“Don’t cross the streams.”

“An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed.”

— Leo XIII, Inimica Vis (1892)

Given the devil-may-care claims afoot these days about the non-overlapping nature of dogma and discipline (or “doctrinal” creed vs. “pastoral” praxis)–as if the latter were not the very index of the former–, I cannot pass up noting this irony: Vatican II was “merely pastoral” yet is to be accepted as an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium. Clearly, then, pastoral decisions can and do impinge on the infallibility and indefectibility of the Church. For if, in virtue of its status as an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium, every “pastoral” jot and tittle of Vatican II is an infallible article of faith, upon which the Church’s indefectibility hangs, then the same can be said of the (hypothetically double-ungood) decisions reached by the Synod in October as an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium. Alternatively, if any disciplinary changes wrought by that preeminently pastoral Second Council were out of alignment with the doctrinal Tradition, they would have to be jettisoned or corrected in order to preserve the coherence of the indefectibility of the Church. Precisely because the Second Vatican Council was confined to pastoral adjustments, its variegated authority only makes sense when appraised in light of the Faith. Again, though, if the retort is that all of the Council’s pastoral/disciplinary changes are to be accepted as de fide, then we must be prepared to accept the eventuality that the Kommissar Kasper Kompromise (i.e. that the Church should openly permit repentant but unreconstructed bigamists to the Eucharist) will require the same credibility from the faithful.

“It would be bad.”

Unfortunately, as soon as we admit that the admittance of committed bigamists to the Altar does indeed fall under the scope of binding morals, we must also admit that the very idea is repugnant to the Faith, and is certainly not to be coddled as a merciful and merely theological option, however “pastorally” it is packaged. In other words, if we grab the prudent horn of the dilemma by granting that pastoral policy does not pertain to the depositum fidei, and therefore can be vigorously challenged in light of the same depositum fidei, then the crucial question is how we are to respond when a horribly misguided pastoral consensus does not enjoy the chrism of infallibility. Protesting a pastoral change of the kind being proposed not only does not render one a schismatic: it may ensure that one is a saint.

Hence I have great, great sympathy for the anguish which some are experiencing, and the crisis which they (and perhaps even a curmudgeonly die-hard like myself) would face if it came to pass that an effectively (i.e. Ordinarily) infallible concession were made “openly and publicly” to grant communion to bigamists. I understand that it is taking time for the reality to sink in across the Cathosphere, but what is being proposed before our very eyes–by leading prelates, no less–is nothing less than what felled the Anglican, and subsequently every Protestant, communion on the issue of contraception at the 1930 Lambeth Conference. Resolution 15 of that conference was ratified precisely because it formally adhered to official orthodoxy, but the pastoral, disciplinary compromise which it introduced of itself gave away the game to heterodoxy. This is the reason why the Catholic Church recognized the pastoral defection inaugurated at Lambeth 1930 as a (further) doctrinal heresy. It was a disciplinary canary in the well bespeaking a doctrinal catastrophe beneath the surface.

Indeed, the Trojan horse of “merely pastoral” compromise is and always has been a key means by which heresy infects the faithful (cf. John 12:4-8). You can almost hear the echo now: “We should allow some believers to say ‘homoiousios’ and others to say ‘homoousios’, based on prevailing cultural needs, pastoral oversight, and a well-formed conscience.” That sort of argy-bargy may fly in some communions, but not in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church (cf. especially the final paragraph). Insofar as the Lord has assumed every level of being in the Incarnation, and thus seeks to deify every mode of existence, there is no ontological cleft between the truth and the discipline shrouding it–no true divide between “what we believe” and “how we worship.” In one sense, intercommunion is merely an ecclesiastical discipline. In another sense, however, intercommunion (and encouraging others to sin against it) strikes at the very nature of the Church and, thus, of the Godhead and of Creation.

