Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Creepy puppets and creepy moral dissent from a faux magisterium


Vatican City, 12 June 2012 (VIS) – Given below is the text of an English-language statement released by the director of the Holy See Press Office concerning a meeting held at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR.

“Today the superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the president and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States of America. Archbishop Peter J. Sartain of Seattle, the Holy See’s delegate for the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.

“The meeting provided the opportunity for the Congregation and the LCWR officers to discuss the issues and concerns raised by the doctrinal assessment in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality.

“According to Canon Law, a conference of major superiors such as the LCWR is constituted by and remains under the supreme direction of the Holy See in order to promote common efforts among the individual member institutes and cooperation with the Holy See and the local conference of bishops (cf. Code of Canon Law, canons 708-709). The purpose of the doctrinal assessment is to assist the LCWR in this important mission by promoting a vision of ecclesial communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium.

Ever since the late 1960's and early 1970's there has been a faux-ecclesiology fomenting in religious houses, seminaries and certain Catholic colleges and universities that holds the position if you write books, give lectures and push an agenda that is at odds with the Magisterium of the Church, then you are acting in a Post-Vatican II way as it concerns dialogue and pushing (shoving) things forward in the Church.

This happens in the area of liturgy; it happens in the area of doctrine and it happens in the area of morality and guess what, in all three areas it is a certain "faux" magisterium pushing it (shoving it) down the throats of the authentic Magisterium and the Church's more faithful followers who just don't buy that Vatican II taught this in any way whatsoever. And guess what, it is the Magisterium which decides what the Church believes and teaches to be revealed by God. The sense of the faithful is precisely that the sense of the faithful, not the sense of the unfaithful.

Some of the most radical people in the Church are religious sisters of particular orders, but by no means all religious sisters. But there has been a notable radical feminism in some religious sisters which has corrupted them to the point of it being almost being laughable if it wasn't so tragic. They have become post-Christians and yet want to remain in their religious orders to cause anarchy in the Catholic Church. Well, their day of reckoning has arrived and no amount of smoke screens, radical liberal media support and denigration of the Vatican or faux prayer services of support will stop this day of reckoning. It is a good thing! This is 2012 not the "sit-in" or "Laugh-in" 1970's.

The following are some of the concerns that Bishop Leonard Blair and the Vatican have about some of what LCWR seems to endorse. Read it and weep for these sisters:

"Serious questions of faith undoubtedly arise among some women religious, as the LCWR maintains. However, is it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?

Those who do not hold the teachings of the Catholic Church, or Catholics who dissent from those teachings, are quick to attack the CDF and bishops for taking the LCWR to task. However, a person who holds the reasonable view that a Catholic is someone who subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church will recognize that the Catholic Bishops have a legitimate cause for doctrinal concern about the activities of the LCWR, as evidenced by a number of its speakers and some of its resource documents.

A key question posed by the doctrinal assessment had to do with moving forward in a positive way. Would the LCWR at least acknowledge the CDF’s doctrinal concerns and be willing to take steps to remedy the situation? The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel."

Bishop Blair does ask and answers the following important question: "Are these examples indicative of the thinking of all religious sisters in the United States whose communities are members of the LCWR? Certainly not."


Steven P. Millies said...

"Ever since the late 1960's and early 1970's there has been a faux-ecclesiology fomenting in religious houses, seminaries and certain Catholic colleges and universities that holds the position if you write books, give lectures and push an agenda that is at odds with the Magisterium of the Church, then you are acting in a Post-Vatican II way as it concerns dialogue and pushing (shoving) things forward in the Church."

As I understand it, this is NOT what Sister Margaret says she is doing. Maybe that's worth pointing out?

I read where she very carefully distinguished her book from the Magisterium to say that she is not speaking with the voice of Church teaching but, rather, speaking as a theologian whose job is to raise and probe questions.

As the "Fortnight of Freedom" approaches, it is worth remembering the 11 years John Courtney Murray spent silenced by the Holy Office for doing the same thing on the subject of... oh, yes. Religious liberty.

Not to say Sister Margaret is right, or wrong. Rather, to say that the theologian is neither a parrot nor a potted plant. Disagree with her, fine. Since she does not make Magisterial pronouncements, obviously that's permissible and she would agree. But it is intellectually sloppy to make the sort of statement found above. It betrays an agenda that has little to do with honest truth-seeking.

Templar said...

These silly Nuns cause so much pain; I’d love to see them drug off in chains.

Put on the rack, made to confess, to swear Obedience and in Habit dress.

Or better yet, for me and thee, they to perish in obstinate Heresy.

Only thus can we all be, free from their Heterodox Theology.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In terms of theology expanding one's awareness of the truth, and after all that is the purpose of theologians, to expand the truth, not develop heresies, I believe that in the past when famous theologians were silenced, they did not go to the press with what happened to them; they were obedient. As well academic conjecture to show the Magisterium possible ways of explaining the faith and morals of the Church in at a given time was usually done quietly and amongst academics and in periodical and journals, not in books that are meant to be sold to the public and present by them as a possible scenario for the future. But just as you claim some theologians are rehabilitated, I would suspect the vast majority in the likes of Sister Margaret and the radical sisters of the LCWR are not rehabilitated and sometimes it has to go toward an "anathema" which I know in the post-Vatican II Church is anathema amongst certain types of academics, kind of self-serving, no?

Steven P. Millies said...

Presumably in the past, as when theologians did not go to the press, the Holy Office followed its own established procedures as the USCCB did not with Sister Elizabeth Johnson's book?

We can play feet-of-clay and burnish the ideal past for hours down this thread, if you like. But that seems boring. It is better to recall that the history of the development of doctrine, like every scholarly pursuit, tells us that free inquiry opens doors on blind alleys and new truths. We never know which we'll find until we open them.

If you disagree with Sister Margaret (or, Sister Elizabeth), respond by argument. Write something creditable, because popping off here with facile criticisms and routine denunciations of academic life does little for the cause of Truth.

Good arguments should be made. Bad arguments should be disproved. Everything else is distraction.

Henry said...

It seems to me that this discussion is a waste of time, both at this little blog and at the CDF. What sense does it make to attempt to force faithless people to act faithful? The actions of the LCWR show clearly that its leaders are post-Catholic. So why take them seriously as though they were real Catholics? Why not just ignore them and rely on the demographic solution? All available photographs indicate it won't take that long. His will be done.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Millies if you want to enter into a point by point debate regarding their points of view, have at it.
It's been done over and over.
These sisters won't dialogue unless you give in. i.e. bullies

The point of the post is that the bullies are being called to the carpet.
In the end they'll either get right or get out. those are the only options.

There is no more truth to discover, other than humankinds various flavors of comprehending it.

This notion that 'discussion' is some sort of idol, leads one to be distracted from objective truth and come to believe that there is no objective truth.

Every Catholic disagrees with these sisters point's..there is simply no need to discuss it anymore. The'fat has been chewed', ad nauseum. It's over.

If you want to further discuss their points, then consider that you may have been sucked in by their tactics. Hmmmm...

People who have lost their moral compass and are unwilling to look at that fact, aren't people one can diaglogue with or about effectively.


Steven P. Millies said...

These sisters won't dialogue unless you give in. i.e. bullies


The point of the post is that the bullies are being called to the carpet.
In the end they'll either get right or get out. those are the only options.

--And, this is NOT bullying? See also Templar's doggerel above. Anyway, what blog commenter anywhere is the arbiter of what is "right"? You presume too much.

There is no more truth to discover, other than humankinds various flavors of comprehending it.

--Fideism. A heresy. Grand!

This notion that 'discussion' is some sort of idol, leads one to be distracted from objective truth and come to believe that there is no objective truth.

--I'll remember this the next time I read the disputations of the doctors of the middle ages. Distracted heretics, all!

Every Catholic disagrees with these sisters point's..there is simply no need to discuss it anymore. The'fat has been chewed', ad nauseum. It's over.

--Pay, pray, obey. Yes, yes. I've heard it. The meaning of Vat2 can be legitimately debated, I think. But what cannot be debated is that Good Pope John called the role of the laity "an object of vital concern and special study" for the Council. An infantilized laity that needs to be protected from dangerous ideas, the idea that serious discourse should not appear "in books that are meant to be sold to the public" is as anathema to a Council that addressed the modern world as anything I can imagine.

If you want to further discuss their points, then consider that you may have been sucked in by their tactics. Hmmmm...

--I'll weary of discussing moral theology once the Holy See closes its pontifical academies. I'm speaking up for discourse. Whatever you read between the lines says more about your hangups than mine.

People who have lost their moral compass and are unwilling to look at that fact, aren't people one can diaglogue with or about effectively.

--You'll notice I haven't hurled any such accusations at you, since we've never met. Your quick and easy descent to ad hominems may say more about your compass than anything I've said tells about mine. I'll stand by efforts at reasoned discourse here. But for many who post here, this blog should be an occasion for the examination of conscience. Sins against charity are legion.

What is it with the good people who post here? Where does all of this bile and ugliness come from? What are you all so angry about? Why so peevish at the sign of subtlety and nuance?

Templar said...

In year's past no Catholic under a vow of Obedience would have considered publication of a book without an Imprimi potest.

That had something to do with Truth not being something that you "discuss". Truth is revealed, adn it is revealed to us by God through his Church, not through the "debates" of man, not even haughty Academic ones.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I've worked with my share of very wonderful church people including religious sisters and I owe them a great debt.
But I have run into quite a few radical feminist nuns and the term that Rush uses in a rather shrill way really does apply "Feminazi" they are far from far and they really hate men and the Catholic Church and the priesthood and the bishops. Let's diagnose the cancer so that we can treat it or excise it! There are a goodly number of aging sisters who hold post-Catholic sentiments and think they are still on the cutting edge because of some discerning process they went through that they idolize regardless of the silly conclusion they implement.
But we must now acknowledge that many of our brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith have moved on to something else and they should be most honest about it. My righteous indignation stems not from the fact that they've move on or hold this, that or another heterodox belief, but that they say they are still Catholic and they are working from within to get their way. That should be outrageous to most fair minded, calm sorts of people.

None of this drivel is new, it has been rehashed over and over since the 1960's the only thing that is new is that these 1960's aging Catholic revolutionaries are now seeing the hand writing on the wall and that their own demise is imminent because of the reform of the reform and their aging process. This is the last gasp of a dying generation of anarchy producing Catholics who want to go down shouting and screaming all the way--they love the attention.

Steven P. Millies said...

Are men like Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal O'Malley heterodox? Are they derelict in their duties? There are some people who say they are. I hope, Father McDonald, you're not one of them.

Because +Wuerl and +O'Malley are right. Only the communicant himself knows his conscience. That's why they've been so (properly) cautions about invoking canon 915. Only the person knows whether he is in communion with the Church or not. (Well, the Good Lord knows, too. But He's not telling.)

But look what you and your fellows here do every day, day after day. You're deciding for people what their faith is, what their conscience is. See my ongoing 'conversation' with Gene W on the 6/7 thread. And then, if you're 'SL," you call other people bullies. You guys are totally right. Everybody else is totally wrong.

Under what understanding of Christian morality is any of this defensible? I'm nearing a conclusion that there are very few Christians who read this blog.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If the good sisters who hate the bishops, priests and teaching of the Church are given a pass by the CDF I'll preach about this new morality with vigor.
We are talking about people who are officially consecrated or ordained to serve the Catholic faithful, aren't we? I think everyone who is ordained or in consecrated life needs to be held accountable for what they teach, preach and write and if it is shown they are within the parameters of a very large Church, than so be it, if not, so be it. I do not believe that the two bishops you have discussed are under investigation by the only competent authority in teh Church to do it, the CDF. Hasn't the abysmal lack of oversight by the authorities of the Church from local to diocesan to the Vatican and everyone in between been enough of a scandal to the Church, why in the world would you want to excuse the sisters who are consecrated to serve the Church in any way whatsoever? I'm puzzled by that.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dr. Millies, you come very close to doing to those who have righteous indignation the very thing you deplore in them--marginalize them. In the liberal seminary I attended, the seminarians who were most marginalized and rediculed by the faculty and other seminarians were the conservative, traditional minded ones and by that I mean those who like traditional piety, such as praying the Holy Rosary, prayer before the Blessed Sacarament and Benediciton. If they made an appeal to the Magisterium for their position this put them in direct conflict with the semiary magisterium and this would not be tolerated. I can only imagine that this was quite common in most seminaries and religious houses of men and women in the 1970 period. Today, reform of the reform adherents are using their model, but still appealing to the official Magisterium of the church not some pseudo self appointed magisterium.
It is academia that is most narrow and given to academic clericalism when it comes to these sorts of things.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

P.S. in the 1970's I opposed the traditional minded and their piety and applauded the authorities of the seminary in trying to root them out! Just in case you were wondering.

Henry said...

Lest anyone be confused about canons cited here, it is canon 916 that imposes on each individual the obligation to examine his own conscience, as to whether he qualifies to receive communion.

The more frequently cited canon 915 imposes on a bishop or priest the obligation not to admit to communion anyone upon whom the penalty of excommunication has been imposed or declared, or who obstinately persists in manifest grave sin. (In the latter case, determination must be made by others on the basis of known or public actions, rather than on the basis of private conscience known only to the individual.)

Steven P. Millies said...

Father McDonald, whom have I marginalized?? Whom have I attempted to silence??

Now, certainly there are tactics I have deplored here. But, speak. Please!

Do so, however, please, in a way that doesn't presume so much clairvoyance.

Have you read Sister Margaret's book yourself? You seem to have a strong opinion about it. I haven't read it, though I've read a lot about it. I don't know what I think of her arguments because I haven't read them, though. How is it you know so much?

You seem to like to make a comparison between academe and clericalism. Whatever caricatures of academe you have in mind, how do you know they apply to me? What have I said here, other than, please argue from facts, please argue robustly, and please refrain from ad hominems?? So goes my own clericalism, if you want to call it that. But I don't think it would be fair.

Be fair. That is all.

Henry said...

Regarding the Sister Farley matter and my doubt that its discussion is useful, I don't know the relevance to a Catholic blog of opinions about her personal beliefs, whether they be good, bad or indifferent.

So far as I know, the CDF and rendered no censure of Sr. Farley herself, they have simply judged her book to not be an appropriate source of Catholic teaching for religion or theology courses, which indeed she does not claim to represent.

