is unavoidable, notice must first be given to the S. Congregation, which, after weighing the circumstances of time and persons, will prescribe in detail what is to be done. The Sacred Congregation enforced this decree with such vigour, that the custom of holding public disputes with heretics wellnigh fell into desuetude."

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05034a.htm

Jonathan Watson said...

All right, guys. Congratulations. You've discovered that the decree was still in force as of 1910.

But look at both those entries. The endorsement of the decree in the first entry is predicated on the scientific training in theology which the clergy receive and the laity do not:

There are numerous questions, somewhat connected with theology, which many laymen who have received no scientific theological training can treat more intelligently than a priest.... But when there is a question of dogmatic or moral theology, every intelligent layman will concede the propriety of leaving the exposition and defence of it to the clergy."

This is hardly a thunderous proclamation direct from Mt. Sinai.

And the second quote states directly that they're talking not about some absolute Biblical law but propriety and the likelihood of the Faith being besmirched:

either owing to their loquacity or audacity or to the applause of the audience, error prevails and the truth is crushed.

If the Magisterium makes the prudential judgment that, in fact, this danger is less pressing nowadays, then there is certainly no call to charge them with hypocrisy.

Stupidity maybe. I begin to see the wisdom of the old ways, trying to argue with a bunch of formalist liberals like this is exhausting and rarely worth it.

I mean, seriously. I don't even know you guys. You don't know me. I can't respect you and your opinions and apparently you can't respect mine.

I've been thinking I need to spend less time on the internet arguing with people I don't know. This pretty much clinches it.

Okay, guys. You win.

Dang. The Magisterium was right again.

Demolition said...

Thank your concern in that I and we are Roman Catholics. When I share that concern, I will return to this site.

In the meantime, there appears to be no other reason to visit this site other than to observe half-thought-out absolutism masquerade as intelligent apologetics.

Have a nice day!!

Oh, and Jonathan Watson knows what he is talking about. I suggest that you actually try listening to what he says rather than reflexively shoehorning your rhetoric to refute what he has to say.

louis said...

Did I miss something? I appreciated Jonathan's comments, but gee, do I have to agree with him?

Alphonsus said...

"Is pointing out that your church has departed from tradition a sincere effort to show you that you're being lied to, or just mockery? Think carefully before responding."
http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/12/lay-roman-catholic-and-eastern-orthodox.html?showComment=1261620129232#c5810328031903764026

Responding to this point from the other combox, I think the Catholic posters are objecting to the way that you have fixed on the idea that this prudential or legislative decree is a matter of dogma and not discipline, hence Mark's description of you as telling Catholics what they believe. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to ask a canon lawyer or someone with a good knowledge of canon law. Some of those who have responded seem to possess such familiarity:
http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/12/lay-roman-catholic-and-eastern-orthodox.html?showComment=1261632671449#c183684406904197937

Equivocating between dogmas and disciplines indicates either ignorance or malicious intent on the part of the critic. I think we all ought to avoid strawen.

As regards the question of executing heretics, let's not forget Servetus. All major Christian groups have done this which were dishonorable and which have no bearing on the truth of said groups' beliefs. Dredging up crimes is usually just another form of ad hominem.

I think part of the problem here is that, intentionally or not, the original post seemed kind of snarky. Turretin did not give the impression, either in that post or his subsequent comments, that he believed there might be some rational explanation from the Catholic side. I think it's generally bad to begin with the assumption that our interlocuters have everything wrong. Lets all be charitable. It is Christmas Eve, after all.

Michaelus said...

If lay apologetics were what Alexander IV meant to proscribe when was St. Catherine of Sienna excommunicated?

I know nothing at all about this document but the simple fact that Catherine was not excommunicated indicates that Alexander and his successors did not mean what you think he means. My guess is that you are unaware of what "heretic", "dispute" and "laity" mean.

Turretinfan said...

Alphonsus:

"I think the Catholic posters are objecting to the way that you have fixed on the idea that this prudential or legislative decree is a matter of dogma and not discipline, hence Mark's description of you as telling Catholics what they believe."

I only see Mark Shea saying that we think it is dogma, not discipline. We don't actually say that, do we?

