While I was trying to finish my next installment of Managing Marian Misogyny, I happened across an article on the Beggars All blog posted by John Bugay entitled Yahweh says no need for a Magisterium in which he argued that the OT did not contain any notion of a Magisterial authority. Of course, such a notion is patently inaccurate as is plainly shown in 2 Chronicles 19:5-11 and Ezra 8:7-8, for example, where a clearly established magisterial teaching authority in OT Israel was used to teach the people how to interpret/understand Scripture and other religious matters. I decided to comment on the premise of that article challenging Mr. Bugay’s assertions with a number of scriptural citations. At that point, Rhology decided to opine on some of my comments in a separate article captioned The super-super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority. Since Rhology’s article was spawned specifically by my comments to the previous article by Mr. Bugay, I offered a response by commenting on it. Apparently, some of my comments struck a nerve with him and he decided to write a sequel, aptly entitled The super-super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority, part two (hereinafter referred to simply as the Sequel or ROUND TWO). While I am hesitant to make a sur-reply fearful that such will generate another sequel from Rhology, I felt it necessary in the end to do so because his arguments are premised on fallacy and misapprehension of what the Magisterium actually is and how it functions.
While this twin-pronged approach to attacking Catholic teachings is a common tactic utilized by some Reformed apologists to highlight the various distinctives which distinguish their particular flavor-of-the-month Protestant denomination from the multitude of Catholic doctrines they do choose to accept, “it is a very bad and stupid one,” to borrow a phrase. Ultimately, the aim of all arguments should be to get at the truth of the matter rather than clouding issues through the use of fallacious reasoning. As I hope to show, the tactics employed by Rhology in ROUND TWO smack of a sort of skeptical rationalism as opposed to a reasoned defense of the basis for our hope. On a more practical level, it is rather hypocritical to claim one hand that logical argumentation should be the measure of truth, and then use fallacious reasoning in its place. I offer this article in the hopes of highlighting Rhology’s errors and sophistry and offer in their place this corrective.
For the ease of reading, I will group the various threads of argument together (Some of the hyper-links are excluded and some of the poor grammar and typos (particularly mine) are cleaned up).
louis said (in a comment made on the Article captioned Yahweh says no need for a Magisterium):
It's almost as if he thinks those scripture passages are perspicuous or something. He also evidently thinks he understands Marbury v. Madison, but unless an infallible interpreter explained it to him, I'm not sure how he can.Paul Hoffer said (in response made as a comment on the same article):
Louis, your comment about perspicuity is ill-placed. There are many doctrines (or at least broad outlines) upon which most Christians can agree. Where the perspicuity of Scriptures falls by the wayside is when there are disputes between Christians as the Scriptures can not arbitrate the dispute. Two people can have sincere differences over the regenerative properties of baptism, paedo-baptism, etc. How does reliance on Scripture help when both parties rely upon them? Fortunately, the Scriptures does point to the fact that through the intervention of God Himself, a magisterial authority was established that people could take such disputes to.Rhology joins the fray now with his own article now. For his opening salvo, he begins with:
Paul Hoffer, your comment about perspicuity is ill-placed.Paul Hoffer queries:
How so? There is nothing in your article that refutes anything that I wrote unless you are claiming some sort of magisterial authority for yourself.Here, Rhology begins to parrot my words:
There are many doctrines (or at least broad outlines) upon which most Christians can agree.PH writes:
Since you do not mock this, I infer that you do agree with my contention that there is much about the Scriptures that is perspicuous, just not everything.Rhology continues:
Where the perspicuity of Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" falls by the wayside is when there are disputes between Romanists of different opinions as the Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" can not arbitrate the dispute.PH responds:
Thank you kindly for making my point for me. A written document, whether it is the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures or a Magisterial document interpreting the Word of God, do not “arbitrate” disputes. Rather, it the Church itself that safeguards and interprets the Scriptures that does the arbitrating.Rhology writes:
Two people can have sincere differences over the (in)errancy of the Scripture, at what point in the development of the unborn baby it's OK to decapitate and dismember the baby, to what extent the Church should have material wealth, etc. How does reliance on Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" help when both parties rely upon them?PH responds:
Let’s test your hypothesis with the Missouri method. SHOW ME as Space Bishop (another commentator remarking on the article) asked where a Magisterial document(s) of the Catholic Church on these two points you raise here that says anything that would allow two people relying upon it have a “sincere” difference of opinion about abortion or what extent the Church should have material wealth.Rhology continues:
One wonders whether Paul will be so quick to tell us that the Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" do point to the fact that through the intervention of God Himself, a super-Magisterial magisterial authority was established to which people could take such disputes.PH writes:
Using the definition of Magisterium as “The Church's active competence, juridically embodied, to prolong by its witness God's self-communicative self-revelation in Christ, which necessarily inheres in the Church (as the eschatologically definitive community of believers in Christ, founded by him as an hierarchical society, empowered by a mission to bear testimony to Christ), and which demands obedience." (Concise Theological Dictionary. p. 268 Burns and Oates, Herder and Herder, New York, London, 1965) one can find the notion of the Magisterium expressed in the NT from a number of passages (citations only and not recitation of the passages so as to not offend either Mr. Bugay or Louis) to support it, to begin with: Mt l6:15, 18; Mt. 28: 18-20; Lk. 10: 16; Acts 15:6-8, 28; Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor 4:15; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 1:13. So rather than relying on my authority, I would rest my case on the Scriptures and how the Church interprets them.Rhology writes:
It must be noted that Catholics do not put the Magisterium over the Word of God, rather the Magisterium is the servant of the Word of God. Its role is to faithfully safeguard the truth about God and his plan for our lives which came to full expression in the teaching and saving work of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. It is not to add to God’s revelation or to subtract from it, only to faithfully interpret and apply it to real life situations (CCC 85-86). The Magisterium fulfills this role under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority. (Thus, bringing up stuff about how some Catholics are disobedient by advocating pro-choice agendas is a red herring.) "Faithful and respectful obedience" to the Magisterium is something presupposed (Cf. Romans 1:5; 16:25-26) as the consent given to belief, is a consent not to what is just the word of men, but rather is held to be the Word of God. See, Lumen Gentium 12 and 25.
