It’s only Wednesday, but this is definitely my favorite post of the week…

Brother ABS has perfectly captured the reign of the hermeneutic of ambiguity in motion. It’s a priceless snapshot of the Second Vatican Conch Shell in action. I invite you to swing over to ABS’s blog and take a gander for yourself; the punchline is worth the effort.

But, first, here’s a little conceptual context:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

It would be nice if Emerson could at least wait a day to contradict himself. Instead, he does so at least three times in that one curiously famous passage. For Emerson not only assumes that he, perhaps alone among all flesh, actually understands those other great souls, and not only writes in order to be understood, but also also implies that consistency should be consistently forsworn. Oy gevalt. Such leaps in logic chopping are to be expected of solipsists, i.e. those ruled by the ethos of “self-reliance”, which is just a euphemism for self-absorption. On that note, check out ABS’s chronological chiaroscuro.

Fun with Popes

Speech closing V2 by Pope Paul VI  12/07/1965 —

This secular religious society, which is the Church, has endeavored to carry out an act of reflection about herself, to know herself better, to define herself better and, in consequence, to set aright what she feels and what she commands…

Pope Francis 03/27/2013 —

When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick. The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in self-referentiality and a kind of theological narcissism.


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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8 Responses to It’s only Wednesday, but this is definitely my favorite post of the week…

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    I just read this homily by Pope Francis today.

    Perhaps Pope Francis is thinking of compromise with all the mortal sins, heresy and errors prevalent in our time today? And then he feels that the traditionalist are the real problem because they don’t like compromises i.e. disturbers of the peace?

  2. Tony:

    I take that homily as I take many of his homilies. It is an effort to use the daily readings to rationalize and defend his own actions. It comes only a couple weeks after his ecumaniacal and Great-World-Leader-of-the-Catholic-NGO grandstanding in the Holy Land. It also comes on the heels of the shocking prayer summit in the Vatican Gardens. Moreover, it fits in the larger context of his support for the Kasper Kompromise.

    What it does not comport with is Christ’s own teaching that we must rip out any source of sin and darkness, not compromise with it. Did Christ compromise with the Pharisees? No, yet astoundingly enough it is precisely such inflexible zeal which, in the sermon you mentioned, Francis ascribes to the Pharisees, effectively making Christ “a Pharisee” (which is, of course, a liberal dog whistle for conservatives). Did Christ compromise with the Devil in the desert? No, so by this pope’s logic, Christ Himself is in need of Christian schooling.

  3. Tony Jokin says:

    Oh I certain agree with you Codg. As I was reading the homily, the following passage was running through my mind

    ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
    ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
    (Matt 10:32-39)

    I am pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t agree with Pope Francis’s homily if what he said was meant in a general sense (because the Pope might say he was talking about just neutral issues like who is going to win the World Cup haha)

  4. Tony:

    Speaking of the World Cup, recall the points I made about the rhetoric of “teams” in a recent post. The dominant assumption in this pope’s mind–as with all of V2 theology– seems to be that the Church and the world are on some neutral, common playing field, and it therefore behooves the Church to play by the same rules, to give and take, to compromise, to accommodate, to dialogue as a NORMATIVE source of theology, etc. The idea of a naked (neutral) public square is not only mired in Lockean/Enlightenment ideology– keep in mind how Francis’s (cribbed) metaphor of the Church as a field hospital clearly assumes that the Church occupies a COMMON field of conflict, but is not Herself a combatant– , but is also totally at odds with the centuries-old tradition of seeing the Church and the world as “two cities” (St. Augustine). As other commenters have recently noted, this rejection of enclosure, security, and duality is summed up as a Balthasarian razing of the bastions. This has spurred me to finally publish something I’ve been meaning to post since Christmas.

  5. Tony Jokin says:


    That is a good point. I did not catch that connection before till you said it now.

    It is just so sad that the Pope gets it wrong on so many levels. I am reading your new post now.

  6. I just added a couple comments, in the section about discernment in my latest post (Razin’), so you may want to review it again.

    As for a pope who fumbles so boldly, here’s a quotation I’ve presented before:

    In his book ‘The Priest: His Dignity and Obligations’ St John Eudes wrote that God permits bad priests as a sign that He is thoroughly angry with His people. In Chapter 11, Qualities of a Priest St John Eudes writes:

    Bad priests are a sign of God’s anger

    ‘THE MOST EVIDENT MARK of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clerics’ who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds.

    Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally. Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness.

    St. Gregory the Great says that priests and pastors will stand condemned before God as the murderers of any souls lost through neglect or silence. Tot occidimus, quot ad mortem ire tepidi et tacentes videmus. Elsewhere St. Gregory asserts that nothing more angers God than to see those whom He set aside for the correction of others, give bad example by a wicked and depraved life.’

    Instead of preventing offenses against His Majesty, such priests become themselves the first to persecute Him, they lose their zeal for the salvation of souls and think only of following their own inclinations. Their affections go no farther than earthly things, they eagerly bask in the empty praises of men, using their sacred ministry to serve their ambitions, they abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world, and in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits.

    When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, “Return, 0 ye revolting children . . . and I will give you pastors according to my own heart” (Jer. 3, 14-15). Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge visited upon the people in consequence of sin.’

  7. Tony Jokin says:

    Yes, I remember reading your post about the bad priests being a chastisement from God. It was in your posts that I first saw the quote by St. Gregory the Great. I guess it is true. Looking at history, we had most certainly already merited such chastisements for sure. Considering the revolutions, the complete destruction of the Catholic monarchy in many countries or reducing it to a mere show, attacks on the Pope, the stubborn insistence on a false unity with other faiths, and there are probably many more things that those who called themselves Catholics were guilty of. Yes the monarchy were at times cruel or corrupt, but they were the God given leaders. I am not European so someone could say I am just being naive. But I do think the forceful removal and execution of those God has put on the throne alone was certainly a very grave sin and a rebellion.

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