Friday, January 30, 2009

Does Sola Scriptura Make Void the Word of God?

Over on Beggars All, a woman who is contemplating converting to Catholicism asked Rhology a question, “How does the Reformed tradition decide which traditions to follow?”

Rhology tersely responded by citing one passage out of the New Testament, Mark 7:1-13.

When I saw this answer, I decided to ask Rhology a couple questions of my own. I have studied the pericope at Mark 7:1-13 and its parallel at Matthew 15:1-9 and slowly, ever so slowly writing a paper (I promise Jamie Donald, I will get it done in 2009!) on the so-called Korban/Corban/Qorban rule which Protestants like to throw at Catholics time and again when they want to denigrate the Catholic doctrine pertaining to Sacred Tradition. Usually Catholic apologists and commentators do not deal with the actual text, content to rest their argument on the fact that Sacred Tradition is not a tradition of men, but is considered to be as divinely inspired as the written Scriptures and thus is incorporated in the phrase “Word of God.” However, when I really read the passage for the first time for purposes other than devotional reading, I understood the passage a little differently.

You see, while I was in high school, I had met a Coptic Orthodox priest who used word “korban” in a conversation. When I asked him what it meant, he told me that it was the bread that was to be blessed and broken for the Holy Eucharist. He explained to me that the word originally meant “sacrifice.” Thus, I decided to study the issue in more detail. As you will see, the results of my researches yielded some answers that vary a tad from how Protestants see the passage.

Here are my questions, Rhology's answers, and my rebuttals altogether. My questions will be in italics, Rhology’s answers in regular text, and my rebuttals in bold print.

For ease of following along, here is Mark 7:1-13 as it is set out in the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament:

And there assembled together unto him the Pharisees and some of the scribes, coming from Jerusalem. And when they had seen some of his disciples eat bread with common, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews eat not without often washing their hands, holding the tradition of the ancients: And when they come from the market, unless they be washed, they eat not: and many other things there are that have been delivered to them to observe, the washings of cups and of pots, and of brazen vessels, and of beds. And the Pharisees and scribes asked him: Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, but they eat bread with common hands?

But he answering, said to them: Well did Isaias prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain to they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men. For leaving the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups: and many other things you do like to these. And he said to them: Well do you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. For Moses said: Honour thy father and thy mother; and He that shall curse father or mother, dying let him die.

But you say: If a man shall say to his father or mother, Corban, (which is a gift,) whatsoever is from me, shall profit thee. And further you suffer him not to do any thing for his father or mother, making void the word of God by your own tradition, which you have given forth. And many other such like things you do. (Emphasis Added).

Here too is the passage from the Mishnah that I am referencing in my questions:

R. Eliezer says: They may open for men the way (to repentance) by reason of the honour due to father and mother. But the Sages forbid it. R. Zadok said: Rather than open the way for a man by reason of the honour due to father and mother, they should open the way for him by reason of the honour due to God; but if so, there could be no vows. But the Sages agree with R. Eliezer that in a matter between a man and his father and mother, the way may be opened to him by reason of the honour due to his father and mother.

Q. 1.A. Which tradition of the elders was Jesus refuting at Mk 7:1-13?

A. The Korban rule. Jesus says it right there in the psg.

R. Sorry, Jesus does not say that the Korban rule was a tradition of the elders. He called it "your tradition" meaning the teaching of that particular group of Pharisees, not a decision arrived at in the Great Sanhedrin of all the different schools. All of the different schools had to agree on an interpretation in order for a teaching to become a Tradition of the Elders. We know that didn't happen because the Mishnah said it didn't.

Further, the Korban rule is scriptural (Lev. 27:28) and not a tradition at all.

The tradition Jesus is actually referring to was the fact that the school these Pharisee belonged to did not teach that vows could be loosed. Take a closer look at the passage, particularly 7:12

Q. 1.B. Can you cite the appropriate passage in the Mishnah, which is the written codification of the Tradition of the Elders, where the tradition that Jesus was refuting is elaborated?

A. No. I don't, however, see why it's relevant - see 1A. Also the Mishna was begun 150+ yrs after the NT events.

R. It is relevant. Although the Mishnah was written 150 years later, it does record the oral tradition of the elders in Jesus' time. If you take a look at the Gemmara (commentary) after Nedarim 9:1 (in error earlier said 64), you would see it records the teachings (another word for tradition) of two different schools of Pharisees arguing this very point. The School of Shammai say vows can not be loosed. The School of Hillel says they can. Both of the Rabbis mentioned there by the way I believe were around when Jesus was conducting His ministry on earth.

Q. 2. Since the OT was the only Scriptures that those Pharisees and scribes would have known, can you tell us if what is written at Numbers 30:1-3, Lev. 27:26-30, and Dt. 23:21-23 figure into how the Pharisees who were there may have understood the inviolability of a Korban vow that is being discussed in that pericope?

A. Num 30 - no.
Lev 27 - no.
Deut 23 - no.

Unless you think that God is unable to distinguish between greater and lesser commandments. And wouldn't be upset with someone for making unwise or sinful vows.

R. Let's test your theory against Scripture to see what it says about the making of unwise vows. First, take a look at Judges 11:29-40 to see how seriously Jews took vows. Despite the fact that human sacrifice was forbidden, a vow had to be kept regardless and Jepthath still had to kill his daughter because that was his vow to offer the first thing that came out of his home (in ancient cultures many times, the animals lived in the house with the people~Jepthath thought it would be one of his animals that would come out first).

If you do not like Judges, look again at Numbers 30:3 "If any man make a vow to the Lord, or bind himself by an oath: he shall not make his word void but shall fulfill all that he promised." Is there anything here that suggests an exception can be made?

Dt. 23:21 "When thou hast made a vow to the Lord thy God, thou shalt not delay to pay it: because the Lord thy God will require it. And if thou delay, it shall be imputed to thee for a sin." Is there anything here that suggests an exception can be made?

Eccl.: 5:3-5 "If thou hast vowed any thing to God, defer not to pay it: for an unfaithful and foolish promise displeaseth him: but whatsoever thou hast vowed, pay it. And it is much better not to vow, than after a vow not to perform the things promised. Give not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin: and say not before the angel: There is no providence: lest God be angry at thy words, and destroy all the works of thy hands." Any exception here for foolish or unfaithful vows?

Proverbs 20:25 "It is ruin to a man to devour holy ones, and after vows to retract." Any exception here?

I could come up with more, particularly in Psalms but these are off the top of my head.

Furthermore, while we now do distinguish degrees of commandments, the ancient Hebrews did not. They treated all 613 commandments listed in the OT as equal. It was not until the Pharisees promulgated one of their traditions of the elders that held that there were greater and lesser commandments. Halachah found in the Oral Torah are generally divide into two categories: Laws in relation to God (bein adam le-Makom) and Laws about relations with other people (bein adam le-chavero). Violations of Commandments involving relations with other people are considered more serious in degree than ones only involving God in the Oral Torah, as one must obtain forgiveness both from the offended party and from God. See, e.g. “Kalot and Chamurot”: Gradation of Sin in Repentance.

Your answer reads into the passage your 20th century presuppositions instead of how a Jew in the 1st century AD would have understood things being talked about in Mk. Isn't that how Protestants are supposed to look at passages?

Q. 3. If you believe that the keeping of the Korban vow was a tradition of the elders that contradicted SCripture, please cite to any passage in the OT which permitted a person to rescind a Korban vow once made?

A. Mark 7:1-13. That's not in the OT, but I trust Jesus' interp over my own (or yours).

R. Yep, I trust Jesus' interpretation too. But one has to also understand what He is talking about. Apparently, you don't.

Of course, Jesus could negate the commandments in the OT; he does so in the very next section concerning the eating of unclean foods. That is not the point. The problem you have is that He is treating the halakhah of the Pharisees as a commandment equal to the written commandments in the OT. Jesus is chiding the Pharisees here because they weren't following their own Tradition of the Elders which required that commandments concerning relationships with people took priority over commandments concerning one's relationship with God alone. Since the commandment to honor one's parents deals with relationships between people, that was supposed to be of more importance than a commandment to honor God alone. That is why Jesus calls them hypocrites (7:6), because they were following only the written Torah and not the Oral Torah as well! He was condemning sola scriptura as a false tradition at least as practiced by the particular school of Pharisees those guys came from.

Q. 4.A. Does the Scriptures tell us which school those Pharisees had come from?
Q. 4.B. Do you believe that it makes a difference which school the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus were from there in understanding Mk. 7:1-13?

A. - Not that I know of. Nor do I see why it's relevant.

R. It makes all the difference in the world if you are going to understand the passage correctly! Throw away your bible commentary and pick up a history book instead.

Now Rhology asked me a question of his own, “So...Jesus wasn't submitting a tradition to the Word of God there? Help me out here.”

