Friday, July 15, 2011

Any convenient shillelagh

First, an apology: I promised last Friday that I would link to my new fiction writing blog on Monday. It's now Friday again, and I still don't have the new blog set up and ready to be made public. While it has been a crazy week, I think that the lesson I've learned here is: make sure there's a feasible amount of work left to be done on something before you say that you'll link to it in a few days.

I will do my absolute best to finish what needs to be finished over the weekend so I can link to the blog this coming Monday, for those who are still interested. If I don't finish everything...I'll link to it anyway. "Under construction" is okay, right?

Now: today's issue.

Patrick Archbold has done a good job discussing the Irish proposal to force Catholic priests to violate the seal of the confessional and reveal the sins of penitents--if those penitents are confessing to child abuse of any kind. Patrick writes:

Here in the US, governmental antipathy toward religion and particular the Catholic Church is a growing threat. Catholic organizations are already being prevented from providing adoption services and you can bet your favorite pair of skinny jeans that gay marriage laws will eventually culminate in discrimination charges for any religious organization that refuses to go along.

All these things erode our religious liberty. But the governmental death blow aimed at the heart of the Church is to destroy the seal of confession. If you think this could never happen, think again. It may be happening right now in Ireland.

The Irish government, including the person no less than the Prime Minister, the Minister for Justice, and the Minister for Children are all backing legislation that would require priests to break the seal of confession to report pedophiles.

This is, of course, not only a monstrous attack the Church and religious liberty, it is also completely useless. Do these Irish geniuses think that all pedophiles are complete morons? If a pedophile knows that the priest will/must rat him out to the coppers, how many pedophiles will be confessing? Yeah, about the same number of Mensa members in the Irish government. [Link in original--E.M.]

This is, of course, an attack against the Church, but it is a supremely stupid one. Not only will it be impossible to enforce a law which would require a priest to violate Church law and the confidence placed in him by those seeking the sacrament of penance, but it is also the case that confessions quite often take place under circumstances which offer the penitent anonymity. Even if the Church did permit priests to violate the seal of confession, which she doesn't, the law would likely be dubious about reports of confessions of child abuse in which the suspect disclosed the information behind a screen which obscured his face, and in a low monotone of the sort adopted by most Catholics in the confessional (because, after all, the next person in line might otherwise accidentally overhear). And there is no evidence, none whatsoever, that forcing priests to reveal the confessions of self-accused pedophiles or other child abusers would in any way help law enforcement deal with the problem of child abuse; in fact, considering that law enforcement sometimes has trouble prosecuting cases when multiple child-victims are willing to come forward and testify, how could the testimony of a priest concerning the shaky identification and mumbled self-accusation of a possible suspect even begin to be helpful?

The answer: it won't be. But this isn't about helping the children, or prosecuting abusers. This is about finding any convenient shillelagh (and you know I've got some Irish blood, because I spelled "shillelagh" correctly on the first try with no dictionary's help) with which to beat the Church.

Granted, given the terrible nature of the Scandal and the fear and frustration of lay people as they watch the slow and sometimes ineffective measures the Church has taken to try to protect children from abusers within the clergy, it is not hard to understand the anger that causes such reactions. But the problem with attempting to go after the sacrament of penance and violate the sacred trust between priests and penitents as the latter approach in sorrow to be absolved of their sins is that breaking that bond of trust will ultimately do much more harm than good. The right of every Catholic to approach his or her priest in total confidence that nothing which is said during sacramental confession will ever be revealed on earth to any other human being is sacrosanct, and is not something any real Catholic would permit to be violated by any government body, for any reason. Even in the secular world some bonds, such as those between doctors and patients, or lawyers and clients, or husbands and wives, are treated with the same respect--but if the Church is a target of the state's overreaching hands, you can expect that the rest of these bonds will be disrespected and done away with at some point, too.

UPDATE: This article says priests will be jailed over this:

.- A senior canon lawyer has told CNA he is alarmed by Irish government plans to imprison priests for keeping the seal of confession in sexual abuse cases.

“It will end up with priests being put in jail,” said Father Paul Hayward, editor of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland’s journal Abstracts.

“We have to get greater clarity as to what exactly is being proposed but, certainly, no priest who values their priesthood would ever break the seal of confession. This could make martyrs of a lot of Irish priests.”

And that's what the government of Ireland apparently wants.