Nor is the book itself condemned in any sense that I can discern. No more than I would consider it a condemnation if someone pointed out that a textbook I wrote for one area is not appropriate for another.

Robert Kumpel said...

I just can't get past that photo of Margaret Farley. I have listened to so much baloney over the years about how "mean" traditional nuns were. Well, I'm here to tell you that I was taught by those traditional nuns (until they got other ideas) and the look on "Sister" Farley's face scares me a lot more than anything I can recall from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart school! Does she look "open", "friendly" and "approachable" to you?

This nest of "social justice" harpies has been out of control for a long time and I am grateful that the Vatican is gently laying down the law.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Millies,
I was referring to the sisters who had lost their moral compass...not you. You haven't publicized your moral views, they have.

Perhaps instead of calling them bullies, I should have said they act like bullies, to be more precise.
Good Day.


Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, Fr. did not see fit to publish my last post to Millies in the Fellay thread, so I'll raise the issue differently...Mr. Millies does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and says that the accounts in the Gospels are "non-historical." If any of you would like to re-visit the Fellay thread and read his posts, you should find them interesting. So, why is someone who is basically an agnostic/modernist coming on this blog and presuming to comment on Church issues? I suppose he attends Mass, if he does, for aesthetic reasons, or perhaps he is one of those modernists who wants to work within the Church to change it to a modernist/humanist social organization. Anyway, I find his presence here presumptuous on his part and do not see how any devout Catholic can take seriously anything he says. He taunts Fr. MacDonald, spent several paragraphs running down the nature of the blog, and apparently holds himself in very high esteem.
I guess FR. thought my last post too harsh...get this, now...he is basically an unbeliever, he comes on the blog in a taunting manner, looks down his academic nose at everybody...but I am the bad guy. Go figure...

Henry said...

Gene, I'm not sure you ought to blame academia for Mr. Millies. No more than you should credit it for me. All kinds can be found in academic ivory towers--Catholics and scientists like me, but also non-Catholics and non-scientists, and fatuous fools of all sorts.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

So, if Jesus did not walk out of that tomb, the Grand Inquisitor was right, "If there is no God, then all is permitted," and Matthew Arnold gets the last word, "...for the world...hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as ona darkling plain, Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." Now, those modernists like Millies like to say they believe in God, but it is only some Prime Mover or First Principle Deity...nothing serious. They do, however, want to cynically keep those they consider the ignorant masses believing in the Resurrection and the Faith because this keeps them in line and prepares them to be good citizens in the coming secular/modernist paradise they are going to create...you know, the "opiate of the masses." So, like Millies, they play the game. They comfort themselves by saying that Jesus was the truly good man and call him the "Christ of Faith," which is shorthand for that Jesus who rotted in the tomb (or wherever they stole him and put him), but who has become the Christ through our faith...our existential self-renewal based on the power of his ministry (pause for projectile vomit).
So, if you do not believe Jesus really rose from the dead, you are either a humanist or an existentialist, which is to say, a nihilist. Do not call yourself a Christian and certainly not a Catholic. All this going to Mass, Confession, Rosaries, Last Rights, Baptism is a lot of nonsense because it is based upon a lie. Am I wrong, Stevie? I mean, you did say essentially that all those Gospel writers and witnesses were lying, not to mention Jesus. He was the biggest liar of all, not to mention a fool. So, there you have it.

rcg said...

If you are interested: tomorrow evening I have been invited into the belly of the beast, as it were, to meet some friends at a local cafe that has very good live music. It is the 'habit' of several sisters and radical priests to sit in residence and discuss their politics and theology. To top it off, the reason I have been invited is that a hard core Leftist writer for a national news magazine and a few even more Liberal musician friends will be there. It will appear in the magazine, so I will see if I can get the sisters and priests to meet the writer and stir things up.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Henry, I am not blaming academia for Millies...I spent a lot of years there, too. There are, however,certain negative characteristics about academia that need addressing. But, that is naother issue. The issue I raised has to do with unbelief.

Anonymous 2 said...

I have already said everything I need to say about the Gene-Steven interaction on the Bishop Fellay thread to which Gene refers, but I suppose in continuing efforts to promote some kind of reconciliation I should refer to my comments there too. Now, what was that about rushing in where angels fear to tread?

Steven P. Millies said...


Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Now, Anon 2, why should angels fear to tread a confrontation with unbelief...? We are being given a great example of what has gone wrong with the Church over the years...we have allowed too many people like Millies to go unchallenged and we have just looked the other way and tolerated all this academic drivel. I do not care if he practices voodoo in his personal life, but it is the height of presumption for him to come on a traditionalist Catholic blog and run his mouth.
So, you believe asking direct questions about belief is indelicate, a set-up, a taunt, and a litmus test, too? I wouldn't ask them to just anyone...only those who are obviously playing games and posing. I know that academia shelters her own by not asking such "indelicate" questions...they would not want to discourage the so-called academic freedom to teach any heresy, spout any outrage, or engage unchallenged in any abominable personal behavior or aberrational liason. But, hey, I like to get real, dude.

Steven P. Millies said...

I've been going 'round and 'round with Gene W. for six days with, I assume, many of this blog's readers observing. Permit me to offer something like a peek behind the curtain.

It seems to me as though there are two sorts of readers here. There are readers like Anonymous2, who seem interested in listening to other people, exploring ideas, and exchanging thoughts. Then there are readers like Gene, who appear interested only in maintaining a constant level of outrage against anything that deviates (or, more frequently, APPEARS to deviate) even one degree from True North. I'd refer anyone to that Fellay thread to see what I mean. And, I'd point to all of my encounters here on this blog to illustrate that the former type of reader is vastly outnumbered by the latter.

Still, Gene W. raises a good question. Why am I here? That's easy. I'm here because I seek the former sort of interlocutor. I'm quite frustrated to have found so much of the latter. I've spent a lot of time in my life with what you folks here call "Traditionalist Catholics" (I hear only redundancy in that description). In my heart, as my parenthetical should make clear, I share what seems to me like a desire for the order of well-settled certainties. The problem, I suppose, is that the more I've read and reflected over the years the less confident I've become that such orderly and well-settled certainties are any more than a pleasing mirage. They do not describe tradition in the sense of a living thing. They offer false comfort. They do not reflect the richness or the complexity of life or culture or faith.

As Burke wrote, tradition "is a vestment which accommodates itself to the body." Bodies are messy things, more misshapen and lumpy as years go by because they develop in an unplanned, organic way. The vestment of tradition still must fit. The vestment is not a muumuu, I think. It's not one-size-fits-all. It has definite shape. But it must fit the body you have, not the body you want. The arguments I see most typically here reflect a truth I believe. They're an appealing vestment. But they don't fit the human body very well: the Renaissance is spilling out over the waist, and the middle ages are stuffed into the hips in an unseemly way. That is because, my friends, modernity happened. And, it has been good. Not good as a whole, but good on balance. (Just as the middle ages were not good as a whole, but good on balance.) But this vestment I see here, this understanding of tradition you describe, has not been re-fitted to the body of human historical development. Note that I do not mean by this analogy to say that the vestment should be changed. To the observer, any garment that has been re-tailored to accommodate certain 'expansions' will never look different. That's the point. Re-tailoring maintains the vestment, keeps the tradition alive. {Continued....}

Steven P. Millies said...

That was the magic of ressourcement and aggiornamento together, to re-tailor the vestment and once more re-make it to be what it always has been in a way certainly that is not unchanging but, for important reasons, appears to be so. But as much as that means a return to sources, it also means some absorption of modernity. We see that in the historical-critical approach to Scripture scholarship I've attempted to describe, and which only has gotten me labeled a Resurrection-denier. And that is the problem.

Imagine a well-meaning reader who comes to this blog, one interested in hearing what 'Traditionalist Catholics' have to say in hope of being persuaded by them. That reader, coming here, I think would turn away discouraged. You'd fail to persuade him because the goal of this discussion is not to persuade. And, more than this blog, I fear that has become the tone of "the new evangelization" throughout the Church. It is not a mission ad gentes but, rather, a method of internal discipline. (I'd point to the whole religious liberty imbroglio, the 'Fortnight of Freedom,' which I would argue less targets Obamacare or religious liberty than Catholics who use contraception.)

And this is my frustration--with SoutherOrders as with the Church. Our rejection of modernism and modernity runs so deeply that we've simply given up. We're becoming Essenical (that may be a neologism, but means to say only 'like the Essenes'). That's not the Church I want to be part of, and I don't believe that's the Church we were Commissioned to be.

In sum, I want you guys to be right. On the merits, you are right. But, like Burke's vestment, you're right in a terribly wrong way--I think. Can't we talk about that like adults?

Anonymous 2 said...

Oh, Gene, for goodness sake, you know jolly well that I have no problem with your asking the question. It was how you asked it that concerned me. And you know jolly well that I answered it for myself, and to your satisfaction I trust.

And you also know jolly well, or at least I think you should, that my humorous reference regarding angels fearing to tread was intended to poke a little fun at myself by suggesting that I might be a bit of a fool to try to get in the middle of your confrontation with Steven. I have said all I want to say about that on the Fellay thread, including my own understanding that I do not take Steven to be denying the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. Except I will repeat that it is sad to see good people so divided. And Steven being a fellow academic has nothing to do with it (well a little bit perhaps, but not for the reason you posit), in case you are suggesting it does. So, in my own way, I am also getting real – dude =).

Let’s try an additional angle. I am engaging in conversation with Steven, as I am with you, and enjoying conversing with both of you (with Steven, for his willingness to explore our Catholic tradition in all its richness and vastness, including its connection with Burkean thought and its nurturing of a profound Mystical Tradition), and with you because of your own intellectual interests and because I suspect, to draw on one of our earlier discussions and mutual love of dogs, that your bark is worse than your bite. So, why don’t you come play with us some more in the puddle on the Fellay thread (I asked some questions in my last post there about possible connections between Steven’s work and your own) -- you know you want to. And I bet we'll have a jolly good time. Woof.

Templar said...

Millies writes: "That is because, my friends, modernity happened. And, it has been good. Not good as a whole, but good on balance."

Pope Pius X writes: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10moath.htm

Please read the whole thing, it's half a page, but the most important line is:

The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.

Anonymous said...

Millies, I see what you are trying to do, but it is very near 're-inventing the wheel'. Additionally, it may be that we are trying to understand without knowing the limits of understanding and our ability to do so.

I also reject your characterisation of what we are doing as a rejection of modernity and modernism. In fact, what we have that is truly modern and progressive was aided in no small part by the Church in the same era a great deal of the Liturgy we defend came into being. What I do reject completely is the notion that anything that is more recent is also 'more better'. That is the essence of the Scientific Method whereby all ideas are tested against a reference and the winner, as it were, becomes the new standard. The problem with philosophical, theological, and social theories is they can take generations to test and either accept or reject.

I think Pin may see what you are doing as not so much a defense of modernism but post-modernism. I, on the other hand, think you are trying to have an academic discussion that re-enacts the tests that have been made on the teachings of the Church when those tests are still running.

As far as your description of the Resurrection in your first paragraph, I must admit being a bit put off by the use of the word 'magic' to describe the innate expression of the God-Head witnessed by mankind. The rest of your explanation is useful, but again, seems a bit inadequate and potentially positioning yourself to quibble with counter arguments. This could also be a way to deal with the troublesome fact that He appeared only to his disciples. It is difficult for modern man to express belief without a tangible reason. In the case of the Resurrection of a Man who left, as far as we can tell, nothing tangible, in fact wrote only in the dust, belief has always been a challange. Yet Something managed to influence all of civilisation through the actions of a small group of modestly educated manual labourers and an accountant.

In summary, it is easier for me to see your arguments as academic exercises seeking elemental objects and attempting to derive more complex operational tools that we use in our Faith.


Anonymous 5 said...

Steven, re your 9:03: I'm not going to disagree with you about the tone that the comments in this blog often take. I have my disagreements with people here, but I hope that I've never resorted to invective, ad hominem, or anything of that sort. If I've done so-particularly to you or to Pater--I here apologize. I for one am confident enough of my position and the arguments for it that I have no need to resort to such. When the posts turn into a train wreck, as they did in the Fellay thread, I just stay out of it because by then nobody's listening and there's way more heat than light being generated.

Nevertheless, when you champion the historical-critical method and you say that modernism is a good thing, you are, or at least to my mind appear to be, deliberately challenging the authority of the Catholic Magisterium and thus advocating error and heterodoxy, if not outright heresy. When you do these things, you're not just taking issue with the majority here on minor theological points: you're instead refusing to accept their most basic premises, which obliterates common ground and renders productive discussion very difficult, if not impossible.

You further speak of us labeling you as a Resurrection denier, but rather than answering Gene's very simple questions (hostile and taunting though they may have been, they were still very simple), you announce you're offended and refuse to answer. That tends to confirm our suspicions. Your flip dismissal of the huge moral issues of sexuality (see my comment on Fr. McD's "Pelvic Issues" post for my position there) similarly has the appearance of (in the tradition of the free love generation of '60s dissenters) blowing off 2000 years of well-reasoned and consistent teaching on sexuality that orthodox Catholics are not going to abandon. Indeed, you ridicule those Catholics for being so concerned with sexual issues and sho no sign that you understand that "pelvic issues" are killing vast swaths of people every day because of disobedience of doctrines pertaining to sexual behavior. I myself am concerned with them partly because my experience has taught me that they're an excellent litmus test. If someone disagrees with the Church on those issues, he'll agree with the Church on darned little.

You're free to believe and to proclaim whatever you want. But that freedom doesn't guarantee a receptive or even civil audience when you come here and begin butchering sacred cows. That's all the more so when you speak condescendingly about your status as an academic and so somehow more rational, more authoritative, better, etc. than the rest of us fundamentalist reactionaries (which to my ears is exactly how you come off, in case you don't realize it.) I don't defend the tone of the comments on this blog, but it appears to be a fact of life.

Steven P. Millies said...

"The teaching of the nineteenth-century popes was not erroneous, but was limited by the political and social horizons of the time."
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., "Religious Freedom: Innovation and Development," First Things (December 2001), 35.

I don't think quibbling about whether Pius X was right or wrong about modernity is productive at this point. Modernity happened. We live in it.

Steven P. Millies said...


"Magic" was a sloppy rhetorical flourish within the 2"x2" confines of the comment box. In a more thoughtful compositional environment, it would have gone away. Please treat it that way. I'm not referring to magic tricks--obviously, I hope.