My answer: If we understand tradition of a particular school of Pharisees yes. Again, your problem is that Jesus was treating the Oral Torah (Tradition of the Elders) as the Word of God and saying it trumped what was in the written Torah!

I realize that you have probably never heard this before. I have looked at what Calvinists (and many Catholic) commentators have written on this passage as well as Jewish ones (yes there are Jewish commentaries on the NT). If you can really poke a hole in this, please do. My thoughts above do need to be tested to see if they ring true as opposed to getting a sound bite or two response.


As I asked Rhology, I will ask anyone reading this blog, please give me your thoughts as to where I am reading this passage wrong.

God bless!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Cygnus and the Humble Hope

(With apologies to John Dryden)

What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide

~From The Panther and the Hind

Note bene: Over at Beggars All, Mr. James Swan, a prominent Protestant apologist wrote an open post to me concerning the Magisterium and what he perceived to be double standard being applied to Protestants by Catholic apologists. This following is my response to him. For obvious reasons, this response is being posted here as opposed to the commbox over at his blog. I have italicized Mr. Swan's words from his orginal posting.

Hello Mr. Swan:

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, but I wanted to reflect, pray, and take the time to answer your post pertaining to a double standard you perceive exists among Catholic apologists pertaining to our doctrine of unity within the Church with a response that is something more than a commbox retort. While some might perceive the questions that you asked to be nothing more than a rhetorical device to make a point to your audience, I did not consider them as such and decided to answer them. I would note that I quote from a large number of the members of Church’s Magisterium. Since it is they who are being maligned, I thought it fair to call them as witnesses.

You said: “Roman Catholics chastise Protestants continually for using "private interpretation" and having disagreements.”

My response: To be fair, we Catholics do not “chastise” Protestants for having disagreements, whether they be continual, continuous or otherwise. Being human, we Catholics probably disagree among each other as much as Protestants do. As a matter of fact, that is why Our Lord saw fit to bestow on His Church a Magisterium However, it is fair to say that we Catholics do chastise Protestants for having disagreements resulting from their abuse of using their “private judgment” and using it to subject the Scriptures to your whims.

You said: “They've got all their apologetics books, like Madrid's "Where's That in the Bible?" in which he states, "I as a Catholic look not just to Scripture alone...but also to the Church and its living Tradition" and also in conversation with a Protestant, he tells them they, "can't just assume we have the correct understanding of Scripture" (pp. 10-11). No, Madrid's got the right interpretation!”

My response: Well, if owning that particular Madrid book is the sine qua non as to whether one can be a Catholic apologist, I guess I do not qualify as an apologist. While I do own one or two of Mr. Madrid’s books, I do not own that one.

Flippancy aside, I do take issue with the sentiment expressed by you. Do you seriously contend that the Catholics that you interact with here are so lacking in scholarship that they merely resort to parroting Patrick Madrid, Dave Armstrong, Dr. Philip Blosser, Dr. Scott Hahn, John Salza, or any of the other current Catholic apologetic luminaries? Should I likewise then accuse the Protestants on your blog of merely regurgitating something that James White, Eric Svendson, William Webster, or David Hunt have written? What is the point of us interacting at all if you truly believe that the level of communication between Catholics and Protestants is that minimal and formulaic?

Personally, I suspect that most apologists, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish or something else, are moved to do apologetics for the same reason that you are~a love of God and of neighbor. That is why I am here. I believe that despite our differences in matters of faith that we both share that bedrock principle, hence making it worthwhile and fruitful to interact.

And I can assure you that my apologetics study habits are somewhat more sophisticated than reading and regurgitating one of Mr. Madrid’s books (although it is true I do quite enjoy using the two I do own as secondary research resources in my religious studies). Here is an outline of the steps I tend to follow:

1) I first pray to the Holy Spirit to give me the grace of enlightenment.

2) I then try to determine the parameters of an issue, define its elements, and determine the meaning of the terminology employed in explaining it.

3) Then I look to see if the issue is discussed in Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly, and once I find a passage from the Bible I believe to be applicable, I then read the passage as found each of the 12 or so Bible versions I have to see if there is a consistency in how the doctrine is described. As a part of the initial inquiry on my part, I may review the several bible commentaries, both Catholic and Protestant that I own. If necessary I will also review several concordances and lexicons to make sure I have a sense of what a passage means.

4) Then I go through all of the Catholic and Protestant catechisms and encyclopedias I have, both in book form as well as electronically stored material, to see how each side understands an issue.

5) Then I peruse what the early church fathers wrote about the subject. Depending on the issue, I may try to see if there are various translations of such a writing and read all of them.

6) Next, I look to see if there were any concilior or papal writings on the subject to see if the Church has authoritatively decided the issue.

7) If my understanding does not match up with what any of the above state, then I go back and see where I might have gone astray. I also check to see if there any other magisterial writings out there as well.

8) After this, I look to see what classic Catholic apologists, theologians, doctors of the Church or historians have written. I try to look first at the ones who are either with the “Church Victorious” or “Church Suffering” and then move on to those who speak out in the present-day “Church Militant.” I will also admit to a certain amount of bias in starting with Dave Armstrong as he is a friend of mine and his website has a lot of useful material and links there. I then look at other apologists such as Dr. Blosser, John Salza, Steve Ray, Robert Sungenis, and yes, Patrick Madrid.

9) During the course of doing the above, I will also look to see what Protestant apologists and theologians might have to say. In this regard, I try to remember that many of the 19th century Anglican theologians and apologists are almost Catholic in their viewpoints, indeed they often walk the via media or claim that they are as “catholic” as the Orthodox and RC.

10) Since arguing to consensus is the highest form of argumentation, I often try to see if there is a way to reconcile what a Protestant apologist has written with what the Catholic Church teaches. The reason for that is simple: the first rule of heresy is that all heresies start with a truth and then make inferences from that truth that ultimately are incorrect. If Protestants and the Catholic Church do not agree on an issue, I try to see how much the Protestants do agree with the Church and pinpoint where they part ways. For example, I concur to a point with the point of your article--Catholics do exercise private judgment in reaching their decision to assent to the teachings of the Church. However, detrimental to contention I am not aware of a time when the Church taught otherwise.

By no means do I suggest that my epistemic method is flawless and I am definitely still learning, but for good or ill, my methodology has served me to date. Nevertheless, I hope I have shown that this “Paulie” is not a parrot.

You said: “So, OK, show the beef.”

My response: I knew Clara Peller, Clara Peller once shook my hand at a Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio. You sir are no Clara Peller. If the cartoon drawing of you that is posted on your website is at all accurate, you don’t even look like Clara Peller. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist an attempt at humor especially after spending the past week or so trying to figure out where to cut holes in the walls and flooring of an 140 year old farm house so I can fix the plumbing under the house. Next time, I call “Ask This Old House.”)

You said: “Show us a unified Roman Catholicism. Show us your certainty. Show us the infallible interpretation of Scripture. Show us unified historical “Tradition.” Show us how your theologians and apologists have a collective agreement down the line.”

My response: At first blush I questioned whether you originally were from Missouri. My next thought was that you were practicing to be the next host of “The Family Feud” game show. But it then struck me, you really do not understand what Catholics believe; your notion of Catholicism is all caricature and cartoon-ish.

Now let us speak with candor. I agree that Catholics exercise their private judgment when they decide what to believe in. How could they not do so? However, there is a difference between the exercise of private judgment in the context of an authoritative Church and the abuse of it when there is nothing to compel or even guide one in what doctrines to believe in. His words will be in both bold and italics.

In support of this, I will first call Fr. Ronald Knox:

I shall be accused, perhaps, of a sulky querulousness when I say this. It will be conjectured that I am revenging myself on those who do not agree with me by pretending that they do not understand me. But it is true, and it is a truth which becomes more luminous the more you come in contact with the public attitude towards Catholics, that the English people, when it talks about the Catholic Church loses all sense of reality, of human possibilities. We were for so long a despised and persecuted sect, we were for so long deprived of any opportunity to explain our position that Englishmen have come to look upon us as a race of ogres, from whom nothing natural, nothing human can be expected. They will believe anything of us, without stopping to inquire whether such beliefs are even plausible. Among half a dozen instances of this credulity, let me select one that is peculiarly striking and peculiarly well attested. At the beginning of the first world war, when it was suggested to the Government that Catholics, like their neighbours, would need an increased staff of chaplains to superintend their spiritual welfare, a Cabinet minister professed himself astonished that the ministrations of French priests would not be sufficient. And when it was pointed out to him that these priests would find some difficulty in hearing confessions, it proved that the Cabinet minister had assumed, all his life, that Catholics made their confessions in Latin. One pictures those Irish troops, a Kennedy in every knapsack So true is it that the English sense of realities breaks down when the habits of Catholics are in question. By an equally grotesque illusion, most Englishmen have the idea that Catholics base all their religious beliefs on the authority of the Church. And if we pressed them with the difficulty, "Yes, but on what do Catholics base their belief in the authority of the Church? Do they base that on the authority of the Church too?" I suspect that most Englishmen would reply, "Of course." These people are Catholics, therefore any reason or no reason is good enough for them. They are a race apart, ogres, not men.