And then when there are disputes about what the super-Magisterial magisterial authority says, whether Paul will posit a super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority. And then whether he'll later posit a super-super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority...PH replies:
Unlike Protestantism which holds that each person is his own magisterial authority, we recognize that Jesus is the final arbiter as head of the Church, who is exercising through those that are placed in authority by Him to lead/serve the Church. Thus, the scenario you raise does not occur. If you disagree, prove it that Catholics do not believe in the concept that "the buck stops here."Rhology writes:
What is really ironic is that in this kind of argumentation that Paul uses here and that RC’s (Roman Catholics) ignorantly use all over the place, they echo atheists as well. Here's a recent example:
PH replies:Whateverman said: It matters that other Christians wouldn't agree with your attribution (of God's influence) because that demonstrates the subjectivity of the assertion.
Reliance on an existential appeal to one's own self as one’s own ultimate authority does not impress me as a sound notion as you yourself point out and is as subjective as claiming that God’s influence is a subjective assertion. Besides, such argumentation is not really atheistic, but is more pantheistic as Whateverman is merely saying that as far as he is concerned he is his own god.[Rhology’s] response there [to Whateverman]:
PH responds:You know, there are people who think they can float by Yogic meditation. Their mistaken thoughts of gravity's application does not mean that gravity is subjective. You're making man the measure of truth. I'd recommend making logical argumentation the measure of truth, myself.
Frankly as a person who adheres to the notion of “Contra factum non valet argumentum,” I reject your assertion that logical argumentation is the measure of truth. Christ is the way, the truth and the life. PERIOD. Since the Word of God (Christ Himself) shows as a fact that it is to be interpreted by those placed in authority of His Body, no amount of argumentation will prevail against it.Rhology concludes:
And that's what I'd recommend for our Romanist friends like Paul Hoffer. For one thing, when you argue like an atheist, but you're a theist, and when you denigrate the clarity of what God spoke, just like atheists do, shouldn't that raise a bit of a red flag?PH concludes:
No it doesn’t raise any flags at all. I would suggest to you that parsing the Word of God to come up with your own notions is a far worse denigration than my acknowledgment that while there are many things I do understand in the Scriptures applying the graces God has given me, I do recognize that as a humble sinner, there are things that I do not understand like my namesake points at 1 Cor. 13:9 and that I am thankful to My Lord and Savior Christ Jesus that He gave us the Church in which the magisterial authority rests as an infallible means to gain more understanding of His Word and to grow deeper in my faith.
In this Sequel, Rhology decides to expand upon the remarks set out above and offer additional commentary to some of my comments. Unfortunately, in doing so, he engages in one of Protestantism’ favorite past times, cherry-picking an opponent’s argument and responding to only a distorted version of my argument. I apologize for repeating the statements already made above, but I could not think of a different way to demonstrate Rhology’s egregious misuse of fallacious argumentation to counter the statements I made above. Please note that the statements of mine that Rhology responds to will be bold-faced, the parts he leaves out will highlighted in red and my replies and rebuttals to this new round of remarks will be set off in blue.
Paul Hoffer was kind enough to comment at length on my last post, but unfortunately between his original comment that spawned the aforementioned post and his comments on the post, he forgot his own argument, and ironically in many places ends up affirming my own point. For that, I thank him for tacitly disavowing his argument. I commend the practice, of course, for while it is a common argument, it is also a very bad and stupid one.PH responds:
Sophistry to buttress an otherwise untenable argument will not win the day. Rhology’s verbiage is hardly evidential in nature and neglects to address the point that I made originally: OT Israel had recourse to an official magisterium to interpret Scriptures. Rhology’s apparently loses sight of that fact and to this day has failed to adduce any evidence whatsoever that rebuts my original argument. Instead he engages in the old lawyer trick of “if the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law is against you, argue the facts; if both are against you, abuse opposing counsel.” Rather than addressing the arguments I made, he instead practices a little ad hominem and to abuse me and my argument.Rhology wrote:
Paul Hoffer, your comment about perspicuity is ill-placed.PH replied:
How so? There is nothing in your article that refutes anything that I wrote unless you are claiming some sort of magisterial authority for yourself.Rhology parroting my words originally wrote:
There are many doctrines (or at least broad outlines) upon which most Christians can agree.Rhology now adds:
Paul Hoffer, I'm sorry you didn't understand that I parroted you for a specific reason, that is, to show how the same "problem" of individual fallible interpretation is true for your position as well. Positing a Mag[isterium] only moves the question back a step, which is why I'm saying you'd need a super-super-Mag[isterium] to fix the problem. But then you'd need ANOTHER level back to which to move the question, and on and on unto infinity.PH now adds:
I am glad that Rhology did not parrot my words as an attempt to mock me. For that I am much thankful and take this moment to heartily commend him for treating me as a brother in Christ (although unlike Mr. Bugay, a fellow stalwart of his on Beggars All, I doubt he would ever consider a Catholic “a brother in Christ”). His explanation as to why he makes like a psittacine, however, does not ring quite true as I will show below.
