Thursday, June 7, 2012


My comment first: The greatest threat to the Church in the aftermath of Vatican II is the "silent apostasy." Dr. Steven P. Millies alerted us to this interview. While I am not a fan of disobedience to the Holy Father or calling into question any aspect of an Ecumenical Council, in particular Vatican II, Bishop Fellay has his points that need to be heard and brought to the discussion table, which quite evidently, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is not afraid to have. Could this account for the typical tactics of the far left in the Church to discredit the Holy Father in the ways that have occurred especially within the Hierarchy and Academia, especially in Europe?

Interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay on relations with Rome

Filed under From Rome, From Tradition, News

DICI: Are you concerned about the delay in the response from Rome, which could enable those who are against a canonical recognition to alienate some priests and faithful from the Society of Saint Pius X?

Bishop Fellay: Everything is in God’s hands. I place my trust in the Good Lord and in His Divine Providence; He knows how to manage everything, even delays, for the good of those who love Him.

DICI: Was the pope’s decision adjourned, as some magazines have said? Did the Holy See tell you to expect a delay?

Bishop Fellay:
No, I have had no information about any calendar whatsoever. There are even some who say that the pope will deal with this matter at Castel Gandolfo in July.

A canonical solution before a doctrinal solution?

DICI: Most of those who are opposed to the Society’s acceptance of a possible canonical recognition allege that the doctrinal discussions could have led to this acceptance only if they had concluded with a doctrinal solution, in other words, a “conversion” by Rome. Has your position on this point changed?

Bishop Fellay: It must be acknowledged that these discussions have allowed us to present clearly the various problems that we experience with regard to Vatican II. What has changed is the fact that Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite for the canonical solution. Today, in Rome, some people regard a different understanding of the Council as something that is not decisive for the future of the Church, since the Church is more than the Council. Indeed, the Church cannot be reduced to the Council; she is much larger. Therefore we must strive to resolve more far-reaching problems. This new awareness can help us to understanding what is really happening: we are called to help bring to others the treasure of Tradition that we have been able to preserve.

So the attitude of the official Church is what changed; we did not. We were not the ones who asked for an agreement; the pope is the one who wants to recognize us. You may ask: why this change? We are still not in agreement doctrinally, and yet the pope wants to recognize us! Why? The answer is right in front of us: there are terribly important problems in the Church today. These problems must be addressed. We must set aside the secondary problems and deal with the major problems. This is the answer of one or another Roman prelate, although they will never say so openly; you have to read between the lines to understand.

The official authorities do not want to acknowledge the errors of the Council. They will never say so explicitly. Nevertheless, if you read between the lines, you can see that they hope to remedy some of these errors. Here is an interesting example on the subject of the priesthood. You know that starting with the Council there was a new concept of the priesthood and that it demolished the role of the priest. Today we see very clearly that the Roman authorities are trying to rehabilitate the true concept of the priest. We observed this already during the Year of the Priest that took place in 2010-2011. Now, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is becoming the day consecrated to the sanctification of priests. For this occasion, a letter was published and an examination of conscience for priests was composed. One might think that they went to EcĂ´ne to find this examination of conscience, it is so much along the lines of pre-conciliar spirituality. This examination presents the traditional image of the priest, and also of his role in the Church. This role is what Archbishop Lefebvre affirms when he describes the Society’s mission: to restore the Church by restoring the priest.

The letter says: “The Church and the world can be sanctified only through the sanctification of the priest.” It really places the priest at the center. The examination of conscience begins with this question: “Is the first concern of the priest his own sanctification?” The second question: “Is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”—and that is the expression that they use, not the Eucharist, the Synaxis, or I don’t know what else—“the center of the life of the priest?” Then it recalls the ends of the Mass: the praise of God, prayer, reparation for sins…. It says it all. The priest must immolate himself—the word “immolate” is not used, but rather “give himself”, sacrifice himself to save souls. It does say that. Then comes a reminder about the last things: “Does the priest think often about the last things? Does he think to ask for the grace of final perseverance? Does he remind his faithful to do so? Does he visit the dying so as to give them the last rites?” You see how, in a clever way, this Roman document clearly recalls the traditional idea of the priest.

Of course, that does not do away with all the problems, and there are still serious difficulties in the Church: ecumenism, Assisi, religious liberty…, but the context is changing, and not just the context, but the situation itself…. I would distinguish between the external relations and the internal situation. The relations with the outside have not have changed, but as for what goes on within the Church, the Roman authorities are trying to change it little by little. Obviously, a major disaster still remains today, one must be aware of that, and we do not deny it, but one must also look at what is starting to happen. This examination of conscience for priests is a significant example.

What should be our attitude toward the doctrinal problems?

DICI: You acknowledge that some serious difficulties remain with ecumenism, religious liberty…. If a canonical recognition came about, what would be your attitude with regard to these difficulties? Would you not feel obliged to be somewhat reserved?

Bishop Fellay:
Allow me to answer your question with three inquiries: Did the novelties that were introduced during the Council start a trend of growth in the Church and an increase of vocations and religious practice? Do we not observe, to the contrary, a form of “silent apostasy” in all the countries of Christendom? Can we be silent when faced with these problems?

If we want to make the treasure of Tradition fruitful for the good of souls, we must speak and act. We need this twofold freedom of speech and action. But I would mistrust a purely verbal denunciation of doctrinal errors—a denunciation that would be all the more polemical because it was only verbal.

With his characteristic realism, Archbishop Lefebvre recognized that the Roman and diocesan authorities would be more responsive to numbers and facts presented by the Society of Saint Pius X than to theological arguments. And so I would not hesitate to say that, if a canonical recognition were to come about, the doctrinal difficulties would still be emphasized by us, but together with a lesson taught by the facts themselves, tangible signs of the vitality of Tradition. And for that to happen, as I already told you in 2006, concerning the stages in our dialogue with Rome, we must have “faith in the Traditional Mass, the Mass that demands in and of itself integrity of doctrine and of the sacraments, the assurance of all spiritual fruitfulness in the service of souls”.

DICI: The year 2012 is not 1988, the year of your episcopal consecration. In 2009 the excommunications were lifted, in 2007 it was officially acknowledged that the Tridentine Mass had “never been abrogated”, but now some members of the Society lament the fact that the Church has not yet converted. Is their a priori refusal of a canonical recognition due to forty years of an exceptional situation, resulting in a certain inability to understand submission to authority?

Bishop Fellay: What is happening these days clearly shows some of our weaknesses with regard to the dangers that are created by the situation in which we find ourselves. One of the great dangers is to end up inventing an idea of the Church that appears ideal, but is in fact not found in the real history of the Church. Some claim that in order to work “safely” in the Church, she must first be cleansed of all error. This is what they say when they declare that Rome must convert before any agreement, or that its errors must first be suppressed so that we can work. But that is not the reality. It is enough to look at the Church’s past: often, and almost always, we see that there are widespread errors in the Church. Now the reforming saints did not leave the Church in order to combat these errors. Our Lord taught us that there would always be weeds until the end of time. Not just the good crop, not only the wheat.

At the time of the Arians, the bishops labored in the midst of errors to convince those who were mistaken about the truth. They did not say that they wanted to be outside, as some say now. Of course, we must always be very careful about these expressions, “inside”, “outside”, because we are of the Church and we are Catholic. But can we for that reason refuse to convince those who are in the Church, on the pretext that they are full of errors? Look at what the saints did! If the Good Lord allows us to be in a new situation, in close combat in the service of the truth…. This is the reality that Church history presents to us. The Gospel compares Christians to yeast; and do we want the dough to rise without us being in the dough?

In this situation, which some currently depict as an impossible situation, we are being asked to come and work just as all the reforming saints of all times did. Certainly that does not do away with the danger. But if we have sufficient freedom to act, to live and to grow, this must be done. I really think that this must be done, on the condition that we have sufficient protection.

DICI: Do you think that there are members of the Society who, consciously or not, espouse sedevacantist ideas? Are you afraid of their influence?

Bishop Fellay:
Some may indeed be influenced by such ideas; that is nothing new. I do not think that there are that many of them, but they can do harm, especially by spreading false rumors. But I really think that the main concern among us is rather the question of trust in the Roman authorities, with the fear that what might happen would be a trap. Personally, I am convinced that that is not the case. In our Society we distrust Rome because we have experienced too many disappointments; that is why some think that this could be a trap. It is true that our enemies may plan to use this offer as a trap, but the pope, who really wants this canonical recognition, is not proposing it to us as a trap.

Finding out what the Roman proposal will allow de jure and de facto

DICI: Several times you have said that the pope personally wants the canonical recognition of the Society. Do you have a recent personal assurance from the pope himself that this is truly his intention?

Bishop Fellay: Yes, the pope is the one who wants it, and I have said it repeatedly. I have enough precise information in my possession to declare that what I say is true, although I have not had any direct dealings with the pope—rather, with his close collaborators.

DICI: The April 14 letter signed by the three other bishops of the Society was unfortunately circulated on the Internet; does the analysis that it presents correspond to the situation in the Church?

Bishop Fellay: I do not rule out the possibility of a development in their position. The first question for us who were consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre was the question of the survival of Tradition. I think that if my confreres see and understand that de jure and de facto the Roman proposal contains a genuine opportunity for the Society to “restore all things in Christ”, despite all the troubles that continue to exist in the Church today, then they will be able to readjust their judgment—that is to say, with the canonical status in hand and the facts on the table. Yes, I think so, I hope so. And we must pray for that intention.

DICI: Some people throughout the world, including members of the Society, have made use of passages from an interview that you granted to Catholic News Service; these passages seem to indicate that in your view Dignitatis humanae no longer poses a difficulty.

Did the way in which this interview was edited change the meaning of what you wanted to say? What is your position on this subject in relation to what Archbishop Lefebvre taught?

Bishop Fellay: My position is that of the Society and of Archbishop Lefebvre. As usual, in such a delicate matter, we must make distinctions, and a good part of these distinctions disappeared in the televised interview that had been reduced to less than six minutes. But the written report that CNS made of my remarks recovers what I said that was not included in the broadcast version: “Although [Bishop Fellay] stopped short of endorsing Pope Benedict’s interpretation [of religious liberty] as essentially in continuity with the Church’s Tradition—a position which many in the Society have vocally disputed—Bishop Fellay spoke about the idea in strikingly sympathetic terms.” In fact, I simply recalled that there is already a traditional solution to the problem posed by religious liberty, which is called tolerance. As for the Council, when they asked me the question, “Does Vatican II belong to Tradition?”, I answered, “I would like to hope that that is the case” (which a faulty French translation transformed into: “I hope so.”) This is quite along the lines of the distinctions made by Archbishop Lefebvre to read the Council in the light of Tradition: what agrees with Tradition, we accept; what is doubtful, we understand as Tradition has always taught it; what is opposed, we reject.