Let me then, to avoid further ambiguity, give a list of certain leading doctrines which no Catholic, upon a moments reflection, could accept on the authority of the Church and on that ground alone.

(i.) The existence of God.
(ii.) The fact that he has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.
(iii.) The Life (in its broad outlines), the Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(iv.) The fact that our Lord founded a Church.
(v.) The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.
(vi.) The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church believes.

I do not say that these considerations are present to the mind of every Catholic, however ignorant, however stupid. I do say that these are the considerations which any Catholic teacher would put before him, if and in so far as he showed any curiosity about the matter. I would add that a glance at the Penny Catechism will disabuse any unbiased mind of the idea that the Church, even in dealing with simple folk, conceals from them the intellectual basis of their religion.

Yet the average Protestant persists in believing that the attitude of the Church towards the human intellect is adequately summed up in the phrase, familiar to us from childhood, "Open your mouth and shut your eyes." It is supposed that anybody who is brought up as a Catholic retains, without any further questioning or instruction on the point, the pious credulity with which he accepted all that his mother told him, all that the priest told him, when he was too young to think for himself. Any dawning doubts as to the sufficiency of such a motive for belief are crushed, we must suppose, with threats of hell and excommunication. This would be extraordinary enough, considering the number of Catholics there are in the world and the ample opportunities they have for being infected, in a world like ours, with the germs of unbelief. But, still more extraordinary, this Church, which has no proof of anything she says beyond her own bare assertion, is making converts, in an enlightened country like ours, at the rate of some twelve thousand in the year. How does she manage (one wonders) to play off her confidence trick with such repeated success?

This is, indeed, a phenomenon at which non-Catholics profess to feel the utmost astonishment. But it is a kind of astonishment which has grown blunted by usage; they have come to regard it as part of the order of things that their neighbours should become the victims, now and again, of this extraordinary tour de force. If they were compelled to picture to themselves the process of a conversion, they would, I suppose, conceive it something after this fashion--that the mind of the inquirer is hypnotised into acquiescence by the crafty blandishments of a designing priest; not by his arguments, for he has none, he only goes on shouting "Become a Catholic, or you will go to hell!"; not by his arguments, but by some fatal quality of fascination, which we breed, no doubt, in the seminaries. In a dazed condition, like that of the bird under the snake's eye, he assents to every formula presented to him, binds himself by every oath that is proposed to him, in one openmouthed act of unreasoning surrender. After that, of course, pride forbids him to admit, so long as life lasts, that the choice so made was a mistaken one; besides, one knows the power these priests have. Yes, it is very curious, the power attributed to these priests. When you have had the privilege of assisting at their education for seven years, you feel that "curious" is too weak a word for it.

This is, presumably, what Protestants have in mind when they represent submission to the Church as a form of "intellectual suicide." They mean that the act of faith which a man makes in joining the Church is an act of the will (or, more properly speaking, the emotions) in which the intellect plays no part. It is an entertaining fact, familiar to all who are acquainted with the history of Protestantism, that one of the earliest and one of the fiercest controversies between the Reformation and the Old Religion was concerned precisely with this point. It was, of course, the Protestants who maintained the view that faith was an act of the will (or, more properly speaking, the emotions), with frequent allusion to the misunderstood text, "With the heart man believeth unto salvation"; whereas their Catholic opponents earned bitter hatred by insisting that the act of faith, however much directed by the will, had its seat in the intellect. Historically, Protestantism is committed to the notion that the act of faith is the mere surrender of a personality to a Personality, without parley, without deliberation, without logical motive. The true representative of Protestantism in the modern world is the Salvationist who stands up at a street corner and cries out "I am saved." It is Catholicism which insists that, ideally at least, it is the intellect which must be satisfied first, the heart afterwards.

Nor, in point of fact, has modern Protestantism any right to tax us with exalting faith at the expense of reason. It was only the other day that I read an able defence of Theism by an Anglican philosopher who appeared to demand faith of some kind as a preliminary to accepting the doctrine of God's existence. No Catholic apologist ever fell into so grotesque an error. We demand, indeed, on the part of the inquirer certain negative dispositions, as, an absence of prejudice and of frivolity, a willingness to listen and to attend, determination in carrying an argument to its logical conclusion, etc. But to demand of the inquirer any positive "will to believe" as the condition of accepting the existence of God, is to beg the whole question, to stultify the whole process of philosophical discussion. Nobody who will take the trouble to look at any manual of Catholic apologetics, will fail to understand that several of the questions most controverted to-day do not fall, from the Catholic point of view, under the object of faith, at least primarily. They are matters upon which we have to make up our minds beforehand, logically speaking, as a condition of making any act of faith at all. And when I say "make up our minds," I mean, not a mere decision of the will, but a satisfaction of the intellect. The existence of God, the authority of Christ, and so on, are beliefs which meet us and have to be dealt with before we get on to the act of faith at all; they are the preambles of faith, the motives of credibility. And we have to deal with them by a reasoning process, which throws the responsibility for our decision, not upon the authority of the Church, but upon our own private judgment. Every convert, when he goes under instruction, has to follow these arguments to the best of his ability. Nor is it only for the sake of converts that we insist upon this intellectual duty. A class in "apologetics" is part of the normal curriculum of a Catholic school. Catholic boys are learning to defend the existence of God at an age when you and I, reader, were dismally memorising facts about the career of Jehoshaphat, and geshing our teeth on the South Galatian theory.

When you have contrived to persuade him that, for Catholics, the authority of the Church in matters of faith is not a self-evident axiom, but a truth arrived at by a process of argument, the Protestant controversialist has his retort ready. "You admit, then, after all," he says, "that a man has to use his own private judgment in order to arrive at religious truth? Why, then, what is the use of authority in religion at all? I had always supposed that there was a straight issue between us, you supporting authority and I private judgment; I had always supposed that you criticised me for my presumption in searching for God by the light of my imperfect human reason; it proves, now, that you are no less guilty of such presumption than myself! (Does this sound oddly familiar Mr. Swan?)

Surely your reproaches are inconsistent, and your distinctions unnecessary. If you use your private judgment to establish certain cardinal points of theology, the existence of God, the authority of Christ, and so on, why may not I use my private judgment to establish not only these, but all other points of theology--questions such as the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, or the Real Presence in the Eucharist? You can hardly blame me for using the very privileges which you have just claimed so eagerly for yourself."

I could not have imagined, if I had not heard it with my own ears, the accent of surprise with which Protestants suddenly light upon this startling discovery, that the belief we Catholics have in authority is based upon an act of private judgment. How on earth could they ever suppose we taught otherwise? I say nothing here of the grace of faith, which is the hidden work of God in our souls. But how could the conscious process by which we arrive at any form of the truth begin without an act of private judgment? I may, indeed, overcome by a kind of emotional crisis, surrender myself unreflectively to an influence imaginatively experienced; but that is not Catholicism, it is Protestantism; it is "conversion" in its crudest form. If I employ my reason at all; if I employ my reason only so far as to say "The Church says this, and the Church is infallible, therefore this must be true," even so I am using private judgment; it is my own reason which draws its conclusions from the syllogism. Reject private judgment? Of course Catholics have never rejected private judgment; they only profess to delimit the spheres in which private judgment and authority have their respective parts to play. Is it really so difficult to see that a revealed religion demands, from its very nature, a place for private judgment and a place for authority? A place for private judgment, in determining that the revelation itself comes from God, in discovering the Medium through which that revelation comes to us, and the rule of faith by which we are enabled to determine what is, and what is not, revealed. A place for authority to step in, when these preliminary investigations are over, and say "Now, be careful, for you are out of your depth here. How many Persons subsist in the Unity of the Divine Nature, what value and what power underlies the mystery of sacramental worship, how Divine Grace acts upon the human will--these and a hundred other questions are questions which your human reason cannot investigate for itself, and upon which it can pronounce no sentence, since it moves in the natural not in the supernatural order. At this point, then, you must begin to believe by hearsay; from this point onwards you must ask, not to be convinced, but to be taught." Is it really so illogical in us, to fix the point at which our private judgment is no longer of any service? Are we really more inconsistent than the bather who steps out cautiously through the shallow water and then, when it is breast-high, spreads out his hands to swim?

