Archive for the ‘Jimmy Akin’ Category

And the Difference Between This and Simony is …

September 27, 2012

The German bishops are demanding that German members of the Roman Catholic Church either pay a tax or forego the sacraments, including absolution – as explained at the linked report.  Naturally, the tax goes to the German churches.

(American) Roman Catholic, Jimmy Akin, has a variety of thoughts on the matter, but his defense to the charge of simony (which he recognizes) is awefully weak.  He states: “Telling the state that you’re not a Catholic just so you can get out of paying some taxes is just another form of denying the faith before Caesar.”

On the other hand the report itself says: “German taxpayers can opt out of paying the religious tax by formally leaving their church through a declaration on their tax forms, though it does not require a renunciation of their faith.”

But even assuming Akin is correct, surely the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize “ticking a box on a tax form” (or even swearing on a stack of Bibles) as a legitimate way of leaving membership.  Doesn’t baptism allegedly leave an indelible mark?  Aren’t people just “lapsed Catholics” if they deny Rome?  And isn’t absolution in confession the ordinary way to restore them?

If so, they ought to be able to receive absolution through confession and penance, not payment.  Whether ticking the box on the tax form is a mortal sin is a red herring. What the German bishops are doing is, in essence, putting a price on the sacraments.  It’s this kind of nonsense that led an Augustinian monk named Luther to spark a Reformation in Germany in the 1500’s.

Perhaps it will be God’s good pleasure to use this situation as a fresh spark to rekindle the Reformation in Germany.


P.S. Mr. Akin notes that the tens of thousands of people who have taken advantage of the tax form option are less than 1% of the German Roman Catholics.  He suggested that this means that the RCC is losing less than 1% of her income from the taxes.  That assumes that the people who take advantage of this are randomly selected.  One suspects that those with higher incomes are more likely to be looking for ways to reduce their taxes than those with smaller incomes.  Moreover, in a progressively taxed society like Germany, a large amount of the tax revenue comes from a relatively small amount of people.  So, the numbers may be considerably more dramatic than Mr. Akin suggests.

Review of "The Fathers Know Best" by Jimmy Akin

June 9, 2011

“Catholic Answers” recently published a book attributed to Jimmy Akin entitled “The Fathers Know Best.” It purports to be “Your essential guide to the teachings of the Early Church.” The book does not provide any meaningful contribution to the study of patristics and little to the Roman-Reformed dialog.

Content in General
Part one of the book (pp. 15-93) contains an introduction to the book itself, some discussion of “the World of the Fathers,” and some brief discussion of the authors, councils, and works cited in part two, as well as an identification of heresies.

Part two of the book (pp. 97-418) is the obvious focus of the book. It provides a series of topics, with a brief introduction (sometimes as short as a single paragraph, sometimes as much as about two pages) and then a collection of quotations allegedly on the topic.

Quality of the Content
The book has no significant interaction with viewpoints opposed to Rome’s. There is virtually no interaction with respect to non-Roman understandings of the Fathers and there is little interaction with theological disagreements with Rome. The most significant interactions with non-Roman positions are found in the sections on reincarnation and the Anti-Christ, but even they are not particularly in depth.

There is almost no analysis of the fathers’ writings. In general, the quotations from the fathers are simply presented without any individual explanation. There is an occasional footnote, but there is no detailed explanation provided as to why particular quotations should be understood to support the Roman position.

The selections from the early writings that are selected for the purpose of promoting the idea that the fathers and Rome taught the same thing. The result is not a representative picture of the fathers’ writings. Odd patterns emerge when one reviews the quotations cited: St. Sechnall of Ireland gets quoted four times, but Gregory the Great gets cited only once.

Originality of the Content
Apparently there were no original translations provided in this work. The book acknowledges that part two is mostly a rehash of a column from This Rock magazine. Moreover, the content of that magazine has already been amalgamated on-line. Based on a cursory review, it appears that the on-line version may have slightly more quotations. In some cases, however, the translation selected for the book differs. In some cases, the exact end-points of the quotation differs, even if the translation is the same. The introductions to the material are expanded, and – of course – part one of the book is apparently new material.

Scholarly Character of the Content
In part one of the book, aside from an initial burst of citations to Scripture, citations in general are rare. The content of part one may or may not be accurate, but you only have Akin’s word for it, in general.

In part two of the book, Scripture is sometimes cited and the Catechism of the Catholic Church is also sometimes cited. Occasionally a papal work, such as an encyclical, or similar source of Catholic dogma is cited and at least once or twice an encyclopedia, such as the New Catholic Encyclopedia is cited. Aside from those citations, citations to scholarly works are relatively rare.