Relations of the Society of Saint Pius X with diocesan bishops

A personal prelature is the canonical structure that you mentioned in recent statements. Now, in the Code of Canon Law, canon 297 requires not only informing diocesan bishops but obtaining their permission in order to found a work on their territory. Although it is clear that any canonical recognition will preserve our apostolate in its present state, are you inclined to accept the eventuality that future works may be possible only with the permission of the bishop in dioceses where the Society of Saint Pius X is not present today?

Bishop Fellay: There is a lot of confusion about this question, and it is caused mainly by a misunderstanding of the nature of a personal prelature, as well as by a misreading of the normal relation between the local ordinary and the prelature. Add to that the fact that the only example available today of a personal prelature is Opus Dei. However, and let us say this clearly, if a personal prelature were granted to us, our situation would not be the same. In order to understand better what would happen, we must reflect that our status would be much more similar to that of a military ordinariate, because we would have ordinary jurisdiction over the faithful. Thus we would be like a sort of diocese, the jurisdiction of which extends to all its faithful regardless of their territorial situation.

All the chapels, churches, priories, schools, and works of the Society and of the affiliated religious Congregations would be recognized with a real autonomy for their ministry.

It is still true—since it is Church law—that in order to open a new chapel or to found a work, it would be necessary to have the permission of the local ordinary. We have quite obviously reported to Rome how difficult our present situation was in the dioceses, and Rome is still working on it. Here or there, this difficulty will be real, but since when is life without difficulties? Very probably we will also have the contrary problem, in other words, we will not be able to respond to the requests that will come from the bishops who are friendly to us. I am thinking of one bishop who could ask us to take charge of the formation of future priests in his diocese.

In no way would our relations be like those of a religious congregation with a bishop; rather they would be those of one bishop with another bishop, just like with the Ukrainians and the Armenians in the diaspora. And therefore if a difficulty is not resolved, it would go to Rome, and there would then be a Roman intervention to settle the problem.

Let it be said in passing that what was reported on the Internet concerning my remarks on this subject in Austria last month is entirely false.

DICI: If there is a canonical recognition, what would happen to the chapels affiliated with the Society and independent of the diocese? Would the bishops of the Society continue to administer Confirmation and provide the Holy Oils?

Bishop Fellay: If they work with us, there will be no problem: it will be exactly as it is now. If not, everything will depend on what these chapels mean by independence.

DICI: Will there be a difference in your relations with the Ecclesia Dei communities?

Bishop Fellay:
The first difference will be that they will be obliged to stop treating us as schismatics. As for future development, it is clear that some will draw closer to us, since they already approve of us discreetly; some others, no. Time will tell how Tradition will develop in this new situation. We have great expectations for the traditional apostolate, just as some important personages in Rome do, and the Holy Father himself. We have great hopes that Tradition will develop with our arrival.

DICI: Again, if there is a canonical recognition, will you give some cardinals in the Curia or some bishops the opportunity to visit our chapels, to celebrate Mass, to administer Confirmation, perhaps even to ordain priests at your seminaries?

Bishop Fellay: The bishops who are in favor of Tradition and the conservative cardinals will come closer. One can foresee a whole development, without knowing the particular details. And certainly there will be difficulties, too, which is altogether normal. There is no doubt that people will come to visit us, but as for a more precise collaboration, such as the celebration of Mass or ordinations, that will depend on the circumstances. Just as we hope that Tradition will develop, we hope to see Tradition develop among the bishops and the cardinals. One day everything will be harmoniously traditional, but how much time that will take, only God knows.

DICI: While awaiting the Roman decision, what are your interior dispositions? What dispositions would you wish for the priests and the faithful who are devoted to Tradition?

Bishop Fellay: In 1988, when Archbishop Lefebvre announced that he would consecrate four bishops, some encouraged him to do it and others tried to dissuade him from it. But our founder kept the peace, since he had nothing in view but the will of God and the good of the Church. Today these are the same interior dispositions that we should have. Like its holy Patron, the Society of Saint Pius X has the desire to “restore all things in Christ”. Some say that now is not the time, while others on the contrary say that this is the opportune moment. For my part, I know only one thing: it is always the moment to do God’s will, and He makes it known to us at an opportune time, provided that we are receptive to His inspirations. For this reason, I asked the priests to renew the consecration of the Society of Saint Pius X to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on His feast day, June 15, and to prepare for it by a novena, during which the litanies of the Sacred Heart will be recited in all our houses. Everyone can join in asking for the grace to become docile instruments of the restoration of all things in Jesus Christ. (DICI no. 256 dated June 8, 2012)


Bill Meyer said...

Father, in charity, I offer this: apostasy (sp). I know, proofing is a pain...

Steven P. Millies said...

"typical tactics of the far left in the Church to discredit the Holy Father in the ways that have occurred especially within the Hierarchy and Academia, especially in Europe?"

Look this double standard is cute. But we should call it what it is.

First, our premise is that Fellay is a reliable reporter. He may not be. But if he is: Pope Benedict is optionalizing an ecumenical council. If Fellay is correct--and, he may not be--then Pope Benedict is doing something quite disreputable from an orthodox perspective. That is, unless someone here will defend an ultramontanist position that rejects the canonical authority of a council that acted in communion with the Bishop of Rome at its head. Who's heterodox now?

And, I'm not really being snide. (Well, maybe a little because this is a funny turn of events.) I've argued here and elsewhere that the universality (catholicity) of the tradition requires a reasonable breadth of interpretation to accommodate many different tastes in liturgy, many different prudential political opinions, etc. In fact, my principled position can be rather accommodating to what Fellay is celebrating here. I think the Church should be an accommodating place. It's just deeply and ironically hilarious that so many people here are going to be forced into acrobatics and contortionism to reach the conclusion they want to reach by way of the arguments they've been making. Honestly, I can't wait to read it.

Do your best!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course the problem beside my spelling is that spell check doesn't include my title for some odd reason, only the body of what I write, but I've corrected the misspelling and thanks for pointing it out!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Templar I deleted one of your posts for name calling at the beginning although the rest of it was fine. Just a word to all any post with insults and name calling will be deleted. Templar resubmit without the accusations.

Templar said...

Pope Benedict is not optionalizing a Council. His mesage has been consistent. Vatican ii changed no Dogma, therefore everything that comes out of V2 must be viewed in continuity with Tradition. The intrepretations we have labored under for the past half century are intrepretations viewed from a point of rupture, as if anything that happened in the first 1965 years of the Church was no longer relevant.

It's funny that you say that you think the church should be so accomodating now, when for the past 50 years anyone who breathed a world of Tradition was given no accomodation, and even today, 5 years after Summorum Pontificum we must still beg for our scraps.

There should be no accomodation for anyone, there is only Truth.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, You're a hoot! Catholicity does not imply accomodation. This notion is a product of the post Vat II mentality. Just what things do you think the Church should accomodate? Come on, now, tell us...spell it out....I mean like a list, not some vague acaedmic BS.

Bill Meyer said...

The other thing about V2, Templar, is that what we received implementation was not what was ordered in the documents. I am thoroughly convinced that the people in my parish who declare their great love for V2 have never, despite claims to the contrary, read the documents. That, or their reading is stunningly selective.

Pater Ignotus said...

Once again, a simplistic "ecclesial" answer is given to an extraordinarily complex social situation, that of disaffection with, for want of a better term, organized religion.

Bishop Fellay: "Did the novelties that were introduced during the Council start a trend of growth in the Church and an increase of vocations and religious practice? Do we not observe, to the contrary, a form of “silent apostasy” in all the countries of Christendom?"

The departure from organized religion is not an in-house Catholic problem. This has happened in almost every major denomination. The "silent apostasy" has also happened in civic organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary, in groups like the Scouts, and in any number of other organizations. Have Methodists given up Methodism because of Vatican Two? Did Rotarians give up the Rotary because of the "novelties" of Vatican Two? The cause cannot be ascribed to Vatican Two's "novelties."

Ecclesial communions that have grown, notably Evangelical non-denominational mega-churches, offer exactly what Fellay wants to blame for driving people away. Give them fluff, give them "relevant" preaching, appeal to the human desire for comfort, and you will have a mega-church.

Our Church operates within its cultural milieu. Social trends have always and will always influence the behaviour of Catholics, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. That's the challenge of being an Incarnational Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, I agree with you, especially about mega churches and the growth of conservative evangelicalism that provides emotional care and support and how to live one's live psychologically healthy. Pope Benedict has indicated that the Catholic Church may have to become smaller but purer in the future and a return to basics may well be in the future if in fact what Fellay says is true. I can't believe though that Pope Benedict would roll back Vatican II in any way, but the hermeneutic of reform within continuity is a way to accommodate Fellay. But all of us have to remember that in the documents of Vatican II there is a hierarchy of what is authoritative and unchanging and what is less important and changeable. I would say that in terms of Ecumenism, Interfaith relations and religious liberty, not to mention ecclesiology and liturgy, all of these on pastoral and non-binding in terms of even doctrine or dogma. That has to be made clear to those who have made Vatican II a super infallible dogma which it is not. One can pick and choose except where dogma and doctrine is enunciated from the Deposit of Faith that existed before Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

While I am not a fan of disobedience to the Holy Father

It seems to me that Bishop Fellay is providing a model of obedience to the Holy Father. Indeed, a model that others might well follow, of respect for our Holy Father and for his wishes.

or calling into question any aspect of an Ecumenical Council, in particular Vatican II

Questioning prevalent misinterpretations of conciliar documents really does not constitute questioning the council itself. Insisting on interpretations that agree with the teachings of tradition and the magisterium--as Pope Benedict himself is doing, apparently with the support of Bishop Fellay--surely qualifies as respect rather than disrespect for the council.

Bill Meyer said...

I do not pretend to be a Vatican II scholar, by any means. My focus has been on the four constitutions. From those, it is clear that the changes made were not prescribed by the Council.

Steven P. Millies said...

I'm now very interested in a conversation we could have here about the nature of Truth.

There seems to be a view around these parts that Truth is univocal and monolithic. We know the Truth, and the Truth is captured in the Church's constant, never-changing dogmatic pronouncements.

Can that really be so? It seems to me that the important breakthrough of the Council was to recognize the contingency of truth claims within the sphere of human knowledge--even, divinely-informed human knowledge. Historical critical methods in Scripture scholarship, back to Divino Afflante Spiritu offer a good example. The events recorded by Scripture are not history, though they are True in ways a historical account cannot be because recorded events do not capture the fullness of reality. They represent the perceptions of those who recorded them, as they also evoke idiosyncratic perceptions in those who read them.

To put it another way, the way people here resort to Truth comes off--to me--as a sort of fideistic surrender cloaked in the inauthentic trappings of Thomistic rationalism. That's because those resorts to Truth treat Truth as a oneness distinguished from a wholeness: one True proposition, and all others false. But can it really be that we can know the Divinity so well? And, could the God Who created the cosmos be so narrowly exclusive?