42 comments:

bearing said...

Even if no priests ever do break the seal of confession, it will make a lot of parents wary about confessing sins of anger toward their children -- even those that don't rise to the level of abuse.

Don't tell me you wouldn't be a little bit more afraid to say "Father, I struck my child in anger" if you thought the law was pressuring him to rat you out.

This is good for nobody.

Kimberly Margosein said...

The RCC sowed the wind when they hid and protected pedophiles. Now they are reaping the whirlwind. Off hand, I'd say "it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch". For 90 years the RCC treated the Irish government as a servant to do the RCC's bidding. I think there is a lot of repressed anger at the RCC in the Irish government and this is a means to get even.

bearing said...

Guess all I can say is "thank God for the First Amendment" then.

PatO said...

Agreed, Kimberly Margosein.

There is no question that the Catholic church has been raping children for decades, covering it up, lying about it, and ignoring the victims.

They can't be trusted to protect society from their own pedophiles, and for a long time, the laws of the land allowed the church to get away with that. The church shamelessly, recklessly, sinfully abused that power - not as individuals, but as a coordinated, organized whole.

That makes them an organized crime empire as much as a religious institution.

They should start losing benefits, like "the loophole of confession", since they have long lost respect and trust.

Pedophile priests proved that confession gave them the capability to rape children as long as they ran to confession afterwards. Some in the US in Philadelphia had sex with children in confessional. That's convenient. If you close that loophole, and the priest knows that he has to confess or go to hell after he rapes a child, he has a big dilemma.

Pedophiles - want forgiveness from God? Go to prison on earth. You don't get the benefit of God's forgiveness for free. Priests - want to hide your pedophile priest friend? You go to jail, too.

Enact the law. Let's hope the US follows suit. The Catholic church concealed child rape for at least 60 years. Let's let the government shut down the pedophile protection practices.

Red Cardigan said...

So, PatO, you want all American public schools shut down, then, too?

The "Catholic Church" has not been raping children. A group of Catholic priests did this, as have larger groups of public school teachers, sports coaches, etc. Pedophilia is a huge societal problem, but the people who hate the Church and want to destroy it don't give a damn about the 98+% of child abusers who are not clergy.

Irenaeus said...

From 2009, but worth reading, Mary Eberstadt's "How Pedophilia Lost Its Cool". In a way supports Red's idea that this is more about hatred of the Church than real concern for the abused.

Hector said...

Leaving aside all the doctrinal argument (and it's worth noting that my church, as well as Erin's, also holds that 'the seal of the confessional is absolute', it's in the rubric), there's a good pragmatic reason for maintaining the seal of the confessional (which is probably why the Lateran Council instituted the policy in the first place).

I don't like the fact that priests are forbidden from telling the police about what penitents say, any more than I like the factors that doctors consider themselves unable to tell their patient's sexual partners about their HIV status. I suspect that many priests don't like it either. But ultimately there's good reason for the doctrine, and there is no better alternative.

If people know that the priest is going to go to the police with the details of their confession, then fewer of them are going to confess in the first place. Any priest worth their salt- Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican- will tell the penitent they need to take steps to remedy the situation, and in the case of a criminal act that would normally include confessing to the police. Anyone who isn't morally tormented enough by their crimes to confess to the police, is probably unlikely to confess to a priest in the first place. I think the number of child-abuse cases this would help prosecute is going to be approximately zero. It will have tremendous costs, and almost no benefits that I can see.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

bearing made the most important observation of course. Ireland doesn't HAVE a First Amendment. In any nation where the church has insisted it has authority, not merely free speech, but authority, to meddle with the state, naturally the state will find it has the authority to meddle with the church.

While concerns expressed in the first couple of posts accurately reflect certain trends in public sentiment, not a majority, but a loud and demanding trend, I think everyone is underestimating the First Amendment.

Constitutional provisions are no more subject to legislative majorities or temporary popular whims than they are to individual monarchies or tyrannies.

No matter how loudly the more hysterical gay rights voices scream, the courts are not going to require any church to host a marriage the church doesn't recognize as a marriage. Period.

The practical arguments for retaining the confessional seal are sound. The argument that the church should suffer for its abuses is morally sound -- the church's sin was to cover it up, not that pedophilia happened -- but the seal of the confessional is primarily to protect the religious exercise of the individuals parishioner. Yes, that includes the pedophile. It includes everyone. Any church functionary who learns of a crime OUTSIDE the confessional and fails to report it can certainly be prosecuted, and should be.