With the stakes clearly in mind, then, allow me to cite at length Pope Clement XIII’s In Dominico Agro (1761):

In the Lord’s field, for the tending of which Divine Providence placed Us as overseer, there is nothing which demands as much vigilant care and unremitting labor in its cultivation than guarding the good seed of Catholic teaching which the Apostles received from Jesus Christ and handed on to Us. If in laziness this is neglected, the enemy of the human race will sow weeds while the workers sleep. … However, St. Paul … told Timothy to preserve the sacred trust because dangerous times were coming when evil and deceitful men would exist in the Church of God. The insidious tempters would use their work to try to infect unwary minds with errors which are hostile to evangelical truth. …

Meanwhile the matter is such that diabolical error, when it has artfully colored its lies, easily clothes itself in the likeness of truth while very brief additions or changes corrupt the meaning of expressions; and confession, which usually works salvation, sometimes, with a slight change, inches toward death.

The faithful — especially those who are simple or uncultivated — should be kept away from dangerous and narrow paths upon which they can hardly set foot without faltering. The sheep should not be led to pasture through trackless places. Nor should peculiar ideas — even those of Catholic scholars — be proposed to them. Rather, only those ideas should be communicated which are definitely marked as Catholic truth by their universality, ambiguity, and harmony [ma deve essere loro insegnata la parte certissima della verità cattolica, la totalità della dottrina, la tradizionale, quella sulla quale c’è consenso]. … [T]he teachers of the people should establish boundaries around them so that no word strays beyond that which is necessary or useful for salvation. The faithful should obey the apostolic advice not to know more than is necessary, but to know in moderation.

The popes clearly understood this. They devoted all their efforts not only to cut short with the sword of anathema the poisonous buds of growing error, but also to cut away certain developing ideas which either could prevent the Christian people unnecessarily from bearing a greater fruit of faith or could harm the minds of the faithful by their proximity to error.

So, while it’s easy game to vaunt our own faith and taunt lesser fellow Catholics who are distressed by the “proximity to error” of the potential pastoral changes in question, charity behooves us to admit that their worry is not groundless. It is one thing to counsel them not to despair–“I am with you always”–, but it is quite something else to pretend that the stakes, as proposed by Kasper & Co., do not pose a grave threat to the coherence of the Catholic Faith. We can and should have every confidence that the disaster shall not befall the Church, but we have no basis for pretending that nothing would be lost if it were to come to pass.

All right.

Let there be cornhobbling.

“I cannot sufficiently wonder at the madness of certain men, at the impiety of their blinded understanding, at their lust of error, such that, not content with the rule of faith delivered once for all, and received from the times of old, they are every day seeking one novelty after another, and are constantly longing to add, change, take away, in religion, as though the doctrine, “Let what has once for all been revealed suffice,” were not a heavenly but an earthly rule—a rule which could not be complied with except by continual emendation, nay, rather by continual fault-finding.”

— St. Vincent Lerins, Commonitory §51

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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36 Responses to “Don’t cross the streams.”

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    That text by Clement XIII is GOLD!!! Certainly a text worth pointing out to those who laugh at the idea of vigilantly avoiding errors. This is one of the reasons I love reading your blog because you draw attention these gems that otherwise I would not have had the time to read and discover myself. I like the short quote at the start from Leo XIII as well.

    The quote like that of St. Vincent Lerins I think has been cunningly sidelined in this battle by how the “pastoral approach” is framed. The usual talk around the “approach” is that it keeps existing doctrine intact but is pursuing novel “solutions” taking to in to account God’s mercy (is this is a development of doctrine on “God’s mercy”…or is the assertion that “the Church before VII never knew God’s mercy”….?).

  2. Branch says:

    What saddens and infuriates me is that some people just do not get it. They don’t get the danger. It’s as if they are incapable of making any kind of distinction between “the Holy Father” or “the Church” and something Pope Francis utters or what Cardinal Kasper would like to implement.

    We are like sheep without a shepherd in a time when the Pope has charmed the world and many Catholics to death.

  3. Branch says:

    An example of what I mean: http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/2014/03/from-some-fissure-smoke-of-satan-has.html

    You were right to call it a “Catholic reflex”. It is not thoughtful, it makes no distinctions, it cannot bear to be challenged.

  4. I’ve seen him around elsewhere before. Very much of the Shaddup And Take It school of Catholicism. And here I thought the old “pay, pray, and obey” ethos was one of the major defects of Catholic life from which V2 had miraculously delivered us. 😉

    On the one hand, I’m told that the only way to “make sense of the contemporary Church”–at least we can agree it’s in need of clarifying!–is that now is the New Season of Mercy. On the other hand, I’m warned about the wrath of God coming upon railers, murmurers, and anyone critical of the clergy. “We can and should denounce hypocrisy and scandal in the clergy, even among the bishops! But, er, although the pope is a bishop, well, we shouldn’t give a hint of disapproval at any of his words or actions!”