Truth is inclusive, a oneness that is a wholeness. It must be capable of innumerable expressions because no single human expression--not even the Church as a human society on a journey toward the Eternal--can possess the Truth or know the Truth. This is the reason that fides et ratio are so intimately linked, because our faith in an omnipotent and omnicient God is a constant challenge to our reason--a puzzle our reason neither can shirk nor solve because it is the question of our existence. It is the reason why the Church must teach that that, "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure," even as Catholics like me believe that revelation subsists in a uniquely fulsome way in the Church. And this is why a properly catholic Catholic Church must be accommodating so far as it can be accommodating without violence to Truth as Scripture and Tradition have revealed it to us.

This is why, Templar, I have said "my principled position can be rather accommodating to what Fellay is celebrating here." Kindly don't rope me in with some hypothetical Catholic left or Catholic right. I'm neither. I think those traditional aesthetics about liturgy should have a place in the Church. So should the St. Louis Jesuits.

That's why I'm celebrating Fellay's admission today. In a perversely satisfying way, it vindicates what I've been saying. These are choices we can make within the Tradition.

But for those who want to argue changeless continuity, your only hope is that Fellay is wrong or a liar about the Pope's intentions.

Steven P. Millies said...

Last note for Templar: You can't get off the hook by saying that the Pope is dispensing the SSPX from "interpretations" of V2. That's not what Fellay said. He said, "total acceptance of Vatican II." He didn't say, " total acceptance of interpretations of Vatican II."

You've got a big problem there.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Certainly the Church has a big umbrella that can take in Charismatic Catholics, neo-cathecumenal way, Fellay's group, the Anglican Ordinariate. All are conservative when in comes to doctrine,however the charismatics and the neo-cathecumenal way have interesting and more progressive spiritualistic and liturgies.
I do not see a compromise with Anglican who want women priests, same sex marriage, artificial birth control, pro-choice theologies and the like. And with groups in our church that are pushing for these things under the guise of getting rid of our monarchical magisterium and substituting a democratic form of magisterium to manipulate truth, including scripture, Tradition and natural law (or getting rid of natural law altogether)in order to have their way as the Main Line Protestants have done in their democratic process won't happen any time soon if ever at all.

Steven P. Millies said...

But, Father McDonald, you've just put your finger on it. We don't have a monarchical Magisterium. We have a blend of monarchicalism and conciliarism, though both are bounded by tradition. (We have a monarchical Magisterium, I suppose, in the sends of the Kingship of Christ. But He doesn't issue encyclicals or dogmatic constitutions.) There is a 'democratic' element in our theology and ecclesiology, of course (but the qualifying quote marks are essential). That's the meaning of Vat2 in that opening up of Truth claims I described, but it also is characteristic of a long-standing tension in Church history going back to Basel and further.

Look what you've needed to do to make your claim: "women priests, same sex marriage, artificial birth control, pro-choice theologies and the like." Who's talking about that stuff? Not me. I'm talking about the teachings of Vat2, teachings we're here talking about because, allegedly, Pope Benedict is optionalizing them.

Is your argument a theological one? Or, is it an aesthetic and cultural one? Is it just that you don't like Western culture today, and a narrowly-Tridentine picture of Tradition gives you a peremptory escape clause that claims superiority while you abandon the rest of us outside the walls of the Church? I've asked this before here in different ways.

If it's theological, you've got big problems with Pope Benedict and Fellay. There is massive inconsistency brewing, and that's a bigger problem for your claims of unchanging constancy than it is for secular relativists. If it's aesthetic and cultural, if you're just rejecting Western culture today, that's fine. But why must you try to take the Church with you?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, You did not naswer the question. What should the Church accomodate in your opinion? Which of the burning social issues of the day should the Church "go with the flow" on? Here...I'll help you. For starters:

1. Abortion....accomodate? Yes or No
2. Birth Control...accomodate? Yes or No
3. Same sex marriage...accomodate? Yes or NO
4. Gay Priests...Accomodate? Yes or No
5. Euthanasia...accomodate? Yes or No
6. Women priests...accomodate? Yes or No
7. Full communion with Prot churches by fiat. Accomodate? Yes or No
8. Give up Real Presence. Accomodate? Yes or No
9. HHS Mandate. Accomodate? Yes or No
10. Support of Socialist/Communist forms of government. Accomodate? Yes or No
Gosh, there are so many more, but that is a start. So, Millie, just list the number and put a y or an n.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, Millie, about this history business...many of the events in Scripture are, indeed, history. As we say in the Creed, "suffered under Pontius Pilate" to locate specifically the time of Jesus' death. So, which events are not history? We know that many of the OT events are history...we have corroboration from many archeological sources. But, let's stick to the NT (this should be fun). Now, let's see..."suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." ok...I guess you can go with that..but, about, "on the third day He rose again from the dead, He ascenced into Heaven..." Tell us, now, Millie, honestly, no BS. These events are reported as history by the Gospel writers and recalled as history by Paul. So, if you had been there omn that first Easter with your little Canon Digital Elph...could you have gotten it with a camera? Just a simple yes or no will do. No, academic nonsense and word bending. I've heard all that before. Yes or no? I wish I could ask you this in front of your academic peers to reduce the likelihood of your prevaricating, but let's give it a try...

Steven P. Millies said...

Gene W., I sure want to thank you for your questionnaire. It proves my point.

Tell me. If I answer "no" to all of them, can I go to Heaven??

This is an infantilized conception of Christian belief. It reminds me of my Protestant friends who believe they'll go to Heaven no matter what they do, so long as they accept the Lord Jesus into their hearts. This is no different. Whether I answer yes or no has nothing to do with my Catholicism. Why I answer yes or no has everything to do with it. If I would refuse an accommodation to same sex marriage because I hate gay people, I presume that would be alright with you? But it sure wouldn't be Christian. (Also--I'm at pains to understand why we should not admit celibate homosexual men to the priesthood. Check CCC 2358.)

I won't answer your questions. They insult me. They're beneath the dignity of 2,000 years of Catholic tradition.

This all befits someone who would consistently misstate my surname as a woman's name, I presume to provoke me with some playground taunt, and who, in any event, would address me only by my surname, as though I were a subordinate. I won't take the bait, and I won't play your game.

rcg said...

Steven, I think the thrust of Vat-II is that so much was optional. This is what allows so many variations in the celebration of Mass. It leads naturally to questioning Church teachings on human sexuality, e.g. What I think was unexpected is that it would eventually self-reference. This is one thing that I really like about the Church and Christianity, it allows for critical self analysis.

Anonymous said...

Gene, ever heard about feeding trolls?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, Millie, don't get your feathers ruffled. This is really simple. I believe that any one of us who regularly posts on here would be willing to answer these simple, direct questions. But, you have to go off on some kind of self-righteous cant about the difference between "whether" and "why." Then, you get all worked up about this being "beneath your dignity." All in an effort to avoid answering the question. Oh, and how you answer them has everything to do with your Catholicism. I am particularly interested in your answer about the camera. So, c'mon...we ain't proud. Let us have it.

Steven P. Millies said...

I think rcg raises an interesting question for discussion.

Clearly, this isn't the place for it, though. It comes back to this every time, doesn't it? Namecalling ("troll," "Millie") and avoiding the issue, sins against charity and intellectual dishonesty.

There's a good discussion here to had about Catholicity and Truth, and about Vat2 and theological pluralism. But all of that should take place in the original context: Fellay says Pope Benedict is re-opening the cafeteria. Too many people here are trying too hard to dodge that difficult problem. I can see why.

All this stuff about social issues and my being an academic (like Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II) is silly. They're distractions.

I'll keep watching here to see whether a real discussion about issues can happen. But I'm growing skeptical. I think you guys just like hearing each other tell you how right you are. But Fellay has revealed your Achilles' Heel today. Glory be.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If indelicately put the questions are important because the battle lines today have to do with the new secular agenda in it darkest form being brought to the fore by the entertainment media and far left politics not in a monarchical way, but a new form of dictatorship based upon charismatic impulses and personalities. One can make every caricature about gay hating Catholics opposing gay equality, but that is not what the issue truly is. We can say, well, no one is forcing a Catholic to use birth control even though the Church is providing insurance for its coverage, including abortion inducing drugs and sterilization because a left-leaning president says he's not going backwards which implies the Catholic Church is and thus a caricature of the Church out of touch with current academic and political thinking. Of course we know that now that gay rights and women's rights, entitled to all kinds of medical needs even considered immoral by those who provide the insurance and even to having women in the priesthood and transgendered people too, is considered a civil right, that then marginalizes those in the Church as ignorant bigots who really see this as something else altogether different and because of that are considered deficient.
It is here that the academic establishment using the most crass form of "clericalism" meaning they know better than the unwashed masses loses credibility, although all the while extolling the laity's new found education that brings them to par with supposedly educated clergy and religious.
Dr. Millies, I think you should answer these questions or are you afraid of the academic establishment, your credibility within it and the tyranny of their clericalism? Just asking.

Steven P. Millies said...

Taunt, taunt, taunt, Fr. McDonald.

But is the cafeteria open, or closed?

Bill Meyer said...

To say that the answers to essential questions are of no import, and that the reasons for those answers trump the answers themselves, is to deny the doctrinal teaching of the Church.

The questions are not, of themselves, insulting; to the contrary, they are at the core of our faith.

If we are selective in reply to fundamental issues, if we choose what to believe and what not to believe, then we are treating the faith as a menu. And if that is supportable, then there is no faith.

Anonymous said...

Bp Fellay will be known as a great defender of Roman Catholicism 200 years from now. Mahoney will be simply known as an ass clown. V2 was a pastoral council, nothing more. Atheism and radical Islam will consume this country within 50 years and authentic Roman Catholicism will lead the counter-culture movement where the Church will eventually assume it's rightful place in Western Civilation in approximately 150 years. The liberal Catholics in America or all a bunch Neville Chamberlains appeasing the satanic influences of secularism and radical Islam. They will never get it until they are bending on their knees praying to Mecca with a gun to their heads.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - The questions are not 'indelicately put' as you suggest. They are plainly taunts, as are the regular assaults against anyone who does not adopt a simplistic and unhistorical approach to the Catholic faith and our theology.

Posters whose messages you approve for your blog consistently offer caricatures of the words and ideas others post. Worse, some post anti-semitic and racist comments.

This sort of silliness only reinforces people who choose to be 'indelicate' in order to bully others into silence. BTW, that won't happen to me - I'm way too thick skinned.

Does your fear of losing the ardent support of your most dedicated sycophants lead you to allow such un-Christian comments on your blog? Just asking

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Another example of "academic" rewriting of Catholicism according to a secular mindset and this is not a taunt but an actual example of cafeteria Catholicism which the Holy Father doesn't approve:

ST. LOUIS -- The board of the largest membership organization of U.S. theologians issued a statement of support Thursday afternoon for Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a member in their ranks who was the subject of harsh criticism from the Vatican just days ago. The leadership of the some 1,500 member Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) says in the statement it is "especially concerned" that the Vatican's criticism presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.

Evidently academics deserve a pass and should never be criticized by the Vatican--interesting. If that's not clericalism, I don't know what is. This is not a taunt.