"Perhaps the best thing to do would be to ask a canon lawyer or someone with a good knowledge of canon law. Some of those who have responded seem to possess such familiarity: [link above]."

No one has responded claiming to be a canon lawyer. They are welcome to respond, of course. It is an open question, and this is the Internet. What might be helpful is for Roman Catholics who think this can only be answered in that way, not to first wildly speculate and then when that speculation can't be supported, suggest that we shouldn't have asked them in the first place.

"Equivocating between dogmas and disciplines indicates either ignorance or malicious intent on the part of the critic. I think we all ought to avoid strawen."

See above regarding the fact that we haven't called a discipline a dogma. That straw man is of Mr. Shea's creation. Nevertheless, while we acknowledge that you treat your church's actions under two categories, we may (without ignorance or malice) point out that some of that distinction is artificial. After all, the excommunication of a heretic (for example) is premised on an understanding of dogma. There is a relation between the two, even though many Roman Catholic apologists like to view the categories in a hyper-compartmentalized way.

"As regards the question of executing heretics, let's not forget Servetus."

Under what rubric ought we to remember him? As a blasphemer who got what both Calvinists and Roman Catholics agreed he should get? Or under a modernist conception that it was wrong, but the wrongs of Calvinists whitewash the wrongs of Roman Catholics? I'm curious why you even mention him? Do you suppose that Geneva's political power was every anything like that of medieval Rome?

"All major Christian groups have done this which were dishonorable and which have no bearing on the truth of said groups' beliefs."

You need to read the comments above more carefully. The point about burning heretics had to do with silencing debate, not with who is right.

"Dredging up crimes is usually just another form of ad hominem."

Since it's not here, whether it usually is or is not is irrelevant. And if it were an ad hominem here, what is your reference to Servetus? A tu quoque?

"I think part of the problem here is that, intentionally or not, the original post seemed kind of snarky."

I assume you've made similar comments on Mr. Shea's post, lest we think you are applying one standard to Roman Catholics and another to Reformed folks. Snarkiness is, at any rate, often in the eye of the beholder.

"Turretin did not give the impression, either in that post or his subsequent comments, that he believed there might be some rational explanation from the Catholic side."

Assuming that your impressions were correct, the Roman Catholic responses seem to have justified such a belief. As yet, there have been lots of comments, but no rational explanation for why laity debating was a moral wrong that deserved excommunication 700 years ago, but is not today.

"I think it's generally bad to begin with the assumption that our interlocuters have everything wrong."

Again, I assume you fair-mindedly applied this same criticism to Mr. Shea. But no, this post is not the result of merely an initial assumption. It follows on previous discussions I've had on related subjects.

"Lets all be charitable. It is Christmas Eve, after all."

Turretinfan said...

Demolition:

Thanks for stopping by.

Jonathan:

You wrote: "If the Magisterium makes the prudential judgment that, in fact, this danger is less pressing nowadays, then there is certainly no call to charge them with hypocrisy."

But (a) did they make that judgment or is this another of your wishful speculations and (b) should we really interpret Alex IV's comments as simply a prudential "at this time" determination that was not founded on universal moral principles? If so, why should we interpret it that way?

-TurretinFan

louis said...

"As regards the question of executing heretics, let's not forget Servetus. All major Christian groups have done this which were dishonorable and which have no bearing on the truth of said groups' beliefs. Dredging up crimes is usually just another form of ad hominem."

Not quite. It has bearing on the truth, since we were speculating as to why the RCC changed its position on the matter, and its "loss of political influence" is one possible explanation.

Now I apologized for describing it in terms of "burning heretics at the stake" but the point remains. If you're going to suggest "changed circumstances" as the reason for the change in the rule, then in the absence of an official explanation as to what those circumstances are, it's fair game to consider all the possibilities.

"Equivocating between dogmas and disciplines indicates either ignorance or malicious intent on the part of the critic. I think we all ought to avoid strawen."

I can't speak for TF, but some of us aren't convinced with RCC distinctions. Calling one thing a discipline and another a dogma, this statement infallible and that one not, often seems like a way of equivocating in itself. I don't deny that legitimate distinctions can be made between these things, but sometimes the RCC uses these categories in a way that seems rather convenient.