    The folk wisdom is vindicated again that the fish rots from the head down, and that the people perish for lack of wisdom.

  5. Branch says:


    I did find this consoling in its own prophetic way. You may have seen it before, but it was new to me:

    “Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.”

    Source: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-horror-buenos-aires-journalist.html

    Nice to feel not alone, at least.

  6. drprice2 says:

    It nicely, if tragically, highlights the division amongst what used to be known as faithful or orthodox Catholics. It’s hard to imagine Terry Nelson wasting his time like this if he was simply dealing with the NCath Reporter crowd. Those folks would be dismissed with a snicker and an eyeroll, and bandwidth would be saved for other matters.

    Nope–the big guns are trained on the deviators from the party line. In ethnic terms, it’s known as the narcissism of small differences–one’s righteousness is determined by one’s orientation to the despised, regardless of how much you have in common.

  7. Mary Griffin says:

    II Samuel 6:

    “6 David again assembled all the best men in Israel, thirty thousand in number. 2 David and all the men who were with him traveled to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts, who sits enthroned between the cherubim that are on it. 3 They loaded the ark of God on a new cart and carried it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart. 4 They brought it with the ark of God up from the house of Abinadab on the hill. Ahio was walking in front of the ark, 5 while David and all Israel were energetically celebrating before the Lord, singing and playing various stringed instruments, tambourines, rattles, and cymbals.

    6 When they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and grabbed hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord was so furious with Uzzah, he killed him on the spot for his negligence. He died right there beside the ark of God.”

    Why do you think God killed Uzzah for trying to keep the ark from falling?

  8. Branch says:

    While I do think the division is a scandal, I don’t believe the differences are small. I think that perception is actually what continues to fuel the cocoon mentality, the “party line”: to them, we’re all just a bunch of complainers and gossipers. We make something out of nothing and cause trouble. We bristle needlessly at the Holy Father’s every word. And so forth…

  9. Yep. “We’re all in this together”–except for those of us not sufficiently together for the liking of our Catholic kapos. “Smiles, everyone–smiles!” 😉

  10. Uzzah was struck down because he acted in knowing defiance of God’s prescriptions for not touching holy things. Hence, while I see what flouting God’s holiness by trifling with His will has to do with denigrating the sanctity of marriage, I’m less clear on why you’re bringing up communion in the hand.

  11. Stoney says:

    I think this is the part where Brooklyn Mary zings you with the word “obedience”, in capital letters no less. By the way, I never thought about this passage as an argument against Communion in the hand, good one!

  12. Yes, I saw that early in my spiral into confusion with This Papacy. It seemed chillingly apt six months into the papacy, seems just as apt now, and reflects well the confused/confusing influence of Cdl. Bergoglio before we all knew him.

  13. Mary Griffin says:

    That ‘s an interesting interpretation, Elliot. But I don’t think that’s quite what this scripture means. God had warned the israelites that no one was to touch the ark for any reason. He didn’t make an exception: “Don’t touch the ark unless it starts to fall.” Yet, Uzzah thought he knew better. He thought God needed his help to keep the ark from falling. God was not big enough to take care of the ark.

    Don’t we all become Uzzah when we perceive what we think are problems in the church and we, frail and fallible human beings that we are, feel God needs our help to set things right? So we sit in criticism and condemnation of those put in charge of our souls. We are so sure that we know better, and if we don’t act to save the Church, it will fall, just like the ark. God just isn’t big enough to take care of the problems without our help.

    Jesus Christ promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church. He promised He would never leave us. He has gotten the Church through 2000 years of Church history with crisis after crisis. We have had bad popes and bad prelates all through our history. We have had attacks from both inside and outside the Church. The enemy has never stopped. But despite the fact that there were no bloggers and others around to save her, the Church has always survived.