John E. said...

If you think this could never happen, think again. It may be happening right now in Ireland.

Has everyone noticed that this quoted phrase is not a logically constructed argument, but instead is simply an emotional appeal designed to frighten people?

Because if anyone missed that, I wanted to be sure and point it out.

Geoff G. said...

I'm going to stick up for the priests in this case. Confession and absolution can absolutely be a huge part of the mechanism whereby the the Catholic Church starts repairing the harm done by predatory priests. Even if you don't believe in the spiritual benefits of reconciliation, I think everyone can agree that it serves as an important means of counseling the perpetrators and hopefully taking some kind of action that might prevent future assaults.

But then I also believe in the right to absolute privacy when it comes to both psychological and medical care and counseling as well.

Now, are there proactive things that the Church can do to address assault? Yes, absolutely. The Church could do a heck of a lot more to cooperate with the civil authorities in these cases. If parents are coming forward with complaints, those complaints need to be taken seriously and investigated by the proper authorities with the full cooperation of the Church.

But there's no need to break the seal of the confessional in order to do it. Confession is ultimately between the penitent and God, with the priest merely an intermediary. Interfering with that relationship really is a very serious infringement of the penitent's religious rights, his or her right to a direct relationship with the divine, not just the right to privacy.

Kimberly Margosein said...

I should make my earlier comments clearer. The First Amendment already protects churches. Were they secular organizations, they would long ago have been shut down, and the principals prosecuted for mail fraud, wire fraud, theft by deception, etc.

Patrick said...

@ PatO:

"You don't get the benefit of God's forgiveness for free."

Yes you do.

JohnE said...

Were they secular organizations, they would long ago have been shut down, and the principals prosecuted for mail fraud, wire fraud, theft by deception, etc.

Extortion...

romishgraffiti said...

Has everyone noticed that this quoted phrase is not a logically constructed argument, but instead is simply an emotional appeal designed to frighten people?

Not really. I was distracted by the frothing of the mouth whenever the instruments of God's grace are the topic of conversation.

eulogos said...

I hope no one imagines that just because such a law is passed, that priests actually will reveal what they heard in the confessional. This is not an exemption from a civil law given to the Church which the civil government can take away. This is the Church's own law, solemnly pased by a council of the Church, which makes it God's law for Catholics. The most "liberal" priests I have known still took their responsibility in the confessional and their responsibility to maintain the Secret, with great seriousness. Violating the Secret is just about the worst thing a priest can do, and all such cases go directly to Rome. So passing such laws will harass the Church, and perhaps put some priests in jail. It won't gain any information. And I can hardly think of anything better for the fervency of priests than realizing that their calling is one in which they risk their freedom. Or for that of lay Catholics when they realize their priests will go to jail for the faith.
Susan Peterson

c matt said...

If you think this could never happen, think again. It may be happening right now in Ireland.

Has everyone noticed that this quoted phrase is not a logically constructed argument, but instead is simply an emotional appeal designed to frighten people?


I guess it depends upon your definition of logic.


The statement seems to go:

You may think action A is not thinkable (or never would occur).

Evidence E shows that some are thinking of and/or proposing action A.

Therefore, you may want to rethink Action A never occurring as some are already thinking, and even proposing A occur.

Certainly, the existence of evidence E provides a logical link to making one rethink A never occurring.

eulogos said...

Hector-Are you an Episcopalian?

Because 815 (ECUSA headquarters) advised priests that they are to cooperate with authorities on child abuse issues, even to the point of revealing what they were told in the confessional. And I heard an evangelical style Episcopal priest say he would have no problem doing this. I also know an ex Episcopal priest who gave up his priesthood and is now a Catholic layman because he was so disgusted by this advice from 815. I am certain that there are Anglo Catholic priests who take the seal as seriously as Catholic priests, but ECUSA will not stand behind them if their refusal to break the seal costs them prison.
Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Eulogos has managed to convince me that I have to argue both sides of this question now. It is certainly true that priests, like any other human being, may choose to engage in civil disobedience to a civil law, and take the consequences. Those who engage in civil disobedience may challenge the validity of the prescribed punishment, or quietly accept it as the price of virtue, or contest it and then acquiesce to it. But, ultimately, a person willing to pay any price is not in fact constrained by the law.