Besides, we are constantly being told how wonderful (indeed necessary) it is to have a church that speaks with one infallible and unified voice, as if from the very mouth of Christ himself. And yet, a thing so important that it can get you excommunicated one day, is later subject to qualifications, categorizations, and perhaps a 'hundred visions and revisions before the taking of a toast and tea'. One should ask whether they can imagine Christ acting this way, if the pope is indeed the vicar of Christ.

Turretinfan said...

"If lay apologetics were what Alexander IV meant to proscribe when was St. Catherine of Sienna excommunicated?"

She was a mystic with great political connections in Rome. Assuming she did do lay apologetics, that would be an adequate explanation. Where are these records of Catherine engaging in apologetics? The closest I can find are her "Dialogs" but those are not actual dialogs, but simply a treatises written in dialog format.

"I know nothing at all about this document but ..."

If only that would lead you to a more cautious responses.

"... the simple fact that Catherine was not excommunicated indicates that Alexander and his successors did not mean what you think he means. My guess is that you are unaware of what "heretic", "dispute" and "laity" mean."

Uh - no. See above.

-TurretinFan

Robert said...

But (a) did they make that judgment or is this another of your wishful speculations and (b) should we really interpret Alex IV's comments as simply a prudential "at this time" determination that was not founded on universal moral principles? If so, why should we interpret it that way?

I don't want to step on Jonathan's toes, as he seems more than able to answer for himself; but I thought I'd toss in my tuppence.

We should interpret it that way because a canon is not intended to express universal moral principles but rather to apply such principles to the situation on the ground. Such is the nature of human law.

Certainly, law is founded on universal moral principles; but it does not promulgate them, nor express them with the fullness or precision that a doctrinal statement or a philosophical treatise would.

A change in human law does not imply a change in belief, much less hypocrisy. It only implies (in and of itself) a change in practice and a difference of prudential judgment.

Turretinfan said...

"We should interpret it that way because a canon is not intended to express universal moral principles but rather to apply such principles to the situation on the ground. Such is the nature of human law."

That sounds like an acknowledgment that the decrees in question were founded on universal moral principles, not a denial of it.

"Certainly, law is founded on universal moral principles; but it does not promulgate them, nor express them with the fullness or precision that a doctrinal statement or a philosophical treatise would."

I'm not sure that philosophical treatises and artfully crafted doctrinal statements are always very perspicuous, but that's another topic. It's one thing to say that the laws don't necessarily express things with precision, it is another thing to say that the laws get the underlying moral principle 180 degrees wrong.

"A change in human law does not imply a change in belief, much less hypocrisy. It only implies (in and of itself) a change in practice and a difference of prudential judgment."

It at the very least raises the question as to why the change was made. Changes in human law can imply a change in belief - in some cases (like this one) they can leave us wondering whether the person who changed the laws even noticed that the change had been made!

You may read Alexander IV's decree in its context here: (link to decree - sorry it's in Latin)

Coram Deo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coram Deo said...

Based on much of the argumentation in this thread thus far it seems that there are at least two conclusions that may be reached, to wit:

1) Alexander IV was simply wrong at the time of his decree; or else

2) he was right at the time, however due to changing circumstances he was only correct for a time and season, and he is no longer correct.

In the case of #1 I wonder what else he was wrong about at the time?

Were other popes wrong?

In the case of #2 I wonder what else Alexander IV was right about for a time and a season, but due to changing circumstances he is now wrong about?

Were other popes right about things for a time and a season, but due to changing circumstances they are now wrong?

Who decides?

Can a lay Roman Catholic discern and decide about these things for himself? Indeed, is he allowed to interpret these things for himself?

If the Magisterium is backlogged on almost 800 years of infallible re-interpretation, as it appears is possible in the case of this decree, is it then possible that Roman Catholics will learn on or about October 31, 2317 that Luther was right after all?

In Christ,
CD

Alphonsus said...

The Servetus comment was not meant as a to quoque, but to basically say that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. The fact that dredging up past atrocities is also irrelevant makes that strategy doubly wrong.