Steven P. Millies said...

But, yet again, Father, you've bravely led us off the point.

Those pelvic issues about which you and your confreres here obsess are not the "core of our faith." The core of our faith is the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Church is the visible sign of that those things on earth, and the meaning of what the Church is should be our discussion in light of Fellay's revelation. Instead we get distractions. We get insults levied against my profession--also the profession of Ratzinger and Wojtyla, I observe again.

And, somehow, you approved "ass clown" to be a part of this dialogue. Really.

Pater has diagnosed you correctly. And I'll say again, the last thing you want to talk about is Fellay's disclosure and how okay you think it is to regard some parts of the Tradition as optional so long as it serves your agenda.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Steven (formerly Millie)and Ignotus (aka Fr. Kavanaugh), the questions are neither indelicately put nor taunts. They are quite simple and neither of you has the intellectual honesty or integrity to answer them plainly. The fact that you both have prevaricated and covered us in a literal barrage of lugubrious academic horse crap is evidence enough that you cannot answer the simplest question about the Catholic/Christian faith: do you believe that Jesus Christ got up and walked out of the tomb (I mean like left footprints)so that you could have gotten it with a camera? I emphasize the camera bit because a favorite dodge for academics and apostate Priests is to say, "Well, Christ is risen in us." That's all well and existentially good and warm and fuzzy, but that is not the question. Why are you having so much trouble with this simple question? Ah, but wait, here is you believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin? I mean like virgo intacta that an ob/gyn could confirm? I know that is indelicate but really, we are talking nitty gritty issues here.
It doesn't matter. If you can't/won't answer one, then you can't/won't answer the other.
I find you both disgusting to the highest exent. You are both intellectual cowards and talk out of both sides of your mouths. I don't know why you come on this Blog, since Millie...sorry...Steve... spent a couple of paragraphs running everybody down. Ignotus has done nothing but taunt Fr. ever since he showed up here whining at me for calling Muslims a bunch of primitive savages (I have not changed my opinion, by the way) and bitching about the TLM.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Hey! Who called you an "ass clown" Stevie? How did I miss that! LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Not exactly correct as on a previous post or a comment that I made is that sspx is cafeteria Catholicism of another kind in terms of dissent to which anonymous 5 took exception to my observation. I would suspect that any normalization of them would include appropriate assent to V2. But with that said no one has asked about the Anglican ordinariate. Have they given assent to natural law and the church's teaching on divorce and remarriage and the canonical need for annulments to convalidate marriages?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

I swear, I am sitting here laughing at Millie and Iggy until tears are pouring down my face! Oh, God, academics are so predictable...academics and modernist Priests. You know what would help you guys? Go get drunk and get in a fist fight in some bar somewhere, then wake up in a trailer park next to some tattooed chick named Pandora with no clue how you got there. (well, maybe not you Ignotus). LOL! LOL! LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Call me Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory but I don't get the "ass down" comment either?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Did anyone catch the utter disdain that Millie has for the Church and the Magisterium with his reference to "pelvic issues?" And, this academic yokel, this affected, presumptuous, arrogant gate mouth wants respect...please.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Alright, Templar...'fess up! Did you call Millie an "ass clown?" LOL! LOL! Shame on you! (snigger, snigger)Oh, my God! You're killing me. This has got to have been the funniest, most enjoyable day on this blog ever. Christ have mercy! LOL! LOL! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Millies,
If YOU are interested ina discussion that could be had about the nature of Truth, then it perhaps it shows how twisted your thinking has become by the narcissistic, academia mindset.

The nature of Truth is human and divine. What more is there to say?
Truth is a person, not an idea to have a discussion about.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life....sound familiar?
Jesus said He would be with us always, and He is. In His Church and the Eucharist.

you wrote, "There seems to be a view around these parts that Truth is univocal and monolithic. We know the Truth, and the Truth is captured in the Church's constant, never-changing dogmatic pronouncements."
Yes sir, Jesus is univocal and monlithic.

It is possible to have a discussion about humnkind's ways of experiencing Truth or understanding Truth, but the nature of Truth isn't up for grabs.


Discussions about 'Truth

Steven P. Millies said...

Father, you approved it. I never said it was directed at me. Look above.

Anonymous said...
Bp Fellay will be known as a great defender of Roman Catholicism 200 years from now. Mahoney will be simply known as an ass clown....
JUNE 7, 2012 7:11 PM

I could be wrong, but I don't think this qualifies as discourse. But so much here doesn't of course.

Anonymous said...

An anonymous (not me) at 7:11 referred to Cardinal Mahoney as an "ass clown" (not "ass down"). As I recall, Mother Angelica, in a similar vein and apparently in a moment of frustration, once said that he (Mahoney) needed to go soak his head in a "back (room?) toilet"!

ytc said...

Now now, calm down gurls.

Gene H said...

Gene W, I have known Steven Millie's for well over a decade now and have spent some time reading these various posts, and I must say that you must lead a miserable life. You repeatedly insult people, call them outright cowards as you hide behind a computer screen. Yet, you constantly have a self-righteous tone and you yourself do the things you accuse academics of. I have commend Millie's since he has yet to refer to you as Genie, and that is funnier than Millie. He had instead repeatedly tried to have a serious discussion, and is met with taunts because he won't answer your quiz which is in fact a set up. This is not a discussion that can be reduced to simplistic answers.

Now that I have said what I have said how long will it be before you declare me and my two graduate degrees from a papally endowed institution to be unorthodox, invalid or whatever insult you deem worthy? How about a serious conversation about these matters instead of implied and outright insults?

Anonymous said...

Obviously I have been missing all the fun since checking the Blog earlier this afternoon and returning home this evening.

I have some questions of my own.

First, Bishop Fellay’s position seems to be that “what agrees with Tradition, we accept; what is doubtful, we understand as Tradition has always taught it; what is opposed, we reject.” Steven Millies refers to various “choices we can make within the Tradition,” but he also talks about how certain people “regard some parts of the Tradition as optional so long as it serves [their] agenda.”
My questions here are very basic ones: Assuming that it would be helpful to have a proper understanding of Tradition in making sense of these various statements, and assuming further that some readers of this Blog may share my own uncertainty regarding what that proper understanding may be exactly, where can we find a definitive and clear account of what exactly the term “Tradition” means in our peculiarly Catholic context? Or is the exact nature of the concept disputed? If so, where can we find a good account of the pertinent arguments? Perhaps Father, or others, can help with this.

Second, I believe that Gene has excelled himself in vitriolic repartee today. One of my colleagues and friends, who is also an academic like myself (my apologies once again), is wont to make outrageous and caustic statements for rhetorical effect that others do not always readily understand as such but instead take at face value. I have already stated in earlier posts on this Blog my own commitment to norms of civility, while accepting that sometimes incivility may be warranted (I recognize, for example, that Jesus Himself was not always “civil” – references to vipers and hypocrites, whipping of the moneychangers, etc).

Gene, you asked Steven Millies some direct questions. Now I have some for you. When you make comments that many may find rather extreme, are we always to take them at face value, as expressions of righteous anger, or are they sometimes made, as in the case of my friend, for rhetorical effect? Also, if we are to take at face value your statement that “Muslims [are] a bunch of primitive savages,” do you have in mind all 1.7 billion of them or just the ones you know personally?

rcg said...

Wow. As far as the name calling goes, it is one step beyond saying, "I'm not buying this" and declaring that the person making the argument does not get it, and furthermore does not know he does not get it. So he is an ass-clown: a person who repeatedly bumps you from behind in line at the cafeteria and is so self-absorbed and oblivious to his transgression that only the most direct confrontation will alert him to it.

This is my problem with many of the Liberals in the Church. They want to restrict my choices to what they want me to chose. They will disingenuous;y try to maneuver me into supporting an action that is not coincidentally associated with a political objective they if I remain obstinate, offer a false dilemma that I (e.g.) don't want to feed the poor or am against health care for the poor. My affection for the EF and traditional worship is that because it focuses on God, vertically, rather than the people, horizontally, it paradoxically allows for more alternative answers to the ethical demands on Christians and therefore is more Catholic. When we waste our limited time as mortals affirming each other in a horizontal worship practice we forego the chance to spend an eternal minute with God and align ourselves for action over the next several days when it is proper and practical to affirm each other.

In my line of work things happen over a very long time, but conclude quickly. In that climactic moment there is no time to contemplate anything but the very next second and the action that must occur. Afterwards there is a lot of more time devoted to the forensics of the climactic event. Mutual admiration is tempting, but masks the errors that may have occurred or distracts from learning what made the event successful. SSPX made some serious mistakes, and it looks to me that they are, erroneously, being used as a surrogate to criticize the growing attraction to the EF. Similarly Liberal parishes are hemorrhaging families and the sterile remnants thereof and don't want to look inward for the reason.

It may be that Gene's name calling is an attempt to get the person's attention. I can say authoritatively he does that for effect. But to what end? It is like the tough love phase of an intervention when the person is expected to rage back and reveal his true views, thereby giving access to his true self and eventual salvation. Sometimes, however, all you can do is make the patient comfortable.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Wow! This is really great. We get to continue the fun...
First, let me respond to Gene H:
I have two graduate degrees just like you...nanananabooboo. Both are in theology and NT theology from well known and highly rated schools. However, I pretty much have come to reject the academic expression of faith. I do not care how long you have known whatsisname. What has that got to do with anyhting?
I do not "hide behind a computer screen." My information is in the blog personal data. I attend St. Jo's every Sunday at 9:30, sometimes at 5, and go to the TLM on every first Sunday. I'm sure Gregg or one of the other ushers will be happy to introduce us. I will also be happy to make any statement I have made on the blog to your or whatsisname's, or anybody else's face, so if you are thinking about slapping me, that is ok. I like stuff like that because it simplifies the conversation even more(but, at least wait until we get outside the Church).
I consider this a very serious discussion, with the added benefit of a lot of humor. This discussion can, indeed, be reduced to simplistic answers. I asked Stevie a very simple, direct question: Do you believe that Jesus got up and physically walked out of the tomb like you could have snapped it with your little Canon? He refuses to answer that question. You, apparently, have trouble with it, too. It isn't a set up. Forget the "quiz." I know he can't answer that directly. So, Gene H., what are we to think of a guy who will not honestly answer that simple, crucial, unequivocal question? And, I'm the dishonest one? LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, to yet another (or the same...who knows) anonymous (talk about hiding behind a computer screen): I have, on occasion, used rhetorical statements in lectures or sermons; however, my questions and statements here are not rhetorical.
What is so gut-slammingly funny here is that, after you academics come on with all the lecture hall verbiage and prevarication, when someone asks you a simple, direct question about your belief you refuse to answer it. Then, the person who asked it is mean-spirited, taunting, vitriolic, and self-righteous (I'm sitting here laughing again). So, in one last sort of gracious, I guess, effort to convince yourself that I could not possibly have meant the question (about Jesus walking out of the tomb) to be serious and expected an answer, you think that, surely, it must have been rhetorical and for shock value. Ah, academia, this stuff is too good! You can't make it up (unless you are Swift or Alexander Pope).
So, now, we have several people who are shocked that anyone would ask a direct question about their belief. So, then, I guess you guys view the Nicene Creed as "rhetorical." Well, here's a hint...don't read the Athanasian Creed or you'll have acute diarrhea.
Oh, about the Muslim thing...all 1.7 billion of them. Hey, they're coming here. Lock up your wives and daughters, or at least buy burkas. LOL! LOL!