But there is a subtle and a more telling variation of the same argument. The strength of a chain, we are reminded is that of its weakest link. We Catholics profess to establish the truths of religion by a chain of argument; this chain, then, is no stronger than the weakest link in it. How is it that we profess to hold with absolute certitude the revealed truths of our religion? Reasonable enough to say that if your Church is infallible, the doctrines which she preaches are evidently true, and capable of producing absolute certitude in the mind. But the infallibility of your Church is not a self-evident axiom; it is a proposition which you have proved, and proved it by an appeal to ordinary human reason. Is it not clear, then, that in the last resort every statement which your Church makes rests upon the validity of the arguments by which, in the first instance, you proved your Church infallible? Now, these arguments, based as they are upon human reason, do not convey absolute certitude to the mind; they may be, in your view, overwhelmingly probable; nay, they may be certain with all human certainty; but human certainty is not absolute certainty. There is always a possible margin of error. You cannot prove the existence of God, the authority of Christ, or his commission to his Church, beyond all possibility of doubt; how then can you suppose that you have proved beyond all possibility of doubt the statements which you receive on the Church's authority?

To escape this dilemma, Catholic apologists have frequently used a metaphor which seems to me, I confess, singularly unfortunate. They tell us that the motives of credibility by which we establish the Divine origin of the Church, and her teaching office, are like the scaffolding which is put up while a building is being erected; once the building operations are complete, the scaffolding is unnecessary; it has served its turn, and we pay it no further attention. Now, theologically speaking, that metaphor will pass well enough; they mean that the true motive of our belief, seen on its supernatural side, is the infallible veracity of God in his revelation. But for purposes of apologetic, we shall employ such a metaphor in vain. Our critics will not be slow to point out that we erect a building inside the scaffolding, not on the top of the scaffolding; and if we did erect a building on the top of our scaffolding, we could not take the scaffolding away without letting the building fall to the ground. Our own parable has been turned against us.

It will be better to avoid the metaphor, and to keep in mind the distinction just mentioned. The motives of credibility, satisfying his intellect, bring the inquirer up to the point of making the act of faith. That act recognises God's authority in the Church's teaching; and the absolute nature of his authority does make all the difference to the kind of certitude with which, thenceforward, he holds the truths of Catholic doctrine. But this is inherent in the act of faith, not in the chain of proof by which the Catholic claim is established. Having made the act of faith, he cannot produce more or better arguments to convince his neighbour than he could have produced before. Apologetically, then, revealed truths have no higher certitude than the arguments by which the fact of revelation is established. The revealed proposition that there are Three Persons in the Blessed Trinity is not, apologetically, more certain than the statement (established in the first instance by private judgment) that our Lord left the charisma of infallibility to his Church.

The Catholic claim does not profess to be based on a mathematical certainty. The proposition "Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another" is evident in the sense that the contrary proposition is unthinkable. The proposition "Jesus of Nazareth suffered under Pontius Pilate" is not evident in that sense; the contrary proposition, in this case, does not defy our thought. In historical statements (and every revealed religion must depend, in the last resort, upon an historical statement) the highest kind of certainty you can attain is that which excludes reasonable doubt. That is the kind of proof which Catholicism claims for those preliminary considerations which it calls "the motives of credibility." And consequently no point of Catholic doctrine can claim anything better than this historical kind of proof. The absolute certainty with which we believe the teaching of the Church comes to us from the supernatural grace of faith, which transforms our reasoned conviction into a higher quality-- the water, as at Cana, is turned into wine. But for apologetic purposes a reasoned conviction is all we can offer to our neighbours; and it is this reasoned conviction which the present thesis attempts to maintain.” [Emphasis Added]
The Belief of Catholics. Garden City, NY: Image Books (1958), pgs 35-42. An internet version of the entire book may be found here.

Before I go on, I thought it would be appropriate to mention the difference between certitude and infallibility because your comments to me suggested that you may be confused there as well. Here is John Henry Newman to offer his expert opinion on that subject:

"It is very common, doubtless, especially in religious controversy, to confuse infallibility `with certitude, and to argue that, since we have not the one, we have not the other, for that no one can claim to be certain on any point, who is not infallible about all; but the two words stand for things quite distinct from each other. For example, I remember for certain what I did yesterday, but still my memory is not infallible; I am quite certain that two and two make four, but I often make mistakes in long addition sums. I have no doubt whatever that John or Richard is my true friend, but I have before now trusted those who failed me, and I may do so again before I die.

"A certitude is directed to this or that particular proposition, it is not a faculty or gift, but a disposition of mind relative to the definite case which is before me. Infallibility, on the contrary, is just that which certitude is not; it is a faculty or gift, and relates, not to some one truth in particular, but to all possible propositions in a given subject-matter. We ought, in strict propriety, to speak not of infallible acts, but of acts of infallibility....I am quite certain that Victoria is our Sovereign, and not her father, the late Duke of Kent, without laying any claim to the gift of infallibility....I may be certain that the Church is infallible, while I am myself a fallible mortal; otherwise, I cannot be certain that the Supreme Being is infallible, until I am infallible myself...[.]

From The Grammar of Assent, pg. 224.

I apologize for throwing quotes at you from the above passages, but I felt it appropriate in light of the topic to make use of the Magisterium, albeit in the ordinary non-fallible sense, to dispel your misapprehensions. Perhaps you have gotten such ideas from other Catholic apologists who tend to argue from extremes in response to the extreme views often taken by Protestant apologists as to Catholicism itself. However, given the fact that you puffed up by intimation my comments to suggest that I believe in such extremes about the role of the Magisterium, I tend to suspect that you got such ideas in your head based on what your own folk misrepresent about Catholicism as opposed to anything you have been told by Catholics.

In addressing your demand for “show and tell,” I must begin by noting that the underlying premise to your queries is that we Catholics believe and present to the world that the unity of the Catholic Church is derived from some sort of naked-mole-rat, hive mind, lock–step collective agreement on every what our doctrines all mean is as genuine as a three dollar bill. In argumentation, that is called a strawman. While I admit that the use of a “strawman” definition of unity to demonstrate the falsity of Catholicism is perhaps a clever way to save face in a losing argument, it actually does quite little in the way of attempting to refute the Catholic notion of unity itself, and even less in demonstrating the superiority of the Protestant notion of “private judgment,” so-called. In fact, it is as futile as Satan quoting Scripture to the “Word Made Flesh.”
I have now made the charge, and a charge it is, it is now incumbent upon me to carry the burden of persuasion and lay before you my proofs. Mind you~ if I fail to give you satisfaction here, it will be due to my ignorance and lack of skills and should not be imputed to my Church or its teachings. I do not presume to be authoritative, rather I tend to prolixity. Nevertheless, I believe it necessary to put to rest the lie underlying your complaint against the Catholic Church.

1700 years ago, St. Cyprian of Carthage testified of what unified Catholicism actually is:

“If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, I say unto you, that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed nay sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained; yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her. Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?” “On the Unity of the Church” 4.

Unified Catholicism is adhering to the authority of the Church to teach. Catholics find unity in our dogma. We find unity in our creeds. We find unity in the Mass and in our sacraments. As witnessed by Lactantius, another early Church Father:

"The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of faith, this the temple of God; if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, and these will be lost forever unless their interests be carefully and assiduously kept in mind" (Divin. Inst. LV 30:11-12).

While some of the words have changed over the 20 centuries that the Mass has been said, you will find that the essential doctrines of the Church expressed in the Mass haven’t changed since St. Paul first described the Mass in 1 Corinthians, which is in accord with the command Our Lord gave at the Last Supper. Further, I would ask you to note at other written authorities as well. Look at the description of the Mass given in the Didache 9,10 and 14 , by St. Justin Martyr in his Apologies, by St. Hippolytus in his “Apostolic Tradition,” in St. Serapion’s “Euchologion.” Compare the liturgies of SS. James, Mark, Basil, John Chrysostom, Addai & Mari and the old pre-Tridentine Latin rite with Novus Ordo Mass or the Tridentine forms used today. There is no difference in the essentials whatsoever. So little of substance has changed in the older forms of the Mass, our Eastern Churches still use these liturgies to this day. Also, look to at the anphora, the hymns and chants that we still sing to this day; the prayers written in the catacombs; and many of the sacramentals still used in daily devotional practice. Further, look at the Apostolic Succession, the lines of bishops, some of which can trace the history of their sees back to the churches talked about in St. Paul’s letters. These things all point to a factual, historical unity that can not be denied.

Now you will object and raise the example of the sedevacantists; or wax on about some dissenting liberal Catholic politicians, such as the arch-accomplices to fetal murder, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Joseph Biden; or point out a renegade theologian or two such as Garry Wills or Hans Kung; or even the recent small matter between David Armstrong and Robert Sungenis to show that there is no unity in Catholicism. The problem is you conflate the Church’s infallible authority to teach with its fallible temporal authority to discipline. To my knowledge, the Catholic Church has never claimed to be infallible in disciplining its members. Only Protestants claim that the Catholic Church does. Such notions may satisfy your co-religionists, but what good does it do to disprove a lie?