I disagree with Rhology’s question begging statement that the Catholic Magisterium as an interpreter is useless because magisterial statements in turn need an interpreter in order for one to understand them. I do not accept Rhology’s premise because unlike the Scriptures, one can consult the Magisterial interpreter and seek clarification of the decision or interpretation. The Church as the living witness and guardian of the Word of God is limited to examining the text of the Holy Scriptures or previous magisterial documents. The Magisterium continues to speak authoritative and interpret the Word of God and prior Magisterial texts to determine what was meant and will continue to do so until the meaning is clear. Regardless of what some might say, the Scriptures are not self-attesting, not self-authenticating, and especially not self-interpreting. This fact is verified by history. Their veracity are attested through the Church’s constant use of them in the Mass, in the Sacraments and in its prayers. The Church authenticates through its testimony over the centuries that the Scriptures are in truth and in fact the Word of God. Most importantly, they have been interpreted by the Church and those interpretations have been preached to the faithful since Christ founded His Church. There is only One Body of Christ, that is the Catholic Church, and it speaks from one head with one voice which is the voice of Jesus Christ.PH wrote:
This fact is verified by history. The docestists first questioned Christ’s humanity which was responded to by the Ordinary Magisterium. The Arians questioned His Divinity and were answered by the First Council of Nicea. Later, additional misunderstandings about what Nicea held were corrected at the Council of Ephesus and then at the Council of Chalcedon; so on and so forth. While more questions may have arose about the Church’s understanding of Christ’s nature, the Church was able to respond to them and offer additional insight and clarification to assist the faithful.
Moreover, as doctrine was infallibly defined by the Church by a Council or by papal pronouncements, the adherent benefited by such because each time a new benchmark had been established, the adherent could start their inquiry into questions of faith at that benchmark rather than start over with a study of the Scriptures. Certainly one needs to read the Scriptures, but one does not have to decide all over again each time they are read what the Scriptures mean as the Church has already done that for them. Disagreements between adherents who hold different views becomes the means by which doctrines are tested and determined leading to a shared understanding of the what the Church holds thereby leading to greater unity in faith. This is an advantage that those who claim to practice sola scriptura could never have.
One sees this in the law all the time. Over time, the courts defined how promises were kept whether by covenant, promise, debt, or vow. Then because of the notions about the exchange of hostages, notions of consideration began to creep into the legal system. Later, issues over mutual assent, offer and acceptance, and adequacy of consideration, damages or remedies, etc. had to be decided. Nowadays, we attorneys do not have to start over with the days of Justinian’s Code or Charlemagne to understand where the idea of consideration was invented. All we have to do is apply the facts to see whether they meet the elements of contract that have already been argued, weighed, measured and decided over hundreds of years of jurisprudence. If attorneys were bound by some notion of sola scriptura, we would have to start over and decide what constituted the elements of contract, even whether one could enter into something called a contract each and every time before filing a suit.
Yes, new questions arise which require additional clarification, but as a result of adhering to a Magisterial system, we Catholics do not have to re-decide all of the old questions again. While it is true that as a law student I did have to learn all of that old stuff about the history of contract so I could better understand how the law of contract is where it is at today and where and how the law may develop in the future, but the difference is I do not have to re-litigate all of the old questions that have been already decided.
Since you do not mock this, I infer that you do agree with my contention that there is much about the Scriptures that is perspicuous, just not everything.Rhology responds:
Yes, not everything in the Scr is perspicuous. What's really funny about this is that the RC doctrines related to salvation and election and all that are pretty much impenetrable in their internal inconsistency, biblical illiteracy, and tradition-bound-ness. As James White likes to say: Give me Romans 8 anytime over the code of Canon Law.PH replies:
Thank you Rhology for the admission that not everything in the Scriptures are perspicuous. It’s too bad that you have to go off the tracks with your next statement~ more question begging nonsense without any evidence. I must say though that the James White allusion you use is a bit vague. When I googled it, I found where James White made this statement ten years ago in a debate, but I don’t see any more recent reference where he says it or that it is one of his favorites or that he “likes” to makes this particular statement. Perhaps this is something he has shared with you personally or have learned of this through a private revelation of sorts.Rhology, after eating a cracker, rawps:
For what it is worth, as a Catholic I too would say give me Romans 8 over the Code of Canon Law since Romans 8 is part of the Word of God and the Code of Canon Law, is just that, a legal code for governance of the Church. That said being said however, I must ask you what particularly about the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law you feel contradicts of the law of the Spirit that is reflected in Romans 8? Or is this just some bilious rhetoric thrown in? Or are you perhaps working off James White’s reputation to lend your argument an air of Protestant magisterial authority?
