Archive for the ‘Conciliar Infallibility’ Category

Infallible Interpretations of Matthew 16:18 vs. Each Other

September 10, 2012

As I recently discussed over at the Greenbaggins blog, Rome is not a trustworthy infallible interpreter of Scripture.

For example, Trent stated:

For which cause, this council has thought good, that the Symbol of faith which the holy Roman Church makes use of,–as being that principle wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree, and that firm and alone foundation against which the gates of hell shall never prevail,–be expressed in the very same words in which it is read in all the churches.

(Trent, 3rd Session, Decree on Justification)

That looks like an interpretation of Matthew 16:18, in which the rock foundation is the profession of faith. And it’s not just one of those foundations, but the “alone” foundation.

Then Vatican I comes along and makes the statement:

In order, then, that
the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of
faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and
instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation. Upon the strength of this foundation was to be built the eternal temple, and the church whose topmost part reaches heaven was to rise upon the firmness of this foundation. And since the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the church, make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against its divinely laid foundation, we judge it necessary, with the approbation of the sacred council, and for the protection, defense and growth of the catholic flock,
to propound the doctrine concerning the institution, permanence and nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence of the whole church depends.

(Vatican I, 4th Session, 1st Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Prologue)
And again:

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(Vatican I, 4th Session, 1st Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Chapter 4)
These also look like an interpretation of Matthew 16:18 — one in which the rock foundation is Peter.

Pick a council, pick an interpretation, but both views cannot be right. If both cannot be right, then both cannot be infallible.

-TurretinFan

Waltz, Nicaea and Shea

August 16, 2011

David Waltz (no great fan of mine, if memory serves correctly) has nevertheless provided a helpful two-part post in response to my rebuttal to Shea’s post on Nicaea. Mr. Waltz has, I suspect, read more about the Nicene and early post-Nicene period than most people ever will. So, I appreciate that he took the time to read and comment on my post.

Waltz concedes the central theses of my post, namely that Augustine was referring to the council of Nicaea, and that Nicaea was not properly a “local council.” Once those points are conceded, Shea’s argument is shot. The central, and oft-repeated, premise of Shea’s post was that Augustine was referring to a local council.

One might expect that Waltz would realize that the point of the post was right on the money, and stop there. He did not. I won’t speculate on his motives. After all, a man of his reading may simply have wanted to correct what he perceived to be some errors in my post. For such correction, where appropriate, I am always appreciative.

Let’s consider Waltz’s points:

Waltz corrects some citation and quotation problems in a post by the reader to whom Shea’s post was addressed. While I appreciate Waltz’s attention to details in this regard, I haven’t bothered to confirm these matters, since they don’t seem to have any direct connection to my own post.

Waltz corrects a typo in the name of the editor (“JohnE” should have been “John E”) and pointed out that the quotation actually begins on page 281 (the citation had indicated p. 282). These errors have been corrected in the post. Thanks very much to Waltz for pointing them out.

Waltz next discusses the “little background” I provided with respect to the quotation from Augustine. Waltz writes:

Strictly speaking, TF’s “little background” is deficient, for it fails to accurately portray the historical context of Augustine’s statement. The period between the council of Nicaea in 325 and Augustine’s Contra Maximinum Arianum (427/428) was one of the most contested in the history of the Christian Church; more than 130 councils were convened! (Consult Ramsay MacMullen’s, Voting About God, pp. 3, 4 for the names and dates of the councils—see this thread for information about the book).

Without discussing his precise claims, I willingly concede that my background (which was completely accurate) was nevertheless not as complete a picture as could be drawn. In other words, Waltz has here mistaken the idea of precision (detail) with accuracy. Nevertheless, his error is of little significance, so let us proceed to his next comment regarding the background.

Concerning this turbulent period, Shea is certainly correct when he states that, “the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus“. Directly related to this historical fact is [the] nature and role of the various councils that were held during this period; the understanding that some councils were “ecumenical”, that the “ecumenical” councils were infallible when teaching on faith and morals, and needed to be accepted de fide, was a much later doctrinal development. As such, to write that, “Augustine didn’t share the epistemology of modern Rome“, concerning nature and role of councils convened in 4th and early 5th centuries, is to state the obvious. IMO, TF is pretty much wasting our time here, for even Shea is in agreement with him on this point!