It is true that Shea can be snarky, but I don't think he was the one who started this fight. He reacted to a post on this blog by noting (in other words) that Turretin's post about the decretal only works if one assumes either 1) that Catholics believe the decretal is a matter of dogma or 2) that it is still in force. #1 is not true, as Turretin himself concedes. #2, as can be determined by looking at the Code of Canon Law, is also false.

As regards the distinction between discipline and dogma, I think Turretin's earlier post's critique implicitly mixes these two categories. As Robert noted on the other combox, the current Code of Canon Law explicitly abrogates older decretals and canons, so the restrictions on lay apologists that you mention no longer applies:

"Can. 6 §1. When this Code takes force, the following are abrogated:

"1/ the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917;

"2/ other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescripts of this Code unless other provision is expressly made for particular laws;

"3/ any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See unless they are contained in this Code;

"4/ other universal disciplinary laws regarding matter which this Code completely reorders.

"§2. Insofar as they repeat former law, the canons of this Code must be assessed also in accord with canonical tradition."
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2.HTM

Louis, the distinction is too convenient only if you assume that Catholicism is wrong. If it's correct, one would expect everything to "make sense" neatly. Also, making relevant distinctions is the pretty much the opposite of equivocating.

About the question of changing morality, it should be noted that law is not just the re-statement of moral principles. Robert George has noted that, even though driving safely is a moral duty, the legislated speed limit ought to vary based on circumstance.

I'm not really sure what is left to discuss on this topic. Alexander's decretal is not a matter of dogma and, furthermore, it has been abrogated. What is there left to talk about here?

Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone!

Viisaus said...

A bit more on the Eastern Orthodox position and that canon of Quinisext council (recognized by the EOs as ecumenical one).

Here's how some commentators have understood that canon:

http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/txud/counci34.htm

"Ancient Epitome of Canon LXIV.

A layman shall not teach, for all are not prophets, nor all apostles.

Zonaras points out that this canon refers only to public instruction and not to private. Van Espen further notes that in the West this restriction is limited to the solemn and public preaching and announcing of the Word of God, which is restricted to bishops, and only by special and express license given to the other clergy, and refers to his own treatment of the subject In jure Eccles., Tom I., part 1, tit. xvi., cap. viii"

Viisaus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viisaus said...

Jonathan Watson wrote:

"But look at both those entries. The endorsement of the decree in the first entry is predicated on the scientific training in theology which the clergy receive and the laity do not:"

You are eisegetically reading your own modern liberal standards to that Catholic Encyclopedia's teaching. The context makes it pretty clear what sort of stuff laymen were allowed to be involved in back then:

"There are numerous questions, somewhat connected with theology, which many laymen who have received no scientific theological training can treat more intelligently than a priest. In modern life, it frequently happens that an O'Connell or a Montalembert must stand forward as a defender of Catholic interests upon occasions when a theologian would be out of place."

Daniel O'Connell was a leader of the Irish Catholic political emancipation - so we might assume that the sort of debates that a layman like him were allowed to perform were not of purely theological, but mainly political nature. O'Connell definitely did not defend the RCC in the field of abstract dogmatics. Montalembert likewise debated merely on "secular" issues about the relationship of church and state in post-revolution France.


"But when there is A QUESTION OF DOGMATIC OR MORAL THEOLOGY, every intelligent layman will concede the propriety of leaving the exposition and defence of it to the clergy."

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05034a.htm

Modern layman RC apologists are very much dealing with "pure theology".

Note that above text does not say that only simple or uneducated laymen but INTELLIGENT laymen as well should humbly step aside.

It implies that no mere worldly book-learning can ever replace the magical sacramental power that only RC priests possess and are able to do theological guidance with.

louis said...

"Louis, the distinction is too convenient only if you assume that Catholicism is wrong."

No, Alphonsus, the distinctions are too convenient if we judge Roman Catholicism by standards outside itself. I have no doubt whatsoever that according to its own terms and definitions, the RCC is perfectly correct. Now whether those terms and definitions comport with biblical Christianity is another matter.

Coram Deo said...

The Papacy is The Antichrist

J.A. Wylie

Turretinfan said...