Where the perspicuity of Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" falls by the wayside is when there are disputes between Romanists of different opinions as the Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" can not arbitrate the dispute.PH responded:
Thank you kindly for making my point for me. A written document, whether it is the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures or a Magisterial document interpreting the Word of God, do not “arbitrate” disputes. Rather, it the Church itself that safeguards and interprets the Scriptures that does the arbitrating.Rhology now adds:
Through written documents. Thus you bolster my point. Thanks! Also, in oral proclamations, a lot of the time they get written down. Then, see above. Oral proclamations, BTW, are not immune to this. So you need a super-super-super-super-super-super-super-super-super-super-...PH replies:
Why does one need recourse to a super to the nth power authority in order to make a decision IN RESPONSE TO A DISPUTE? And if the parties to the dispute both come into the dispute with an “obedience in faith,” that is an attitude of assent to the teachings of the Church, the parties to the dispute will submit to the decision by the Magisterium rather than breaking off to form their own Church or advocate disobedience to the teachings of the Church.. In short, we need only one Magisterial authority. As St. John Chrysostom puts it, "The Church is thy hope, the Church is thy salvation, the Church is thy refuge." ("Hom. de capto Euthropio," n. 6.)Squawking some more, you wrote:
Two people can have sincere differences over the (in)errancy of the Scripture, at what point in the development of the unborn baby it's OK to decapitate and dismember the baby, to what extent the Church should have material wealth, etc. How does reliance on Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" help when both parties rely upon them?PH responded:
Let’s test your hypothesis with the Missouri method. SHOW ME as Space Bishop asked where a Magisterial document(s) of the Catholic Church on these two points you raise here that says anything that would allow two people relying upon it have a “sincere” difference of opinion about abortion or what extent the Church should have material wealth.Rhology responds to only the statement in bold:
Now you're moving the goalposts. You had originally made PEOPLE AT LARGE the measure of truth, and now you want me to show two Mag docs that disagree. I probably could, and I know Carrie could easily, but that's not what we're discussing.PH replies:
Rhology presents the classic strawman statement here. Take a statement of one’s opponent out of context and then comment on it. Not a good endorsement of the claim that logical argumentation is the measure of truth I think.
Rhology originally gave two examples of how different Catholics could sincerely come to different opinions on what the Magisterium teaches on abortion and to what extent the Church should have material wealth. I merely asked him to show me the magisterial documents upon which he bases his contention. Asking for proof of an assertion is not moving goal posts. It is asking for a little evidence to go with that dash of opinion he tossed into the bouillabaisse he offers us as fare for thought.Molting your feathers to make a real point, you wrote:
Moreover, I would ask the reader to go over all of my comments and see if I ever made people at large the measure of truth. It is true that Rhology accused me of adhering to such a notion, but never did I ever say that. I did say that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and He is the measure of truth. Misrepresenting what another person’s argument is also fallacious just so we are all clear. Like a modern-day Rumpelstiltskin, Rhology is trying to spin some more gold out of straw here.
One wonders whether Paul will be so quick to tell us that the Magisterial declarations and "clarifications" do point to the fact that through the intervention of God Himself, a super-Magisterial magisterial authority was established to which people could take such disputes.PH wrote in response:
Using the definition of Magisterium as “The Church's active competence, juridically embodied, to prolong by its witness God's self-communicative self-revelation in Christ, which necessarily inheres in the Church (as the eschatologically definitive community of believers in Christ, founded by him as an hierarchical society, empowered by a mission to bear testimony to Christ), and which demands obedience." (Concise Theological Dictionary p. 268 Burns and Oates, Herder and Herder, New York, London, 1965) one can find the notion of the Magisterium expressed in the NT from a number of passages (citations only and not recitation of the passages so as to not offend either Mr. Bugay or Louis) to support it, to begin with: Mt l6:15, 18; Mt. 28: 18-20; Lk. 10: 16; Acts 15:6-8, 28; Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor 4:15; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 1:13. So rather than relying on my authority, I would rest my case on the Scriptures and how the Church interprets them.Rhology addresses only the portion in bold:
Unless the Mag[isterium] infallibly interp[ret]ed those Scr[iptures] [passages], you're relying on private fallible interp[retation] in order to prove your position that the Mag[isterium] is necessary to correct for people's private fallible interp[retation]s. Something is ironic about that...I reply:
Of course, Rhology’s smug argument suffers from more question begging as to whether the above referenced scripture passages actually need to be “infallibly” interpreted in order to be understood. Perhaps Rhology can point to a dispute that has arisen among sincere Catholics because they have differing interpretations of the above referenced passages so we can all see the irony that he sees in quoting such. Now, I can point Rhology to the magisterial source (Ordinary) where I got some of my ideas used in responding to Rhology’s comments. It was an oral address entitled The Magisterium, the Bishops, and the Theologians given at a Catholic symposium on the Magisterium by the Most Rev. David M. Maloney, Bishop of Wichita, a holy and learned gentleman who actually assisted in writing some of the conciliar documents at Vatican II.
And while I am it, here are a couple of infallible magisterial sources that do reference these citations listed above which I found without any difficulty in case anyone was wondering (I am sure that I could find many more with a little work):
Mt l6:15, 18 First Vatican Council, Session IV, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Chapter 4., The Infallible “Magisterium” of the Roman Pontiff
Lk. 10: 16 Canon 21 of the Council of Constantinople IV
Acts 15:6-8 This is the scriptural account of the Council of Jerusalem that actually set the pattern as to how the Church is to conduct a council to settle disputes over doctrine.
Acts 15:28 Ditto.
Gal. 4:19 Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, Chapter 1:7.