I've written critically about the Enlightenment, its instrumental rationality, and the application of the scientific method beyond science in many places for a long time. I'm most skeptical about those things even as I recognize that they are linked inextricably to the modernity that we dwell within now. We can't untangle the mess, so we need to figure out what to do about it. Yet one thing we can do it make use of it where it is useful. I like very well something Anon2 said on the Fellay thread, to clarify that acknowledging the historicity of biblical events requires that we apply some critical methods in the same way that we would with any other historical events. If we treat Scripture differently, protect it from criticism, then we are saying that Scripture is something different from history, which we subject to criticism every day. So I think we have to use historical-critical methods, not only for ourselves but so our faith can have credibility ad gentes. Otherwise, to those whom we would hope to evangelize, we come off as sounding like we're telling a fairy tale. The purpose of my discussion of NT sources was only to illustrate that Gene W.'s thirst for concrete certainties does not withstand the same kind of testing we apply to other concrete certainties: that's why litmus tests and simple y/n questions get us nowhere.

So I think you've put a lot of things together in your reply, profitably for the most part. It's been a challenge for me to bring a coherent reply, and I hope I have. You're quite right that I'm re-inventing the wheel, I suppose. That is, again, what I think the Council attempted to do in its overture to the modern world. Re-inventing the wheel still gets you a wheel, after all. Nothing changes, really. But if the world needs the wheel to be re-invented, what matters only is that the thing keeps going 'round and 'round. That's the challenge for us today, and my frustration (as I've said) is that we're facing it so badly.

Templar said...

Well thankfully my quote was from a 20th century Pope, and Saint I might add, somewhat making the Jesuit Cardinal's comments not applicable, without even questioning if "First Things" is considered more weighty than silly Papal Encyclicals.

And what Pope Saint Pius X had to say on Medernity is not quibbling, it is precisely the point. You want to embrace Modernity becasue it happened. So what? The Enlightenment happened too, are you going to embrace those values? The Reformation happened too, same question.

We are challanged as Catholics to be in this world but not of this world, as the Church Militant we must fight every single day of our existence against the errors of the Modern world. The Turth is unchanging, and not debatable. That is my problem with your posts here. In your academic fashion you believe everything is up for discussion, everything can be questioned. That mentality led the Jesuits straight to Heresy.

Anonymous said...

Millie, I don't think it is bad at all. The mistake, I think, is to view all of this as linear. An even bigger mistake is to think that our sacred tradition can be understood historically, although as Pin has pointedly pointed out, some of it is. I personally reconcile a lot of through accepted compartments; the Hebrews were not stupid people. They were trying to understand something they perceived that was not understandable through their not inconsiderable intellect (litotes alert!). There are vast amounts of writing from the same folks who gave us the Holy Scripture that they understood was not of the same nature. Recall that Newton wrote extensively on religion and thought those works were his greatest contribution to mankind. It may be that the calculus of the Hebrews for comprehending God as Father, and of the early Christians refining that asymptote to include Son and Holy Spirit is the mental image worth a thousand words that speaks in unison to our own trilogy of body, mind, and spirit.

(Note to the blog Monarch: Google be messin' wif my post and may have crossed to another thread. You may delete such as needed.)


Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

So "modernity happened" and those of us who believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ and the Virgin Birth, etc. believe in magic and are hopelessly ignorant rednecks. So, I think it is a fair assumption that you are an agnostic masquerading as a Catholic. I think that is established (now, Millie, understand that most of us dealt with these issues of belief and doubt during about our sophomore year in college, and you sound like an angry sophomore who just read Bultmann's "Kerygma and Myth." LOL!)
"Modernity happened"...now, the implication of your statement and your worship of "rationality" is that we are moving linearly forward in a progressive manner and that this is inevitable and wonderful. So,then,you must also believe along with Spinoza, by implication, that this is the best of all possible worlds. I mean you are saying we should just shut up and accept "modernity." So, my rhetorical question (which I will answer in a bit) is "in what do we (you) hope?"

Now, since Biblical truth and the Gospel understanding of Jesus Christ is all magic and a lie, Modernists like Millie have a couple of options. They can be simply existential humanists (unless they wish to stay with Sartre and his ilk and be de facto nihilists), or they can be rational humanists and place their hope in reason's (humanity's) ability to establish a benign world government or a confederation of benign world governments (That is why they love the useless UN so much, that pitiful Wilsonian dream...he was a Ph.D, too). People like Millie keep playing church for aesthetic reasons and because they see the financial and human resources of the Catholic Church as a gold mine for rational humanism/egalitarianism social work if they can only fool everybody long enough to "turn" them to the humanistic way of thinking. That is why the LCWR are having hissy fits,, all the gay loving Catholics and apostate Priests are hopping up and down, all the whining about "pelvic issues," and all the huffing about getting away from the TLM and the understanding of the Mass as a Sacrifice, and the accusations of patriarchy, bigotry, and meanness.

Anonymous 2 said...

Steven, are you getting a bit rattled here? You seem to concede that you refer to the Resurrection as “magic” and then retract that reference. Where did you say that? Did I miss something? The only reference I see to magic is in your 9:03 a.m. post in which you say: “That was the magic of ressourcement and aggiornamento together.” Now my French and Italian may not be that good, but this does not seem to be talking about the Resurrection. Also, regarding the statement you ascribe to me in your post of 1:37 p.m., I don’t think I said that exactly, not explicitly at least. Perhaps I did – I would have to go back through all and check. Certainly, I do recall making a distinction between History and mere history. It’s not that I disagree necessarily. I am just seeking to clarify to avoid taking false credit.

That said, I have a question: Am I mistaken in my impression that historical-critical methods are approved by the Church? I thought they were, but perhaps I am wrong about that.

I am no theologian. But, as a simple believer, I ask: More generally, what are we afraid of? That some scholars will “prove” that the Resurrection accounts were not written by eye witnesses, but by later writers recording an oral tradition? So what? Why should that change our belief, rooted in faith, that the Resurrection was a literal, physical event? Apart from what might be a misunderstanding regarding Steven’s use of the word “magic,” I like what Anonymous rcg said at 12:54 p.m. in his penultimate paragraph, about “the Resurrection of a Man who left, as far as we can tell, nothing tangible, in fact wrote only in the dust.” How lovely, how true, and how awesomely wonderful! Some people could not believe even if CNN had been there to film it. So, thank God for the gift of faith. And isn’t that the point here – isn’t our belief in the literal bodily Resurrection rooted in our faith, and not in some historical “proof” or some scientific investigation of the Turin Shroud (exciting though that is)? To demand more is surely a category mistake.

Surely we have learned by now not to make such category mistakes, confusing Sacred History with scientific (and historical?) investigation. We have journeyed from the Church putting Galileo under house arrest to a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, proposing the expansion of the universe before Hubble, deriving Hubble’s constant before Hubble, and proposing the Big Bang theory. Wow! If our God is a God of Truth -- and He is -- what is there to fear from a quest for a better understanding of truth in all disciplines? And aren’t there basic epistemological questions that should counsel some humility in what we claim to “know” anyway? At least, that is how I reconcile my academic vocation with my vocation as a conscientious Christian and Catholic or, more accurately, my struggling attempts to be such. Is this hubris on my part? I pray God it isn’t, and for forgiveness and correction if it is.

Of course, regarding Sacred History and Moral Truth, the Church rightfully claims a privileged voice – no category mistake there. And does Steven disagree? What did he say? “In sum, I want you guys to be right. On the merits, you are right.” If I understand him correctly, he just disagrees with how some are urging the Church to present this Truth to the world. He may be wrong about that, of course, but he is just seeking a conversation about it? Am I right Steven? Please correct me if I have misunderstood. Is he just reinventing the wheel? If so, does the wheel need to be reinvented, as he suggests? I don’t know. But we might have a better idea if we have the conversation.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Ah, now, this gets more interesting...Millie, and most of his ilk, place their hope in some type of political system or other that encompasses some kind of ethic. It may be a rationalist ethic as in Spinoza, a utilitarian ethic, such as you find in Mill or Bentham, a duty ethic as in Kant (who,in my opinion, represents the highest concept of philosophical ethics), or, God forbid, a "situation ethic" as you might find in Fletcher (LOL!).
All of these fail when brought up against the...Ta Da...problem of evil. It is the rock upon which every human ethical and philosophical system breaks. There is simply no ultimate justice, no true reconciliation, no final answer to human suffering to be found in any human ethical or political system. In terms of their theology of redemption, it usually has to do with some kind of "self-realization" or inner apocalypse of some variety (there are many). Their answer to human suffering and their self-realization schtick are both total nonsense. I worked as a chaplain in hospitals for a lot of years, especially in Developmental Disabilities. Do I need to go into children in unremitting pain who die screaming in their mother's arms...or the parents who are murdered brutally in front of their children and the killer gets out after a few years because some liberal humanist like Millie thinks execution is too brutal...or the child who lies in unimaginable contractions all day and cries every time he is turned to try to prevent bedsores? Let's not even get into warfare. There is simply no lame-ass self-realization theology that can answer that. There is no "ethic" that can offer ultimate justice here.
So, Dr. Faustu...er, Millies, some of us believe that the universe is not a meaningless enigma,a kind of "thrown-ness" ( your dasein)that confronts us with the nothingness of the self. Some of us believe that a loving and just God created it and chose to enter it tangentially to linear time, transcending the laws of physics and biology (oh, and there were witnesses...unless you want us to believe they are all lying)so that not only might He be glorified in it, but that there might be true, transcendant justice and real redemption from sin and suffering. Otherwise, there is ultimately no meaning here and we are truly and ultimately alone. If you can't handle that, then what in the Hell are you doing here?
And to my good friend Anon5,
Anon2, and others who seem upset at what they term my "incivilities..." I ask you, what is more uncivil than unbelief masquerading as faith and falsehood insisting it is truth? And ya'll are bothered by a little ad hominem...talk about straining at gnats and swallowing camels...

I was going to suggest that Millie buy an asbestos coffin, but I imagine that, given his love of himself, he will do as Bentham did and have himself stuffed and rolled out at the meetings of whatever society he creates in his own commemoration. LOL!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon2, will you please quit apologizing for this theological fakir, this moral Cagliostro, and stop trying to ameliorate what he says.

Anonymous 2 said...


God bless you for that eloquent, powerful statement. You are right, of course -- there is no real answer to the enormity of such suffering other than the Cross (and the Resurrection). Without seeking to "apologize" for him, I am not sure Steven would disagree, but I will let him speak for himself.

Steven P. Millies said...

Yes, Anon2, you're right. The only "magic" was in my appreciative reference to ressourcement and aggiornamento. It was rhetorically sloppy, so I didn't like it--not really my style. I'm not aware I ever called the Resurrection magic.

But, does it really matter?

Yes, you're right that the Church approves the use of historical-critical scholarship. But this crowd doesn't. Who are you gonna believe?

So, now I'm responsible for everything Heidegger said and wrote, too? Why stop there? Follow through with a full reductio-ad-Hitlerum!!

As Gene W. tells it, "some of us believe that the universe is not a meaningless enigma,a kind of 'thrown-ness.'" Apparently, I do. It's news to me. But, again, who are you gonna believe?

You see, you can't trust me. I'm really undertaking a secret plot to infiltrate this blog on behalf of the vast, left-wing conspiracy. (Notice I paraphrase Hillary. Coincidence??) Actually, if you read this posting backwards you'll get the first paragraph of my manifesto. But please don't read it because I am trying to trick you.

It all came about at the most recent meeting of the Trilateral Commission (which we held under the guise of a John Birch Society meeting). There I was with George Clooney and Adlai Stevenson (you thought he was dead? Hah!) when it seemed really funny to us for me to come over here and try to pull a fast one. But no one counted on Gene W. and his hot nose for heterodoxy! Foiled again!

(No doubt, someone will take this seriously.)

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Hey, Millie, you are prevaricating again...LOL! Just can't help it, can you? I do not care what you say you believe. The implications of your statements are as I have stated above.
Now, you see, Millie has become dismissive and has relegated us all to his category of hopelessly ignorant rednecks who see Communists under every bed and spend our vacations organizing crazed lynch mobs. Oh, well, Millie...a hit dog hollers. LOL! Film at 11.

Anonymous 5 said...


I'm sure that if the Church accepts the historical-critical method, it nevertheless does not and would not accept it to the degree that historical-critical conclusions contradict doctrine.

It's revealing, I think, that of the many things both scholarly and otherwise that the Catholic Faith embraces and has to offer, you emphasize one that, while acceptable to a degree, is potentially subversive of the Faith itself.

I see that as part of pattern with you. I may be wrong, and I'm not going to take the time to surf all of the comments on this blog to try to verify it, but it seems to me that every time you reference a Church teaching or an action of the hierarchy, you invariably (as you do in your very first comment on this thread) pick things that show the inconstancy and fallibility of the Church and her leadership as a human institution, and thus by inference fallaciously insinuate that Catholic doctrine is likewise fallible and actually erroneous--a conclusion buttressed by your evasiveness about, and refusal to confirm to us, your belief in certain basic articles of faith. I don't recall _ever_ seeing you speak here of the Church or the Magisterium with as much deference as you do Burke, whose name (in the words of Rooster Cogburn) you're prone to pull on us like a gun.

I for one have tried to carry on with you the sort of rational conversation that you have often admonished us here to engage in and lambasted us for failing (in your view) to engage in. I have posed you serious questions only to have you mischaracterize and finally flat-out ignore them. I propose that if you really want a rational conversation, you're setting a very poor example and failing badly to live up to your own standards. So I put one final question to you. Do you genuinely want to have a mutually respectful, rational exchange of ideas, or do you simply want to attack and undermine the doctrines of the Catholic faith? If the former, then it would be well for you to adopt a different tone. If the latter, which I increasingly suspect, I'm done with you. It's becoming apparent to me that I'm spending more effort to be reasonable than your input is worth.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

One of the reasons that the Church was opposed to the historical critical method that liberal Protestantism developed at the end of the 1800's and well into the early 1900's was that it called into question so much dogma concerning Jesus as these scholars tried to get back to the "historical" Jesus stripped of later theologizing and dogmatizing. Part of this is why the Church condemned "Modernism" as Modernism and its biblical exegesis eroded the traditional faith. But not all of Protestantism was seduced by this method and the deconstruction of the historic Christianity, for it spawned the fundamentalist movement of the 1900's in direct opposition to it.
In 1942 Pope Pius XII approved the limited use of the historical critical method when it was shown to him that absurd conclusions about Christ and the Church did not have to be drawn when using this method. But by the late 1960's and the 70's absurd conclusions were being drawn by many Catholic Biblical scholars. But this is not the case today and Pope Benedict's endorsement of this method within certain parameters has brought back some sanity to using this method.