Shea certainly did not express an opinion that Augustine doesn’t share the epistemology of modern Rome. In that regard, Waltz is wrong. Which is why Waltz’s view about time being wasted should be revised. On the contrary, Shea claims that Augustine “is, instead, assuming a thoroughly Catholic backdrop to the whole discussion.” (emphasis added) Perhaps Mr. Waltz thinks Shea doesn’t mean “Catholic” to refer to the modern Roman conception of what it means to be “Catholic,” but such a hypothesis is untenable. In short, my comments were a needed corrective to Shea, and I am glad that in substance Waltz agrees and even thinks my point is “obvious.” It’s obvious to Waltz, but it wasn’t obvious to Shea.

The idea of the universal church arriving at a consensus by the time of Augustine on the topic of Arianism is, of course, to some extent an anachronism. In that sense, Shea is – we might say – accidentally correct (you will notice I didn’t dispute his claim in my original post, I merely highlighted it and pointed out its inconsistency with the modern Roman view). He didn’t mean to imply what he implied about Nicaea, but in this case we might almost say that two wrongs make a right. Viewed through the lens of modern Roman dogma regarding conciliar authority, Nicaea did represent a consensus view. However, there are serious problems with that kind of claim.

Waltz continued:

Moving on, TF’s statement that, “Maximinus was an Arian“, is, at best, breathtakingly simplistic. An Arian is one who adheres to the basic theology of Arius—did Maximinus endorse Arius’ basic theology? No, he did not. In fact, he emphatically denied THE defining doctrine of Arius, the doctrine that the Son of God was created ex nihilo; note the following:

The part of Arius’ doctrine which most shocked and disturbed his contemporaries was his statement that the Father made the Son ‘ out of non-existence’ (ἐκ οὐκ ὄντων). (R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, p. 24.)

This particular view of Arius [i.e. creation of the Son of God ex nihilo] has never been supplied with a convincing antecedent. It has always been an erratic boulder in his doctrine, preventing that doctrine being easily fitted into any known system…(Ibid., p. 88)

Waltz’s criticism here is bizarre. The title usually given for Augustine’s work from which the quotation in question comes, as Waltz knows, is “Contra Maximinum Haereticum Episcopum Arianorum libri duo.” That “Arianorum” is the Latin word that we translate “Arian.” It’s normal and customary to refer to Maximinus as an Arian, without implying that his views are identical to those of Arius.

Moreover, R.P.C. Hanson identifies Maximinus as an example of a source for Arian writing (p. 100), as an example of Homoian Arianism (p. 126) of the work that Waltz cited, even though Hanson also acknowledges that Maximinus “explicitly denies” the tenet that Waltz highlighted above (p. 564).

At most, Waltz has correctly identified that there is more than one species of Arians, and that the normal practice of referring to Maximinus as an “Arian” is to paint Arianism with a broad brush.

Waltz continued:

Before getting to Maximinus’ theology, I think it would be prudent to supply a little background. Shortly after the council of Nicaea (325), the ordained bishops of the Christian Church at large split into 4 distinct factions; modern patristic scholars have termed those 4 factions as: 1.) the homoousians, those who accepted the Nicene Creed; 2.) the homoiousians, those who replaced homoousios (same being/essence/substance) with homoiousios (like being/essence/substance); 3.) the homoians, those who rejected the terms homoousios and homoiousios as being un-Biblical, and embraced the view that the Son of God was homoiōs (like, similar, in the same way) with respect to God the Father; and 4.) the ‘Neo-Arians’, sometimes termed the anhomoians (see Hanson, Search, p. 598 for the reason why many modern patristic scholars prefer the name ‘Neo-Arian’ over others).

Of the 4 factions, only the ‘Neo-Arians’ accepted Arius’ most basic tenant that the Son of God was created ex nihilo, with the other 3 emphatically rejecting this doctrine.

Now, Maximinus was a staunch homoian, his theology being essentially that of the creed universally adopted by Christian Church at a council convened in 360 AD at Constantinople, which creed was a slight revision of so-called “Dated Creed” that was adopted in 359 AD via the convocation of a general council by emperor Constantius II, which convened at two separate locations: Ariminium (now Rimini) and Seleucia.

Of course, none of this contradicts anything I said. In fact, most of what Waltz said is relatively non-controversial (in terms of the various divisions that existed, and so forth). One surprising point is Waltz’s claim that regarding the creed of Ariminium, namely that it was “the creed universally adopted by Christian Church at a council convened in 360 AD at Constantinople… .