    St. Thomas of Aquinas told us there are times when a prelate needs to be corrected, but if we should dare to take this on ourselves, we should do so only after intensive prayer and then take it through proper church channels if at all possible, and to do so with reverence and respect. But to just sit in constant criticism – to reach out and stop the ark from falling – every time we perceive something to be wrong, to loudly and publicly proclaim our condemnation of those put in charge of our souls, may lead us dangerously close to following in Uzzah’s steps.

    God does not need us to save His Church.

    Trust me, I speak to myself more than anyone else.

  14. Branch says:

    I think, first, that this is a straw man argument: “We are so sure that we know better, and if we don’t act to save the Church, it will fall, just like the ark.” Not everyone voicing concerns is trying to “save the Church.” Not everyone is trying to play Pope. If there is any validity to the “sense of the faithful”, then for (some of) the faithful to be suffering under the confusion in the Church is precisely a valid implication of their “sense” – of their inevitable possession of it by virtue of their vocation and virtue – and of the health of those faithful. The faith is a common possession of all the faithful. If someone emerges on the scene in a position of authority and upends the prior shared sensibility of all the faithful – lay or ordained – then what needs to be reconciled, if anything, is what is being proposed or added to the existing sensibility. The Pope is not an oracle and the Faith itself does not constantly bend and shift. If anything, what we are taught to be on the look out for, are when God’s saints (no matter their office), especially His Doctors, are saying and where they are leading.

    I think the erroneous assumption you make is that trusting in God, regarding those put in charge of our souls, is to trust that those put in charge of our souls are necessarily of God, doing His will; as if God has never delivered His people before into the hands of wicked or false men. It is to confuse total abandonment to God’s Providence and His not letting Hell have His Church to a tacit approval of everything happening in the Church, and especially by the Pope, as absolutely in line with God – necessarily so. It conflates fidelity to the office as such to a reduction of all things Catholic to the office or person of the Pope as such. That may ironically be where we went off track many, many years ago (prior to Vatican II). The clericalism, the faithful just sort of going along for the ride, which Vatican II tried to address of course.

  15. By this logic, God does not need you to set me or other “soi disant traditionalists” straight. Uzzah was punished as a warning sign in light of the fact that the Israelites had already flaunted His prescriptions for carrying the Ark. He took hold of the Ark and was punished for making light of holy things based on “good intentions”. (Sound familiar?) He was a son of the community and the teaching about the Ark was clear.

    Besides, it’s just as easy to say that you are playing Uzzah by taking hold of the Church when we traditionalist oxen “irreverently” stumble and cause instability. Sigh.

  16. Mary Griffin says:

    Branch, I use to think exactly as you wrote. I was away from the church for a long time, and when I came back, I thought it was a complete mess. And in my wisdom, I knew exactly what needed to be set straight. To my mind, it was pretty obvious that most of the bishops were completely off the rails and someone needed to set them straight.

    I have stopped listening to what others are saying and instead have looked to see the examples from God’s word. St. Paul said in I Corinthians 10:6, that the Old Testament is given to us for examples, so that is where I have looked for a lot of answers, and I have found them.

    We are a lot like the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. They all had their own ideas and were constantly complaining against Moses. When Moses married an Ethiopian woman, his sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, became very critical. Numbers 12:2 – “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” Verse 9 says, “The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.” The Lord then punished Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses.

    David was chosen to be king over Saul because Saul refused to submit to God. Saul was a bad king, and in fact, he even tried to kill David. At one point, Saul took his men and went out to hunt David down and kill him. But David refused to lift his hand against Saul. Why? Numbers 12:9 – 10: “He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’

    Yes, some of those who are put in charge of our souls are not doing God’s Will. But they are still the anointed of God. They aren’t just politicians that we vote in and out of office. They have been ordained by the Holy Spirit, just as King Saul was, and just as Moses was. We must be very careful when we speak against them. We may be absolutely right in what we are saying, but who are we to lay our hand against the Lord’s anointed?

    I have come to the conclusion that God is in charge. He knows far better than me what is happening. The first and the last thing we should always do is pray. Public criticism should be very rare, and done only after a great amount of prayer, and even then, it should be done with as much respect and reverence as possible. God can catch the ark if it starts to fall. He doesn’t need me to do it.

    I Corinthians 10:23-24 – “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.”

  17. Branch says:

    Paul himself rebuked Peter when Peter acted inconsistently, against what he knew to be sound teaching.