This ultimate fact applies to suicide bombers as much as it does to Christian martyrs.

However, "the Church's own law" is not BINDING on the civil law, merely because it is "the Church's own law." It is "God's law" only to those who voluntarily choose obedience to it as such. That choice is binding on nobody else. No civil authority is going to kneel in the snows to the Bishop of Rome ever again.

That said, in the USA, constitutional law does grant considerable exemption from the general jurisdiction of the civil law, not as a specific exemption, but as a wholesale recognition that on the whole, it is best for people who practice a religion to be free to do so without interference from the civil law, and for the civil law to be free from the canons of any faith -- which would make the government an object to be fought over by competing denominations.

Priests in the USA are not going to be faced with this kind of intrusion into the confessional rite. What will priests in Ireland do? Maybe they will be too demoralized to live up to what Eulogos beatifically envisions. Or maybe they will have the courage to do so. But a bishop who learns of criminal conduct OUTSIDE the confessional booth will be subject to prosecution for aiding and abetting such criminal conduct, and rightly so.

eulogos said...

I don't "beatifically envision" priests being faithful to the seal, I expect it.
Susan Peterson

Kimberly Margosein said...

"This is not an exemption from a civil law given to the Church which the civil government can take away. This is the Church's own law, solemnly pased by a council of the Church, which makes it God's law for Catholics"

How does God feel about Her own anointed on Earth raping boys? Being a martyr for the privacy of the confessional by the unlikely imprisonment for a few years seems like a walk in the park compared to the eternal fires of Hell for raping a boy and/or covering it up. This is how a church (any church) loses its moral authority. If the leaders themselves manifestly do not seem to care a whit about the post-mortem fate they are are describing to their parishoners, how can they be taken seriously?

eulogos said...

Kimberly, where are you from, anyway. Why are y you here?

You know the Church teaches that those who do such things will go to hell if they don't repent. You know that ordinary Catholics are sickened by this. You ought to know that when the current pope was elected he said to an associate "Now maybe we can clean up some of the filth in the church." You know that the church has been paying off claims (even fake ones, unfortunately) left and right, and put into place all sorts of policies to try to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

Which is more than any other institution in which such things are happening. (like the public schools, for instance) is doing.

And in any case, the fact that some priests committed horrible sins would not make it right for other priests to break the seal of the confessional. A law which required them to do so would have no effect except to put priests in jail. And I suspect that the end result would be more priests.
Susan Peterson

Kimberly Margosein said...

Kimberly, where are you from, anyway. Why are y you here?

Eulogos, to answer your first question, Chicago. Your second question, I moved here from Chicago. Don't you understand? The RCC, like all religions, is only as good as it's leaders. By leaders, I mean from the priesthood up. Their only authority is moral. When the leaders show they do not believe their own religious tenets, they lose all moral authority.

eulogos said...

Kim, I meant, what history brings you here to this blog, from what world view and set of experiences are you speaking.

Our leader is Jesus Christ. All human leaders are sinners. But the truth comes from Jesus Christ and it is preached with His authority.

Even the devils believe, and tremble. Sometimes human beings cease to have active faith, which informs what they do. They themselves may be damned, if they do not repent and come back to life spiritually. But if they speak the truth, it is still true.
You are right on a human level that their failures make people less likely to listen to them, or even to associates of theirs who did not fail in this way. That is why all of this grieves us, because the truth is still true and more people cut themselves off from it because of the scandal. It truly is a scandalon, a stumbling block.

Susan Peterson

Patrick said...

@ Kimberely Margosein:

"By leaders, I mean from the priesthood up. Their only authority is moral. When the leaders show they do not believe their own religious tenets, they lose all moral authority."

In Christianity, *all* moral authority comes from Christ, whose moral authority is perfect. Clergymen can't lose moral authority with their sinful behavior because they have no authority independent of Christ, whose authority is complete.

Because of this, you'd have to argue that Christ Himself is founding wanting in adherence to His tenets. In Christianity, Christ is considered a High Priest on the order of Melchizedek, which just means that He is praying for us at the right hand of the Father. Ignoring Jesus' divine nature for a moment, it is He that is our Eternal Priest; and He's the one you'd have to show "doesn't believe in His religious tenets" in order to show loss of moral authority.