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon5, if I have been so preoccupied by replying to every attack on me here that I have overlooked your questions, I really do ask your forgiveness. I could make a full-time job of this blog, and I'm actually trying not to.

But I'd ask this question. Just where exactly have I questioned Magisterial teachings? Is there some place where I've declared support for abortion, homosexual conduct, etc.? Did I deny the Resurrection someplace that I don't know about?

You've suggested that historical-critical methods can bring us to conclusions that can appear to contradict the Magisterium. I think that's right. But maybe the better way to put it is that they _challenge_ the Magisterium. That's a subtle difference, but an important one. The problem that all of the reasonable people here have with me may rest on misperceiving that distinction. Because if doctrine can develop (it can) then we must deal with the challenges to it that arise through human experience in history. We cannot ignore the challenges because we're uncomfortable with the questions they raise. We cannot simply give those challenges a peremptory dismissal because people will conclude (not unreasonably) that we have no answers.

If I've drawn Burke from the holster a lot, it's because he has given us a way to think about history and tradition that can help us. In the centuries since Trent, the Church really hasn't given us a good philosophical vocabulary with which to address history in the context of modernity. We need one, but what we've got is warmed-over Thomism. And there's nothing particularly wrong with Thomism, except that it's 800 years old, Thomas developed his ideas in another time when the questions were different, so it doesn't reply to men and women of today. The philosophical conversation moved on long ago, and unless we want to talk only to ourselves we need to catch up. For the record, modernity can explain history to men and women of today. It's just that the modern explanation doesn't do much for the cause of faith. We need an alternative that is credible if we hope for any evangelization. (This was, by the way, John Paul II's whole philosophical project. If I would make one criticism of his work--and, I have only one--it is that he never sufficiently broke with Thomism to arrive at a set of adequate answers to reach modern minds.)

Fine, let's bring up "pelvic issues" again. I stand by it. It's not that I think the teaching is wrong in any of the particulars. But it's a question of emphasis. Is being the Church of Prohibitions really the public posture we want to adopt? 'These things are wrong because they've always been wrong! Stop asking question!' If we really want to convert the world (maybe we don't?), we need to start at the head and the heart...not the pelvis. We need to give an account of what a human being is, what history tells us, what is the Church, that seems accessible to people of the 21st century and which is responsive to their questions. The pelvis will follow if we get the other stuff right.

Steven P. Millies said...

What has 2012 amounted to so far for the Church? A really frivolous fight about religious liberty that can be painted all-too-easily as denying preventive healthcare to women; an investigation of religious women; a condemnation of a book by a nun because it discusses frankly, among other things, women's sexuality. Not wrong, wrong, and wrong. Just dumb, dumb, and dumb. Now, in addition to failing to protect minors, the Church can be framed all too easily as being against women.

And, why? Because the Church has enemies? Sure it does. But, it always has had enemies. And, its enemies today are not really as bad as Diocletian. Blaming people who hate the Church is a cop out. It flatters those enemies and us too much. The tougher answer is that we make those enemies' job too easy because we foolishly insist on living in an imaginary world--not imaginary because the Magisterium is wrong but because we presume 800-year-old explanations should be good enough to persuade people. They're not. We do this to ourselves, and then we wonder why the churches are empty.

(That's where I disagree fundamentally with Fr. McDonald, too. People will not flood back because we've got pretty stained glass and the schola sings Palestrina just right. SOME people will, I suppose. But it won't reach the wide swath of 21st century humanity. It just won't. It's not 1325 anymore. Not to say either that we should junk stained glass or Palestrina. Only to say the aesthetics and nostalgia are not enough. The Tradition must be living, developing, and growing, and it must be able to explain that life, development, and growth to itself, to the People of God, and ad gentes.)

"Modernity is the ineliminable responsibility we face." I cannot say it any better. It's all I've been trying to say. To dissect modernity or to shirk the challenges with which it poses us is to miss the point. And, we will miss our duty as Christians, too.

Why am I here on this blog? Why do I keep coming back for this abuse? Because I believe so much in the Church, its teachings and its Tradition, that I cannot ignore these questions, and I cannot countenance the ignoring of them.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dr. Millies you know as well as I do that comments on other blogs, such as Praytell, can be just as abusive coming from so-called progressives, (I've been the victim many times over but have not tried to play the progressive's manipulation of drawing the victim card, but I do bleed, though) and just read comments on the ultra liberal NCR--but that is beside the point, I'm glad you are making a case for yourself here, but there are many holes in your logic and your prejudices too.
But as far a liturgy goes, I am quite eclectic, but I do like good architecture and altar arrangements and giving people a choice as to kneel or stand for Holy Communion, and I like a variety of liturgical styles of music but all in keeping with our tradition. I don't think we need to package our faith to appeal to people's fads and we need to be prepared to recognize that not everyone is going to accept us, especially the young. Parents have contended with their children's non-acceptance since time began, it is only recently that parents have been treating their children as peers and much to the detriment of both.

Templar said...

If fighting to keep the Religion from being relegated to a private matter with no authority in the public square; and insuring that Religious Orders whose Mission is on bahelf of the Church adequately represent tha Church; and Books Published by Catholic Religious don't contradict the Faith; are considered by you to be "dumb, dumb and dumb" it should be obvious to you that you are in the wrong Blog. No arguments, civil or hateful, emotional or logical, are every going to convince the owner or the majority members of this Blog of your points becasue you are simply barking up the wrong tree. We (collectively here) have all pretty much agreed that to advance the Faith you must boldly and unapologeticly embrace Catholic Identity. All of the things you list as dumb are part and parcel of Pope Benedict's efforts to restore identity. We can not engage the world (in any fashion) if we have no sense of who we are, and the majority of Catholics fall into that category. We can't and won't be able to convert anyone if they can't even identify us as Catholics.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, you are such a self-righteous prig. "I just love the Church so much...(best whiney voice)." LOL!

Steven P. Millies said...

Father, please don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to pick a fight about liturgy, sacred art, architecture, etc. And, what might (regrettably) seem like diminishing your point of view is, I think, only the quick brushstrokes of a blog comment.

But I think you'd agree that a recurring theme of your posts is an aesthetic complaint against post-Vat2 liturgy. It's a common enough theme, too, of the current papacy. It's not that I think the old stuff is necessarily wrong or should go. Sometimes I like it, mostly I don't. It depends on a lot of things.

It's this statement that is the problem: "I don't think we need to package our faith to appeal to people's fads and we need to be prepared to recognize that not everyone is going to accept us, especially the young. Parents have contended with their children's non-acceptance since time began, it is only recently that parents have been treating their children as peers and much to the detriment of both."

One man's fad is another man's beauty. De gustibus, etc. Burke would agree there is an objective standard of beauty, but I'm not as convinced. What I'm sure of is that imposing that objective standard against people's tastes (invariably privileging the pre-modern over the modern) plays to the problems I wrote about this morning. Ultimately, if there is an objective standard, it doesn't matter if most people don't appreciate it.

But, moreover, you must admit there is a whiff of condescension in your assertion that liturgical 'fads' are childish, the fruit of bad parenting--especially coming from a childless man. I can assure you, my fondness for Earthen Vessels had nothing to do with being accommodated by my parents, and my children get no accommodation from me.

And, please understand, pointing out that whiff of condescension is not an effort to offend you. Yes, yes. Feet of clay under me, under you, under NCR, and everywhere else. That's not interesting. But I've suspected for a long time that most traditionalist inclinations really amount to aesthetic objections. I've said that here before. Those aesthetic objections are the results of ideas, and those ideas are generally anti-modern.

Someone here suggested yesterday that I've painted folks here with too broad a brush, that not everyone is anti-modern. That's fair. But many are. Just read down the thread.

The point I'm making is that we must face modernity. Cranky aesthetic objections are not an acknowledgement of that responsibility, but an avoidance of it. That's the problem, it seems to me.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

A word for RCG and Anon2 regarding the historicity of the Gospel accounts. I notice that both of you tend to distinguish between history and "History." That is a false dichotomy with regard to the NT. A better distinction would be between history and salvation history. The historicity of the Gospel writers (especially the Synoptics) is a given. The NT is full of places, people, times, and events. The Epistles are letters written to specific people and Churches in specific locations at specific times regarding real issues. The Gospel writers are giving a narrative account of things they saw and heard.
The so-called "historical-critical method" derives from 19th century liberal protestantism and owes a huge debt to German Idealism and analytical philosophy. The starting point for these people is unbelief and scepticism. As Pope Benedict says in his afore-mentioned book, the Church begins from a perspective of belief, Credo ut Intelligam. There is a huge difference. But, the historicity is real and not to be denied. The entire separation of some truly mythical "Christ of Faith" from Jesus of Nazareth is a child of 19th century Pietistic (not in the Baptist sense of piety)thought and dialectical theology. It is a cumbersome superstructure that is completely foreign to any realistic Biblical, especially NT, theology. So, do not play into the hands of the Christ of Faith liberals. There is only one Jesus of Nazareth, and he either got up and bodily walked out of the tomb in historical time or he did not. It really is that simple. He did not "rise in us" in some existential self-confrontation/self-awareness hocus pocus (to turn a prot slur back on them). BTW, that is why I have never liked the cute little trick that liberal theologians and theology students used to do, seizing cynically upon a First Century greeting..."Christ is Risen; He is risen indeed." In our age, if you are really a believer in Him, it would be better to say, "Christ-has-risen." Now, that is real, linear history.

Steven P. Millies said...

Templar, the politics of identity and difference is about as postmodern as you can get. Intellectually, the assertion of a 'Catholic identity' has far more in common with Foucault than Thomas. Nothing abandons the Tradition more than the assertion of identity and difference. Nothing capitulates more to prevailing ideas than absorbing them in that way.

The prevailing idea of a 'Catholic identity' is a tragedy for what its adherents are trying (in good faith, I think) to promote.


Steven P. Millies said...

"The starting point for these people is unbelief and scepticism."

The irony is that Gene W.'s explanation of historicity under belief comes from a man who has denied the historicity of events here, my own faith convictions, because he's begun from a starting point of skepticism. Way to prove your point, Gene. But at what cost?

Templar said...

AAAHHHHHHHHH!! It's not about Identity Politics Doc, it's about Catholic Identity!! We need to be identifiably Catholic so that we might Save Souls, not win elections.

In this World, not of this World.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

How grandiose! I was responding to your words, you self-absorbed wonder. LOL! You flatter yourself to refer to your droppings here as "historicity." Ephemera would, perhaps, be a better designation...or maybe epiphenomena...

Steven P. Millies said...

Gene W., you're prevaricating. History is what happened--epiphenomena, ephemera, and one-damn-thing-after-another. The analogy works.

Templar, the link wasn't to yesterday's Wall Street Journal but the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Just because the word politics is in it doesn't mean it's about winning elections. It's a philosophical concept--a postmodern one that has captured traditionalist Catholics.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, You are double talking. You initiated all this with your apostate statements and snotty attitude. I am not denying the historicity of events here, I am responding to them. Now, I suppose Fr. is too nice to ban you from the blog, so why don't you do us all a favor...you know, Burke's Christian charity...and go away...or at least take that ridiculous picture of yourself down.

Steven P. Millies said...

Gene, have I finally gotten to you? It seems as though I have. Do those elements of modernity latent in your own attitudes, that skeptical bearing, frighten you when someone points them out?

Much like the identity politics that has infected Templar and others, your skepticism (and the scientistic way you demand objectively measurable, concrete proof of my attitudes) confirms what I have been saying. Modernity is the responsibility we face because we all are moderns, even you.

Perhaps Father will ban me. But I'm confident that he's a fair enough man to ban the poster who called me a "prig" (and other things) before he bans me.

Steven P. Millies said...

My, my. This is an interesting development.


Isn't everyone grateful I didn't write something like this: "According to the Church’s faith, the divine sonship does not rest upon Jesus having had no human father; the teaching on Jesus’ divinity would not be affected if Jesus had come forth from an entirely normal marriage. For the divine sonship of which faith speaks is not a biological datum, but an ontological datum."

Can you even imagine what Gene W. would have written?? Actually, don't imagine. Let me try.

Millie, you self-absorbed prig! You sound like a German theologian in the 1960s!! Only a prevaricating academic like you would try to draw distinctions like this. The historicity of the virgin birth is real and not to be denied. The entire separation of some truly mythical "Christ of Faith" from Jesus of Nazareth is a child of 19th century Pietistic (not in the Baptist sense of piety)thought and dialectical theology. It is a cumbersome superstructure that is completely foreign to any realistic Biblical, especially NT, theology. So, do not play into the hands of the Christ of Faith liberals. There is only one Jesus of Nazareth, and he either was born of the Virgin Mary or he was not. LOL! LOL!

Templar said...

I know what the link was to, you think I didn't follow it? The link was to something that has no bearing what so ever on Catholic Identity and the reasons for it. It's all about identity as it applies to demographic groups and how they are used by the system and how they use the system. None of that has got anything to do with Catholic Identity if you're a real Catholic (traditional or otherwise). You're problem is you're a Modernist and can't see the world any other way, which makes you a (fill in the blank with any descriptor) first and a catholic second. I am a Catholic first and foremost. I am Catholic before I am American.

I don't think there's any hope for engaging you becasue being Catholic is "part of who you are" like being a Professor is part of who you are. I'm a Catholic, period.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I just quickly looked at the praytell blog on Ratzinger and Marian Dogmas, but don't want to be the first to comment there, so I'll post it here.
What Ratzinger seem to endorse in one of his earlier books is that Jesus could be the Messiah and the Son of God even if Mary had sexual relationships with Joseph (the sperm could have had the Holy Spirit in it I presume). I was taught this at St. Mary Seminary, not as dogma but as "thinking outside the box" as many scholars and including Ratzinger who was a liberal right after the council until he saw the traitorish ways in which progressive liberals were manipulating the council and had a re-conversion to sound doctrine. But the Historical Critical Method that Ratzinger used at that time led many to outlandish presuppositions and conclusions.

Steven P. Millies said...