    I think the appeal to the children of Israel complaining against Moses is totally off the mark. In the first place, the children of Israel were disobedient. They were not trying to be faithful. Moses was faithful. When, for instance, a Cardinal gives the impression that we ought to affirm homosexual acts – sins which cry out to heaven and are grave matter according to the Catechism – without “passing judgment” (another distortion) – are you suggesting that to reject that ‘teaching’ is rebellion against God? It is God’s own Word and His Church which sets the standard for the aforementioned sense of the faithful. They are not appealing to their own ideas. It is precisely they who are trying to submit to God and His teaching. The shock they experience when they hear of what the Cardinal said is not because their own ideas have been discarded, but because their faith has been undermined.

    Why do we need to then appeal to some mysterious sense of “I thought I knew what needed to be set straight, but I didn’t”? It seems to be a form of clerical Gnosticism. And it isn’t a matter of trying to play politics. We are talking about the truths of the faith.
    Who is laying their hand against the Lord’s anointed? Who is using force to right the wrongs?

    I don’t understand what you are arguing in favor of otherwise. If your point is that, on the one hand, we can recognize when the anointed err, but on the other, then we should do or say nothing about it (we must not “lay our hand” against them), practically, what does that mean? If we are to silently ignore what is happening, then that sort of undermines the general due sense of reverence and attentiveness we ought to have towards our shepherds, which I’m sure you would argue for otherwise. But then if we are to remain attentive to the point of swallowing everything, then you undermine your admission that some in charge of our souls are not doing God’s will, not to mention lapsing back into clericalism.
    I really think what you are arguing for is not some moral norm to guide all of the faithful through this storm but rather a way to help explain away the storm itself: “God is in charge”; “He doesn’t need me to do it.” As Eliot said, why wouldn’t that logic apply to anything and everything? Does God still ask of us the spiritual and corporal works of mercy or the keeping of His commandments? Does He really ‘need’ me for those? Did God need Moses to set the Israelites straight?

    I think your appeal to I Corinthians is actually quite fair. But the problem with it is that you, in turn, are seeking to rebuke others. Who do you know they are not doing what is lawful for them? If that appeal is to be sincere, then wouldn’t it begin and end with each person’s private discernment rather than a wholesale take-down of voicing any concern or criticism of the Pope? You have overreached, by your own appal and logic, I think.

  18. drprice2 says:

    Well, at one level, it’s not a small difference–is the Church more than the voice of the current Pope?

    On the other hand, we both are able to recite the Creed without our fingers crossed.

    If the difference is (pace Ms. Scalia) between those who “get” the Pope and those who don’t, then it really is a bit narcissistic.

  19. Mary Griffin says:

    Branch, I am not seeking to rebuke, and I apologize if it comes off that way. I, like you, am trying to understand.

    It is interesting that you do not mention the example of David and Saul at all. How do you explain that one? Why didn’t David speak against Saul? For the very reason that Saul – good or bad, right or wrong – was God’s anointed.

    The children of Israel were convinced in their own minds that Moses was misleading them. You could have argued with them till you were blue in the face and you would not convince them otherwise. Sedevacantists in the Church today are completely convinced in their own minds that they are right and the hierarchy of the Church is wrong. They point to examples like you do – Paul correcting Peter – and say they are totally justified.

    Just being convinced in your own mind that you are right means nothing. We are fallible human beings, and what can seem so wrong to us may not be. Then again, as with the case of David and Saul, there might be something very wrong. I can only repeat: we are not dealing with politicians who can be voted in and out of office. We are dealing with men who have been ordained by the Holy Spirit and placed into positions of authority. We have to be very careful.

    I said we should pray. Do you consider prayer nothing? Do you consider going to Our Lord saying and this is looking very bad, and it really seems Bishop so and so is off the rails. If I am right, please correct it so that souls will not be lost. Do you think that Our Lord would not listen to such a prayer? He has been taking care of this Church for 2000 years. I really do believe He knows what He is doing. I think He can handle it.

    I get kind of tired hearing the example of Paul correcting Peter. Paul did this in private with no one else listening in. He did not go on the Internet and declare to the world that St. Peter was disobeying Church teaching. Furthermore, Paul was in a position of authority himself. He was a fellow apostle with Peter. So I think that gave him a lot more latitude than we have.