Whether or not we should dispute this claim, I think Waltz must admit that Shea cannot accept this claim. Shea cannot admit that the “Christian Church” universally accepted an Arianizing creed, such as that of Ariminium.

Waltz wraps up the first part of his post this way:

Commenting on this creed of 360 AD, the esteemed patristic scholar, J.N.D. Kelly wrote:

Arianism, it will be appreciated, is really a misnomer, for the creed asserts none of the articles of the old heresy [i.e. Arius/Arianism] and explicitly condemns Anomoeanism [i.e. ‘Neo-Arianism’]. (Early Christian Creeds, 2nd edition, 1960, p. 294.)

So, is it accurate to call Maximinus an Arian? With all due respect to the scholars that do attribute the label “Arian” to Maximinus, to do so is, IMO, a “mis[n]omer“, for Maximinus emphatically denied (as did all homoians) the most basic tenant of Arian theology: the creation of the Son of God ex nihilo. To call Maximinus an Arian would be analogous to calling someone who emphatically rejects TULIP a Calvinist!

Kelley himself, while conceding that the term is something of a misnomer, calls the very chapter from which Waltz is citing “The Triumph of Arianism,” of which the very creed to which Waltz has been referring is the crown jewel. So, while it is a misnomer in the sense that the creed isn’t fully consistent with Arius and/or Neo-Arianism, it is a description that is given to it not only by Hanson but also by Kelley.

Regarding TULIP, the comparison is somewhat inapt. TULIP was the production of the Synod of Dordt, held after Calvin’s death. And even to this day, Amyraldians insist that Dordt departed from Calvin on the “L” (they’re wrong, but that debate clearly is for another topic and day).

Moving from part 1 to part 2, Waltz begins:

In part 1, I demonstrated that Maximinus was not an Arian, but rather a homoian, and that homoian Christian bishops condemned Arianism.

This insistence on not referring to Homoian Arianism as “Arianism,” is not something that Waltz actually demonstrated is necessary. Indeed, his own sources refer to Homoian Arianism as a species of Arianism, even if not fully consistent with Arius’ own beliefs.

Waltz continues:

TF then states that, “Augustine was the orthodox (“catholic” but not “Catholic”) bishop of Hippo, as everyone knows”. Once again, TF is anachronistically portraying this historical period, for ‘orthodoxy’ was anything but a settled issue. (As for Augustine being “catholic” but not “Catholic“, I will deal with this silliness in a subsequent post.)

Waltz is here arguing against a straw man. I didn’t insist that orthodoxy was a “settled issue,” at the time when Augustine was debating with Maximinus. Shea would need to insist that, given the modern Roman view of councils. I, however, am under no such obligation. I’m not sure why, given his penchant for decrying anachronism (even without it being offered), Waltz finds the distinction between “catholic” and “Catholic,” silly. However, since he has left it for another post, and since it was a relatively minor point in my own post, it can safely be tabled for now.

Waltz once more:

He then gives one a misleading impression with his statement that, “both Augustine and Maximinus were in the same locale and region“—fact is, Maximinus had just arrived in Hippo with, “Count Sigiswulf (Segisvultus), a Goth,” who in 427, “led a Roman army to Africa in order to suppress the rebellion of Bonifacius” [see John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Debate With Maximinus, Introduction (New York: New City Press, 1995), p. 175.]—his ordination, and conciliar loyalty, had NOTHING to do with the Hippo locale/region. Yet once again, though neither Shea, nor TF have a good grasp of the historical landscape of this period, Shea is the more accurate.

Waltz’s points about where Maximinus came from doesn’t really have a bearing on the fact (undisputed by Waltz) that Maximinus was the Arian bishop of Hippo (Waltz doesn’t like that “Arian” label for the homoians, as noted above). In fact one scholar expressed it this way:

Nearly ten years after his Answer to the ‘Arian Sermon’ (between A.D. 427 and A.D. 428), Augustine entered into a public debate at Hippo with a major representative and vigorous defender of Homoian Arianism. Bishop Maximinus had only recently arrived in North Africa in the company of Count Sigiswulf (or Segisvultus), a Goth who led a Roman force against a local uprising, and who had encouraged this encounter with Augustine in order to secure peace between Arians and Catholics in the region.

Studia Patristica vol. 38, St. Augustine and His Opponents: Other Latin Writers, Wiles and Yarnold eds., “The Significance of the communication idiomatum in St. Augustine’s Christology, with special reference to his rebuttal of later Arianism,” by Joseph Torchia, O.P., pp. 314-15.