Templar, be a Catholic. Great. But you should glance up above the horizon and notice that you've been encircled by the postmoderns. You need to read this again: "These social movements are undergirded by and foster a philosophical body of literature that takes up questions about the nature, origin and futures of the identities being defended. Identity politics as a mode of organizing is intimately connected to the idea that some social groups are oppressed; that is, that one's identity as a [Catholic], for example, makes one peculiarly vulnerable to cultural imperialism (including stereotyping, erasure, or appropriation of one's group identity), violence, exploitation, marginalization, or powerlessness (Young 1990). Identity politics starts from analyses of oppression to recommend, variously, the reclaiming, redescription, or transformation of previously stigmatized accounts of group membership. Rather than accepting the negative scripts offered by a dominant culture about one's own inferiority, one transforms one's own sense of self and community, often through consciousness-raising." It should look familiar. To be Catholic is one thing. To assert 'Catholic identity' in the public square is another. The former is great. But the latter, as a tactic, is indistinguishable from third wave feminism and queer theory. You're playing somebody else's game.

Father, I think you're correct. I don't disagree in the particulars at all, except to observe that, had I been the author, the firestorm would have rained down on me. We are believers when it is Ratzinger, we are skeptics when it is I. The conclusions are different even when the ideas are the same.

Anonymous said...


I'm on an iPhone and must be brief. But I would in brief charge you with giving a nonresponsive answer. I didn't say you dissented fom the magisterium: I said your answers insinuate dissent. As for you denying the bodily ressurection, you again ask me where you've done so rather than just state for the record that you believe in it. The rest of your long answer is premised on the iMistaken dea that my immediate goal is to convert the world. No; my immediate goal is to get people either to declare their orthodoxy, which includes of necessity a lot of limitations on individual actions (thou shalt nots), or else quit scandalizing the faith and confusing the world by pretending to be Catholic. Only when we have identified both modernism and modernists within the Church, and condemned them as such, can we hope to teach and bring the faith to anyone. If someone wants to assert The sort of autonomy that the secular society and current privacy jurisprudence say he can and should, then fine. I just don't wanting him to be claiming he's a faithful Catholic. As for liturgy, That certainly isn't MY major complaint as you generly charge the people here. But in my experience, the more orthodox someone is, the more he favors the traditional forms of the liturgy. As a corollary I have usually found that modernists attempt, as part of their campaign, to bastardized the liturgy.

--Anonymous 5

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie, did you just say something? LOL!!!

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon5, permit me a smile at the idea that the spirit of Steve Jobs descended upon your post to call me iMistaken from your iPhone. Ghost in the machine!

The modernists are all around us! Gene W. is tainted by modernism. Templar is advocating postmodern ideas. To have a traditionalist outlook is to be humble before history. The sin of the Enlightenment is to assume a mastery of self and of history is possible: we can escape. History masters us because we have chosen none of this, not even to be born. That is why Catholicism and traditionalism are hand in glove, inseparably the same. But if that all is true, you and I (and Gene W. and Templar) were moderns before we knew the word because we were born where and when we were born. It is the responsibility we must face. To disclaim it is to do what the Enlightenment does--to attempt to abstract yourself from a history that you did not, cannot choose. It's very modern of you to even try. But like all those Enlightenment philosophers before you, you really can't do it. It doesn't work.

Couple of last thoughts. You refer to my mistaken idea that your "immediate goal is to convert the world," because, in fact, your "immediate goal is to get people...to declare their orthodoxy." I express no surprise, and I'll offer no judgment. But my immediate goal is summarized by Mt 28:19. That's the religious tradition I belong to. Perhaps yours is different, but that is for you to say.

On that subject: my godparents made my profession of faith for me decades ago. I've re-made it countless times since, most recently at Easter Vigil. I'll re-make it again in 10 days when I'm godfather to my new nephew. That's really good enough. I don't owe a profession of faith to anybody here. Good grief. If I made one now, nobody would believe me anyway. It's a game I won't play. My Catholicity doesn't depend on your approval, or Gene's, or anybody else's.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millies, your post about Sonship says nothing. I have already written about how the miracle (Virgin Birth) rests upon the Mystery and how the Mystery is informed by the Miracle. These are not in conflict with what Ratzinger says. My post you quote is pretty much a distillation of what Pope Benedict says in the first couple of chapters of his book, "Jesus of Nazareth." You clearly have not read much theology or NT theology because this is an issue that has been ongoing since about 1900. Maybe you'd better stick to Burke, et al.

No, Millie, you have not gotten to me. It is kind of fun yanking the tail of such a pompous blowhard, although you do get annoying at times...sort of like a fly in the potato salad...

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

RE: "It's a game I won't play..." You've been doing nothing but playing games since you came on the blog. No, no one would believe you because you would be lying. That is clear enough from your wordy, empty posts and your constant quibbling and prevaricating. I think we can all begin ignoring you now...

Anonymous 5 said...


Re your Matthew 28:19 reference: this is an excellent example of your condescension, and you deliberately ignore, even while quoting, my statement of combating modernism as an _immediate_ goal. Of course I subscribe to Matthew 28:19. But heretics can baptize too. Orthodoxy is not going to be able to carry out Christ's commission effectively until it removes the wolves from the fold. Smoke of Satan and all that, you know.

The second paragraph in your response to my ipad post suggests to me fallacies including 1) is-ought, 2) definitional equivocation, and 3) proof by intimidation. Furthermore, the paragraph, or should I say your dissertation on the whole historical-philosophical phenomenon of modernism is both obfuscation and irrelevant to my point. I'm speaking of the Catholic theological concept of modernism narrowly, as it is discussed and condemned by Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. I'm happy to have a nice long discussion with you sometime re the themes of your paragraph, but before I commit time and resources to that I'll need to know if you accept the authority of the Magisterium. Your repeated refusal to type in a simple statement, viz, "I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ" is something you may think cute, and you evidently enjoy tweaking our noses here by not doing so, but it's to the point where you're denying it by omission. I'm attempting to debate you within the framework of orthodox Catholicism, one that accepts the teaching authority of the Church. If you have a different framework--i.e., if you deny that authority--declare it and I'll shift my premises and my ground accordingly, if I decide to devote further time and resources to you. If you have the same framework as I, on the other hand, then affirm it, or else I'll quit wasting time and resources to debating you under false assumptions. Your responses increasingly remind me of the tactics of the Albigensians--or was it Waldensians?--who were coached in how to avoid incriminating themselves before the inquisitors. (I'm sure you'll huffily talk about how nasty the Inquisition was in your reply and chastise me for presuming to take such a role upon myself).

You say you don't owe me a profession of faith. True. You owe me nothing, and I'm _not_ an Inquisitor, except in the philosophical sense: I'm inquiring as to what you believe, and you won't tell me, which you should recognize as an impediment to honest discussion. So let's put it in terms of a contract, an idea that respects your rights and your freedom of action. If you want to have an honest exchange of ideas with me, I here now expressly demand (yes, demand) as a quid pro quo that you explicitly confirm your belief in Christ's bodily resurrection as well as the infallibility of the Magisterium. For all his incivility, Gene--in light of your obfuscation--has very nearly convinced me that his characterization of you is correct--i.e. that your goal is not to engage in the honest discourse that you have begged for, but rather to obfuscate, confuse, mislead, and subvert by being one thing while masquerading as another, and using your self-proclaimed status as an academic as a fallacious appeal to authority. Your profession would go very far to routing him in my eyes. Do you choose to make one and thereby beat him? Or will you number yourself, in my eyes at least, among the wolves? The choice is entirely yours, but please quit copping the attitude about it.

I'm waiting.

Anonymous 2 said...

I do not mean to stir things up again after the conversation calmed down mid-afternoon yesterday – whether from exhaustion, distraction by other matters, or delivery of some knockout punch by Steven =). I was otherwise preoccupied during the day and only in the evening able to read the continuing thread. Perhaps it is presumptuous or pretentious of me now to inject a comment, but the matters discussed here are very close to my heart, as they are to the heart of Father McDonald and to all of us who comment on or follow this Blog.

My Catholicism is very much a part of my identity. It is central to who I am, as it is to all of us. Had I been born in another time and place, matters may have been different. But I was born on a particular day a few years after the Second World War, in a particular part of the world, and within a particular family and community. And so I am a creature of history, as we all are. For His reasons, and through various people in my life, God led me to the Roman Catholic Church in my twenties and shortly thereafter to St. Josephs in Macon, my spiritual “home” for over thirty years. We all have such life stories.

Some of the Catholics with whom I worshipped for so long have left St. Josephs for other Catholic parishes or even other denominations during the past few years because so many things changed. I cannot judge them but I do find it sad. I miss them. (Of course many new members have become joined our parish.) Although I am a post-Vatican II Catholic I do not think I will leave the Church or St. Josephs. I will ride the wave of change and see where the Holy Spirit leads the Church and our parish.

The conversation on this Blog is important. It is perhaps the only venue for open and broad collective conversation about all these matters that shape our particular wave at St. Josephs, and I thank Father McDonald for providing such a venue. I have learned a great deal in the short time I have been involved with it (or with any Blog at all – before this one I was a Blog virgin so to speak, and I am still monogamous in the Blogosphere =)).

Steven has been called a lot of things again yesterday. Gene, I am not apologizing for him or trying to ameliorate what he says, but I would call him brave. It cannot be easy to venture into the lions’ den, knowing you will be attacked. I assume he does not enjoy being torn to shreds, but is prepared to subject himself to it from deep-seated conviction and perhaps from a calling to engage us, to be a gadfly for us. That too is a time-honored tradition, although we no longer dispense hemlock. And he fought well yesterday I think.


Anonymous 2 said...

Has Steven persuaded anyone? Perhaps he hasn’t. Or perhaps he has persuaded everyone. Perhaps it does not even matter. Perhaps what really matters is the conversation. Whether we agree with him or disagree with him, isn’t our sense of identity stronger because of that conversation? He challenges me, as do others. He makes me think. And consider how many eloquent statements and confessions of faith he has elicited from those who have challenged him in return. I have learned much from reading him and them. Without Steven’s witness I would likely never have been given the opportunity. Again, Gene, I am not apologizing for him or trying to ameliorate what he says. I am making a personal statement and expressing appreciation to him and others.

So, Steven’s voice engages me and challenges me and helps me forge a stronger identity within the Church. And his voice also says that we have to engage with modernity outside the Church. Isn’t he right about that, if only because the Church speaks in the public square, and the public square is itself a creation of modernity? And there are many other voices in that diverse and pluralistic public square. They are traditional voices and modern voices and postmodern voices, religious voices and secular voices. Mostly they are shrill and loud and divisive voices, as they lob slogans and jibes and taunts, and even lies, at “the enemy” from behind their separate barricades.

The Church, clergy and laity alike, must of course stand their ground in the public square, must be the Rock that Father talks about, must defend the Church’s constitutional rights and speak Her Truth to the world. But when She does that, isn’t Her voice different from so many of the others? Doesn’t She listen first, and hear the suffering behind the other voices that causes so many of them to be shrill and loud and divisive, even those that attack Her, whether that listening is by her public representatives or by her individual members conversing with their fellow citizens? And doesn’t She then speak Her Truth firmly but lovingly and in a way that addresses that suffering? I believe She does when She is most true to Herself.

That is the voice I hear when I go to Father McDonald for confession. And isn’t that a voice that needs to be heard if our fractured democracy is to heal? We can’t create Heaven on Earth. Too many dead bodies sacrificed on the altar of some utopian ideology have proven that. But perhaps we can make it less of a Purgatory. Once again, didn’t Bishop Fellay have it right when he said “Everyone can join in asking for the grace to become docile instruments of the restoration of all things in Jesus Christ.” Or am I myself now making a category mistake?

I am afraid to post this, as I have been afraid to post some other comments I have made. I do not have Steven’s courage. Gene may ask me if I have said anything or call me self-righteous or presumptuous, and for all I know he may be right. Others may call me a traitor for somehow suggesting compromise with the Devil in the public square. I question myself, whether it is just self-indulgent hogwash. But something tells me I should not have to be afraid in my own Church, because everyone on this Blog is a person of goodwill – Gene, Steven, everyone.

So, I will post it anyway. In her work my wife sees death and dying each and every day, up close and personal, and I have learned from her especially (but not only from her) how fragile this precious life can be and how true are the words spoken to us on Ash Wednesday. Personally, I don’t want to spend my fleeting moment on this Earth fighting and squabbling and bickering, or at least I want to do as little of it as possible consistent with being true to my core beliefs.

Anonymous 2 said...

Steven, Now that the Blog is live again this morning, I have been able to read Anonymous 5’s very thoughtful, measured, and balanced comment. I stand by what I said above, but I also think that Anonymous 5’s request is entirely reasonable. So, I hope that you will be able to respond to him in the more definite way he seeks. It would certainly help to clear the air and enable the conversation to proceed in a much more fruitful manner.

Thank you Anonymous 5 for offering the possibility a constructive practical way forward, with less heat and more light to draw on an earlier comment of yours on another thread.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon2, So, now Millie is "brave?" Please stop...LOL...you're killin' me. I find it most difficult to associate "bravery" and posting on an internet blog. Of course, academia is great at changing definitions ( as Millie has demonstrated),and I suppose bravery does have a lot to do with head trips in your world. Brave...tell him to ride down Pio Nono at night with Dixie playing on the radio. Now, that's BRAVE! LOL!

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon 2, thank you for your kind words. I hope, and believe, you understand that I have nothing against Steven, and that I'm genuinely trying to engage him in the reasoned debate he's repeatedly said that he wants. But he's thrown up a roadblock to such a debate and I find it frustrating, and my frustration is probably evident in my comments. Just as I would adopt different respective arguments in debating an atheist, an agnostic, and an orthodox Catholic, so too would I adopt different arguments in debating a Protestant and a modernist. At one level, I don't care whether Steven accepts the Church's authority or not. I simply need to know how in honesty I should respond to him, and I cannot know that unless I know whether he accepts or dissents from that authority.

By pointedly not declaring himself, then, Steven shows himself less interested in truth and mutual enlightenment than in winning (however he might define that) by using disputational dirty tricks. The point of my prior comment is that I want to know once and for all which it is to be--sophistry, or Socratic engagement? I suspect that among the hundred-plus readers of this blog, I'm not alone in that desire.

Anonymous 5 said...


A hazard of composing something complex after midnight--at least a hazard for my aging self--is the possibility that I'll mis-state myself, and in my post to you last night I did so. I will thus make a crucial correction in my contract proposal to you.