    I still point back to the example of Uzzah. We need to be very careful when we get up on our high horse and say that we know the direction the Church should be going in. The Israelites were convinced that Moses had led them to their death when they were between the Red Sea and Pharoh’s army. Yet, God found a way, and He did it HIS way.

  20. Branch says:

    I did make reference to David and Saul with some questions in my last post. You’ve substituted “speaking against” with “laying a hand on”, and assumed no difference in meaning. I don’t think your application of the Scriptural precept is applicable.

    I am not a Sedevacantist.

    I know what the teaching of the Church is. To that extent, me being “right” is not up for dispute because it is not about my personal opinions. If you and I had a private conversation with one another in person, say, two years ago, and assume for the sake of the example we have the same level of knowledge of the faith and desire to adhere to it that we both do know, and I said to you in reference to someone “coming out” that I affirm that person, “bravo”, “God bless him” – you get the idea – you would not be the least bit put off by that? You would not feel in your soul the least bit of a contradiction between the faith you hold – and the faith you think I hold – and my reaction?

    Are you convinced that you are right? If we’re going to invoke this “mystery” again about what really the truth is, then we cannot even have a conversation. By your logic, which you have not addressed, no one should say anything at all. That would include you saying anything to anyone else for what may not be lawful of God’s will for you may be so for others. Since we really cannot know, and we can’t say anything about what we don’t know, the conversation by default ends.

    Why do you presume that I do not pray nor that I consider it of any value? For the last time on this point, if you are going to say things like “I really do believe He knows what He is doing. I think He can handle it,” then you should explain where our freedom enters into the picture when it comes to “taking care of the Church”. Do we become Quietists? Indifferentists? I ask again: do we pay attention to what is going on with the Pope or no?

    Paul corrected Peter to his face, according to the translations I’ve seen most frequently, or in public according to another. Either way, I don’t see the detail of it occurring with no one else listening as evident from the text.

    But if you don’t like that example, how about Catherine of Sienna or St. Bernard? There are other examples from the history of the Church which would also apply.

    Why do you insist that this about “the direction the Church should go in”? That’s a distortion. What people have most frequently responded to is the seeming divide between what the Church teaches and what is being expressed by those commissioned to teach what the Church teaches. And, with some matters, the question of where things should go is not even applicable because the teaching cannot change.

  21. Branch says:

    Also, re: David and Saul, David did not deny the evident “injustice”. He pleaded instead for justice.

    Perhaps what occurred between Mario Palmaro and Pope Francis has a similar dynamic to what occurred between Saul and David: Palmaro acts graciously towards Francis in his criticisms, and Francis appreciates at least that. The disagreements were not resolved, it seems, ultimately, so that’s where the parallel would end. But at least we have an example of not remaining silent and of the Pope’s own approval of that very action.

  22. Mary Griffin says:

    Branch, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I see what is in the Word of God and it tells me that God is in charge and can take care of things. I don’t feel that it is possible for me to see the whole picture as He does, and that what I think I see may not be reality at all. I also feel that we have to respect the offices of the hierarchy in the Church, realizing these are not man made offices, and we must be very circumspect in any kind of criticism of any prelate.

    If you feel you need to steady the ark, then that’s what you have to do.

    God bless you.

  23. I’m curious what you think it means when one bishop corrects another, or when he corrects heresy among the faithful? By your logic, isn’t any act of intervening in God’s mysterious permissive will an act of “steadying the Ark”? As such it makes for an acute irony to apply your biblical admonition to the following quotation: “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” It almost sounds like the guy wants to help steady the stumbling Church! You’d have to forgive him for his hubris, though, since steadying the weak-kneed is all part of the duty of strengthening the brethren. What’s a faithful Catholic to do, then? Emulate his extremely hands-on corrective approach, or take the quietist, hands-free approach to everything under the sun?

  24. Mary Griffin says:

    One bishop correcting another is a lot different than me, as a lay person, correcting a bishop. I am talking only about the laity being critical and condemnatory towards the hierarchy.

    As far as a bishop correcting the laity, isn’t that their duty? Bishops are there to set things right. They are the representatives of our Lord, most especially the Pope. In the story of Uzza, the high priest was allowed to touch the ark.