Alphonsus:

"As regards the distinction between discipline and dogma, I think Turretin's earlier post's critique implicitly mixes these two categories."

As I may have already observed, some exercises of discipline depend on dogma. I don't think anyone has demonstrated that such is not the case here.

"As Robert noted on the other combox, the current Code of Canon Law explicitly abrogates older decretals and canons, so the restrictions on lay apologists that you mention no longer applies..."

It only abrogrates within specific categories. It may be that it does abrogate Alex 4's decretal and the canons of the Quinisext council (which may never have been accepted by the Romans, anyway).

That was the first observation on the original thread, and it was my first comment on that thread to note that vague claims of abrogation are the usual response.

-TurretinFan

Mike Burgess said...

TF, As a courtesy, could you let us know in what consists the depth of your knowledge of St. Catherine of Siena?

Thanks. As to the original post, could you demonstrate for us the basic tenet (to wit: that there is a doctrinal difference in Christifidelis Laici and Sextus Decretalium?) Since you asserted that there is a doctrinal difference, the burden is, in fact, upon you.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Burgess,

To your first request, "no, I won't."

To your second request, I've already done so in the post.

-TurretinFan

Alphonsus said...

"I have no doubt whatsoever that according to its own terms and definitions, the RCC is perfectly correct."

Then why are you commenting on this issue when the original post was dealing with a question of the Catholic Church's internal consistency?

"It implies that no mere worldly book-learning can ever replace the magical sacramental power that only RC priests possess and are able to do theological guidance with."

Who's doing eisegesis now? The statement implies no such thing. The statement:

"But when there is A QUESTION OF DOGMATIC OR MORAL THEOLOGY, every intelligent layman will concede the propriety of leaving the exposition and defence of it to the clergy."

would have just been a statement of fact in the early 20th century, when Catholic seminaries and theology faculties were (AFIK) restricted to priests and seminarians. Virtually all Catholic theologians in that day were clergy, so such a statement is hardly surprising.

"It only abrogrates within specific categories. It may be that it does abrogate Alex 4's decretal and the canons of the Quinisext council (which may never have been accepted by the Romans, anyway)."

If you're really interested in the matter, ask or email a canon lawyer. If you're not interested in an expert opinion, why keep talking about it?

Turretinfan said...

Alphonsus:

So, would you concede that those lay Roman Catholic apologists without any formal theological training should not, in principle, be engaging in apologetics on subjects of faith an morals?

-TurretinFan

louis said...

"Then why are you commenting on this issue when the original post was dealing with a question of the Catholic Church's internal consistency?"

I thought you were against ad hominems, Alphonsus. But if you really have to ask that question, then you're not following the argument very well. Maybe you should go back and read a little more closely.

Alphonsus said...

"I thought you were against ad hominems, Alphonsus."

At what point did I resort to an ad hominem? I did not, as far as I know, attack you or anyone else. My question was meant to clarify the matter being discussed.

"So, would you concede that those lay Roman Catholic apologists without any formal theological training should not, in principle, be engaging in apologetics on subjects of faith an morals?"

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by formal theological training, but I would generally say that people should not engage in apologetics (or any intellectual discourse)regarding subjects in which they are not competant. I would apply that standard to Protestants and Orthodox (and pretty much everybody else) as well as Catholics.

Joy said...

Turretinfan,

You are absolutely right about this teaching of the RCC. My professor (catholic uni) invokes it whenever she does not want to defend her liberal-istic (anti-RCC, even) remarks.

It is sad, but the only time I ever hear of canon law is when a liberal roman catholic invokes it (or a waxed over interpretation of it) to defend their strange beliefs.

-Joy

Turretinfan said...

Alphonsus:

By formal theological training, I was referring to your comment: "would have just been a statement of fact in the early 20th century, when Catholic seminaries and theology faculties were (AFIK) restricted to priests and seminarians. Virtually all Catholic theologians in that day were clergy, so such a statement is hardly surprising."

-TurretinFan

Viisaus said...

"Who's doing eisegesis now? The statement implies no such thing."

I see in that Catholic Encyclopedia article no sign of that idea of yours, that if only laymen would be "properly educated", they would THEN be able to preach doctrine and defend it in disputes.