My original wording read "I here now expressly demand (yes, demand) as a quid pro quo that you explicitly confirm your belief in Christ's bodily resurrection as well as the infallibility of the Magisterium."

Please replace that sentence with this one, with the substantive changes being in ALL CAPS: "I here now expressly demand (yes, demand) as a quid pro quo that you explicitly confirm OR DENY your belief in Christ's bodily resurrection as well as CONFIRMING OR DENYING YOUR BELIEF IN the infallibility of the Magisterium."

As I just said to Anonymous 2, at the disputational level I don't care whether you believe in these things or not. I only care whether you answer, and answer truthfully. If you honestly dissent from these things and tell me so, I shall still debate you. If you decline to answer I shall not.

Steven P. Millies said...

I'll only say I'm grateful to Anon2, not for any imputation of bravery but for the spirit of real discourse in sympathy. I wish there were more here like that.

I have sparred a bit. I enjoy it. But I've enjoyed my exchanges with Anon2 more than any of the sparring.

Don't look for me today. I have children to care for, and it's a beautiful day. Gardening with the youngsters seems more inviting than more sparring in the lion's den.

Anonymous 5 said...

Steven: You go ahead and play with the kids. It's indeed a fine day here, though a bit warm (me being overweight and all); I hope it's similarly nice where you are.

But I'm still waiting, as are--I'm sure--many others. The longer your silence, the more clearly you reveal to us your fundamental dishonesty.

I remain, as ever,

Your Obedient Servant,

Anonymous 5

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie's refusal to answer and constant prevarication are tantamount to a denial of Jesus' bodily resurrection, the Virgin Birth, and any other supra-natural events or phenomena in Scripture. His rationalism will not allow him to accept these things, but his aesthetic/religious sense wants to play the game. I suspect this is, to some extent, true of Ignotus, as well...however he has much more to lose than Millie by being forthcoming. Ignotus has never been simply dishonest, nor has he been condescending (except to Fr.). Besides, God has apprehended Ignotus for His inscrutable purpose and I trust that God is working in PI His good and perfect will...'en depit de lui meme.'

Any confession, at this point, by Millie would simply be obligatory to keep the game going...

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon2, would you and Steven like for the rest of us to leave the room? LOL!

Anonymous 2 said...

To Gene: Of course posting on an internet blog is not the same as riding down Pio Nono in the manner you suggest, but there are different kinds of courage, as you well know, and I don’t think academics redefined courage to invent them. Perhaps for us academic wimps, even posting on the internet could be a kind of courage, especially when, like Steven (but unlike me, though I suppose it may not be too hard for some to guess who hides behind the Blog name), you reveal your identity (with a picture too =)).

I dare say Steven will not ride down Pio Nono like that, any more than you or I. But I do see him riding through the Blog mounted on his trusty cybersteed, wielding his intellectual lance, and tilting at windmills. And I don’t believe – I certainly hope – that he is not just horsing around when he does so =). I can relate. Don Quixote is one of my literary heroes, and in my estimation usually misunderstood as some kind of retrograde buffoon. If anyone can understand what he was really about, surely we Catholics can. I spend a great part of my professional life tilting at windmills because they really are giants, even if others see them only as windmills. And sometimes I fall off onto my converse pelvic issues.

To Anonymous 5: Yes, I understood you very well, for you too are a kindred spirit, as a fellow Catholic and as a fellow professional of the Law. As you know, the Law changes you. It becomes part of your identity. On that subject, I did not quite understand Templar’s point about being a Catholic period. How is that possible? My being a Catholic may shape my identity, or more accurately other parts of my identity (as an academic, a lawyer, a doctor, or a plumber, as a spouse, as a parent, as a fellow citizen), and it may, and should, be the most important element of that identity in a process of mutual infusion, even as we also submit to the authority of our particular profession and professional tradition, for example), but how can I separate it from the rest of me? But I may well have misunderstood Templar’s point here. If so, I trust he will correct me.

To Steven: Thank you for your generous words. I understand your desire to go into the garden rather than onto the Blog today. Please think about Anonymous 5’s request (I prefer to use that word rather than “demand,” although I recognize the expression of his legal identity in making the “demand” and proposing the contract). As for caring for the children today, now that’s brave =).

Anonymous 2 said...

I have just read your last post, Gene. Please don't be silly. Speaking for myself: Of course not, and once again -- as you well know =). Moreover, I would like to think that you feel the same.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well, Anon2, I frequently ride down Pio Nono (do not consider it particularly brave...I avoid it when I can) but I carry a pistol and happen to be a good marksman. I do not play Dixie on the radio, however, as I reserve that for more private moments of pondering the War Between the States and the unique Southern experience of basking in the sad grandeur of defeat. I do miss Dixie at football games, but the lib/PC panty waists took care of that.

Now, you and Millie may continue your intellectual make-out derby...

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon 2: Thanks again for your warm comments. But I fear that, after some reflection and in charity, I can't agree with your characterization of Steven as courageous. His refusal to declare himself means that he isn't putting any skin in the game, so to speak. Once he states his position--which I now doubt he'll ever do--that position, whatever it may be, makes him vulnerable to attack and forces him to defend it, and possibly lose. By _not_ declaring himself he frees himself to assume the tactics of the cheap shot while risking nothing, since he may assume whatever philosophical guise as gives him the best protection at that moment. In my book that isn't a courageous foray into the lion's den; it's agitation for agitation's sake.

His tactics are ideally suited, as I noted, for winning, for unlike the adherent of a defined position, he can never have his premises challenged. But those tactics make it impossible for anyone join with him in a mutual search for the truth. Since I presume such a search is the goal of his oft-trumpeted appeal to reason, and he's refusing to work with us to find it, that makes him, at best, a hypocrite.

One cannot hope to "win" a debate with such a person. In fact, by debating him, one only empowers him. One can only hope, at best, to reveal him for what he is to those who witness the discussion. I trust that I've done so to the satisfaction of the silent (nonposting) majority here. But I shall continue to wait and give him the opportunity of proving me wrong. If he chooses to do so, then at that point we can all dispense with the sophistry and at last make some progress. it's up to him.

Anonymous 2 said...

As I have already indicated, Anonymous 5, I consider that your proposal is reasonable and fair- minded.

Steven must decide whether he wants to accept that proposal to help clear the air and go through the opening you have offered.

If I understand you correctly, it does not matter to you how he answers your questions, just that he does. And the same is true for me. I will respect his position, whatever it is and look forward to further fruitful dialogue.

If he feels unable to answer, I will be disappointed but I will respect his refusal nonetheless, and still look forward to further fruitful dialogue with him, although I fear that the dialogue will be significantly impoverished for lack of many participants. If it seems appropriate, we can even pursue it offline.

Based on his earlier post this morning, I suspect Steven is not checking the Blog today, being otherwise occupied, so silence should not be necessarily be construed as consent to a negative interpretation.

As you say, let's just wait and see.

Steven P. Millies said...

Like Albert Brooks said in Broadcast News--"I say it here, it comes out there!"

Me at 3:28pm yesterday: "I don't owe a profession of faith to anybody here. Good grief. If I made one now, nobody would believe me anyway."

Gene W. at 1:00pm today: "Any confession, at this point, by Millie would simply be obligatory to keep the game going..."

Can anyone still wonder why I call it a game?

Can pinning oneself down jot-by-jot as "orthodox" really be a condition for serious discussion. As in, "Here's everything I've made up my mind about and won't change. Now, let's discuss!"

And, so far as the the Resurrection and the infallibility of Magisterium are concerned, I suppose I'll agree it has become a game because I do delight in how it frustrates. But the origins of this game are principle. Why should I confirm or deny what you have no reasonable grounds to doubt? Why must I reward your skepticism with an assertion that Gene W. won't believe anyway and, honestly, I agree he shouldn't believe. It's words on a blog. My faith is lived out there, not sworn on a stack of Bibles with my pinkies uncrossed here for your entertainment. It's just silly.

And, that's why I delight in how it frustrates. It is the Achilles' Heel common to most folks here, I think. My old professor at Catholic U. called it "the fondness of the jellyfish for the rock." You need it to be settled, confirmed, concrete, and certain. But for me it's an important epistemological point. I don't need to categorize anybody here to have a serious discussion. Put yourself in a box with a label if you like, but I won't.

"I will not be pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My [faith] is my own."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Mucci writes:
"Secularists buy into the following two presumptions of our post-christian culture:

A. The supreme religious authority is the conscience of the individual, not any institution;

B. An empiricist and rationalist understanding of divinity, according to which the transcendent can only be investigated by reason."

Yet the Church (institution) teaches that faith is a gift to be received not conceived by the individual.

Yet Dr. Millies writes:

"I will not be pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My [faith] is my own."
June 15, 2012 3:41 PM

But I beg to differ, the faith of the Church is the Church's faith and belongs to no one but God who gives it.

Thus Dr. Millies proves my thesis about post-Christian Catholics.

Steven P. Millies said...

Father, I think you make too much hay out of my playful quoting from Patrick McGoohan.

And yet, I'd defend the idea of my faith being my own. Not that I am the doctrinal authority, but I choose what I do and don't believe. And, I choose it for me because only I will have to account for it. The content of the Catholic faith is not mine to determine. But whether I choose that content or not is only mine.

I'm trying to get at the idea that labeling yourself in some way is too easy. It lets you off the hook. It suggests the hard part is done. That's not my view of the faith or the Church.

The hard part is now. And then five second from now. And then five second from now. And that's what I celebrate about modernity and, even, secularism. The choice to believe has never more been radically my own. (Taylor covers this in A Secular Age.) I could take whatever pledge you all want me to take, shape myself to that rock. But it would be no virtue of mine, nothing that should earn me a place in Paradise if I've simply conformed myself to what is pleasing to you or to me.

Don't call me post-Christian--unless you mean to say by that Christianity amounts to gaining comforting certainty from some rock you can shape yourself to. You could say that, I suppose. But I'd never call that Christianity.

Christianity is choosing to be Christian now, and five second from now, and five seconds from now. It's hard. And, nothing I've read or seen in life tells me that getting my hand stamped here by you lot will make me a better Christian in any appreciable sense. It only would comfort you and me to believe something not nearly so certain as we'd be permitting ourselves--lying to ourselves--to believe.

Steven P. Millies said...

I'd recur to what I said several days ago when Gene brought this up. This all reminds me of my Protestant friends who are sure, just sure, that everything will be okay if they accept Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior. Then, how you life doesn't matter. You're saved!

So, what? I should tell you all what you want (demand) to hear? Then we're cool?

It's pure silliness. And, I'll say again, it cheapens what we're all here to discuss to demand these things.

This whole business is part of a principled objection I have to most of you are thinking about what it is to be Catholic. And, I'd argue (as I have) that the intellectual roots of what you're doing are Protestant, modern, postmodern.

The fact that you want to take a profession of faith, put it behind a glass pane like a dead thing in a museum, to categorize me by genus and species is my problem with how this blog approaches Catholic faith.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

A Muslim was tired from his journey to blow up something, so he stopped at a farm house and asked for a place to sleep. The farmer told him he could sleep in the barn.
Pretty soon, a Buddhist knocked on the door, tired from compromising his integrity by teaching zen to GenX geeks and Yuppie housewives,and asked to spend the night. The farmer sent him to the barn with the Muzzie.
After a while, an academic Political Theorist, tired from riding with his knees to his chest in his Prius and listening to NPR, also stopped and asked for a place to sleep, so the farmer sent him to the barn, as well.
Just as the farmer and his wife were nodding off, there was a knock on the door. It was the Muslim. He said, 'I'm sorry, but there are pigs in the barn and I cannot sleep with pigs." So, the farmer let him sleep on the kitchen floor.
Then, a short while later, there was a knock and it was the Buddhist. He said, "I'm sorry, but there are cows and horses in the barn and I feel they may be some of my former friends. I am not comfortable sleeping there." So, the farmer sent him to the kitchen with the Muzzie.
Then just as the farmer had dozed off again, there was a very loud knock at the door. The farmer opened the door and...it was all the animals with their hooves over their ears!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Millie's first paragraph from 5:35 pretty much shows how he views the Faith. It is actually disgraceful that someone of his presumed intelligence and education should be so dismally ignorant with respect to both Protestant and Catholic theology and, therefore, can only understand the Christian life by reducing it to a simplistic and brittle belief system. His statement says volumes more about him than it does about the Church or the believers on this blog.

He referred to a request for his beliefs about the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith, the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as a "taunt, a set-up, and as being "beneath me to answer," yet complains that we refuse to grant him common ground for discussion. Then, he tries to confuse the issue with copious volumes of verbal horse manure. Yes, Stevie boy, there are certain fundamental and orthodox beliefs that true Catholics must agree upon for meaningful discussion. Too bad, but you have to put yourself in that little old box for us to have any common ground.

Anonymous 5 said...


I'm still waiting.

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon2; You're correct; it matters not at all to me at this point what his answer is; it only matters that he answer. His refusal to do so amply demonstrates that he doesn't want an honest discussion, at least with me.

Frankly, I'm enjoying watching his efforts to mischaracterize the issue and divert us from it, since from my perspective it amounts to him twisting in the breeze. The more of it he does, the more dishonest he shows himself to be. My only regret, and it's a deep one, is that many people will fall for it. I don't wish him ill, but he's dreadfully misguided.

Anonymous 2 said...

I am disappointed that you felt unable to answer Anonymous 5’s questions. It is not that I am disappointed in you personally; I am disappointed because I fear that your refusal will result, in turn, in a refusal on the part of others to engage with you. I hope that is not the case, but I fear it may be.

You set out eloquently your reasons for not answering, and perhaps those reasons will persuade. Speaking for myself, I think I understand your position and that it is a principled one.

I also think it must be very difficult to be a priest today. I suspect it is a bit like teaching students with a range of abilities, only much, much more challenging. Those for whom the priest is responsible (and the stakes don’t get any higher than the fate of a person’s eternal soul, whatever the world may believe) are all at different places in their life journey and spiritual quest, and yet somehow the good pastor must try to shepherd all of his sheep safely into the fold and protect them from being devoured by wolves, or from falling off the cliff as Father puts it. And today there are a lot of wolves and treacherous paths to take.

But, to pursue the familiar image yet again, we sheep are stubborn and wayward. I know I am. But I have to engage fully with the world, just as you do. In our vocation we don’t have a choice. As academics, you and I are necessarily exposed to all kinds of ideas and ways of living. It is unavoidable. And as Catholic academics we try to bring our faith to our engagement with these ideas and ways of living and to find a way somehow to offer an authentic and appropriate witness in whatever particular circumstances we find ourselves, knowing too that in class we are not supposed to “indoctrinate” but to encourage exploration and inquiry as part of learning. And in one way or another we mess up sometimes. Again, I know I do.

I suspect that many readers of this Blog may not understand just how much academics are compelled, by the very nature of our professional vocation, to grapple with issues of pluralism and diversity every day, in class and out of class, not to mention the implicit or explicit expressions of unbelief, or even hostility to religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular, on the part of some students and colleagues. (I am not whining, Gene. It is a tremendous privilege to be permitted to remain a teacher and scholar and a lifetime student of our disciplines. Moreover, teaching at a private, Faith-based University, I suspect I have a much easier time of it than someone teaching at a public university does).


Anonymous 2 said...

Steven, if I understand you correctly, you are arguing for a reflective, authentic appropriation of the Catholic Faith, and this is how you see your own personal spiritual journey. However, I am a little concerned that your words could be interpreted as suggesting that those on this Blog have not themselves made a similar authentic appropriation of the Faith, have somehow not “made it their own” by the grace of God, but are just unthinkingly accepting some pre-packaged product, like the Protestant friends you mention in your comment. Each one of us must answer for ourselves in that regard, but surely it is quite possible for someone to choose, by God’s grace, to submit as completely as they are able to the authority of the Church. That does not mean, I think, that their profession of faith is “like a dead thing in a museum.” Nor, I hope, does it mean that they cannot ask questions.

If I am not mistaken, what you really seek from the members of this Blog is acceptance of your own quest for an authentic faith in the circumstances in which you live your life, including acceptance by those members who have more certitude regarding various matters than you may have. Am I correct?

Speaking for myself again, it is not for me to judge the state of anyone’s spiritual journey or their spiritual condition. That, as they say, is way beyond my pay grade. I have enough problems with my own.

If I have said anything theologically incorrect in speaking about an authentic appropriation of the Faith, by God’s grace, I trust that Father McDonald will correct me. I am no theologian, just someone trying to understand and interpret your position as fully as I can. I assume too that the gift of faith may be given in many ways, even if an authentic appropriation in the sense used above may be a part of a person’s spiritual journey. Again, Father, please correct me if I misstate the matter.

By the way, Steven, much as I love Patrick McGoohan in “The Prisoner,” you might not want to press the analogy too far. I would like to think that the Catholic Church ranks at least one or two notches above whatever shadowy forces were running The Village =).

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon2, You spend far too mazny words on this academic eel. You say his pposition is principled....I think it is about as unprincipled as you can get. Your attempt to provide him with an integrity of some description is amusing.

BTW, calling Mercer (for it sounds like that is where you are) a "faith-based" institution is like calling the Third Reich a "Jew-based" organization. LOL!

Templar said...

Well finally the leopard reveals it's spots. He's not Catholic at all, or I should more correctly say he's a self identified catholic, much like the majority of pew sitters today, who call themselves catholic, but are really only cafeteria Catholics. I'll take the Pro-Life stance, but that Immaculate Conception stuff doesn't pass my personal historically accurate test.

I also note how his zeal fads as the thread scrolls off the front page and he losses his audience. He's not here to have a rational debate, or he would do so with Anon5; no he wants to "win" and score points with what he thinks is a Blog reading audience cheering him on in his delusion mind.

He's nothing but a Troll. A haughty Troll at that. May he never darken this Blog again.

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon2: Interesting take on the difficulties of academics in the classroom. We must discuss it some day.

When I first started out as a teacher, I saw the marketplace of ideas as something that must open its stalls in every professor's classroom. Then I noticed, very early on, that many of my colleagues had no such compunctions, and that they were indeed out to evangelize for their respective faiths (the big one at the time being Marxism). That, coupled with the fact that legal education consists largely in forcing a student to pick a particular position and defend it in order to develop logical and rhetorical abilities, clear away irrelevancies and extraneous matter, and avoid digressions has made me view the marketplace as a macro-marketplace. Professor A advocates position A and leaves it to professor B to advocate position B, rather than a single prof feeling obliged to offer a smorgasbord.

This is an oversimplification, of course, and there are several things that do (at least in my classroom) or at least should limit it. First, never belittle a student merely for expressing an idea, and don't even belittle the idea itself; simply use logic to show its weaknesses, if it is indeed weak or wrong. Second, be aware that you don't know everything and that even after years in the classroom you can still learn something from much younger students, particularly those of different socioeconomic backgrounds than you. Third, sometimes you need to have more of a marketplace than you do at other times, such as in an introductory survey, for example, if only to teach students that there _are_ different perspectives. Fourth, there's sometimes a fine line between advocacy and indoctrination. The best way of staying on the right side of the line is for the professor always to be prepared to change his own mind if confronted by a student with sufficient arguments. Another way is to make sure that you don't start preaching about a suject that has little or nothing to do with the subject of the course.

But if a student, on an exam, tells me that Bismarck's policies were a fundamental cause of the American Civil War, I'm going to have very little patience with that sort of thing. That's not diversity but ignorance, and ignorance is what teachers are supposed to combat.

Anonymous 2 said...

Good morning, Gene.

On the issue of “principled,” we may be arguing semantics, i.e., different understandings of the word “principled” and/or different principles as between you and Steven. As the good old saying goes, “first define your terms.”

Steven refers to having a “principled objection” to the particular notion of Catholic identity that he understands as informing most of the conversation on this Blog (not his words exactly, my translation). I can see five or six possible “principles” (i.e., guiding notions or values) that seem to inform his objection and his own alternative sense of Catholic identity (e.g., be a reflective and active seeker of that identity rather than an unreflective and passive receiver of a pre-packaged product). Please do not misunderstand me. I am not necessarily urging agreement with these principles, just suggesting that I think they are there. I am sure I could articulate them fairly easily, but it would be presumptuous of me to speak for Steven and anyway I doubt that anyone who is still following this thread wants even more words from this already verbose commenter. That said, I do wonder if such a statement of abstract principles could perhaps help define the critical points of disagreement more clearly and thus facilitate a more productive conversation on the matter. As an academic, and even more as a legal academic, it is my natural inclination to search for such principles.

As for the jocular Third Reich analogy, once again we need to define our terms, this time “faith-based university.” I could put you in touch with many colleagues at Mercer who would be willing to defend use of the descriptor, from the President on down. But, as you know, there are many in the Southern Baptist fold who would likely strongly disagree. Indeed, the “Battle of the Baptists” of recent years may, it seems, now be followed by the “Crisis of the Catholics,” reflecting somewhat analogous disputes, albeit taking place in a very different institutional context and informed by a very different history. Such is the “Zeitgeist” I suppose. And is it one more (or less?) reason to engage in inter-faith dialogue, which I assume is now rendered even more complex and problematic (so may more factions to talk to!)? Perhaps there is a principle at work here too – Freedom from traditional constraints naturally leads to division? But is there another principle available also: Mutually respectful dialogue among antagonists leads to (some) healing of those divisions?

But here I am, blathering on again, trying to work through more questions related to our own historical situation, and doubtless trying the patience of any of our good fellow bloggers and readers who may still be following this thread. So that is enough (too much?) again from me now.

Anonymous 2 said...

And Good morning Anonymous 5,

I have just read your comment, which arrived while I was composing the one to Gene. Yes, I would love to discuss that issue with you.

I like your clear and concise statement of those teaching principles. Thank you for articulating them. I think I agree with almost all of what you say, perhaps even all, depending more precisely on what we mean by “advocacy” as opposed to “indoctrination.” Perhaps some examples would help.

You mean Bismarck’s policies were _not¬_ a fundamental cause of the American Civil War? =)

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon 2:

You ignorant pig. Who but a fool would argue that about Bismarck? You're a drooling moron and should be thrown off this blog and spit on by your fellow students. ;-)

Actually, Civil War causation is an excellent case study, if you're looking for examples. As a friend of mine in grad school once said, slavery is actually really almost the right answer (in a world of academics who never settle anything). But, though a born and bred Southerner (and relative of the Georgia Cobbs) who has more than a little sympathy for the concept of state sovereignty, I have been called a bluebelly and worse by other southerners when I attempt to argue that slavery played a role in secession and the war. When I'm forced to debate the issue, I definitely advocate, I base my advocacy on abundant evidence, and I (attempt to) logically deal with the evidence offered in opposition. That's a basic element of advocacy in my book.

One thing that for me would indicate indoctrination is the penalization of a student solely for taking a different view than the one I advocate. If he wants to argue that secession was all about the tariff--and he endeavors to support his argument with credible evidence--then I grade him on how much evidence he has, how strong it is, and how well he uses it. I suppose one can say that my predisposition to believe he's wrong may color how I see his case, but someone who makes an excellent case for what (in my eyes) is a losing position may well get a better grade that someone who makes a terrible case for a position with which I sympathize.

Does that help?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 5, I agree that slavery was, undeniably, one cause of the war. Was it the major one? Perhaps...however, I have read many diaries of Confederate soldiers, letters to and from home, first person accounts, etc. as well as many political speeches of the day and I hear far more references to "the usurper, the invader, the Yankee oppressor, the Northern aggressor, etc. than I do to slavery. I also find it difficult to believe that all those Southern men, most of whom were not slave holders, would throw away their lives to preserve the institution. So, whatever the role of slavery, the higher and much more crucial concept of State's Rights/National sovreignty has proven to be...as we may see in the continued debacle regarding that issue today...the most fundamental principle involved.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

So you see Anon 5 and Anon 2, you are both morons and I...I have now made the definitive and most astute pronouncement regarding this issue which, of course, should now be closed. *raspberry*

Steven P. Millies said...

Anon2, I confess The Prisoner popped into my mind as a bit of whimsy, but not without reason. The Prisoner was an attempt at a modern Everyman. The Prisoner is modern man, really. The theme of the series is that bit I quoted--he resigned, his reasons are his, and what could they matter to someone else--to another, fellow modern man? He might lie, he might tell the truth. So, should he say something pleasing, his hearer should feel no comfort. Should he suffer consequences for saying something less felicitous, it is not fair he should be punished for his conscience by simply another modern man.

You're quite right that we don't need to dig too deeply to find atomism there, and that's not Catholic at all. But if we dig even more deeply we find a very mature reflection on conscience which is, I would suggest, what endures about that weird little TV show. One man guards his conscience as inviolable--though even his conscience, his own authentic self, is capable of great evil and destruction as we see in the final episode (Number One is Oneself). That's quite Catholic, I think, and gives us a demonstration of the continuity between the Catholic Tradition and modernity. At its best, modernity is a realization of the Catholic Christian understanding of conscience in social life.

Its applicability here is only to say exactly what I said yesterday. Gene W. wouldn't believe me no matter what pleasing thing I said. If I should leave something out, on purpose or inadvertently, I'd only be flogged for it. And, anyway, these demands for a declaration are quite unsophisticated attempts to solve a deeper problem, one that requires more subtle tools--especially in a modern context. It is a whole human life that must be judged. No checklist on a blog can make me a good Catholic. How many times must I say that?

But, Anon2, I think you're on to an even subtler thing yet. And it may point to my own worst failing. Recently I asked a priest I know what we all look like in the congregation from where he sits on the altar. When he looks at us, what does he see? He's 84. He's seen it all. He replied with a laugh, but I know the sense in which he meant it. "Oh, it look just awful," he said. "It's terrible." Some of us are with him, praying, listening. Many are texting. Most are clearly somewhere else--maybe checking grocery lists (or, composing blog posts). This is something else modernity has brought us--a more diverse laity. We are sociologically, economically, educationally, and intellectually more diverse than ever before. We bring that to Mass as much as to other parts of our life of faith. (An interesting post yesterday on PrayTell about sociology and devotion to the Sacred Heart also touches on this.) As much as anybody here, I tend to presume that everybody else is like me. It's the trap I fall into all the time. Why do I need to explain why I don't think a checklist of "THIS I BELIEVE" is a good idea? It's hard for me to accept that it's not self-evident to all readers here. Clearly, it's not. Clearly that diversity also is a part of the picture of what the Church in the modern world means, and we see something of the difficulty (and the blessing, as well) of it here.

Anonymous 5 said...

Still waiting, Steven.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...


If an academic Political Theorist gives a lecture in a forest and there is no one there to hear, is it still boring?

Anonymous 2 said...

I’ll answer Gene first, because it requires less thought to do so. That could be taken the wrong way, Gene, but context is everything and the context is a response to your 1:49p.m. post: Is that a B flat raspberry or a G sharp raspberry? I realize the question is of only minor significance but it could hold the key to the entire Dixie Question. Now I must compose my responses to Anonymous 5 and you at 1:46 p.m. and to Steven.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon 5: I’ll take that as a compliment =).

Yes, the example definitely helps, and of course your explanation makes perfect sense. The causes of the American Civil War, even the very naming of that conflict -- as Gene confirms in his 2:06 p.m. post yesterday -- can be a little touchy in these parts, let alone the substance as Gene’s 1:46 p.m. post today shows. So, handling a class discussion about it (especially in a class with students of different ethnicities) could certainly be delicate. But now I understand the context of the term “advocacy” as being advocacy of a position based on the evidence or the strength of the arguments deployed by the students, likely often in response to your own questioning, and in that context advocacy as you define it seems appropriate. But do you go beyond questions of historical causation to underlying issues of justice? Indeed can the inquiries even be separated?

And let us take another example even closer to home – teaching Roe v. Wade. I do not teach Constitutional Law and so have not had experience with that. I have, however, taught in the area of Jurisprudence (including feminist jurisprudence because that is now part of it), among others, and I do teach Comparative Law (including a component on Islamic Law).

Do you teach any such material? If so, how do you handle it? Please feel free to treat those questions as rhetorical if you prefer for purposes of this Blog.

Anonymous 2 said...

Steven: Thank you for that very thought-provoking post. You have me at a bit of a disadvantage. I have seen several episodes of The Prisoner and enjoyed them tremendously. It is one of the best shows ever produced (only slightly surpassed by Fawlty Towers =)). I got the Everyman message for sure, but I never saw the final episode, much as I never got the Robin Hood in my cornflakes as a kid but lots of Little Johns and Will Scarlets (I had not seen the Prisoner then so I did not understand the cynical game Kellogg’s was playing with my childish innocence). Now I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Re Gene: Are you demonstrating your “own worst failing” again (or is it the opposite)? How do you know Gene wouldn’t believe you? He believed me, at least so I think. Would you believe you?