Given the context of your “show us” ’es that you raised, I am hazarding a guess that you want me to show you my certainty as that the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church are correct. Well, I must confess, I am not infallible; and, given that I am sinful, imperfect human being, the best I could ever do is to offer you proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which for a lawyer is good enough to win in any court of competent jurisdiction of which I am aware, except perhaps in the court of anti-Catholic opinion. Yet, I acknowledge that no matter my best efforts, or the best efforts of any Catholic apologist, we could never prove any matter of faith with the absolute certainty you insist.

And this illustrates a double standard that Protestants, such as yourself, apply to Catholics all the time. While you demand that I provide you with some sort of show of “absolute certainty” as to veracity and certitude of Catholic teachings, you, on the other hand, ask me to accept your doctrines based on your say-so or more to the point, your fallible “private judgment.”

One of your creedal statements proclaims:

"The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:10).

This is all fine and good, but tell me how does the Holy Spirit act as the “supreme judge”? Show me His rulings in your disputes over the interpretation of Scripture and doctrines. Show me the Bet Din ha-Gadol or supreme court where He renders His decisions. Is it in Geneva? Westminster? Wittenberg? The Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church? Or does He speak to Protestant leaders as a bath kol as He allegedly did in disputes between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai over the interpretation of Scripture? Show me how He adjudicated the dispute over the Real Presence between Fr. Luther, Oecolampadius and Zwingli. Or was that dispute not important enough for the Holy Spirit to bother with? Show me how He has resolved the Protestant disputes one occasionally sees on the internet over whether Catholics are even Christians. Most Protestants consider High Church Anglicans as “brothers in arms.” Yet even though such folk believe in most of the same doctrines as I, many Protestants (I do not know how you come down on the issue) would deny me the appellation of Christian because I follow a pope despite the fact that in your system, even man is his own pope.

In short, is it not incumbent on you to show me your certainty before you deny mine. How can you say, “Let me cast out the speck in thy own eye” (Mt. 7:3-5) when you have not cast the beam from your own eye.

And to be frank, Protestants give lip service to the notion of sola scriptura, but the dirty secret is that the notion of freedom of conscience which your pal Turretinfan so lately trumpeted in his series of posts celebrating his disdain for Christmas is demonstrative that you actually value being your own pope much more than unity or certainty of doctrinal truth in any matter.

Now as I have pointed out, it is dogma as the documents of Vatican II make abundantly clear, that each person has the “freedom of conscience” to assent to what they believe. As I noted acknowledged through my reference to Father Knox, the authority each of us assent to is a personal one. What happens after that decision is exercised is where we part ways.

For the Protestant, no matter how much he cries, “I believe in the Bible as the ultimate authority,” the final decision in what he actually believe in rests upon himself. Contrary to what you claim, it is not the Bible that decides what you believe, you decide what it means. You decide what each bible passage means. You decide which doctrines you are going to follow. You decide in the exercise of your “Christian liberty” whether to obey your church leaders. You are your own pope, your own supreme court. It is all about you. Instead of Theism, there is a danger that a Protestant will adhere to a kind of “me-ism.” Further, I find it fascinating that the Catholics, so-called, you point to as your proof of disunity in the Catholic Church all profess a kind of me-ism too.

When a Catholic decides to assent to the authority of the Church, it is not about himself. When I assented to be a Catholic, I agreed to believe in the Word of God as interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium and Tradition. I agreed to submit my judgment to that of the Church. If I, in the study of the Scriptures, come to a different conclusion than what my Church holds, I conform my decision to match what the Church holds to be true. Unlike Luther, I do not contend that popes and councils have erred; rather, I, a sinner, assume that I have. When the Church tells me that I erred, I agree to accept its pronouncements. Once I assented to be subject to the authority of the Church, it would be incongruent for me to take my private judgments over the judgments of the Church.

You said: But Wait! There's small print (Mr. Hoffer, your job requires you to scrutinize the small print).

The small print tells us Roman Catholics have a wide range of freedom to interpret things however they want to, as long as it does not contradict official teaching. The small print tell us very little of the Bible has an infallible interpretation, thus giving Roman Catholics the freedom of interpretation on 99.9% of the Bible. The small print tell us even with infallibly defined dogma, those dogmas are open to interpretation. Even verses allegedly infallibly defined can still be open to interpretation.

My Response: Actually, this would not be “small print” like in a contract, but more like instructions in a warranty. The Church has always taught what you state. It is true that this aspect of our right to exercise private judgment is not discussed very often, probably because Catholic apologists are busy refuting Protestants who are usually are attacking other aspects of the authority of the Church. When we do state that we have the right to exercise private judgment within the parameters that the Church sets down, Protestants act with incredulity and exclaim that they don’t believe that we have the freedom to exercise such judgment. Hopefully, you can lead the way with your co-religionists and correct their misapprehensions.

Now let’s lay some groundwork on why Catholics believe that we need a Magisterium.

The formal rule of the Catholic faith is as follows:

Our Christian faith is grounded upon the Word of God, which is divinely inspired and thus is infallible.

The certainty of the Catholic faith follows from this formal rule of faith.

However, for Catholics that is not the end. It is useless to know that the Word of God is inspired and infallible unless there someone who can identify what the Word of God is, what truths it contains and how those truths should be applied to one’s faith and life. In sum, the Word of God must be interpreted.

A this time, I call St. Francis de Sales to the stand:

Since this [formal] rule not regulate our faith save when it is applied, proposed and declared, and since this may be done well or ill,----therefore it is not enough to know that the Word of God is the true and infallible rule of right-believing, unless I know what Word is God's, where it is, who has to propose, apply, and declare it. It is useless for me to know that the Word of God is infallible, and for all this knowledge I shall not believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God, unless I am certified that this Word is revealed by the heavenly Father: and even when I come to know this I shall not be out of doubt if I do not know how this is to be understood,----whether of an adoptive filiation in the Arian sense, or a natural filiation in the Catholic.

There is need, then, besides this first and fundamental rule the Word of God, of another, a second rule, by which the first may be rightly and duly proposed, applied, and declared. And in order that we may not be subject to hesitation and uncertainty, it is necessary not only that the first rule, namely, the Word of God, but also the second, which proposes and applies this rule, be absolutely infallible; otherwise we shall always remain in suspense and in doubt as to whether we are not being badly directed and supported in our faith and belief, not now by any defect in the first rule, but by error and defect in the proposition and application thereof. Certainly the danger is equal,----either of getting out of rule for want of a right rule, or getting out of rule for want of a regular and right application of the rule itself. But this infallibility which is required as well in the rule as in its proper application, can have its source only in God, the living and original fountain of all truth. Let us proceed.

Now as God revealed His Word, and spoke, or preached, by the mouth of the Fathers and Prophets, and at last by His Own Son, then by the Apostles md Evangelists, whose tongues were but as the pens of scribes writing rapidly, God thus employing men to speak to men; so to propose, apply, and declare this His Word, He employs His visible Spouse as His mouthpiece and the interpreter of His intentions. It is God then Who rules over Christian belief, but with two instruments, in a double way: (1) by His Word as by a formal rule; (2) by His Church as by the hand of the measurer and rule-user. Let us put it thus: God is the painter, our faith the picture, the colours are the Word of God, the brush is the Church. Here then are two ordinary and infallible rules of our belief: the Word of God, which is the fundamental and formal rule; the Church of God, which is the rule of application and explanation. (The Catholic Controversy. Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books (1989) pgs. 83-85)

How then does God use His Church of God to rule over Christian belief? Again, St. Francis de Sales explains:

The Church, the rule of application, expresses herself either in her universal body by a general belief of all Christians, or in her principal and nobler parts by a consent of her pastors and doctors; and in this latter way it is either in her pastors assembled in one place and at one time, as in a general council, or in her pastors divided as to place and time, but assembled in union and correspondence of faith; or, in fine, this same Church expresses herself and speaks by her head-minister. And these are four explaining and applying rules of our faith;----the Church as a whole, the General Council, the consent of the Fathers, the Pope.

Other rules than these we are not to seek; these are enough to steady the most inconstant. But God, Who takes pleasure in the abundance of His favours, wishing to come to the help of the weakness of men, goes so far as to add sometimes to these ordinary rules (I refer to the establishment and founding of the Church) an extraordinary rule, most certain and of great importance,----namely, miracles----an extraordinary testimony of the true application of the Divine Word.

Lastly, natural reason may also be called a rule of right-believing, but negatively and not affirmatively. For if anyone should speak thus: such a proposition is an article of faith, therefore it is according to natural reason:----this affirmative consequence would be badly drawn, since almost all our faith is outside of and above our reason. But if he were to say: this is an article of faith, therefore it cannot be against natural reason:----the consequence is good. For natural reason and faith, being supported on the same principles, and starting from one same author, cannot be contrary to each other.