Almost all of the citations (leaving aside Scripture and magisterial sources) are to J.N.D. Kelly. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines, is cited on pp. 160, 175, 183 (2x), 256, p. 292-3 (3x), and 299, sometimes at considerable length. As with the quotations from the fathers, the quotations are selected based on what Akin believes is helpful, with the inconvenient comments from Kelly omitted.

Second to Kelley is Luther, whose Large Catechism is cited on p. 267 and whose Smalcaid Articles are cited on p. 412 (alongside the Westminster Standards in that instance). The few other cited authors are one-offs. Shirley MacLaine is cited on p. 399 and Geddes MacGregor is cited on that page as well. Ramsay MacMullen is cited on p. 359, and Timothy “Kallistos” Ware is cited at p. 138.

In all or almost all of these cases, the citation is provided with a quotation rather than simply being a citation to support an assertion allegedly grounded in the author cited. In fairness to Akin, I should point out that he provides citations to every one of his “More than 900 quotations” (I did not verify this claim) from ancient writings.

Merit of the Quotations
Whether the quotations support the point for which they are used is something of a mixed bag. Previously, we discussed an example of a misused quotation in this book. Perhaps in other posts, we will discuss other issues with other quotations.

It should also be pointed out that a lot of the quotations are not from fathers at all. Some of the quotations are from folks like “Pseudo-Ignatius,” “Pseudo-Melito,” and “Pseudo-John” as well as to anonymous works.

It’s not surprising that I don’t recommend this book. Although a significant amount of effort was doubtless put into improving the introductions and providing part one of the book, the effort didn’t yield something particularly worthwhile. Instead, by and large the book is simply a collection of quotations that Akin seems to think are helpful to Rome’s view of history.

Akin’s approach is neither scholarly nor apologetic. He does not interact in a significant way with the Reformed objections to Rome’s historical claims, and his collection of quotations is not accompanied by any serious in-depth examination of what the quotations say.

If one is looking for some new and interesting contribution to the field of patristics or Roman-Reformed dialog, one will be very disappointed by Akin’s work. On the other hand, if what you want is a propagandizing quote book, you cannot shell out the money for the much better done Jurgens’ set, and you don’t wish to use the web site indicated above, then perhaps this book is for you.

Here’s one quotation from Gregory the Great that you won’t get in “The Fathers Know Best”:

Gregory the Great commenting on Job 15:10:

But that those things which they [i.e., heretics] maintain they recommend to the weak minds of their fellow-creatures as on the ground of antiquity, they testify that they have ancient fathers, and the very Doctors of the Church themselves they declare are the masters of their school; and whilst they look down upon present preachers, they pride themselves with unfounded presumption on the tutorage of the ancient fathers, so that they avouch that the things they themselves assert the old fathers held as well, in order that what they are not able to build up in truth and right, they may strengthen as by the authority of those. See Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. II, Parts III and IV, Book XII, Chapter 28, §33 (Oxford: Parker, 1845), p. 66.

Latin text: Sed ut ea quae asserunt commendare stultis mentibus hominum quasi de antiquitate possint, antiquos patres se habere testantur, atque ipsos doctores Ecclesiae suae professionis magistros dicunt. Cumque praesentes praedicatores despiciunt de antiquorum Patrum magisterio falsa praesumptione gloriantur, ut ea quae ipsi dicunt, etiam antiquos patres tenuisse fateantur, quatenus hoc quod rectitudine astruere non valent quasi ex illorum auctoritate confirment. Moralium Libri, Sive Expositio In Librum B. Job, Liber XII, Caput XXVIII, §33, PL 75:1002A-B.


P.S. Quote books have their place. However, quote books should provide something better than what is out there.

Anathema Update

August 31, 2009

Somehow, in preparing my previous post (link), I had overlooked the single use of the word “anathema” in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (pointed out to me here). There is a recent (2001) English translation of the code (Peters, Edward N. 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law: in English translation, with extensive scholarly apparatus. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001.) and folks who think my translation below to be faulty are welcome to double check the matter for themselves. Also, there is a French translation (which I consulted) and which can be found here (link). I’ve provided the Latin, French, and English below:

Canon 2257

Part 1.

Latin: Excommunicatio est censura qua quis excluditur a communione fidelium cum effectibus qui in canonibus, qui sequuntur, enumerantur, quique separari nequeunt.