The old-school RCs clearly thought the sacrament of ordination was needed to make person able to speak authoritatively about matters of Catholic faith. (And that even parish priests would need permission from their bishops to engage in disputes.)


Like it has been pointed out, it's only a logical step from your position (that the old-times ban on lay-preaching was valid only so long as education had not yet spread amongst lay masses) to the idea that the old-times ban on WOMEN preaching was also only a relative ban that can now be discarded as women have now become better educated.

Just like old-time RCs thought that women were CONSTITUTIONALLY, not merely educationally, incapable of leading men in matters of faith, so they thought that laymen were constitutionally unsuited of preaching or defending the RCC doctrine.

Even earthly rulers were not allowed by Rome to speak authoritatively in matters of faith, which was one of the prime causes of the great struggle between imperial and papal powers in the Middle Ages.

Viisaus said...

"If lay apologetics were what Alexander IV meant to proscribe when was St. Catherine of Sienna excommunicated?"


Catherine of Siena was hardly a typical laywoman. She was a NUN, a member of Dominican female order:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Siena#Life

Monk- and nun-orders have always existed in a sort of weird limbo between clergy and laity in the RC system. Lay-monks are not officially accredited priests, but they are still very far from normal laypeople, especially by the virtue of their celibacy that they share with actual priests.

Monkery has admittedly often been a representative of more "democratic" sentiments within the Roman church - RC priests and prelates have often been displeased by the spiritual pretensions of monkish fanatics, but since these orders are otherwise so useful to Rome, they have been allowed to exist.

Viisaus said...

"You are absolutely right about this teaching of the RCC. My professor (catholic uni) invokes it whenever she does not want to defend her liberal-istic (anti-RCC, even) remarks."

This is interesting, could you tell us more about this "defense mechanism"?


"It is sad, but the only time I ever hear of canon law is when a liberal roman catholic invokes it (or a waxed over interpretation of it) to defend their strange beliefs."

This greatly reminds me of how liberal "Christians" usually cite the Holy Bible only to support their political pet issues (like the redistribution of wealth) or out of context to support their perversions.

natamllc said...

CD

for what it is worth, I believe you were right about it being wrong and they were right that he was wrong and right being wrong cause you know he was the Pope and no Pope is ever wrong about being right, right? No? Hmmmmmm!

Alphonsus said...

"...and no Pope is ever wrong about being right..."

That's a cute strawman. ;)

"I see in that Catholic Encyclopedia article no sign of that idea of yours, that if only laymen would be "properly educated", they would THEN be able to preach doctrine and defend it in disputes."

It does not explicitly or authoritatively outlaw developments reflected in later proclamations and canon law. The question of women's ordination (at present or in the future), on the other hand, has been decided in the negative, many would say infallibly.

Also, fyi, Dominican Tertiaries are not nuns.
http://www.3op.org/

Turretinfan said...

Catherine of Sienna, as I recall, was a hermit who wore a habit and vowed perpetual virginity. That would put her in the broad definition of nun, though not in the narrow definition (since nuns in the narrow definition are part of a community). Hence she was a "tertiary" ...

Turretinfan said...

I've deleted some comments from Mike Burgess. Here's one thing he pointed out, namely that there is some "interpretation" of the canon provided at the link I gave. That interpretation, for what it's worth, is as follows:

"But if any layman chance to be experienced in discourse and modest in manner, he is not prohibited from answering and teaching in private those asking questions, as Zonaras states, and ch. 32 of Book VIII of the Apostolic Injunctions declare. For they shall be, it says, all taught of God: in which manner Apollos spoke, and taught the facts about the Lord, and in spite of the fact that he only knew the baptism of the Lord (Acts 28:25), and Aquilas and Priscilla, who taught the same Apollos the way of God more exactly (ibid.)."

Notice, however, the "in private," which would not (we assume) apply to blogs on the www.

-TurretinFan

Mike Burgess said...

It applies as opposed to "in Church," which is what the canon was addressing. You kick so hard against the goads. Quick work on the deletions, though, Winston.

Turretinfan said...

Actually, in private means in private - not simply "out of church."