Here then are eight rules or faith: Scripture, Tradition, the Church, Councils, the Fathers, the Pope, miracles, natural reason. The two first are only a formal rule, the four following are only a rule of application, the seventh is extraordinary, and the eighth negative. Or, he who would reduce all these rules to a single one, would say that the sole and true rule of right-believing is the Word of God preached by the Church of God. Id. , pgs. 85-87.

We both know, whether you will admit it or not, that the Word of God is not so clear and perspicuous that people can not misinterpret it. Man is ever looking at things in new ways, coming to new conclusions, coming up with new ideas. Studying the Word of God is no different.

As Fr. Knox wrote in the previously quoted, The Beliefs of Catholics:

“I do not mean to suggest ... that biblical study, unguided by any beliefs in the doctrines of a teaching church, is certain to lead men to the wrong conclusions. I mean that such study is humanly certain to lead different men to different conclusions, even on subjects of the highest moment.”

St. Jerome was a bit more direct:

“And let them not flatter themselves if they think they have Scripture authority for their assertions, since the devil himself quoted Scripture, and the essence of the Scriptures is not the letter, but the meaning. Otherwise, if we follow the letter, we too can concoct a new dogma and assert that such persons as wear shoes and have two coats must not be received into the Church.” Against the Luciferians 28.

Here is what St. Hilary of Poitiers, everyone’s favorite proto-Protestant, if the number of times Protestants like to quote him is any indication, wrote:

“For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible?” On the Trinity, 2:3.

I, as a Catholic have every confidence in Scripture. I do not have confidence in the ability of fallible men by themselves to "rightly divide the word of truth.” Fortunately, God gave us the Magisterium to help “rightly divide the truth.”

You wrote: This just stinks. I will continue to point out this double standard as long as there is breath in my body. You guys have got to admit your double standard. We’re going to continue to embarrass you.

My Response: Well, I hope I have dealt with your charge of double standard and dispelled the notion that one exists. If anything, it is the Protestants who create a double standard when you demand absolute certainty from us as to the veracity of Catholic doctrines when you do not hold yourselves to that standard. Likewise, it is you that create a double standard when you insist that we distort what Protestants believe and yet Protestant apologists have no qualms from misstating what we believe. Your post to me is full of such misunderstandings.

You wrote: Both DA & Sungenis should be going to their local bishop, and that bishop should be going to the authority above him and so on, until it gets back to your infallible Magisterium. Let your infallible authority tell us which of the Rock ‘Em Sock “Em Robots is right.

First, thank you for your concern about Messrs Armstrong and Sungenis. I am gratified to see an apologist, such as yourself, expressing such sentiments. However, considering that this paper is already 19 pages long, single spaced, I would ask that you first review how the Magisterium operates. There are some very good books out there by Fr. Sullivan and Cardinal Dulles that explain how the Magisterium defines, interprets and clarifies doctrines.

BTW, I find it interesting that you expect the Magisterium to work like an information desk at the local library. Do you know how long it took for the Church to resolve the questions raised by the Arian controversy?

And since you believe that your method of resolving doctrinal disputes works better than the Catholic system, please describe how it would work to make a determination of the matter between Messrs. Armstrong and Sungenis and make it binding on them so that the person on the wrong side of the issue will obey that determination.

You wrote: "If you guys can’t do this, then, I suggest you Mr. Hoffer, start a movement within Catholic apologetics called “Let’s Cease The Double Standards Against Protestants” (LCTDSAP), in fact, we’ll help you over here. You appear to be reasonable person. All we need is a few reasonable Catholic apologists to face the music and admit the Catholic apologetic community has been out of tune with their argumentation for 500 years. You could be….a Catholic apologetics Reformer! You could be the guy who finally says, "enough is enough!" "We have to try a different approach here... we can't keep using a standard that we ourselves don't keep."

My Response: Well here is some testimony that you can’t ignore that disproves your notion.

Pope John Paul II opines:

The unity of the faith, for the sake of which the Magisterium has authority and ultimate deliberative power in interpreting the Word of God written and handed down, is a primary value, which, if respected, does not involve the stifling of theological research, but provides it with a stable foundation. Theology, in its task of making explicit the intelligible content of the faith, expresses the intrinsic orientation of human intelligence to the truth and the believer's irrepressible need rationally to explore the revealed mystery.
To achieve this end, theology can never be reduced to the "private" reflection of a theologian or group of theologians.

The Church is the theologian's vital environment, and in order to remain faithful to its identity, theology cannot fail to participate deeply in the fabric of the Church's life, doctrine, holiness and prayer.

Magisterium Is a Service to the Truth

This is the context in which the conviction that theology needs the living and clarifying word of the Magisterium becomes fully understandable and perfectly consistent with the logic of the Christian faith. The meaning of the Church's Magisterium must be considered in relation to the truth of Christian doctrine. This is what your Congregation has carefully explained and spelled out in the Instruction Donum veritatis on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian.

The fact that the dogmatic development which culminated in the solemn definition of the First Vatican Council has stressed the Magisterium's charism of infallibility and clarified the conditions of its exercise must not lead to the Magisterium's being considered only from this standpoint. Its power and its authority are actually the power and authority of Christian truth, to which it bears witness. The Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 10), is an organ of service to the truth and is responsible for seeing that the truth does not cease to be faithfully handed on throughout human history. Address to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 24 November 1995

Mr. Mark Shea offers the following corroborative evidence here:

“We refer our judgment to the judgment of the Church and check to see if our opinions conflict with what God has spoken through her authoritative voice. If our judgment does conflict, we assume it is our judgment that needs correction, not the Church, which St. Paul calls the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).”

Likewise, Dave Armstrong discusses the notion that Catholics practice a reasoned “private judgment” and that ultimately that decision boils down to a matter of faith here.

Or since you like Mr. Madrid so much, here is a quote from him:

We hold, like our Protestant brothers and sisters, that the act of submission to truth will not constrict and crush, but will free and train us to walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God. The only difference is that the authoritative bearer of truth, say Catholics, is first the Church and, dependent on that Church, the Bible which the Church produced. That is because, as Scripture itself says, the Church is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

To deny this need for submission to the Church is not to achieve freedom but to destroy for ourselves the only pillar and foundation of the truth Christ has given us. I am persuaded that Mormonism, Sweden borgianism, Shirley MacLaine-ism, freedom-of-choice-ism, and all the other fragmented isms and rhetoric of the Imperial Autonomous Self, whether religious or secular, are nothing other than what happens when private judgment is not subject to the apostolic authority of the Church to bind and loose and declare what is and is not the content of the faith. Only by submission to the pillar and foundation God has ordained can we know the truth--and the truth shall make us free.”

Phil Porvaznik and Apolonio Latar have posted on their website a discussion on Catholicism and Private Judgment where they quote Henry G. Graham, a convert to Catholicism from his book What Faith Really Means:

"So far, then, from being debasing or dishonoring to our intellect, we consider the Catholic attitude to be the most beautiful and sublime act of homage to Our Divine Lord; we are honoring and adoring Him Who is the first and essential Truth.

"Renouncing our own judgment! Giving up our freedom! Of course we renounce our own judgment when God has spoken; of course we give up our freedom to believe the opposite of what God teaches. Protestants do the same. A Protestant who believes in the Blessed Trinity because God has revealed it -- does he not renounce his own judgment upon it? A Protestant who believes in Hell or in the Incarnation -- where is his freedom to reject it, without sin? So, if God declares that the Blessed Virgin was conceived Immaculate, or that there is a Purgatory, or that the Holy Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, shall we say, 'I am not sure about that. I must examine it for myself; I must see whether it is true, whether it is Scriptural?' Let who will take upon themselves such a responsibility.

"On matters, indeed that Almighty God has been pleased to leave open questions, we are free to hold our own opinions, and there is a wide field here where discussion is not only permissible, but right and proper, and, it may be, even laudable. Thousands of volumes have been written on such subjects by theologians and priests. In such a sphere they have perfect liberty; the Church allows it. Moreover, not only does the Church allow, but she gladly encourages, the wisest, the most devout and learned of her sons to undertake researches into the mysteries already defined to be doctrines of faith; not, of course, for the purpose of finding whether they are true, but for the purpose of explanation, instruction, edification; of discovering and unfolding to the faithful more and more the inexhaustible treasures of Heavenly truth that lie imbedded in any one of the articles of the Faith.

"The world has been enriched by whole libraries of Catholic theology -- dogmatic, moral, ascetical, mystical, and the rest. To speak, then, of the intellect being paralyzed and of the spiritual faculties being deadened by the 'Romish system' is simply ludicrous. Neither the religious literature of Protestantism, nor the finished product of their spiritual system as seen in the lives of its devotees, is to be mentioned in the same breath with that of the Catholic Church.