1 Cor. 4:15 Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, Chapter 3:21, 28
1 Tim. 3:15 Council of Trent, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chapter 1
Redacting a major portion of my argument, Rhology takes the following statement of mine out of context:
2 Tim. 1:13. Pius IX, Exiam tuam on the False Doctrines of Anton Guenther (1857)
It must be noted that Catholics do not put the Magisterium over the Word of God, rather the Magisterium is the servant of the Word of God.Rhology responding only to the boldfaced part:
So why does it get the Gospel wrong? And posit Purgatory? And the Immaculate Conception of Mary? And the Assumption of Mary? And worshiping pictures of dead people? And the treasury of merit and indulgences? And other examples of exceeding what is written all the time?PH replies:
Talk about question begging and strawman argumentation (we do not worship pictures of dead people anymore than Rhology does)! Of course Rumple-rhology’s whole argument is based on the premise that he can actually demonstrate these doctrines as taught by the Church are erroneous. As a Calvinist, Rhology may take issue with the above doctrines, but the question here is whether he can show that Catholics disagree with them after these doctrines or dogmas were defined by the Magisterium. He may link us to a bunch of articles where he and his cohorts address various misrepresentations and misapprehensions about what the Church teaches on these subjects claiming to have refuted them, but he certainly did not do so here.Rhology offers the following quibble to a portion of the statement I wrote, “The Magisterium fulfills this role under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority.” (Thus, bringing up stuff about how some Catholics are disobedient by advocating pro-choice agendas is a red herring):
Since YOU were the one who introduced the idea that a teaching authority is apparently to be measured by the laity's obedience to it, that would be YOUR red herring. And again, thank you for acknowledging that this argument is stupid.PH writes in reply:
No, it is Rhology that introduced the idea that a teaching authority is to be measured by the laity’s response and obedience to it as demonstrated above. Looking at the entire statement I made and not just the cherry-picked squib that Rhology responds to one sees he left out the major thrust of the statement:Setting up the claim that the Catholic Magisterial system is circular, Rhology wrote:
"It must be noted that Catholics do not put the Magisterium over the Word of God, rather the Magisterium is the servant of the Word of God. Its role is to faithfully safeguard the truth about God and his plan for our lives which came to full expression in the teaching and saving work of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. It is not to add to God’s revelation or to subtract from it, only to faithfully interpret and apply it to real life situations (CCC 85-86). The Magisterium fulfills this role under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority. (Thus, bringing up stuff about how some Catholics are disobedient by advocating pro-choice agendas is a red herring.) "Faithful and respectful obedience" to the Magisterium is something presupposed (Cf. Romans 1:5; 16:25-26) as the consent given to belief, is a consent not to what is just the word of men, but rather is held to be the Word of God. See, Lumen Gentium 12 and 25."NOTE that the argument states that “Faithful and respectful obedience to the Magisterium is something presupposed” so Rhology’s ad hominem claim of stupidity is a response to a straw man argument of his own construction that he labors to huff and puff to blow down.
As demonstrated from the entire statement I wrote as opposed to the squibs Rhology presented, I never wrote or even inferred that the teaching authority of the Church is “apparently to be measured by the laity's obedience to it teaching.” Not at all. What I was trying to indicate was that folks who did not give “faithful and respectful obedience” to the teachings of the Church can not be said to be sincere nor really Catholic for that matter.
And since the Church has steadfastly taught since apostolic times that abortion is inherently immoral, evil, and sinful, there is no such thing as “sincere” differences of opinion on this issue. As for the other issue about the Church owning wealth, perhaps Rhology could point us to an actual schism or heresy on that point to see where he going with it as I am not aware of any such thing (I do acknowledge that I am not a know-it-all as to the causes of heresy or schism). If Rhology misunderstood my argument as opposed to misrepresenting it, I hope this little piece of non-magisterial clarification aids his understanding as to the advantage of a Magisterium that can do likewise when misunderstandings occur.
And then when there are disputes about what the super-Magisterial magisterial authority says, whether Paul will posit a super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority. And then whether he'll later posit a super-super-super-Magisterial magisterial authority...PH responded:
Unlike Protestantism which holds that each person is his own magisterial authority, we recognize that Jesus is the final arbiter as head of the Church, who is exercising through those that are placed in authority by Him to lead/serve the Church. Thus, the scenario you raise does not occur. If you disagree, prove it that Catholics do not believe in the concept that "the buck stops here."Rhology now writes:
How do strawmen help the Roman cause? Is it Mag[isterial] teaching that strawmen are the best strategy? Is that in Lumen Gentium too?PH replies:
How does cherry-picking statements and taking them out of context, help your cause? More to the point, how does making a “fallacy fallacy” argument actually advance the aims of argumentation at all? Since I have been accused of fallacy, let us see if that is the case. I have made the claim that each Protestant through the exercise of his own private judgment holds himself up as his own magisterial authority. I will go one step further and state that the practice of private judgment as exercised and abused by Protestants is an exercise in idolatry as the individual places himself above the Word of God instead of being subject to it.
How can I make this claim? I will elucidate:
Let us first define what I mean by “private judgment.” In his book, What Faith Really Means, Bishop Henry Graham, a former Calvinist minister who converted to Catholicism, wrote:
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 embedded 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...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.[N.B.: Please note that the above extract was copied from an excellent article written by Philip Porvaznik entitled On Private Judgment and Catholicism found on his “Evangelical Catholic Apologetics” website. While I own Bishop Graham’s book, I was too lazy to retype the section.]