Patrick said...

@ eulogos:

You beat me to it!

c matt said...

Priests in the USA are not going to be faced with this kind of intrusion into the confessional rite.

As I recently found out, much to my surprise, they very well are facing this issue with child abuse mandatory reporting laws. I have not researched any court opinions on it, but Texas has one in the family code (section 261 or somewhere thereabouts). I have not heard of any cases about it though, so it (failure to report) may not be very much investigated/enforced.

c matt said...

This is how a church (any church) loses its moral authority.

In a practical sense, yes. In an absolute sense, no. The Church's moral authority is divinely instituted (it would be useless and pointless otherwise). It is difficult for many (most?) to separate the Church's moral authority from that of Her individual leaders, but it is the only way to keep any sanity about it (which, btw, is another reason that a divinely instituted Church makes all the difference).

It is akin to saying representative democracy lacks legitimacy because all the politicians we elect suck.

Kimberly Margosein said...

The church's moral authority may be divinely instituted. There is no evidence for that other than the claims of the church leaders, so this is a somewhat circular reasoning. Again, it points to the leadership not believing the message of God. Your only choices at this point are the priesthood is a bunch of self-appointed and self-protecting charlatans, or that God does not do a good job of picking Her representatives.

Patrick said...

@ Kimberly Margosein:

I was merely trying to explain why Catholics remain Catholic. We believe Christ Himself established the Church. You may not believe that, but Catholics do. It would be "circular reasoning" if Christ wasn't God: since He is, He can rightly claim authority and establish a Church with St. Peter as it's earthly leader and the Holy Spirit as it's guide. Again: *you* may not believe in Christ, but all I meant to do was explain why Catholics remain Catholic even when ordained clergymen commit sins. ("Sin" isn't exactly a new thing in Catholic teaching either. And the idea that an ordained clergymen is too good to commit sin is called "clericalism", and it is heresy.)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

"the fact that some priests committed horrible sins would not make it right for other priests to break the seal of the confessional"

True that.

"Clergymen can't lose moral authority with their sinful behavior because they have no authority independent of Christ, whose authority is complete."

Don't be silly. That would mean that Christ himself initiated and approved of the pedophilia. Either the human failings of priests sets those priests apart from Christ, or else they were doing what Christ called upon them to do. If they can err, then can err. To claim a mystical absolute authority for priesthood capable of such horrors is inherently self-defeating.

Catholics are of course free to believe whatever they choose. If I believed it to be true, I would be a Catholic. (Similarly, an orthodox rabbi once told me, of course he doesn't believe Jesus was the promised Messiah -- if he did, he would be a Christian). Believe it all you want, but don't expect it to carry WEIGHT in the discussions you must sometimes have over matters of mutual concern with those of us who don't believe it at all.

c matt, I have no doubt that bot deliberate and mindless attempts will be made to pass laws or interpret laws in ways that could invade the confessional. I have no doubt at all that they will be struck down, with more or less the same reasoning found in "Church of Lukumi Babalu Ay v. City of Hialeah."

romishgraffiti said...

Your only choices at this point are the priesthood is a bunch of self-appointed and self-protecting charlatans, or that God does not do a good job of picking Her representatives.

The appointment of Judas by Our Lord has always been a bit of a head scratcher (and it even generates some real nonsensical howlers today such as "Jesus didn't deny Judas at the Last Supper, therefore no one has the authority to deny anyone communion!"), but I've never heard anyone suggest He did a bad job picking His disciples. Somehow I think there is some middle ground bewtween bunch of charlatans and the Almighty has a lousy HR department.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

Perhaps we misunderstand each other: obviously God doesn't approve of sins. All I meant to say was the moral authority of the Catholic Church comes from Christ Himself; and so *no* amount of clerical sin undermines the moral authority of the Church, theologically speaking. The Church *has* no moral authority independent of the Holy Spirit, which can't be diminished. In other words, the Church is made Holy by Christ - not the personal holiness of the people in it.

"but don't expect it to carry WEIGHT in the discussions you must sometimes have over matters of mutual concern with those of us who don't believe it at all."