Waltz is dead wrong about Shea being more accurate. Shea had claimed, “[Augustine] regards himself as bound by the teaching and discipline of the synod whose jurisdiction is over his local geographic region, and the person he is writing to likewise feels bound by his local synod,” (and Shea compared the situation to that of local fasting rules in Rome vs. Milan) but in fact the issue wasn’t geographic and at the time of the dispute, the two bishops were in the same locale, directly contrary to Shea’s analogy to Milanese vs. Roman fasting rules.

Waltz continued:

The only point that TF has “debunked” is that neither of the two councils being discussed were “local“, the rest of his musings are [sic] do not fit the facts. FACT #1: no council and/or creed up to this period was recognized as universally binding; FACT #2: if any council up to the date of the debate between Augustine and Maxinimus (427/428) had any semblance of a claim to universal authority it was the dual councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, which were convoked by emperor Constantius II in 359. These two parallel councils were really essentially one council held in two different geographical locations for the sake of logistics. The estimates of the number of bishops that attended range between 550+ and 750+, which means that this dual council was significantly larger than council of Nicaea held in 325. Not only the size, but also the geographical and theological representation was considerably more significant—Augustine was engaging in a bit of ‘damage control’ when he demanded that competing councils be left out of the equation.

Waltz here concedes the main point of my post, and yet insists that the rest of my “musings” “do not fit the facts.” But actually, Waltz cannot point to any of my musings that don’t fit with his two purported facts. Moreover, of course, Shea is not free to admit with Waltz that Nicaea was not universal binding. I am free to agree with Waltz on that point, but Shea is not – because Shea’s church insists on a particular view of conciliar authority – one that wasn’t shared by Augustine.

Waltz is right about the fact that the size of the councils of Ariminum and Seleucia were (in combination – and perhaps even Ariminum individally) considerably bigger and more geographically diverse than Nicaea. That’s one of those inconvenient conciliar truths I try to warn people about, when they place their confidence in large councils.

Waltz’s final point is to argue that Augustine’s quotation makes it sound as though Maximinus had tried to suggest that Ariminum was binding, whereas Maximinus had likewise agreed to settle the matter by the Scriptures. Of course, the purpose of my post was not to suggest that Maximinus believed what Shea believes about councils, or even to discuss at all what Maximinus thought of conciliar authority. So, while I might quibble over whether Augustine’s comments give a misleading impression regarding Maximinus’ position, it seems Waltz’s comments in Maximinus’ defense are at best tangential to the thrust of my post.

Waltz concludes:

To sum up, apart from incorrectly terming the councils of Armininum (359) and Nicaea (325) as “local“, Shea’s assessment that, “What Augustine is doing is appealing to a common authority in a dispute where the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus“, is quite accurate, whilst TF’s overall critique is significantly flawed.

As noted above, if Shea is correct in that sentence, it is only because, although he has a wrong view of conciliar authority, he mistakenly thought that Nicaea was a local council. Thus, while Shea may be accidentally correct in that statement (as mentioned above – and as was not denied in my original post), Shea’s underlying rationale is at odds with his Roman views of Nicaea.

So, thanks again to Waltz for his additional comments and – frankly – reinforcement of the points I was making. I don’t find Waltz’s objection to referring to Homoian Arians as “Arians,” to be particularly compelling, and that seems to be the major beef he has with my post. I also reiterate my thanks to him for his identification of the editorial problems in my original post to which I’ve now attended.

-TurretinFan

Nicaea Was Local Council, Arianism Not Settled Controversy, Implies Shea

August 9, 2011

I admit that I’ve never had a high view of Mark Shea’s scholarship, yet a mixture of surprise and amusement washed over me as I took in Shea’s breathtakingly ignorant response to a reader’s question regarding Augustine and Sola Scriptura. A reader had pointed out to Shea that Augustine, in responding to the Arian heretic Maximinus, had sounded exactly like a Sola Scriptura Christian.

Augustine (354-430 AD):

The Father and the Son are, then, of one and the same substance. This is the meaning of that “homoousios” that was confirmed against the Arian heretics in the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority. Afterward, in the Council of Ariminum it was understood less than it should have been because of the novelty of the word, even though the ancient faith had given rise to it. There the impiety of the heretics under the heretical Emperor Constantius tried to weaken its force, when many were deceived by the fraudulence of a few. But not long after that, the freedom of the Catholic faith prevailed, and after the meaning of the word was understood as it should be, that “homoousios” was defended far and wide by the soundness of the Catholic faith. After all, what does “homoousios” mean but “of one and the same substance”? What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but the Father and I are one (Jn 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicaea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Answer to Maximinus, Book II, XIV – On the Sameness of Substance in the Trinity, Section 3 (New York: New City Press, 1995), pp. 281-82.