Bill Meyer said...

Steven, sorry, but on the one hand, you talk the moral high ground, then on the other, you descend into the low sort of comment you are so quick to condemn in others. Mote? Beam?

Moreover, there is condescension in many of your posts. Again, sorry, but what I have read so far doesn't support the notion of you as an authority.

Courtesy and reasoned discourse require two, at least.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Meyer, What could Steve possibly be an authority on? He has a degree in the greatest oxymoron of all time...Political Science. LOL!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Please, please stop attacking each others academic credentials. Can't we all just get along and discuss things on this blog in a way that is unlike the religious wars of yesterday when heresies rent the church asunder, or something like that? I do think that certain saints in the period of the Fathers had hot tempers too as I recall and theological discourse wasn't always all pleasantries. The common denominator here is "academia" which must mean that this venerable institution draws hotheads to its campuses and professorial positions? So be nice, please, boys and girls, I am king and have the power to delete. It nice being the monarch!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well, when academics come on the blog and look down their ivy-covered noses at the rest of us, they need to be ridiculed. I have been laughing my pelvic issues off over this stuff...
And, still, no answer to the simplest, most fundamental question about our Faith...ah, I'm laughing so hard again that my pelvic issues hurt...LOL!

Anonymous said...

This thread left me behind yesterday, but I returned this morning to see how it had developed (devolved? unraveled?). Wow. That "Can't we all just get along" really evokes those good old flower-child ditties of the 60s/70s. Anyone hear the strumming of the guitarist who's learned a single chord and thinks that qualifies him as a liturgist? (And visions of his spaced-out pastor in burlap sackcloth who couldn't care less.)

Templar said...

The thread left me behind yesterday too, which may be a good thing.


I ain't gots nose degrees in Theology.

I'm a simple sinner working my way through life. Based on all of the academics I have met in life, present company most defintely included, I am thankful for my ignorance. Academics like to "take the emotions out of things" and like to "have a polite conversation", poppycock I say. It is passion that makes us human. I am not inclined to ever growing shades of grey. I am black and white, and I don't need a degree in Theology to know sin and heresy when I see it. My idea of a good quiz is if I start beating someone with a club in an effort to get them to deny their beliefs will they relent to stop the beating? I know I won't, so I have no time or inclination to waste time debating the finer points with the Kavanaughs and Millies of the world. Liberals believe everything is open to discussion and interpretation. Truth is not, and that is the point that Gene has been trying to get you to acknowledge.

Carol H. said...

“You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to mere children” (Mt 11:25).

Quite simple, really.

Anonymous said...


Now I never meant to suggest that your direct question about belief in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus was mean-spirited or vitriolic. It would never have occurred to me that you would think I was referring to that. I believe you know very well that I was referring to all the other stuff – insults, name-calling, etc. The question itself is perfectly fine in my view. And I have already given you my answer in an earlier post – yes, I believe in the literal physical resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No prevarication or obfuscation there I think.

As for the allegation that you deliver insults and engage in name-calling while hiding behind a computer screen, I note that you have responded effectively to that point. As for myself, I do not believe I have said anything here on this Blog of an uncivil nature and so the same issue does not even arise. However, if I could figure out how to do it I would call myself Anonymous 2 (I note there is already an Anonymous 5), so that readers would at least know it is the same voice speaking. Father, do I type “Anonymous 2” in the “Name” box?

It is central to the academic calling to try to further inquiry and understanding. We academics are also supposed to admit when we don’t know something. And so my first set of Questions asked about the exact nature and content of Tradition in the Catholic context, seeking at least a reference to a good treatment of the topic, because I am not sure about it and thought some other readers may also be unsure. A proper understanding of this concept – what it includes, what it does not include (is it more than just Faith and Morals, for example?), what it leaves optional, what it does not (if it is more than Faith and Morals), how it is created and by whom it is authoritatively identified, whether the answers to these questions are clear or disputed, etc – might, I thought, help to advance the conversation and also to make sense of Bishop Fellay’s position on Vatican II and Steven Millie’s various statements about Tradition. So far, no-one has responded to my Questions.

As for academics looking down ivy covered noses at everyone else, I wonder if there is some projection going on here. There is a lot wrong with academia, as there is a lot wrong with many professions and institutions – including, it seems, the Church. As Oswald Spengler taught us, Western man is peculiarly afflicted with a Faustian nature, and that means all of us. So, please don’t just pick on academia. We all go around seeking to impose our wills on one another or on other parts of God’s creation in one way or another, and we all do a lot of damage in the process. But that is what it means to live in a fallen world, isn’t it? So, I am with Bishop Fellay when he says: “Everyone can join in asking for the grace to become docile instruments of the restoration of all things in Jesus Christ.”

Anonymous 2 said...

Oh, and one other thing, Gene. Regarding the 1.7 billion Muslims living in 50 majority Muslim countries across the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia and in many others as a significant minority, not all Muslim women wear burquas. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that in general there is as much pluralism within Islam as there is within Christianity, although there are certainly totalitarian versions of Islam that claim exclusive Truth on all matters and have no tolerance for any kind of dissent. But Islam is not alone in that regard I think.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well Anon-soon-to-be-2, My remarks were not primarily directed at you, although you did get swept up by a deliberately broad broom. Of course, there are exceptions to my Academia may be one. I will note that you are far more gracious than Millie, about whom proctologists dream when they think of Paradise.

As far as your question regarding "what is tradition," we both know that an inclusive definition is difficult. I am not as well equipped as some on the blog (Anon 5 and Marc, for instance)to tackle that, but it might be an interesting discussion if everyone isn't too tired from the last verbal pyrotechnics (which I rather enjoyed, btw) to do so. I might begin by rephrasing it as "what is true Catholic identity," but perhaps that is mincing words. I'll give it some thought. I have to go swim with grandchildren...LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 2, I know all that demographic stuff about Muslims and could care less. We need to stop making excuses for them and trying to be PC and sweet. Fact is, if we could wave a magic wand and disappear all of them tomorrow, the few "good" ones we disappeared would be worth getting rid of the rest. Well, thank them for preserving Aristotle back when they had a modicum of civilization.

Anonymous said...

I will continue to pray and think of the SSPX daily until they are fully reconciled to the Church and Holy Father. Many people not involved in the "politics" of the Church ae supporting the SSPX reintergration into the Church because it is simply the only way forward. To declare them anything but inside would smack of the highest degree of hipocrisy with all the shenanigans the laity have seen over the last 50 years.

Anonymous 2 said...

I hope you enjoyed your swim with the grandchildren, Gene.

It would certainly be helpful if you, Marc, Anonymous 5 or Father could provide an explication of Tradition in the Catholic context (and the associated notion of Catholic identity as you suggest). However, a reference to a good and authoritative discussion would also be very helpful. The concept of Tradition seems central in Bishop Fellay’s approach to Vatican II. Thanks.

Anonymous 2 said...

Regarding Aristotle, God works in mysterious ways.

I posted my comment because I was concerned that you were wielding that broad broom again. However, now I understand that it was a magic wand.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 2, Regarding tradition: I think we have to start with practice. Something (the liturgy) that has been done the same way by the Roman Church for centuries (certainly since Gregory) around the world and that is continuous through history is tradition. The sacramentals, devotions, and other spiritual trappings that accrue to it, at some point, become part and parcel of tradition. They may not be essential in the primary sense, but they are difficult to separate from it.
Along with such long, continuous practice, there develops both a theology and a methodology (at the highest levels) and an expectation and intuitive understanding of what "fits" and what does not at the lay level. This is sort of like the Supreme Court Justice who, when asked to define pornography said, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."
Now, I know that such impressionistic understandings are problematic for those wanting iron clad definitions, but I believe they are valid.
The Liturgy and Catholic dogma (The Magisterium) have developed organically through mutual interplay and influence over centuries. They are pretty much inseparable, although we do so theoretically for discussionm.
Anyway, that is where I would start.
If you are really interested in this and not just tossing caveats, I suggest Fr. Adrian Fortescue's book on the history of the Mass.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

The complete title of the book is:

"The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy," by Fr. Adrian Fortescue
It can be found at Angelus Press.

Anonymous 2 said...

Thank you, Gene. I really appreciate your explication and the reference. I might quibble a bit with your distinction between being “really interested” and “just tossing caveats.” I am not sure exactly what you mean by the latter, but developing and exploring caveats, qualifications, and nuances are, I believe, necessary to a proper understanding of a subject, both the theoretical understanding and its practical applications in the complex circumstances of life in a broken world. But, as I said, it is just a quibble and we may not in fact even disagree at all if “just tossing caveats” is intended to indicate something frivolous or even obfuscatory.

No, I am very serious about the questions I asked and will certainly check out the book you recommend. In fact I did some research of my own yesterday evening on the Internet but did not unearth much of value. I found one discussion that looked promising but it was written by a non-Catholic and in the end seemed somewhat hostile to the entire concept of Catholic Tradition. However, here it is for what it is worth (it does contain some insights of value I think):

This evening I have been looking in the CCC under the Index entries for Tradition. The main entry seems to be sections 74-100. Also, sections 1124-25 on Liturgy would also seem important here. However, I am still somewhat perplexed in trying to understand and reconcile the relevant passages completely. For example, if I read sections 74-100 correctly, Tradition is equated with “Apostolic Tradition.” Section 83 distinguishes between “Apostolic Tradition and ecclesial traditions” and states:

“Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium.”

If I understand this correctly, Tradition is always binding, also on the Magisterium, but traditions (including liturgical traditions) are not necessarily. And I read in sections 1124-25:

“. . .Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.

For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not challenge the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience to faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.”

So I see some potential uncertainty in these passages. Everything would seem to depend on a proper understanding of Tradition. I am wondering whether this uncertainty (if I am seeing correctly) may be at the root of at least some of the disagreements (or at least the liturgical ones) between SSPX and Rome.
Perhaps the book you recommend will explore this point.

But then there still remain the other disagreements. And again, at the heart of it all seems to be the relevant understanding of Tradition because Bishop Fellay says “what agrees with Tradition, we accept; what is doubtful, we understand as Tradition has always taught it; what is opposed, we reject.”

Moreover, a proper understanding of Tradition and of any disputes about its exact meaning and content would also be helpful to understand Steven Millie’s contentions regarding various “choices we can make within the Tradition.” Is he talking about Tradition or traditions? And again, how precisely do we distinguish between them?

So, my own researches so far produce more questions than answers I am afraid. But again, I am no expert on this material, just someone trying to gain a better understanding of the relevant issues.

Thanks again for your help.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. I am somewhat embarrassed at having included the link in my previous post, especially when I read the end of it again (the final paragraph seems to miss the point after having attempted a not entirely unreasonable explanation earlier). However, perhaps the baby and bathwater image applies here again, since there may be some insights of value nevertheless. Also, it provides a useful glimpse of certain misconceptions others who see us from the outside may have. In addition, perhaps it may help to explain some of the confusion and uncertainty even among Catholics about the nature and content of Tradition. On the other hand, Father may prefer to delete the link entirely.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 2, I was attempting to come up with a broader definition of what is "traditon." The sections from CCC and other sources you quote really are not very helpful, as I am sure you discovered. Interestingly, the sources you cite sort of take for granted "tradition," like the famous Supreme Court Judge statement...I know it when I see it. LOL!
I still like my idea of beginning with long established practice as a starting point. Also, "tradition" and "dogma" seem to overlap in the statements you reference. Here's one: (Webster) tradition: "a long established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law." That supports my statement about practice.

Now, you mention Millie again...I refuse to take seriously anyone, no matter his pedigree, who will not answer the simple question about his belief that I posed. It is absolutely hilarious that he thinks asking such a question is "a set up," "beneath him," or a taunt." Do you not find that pelvic issue tickling funny?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

On the same note, I see that Millie has quit the blog. I consider that a small victory...anytime we can drive off some smug modernist is cause for celebration. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

Steven P. Millies said...

I simply think it's interesting that someone who started reading about me here at the bottom of this posting never would guess that we began with Fellay's revelation. The earnest avoidance of that topic here has been nothing short of revelatory for the honest discomfort it evidences.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well, damn, he's back! LOL! There has been no avoidance of the topic. You merely thrust yourself into the position of "man (or whatever) of the hour." LOL! Now, are you sure you want to hang around...someone may taunt you or ask you a question that is beneath you to know, like about the Virgin Birth or Jesus' literal resurrection. Damn, this is so much fun I feel it in my pelvic issues...LOL! LOL!

Anonymous 2 said...

Gene and Steven,

Thank you, Steven, for starting us off on what is to me a very interesting line of inquiry, and thank you, Gene, for continuing to pursue it with us.

Steven, I do not understand us to be avoiding the topic you raised. Indeed, the proper understanding of Tradition would seem to be at the very heart of it, as Bishop Fellay indicates in setting out the SSPX approach to Vatican II. Once again, then, Bishop Fellay says: “what agrees with Tradition, we accept; what is doubtful, we understand as Tradition has always taught it; what is opposed, we reject.” So, I infer that the SSPX considers that, in certain important respects, presumably those particular Vatican II documents with which they disagree, Vatican II erred from the path of true Tradition. And you yourself seem to raise the possibility of choices within the Tradition (presumably choices among different “traditions,” with a lower case “t”) if I understand you correctly. But one assumes (and I think you also assume) that those choices should always be consistent with Tradition with an upper case “T,” which is always for Catholics, together with Scripture, supremely normative. And this, in turn is presumably related to Father's point that "in the documents of Vatican II there is a hierarchy of what is authoritative and unchanging and what is less important and changeable."

So, it seems very important to be able to distinguish immutable Tradition from mutable traditions.

Gene must be right in taking us to “long established practice” as being central to a proper understanding of any tradition. Now-Thomist philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre defined a practice as follows in his book “After Virtue.” (2d. ed., 1984) (when he was still just a neo-Aristotelian philosopher and had not yet completed the journey to Rome). Thus a practice is:

“[A]ny coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence and human conceptions of the end and goods involved, are systematically extended.” (at page 187).

In MacIntyre’s account, practices are “transmitted and reshaped” through “traditions” (at pp. 221-23). And a “living tradition” (as opposed to a dead one) “is an historically extended, socially embodied argument, and an argument precisely in part about the goods which constitute that tradition. Within a tradition the pursuit of goods extends through generations, sometimes through many generations.” (at page 222).

So, we have practice, we have argument, and we have change within continuity.

The thing that is peculiar about religious traditions, including the Catholic tradition, is that they explicitly bring God into the picture. So, the argument is now no longer one that purports to involve just humans but one that explicitly involves Divine revelation and inspiration as well (I use the word “explicitly” advisedly for God is perhaps “behind” many things). That changes things significantly in several respects it seems to me, one of which is that now it is possible for certain parties to the argument to appeal to unchanging standards that are divinely mandated as immutable (such as, one assumes, Catholic Tradition with an upper case “T”) (although, as an aside, this exchange has now got me thinking whether all traditions must have some fundamental and non-negotiable standards that must in all cases be observed to avoid corruption of the tradition; I need to think more about this as I may be writing on MacIntyre later this summer after completing a current project and learning more about him).

I hope soon to get the book Gene recommended. For now, any further thoughts on all this? Thanks again for this discussion

Steven P. Millies said...


Steven P. Millies said...

Anon--First to clarify, the most immediately-preceding post from me was intended in reply to Gene, not to you. Accidents of posting from the behind the approval wall, I had no idea that another post was queued before me.

I totally agree with you. Look to my post of 6/7 at 12:03pm where I wrote that, "my principled position can be rather accommodating to what Fellay is celebrating here. I think the Church should be an accommodating place." That got twisted into, I guess, accommodating abortionists somehow. That's a good, practical example of what a willingness to mock before listening can do to discourse. But my actual meaning was to say just what you've said--the Tradition, as we have it, is a big tent.

But now comes the question. What would Gene W. say if I said that some things in the Tradition are doubtful? Quite rightly, I think, he would ask who I am to be calling things doubtful.

In this particular case--again, assuming Fellay is a reliable reporter--what is interesting is that it is not so much Fellay and the SSPX calling parts of Vat2 doubtful, but that it is Pope Benedict assenting to their doubts and, as I have said, optionalizing some parts of an ecumenical council. That seems, to my naive eyes, totally unprecedented, given the canonical authority of a valid council.

So I agree. The conversation really is about the Tradition, and not about me. And, yes, I do think there should be room for the SSPX just as there is room for the St. Louis Jesuits, as I wrote 6/7 at 2:28pm. But that is not the same as saying that some parts of Vat2 are doubtful or optional. That is saying that Vat2 opened new avenues of liturgy, practice, social action, etc. in continuity with Tradition--and, all to the good. I've never argued here or elsewhere for any particular need to suppress the old because, in fact, I have no such desire. I simply try to claim some space for everybody who wants to identify herself or himself with the Church.

And, I'm trying to do it without insulting anyone else.

Anonymous 2 said...


I did understand the intent of your immediately preceding comment because any other understanding would have been out of character for you, but thanks for clarifying anyway.

Would it help if we distinguished analytically two related sources of possible doubtfulness: (1) the exact content of immutable Tradition, and (2) the evaluation of the status (validity and licitness) of mutable traditions in light of immutable Tradition? Just what is it exactly that is immutably fixed, and at what level of specificity? Presumably, this is tied up with the concept of infallibility – what is infallible is immutable and vice-versa. But just as important, it seems to me, is who gets to resolve these doubts – the issue of authority. Have I understood correctly?

Regarding the SSPX, if Catholics are supposed to accept all of Tradition with an upper case “T”, Rome presumably has no problem accepting SSPX into full communion if SSPX accepts all of Tradition, and SSPX would have no problem entering into full communion if Rome acts consistent with Tradition.

As I understand it, however, SSPX thinks that some parts of Vatican II are not in accordance with Tradition. So, is every part of Vatican II infallible and immutable? Even if the answer to that question is yes, how do we approach those parts of it that require interpretation? And if some parts of it are not infallible and immutable, which parts are they exactly? And again, perhaps most important, who gets to decide all these questions? Alternatively, is there room to achieve communion with Rome while agreeing to disagree on certain points and to leave it to the Holy Spirit to clarify them in the course of time?

I believe that Anonymous 5 had set out a framework for some of this that might help clarify the issues further but I have lost the thread. Anonymous 5, are you still there for this one?

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon2--Thank you.

Here I'll begin by pleading for a bit of mercy, since I'm not a theologian. (Neither am I a political scientist.) As a political theorist, most of the work I've done has been on the relationship of tradition to history. That is the source of my interest in this issue though, even as I have considerable literacy on the philosophical discussion of those topics, I may not be up to recognizing all of the theological distinctions. With that as prelude, I plunge forward.

I'm not certain that the question is of distinguishing between mutable and immutable traditions because, indeed, that seems to me as though it asks us to know the content of the immutable Tradition--it is unavoidable if we are to make the distinction. I would adopt a Burkean approach to this problem, whether it is a political problem or a theological problem. If the balance of human opinion accepts a practice across an adequate span of time, it must be the Tradition. (Shades of Habermas here, too.) There is no mathematical formula for the right number of people, the right passage of time. (Shades of Potter Stewart too--we 'know it when we see it.') But tradition is an expression of a shared sense of who we are, and Tradition--so far as we humans can understand it--can be knowable to us only so far as it is disclosed by acceptance (a standard recognized by medieval law and Aquinas). I'm using Tradition there, by the way, not in a specifically Catholic way but rather in a larger sense that intends to express the order of history--How We Should Live, no matter in what category we discuss it. Within the specifically Catholic orbit, of course our understanding of what we can or should accept as Tradition is guided by Scripture and the Magisterium. That is a considerable help. But, as you say, there are legitimate questions of interpretation.

Still here is where I think is the problem with what Fellay seems to be saying. Let us take something so relatively noncontroversial as religious liberty. The Council spoke rather (admittedly, not totally) clearly on that question, but the SSPX does not accept the doctrine as it was developed by the Council at all. The position I am attempting to articulate would say that the Tridentine or the extraordinary form are options that should be available in a truly catholic Catholic Church as nourishment for those who will profit from them spiritually. But that should not license anyone to say that the guitar or the sackcloth are illegitimate liturgical expressions. (I have a former student who once offered what seems to me to be the best expression of how to think about this--think of the relationship of the Roman Rite to the uniate rites.) The Tradition must be able to tolerate these things because they all fall within the orbit of what we can mean today by Catholic. (In this sense, I have been a fan of Benedict's 'footnoting the Tradition' with liturgical garb, etc.) But what cannot be acceptable is to deny the legitimacy of other parts of the Tradition. And that was what Fellay said--"Rome no longer makes total acceptance of Vatican II a prerequisite."

Unless I am misunderstanding him, it seems to me that he's not merely saying the SSPX will not practice various things we associate with Vat2. He's saying that they can claim ground from which to delegitimize Dignitatis Humanae, vernacular liturgy, etc. from within the unity of the Roman Church. That's deeply troubling. It's a fracturing within the Tradition that cannot really be tolerated.

If I'm not clear somehow, please point it out. And, of course, I'll claim all errors honestly.

Anonymous 2 said...


I must plead for even more mercy for I am none of those things. However, I have been a student of the Law for several decades and I bring to my study of the Law an interest in tradition, history, philosophy, political theory, other cultures, etc, however inadequate and incomplete my knowledge of these other subjects (and indeed of the Law itself in all its vastness and complexity) may be. All of which is to say that I appear on this Blog with considerable self-awareness of my limitations and, I hope, with an appropriate humility, but with an inquiring mind and a desire to deepen my own faith.

So, yes, I am with you on Burke and Tradition as a general matter. But as you confirm, with Catholicism it may be different because we have an authoritative source for determining the content of Catholic Tradition in the Magisterium. The problem is that SSPX and Rome seem to disagree about the status of Vatican II within that Tradition. And their position, as I understand it, is as you describe in your final paragraph. But then that brings me back to the questions I set out in my previous post.

I am just glad I am not the one, or one of the ones, having to sort all this out in trying to achieve some kind of rapprochement between SSPX and Rome!

Regarding folk masses, etc, I entered the Catholic Church in the late 1970s and became used to different liturgical forms, including a monthly folk mass. Based only on those I experienced personally, I did not find them offensive or spiritually diminishing. However, I also was perplexed that we did not have a Latin Mass as well (we are Catholic after all!). So, my own experience and liturgical tastes were somewhat eclectic and pluralistic. In honesty, I was sad to see the end of the folk mass in our parish. That said, I am following closely all the arguments regarding their appropriateness and must remain open to persuasion, guidance, and inspiration on this point. I find your analogy with the Uniate Churches intriguing, but I don’t know enough of the details to form an opinion on just how far that analogy can be pressed regarding arguments occurring within the Roman Rite itself.

However all of these “arguments within our tradition” turn out, Steven, I was struck by your second post on June 7 (2:28 p.m.) and your contentions regarding Truth as a “oneness that is a wholeness” and the ultimately Unknowable nature of the Divinity. I have always assumed that God informs us mere mortals on a need to know basis and subject to our considerable limitations as finite creatures who exist within space and time, although like you and other Catholics I believe that “revelation subsists in a uniquely fulsome way in the Church.” And sometimes indeed, although we humans are creatures who must speak, the response that seems most appropriate in the face of such awesome Mystery is one of Silence.

Thanks again for engaging in this very interesting exchange.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millies, You never answered my question about the resurrection of Jesus. I find it difficult to take anyone seriously who wants to make pronouncements about Catholic/Christian issues who refuse to answer that simple question. I find it highly presumptuous of you to come on a blog such as this pretending to be Catholic.

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon2, ultimately you broach a good question about how applicable those Burkean ways of thinking about Tradition are within the sphere of an authoritative Tradition. Yet, Burke was raised in a Catholic environment and so I think his reflections are not inappropriate. In any event, I continue to hope they are helpful to us.

One last note, and I think one touching specifically what is interesting to you (and, most interesting to me). In that 6/7 2:28pm post I described much of what I see posted here as "a sort of fideistic surrender cloaked in the inauthentic trappings of Thomistic rationalism." That's the danger we want to avoid, to give too much credit to the idea of how much we know that the Tradition is unknowable. I think you use the right word--mystery. But it must be a mystery susceptible to human reason, even if it infinitely resists resolution.

I think of an extraordinary exchange I heard between two Catholic philosophers in 2005--Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor. I say extraordinary because despite their quite significant disagreements, they came to agreement about something most unexpected. They agreed that St. Thomas, of course, made real contributions to the Tradition. But they also agreed that what he made possible, and what many (most?) of his followers have done, has been less helpful. St. Thomas "made possible the analytical codification" of the Catholic faith and, as a result, his followers have proposed a kind of certainty about the Tradition that leads us down a destructive path of knowing-unknowing. That is, a path of settled certainties that inhibit significant inquiry (because questions fall outside the settled certainties) and redounds into a kind of fideism where faith smothers reason and questions aren't asked because, we believe, they already have been answered fully.

To really develop that would take far more space than I have here, but I hope you can see its outline. I really recommend a short work you can find in a few places--Charles Taylor's lecture on receiving the Marianist Award at the University of Dayton in 1996, "A Catholic Modernity?" (Available under that title with responses from Catholic intellectuals from Oxford University Press, and also available in a volume from Fordham University Press, Believing Scholars.) There he begins to discuss both a Catholicism that can interact constructively with modernity and a modernity that better recognizes its debt to Christianity and can fit with Catholicism. For that discussion, an understanding of what tradition is must be essential, and my intimations of a oneness that is a wholeness come from some of Taylor's reflections there--mediated by Burke and other things I've read. I think Taylor gives that subject short treatment there, I think his attempt to develop it in A Secular Age (Harvard, 2007) was disappointing. But I think his argument is essential because it embraces mystery in its integration of oneness and wholeness, tradition with a vertical axis of uniformity and a horizontal axis of unity, together.

How can those things operate together? That's the mystery. That they do seems, to me, to be the the eseential point.

Anonymous 2 said...

Thank you, Steven, for those illuminating thoughts and for the references. I will get the Taylor lecture as soon as I can and add it to the book recommendation from Gene. In fact, I have just emailed a colleague of mine who has read much of Charles Taylor’s work to ask if he is familiar with the 1996 lecture or the MacIntyre-Taylor 2005 colloquy. All this will also be very helpful when I get to my next project, which will draw on MacIntyre (and, I suspect, now also Taylor).

More generally, I have found what I call “the MacIntyrean dialectic,” i.e., the conversation between rival moral traditions, very helpful in my teaching of, and thinking about, the quest for Truth in a postmodern and pluralistic world, and I find it very telling that MacIntyre has made a lifetime journey from Marx through Aristotle to St. Thomas.

Steven, I don’t really want to get in the middle of this, but is there some way you can answer Gene’s question? For myself, I do believe in the literal, bodily Resurrection of Jesus as an actual historical event. In the face of the great Mystery it does not offend my Reason (and I have Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Horatio in my corner for that as well). That said, it is also surrounded by the awesome Mystery before which I can only be Silent. So, I do understand if you prefer not to answer.

And Gene, can you cut Steven a bit of slack?

I won’t suggest that you kiss and make up =), but I hate to see good people so divided. And now I should definitely be silent!

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon2, Thank you. Those are kinds words.

Re: Gene--the tragic irony is that I did answer it (at least, to my satisfaction) at my 6/7 8:34pm post: "The core of our faith is the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus." Why someone would not accept that as a reply, I will not speculate. It is true that it does not give a clear y/n reading on the litmus test. Then again, it seems to me that the Great Mystery should be more than that. Such, at least, is my own faith.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millies, you are prevaricating. The "ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus" doesn't mean much because "resurrection" has been re-interpreted by liberal theologians to mean, "Oh, well, Christ is risen in us." That is the whole point of Pope Benedict's book on Jesus of Nazareth: the so-called "Christ of faith" (a humanistic/existential, non-historical concept) is the same Jesus of Holy Scripture, whose literal, bodily resurrection from the dead is recorded in the Gospels and recalled by Paul and John. This is not new. Martin Kahler, in the early 20th century, wrote a book dealing with the same liberal nonsense: "Die Sobekonnten Historische Jesus und Der Biblische Christ." He was taking on primarily Schweitzer and others of his ilk, but the issue was the same. So, your types have been around a while. Now, you have already said that the accounts in Scripture are "non-historical" (revealing your lack of knowledge of Biblical theology), that is why I stressed,in my question you refused to answer, the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus from the know, history, linear. Your refusal to answer and your smug statement that such a question is beneath you are answer enough. So, I find it very difficult to take anything you say about Catholicism or theology seriously.
Now, this thread has reached the second page, which means not many folks will read further. So, I will re-visit this issue when you post more of your drivel in other, more recent threads. But, don't worry, you'll have Ignotus on your side. LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 2, I've said about all I have to say on tradition. Long, continuous, consistent practice over centuries develops an almost archetypal norm around which all practice tends to cluster. If the reform of the reform continues to have legs and brings about a return to more "traditional" practice, then I think that will be anecdotal evidence that I am correct. It will mean that the collective Catholic consciousness has judged that the practice has gone to far off the norm and needs reigning in.

Now, you academic boys have fun wordsmithing. You remind me of two Labrador Retrievers when they see a puddle...they can't help themselves, they have to jump in it. LOL!

Anonymous 2 said...

I think your summary captures the essence of it, Gene.

Speaking for myself, I will take the Labrador retriever remark as a compliment. I have always thought of myself as a dog type.

Admittedly, Labrador retrievers are not too bright (I can live with that), but they are friendly, loyal, gentle (albeit a bit clumsy sometimes -- again I can live with that), and like all dogs they enjoy life's simple pleasures, such as a good academic discussion.


Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Oh, one last thing (I guess I have some Lab in me, too): Mystery is not some vague catch-all dodge into which we relegate anything we do not want to, or cannot, the recipe to Grandma's caramel cake. The Mystery is s theological concept with a "theo-logic" supporting it. The Mystery of Jesus birth, death, and resurrection rests upon the Miracle of his bodily resurrection. The miracle represents the Sovreignty of God who created and rules the universe and who chose to enter linear history tangentially by transcending the laws of physics and biology. Likewise, the miracle of Jesus' Virgin Birth and Resurrection rests upon the Mystery of God's love which would move Him to enter history to redeem us who are unworthy. God's love and sovreignty are inseparably intertwined with the Mystery and the Miracle. The Mystery is not an existential shrug of the shoulders, nor is it some scientific conundrum, "Gee, how could that be explained?" It is the most fundamental challenge to our humanity, our understanding of life and history. Do you believe that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the Living God who was bodily raised from the dead and who will come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead? Our answer to this colors our entire understanding of history, morality, politics, and the future. The Mystery includes and encompasses our response to this question...see: election.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 2, The Lab reference was in friendly jest. I am a dog type, too, and have three at this moment (they're mutts, but one is a Lab/ Chow mix). I think Labs get a bad shake on the brightness scale...their intelligence is so bracketed by their genetic love for water and hunting that they sometimes appear dumber than they are. Labs are actually used as guard dogs in some
police work, and there are numerous accounts of Labs saving children from fire and water and attacking intruders. A noble breed, in all. Woof...

Steven P. Millies said...

So, there ya have it.

A Red under every bed next to a prevaricating academic. And, probably, 81 Communists (at least!) masquerading as Democrats in the House. There's just no pleasing some people who cannot conceive of how to proceed with charity, to presume good will, and to enter into regular discourse. Conspiracies everywhere! As much as with American politics, this sort of attitude is the biggest problem in the Church today. This sort of General Jack D. Ripper-like obsession with purity reaches such absurd heights that it can seem "highly presumptuous" to a certain sort of person that I "come on a blog such as this pretending to be Catholic." I don't even need to pass a litmus test like that to enter a Catholic Church on a Sunday morning, to get on line to receive the Sacrament. But this blog is sacred space! Purity of essence allowed, only. Please take our litmus test at the door. (I assume pink is the wrong answer?) This would be merely foolish if it weren't so destructive.

How did all of this start? There's a good question. I'll bet that it all tracks back to these words in my 6/7 2:28pm post: "The events recorded by Scripture are not history, though they are True in ways a historical account cannot be because recorded events do not capture the fullness of reality. They represent the perceptions of those who recorded them, as they also evoke idiosyncratic perceptions in those who read them." Ergo, I am suspect. Ergo, I must now pass the litmus test.

So, in the name of intellectual honesty, let me say this--even as I know it will strengthen a false perception of me here in minds ready to doubt me because, I guess, I read books. But I'll throw it down as a gauntlet. It is possible to be orthodox AND to say that there is no shred of evidence of which I'm aware to tell us that even one word of the New Testament was written by a person who saw the Risen between the Resurrection and the Ascension. (I'm not a Scripture scholar, but I've read about this. I'll be corrected happily if I'm mistaken.) The earliest documents in the NT are the epistles of Paul, and it is generally accepted that the Pauline vision of the Resurrected came after the Ascension (if we go by Acts). (Of course, Paul's authorship of all of those texts also is disputed.) The canonical Gospels came later, and their authorship also is much disputed. It seems clear that the earliest of them, Mark, was written no sooner than 65AD--more than a generation later. These Gospel stories were, most likely, an oral tradition told and re-told by a very frightened early Christian community until someone wrote them down. Perhaps that Q author was an eyewitness to the Resurrection. But we don't know who Q was so we can't say that, either.

Steven P. Millies said...

This is nothing more than the application of the same historical-critical methods we use to understand what the Founding Fathers intended by the Constitution or any other historical event. It's ordinary business, and we rely on it every day for everything else. In this particular case, it is the application of reason to faith. It is our Tradition, and it should neither shame nor frighten us. It doesn't mean that Scripture isn't True, and it doesn't mean that Jesus didn't rise bodily. Certainly it's not an expression of my faith about the Resurrection. It's simply a rational accounting of what the accumulation of human knowledge says about how we can understand Sacred Scripture. It is what those words on 6/7 at 2:28pm mean--spelled out for those who don't understand them.

There should be no controversy in saying these things here. But the repeating demands for my litmus test answers prove that there is. And, that's a shame.

Let's do it this way. I'll be so small and so petty about faith as to answer y/n to the litmus test questions when someone here can live up (down?) to Gene's own standard and be so small and so petty as to attempt to offer empirical evidence that the Resurrection occurred, that Scripture records historical events. Once you've diminished the Resurrection so much to do that, I'll diminish it by answering the question with a clear and satisfying yes.

Steven P. Millies said...


(Or, whatever verbal confetti is meant to excuse me from what I've said.)

Anonymous 2 said...


The written word, especially when delivered in Cyberspace, can give rise to misunderstanding between discussants, and I think that may have happened here again. I don’t mean the discussion of Mystery. We agree on that for sure. How could the Mystery of the Divinity and all His Works be relegated to the banality of mere mystery? A puny creature in space and time (albeit the imago Dei) speaking of the Eternal Ground of All Being outside of space and time calls for some humility I think. But Modernity's hubris knows few bounds I fear. There is an analogous problem with Modernity’s debased and banal transformation of Myth into mere myth.

This may provide a key to what I suspect is a misunderstanding between you and Steven, however. I don’t understand Steven to be denying the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Instead his last post suggests that he is relying upon these very distinctions, and the associated distinction between History and mere history.

In any event, perhaps we can all agree about dogs. I grew up with a black Labrador retriever. She wasn’t the brightest dog on the planet but she was definitely the best. My wife, son, and I have a “chiweenie,” who looks like a small Jack Russell with big ears and big eyes. She is now the best dog on the planet. Not that I am biased or anything. Double woof. . .

Steven P. Millies said...

Amen, Anon2.

I offer this in agreement and, perhaps, to deepen an interesting conversation about tradition, modernity, and the historical consciousness.

Anonymous 2 said...

My goodness, Steven, that is just lovely. Thank you so much for sharing it. There is a lot there, and it is of great interest to me. Ever since I discovered them, I have been much influenced by Burke and Russell Kirk (as an aside, I was stunned at what I take to be MacIntyre’s misreading of Burke in “After Virtue,” although perhaps he has corrected himself on that, as he has on other matters). However, my knowledge of Burke is not as extensive as yours clearly is. So, although I am familiar with much of what you say, your piece has helped to deepen my knowledge and understanding of Burke (and associated matters). It will help me in my next project too, I think, so I may be citing you!

I particularly like the connection that is made between Burke’s thought and the Christian Mystical Tradition. I had not seen that connection before but it feels right, in part because I see in myself not only a sadness that contemporary American conservatism, with its ideological fanaticism and idolatrous worship of the "free market" and other “causes,” has betrayed Burke in so many ways (rather as Margaret Thatcher’s brand of British conservatism did in England with her disdain for long-established institutions, but Tony Blair was even worse), but also because I have long lamented the suppression (that seems the best word for it) of the Western Mystical Tradition within our modern religious traditions (Catholics tend to do better in this respect than Protestants but not by much I think). I pick on American conservatives because Burke should be at their fountainhead, at least on Kirk’s interpretation of the Founding. Paradoxically, then, so-called American liberals are sometimes more true to Burke than so-called conservatives today, although they are certainly not immune from their own ideological excesses and idolatries, as readers of this Blog know well.

I have some questions. First, am I right to detect resonances with Heidegger (authentic appropriation of tradition, throwness of Dasein into the world, and so on)?

Second, granted what you say on page 30 regarding how “the awareness of Providence and eternity . . . . enrich [es] the historical consciousness” in all places and at all times, doesn’t there still remain the question about Catholic Tradition, which claims special privilege in this respect, together with a unique hermeneutic and an authoritative practitioner of that hermeneutic.

Third, and related, how does Gene’s concise formulation of the problematic fit into this?:

“Long, continuous, consistent practice over centuries develops an almost archetypal norm around which all practice tends to cluster. If the reform of the reform continues to have legs and brings about a return to more "traditional" practice, then I think that will be anecdotal evidence that I am correct. It will mean that the collective Catholic consciousness has judged that the practice has gone to far off the norm and needs reigning in [sic]”

Fourth, I see connections here between Gene’s work on Kant that he mentioned in an earlier post and the passage on page 33 that:

Burke’s own analysis of the problem reinforces Walsh’s reading of Kierkegaard, that “The openness of one human being to another arises from their prior openness to God,” that “the performance of duty…that had so preoccupied Kant has now been reached in the love that fulfills the law.”

Gene, does that connection sound right to you?


Anonymous 2 said...

Steven, we have just published the papers from a Symposium that I had a hand in organizing last October on “Citizenship and Civility in A Divided Democracy: Political, Religious, and Legal Concerns.” There is one paper in there, written by the same colleague I mentioned yesterday, that seems to resonate with what you say about mystery and about Burke’s value for our politics (aka the political conversation) today. If I may, I would like to send my colleague your piece and also to send you our issue (unfortunately, it is not yet electronically accessible), which may take our conversation further in some additional directions. I have found your home page on the Web. Would that be alright?

Thanks again!

Steven P. Millies said...


By all means, I'd be delighted. Send it on to your colleague, and I'll be checking my mailbox for your proceedings. I'm looking forward to it.

Please, if you like, include an e-mail address of your own. Perhaps we can have a more direct conversation.

Thank you!

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon2, a little more time to think and, now, a fuller reply to your first reply.

1) Yes on Heidegger. Heidegger is important for an understanding of modernity's richness and failure. Modernity is a properly classical tragedy, as was Heidegger. More and more I think the two are inextricable. In some way he could barely articulate ("Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten"), I think Heidegger knew it, too.

2) Remember that I'm doing politics, primarily, and so a piece like the one I've sent is self-consciously attempting to adopt a kind of pluralism that invites all comers from all traditions, but which (because I'm writing it) offers a comfortable space for Catholic Christianity to fit. Indeed, I'd describe that as something like a life's work--'A Catholic Modernity' where both can co-exist with external harmony and internal authenticity. Of course, because I believe the Church brought modernity forth from its own Tradition, I can believe that optimistically have-it-both-ways solution is possible.

3) and 4) I guess I'd only agree, again noting the tragic irony, that Gene and I probably agree about 95% of things, and the 5% isn't the Resurrection. I've just put a long, (I hope) thoughtful post on yesterday's thread about my disappointments in this blog, which are disappointments I have in the Church. Tone and emphasis are the problem, not substance. But, as we've seen here, tone and emphasis can clutter up a lot of the picture.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Burke was no theologian. Mysticism, in the broader religious sense is simply another form of atheism/agnosticism.
Burke's comment that "all that should be heard from pulpits is the voice of Christian charity" is dismissive of the theological altogether. It is just saying, shut up and take a poor person to lunch."
RE: Heidigger: Dasein is not a theological construct. What could it possibly have to do with a discussion of Catholic tradition?

So, Millie's view of Catholicism and Christian belief is that it "enriches the historical consciousness?" So did the Third Reich, for God's sake...

Steven P. Millies said...

Umm. No.

Wrong on every count. Just factually wrong.

Steven P. Millies said...

Except that Burke wasn't a theologian, I suppose.

But if you're excluding philosophers from theology, theologians from philosophy, then you've got even bigger problems.

Anonymous 2 said...

Steven, isn’t Gene partially correct insofar as even some Christian mystics, even perhaps St. Thomas (no longer regarded as heretical), emphasize the ultimate Unknowability of the Godhead, and certain of them, such as Meister Eckhart (still regarded as heretical), seek to transcend all categories, including those of theism, and espouse panentheism (but not pantheism)? However, that type of a-theism is very different from the contemporary secular form of atheism. Moreover, Catholicism has nurtured, and continues to nurture, a vital (in all senses) Mystical Tradition that is fully consistent with orthodoxy, as I am sure some of the monks up at Conyers would be pleased to confirm.

I think I agree with Steven about Burke’s comment. I suspect it needs to be contextualized to the occasion and also placed in the broader context of his thought.

Re: Dasein -- Gene, have you read Steven’s piece? I was thinking in particular about the discussion of politics at the end of it. That said, although I realize that Heidegger left the Catholic Church, he retained much of his religious sensibility if I understand him correctly (always a challenge with Heidegger =). I am not well read in Heidegger but some of his essays -- on Rilke, for example, make the point. And why can’t Dasein be compatible with our faith? Would we prefer Descartes?

Thanks for coming back to the puddle.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, you obviously haven't read much about mysticism. And, who is excluding philosophers from theology or vice versa? I have spent much of my life studying both, in fact, I had a long discussion with my mentor and former Philosophy professor the other week and I made the statement that I do not see how anyone can adequately understand or study theology without a solid grounding in Philosophy. He agreed.

You don't really see Dasein as a theological construct...well, do you?

Dr. Millies, if you and I had met on a campus somewhere, we might have had a great philosophy discussion over coffee and that would have been fine. I would not presume to teach you political theory, but you presume to teach us theology. Do you see a problem here?