Oh, Siarlys: I don't care if carries weight. I'd imagine Protestants will remain in protest, subsisting on the bread of anti-Catholicism from here on out; they're wrong, but it's their prerogative to be wrong. I was merely trying to explain why Catholics remain Catholic despite the shocking revelation that ordained priests are sinners like everyone else. And while I don't wish for Holy Church to be ill-treated, I'm not even slightly concerned by the snipping of protesting Christians who can't decide on their own doctrines or media wolves in sheep's clothing who're critical of the Church when it doesn't live up to it's doctrines and are more critical of the Church when it does live up to it's doctrines. I don't care if it carries weight because at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit will deliver us if and when "push comes to shove".

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Patrick, I don't care what the Holy See says precisely because the Holy Spirit will do what it does, when it chooses. I don't pretend to be speaking on the Holy Spirit's behalf, and see no reason to trust those who do, whether Protestant televangelist or Roman Cardinal.

What exactly IS this moral authority of a church that received it from Christ himself and is staffed by people who, like all people, commit acts that are deeply offensive to the founder and finisher of their faith?

It is a rather hollow holiness at best, that can neither set a consistently reliable example, nor make consistently Christ-like pronouncements on matters of moral urgency.

Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong... so what kind of moral compass is that?

Or maybe, its no worse than any other church, but no better, a corporate body of believers who are all imperfect but TRYING to get closer to one who is perfect.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

"What exactly IS this moral authority of a church..."
"so what kind of moral compass is that?"

You've substituted the phrase "moral authority" for "moral compass". The *authority* of the Church comes from Christ Himself. It isn't, as I said, because the Church's members are terrific people with a good moral compass. It is the *Church* that is holy, because Jesus founded it.

So far as the Holy spirit doing what it does, when it chooses; that is generally true, but the Holy Spirit obviously *can't* work in ways that contradict Christ's teachings. And so Christ establishing a Church with St. Peter as it's earthly head takes on reality-shaping proportions. Were I a more curious man, I would wonder what any protesting Christians think about that passage in Matthew; why Jesus thought it was important to single out Peter. However, I frankly don't care.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Patrick, you construct beautiful abstractions, which fail whenever you try, or are challenged, to ground them in reality. What is the SUBSTANCE of this impeccably authoritative "church" that is holy "because Jesus founded it."

I would understand your position if Jesus himself were on earth leading the thing, or even if the Popes looked into a crystal ball and received direct orders. But they don't.

Anytime you say "We Catholics believe that..." all I can say is "You may be right, for all I know." But when you try to tell me "This is THE TRUTH, whether you poor benighted fools recognize it or not," I respond with dismissive contempt. You're not God, and God hasn't (as John E. pointed out once) come down to earth recently to lay down the law.

Why did Jesus make an apocryphal remark about Simon the Hooligan having a rock-hard skull? I don't know, but for the first couple of centuries, nobody even considered that the church was based somehow on Peter. The verse was lent a convenient meaning when there was such a thing as "the bishop of Rome" and those holding the office wanted to exalt themselves. Scripture shows Peter to have been a vain, pompous, arrogant fool who never got anything Jesus said right, and betrayed his Lord three times in one night out of pure cowardice. Did he ever really travel to Rome at all?

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

"Patrick, you construct beautiful abstractions, which fail whenever you try, or are challenged, to ground them in reality."

Haha. Hey: when I was a little boy, I used to make up pretend baseball statistics, graph them, and plot regression lines with them when it was too late to play baseball. It was as precise as it was entirely fabricated without root in reality. However, I think you're wrong about this:

"What is the SUBSTANCE of this impeccably authoritative "church" that is holy "because Jesus founded it."

The substance is you're not free to leave the Catholic Church. Period. Heresy/schism/apostasy - those are much, much, MUCH worse sins than mere illicit sexual behavior. Think about it as "Holy Jurisdiction". That's *quite* concrete.

"I would understand your position if Jesus himself were on earth leading the thing..."

Well, Christ lives - we all believe that. What difference does it make if He is at the right hand of the Father or walking around in Times Square? We all believe He's resurrected. All of His commands are valid, including that His Church is One, Holy, and Apostolic.

"This is THE TRUTH, whether you poor benighted fools recognize it or not," I respond with dismissive contempt."

I believe I've been quite clear on how little I care if my words carry any weight with you or anyone else.

"Scripture shows Peter to have been a vain, pompous, arrogant fool who never got anything Jesus said right, and betrayed his Lord three times in one night out of pure cowardice."

I'd say he makes an excellent Catholic, haha.

"Did he ever really travel to Rome at all?"