But that wasn’t your main point, and yet it was after all. Here I recur to my previous post and the idea that someone else (who is different from you) can authentically appropriate the Roman Catholic Faith in all its comprehensiveness with the grace of God (or perhaps they do not pass through that stage, again with the grace of God). Put it this way: Patrick McGoohan now joins the Catholic Church and becomes an ultra-traditionalist. Impossible? We know better, I think -- nothing is impossible for God.

How God leads _anyone_ is not for me to judge. Once again, it is above my pay grade, and I have enough problems dealing with my own baggage. So, I leave it to God and those in the Church who know far more than I do.

I will confess, though, that one of the many things that attracted me to the Roman Catholic Church in my own journey some 35 years ago was its openness to other religions and even to those of no religion. It seemed much truer to my experience of humanity and my intuitions than the position taken by some other Christian denominations (some of whom, of course, still regard even Catholics as in serious error or worse). At least that has been my constant understanding. If that understanding was correct, and should the Church’s position ever change in that regard, I would be very saddened and would be presented with a serious question of conscience in the face of such a volte face. And if my understanding has been incorrect, once again I trust that Father McDonald will correct it.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

What in the Hell is "feminine jurisprudence?" Is that not ridiculous? Do you have to wear a pantsuit to teach it? Do the women all look like Farley in that pic in the LCWR thread? If they do, do you carry a gun?

Anonymous 2 said...


To answer your question, perhaps one could summarize it this way: If the "patriarchy" plants the forest of laws and there is no woman there to help, are the laws still just?

Anonymous 2 said...

Steven and other fellow bloggers,

I want to clarify the essence of what I have been trying to do in this thread because it is bothering me that I have said so much, something that might be regarded as somewhat presumptuous, to say the least, coming from a relative “newcomer in town.”

My starting point (and ending point) is that I do not feel qualified to judge anyone’s spiritual journey or condition or how God is at work in a person’s life. I might have to judge a person’s actions sometimes for various purposes but I cannot judge the person. As I said earlier, I have enough problems carrying my own baggage around with me. Because of that, and because I lack the necessary “inside” information about others, I leave all the spiritual judging up to God and to those members of His Church who _are_ qualified to judge, and I am not one of them.

Therefore, I do not know precisely how God is at work in your life, Steven, or in the lives of any of our fellow bloggers or even in my life. I pray and trust, however, that what we are doing here on this Blog and in this particular conversation is all to the good, especially as I believe everyone here is a person of goodwill.

The main thing, then, that I have been trying to do in this thread is to understand various positions and situations, and to assist in promoting a mutual dialogue about, and mutual understanding of, those positions and situations (including of my own) and perhaps some movement towards a coming together where there is division. And all this is subject to the distinct possibility that I have misunderstood or misstated something important and thus stand in need of correction.

If these actions are judged to be appropriate, then I am relieved. If not, then I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by them.

Anonymous 5 said...


I've never taught comparative law or philosophy of law, though I've studied them to a small extent. I've run into the problem you discuss sometimes in my international law studies, given that different cultures have different ideas of what should be (or are) included in the concept of human rights.

In the West, from Legal Realism on (including fem theory, CLS, and even Law and Economics to a small degree), there's been an overwhelmingly strong attack on natural law and, to a degree, reason itself. A lot of the discourse isn't even about law; some of the fems (and queer theorists too for the same reasons), for instance, along with nearly all of the crits and a lot of the realists, denounce the legal system as unprincipled and an arbitrary tool of oppression--political rather than impartially rational. But some of the attacks even go to reason itself, as reason (they say) is a relativist thing foisted on us by dead white European guys.

I freely admit (and do so all the more readily now that the leftist dissenters of the 1960s are the judges of today) that the law can be and often is used arbitrarily. But I also believe in objective truth and that the ideal of the law is to search for it, and that reason--logic--is both a part of that objective truth and the correct means of seeking more of the truth, given its objective nature. It's the legal-philosophical equivalent of Dostoyevsky's “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” If we can't appeal to an objective reason, then let's just accept that we're all at war with each other, which is where crit theory leads.

I studied under one law professor who was also a state Supreme Court justice, and he used a very interesting paradigm set forth as a formula:

L + x = J

where L is Law, J is justice, and x is the variable that he as a jurist and legal philosopher is always trying to discover. I've found it a useful analytical tool.

Regarding Roe, I do often teach that one. I come closer there than anywhere else to being biased in the classroom, but I remain (I think) on solid ground. I never mention my Catholicism or bring Catholic thought into my exposition or analysis. I never need to. One need not even be a believer in any God to show the legal contradictions involved. I thought Roe wrong before I was catholic, and if I became a modernist tomorrow I would still think it wrong. It's sufficient for me to do a textual analysis of the Due Process Clause and show life (being mentioned first) as the most important of the three interests, then liberty, then property. I then do a straight comparison of the reasoning in Roe to the reasoning in Lochner and Dred Scott and show them to be nearly identical. I then propose to the students that in terms of legal reasoning, if they think Dred Scott and Lochner are wrong, they should logically agree that Roe is wrong. If, otoh, they think Roe is right, they should approve of Dred Scott and Lochner. Ultimately I probably don't convince many people. which shows that they're result-oriented. But one can only do what one can.

Anonymous 2 said...

Thank you, Anon 5, for that very full, thoughtful, and interesting response. I had not checked the Blog again since mid-morning, and have little time to respond now with some further thoughts. However, I will try to get back to it this evening, although the post might not be up before tomorrow depending on when I get started. I wanted to post this short note now, however, so you would not think my silence due to lack of further interest in the thread or our particular conversation about teaching.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon 5, I now have more time to respond.

As I mentioned, I have never taught Roe v. Wade and thus have no directly relevant experience to bring to the question of how best to do it as a law teacher who is also a Catholic. I can certainly see the force of your approach. If I understand you correctly, you are essentially undertaking an analytical normative critique of the decision, in which you explore the cogency of the legal reasoning and expose its deficiencies. That, of course, is a very lawyerly thing to do and, as you suggest, the critique yields a result critical of the decision in Roe.

Here are some potential challenges I see in teaching such material (please remember, I have never taught Roe v. Wade itself, but I have taught analogous controversial material):

(1) The Court in Roe did not engage in tight legal reasoning, hence the critique. But doesn’t that raise the descriptive question of what the Court was in fact doing and why? And here, in analyzing Supreme Court decisions, can one really avoid the “policy” considerations that may determine the Opinions of the Supreme Court Justices more than the legal reasoning used to rationalize them (the “We’re all realists now” problem)?

(2) Moreover, if the Casebook includes questions and materials exploring the “policy” issues, it may be difficult to avoid them.

(3) But then, of course, one faces the problem of how to handle these “policy” issues. After all, we are training our students in the art of legal rhetoric -- to make the most persuasive arguments to the relevant audience on behalf of their clients, using all the “materials of the law” to do so.

(4) Moreover, the problem of how to handle these “policy” issues is exacerbated to the extent we move beyond judicial decision-making to help prepare our students for their possible involvement in legislative law reform efforts and other activities as citizen-leaders.

To invoke Steven here, our students _have_ to engage with modernity (or rather post-modernity). They don’t have a choice if they are to practice law today. Sure, they can and should submit to the authority of the practice and its traditions but that won’t let them off the hook. That means I have to engage it with them.

So, how do we help our students cultivate (or begin to cultivate) lawyerly practical wisdom beyond the acquisition of substantive knowledge and technical skills (which admittedly are also necessary for such practical wisdom)? How do we help them acquire the ability to make good judgments and to act on those judgments in a world of pluralism and diversity?

The only way I know how to do this in a substantive class (inadequately I am sure) is by getting them to identify, present, and evaluate the arguments on each side of an issue as fully as possible. This is just as true, I think, if they are analyzing a case as it is if they are addressing proposals for law reform or the question whether we should promote free markets, liberal democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in “less enlightened” nations. And here I try to apply what is perhaps the foundational mantra of the lawyer (and of many other professionals I suspect): First understand; then, and only then, judge and act on that judgment.

Anonymous 2 said...


In Comparative Law, for example, very early on we study the fascinating practice of putting animals on trial in medieval and early modern Europe -- in the ecclesiastical courts (for wild animals and vermin) and in the lay courts (for domesticated and farm animals). At the beginning the students laugh, as they should, and perhaps as I did when I first read about these trials (I don’t remember now). By the time we are finished with this material, they no longer laugh, or so I trust, because they begin to understand why this apparently absurd practice “made sense” to those engaging in it.

My hope is that, for many of the students, repeated exercises of this nature throughout the course, in which one tries to “see through the eyes of the other,” will play their part in helping to develop the central lawyerly virtue of empathy rooted in humility (Also early on, we discuss materials on the rational limits of knowledge and epistemological humility, and how this “makes room for faith,” as well as materials identifying numerous biases to which we are subject; and who knows, perhaps some of them may even develop empathy for the apparently absurd belief that God is present in a wafer, whenever they come to consider it!).

But after understanding, there is still judgment; otherwise relativism or nihilism beckons. And for this I give them extracts from Alasdair MacIntyre, describing his “dialectical method” for conversation among the competing moral traditions in the postmodern world in which we live, a method that claims to be able to identify “the best theory so far,” even though each tradition is judged only according to its own internal standards. Here I thank God that, for MacIntyre himself, his “dialectic” culminates in the rational victory of Thomist natural law theory as being “the best theory so far,” as he has witnessed in his own life by converting to Catholicism (I tell them about this; to avoid appearing biased I also tell them that ultimately they must find out for themselves whether this is the correct outcome of the dialectic).

To be sure, I am taking liberties with MacIntyre by extending his approach globally, and to be sure I can only give them a glimpse of the Promised Land of natural law theory this way, if only because I have not yet fully mastered the dialectic myself, but it is a seed and a start. In other, more explicitly jurisprudential courses, however, I do explore natural law theory more fully (and sometimes even subjects such as feminist jurisprudence – hello, Gene =)). It is reassuring to me as a Catholic that Thomist natural law theory wins out, both on more traditional philosophical premises and on post-modern premises using MacIntyre’s dialectic. Such a dual approach certainly offers the prospect of being accessible to more students through the process of reasoning.

One perennial challenge in my teaching is to correct for whatever bias I see in the published teaching materials. It will be no surprise to you that this is usually a “liberal” bias, although I do find that, in the area of Comparative Law at least, the liberal-conservative labeling tends to break down (and I have Russell Kirk in my corner for that).

Do I do a good job of all this? I don’t know. I do know it doesn’t feel that way at the end of the semester. But, as you say, one can only do what one can.

And BTW, often I do tell my students I am a Catholic when that seems appropriate. They can see it on our web page anyway.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon 5:

P.S. That was probably much more than you wanted by way of response. However, the exchange with you has stimulated me to clarify some of my own thinking a bit more, so thank you for that.

Are you familiar with this book that has just been published (or is about to be published) by Carolina Academic Press: Robert William Piatt Jr., “Catholic Legal Perspectives”? I am including a link:


It looks interesting, and I will ask them to send me a copy.

I am exploring the possibility of developing a “Religious Law” track of sorts at my School. This coming year I will be teaching “Islamic Law in Comparative Perspective,” using a recently published book by a Catholic author, Raj Bhala, entitled simply “Understanding Islamic Law,” as tha main text. In the course of explicating Islamic Law, the author draws comparisons and contrasts with Christianity, specifically Catholicism, and with American law. It should be quite a challenge.

Perhaps I will be able to offer a course on “Catholic Legal Perspectives” the following year. We will see.

Do you have any similar courses where you are?

Anonymous 5 said...


It's my turn to be brief (at least for me) since I've a busy day today. This will probably be my only post for a while. If I fail to answer any of your questions here just remind me later.

Fortunately, most of my teaching of Roe has been at the undergrad level and not in law school (haven't taught in law school for about 9 years), so I often get to avoid some of the problems you mention. Re your "policy" concerns, I may have misled you a bit. While law is an ideal, I freely recognize and admit policy aspects, but where warranted I show the concern for policy as injurious to law. Reminds me of my first year legal methods oral argument, in which the issue was who owned some valuable dinosaur bones--landowner or finder. I represented landowner who wanted to build a museum around them. Chief justice, in real life a lawyer of many years' practice, asked me if my client's total lack of expertise wouldn't endanger the bones. I replied that if he legally owned them then he could outright destroy them if he wanted to (thus making the court's policy concern for the bones irrelevant). I've never seen a "judge" so flummoxed--his mindset was so totally policy-oriented he wasn't thinking in legal terms at all and I caught him on it. (He was a good teacher and we became friends after my graduation).

Likewise with Roe. Most students, when first dealing with it, either bring a bland "It's the law so it must be right" attitude or else a raw emotionalism that renders them incapable of thinking rationally (or legallY) about it (both on pro-life and pro-choice sides). My approach is designed to challenge the former group to think critically about the underlying assumptions of the decision and in doing so confront their own assumptions, and to challenge the latter groups to _think_ rather than _feel_. Only when we've de-deified the decision and can think rationally about it and speak of it in legal (and policy) terms do I then move on and get them to advocate for one side or the other. But even then I usually hit another roadblock when I force a pro-life student to argue in favor of Roe. Even when I tell him that he must know his enemy's position better than his enemy does, I find many students (undergrads) constitutionally incapable of doing so.

So underlying my approach, I guess, is the idea that the "correct" legal (and policy) position will win out if we only have a rational discussion. It's getting to the rational discussion that's problematical. (In fact, that exactly describes my issue with Steven, come to think of it.) And in trying to get to that "correct" answer, the law student incidentally learns what he needs to know about advocacy. In the end I know can't control what he does with those tools; I can only hope that he sees the "correct answer, and I at least expose him to Roe's problems whether he wants to see them or not. Or as Shakespeare had Henry V say, "Every subject's duty is the king's, but every subject's soul is his own."

I hope that's enough for now.

P.S. You may find a quotation of O.W. Holmes enlightening as to the relationship of policy to law, though that isn't quite what Holmes was talking about: “I have said to my brethren many times that I hate justice, which means that I know if a man begins to talk about that, for one reason or another he is shirking thinking in legal terms.”

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon 5: Many thanks for the additional explanation. This is a lovely conversation and I hope we can continue it when you (and I) have more time.