"When we speak of private judgment, then, let us be quite clear as to what we mean; it has its uses and it has its abuses. Private judgment, in the sense of compiling a creed for yourself out of the Bible, of accepting this doctrine and rejecting that, of judging what should be and what should not be an integral part of the truth revealed by God -- this, of course, is entirely forbidden, for it is directly contrary to the method of arriving at the truth instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Do people imagine that the Son of God, having revealed a body of truth definite and explicit, eternal and unchangeable, left it to us to cut and carve, and to pick and choose here and there such bits of it as suited our taste? What the better should we be today, what advantage would the Incarnation have brought to us, if, after all, we were still floundering about in doubt and uncertainty?

"Far other is the Catholic conception of Christ's mission. So soon as Our Divine Lord, speaking through the voice of His Church, solemnly declares, 'This is My teaching: this is included in the Revelation I made to the Apostles.' -- what Christian, I ask, or rather, what man that fears God, Christian or not, will dare to hesitate to bow in acquiescence, and say, 'O my God, I believe because Thou hast said it' ? ....

"The use of private judgment, on the other hand, in the sense of an inquiry into the 'motives of credibility,' and a study of the evidences for the Faith, to enable you to find out which is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ -- this is permissible, and not only permissible, but strictly necessary for all outside the Fold who wish to save their souls. But mark well: having once found the true Church, private judgment of this kind ceases; having discovered the authority established by God, you must submit to it at once. There is no need of further search for the doctrines contained in the Christian Gospel, for the Church brings them all with her and will teach you them all. You have sought for the Teacher sent by God, and you have secured him; what need of further speculation?

"Your private judgment has led you into the Palace of Truth, and it leaves you there, for its task is done; the mind is at rest, the soul is satisfied, the whole being reposes in the enjoyment of Truth itself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived....

'Be convinced,' says Cardinal Newman in his great sermon, 'Faith and Doubt' -- 'be convinced in your reason that the Catholic Church is a teacher sent to you from God, and it is enough....You must come to the Church to learn; you must come, not to bring your own notions to her, but with the intention of ever being a learner; you must come with the intention of taking her for your portion, and of never leaving her. Do not come as an experiment, do not come as you would take sittings in a chapel or tickets for a lecture-room; come to her as to your home, to the school of your souls, to the Mother of Saints, and to the vestibule of Heaven.' "

Contrary to what you assert to your readers that we Catholics believe, we do not claim that Catholic Faith is fully written out by the Magisterium. We do not have an infallibly defined bible concordance or official infallible St. Peter the Apostle Bible Commentary (although I do wonder if the Bible is so perspicuous as you believe why there are so many different Protestant concordances and commentaries all saying something different). The Magisterium is silent on a large number of topics and intervenes only when a controversy or necessity demands an authoritative interpretation. Believe or not, we Catholics do believe that the Bible is pretty perspicuous and a large number of things can be discerned using our own reason and knowledge. However, when uncertainty arises, the Magisterium is there to make sure we have not misunderstood.

Furthermore, the testimony of the current Catholic apologists above demonstrate that they are not “out of tune” with what the Church teaches. Rather, your view is the same erroneous view that has been asserted by your predecessors for the last 500 years which has been consistently refuted by Catholic apologists time and time again. Please feel free to give any Catholic who does happen to erroneously assert a position of “absolute certainty” or a kind of unity that is contrary to what the Church teaches my e-mail address and I will be happy to correct them.

Since there already has been one Paul Hoffer who was a reformer (Speratus is Latin for Hoffer), I must respectfully decline your invitation as I would not want to cause confusion.

You wrote: And then, simply argue honestly and point out that Roman Catholics want everyone to accept their authority paradigm as a beginning presupposition. That is, you guys want us to make a leap of faith and accept your unproven beginning faith claim. Sure, you can argue your church is old, and that you have all sorts of cool rituals, and the like. But these arguments that somehow Rome is unified have to stop. They're making you guys look very silly.

My Response: I trust that you have found that I have been arguing this matter honestly and consistently. Furthermore, I have also acknowledge that all authority paradigms are based on beginning presuppositions. I happen to believe based on what I studied thus far, our belief in an authoritative Church is the proper conclusion based on Scripture, history and reason, as well as faith. As far as making leaps of faith and accepting unproven beginning faith claims, I would merely point to history and argue that every heresy was confronted, refuted and defeated by, through, and of the Church. Sola scriptura or private judgment did not turn aside these challenges. The Church used the authority to teach and decide doctrines as Christ gave it.

Finally, while you claim that the argument for an unified Catholicism is silly, can you point to one time in history when sola scriptura, private judgment or one of other Protestant substitutes for papal and magisterial authority actually confuted a heresy?

God bless and thank you for allowing me to participate over on your blog. Despite our differences, I truly do think that you and yours are brothers and sisters in Christ and I do pray that God keeps you and them in the palm of His hand.

I will leave you with some thoughts by John Henry Newman from his Discourses to Mixed Congregations:

It is perfectly true that the Church does not allow her children to entertain any doubt of her teaching; and that, first of all, simply for this reason, because they are Catholics only while they have faith, and faith is incompatible with doubt. No one can be a Catholic without a simple faith, that what the Church declares in God's name, is God's word, and therefore true. A man must simply believe that the Church is the oracle of God; he must be as certain of her mission, as he is of the mission of the Apostles. Now, would any one ever call him certain that the Apostles came from God, if, after professing his certainty, he added, that perhaps he might have reason to doubt one day about their mission? Such an anticipation would be a real, though latent, doubt, betraying that he was not certain of it at present. A person who says, "I believe just at this moment, but perhaps I am excited without knowing it, and I cannot answer for myself, that I shall believe tomorrow," does not believe now. A man who says, "Perhaps I am in a kind of delusion, which will one day pass away from me, and leave me as I was before"; or "I believe as far as I can tell, but there may be arguments in the background which will change my view," such a man has not faith at all. When, then, Protestants quarrel with us for saying that those who join us must give up all ideas of ever doubting the Church in time to come, they do nothing else but quarrel with us for insisting on the necessity of faith in her. Let them speak plainly; our offence is that of demanding faith in the Holy Catholic Church; it is this, and nothing else. I must insist upon this: faith implies a confidence in a man's mind, that the thing believed is really true; but, if it is once true, it never can be false. If it is true that God became man, what is the meaning of my anticipating a time when perhaps I shall not believe that God became man? This is nothing short of anticipating a time when I shall disbelieve a truth. And if I bargain to be allowed in time to come not to believe, or to doubt, that God became man, I am but asking to be allowed to doubt or disbelieve what I hold to be an eternal truth. I do not see the privilege of such a permission at all, or the meaning of wishing to secure it:—if at present I have no doubt whatever about it, then I am but asking leave to fall into error; if at present I have doubts about it, then I do not believe it at present, that is, I have not faith. But I cannot both really believe it now, and yet look forward to a time when perhaps I shall not believe it; to make provision for future doubt, is to doubt at present. It proves I am not in a fit state to become a Catholic now. I may love by halves, I may obey by halves; I cannot believe by halves: either I have faith, or I have it not.

And so again, when a man has become a Catholic, were he to set about following out a doubt which has occurred to him, he has already disbelieved. I have not to warn him against losing his faith, he is not merely in danger of losing it, he has lost it; from the nature of the case he has already lost it; he fell from grace at the moment when he deliberately entertained and pursued his doubt. No one can determine to doubt what he is already sure of; but if he is not sure that the Church is from God, he does not believe it. It is not I who forbid him to doubt; he has taken the matter into his own hands when he determined on asking for leave; he has begun, not ended, in unbelief; his very wish, his purpose, is his sin. I do not make it so, it is such from the very state of the case. You sometimes hear, for example, of Catholics falling away, who will tell you it arose from reading the Scriptures, which opened their eyes to the "unscripturalness," so they speak, of the Church of the Living God. No, Scripture did not make them disbelieve (impossible!); they disbelieved when they opened the Bible; they opened it in an unbelieving spirit, and for an unbelieving purpose; they would not have opened it, had they not anticipated—I might say, hoped—that they should find things there inconsistent with Catholic teaching. They begin in self-will and disobedience, and they end in apostasy. This, then, is the direct and obvious reason why the Church cannot allow her children the liberty of doubting the truth of her word. He who really believes in it now, cannot imagine the future discovery of reasons to shake his faith; if he imagines it, he has not faith; and that so many Protestants think it a sort of tyranny in the Church to forbid any children of hers to doubt about her teaching, only shows they do not know what faith is—which is the case; it is a strange idea to them. Let a man cease to inquire, or cease to call himself her child.