'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.'"
The eminent 19th century Catholic American apologist, Orestes Brownson, adds:
[P]rivate judgment (in the Protestant sense) is only when the matters judged lie out of the range of reason, and when its principle is not the common reason of mankind, nor a Catholic or public authority, but the fancy, the caprice, the prejudice or the idiosyncrasy of the individual forming it. (Brownson’s Quarterly Review, October 1855).
Basing my argument on the above-referenced understanding of what private judgment is, the problem I have with private judgment is the believer always starts out by accepting some of the teachings of the established faith and rejecting others and then ends up accepting as legitimate the most dissenting or divergent views of others rather than defined teaching. One sees an example of this when Protestant apologists attack Catholic doctrines by quoting from the likes of a Küng, Wills, Greeley, or McBrien rather than from the host of orthodox Catholic theologians, like Ratzinger, Bouyer, Brown, Newman, Knox, Sheen, Congar, Hahn. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “the way of a heretic is to restrict belief in certain aspects of Christ’s doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure” (Summa II-II, 1.a.1).
Seriously, this “selection” and “fashioning” is nothing less than private judgment at work. When truth and falsehood in religion becomes a matter of private opinion, one doctrine becomes as good as another. What right does Rhology have to claim that his view of Calvinism is any better than my view of Catholicism if ultimately it all boils down to our respective opinions. If I have sincerely exercised my private judgment and have decided on those grounds to believe and hold what the Catholic Church teaches, upon what basis could Rhology deny the validity of my decision? How is quoting a couple Scripture passages going to help when I myself are relying upon my own personal interpretations of the same?
Dr. Brownson once more:
The so-called Reformers supposed at first that they could maintain dogmatic religion by means of the Bible, without any divinely authorized interpreter or teacher, for they were not aware at first how much their interpretation of Scripture depended on the tradition of the Church in which they had all been educated. When shown this by Catholics, and shown still further that the Bible, interpreted by tradition, supported the claims of the papacy and the Catholic Church, from which they had separated, they were forced, in order to be consistent with themselves, either to return to the Catholic Church or to reject the traditional interpretation of the written word, and to rely henceforth solely, in their interpretation of the sacred text, on grammar and lexicon. But interpreted solely by grammar and lexicon, it was soon discovered that no uniform and consistent dogmatic system could with any tolerable degree of certainty be educed from the Holy Scriptures. There is no denying the fact. The variations of Protestantism, even during the lives of the reformers, the multiplication of Protestant sects, all appealing alike to the sacred text, and the experience of three hundred and more years, render it indubitable. Hard pressed by their Catholic opponents, Protestants were driven to the sad alternative of either condemning their separation from the Church and returning to her communion, or of giving up dogmatic religion as unessential and falling back on interior feeling or sentiment.And again:
The reformers imagined that they had opposed a truth to the authority of the Church when they asserted the authority of the Bible; but in doing this they only changed the form of their denial. Their assertion of the authority of the Bible was purely negative, simply the denial of the authority of the Church to interpret it or declare and apply its sense. It meant neither more nor less; for the Church asserted and always had asserted the authority of the Bible, interpreted and applied by the divinely instituted court in the case. The Bible, Protestant experience has proved, without the Church as that court, is as un-authoritative as are the statutes of a kingdom or republic, left to the private judgment of the citizen or subject, without the civil court to interpret and apply them to the case in hand. They, then, did not oppose to the Church as the principle of their denial any truth or authority. Nothing but pure denial, historically as well as logically, Protestantism, in spite of every refuge or subterfuge, has reached its inevitable termination - the negation of all authority, external or internal, spiritual or secular, and therefore of all faith, of all objective truth, and of all religion; for the very nature of religion is to bind the conscience, or the obligation of man to obey God.
Brownson, Orestes Augustus, and Henry F. Brownson. The Works of Orestes A. Brownson. Detroit: T. Nourse, 1882, pp. 441-442, 451.
St. Alphonsus Liguori stated things a bit more succinctly:
To reject the divine teaching of the Catholic Church is to reject the very basis of reason and revelation, for neither the principles of the one nor those of the other have any longer any solid support to rest on; they can be interpreted by everyone as he pleases; every one can deny all truths whatsoever he chooses to deny. I therefore repeat: If the divine teaching authority of the Church, and the obedience to it are rejected, every error will be endorsed and must be tolerated.
Council of Trent, Appendix.
When opinion, or private judgment, or to borrow Rhology’s term “logical argumentation,” becomes the measure of truth it is only a matter of time before all doctrinal issues become irrelevant due to the utter subjectivity of one’s own opinion. We hear all of the time the claim that Protestants agree on the “essentials,” yet in all of my years on this earth, I have never seen Protestants actually ever agree on what the “essentials” are. They are protesting something, but they don’t know quite what they are all protesting. Aside from a shared animosity (to one extent or another), Protestants don’t seem to think that doctrinal matters are really all that important unless it happens to be the ones they are opposing. But, that is a post for a different day.Now once doctrine is tossed out (in accordance with the old Protestant “agreement on the essentials” notion) what follows is that morality itself loses its objective character. This truth is so aptly demonstrated by the Protestant tendency to redefine sin as not sin as evidenced by their embracing and celebrating adulterous re-marriage after divorce, contraception, abortion, validation of homosexual relationships as marriages, and clergy who actively engage in homosexual behaviors. Not too long ago, I even read an article where a bi-sexual woman who was promoted to the status of “bishop” in the Protestant Episcopal Church proclaim that abortion is sacramental! Where is Protestant unity on these matters or is redefining what constitutes sin a non-essential matter? I find it personally fascinating what their own Reformers found to damnable sin is now a mere “tradition of man” that can disregarded at will and indulged in. And should our Protestant friends want to raise the issue of the well-publicized clergy abuse scandal, regardless of whatever else they want to say, at least the Catholic Church still declares the actions of those offending clergy to be sinful.