His blessed remains are buried under St. Peter's basilica in Rome. Even non-Christian historians believe St. Peter died at the hands of Nero. Every single leader of the Christian Church from Peter onward led from Rome (up until the Great Schism).

Again, I've never heard a counter argument as to why the Church Jesus founded with Peter as the head of the Apostles *wouldn't* have apostolic succession. The best thing you have is that St. Peter was a profligate coward and a sinner. Well, so is everybody else; and but for God's grace, there go I. His sinfulness doesn't preclude him from being the earthly leader of the Church (put another way - sinfulness didn't stop Luther from being the leader of a heresy.) I think I've figured it out, though: you apparently think Catholic clergymen are great people and that *not* being a good person is somehow a bar to being a clergymen: which is why you're shocked to find out they are not good people. Don't be fooled by the robes, Mr. Jenkins: our first Pope was a coward who denied Christ three times.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

Apologies for the tone in my paragraph eight (about Truth). That isn't me "loving my neighbor". Orthodoxy is God's gift to me; and I've turned it into a stick with which to beat my neighbor. Back to the confession booth...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Apology accepted. Thank God I never had to leave the Roman church. I was never in it. Some of my ancestors left it. They had every right to do so.

I celebrate schism. When a schism occurs, it shows that the church was not in fact or truth unified, merely suppressing real conflict. It is healthier for those who are not of one accord to part company. After the pain of the separation, they can look back and say "Neither of us REALLY knows what God thinks about all this, but let God judge in his own way, not man."

Like I said, you COULD be right. But Jesus didn't say so in so many words.

I have heard the Great Schism described as follows: "The Pope was the first Protestant, because he substituted his own will for the collegial leadership of the patriarchs." Aside from a lot of ex post facto wishful thinking, my reading of history is that the Bishop of Rome became extra-important because Rome was the political center, and then, when it wasn't, because he was the political heavy-weight of what remained.

I know of no scripture in which Jesus said that his church is one, holy, and Apostolic. I do know that he said all the law and the prophets hang on two commandments, and none of your trilogy are either commandment. I also know he said that many who never professed faith in him would be saved because "Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

"I celebrate schism."

Haha. This - and not animus - is the real reason I don't care about Protestantism* or it's arguments. When social upheaval comes, they'll splinter. And social upheaval ain't gonna stop. Anglicans splintered over the definition of marriage - with some of the traditionalists going over to Rome - and Methodists did over slavery. I read two days ago that Wisconsin Synod Lutherans aren't training seminarians with their more left-wing evangelical Lutheran brethren, again over marriage. With every new, popular idea, you get a new Protestantism.

Of course, it's impossible to avoid schism without the Romish idea of obedience - and so Protestantism has gone from very pious Lutheranism and Anglicanism to the "prosperity Gospel", the megachurch, the non-denominational church, the pastors with tattoos and blue jeans preaching a Christianity without any doctrines except "be nice to people" in a matter of under 500 years and can be expected to slide further away from anything resembling Christianity or anything resembling a church. To think that, under any real persecution, someone would be *martyred* for a faith without doctrines is ludicrous. They'd probably just schism their way into a new church that wasn't being persecuted.

Also: "celebrating schism" is a ludicrous idea. If I left the "prosperity Gospel Church" of Joel Osteen in order to found a church that was in agreement with the prosperity Gospel theology (if there is such a thing) except on the point of whether murdering old ladies was permissible, that schism wouldn't be something to be celebrated. You might say, "You've schismed only to legitimize your favorite sin." In an age where schism is happening over homosexual behavior - rejected by Jews and Christians for probably 3500 years as immoral - that argument is facile. Surely "celebrating schism for schism's sake" is ridiculous on it's face?

"After the pain of the separation, they can look back and say "Neither of us REALLY knows what God thinks about all this..."

We know Jesus founded a church with the apostle Peter as it's earthly leader (Matt 16: 18-19). We know He prayed for it's unity (John 17: 20-23). We know He considered his Apostolically-founded Church Holy because it would coarse with His Spirit. (John 20: 21-23). Now - we don't know what God thinks of each other's SOULS: but we're only unclear what God thinks about unity/apostolic succession/holiness in His Church if we ignore what He says about His Church. (What with the Protestant tradition of removing books from the Bible that they dislike, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that.) Were I too ignore the Sermon on the Mount, I could say, "we don't really *know* what God thinks about lusting after women." But I'd have to ignore what God says to reach that conclusion.