    Read the Vatican II documents. They explain it beautifully.

  25. Branch says:

    Speaking of the “anointed”, Pope John Paul II, quoting St. Augustine in CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI, section 14:

    “A new aspect to the grace and dignity coming from Baptism is here introduced: the lay faithful participate, for their part, in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This aspect has never been forgotten in the living tradition of the Church, as exemplified in the explanation which St. Augustine offers for Psalm 26:”David was anointed king. In those days only a king and a priest were anointed. These two persons prefigured the one and only priest and king who was to come, Christ (the name “Christ” means “anointed”). Not only has our head been anointed but we, his body, have also been anointed … therefore anointing comes to all Christians, even though in Old Testament times it belonged only to two persons. Clearly we are the Body of Christ because we are all “anointed” and in him are “christs”, that is, “anointed ones”, as well as Christ himself, “The Anointed One”. In a certain way, then, it thus happens that with head and body the whole Christ is formed”.”

  26. Sorry, but it just sounds like “The Spirit of Vatican II” on Ultramontane Boosterism: “Simmer down, lay folk. We clerics will take of the Church.”

    Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae:

    “16. No one, however, must entertain the notion that private individuals are prevented from taking some active part in this duty of teaching, especially those on whom God has bestowed gifts of mind with the strong wish of rendering themselves useful. These, so often as circumstances demand, may take upon themselves, not, indeed, the office of the pastor, but the task of communicating to others what they have themselves received, becoming, as it were, living echoes of their masters in the faith. Such co-operation on the part of the laity has seemed to the Fathers of the Vatican Council so opportune and fruitful of good that they thought well to invite it. ‘All faithful Christians, but those chiefly who are in a prominent position, or engaged in teaching, we entreat, by the compassion of Jesus Christ, and enjoin by the authority of the same God and Saviour, that they bring aid to ward off and eliminate these errors from holy Church, and contribute their zealous help in spreading abroad the light of undefiled faith.’ Let each one, therefore, bear in mind that he both can and should, so far as may be, preach the Catholic faith by the authority of his example, and by open and constant profession of the obligations it imposes. In respect, consequently, to the duties that bind us to God and the Church, it should be borne earnestly in mind that in propagating Christian truth and warding off errors the zeal of the laity should, as far as possible, be brought actively into play.”

    I am aware of the points about obedience which Leo makes in the ensuing paragraphs, and that’s the entire crux of the matter. Those of us TRYING o to be obedient to the Faith AS TAUGHT by the ordinary Magisterium of all ages are scolded for pointing out when individual teachers, priests, and bishops say or do things out of conformity with that Magisterium. The dilemma for many is that the very deposit of faith which we are trying to proclaim and uphold is being marginalized or redacted in compromised, truncated ways by the teachers we want to look to for CERTAINTY AND CLARITY, not sound-bitten obscurity and interminably open-ended dialogue.

  27. Mary Griffin says:

    From Lumen Gentium:

    “Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, (11) presiding in place of God over the flock,(12) whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing.(13) And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. (14) Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, (15) as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.(149)(16)”

    Would people condemn the bishops in such harsh terms if they truly realized that when they do so, they are doing this to Christ Himself?

  28. Branch says:

    From the same document:

    “For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church, to instruct the faithful to love for the whole mystical body of Christ, especially for its poor and sorrowing members and for those who are suffering persecution for justice’s sake,(160) and finally to promote every activity that is of interest to the whole Church, especially that the faith may take increase and the light of full truth appear to all men.

    Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.(39*) For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith.”

    The faith precedes the bishops, as it does all of us. It is something they must believe and put into practice. The fact that bishops have the duty to do this, contrary to the sense I get from your argument, implies that they can err in that duty, which already undermines the appeal to “they are Christ Himself” without any distinction or nuance.

    Focusing on the bishops in the way you do, essentially treating them as individual oracles, not only contradicts the true meaning of their vocation – and the foundation on which it rests – but it fails to even be practically coherent, for the second that one bishop begins to teach something contrary to the faith, but, more so, contrary to another bishop, the bishop as oracle piety falls apart, leaving an unintelligible mess and the faithful fractured. It also contradicts one of the conditions set forth in LG, as elsewhere: the unified and common sense in which the faith is to be imparted.

    That “unity of faith” which itself has that characteristic of unity, in part, because of the very nature of truth itself, forbids our “condemnation” of bishops – not because there is a de facto guarantee of infallibility given to every episcopal utterance or action – but because the bishops are commissioned to preach and teach that very faith which precedes them and has been entrusted to them. And to THAT extent – and it is in this sense which Christ identified Himself and His own words with theirs – they are due obedience.

  29. Let’s ask St. Athanasius.

  30. Mary Griffin says:

    Branch, you and Codgitator are obviously not going to agree with anything I post here, so this will be my final post and then if you want to think you’ve “won”, then so be it. But nowhere in your quotes does it say that we should be constantly criticizing and condemning the hierarchy of the Church. From St. Thomas Aquinas:

    “when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 5:1): “An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father.” Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.”

    And St. Thomas on Paul reproving Peter:

    “Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully.”

    St. Thomas says public rebuke should only be done when the faith is in “imminent danger.” Just because you disagree with a bishop or you don’t like what he says, that does not the faith is in “imminent danger.” It would seem that St. Thomas felt public rebuke should be used very sparingly and only under the most dire circumstances.

    I’m done. Good bye.

  31. Branch says:

    I don’t think you’ve given any reason for there to be an agreement. When you’ve raised a point – and nearly all of them have seemed lop-sided or lacking context or simply false – I’ve raised counter-points. But instead of addressing those, either a new point is raised or, as in this case, some new charge is brought up that I am supposed to have anticipated and addressed, I guess, in the prior point that I made; as if I’ve been trying to justify “constantly” criticizing the hierarchy, as if I’ve offered no distinction or nuance or context for my take on what is rightful criticism.

    It seems like what you’ve been trying to argue for all along, based on your citing St. Thomas here, is that you disagree with the manner in which some criticisms have been made. So, to you, some criticisms have come across as “condemnations” and, more so, they have been, largely I take it, without a basis since the faith is not in “imminent danger”.

    What criticisms have been “condemning”? It seems like you’ve transferred outrage against specific “condemning” criticisms onto any existing or potential criticism whatsoever, and so tried to establish a moral norm that, I think, has no basis in Scripture, Church teaching or even in Pope Francis’ own response to a certain criticism he received.

    While I agree with you, agreeing with St. Thomas, about the manner in which criticisms should be expressed, I also think that the context in which certain ideas have been discussed, given our ‘digital age’, make it a bit unrealistic to think that everything can be done “privately”, especially when many of the criticisms have been occasioned by mass-transmitted statements or otherwise public statements from the Pope himself. But then it is also unrealistic, I think, to equate every conversation you observe that is not entirely in agreement with what the Pope says as a “criticism” which is, in effect it seems, almost always a “condemnation”.

  32. Stoney says:

    Ha! I climbed on the same Brooklyn Mary-go-round last week. Too much drinking the Patheos koolaide, I’m afraid.

  33. The Rad Trad says:

    ‘A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, “You are mad; you are not like us.” ‘ -St Anthony of Egypt

  34. Mary Griffin says:

    Elliot, I would truly ask that you and your readers read this post by Father Angelo from maryvictrix.com:


    I am blown away that he and I are using the same arguments, e.g. Uzzah, St. Thomas, etc. His post wasn’t released until today, so it is obvious I was not just copying his thoughts. He presents these arguments in more in a much better way than I ever could. Do yourself a favor and read this with an open and prayerful mind.

  35. Mary Griffin says:

    From Father Angelo’s post:

    “Again, I acknowledge in principle that it is legitimate to correct public scandals against faith and morals, even when bishops commit them, but it is unlikely that St. Thomas foresaw what is taking place in the information age, and certainly much of what goes on in the media and on the internet, including the work of Michael Voris, does not measure up to his standards. St. Thomas compares attacks on prelates to the deed for which Uzzah was struck dead (cf. 1 Chr 13:10). He says that touching one’s prelate “inordinately,” upbraiding him “insolently” and speaking “ill of him” is equivalent to touching “the mount and the ark.” For the same reason, David spared the life of Saul, whom he had in his grasp. The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord (1 Sam 24:6).”

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