Shea responded: “What Augustine is doing is appealing to a common authority in a dispute where the Church Universal has not yet arrived at a consensus.”

Perhaps a little background would be helpful here. Maximinus was an Arian. The question was whether the Father and the Son are consubstantial. This is a matter that was directly addressed by the Council of Nicaea. We can agree with Shea in a limited way, namely that the Council of Nicaea was not ecumenical in the sense of speaking for every person who professed to be a part of the Christian faith: after all, it condemned the Arians. By that standard, there have not been any ecumenical councils, ever. If that’s Shea’s position, he’s at loggerheads with Rome.

Judging Nicaea by modern Roman standards, though, Nicaea did not just “arrive at a consensus” but actually defined dogma that must be accepted de fide. That’s obviously not how Augustine judged Nicaea, but that’s because Augustine didn’t share the epistemology of modern Rome.

Shea continued: “The councils he is referring to are local synods.”

Augustine refers to two councils: Ariminum and Nicaea. Neither was a “local synod.” Ariminum and Nicaea were both massive councils involving hundreds of bishops. Nicaea is typically identified by Rome as the “First Ecumenical Council.” The Arians viewed Ariminum as having similar weight, given its similar size in terms of number of bishops. Perhaps Shea would not want to call Ariminum an “ecumenical council,” but he must at a minimum acknowledge it to be a regional council. On the other hand, it is only out of ignorance that Shea can claim that Nicaea is a “local synod.” Nicaea was dominated by Eastern bishops, to be sure, but again it is minimally a regional synod, and Shea’s own church declares it to be an ecumenical synod.

Shea again: “He regards himself as bound by the teaching and discipline of the synod whose jurisdiction is over his local geographic region, and the person he is writing to likewise feels bound by his local synod.”

Maximinus was the Arian bishop of Hippo (see Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature). Augustine was the orthodox (“catholic” but not “Catholic”) bishop of Hippo, as everyone knows. Even if the two councils mentioned were “local” councils, or even regional councils, both Augustine and Maximinus were in the same locale and region. Thus, this is the sort of impossible explanation for Augustine’s words that can only come out of gross ignorance of the people involved in the dispute.

Shea again: “With Augustine’s particular question the issue is this, lacking a verdict from the Church universal, and faced with differing rulings from different local councils, he is attempting to come to concensus [sic] by appeal to Scripture, since it is an authority appealed to by both him and his correspondent.”

This is basically the same debunked theory we’ve already addressed above.

Shea once more: “But (getting back to your question) the point is this: Augustine is attempting “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” in a particular discussion centering different juridical differences between two local councils.”

Leaving aside Shea’s continued nonsense about these councils being “local,” who knows what Shea is trying to say with his garbled phrasing, ” … in a particular discussion centering different juridical differences … .” Perhaps “different” should be “on.” But the issue in question is whether Father and Son are consubstantial. That can hardly be characterized as primarily a juridical question.

Shea continues: “Since the Church universal has not addressed the matter via either an ecumenical council, nor via the Holy Father, he appeals to the authority that both he and his correspondent hold in common: Scripture.”

This can only be true if no bishop of Rome had weighed in on the Arian controversy, and if Nicaea is not an ecumenical council. Surely Shea would not be so brash as to try to assert those things. So, actually, what Shea is saying is really more a reflection on the fact that Augustine does not consider the bishop of Rome’s comments or the comments of Nicaea to be of equal authority with Scripture, or even to be binding on the Arian bishop with whom he’s dealing.

Shea again: “He is not trying to make any point at all about sola but is, instead, assuming a thoroughly Catholic backdrop to the whole discussion.”

So now Arianism is “thoroughly Catholic” and so is Maximinus’ rejection of Nicaea!?! Of course, that conclusion would assume that Shea actually had the foggiest clue about what Augustine and Maximinus were discussing. He doesn’t. Instead, he offers his comment from the foundation of dogmatic affirmation of whatever Rome says and ignorance of the fathers.

Shea once more: “Be careful of importing post-Reformation categories into patristic arguments.”