Yours in Christ Jesus,

/S/ Paul R. Hoffer
On the Feastday of St. Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doubting Kaycee

Over on Beggars All, I have been participating in a discussion about St. Louis de Montfort’s book, “Secret of Mary.” One of the individuals there, who goes by the name Kaycee, suggested that Mary “had doubts” about Jesus. In support of her contention, she cited Mark 3:20-21 and Mark 3:31-35. Specifically, in response to a question that a Catholic (?) gentlemen had written, “What makes you think there must be a Biblical basis?” she replied quoting from an unknown version of the Bible:
“I guess maybe because the bible IS the WORD of God, it directly quotes Jesus, it accurately records what the Apostles taught.

On a different note, ever notice, in your 'insufficient' bible that Mary had doubts about Jesus?

Mark 20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." ...

Mark 31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 33And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." [Emphasis added by Kaycee]

Kaycee is not alone in claiming that the Scriptures show that Mary “doubted” Jesus. Type in Mark 3:20-21 and do a search on Google and you will find many Protestants claiming that Mary doubted Jesus’ mission or that she thought he was crazy or that she did not believe in His divinity, etc... This is reflective of the aversion many Protestants have pertaining to anything touching upon the Blessed Virgin, often going to great lengths to distort what little there is stated in Scripture itself about the Blessed Virgin Mary. The problem in making such claims is that Scripture doesn't back them up. In this instance, if Kaycee believes the Scriptures are an accurate reflection of what the Apostles taught (which we Catholics by happenstance also believe as well), then how do Protestants square up their notion that Mary “doubted” Jesus when the Scriptures actually do not record any such thing?

Let’s examine Mark 3:20-21 to see if one could infer that Mary “doubted” Jesus. I will be using the NRSV (2d Catholic Ed.) unless noted otherwise.
Then he (Jesus) went home; and the crowd came together again, so they could not even eat. And when His friends heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they said, “He is besides Himself.”

In contrast to the version of the Scriptures that Kaycee is quoting, the NRSV states that it was his "friends"that tried to seize Him rather than his “family.” Going through the various English versions of the Scriptures I own in print, the Confraternity (1941) says "his own people;" the J.B. Phillips version, "his relatives;" the NAB, "his relatives;" the Jerusalem Bible, "his relatives;" the KJV, "his friends;" the NASB, "his own people;" the Douay, "friends;" Ronald Knox’s translation, "those nearest to him;" and The Interpreter's Bible, "those with him;" Only in the REV and the Good News bible is the word "family" used.

Regardless of whichever version of the Scriptures that one may rely upon, in none of them does the name Mary appear in connection with “friends,” “relatives,” “his own people,” “those nearest to him,” “those with him,” or “family.” Thus, it may be that Jesus’ “friends,” “relatives,” “his own people,” “those nearest to him,” “those with him,” and/or “family” may have had doubts about Jesus, but it is pure supposition that this passage is referring to doubts that Mary may have had when her name doesn't appear anywhere in verses 20-21.

Linking Mark 3:20-21 with Mark 3:31-35 doesn't help. The former group of verses references a separate event from that shown in the latter verses. Additionally, nowhere in Mark 3:31-35 does it suggest that anyone was “doubting” Jesus at all. Thus, Kaycee's view is merely eisegetical at best and disingenuous at worst.

Frankly , it is eisegesis on the part of any Protestant to claim that Mark 3:20-21 demonstrate that Mary “doubted” anything about Jesus, whether it be His mission, His divinity or anything else about Him. To buttress this point, one only need look to other Scripture passages to demonstrate this gross mis-reading of Scripture.

At Lk. 1:26-38 we find the Archangel Gabriel visiting Mary. While that in of itself suggests something pretty spectacular was about to happen to Mary, what Gabriel tells Mary is even more so for he said,
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." [Emphasis added.]

Now, Gabriel is pretty explicit here as to what is going to happen to Mary and what her son, Jesus, is going to be and what He is going to do and accomplish.
And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"

Note Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s greeting. She is not exhibiting doubt. She is not questioning whether God can do such a thing. Rather, she merely inquires HOW God is going to accomplish this great thing since she had not had sexual relations nor was even married for that matter.
And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy,the Son of God.

And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."

Once Gabriel explains how Mary is going to conceive Jesus she responds with an answer that displays no doubt whatsoever. At this point, she is totally accepting of God’s will and says so.
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

And the angel departed from her.

Considering that Mary is told by the Archangel Gabriel that she is going to bear Jesus, the Son of God, as well as what Jesus is going to accomplish, what is there for Mary to doubt? In fact, the Greek words used in verse 38, “ghenĂ²ito moi,” are in the optative mood which is indicative that Mary enthusiastically and joyfully desired to participate in God’s word, not merely willing to submit to it.

Let us go on ... .

At Lk 2. 39-55 we find further irrefutable proof that Mary did not doubt her Son.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." [Emphasis added]

This is nothing less than a revelation from God. Talk about God-breathed Scripture! The Holy Spirit reveals to Elizabeth that the child Mary is carrying is Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. And note what else the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth: that Mary believed in the words spoken by God to her through the Angel Gabriel! In light of this revelation about the complete faith of Mary in God's word, how can Kaycee or any other Protestants out there, suggest in good conscience that Mary doubted?
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever." [Emphasis Added]

Mary’s Magnificat demonstrates beyond all cavil the completeness of the faith she had in God and His plan of salvation. The words she spoke do not suggest that she had any doubts. In fact, her statement of faith leaves no room for doubt at all.

At this point, I could rest my case and sit down, but there is even more evidence to consider.

Luke’s account of the Nativity of Our Lord, an event that a Calvinist e-apologist, who goes by the sobriquet of Turretinfan, in exercising his Christian Liberty feels is not worthy of celebration whatsoever, we find the following:
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart(Lk. 2:9-19). [Emphasis Added]

As verse 19 shows, Mary treasured all of the things revealed about her son in her heart. There is nothing suggested that Mary had qualms about her son in the text set forth above.

Likewise, the Scriptures later recount what happened when Joseph took his family to the Temple in Jerusalem so Mary could be purified and Jesus be circumcised. The following is recorded:
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to thy people Israel."

And his father and his mother (Joseph and Mary) marveled at what was said about him (Jesus); and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him(Lk. 2:22-35). [Emphasis Added]
According to tradition, Simeon was the son of the great Pharisee rabban, Hillel, himself. Again we see the Holy Spirit bestowing upon him a great revelation~that the son of Mary will bring God’s means of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. Note Mary’s response: she marveled. Marvel means to cause wonderment or astonishment. Doubt does not enter the picture. There is nothing in the inspired Word of God to suggest that Mary doubted. None whatsoever.

Note, too, after the Holy Spirit’s revelation to him, Simeon’s blessing also contains a prophesy affirming that Mary was linked with Jesus Christ in our redemption (Lk. 2:35). From Simeon's words at Lk. 2:35, we know that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that Mary is actually participating in Christ's redemption of the man through her sufferings. In short, she truly is the "Mother of Sorrows." This very un-Protestant-like verse tells us that Mary indeed is a co-redemptrix. See, John Paul II. Redemptoris Mater n. 16. [Note to the pooh-pooh-ers: We see St. Paul saying something similar about his sufferings at Col. 1:24.]

At Lk. 2: 41-52, we see another instance of Mary pondering the events and words of Jesus in her heart.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. [Emphasis Added]

In the Gospel of John, we see Mary take an active role in kick-starting Jesus’ ministry at the wedding feast in Cana.
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him (Jn. 2:1-11) [Emphasis Added]
In this first of many miracles performed by Jesus in His ministry, Jesus actually performs it only after his mother intercedes. Despite Jesus’ first refusal to do anything to help the bride and groom, Mary’s unshakable faith in Him allowed her to order the servants to fill the wine jars. She KNEW that Jesus could and would save the wedding and the reputation of the groom and his family. In fact, as a result of Mary’s intercession, Jesus’ miraculous transformation of water into wine was the sign that caused His disciples to believe in Him. The sort of faith in the power of her Son Mary exhibited here is simply incompatible with any sort of notion that she doubted Him.

Finally, our study of the Scriptures closes with Acts 1:24:
All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Here, the Scriptures make it clear that Mary believed in Jesus and His Gospel for we see her with the Apostles praying and participating in the daily life of the nascent Christian community. Again, there is nothing in the text to suggest that Mary had ever doubted her son, Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, we have examined the Protestant misuse of Mark 3:20-21 as a sort of proof text that Mary had doubts in or about her son, thereby making her unworthy of being the quintessential example of a faithful follower of Jesus Christ which Catholics hold her out to be. I trust that I have demonstrated that nothing of that sort can be discerned from the passage. In fact, the Scriptures which I have put before you, kind reader, demonstrates that Mary was truly the very first witness to Christ’s divine nature and His mission to bring salvation to the world. She truly was the first Christian worthy of being honored as such. Further, I have provided the reader with a review of a passage (Lk. 2:35) which highlights Mary’s participation with Christ in our redemption by virtue of her truly being the Deipara, the Mother of God.

God bless!