Such attitudes fomented by the Protestant notion of private judgment demonstrate that man, not God, becomes the center of the universe and the criteria for truth. What need does one have for truth, for doctrines, for God when authority is discarded. Anticipating the notion of private judgment as the measure or right or wrong, Satan was only being prophetic when he told our first parents that “Ye shall be as gods” at Gen. 3:5. As I have stated before, private judgment is nothing more than a disguised idolatry where man decides what God teaches as opposed to the other way around. Man lives according to his own lights and only accepts what is true based on what he himself has established through his own “careful” study of Scripture as a way to make Christianity conform to their personal needs and whims.I am sure that Rhology, if he even reads this, will continue to protest that the above argument is a straw man. However, did not Rhology himself say in the FIRST ROUND that logical argumentation should be the measure of truth? That’s idolatry my friends, pure and simple. Using Rhology’s standard for the truth, how then does not private judgment make oneself rather than God the source of truth when it is left to the individual to decide what the Word of God means. The Beggars All folks claim on the pages of their blog to see idolatry behind every Catholic tree, yet are they so blind that they can not see the real thing when strolling through their own Protestant forest? As I stated in the FIRST ROUND above, Jesus Christ is the measure of truth since He is the one Way, the Truth and Life, not logical argumentation.Having waxed on too long, let us get back to the discussion. After writing, “Quoting PH, “Thus, the scenario you raise does not occur.” Rhology then adds this little gem of Christian charity:
“One wonders how you make it work every day with your head stuck that far in the clouds.”PH replies:
I know Rhology did not mean it to be so, but I will take his criticism as a compliment, even a badge of honor. It is sort of interesting, even fascinating, that Rhology accuses me of having my head in the clouds because I actually believe what the Word of God and my Church teaches me. Rhology’s attitude certainly reveals the disguised skepticism at the core of Calvinist thought. BTW, in case Colossians 3:1-5 has been redacted from Rhology’s Bible, here is St. Paul’s view on the subject:
Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.If having my head in the clouds allows me to seek and mind the things that are above, who is Rhology to gainsay me?Rhology quotes me some more, “Besides, such argumentation is not really atheistic, but is more pantheistic as Whateverman is merely saying that as far as he is concerned he is his own god.”
But, back to that private-judgment-is-idolatry thing...Note how St. Paul links certain sinful behavior to idolatry: fornication (divorce and remarriage); uncleanness (openly homosexual clergy); lust (homosexual marriage) –all things which many Protestant denominations have accepted and even embraced into their flavor of Christianity as idolatrous. I wonder how long it will be before they start disregarding the rest of what St. Paul wrote.
Rhology then adds this:
For those who've not spent much time arguing with atheists (as Paul apparently hasn't), atheism IS pantheism and vice versa, esp when it comes to questions of authority. Which makes it worse for him - now the RC position isn't just echoing atheism, but pantheism as well. Wow, have fun with that.PH replies:
The Catholic Church’s position does not echo Atheism or Pantheism at all. If one reads Rhology’s article that he links to, one would see that the anonymous atheist as merely exercising his version of Protestant private judgment when he declares that he is his own god. The atheist is merely exercising his own fallible judgment in deciding what is true.Rhology in preparation of making another straw man argument through reductio ad absurdum redacts a portion of this statement I made:
Now as to the notion that atheism is pantheism, especially when it comes to authority is bunk. It seems to me that Rhology threw it out there as a fluff bunny to make his thoughts sound intellectual. Sure, there is a similarity between the two, systems of thought, but one can find similarity between Protestantism and Atheism as well as both are based philosophically on the premise that man is the final decider of what is true and what is not. But, it has been my experience in discoursing with the few dozen or so atheists and pantheists that have crossed my path that the difference between Pantheism (which boils down to the notion that all men are god) and Atheism (which holds that no man is god) is that atheists, like Calvinists, in the end ultimately do not recognize any higher authority than themselves (regardless of how they try to dress up their claims) as the measure of truth whereas pantheists consult every authority other than themselves looking for truth. Pantheists litter their lives with “authoritative” figures-seers, gurus, teachers, masters, etc.- to obtain insight into the truth. Such people instinctively know in their hearts that they should be looking for God and Christ Jesus, but they simply do not know where to look.
In the end, Catholicism is not like Atheism, Protestantism or Pantheism at all when it comes to authority because Catholics recognize a higher interpretative authority other than ourselves. As I pointed out in the original discussion with Rhology, Jesus Christ is the Catholic’s Way, Truth and Life, not logical argumentation.
Frankly as a person who adheres to the notion of “Contra factum non valet argumentum,” I reject your assertion that logical argumentation is the measure of truth. Christ is the way, the truth and the life. PERIOD. Since the Word of God (Christ Himself) shows as a fact that it is to be interpreted by those placed in authority of His Body, no amount of argumentation will prevail against it.Rhology then offers the following insight:
Ah, then Jell-O has farley bones and the further they 9 the much. That reminds me; maybe we should add this to the long list of confusion and internal dissent within Rome - whether logic is the measure of truth or not.PH replies:
If Calvinists such as Rhology truly believe that logical argumentation rather than the Logos the measure of truth, one must wonder why their apologists have to resort to fallacious tactics of distortion, omission, and fabrication in order to respond to the arguments presented by “Rome.”
Further, it is telling that during the above interaction between Rhology and myself over whether using one’s private judgment is superior to the Catholic doctrine appertaining to the Magisterium, Rhology never once quotes Scripture thereby demonstrating that the Protestant version of “Only a fool is his own lawyer” works no better in apologetics than it does in legal fora.
Rhology’s gibberish statement above epitomizes the arrogance shown by men who fetter God’s Word with their own personal subjective views rather than trust in God speaking through the Church as the criterion of truth. When men make themselves the center of all things, when all truth becomes both subjective and relative, soon thereafter God’s Word is either forgotten all together or becomes as meaningless as the gibberish Rhology spouts. Rhology may call me stupid, but words from a man such as him will never cause me to abandon Christ, my hope and my salvation nor will gibberish comments from such a man ever persuade me that logical argumentation, not Jesus Christ, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Now if Rhology ever gets around to actually defending the notion of private judgment rather than to just denigrating the Magisterium, he will need to address what John Henry Cardinal Newman, yet another Catholic convert with Calvinist leanings and card-carrying member of the Magisterium, wrote in his great work, Anglican Difficulties:In closing, logical argumentation, private judgment, Christian liberty or any other such notions of flawed Protestant thinking can not be the measure of truth because religious truths rely on faith as proof. Truth is a reality that we seek through faith to understand or as some members of the Magisterium put it, “Faith seeking understanding," says St, Anselm or "I believe in order to understand" says St. Augustine. Or as the Scriptures state, “Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.” (Heb. 11:1) Logical argumentation may aid one’s faith, it can never be a substitute for it.
T]he very idea of the Catholic Church, as an instrument of supernatural grace, is that of an institution which innovates upon, or rather superadds to nature. She does something for nature above or beyond nature. When, then, it is said that she makes her members one, this implies that by nature they are not one, and would not become one. Viewed in themselves, the children of the Church are not of a different nature from the Protestants around them; they are of the very same nature. What Protestants are, such would they be, but for the Church, which brings them together forcibly, though persuasively, "fortiter et suaviter," and binds them into one by her authority. Left to himself, each Catholic likes and would maintain his own opinion and his private judgment just as much as a Protestant; and he has it, and he maintains it, just so far as the Church does not, by the authority of Revelation, supersede it. The very moment the Church ceases to speak, at the very point at which she, that is, God who speaks by her, circumscribes her range of teaching, there private judgment of necessity starts up; there is nothing to hinder it. The intellect of man is active and independent: he forms opinions about everything; he feels no deference for another's opinion, except in proportion as he thinks that that other is more likely than he to be right; and he never absolutely sacrifices his own opinion, except when he is sure that that other knows for certain. He is sure that God knows; therefore, if he is a Catholic, he sacrifices his opinion to the Word of God, speaking through His Church. But, from the nature of the case, there is nothing to hinder his having his own opinion, and expressing it, whenever, and so far as, the Church, the oracle of Revelation, does not speak.
The fatal flaw with private judgment is this: while the ability to reason is common to all men, private judgment is the special act of the individual. Private judgment is not called such because it is a judgment of an individual, but because it is a judgment rendered by virtue of a private rule of principle of judgment. What constitutes the truth can never be determined thusly because there is no objectivity. As one critic of private judgment puts it: Father Smarius, S.J., puts it thus:
“Protestants opine that Holy Scripture is Divinely revealed (this cannot be proved without the Church); they opine that it is to be interpreted by each individual for himself; they opine that their opinion as to its meaning will be sufficient for their salvation; and each and every interpretation they make of its meaning (except where no conceivable doubt exists from the text) is no more than an opinion." John Daly. Michael Davies - An Evaluation, Britons Catholic Library, 1989.
"The chief cause of this moral degeneracy may be traced to the principle of private judgment introduced by Luther and Calvin, as the highest and only authority in religion and morality. Since the time of these Reformers, religion ceased to be the mistress, and became the slave of man. He was no longer bound to obey her, but she was bound to obey him. His reason was no longer subject to her divine authority, but she became the subject of his prejudices and passions. The Scriptures although cried up as the supreme authority, lost their objective value, and men no longer listened to the words 'Thus saith the Lord', but gave ear to the freaks and fancies of every upstart prophet and doctor, whose best reason for the faith was, 'I believe so', 'it is my impression', 'it is my opinion'. Reason itself was dethroned, and feeling became the exponent of truth. Men judged of religion as they did of their breakfasts and dinner... new fashions of belief became as numerous as new fashions of dress..." Points of Controversy, O'Shea: N.Y., 1873.When the church in Corinth was in danger of being ripped apart by the exercise of private judgment, St. Paul wrote to them saying:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10)Unless Rhology or any of his co-religionistsMagisterium of the Catholic Church. After all, I can point to some 252 dogmas that have been infallibly defined by my Magisterium. How many dogmas have ever been infallibly defined using private judgment or to use Rhology’s words, logical argumentation?