That’s actually good advice. It’s not particularly relevant advice, but it is good advice. We should be on guard against anachronism. But in this case, it is clear where the anachronism lies: it lies on the one trying to turn Augustine into a modern Roman Catholic.

While it might be instructive to consider in detail the absurdity of comparing the Arian controversy (as Shea does – see his post) to the controversy over when to celebrate Easter or the question of whether to fast on Saturdays in Milan and in Rome, I’ll simply let the reader decide whether even by modern Roman standards those issues would be deemed disciplinary or dogmatic.

To sum up, no, Mr. Shea, Nicaea wasn’t a local council. Nevertheless, Augustine did not view Nicaea as binding on Arian bishops such as Maximinus, but nevertheless appealed to the Scriptures as the alone Rule of Faith by which to settle the Arian controversy in Hippo.

-TurretinFan

Reginald Tries Again

April 24, 2009

I was glad to see that Reginald took another shot at the issue of important Roman Catholic bishops publicly going wildly wrong on doctrine (link). Unfortunately, he still doesn’t quite get it.

First, he argues that fallibility of bishops does indeed explain why they sometimes get doctrine wildly wrong. No doubt. Again, no one suggested otherwise.

Then he goes on to say that “He seems furthermore not to understand that the gift of infallibility is a gift of the Holy Spirit.” (bold in original) I do understand that this is the claim that is made, but there are two issues with this:

1) There’s no reason to believe councils of bishops like Zollitsch are the kinds of councils that would have such a gift (even if any councils would).

2) If anything that is not infallibly taught by Reginald’s church could be wildly wrong because it is fallible then Reginald is imprudent in not limiting his acceptance of his church’s doctrines to those things infallibly defined (assuming he could somehow figure out what those things were – which is a job in itself).

But the more important bottom line is that we see that Reginald is just taking his church’s say-so on faith. He not only swallows the wild errors of Zollitsch but of the Arians as well (he says so himself). It’s no big deal to him that what he views as his church is not preserved from gross heresies. He doesn’t think this is a problem, because he doesn’t realize its implications.

He doesn’t see that it may be that a heresy (or bundle of them) has actually prevailed in the church of Rome and that he is an heretical sect rather than being in a Catholic church (notice the important difference in this case between “Catholic” and “Roman Catholic”).

Notice what he says: “But the gift of infallibility doesn’t work like that. It extends to the college of bishops under certain conditions, and to the Pope under certain conditions.” (again, the bold is his) As usual, he’s missing the point (as though we don’t know that his church’s position is that the college of bishops isn’t always infallible and that the pope isn’t always infallible). But his comment is actually revealing in the point that it raises: what are these conditions and where did they come from?

We know where the conditions for the pope’s infallibility came from (Vatican I), but what about the conditions for the college of bishops (this issue is a sort of logical precursor, since Vatican I was a council). Was it decided by a previous council? By a previous pope? Or is it just something that Reginald read from some fallible source that might be pulling a Zollitsch or an Arius.

Is Rome’s claim to authority simply a circle – “we are authoritative because we say so” – or is Reginald willing to admit that he doesn’t rely on a circular argument but on faith in his church itself (a misplaced faith if Zollitsch is any indicator). I guess we’ll see.

-TurretinFan

Bellisario on Contraception (Again!)

April 1, 2009

Contraception seems to be a very hot topic for Mr. Bellisario, as he has yet another post on it on his blog (link).

Let’s examine what he says:

Turretin Fan has posted an audio response to my earlier article on contraception. He claims that since there are not any anathemas attached to the statements by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church on the teaching of contraception, that it is not infallible doctrine. The teaching that I posted earlier is the only “officially” held position that the Catholic Church has on contraception. First off there does not have to be an anathema attached to a teaching in order for it to be infallible. This is a qualifier that Turretin Fan has invented, since the Church has never taught that in order for something to be doctrine or dogma that there must be an anathema attached to it. Where Tf gets this I have no idea. It sounds like he presents an “Ace in the hole” here, but there is nothing that substantiates this undocumented statement of his.

Yes, Mr. Bellisario actually wrote that!

I suppose that Mr. Bellisario thinks I invented this:

The Pope must attach the sanction of anathema to the decree, either explicitly or implicitly. In other words, since obedience to superiors is necessary for salvation, the anathema means that the representative of Christ on earth intends to avail himself of the full height of his God-given authority and command our intellectual assent.