French: L’excommunication est une censure par laquelle quelqu’un est exclut de la communion des fidèles, avec les effets énumérés dans les canons qui suivent, et qui ne peuvent en être séparés.

English: Excommunication is a censure by which someone is excluded from the communion of the faithful, with the effects enumerated in the canons that follow, and from which it can not be separated.

Part 2.

Latin: Dicitur quoque anathema, praesertim si cum sollemnitatibus infligatur quae in Pontificali Romano describuntur.

French: On l’appelle aussi anathème principalement si elle est infligée avec les solennités décrites dans le Pontifical romain.

English: It is also called “anathema” – especially if it is inflicted with solemnities which are described in the Roman Pontifical.

So, unless one is going to try to argue that excommunications were eliminated in the canon law, it seems odd to try to claim that anathemas have been done away, since the 1917 code indicates that excommunications in general can be called by the name “anathema.”

So, while I thank Kelly for pointing this out to me, if folks like Akin are simply suggesting that the name “anathema” is not used or that the additional solemnities have been done away with … the issue seems extraordinarily trivial. The substance is the same, whether it is solemnized or not.


Anathemas Have Been Done Away!

August 27, 2009

Today I encountered the following comment: “Anathemas were done away with under the most recent Code of Canon Law.” (source) It’s not the first time I’ve seen this claim. The problem is this: I have the most recent Code of Canon Law and it doesn’t (that I can find) even mention anathemas. I suppose that some folks in Roman Catholicism think this silence means that anathemas have been done away. That seems like as weak an argument as the argument that prayer veils are no longer required because of the silence regarding them. I wonder whether there is anything more to the argument than that. Any ideas anyone?

I’m aware of Mr. Akin’s argument as follows:

Yet the penalty was used so seldom that it was removed from the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This means that today the penalty of anathema does not exist in Church law. The new Code provided that, “When this Code goes into effect, the following are abrogated: 1º the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917 . . . 3º any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See, unless they are contained in this Code” (CIC [1983] 6 §1). The penalty of anathema was not renewed in the new Code, and thus it was abrogated when the Code went into effect on January 1, 1983.

The problems with that type of argument are:

1) Where was anathema mentioned in the 1917 Code? I’ve perused that code and couldn’t find it. Perhaps I overlooked something?

2) A penalty and a penal law are not the same thing.

If that’s all Mr. Akin has, his argument seems exceptionally weak.


Athanasius – "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" – Pseudographic?

May 8, 2008

I’ve noticed that several Roman Catholic apologists have relied on a writing identified by them as “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” and attributed to Athanasius. I wonder whether this is spuria or genuine. The name of the document is not itself frightfully reassuring. It suggests attribution to Athanasius based on a single copy (probably in Coptic-Sahaddic not Greek) from the 6th century or so. As far as I can tell, it was unknown to the Western church as part of the Athanasian corpus and has become known via the journal Le Muséon in 1958:

Le Muséon année 1958 LXXI 3-4 Revue d’études orientales (A Louvain Chez l’Association Le Muséon, fondé en 1881 par Charles De Harlez 1958, brochée grand in 8 de 190.)

Sommaire: L’homélie de S. Athanase des papyrus de Turin. Un nouveau manuscrit de la Narratio de rebus Armeniae. La vision de S. Sabak en grec. Les questions-réponses du ms. Vat. arabe. Das studium der altgeorgischen sprache in georgien. Les catéchèses de S. Theodore studite. Pseudo-Shenoute ou Christian-Behaviour. Nécrologie de Mgr Joseph Lebon et de Michel tarchnisvili. Bibliographie.

and subsequent citation by popular Roman Catholic apologists (particularly English-speaking apologists), especially because of its discussion of Mary. I’m not sure whether there is any reason to consider it be anything more than the writings of yet another Pseudo-Athanasius.

In fact, David Frankfurter appears to identify it as Pseudo-Athanasius in footnote 82 at page 35 of Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Anitique Egypt. (link)

I wonder whether any of the Catholic apologists who have been citing this work (e.g. Steve Ray, Dave Armstrong, Jimmy Akin, and [most recently] Paul Hoffer) have any defense of its authenticity. I’m guessing that each of them got the citation from some secondary source or other (perhaps even tertiary, as Lefort appears to have provided his translation in French), and did not perform any research as to the authenticity of the quotation.

Nevertheless, my guess could be wrong, and I’d be delighted to be mistaken. I don’t mean this article to suggest that I’ve definitively proved the spurious nature of the quotation, but simply given the reader good reason to question its authenticity. If there is another side to the argument, I’d love to hear it.


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