Ok - that's enough of the topic for me. Good day, Mr. Jenkins - see you on the next thread! (My word verification: microsin. Haha!)


* You bring up a difficult linguistic point in your first paragraph: what to call "Protestants", such as yourself, who were never "protesting" the Catholic Church? I suppose you could say, "non-Catholic Christians", but then it over-includes Eastern Orthodox. "Protestants" or "protesting Christians" are probably the only good terms: and yet it is inaccurate in 90-something percent of cases where the person isn't really *protesting* Catholic authority (possibly (probably?) has never thought about the issue!) Oh well.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

By the way: if you respond, I'll definitely read it. I just was saying I'm about talked out on this topic.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Patrick, you are about talked out, because you have nothing new to say.

We are both lying when we say "I don't care what you say." I do not, in fact, object to YOU, or Susan, or Erin, or anyone, freely kneeling in obedience to the church you believe God has established. I do get riled up when you are dissatisfied with the mere freedom to practice your faith, and insist in various ways that to whatever extent you or your bishops can possibly manage, you are going to make the rest of us do the same, whether we like it or not. I object when you harbor the notion that our republican government should be perverted to support and endorse your church as the One True Faith.

Likewise, because you insist on hegemony and dominion, at least in principle, since Thank God you are helpless to institute it in fact, you do get riled up when I blithely reject the jurisdiction of your church over me. After all, if it is what you say, I OWE it jurisdiction, and I refuse it.

That is the inevitable conundrum of freedom of religion. Either we fight to subjugate each other, or we accept that we will each try to please God as our own conscience directs, and leave the judgement up to Him. Your church is structurally and foundationally incapable of accepting that simple premise. So, we debate, forever.

It is very much like the "gay rights" people who insist that EVERYONE should join in celebrating their homosexuality. They want to force everyone to think their way, you want to force everyone to think your way. It is not enough for them that they are free of police intrusion. It is not enough for you that your monasteries are not burned and confiscated.

You have tip-toed around my point about schism: whenever a schism occurs, there WAS NO UNITY IN FACT, long before. I don't care that Protestantism will continue to split, because I do not seek dominion, I do not want my church or any church to have hegemony. No church should have any more authority than a Quaker meeting. God is in control, man need not try to exercise power on his behalf.

Avoiding schism, where people are not of one accord, is always an act of repression. Such "unity" is an abomination. Now if you can PERSUADE each and every person in North America to freely and voluntarily kneel to Rome, go ahead.

The list of Biblical verses you site can indeed by cherry-picked and strung together to form a pretty necklace. But they mean what you say they mean only by ex post facto reading subsequent events into a rather broad, general choice of words, and saying with 20/20 hindsight "See, this is what he was talking about." If the meaning is not clear to those who first hear the words, then it is not prophecy. Like the Donation of Constantine, these are convenient interpretations, which could be presented to the masses just as soon as the ink dried on the exegesis.

I once ran into a group of Jehovah's Witnesses walking down the street. I told them, candidly, that I thought they had done some good work on the Trinity, and on the Pledge of Allegiance, but otherwise, I didn't find much in their literature to recommend their church to me. One of them asked "But do you read the Bible?" Yes, I answered, and so do Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists, Unitarians, Congregationalists, Church of God, Church of God in Christ... somehow we all read the same Bible, and come to different conclusions. To me, that is sufficient basis to refuse obedience to the canon of any church.

In short, you have no authority, except the tautology of "these verses mean X,Y, and Z, because my church says so, therefore, my church is validated, because these verses mean X, Y, and Z."

Siarlys Jenkins said...

As for picking and choosing which books are legitimately Scripture, the Coptic Church recognizes 83, so by what right has YOUR church dismissed eleven books from the accepted canon? For that matter, what do the Apocrypha substantiate that cannot be found, or construed, from the 66 books I was taught from? There are hoary myths that the early church councils placed all the candidate scrolls for inclusion in front of the altar, and those that magically jumped up onto the altar were accepted. I don't think you believe that.

Some human beings made the best judgement they could. They didn't do too bad a job. We hope they didn't rewrite what they found, but only accepted or rejected each as it was. But the table of contents was not written in stone by the hand of God on Mt. Sinai.