(source)

Of course, that applies specifically to papal infallibility, but a similar concept exists with respect to conciliar infallibility.

Perhaps, as well, Mr. Bellisario thinks I invented this:

The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

(source)

“Defined no dogma at all” and was a “merely pastoral council.” Inconvenient for Bellisario? Yes. Invented by TurretinFan? No.

Don’t get me wrong: Vatican II is still viewed within Catholicism (leaving aside the sedavacantists and similar groups) as valid and binding. Indeed the same source I quoted immediately above says: “It is a necessary task to defend the Second Vatican Council against Msgr. Lefebvre, as valid, and as binding upon the Church.” And, of course, this source is the same person who is now pope.

I almost stopped my response to Mr. Bellisario’s ignorance at this point, but then thought that perhaps I should make clear the link between defining a doctrine and infallibility, though perhaps poor Mr. Bellisario will think I invented this as well:

It has been sometimes said that it is impossible to know whether or not a theological definition has been issued; but very few words are needed to show that the assertion is without foundation. At times, doubt will remain about the definitive nature of a decree, but as a rule no possibility of doubt is consistent with the terminology of a definitive decree. Thus in the doctrinal teaching of a general council, anathema attached to condemned errors is a certain sign of an infallible definition.

(source)

Bellisario continued:

Turretin says I cannot defend my position in regards to the Church’s teaching on contraception. I have demonstrated quite clearly that the Catholic Church has one clear teaching on this subject. (Contraception, more specifically the use of condoms). Let us dive into this empty argument provided by Turretin Fan. He claims that he has proven that there is disunity within the Catholic Church. My point is that there is no division within the “official” teaching of the Church. I do not know whether Turretin understands this or not, but individual bishops do not make up Catholic doctrine. He claims that since there is disagreement among bishops of the Church, that that in itself defeats Rome’s claims of the infallible Catholic Magisterium. This however does not prove that at all.

Or to paraphrase Bellisario, “I don’t care what TurretinFan’s point is, I want to argue over something else!” This is a great example of the use of straw man tactics that we see over and over again from Bellisario. Mr. Bellisario seems to be unable (or unwilling) to address the points I actually raise:

1) That the teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae is not a doctrinal definition and consequently is considered “infallible” teaching within Romanism; and

2) The fact that Humanae Vitae teaches what it teaches doesn’t prevent, in practice, the bishops of his church openly holding to positions that disagree with Mr. Bellisario’s position.

Bellisario continued:

It is my argument that just because there are many bishops who refuse to follow the Magisterium’s clear “official” teaching on this subject, doesn’t negate the authority of the Magisterium, nor its effectiveness in teaching clear unifying doctrine. All it does is demonstrate that there are and always have been those who dissent from “official” Church teaching. So no, Turretin Fan has not demonstrated that there is disunity in the Catholic Church that upsets the authority and clearly held doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Magisterium can promulgate the truth all day long, yet if bishops refuse to follow, Turretin attaches the blame on the Magisterium and claims that it doesn’t solve doctrinal problems. This is clearly nonsense. Yes we have many clear examples of bishops rejecting Church teaching. So what? As I stated before, there have been times in the past where many bishops bought into heresies. The Church Magisterium however always held fast to true doctrine and dogma.

Notice how the straw man comes out again, this time attacked as “clearly nonsense.” Well, you know, I’m sure my position can sound like nonsense when it is misrepresented by Bellisario, but my actual position is something with which Bellisario cannot argue (as usual).

Bellisario continued:

Turretin Fan readily admits in his audio response that he never claimed to prove that “official” Catholic teaching was divided on this issue. It is quite obvious that any Catholic who wants to remain faithful to the Church will follow “official” teachings and not individual bishop’s dissenting views. Turretin Fan’s argument does not upset the Magisterium as he claims it does. What would he have Rome do, go out and hunt everyone down who dissents from “official” Church teaching and off them? That may not be a bad idea….I am joking here… Well Rome has essentially done this doctrinally in her documents. In my next post I will address the teaching of the Church and whether or not the teaching on contraception by the Church is an infallible doctrine.

Ah, at last Mr. Bellisario pays some limited attention to what I was saying. Yes, I never claimed to prove that “official” Catholic teaching was divided on this issue.

Mr. Bellisario jokes about hunting down those who dissent, but these folks are “dissenting” on an issue that has not been defined. That’s something that Mr. Bellisario doesn’t seem to get. There are really two issues here:

1) The issues Bellisario has identified as allegedly wrong positions by bishops of his own church (bishops that still hold their office and openly teach what they teach) are not contrary to any infallible teaching of his church (though they are contrary to things that Benedict XVI has said, and they are arguably contrary to what the CCC and Humanae Vitae said); and

2) Whether or not this matter has been defined, there is doctrinal and moral disunity within Catholicism, despite the organizational unity.

The second point is really the main point of this discussion, whereas the first point is carry-over from the previous debacle where Gene Bridges schooled Mr. Bellisario on the issue of contraception.

Bellisario continued:

I also got a chuckle once again that Turretin creates a “Mr. Bellisario vs the bishop” scenario instead of “official” Church teaching vs the bishop scenario, which would be a much more accurate headline. Be that as it may, Turretin Fan has only demonstrated that there are and always will be dissenters in the Church. He also readily admits that there is clear “official” Catholic Church teaching on this matter, which defeats his argument trying to tear down the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In my next article I will go through the wording of “official” church documents and demonstrate that this moral teaching cannot be changed, and therefore falls into the category of Church doctrine.

Again, we see more straw man arguments. Although he noted above (apparently) that it is not my goal with this argument to “tear down the Magisterium of the Catholic Church” – now Mr. Bellisario claims that he has defeated this argument that I haven’t presented. It seems Mr. Bellisario has struck on the perfect way to win arguments: argue with points that the other side doesn’t either present or defend.

-TurretinFan

P.S. For more on the infallibility issue and Humanae Vitae, check out my friendly Romanist opponent, Kelly Wilson at Kakistocrat (link).

UPDATE: Bellisario simply couldn’t get enough of this topic and posted YET AGAIN! (link) I’ll address his comments below:

I really got a kick out of Turretin’s last post where he tries, unsuccessfully to substantiate, that for the Catholic church to define something infallibly it must use anathemas to do so. Anyone who knows anything about Catholicism knows this is simply not true. Turretin thought it would clever to post on the specific use of papal proclamations which we haven’t even discussed so far. We are not arguing over one document as TF is suggesting. If you see my original post i used several. Then he quotes something on Vatican II which we also haven’t even addressed specifically, but TF likes to use Red Herrings to hide his idiotic arguments. I guess he didn’t notice that many of the documents I soured were not from VCII. I won’t waste any more time on the foolish Turretin Fan because he is not rational.

Poor Bellisario, his ignorance exposed, lashes out. It’s not the first time he’s made this kind of comment and it won’t be the last. Since he doesn’t actually address the issues in this portion of his rant, there’s no need for further response from me.

Bellisario continued:

It is unfortunate but I do not have the time to keep engaging with bloggers like himself because he will just lead you around in circular arguments, which is another favorite tactic of his. He figures if he writes enough nonsense that he will wear his opponent down and then he can claim victory. Well he has successfully worn me down, and yet once again he has not proven that the Catholic church is divided on the issue of contraception when it comes to “official” Church teaching. He keeps saying that he doens’t intend to do so, yet what is his point? It is to try and prove that the Catholic Church is not unified in its teaching regarding contraception.

As noted above, this is Bellisario’s constant retreat: the straw man. Sometimes, I’m not sure that Bellisario knows it is a straw man, but after it has been pointed out and he still repeats the same false characterizations you have to figure he’s realized he cannot defeat the argument presented, so he’s off to try to argue against something else.

For my actual point, see above.

Bellisario concluded:

He is trying to argue this from an untenable positions, because he refuses to acknowledge “official” Catholic teaching in favor of individual opinions. That is why i had to emphasize that there is a “official” Church teaching that all Catholics are obliged to follow. this would hold even if the teaching was not infallible. Turetin also does not understand this either. He refuses to acknowledge that individual bishops have no bearing on the “official” Church teaching, and so Catholics who follow the “official” Church teaching are not divided. The two unfortunately are synonymous to the pitiful “Reformed” apologist. I will tear myself away from this and now focus on the Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality, and more specifically contraception. I am now working on a response to Kelly, who stopped by my blog and sided with me on part of my post against TF, yet challenged me on whether or not the Church has infallibly defined this teaching on human sexuality. My argument will be that is is infallibly defined. Thanks for reading.

As noted above, this is just a response to Bellisario’s straw man. He complains about a lack of time. One solution would be for him to spend less of his time on straw men.

-TurretinFan


%d bloggers like this: