Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comments on: "Catholicism, science, and Western civilization"

Archived comments from post: "Catholicism, sciience, and Western civilization" (Musings, June 14, 2005):

The crusades and inquisitions were intrinsic to Vatican theology, law, politics and spirituality for centuries. The Vatican has as yet shown no sign of disowning these institutions, although apologizing for occasional "excesses" of some in their "zeal for truth". This inability to face truth on the part of the Vatican itself, reminiscent of stalinist, maoist and rightist whitewashings of history, shows a deep reluctance to query a Roman model of power that is contrary to the Gospel. The critiques of Reformation and Enlightenment remain unheard, and the Gospel remains enchained in power-strategies.
Joe O'Leary | 06.14.05 - 11:12 pm | #

I am happy to say that I have never preached on Hell -- nor did John Paul II. I possibly alluded to Hell once or twice in 33 years of preaching, which is about how often John Paul II did.

As to Ratzinger on conscience, he clearly teaches the superior authority of conscience to any earthly voice, including the Pope's, and he touts this as a defence agains such evil movements as Nazism. You can find a good quote in a letter of Paul Surlis in a recent New Yorker.
Joe O'Leary | 06.14.05 - 11:18 pm | #

Sad to think that the glorious days of Vatican II have dwindled down to this nit-picking, the straining out of gnats, this whining about uncomfortable peas. The blaze of inspiration that befell me when I read Teilhard, Le Milieu Divin, as an eighteen year old, making me pace the boards of the Irish College, Paris, with delighted excitement; the joy of hearing Rahner lecture in Maynooth, radiating like the sun; the challenge of Schillebeeckx's subtle and comprehensive vision, at a seminar in Leiden in 1974; all of that seems to have disappeared to be replaced by a minute parcelling out, a parcimonious rationing of divine grace by bookish clerks who are completely unable to give a sense of the majestic working of the spirit of God in creation and salvation. The evolutionary schema within which Teilhard and Rahner rethought Christology is even scoffed at, instead of being further developed, and these cautious bureaucrats rehearse instead the old, tired theologoumena of our Tridentine childhood. And the old dreary names of warped reactionaries are trotted out again and again -- Schall, Hardon, Kelly, Grisez, Schaeffer -- along with old-fashioned fuddy-duddies like Chesterton, Belloc, CS Lewis, Fulton Sheen. All of this is the narcosis of Catholicism, its hibernation. I note that Ernesto Cardenal says the election of Ratzinger is "fatal" for the Church, but perhaps that Spanish word translates better into English as "awful".
Joe O'Leary | 06.15.05 - 9:24 am | #

I can't say I agree with Fr O'Leary's harsh judgments on GKC, Belloc, Fr Schall, et al., but it would be interesting to read a blog composed by him, particularly on matters theological. Based on the feedback he receives, he will be able to judge whether the newest generation of Catholic thinkers is as narrow-minded as he thinks.
Juan Pilgrim | 06.15.05 - 11:27 am | #

What further need have we of witnesses?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 06.15.05 - 11:48 am | #

Don't get me wrong, I read the complete works of Chesterton as a boy with great realish, and I esteem CS Lewis highly -- but even in their time they were on the old-fashioned side, self-consciously medievalizing -- and to hold them up as paragons of thought for contemporary youth is not good pedagogy. I see Chris has now developed his hissy-fit stunt into a priestly tearing of garments, with cries of "He Blasphemeth!" -- if you can't argue, just spit!
Joe O'Leary | 06.15.05 - 6:51 pm | #

Yes, as a boy of 15 to 16, GKC was my guru. I had the clerks of Cork City Library call up from the moldiest stacks his least-read writings, and I could knock down any Mormon or Jehovah's Witness with pat answers from Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man, Heretics etc. You guys take me back to those days of innocence. I saw no fault whatever in Chesterton, read Maisie Ward's books on him with devotion. Later I had the same spells of devotion to Teilhard, Lonergan, Rahner and Newman. Inevitably the limits of each of them came into view in due course. Read Sean O'Casey's chapter on Walter McDonald in his Autobiographies -- the title is "Silence" -- for some scathing comments on the swaggering inanity of Chesterton, who enjoyed huge success at a time when the serious theologians of the Roman Catholic Church were subjected to constant petty and vicious persecution. Chesterton had no knowledge of theology, and it is bizarre to see him being invoked today as the answer to the theologians who labored to prepare Vatican II. It is amusing that converts to Catholicism are discovering writers that Catholic children in Cork back in 1964 had absorbed to saturation extent, and then lecturing us on our lack of authentic Catholicism!
Joe O'Leary | 06.15.05 - 9:19 pm | #

We read bits of Newman in school and his University Sketches was a set text in first arts. But it was only in my second year in college that I was gripped by him (the Apologia) and my really Newman fever began when I stumbled on the Parochial and Plain Sermons in my first year of theology (in the midst of my Rahner phase). My first visit to Oxford in 1972 was a Newman pilgrimage; I chatted with Fr Crouch the Vicar of Littlemore, who prayed the rosary. Coincidentally, I was friendly with the man who became his successor, the much missed David Nicholls, and spent many days in Littlemore in later years, praying Matins every morning and occasionally preaching in Newman's own church. Critical reservations were slow to arise in the case of Newman (who made my attitude to Anglicanism quite sectarian at first). He was my dominant guru in the mid-seventies, an esteemed background figure after that, and became a target of critical overcoming or deconstructive retrieval in the mid 1980s. I last studied him in 1994, for an essay on "Newman on Education and Original Sin".
Joe O'Leary | 06.15.05 - 9:43 pm | #

Interesting speech by Rowan Williams, full text in today's Guardian:
Some things can be mastered quickly, almost instantaneously, some take significant time. And I suspect that the difficulty most of the modern media finds in handling religion is not simply some sort of hostile bias to belief as such, but the extreme difficulty of representing in an 'urgent' medium experience or awareness that is apprehended in common practice over time. Which is why, incidentally, the recent BBC series, 'The Monastery', succeeded in such a remarkable way; it was about what can be known only by taking time, in company. Perhaps observers of religious broadcasting should concentrate not on the time or space given to simple and static representations of religious views and activities but on how this method of following the 'real time' of religious knowing and experiencing can be fostered. The recent speech by the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, to the Churches' Media Conference seemed to endorse very clearly the significance of this dimension to religious broadcasting - allowing religious knowledge to be complex and engaging in the way any serious human knowing must be.

But this is not only a question about religious broadcasting or religious journalism. Christian belief takes as fundamental the idea that humans are created for communication; they are gifted with language. They are designed to speak to God and to each other and to give names to the things of the world around them. They are who they are in and through how they communicate. There is quite a bit in the New Testament from Jesus and St Paul and St James on the dangers of 'idle' speech, speech that debases the currency because it is inflated, untruthful, aggressive, contemptuous or salacious. Corrupt speech, inflaming unexamined emotion, reinforcing division, wrapped up in its own performance, leaves us less human: fewer things are possible for us. Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow. So the question that a religious believer, a Christian in particular, might want to be pursuing here is what the responsibility of the media is for the quality of communication in a society.
Joe O'Leary | 06.15.05 - 10:28 pm | #

Fr O, I'd be interested to read more about your pilgrimage as a believer. You should get a blog.
A young catholic | 06.15.05 - 10:33 pm | #

You obviously have a lot on your mind, and you want people to tell all this to. Your writing would be worthwhile and a good record of an important period in the Church.
A young catholic | 06.15.05 - 10:45 pm | #

Thx, young catholic. I am a bit technologically challenged, but I'll look into it.
Joe O'Leary | 06.16.05 - 12:23 am | #

The knuckle-dragging mouth breathers should certainly drop their typical knee-jerk reactions to the Crusades and the Inquisition, after all these are clearly peripheral to the modern Catholic Church’s chief goal of offering tax shelter, legal defense and moral justification to pederast and pedophiles.
Anonymous | 06.16.05 - 1:47 am | #

The Pontifical Biblical Commission decreed on June 23, 1905 (see Denzinger n. 1980) that in some cases the sacred writers did not intend to tell real history (veram et proprie dictam historiam) but under the species and form of history a parable or allegory or some sense remote from the properly historical or literal meaning of the words(sub specie et forma historiae parabolam, allegoriam, vel sensum aliquem a proprie litterali seu historica verborum significatione remotum). This shows how far the Church is from fundamentalist literalism, and how misleading Chris's claims are. There is a little gap between the historical trustworthiness of the scriptural word and the exact details of the letter of Scripture, a gap sufficiently large to allow Catholic exegetes to accept without any problems the non-historicity of Daniel or the non-strict historicity of the discourses ascribed to Jesus in John, for example.
Joe O'Leary | 06.16.05 - 4:45 am | #

Above post probably belongs elsewhere, but I thought it best to put it here because biblical literalism has proved such a huge stumbling-block for so many on this forum. An utterly and completely unnecessary stumbling-block, which cuts them off from true enjoyment of the riches of Scripture.
Joe O'Leary | 06.16.05 - 4:47 am | #

Father O'Leary:

I'm puzzled by your unwillingness to answer my direct and simple questions. This is no hissy-fit, but a general puzzlement. You sound increasingly like Senator Kerry, who when asked a question about not spending public money on abortion replied with a long screed on matters of faith etc. What you aren't hearing (or reading) is that I understand that Scripture must be read not as the people you call literalists read it. After all, Christ didn't want us to forgive our brother 490 times and condemn him on the 491st. Nevertheless, some parts of Scripture are to be understood literally: "I AM the bread of Life", etc., as moderns understand the term literal. One excellent anonymous scholar at TAN observed that the richness of the original must be preserved in any translation and that the Douay translation best does this. Given how loathsomely flat and politically motivated the modern translations are, I'll take Douay any time -- even, or perhaps especially, when I have trouble understanding it.

May I recommend John Shelby Spong's Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism? He has an excellent point mixed in among the heaps and heaps of dung.

Now, I repose my questions: do you unequivocally accept the position that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are the pillars of the Church, and that the Magisterium has the right to tell us how to understand Scripture in toto and individual pericopes?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 06.16.05 - 7:41 am | #

". . . biblical literalism has proved such a huge stumbling-block for so many on this forum."

So many? I'm not aware of any biblical literalists participating at this weblog.

"The Pontifical Biblical Commission decreed on June 23, 1905 (see Denzinger n. 1980) that in some cases the sacred writers did not intend to tell real history (veram et proprie dictam historiam) but under the species and form of history a parable or allegory or some sense remote from the properly historical or literal meaning of the words(sub specie et forma historiae parabolam, allegoriam, vel sensum aliquem a proprie litterali seu historica verborum significatione remotum)."

Hold on a second. Did the PBC actually say that in 1905??? But I thought Catholics didn't know or understand such things until Divino afflante Spiritu gave Catholic exegetes the freedom to question whether Jesus really said and did the things the Bible claims He said and did. In 1905, other than a few clear thinkers who were persecuted by the Holy Office, Catholics were a pack of precritical biblical literalists. Since then there has been a massive paradigm shift that changes the meaning of everything the Church says she believes. How could anyone at the Vatican have understood the Bible in 1905 without the help of the historico-critical method???
St. Polycarp | 06.16.05 - 8:44 am | #

And if the old PBC decrees, including this one from 1905, no longer have any binding force, as is often claimed, then does that mean that we Catholics now have permission to be fundamentalistical blinkered biblical literalists?
St. Polycarp | 06.16.05 - 8:48 am | #

"Chesterton had no knowledge of theology, and it is bizarre to see him being invoked today as the answer to the theologians who labored to prepare Vatican II."

How could Chesterton have been a Catholic but have no knowledge of theology? All baptised Catholics are theologians.
St. Polycarp | 06.16.05 - 8:50 am | #

Whoever you are, O'Leary, your vain preoccupation with wanting to appear as a fresh innovative 'progressive' instead of one of your mildew-ridden old fart 'traditionalist' caricatures is clear. That was Rahner's problem too.

I think then-Cardinal Ratzinger captured it best: "His [Rahner's] was a speculative and philosophical theology in which Scripture and the Fathers in the end played no important role and in which the historical dimension was really of little significance. For my part, my whole intellectual formation had been shaped by Scripture and the Fathers and by profoundly historical thinking."

Shrugging-off the pillars of the Church (Scripture & the Father's Tradition) do bring a nice (but false) sense of freedom (from responsibility), don't they? Every generation thinks its is different with never-before-imagined insight, right?

Your brand of intellectualism seems phoney.
Confeitor | 06.16.05 - 6:04 pm | #

Can't we disagree without calling each other names? Jeez! Confiteor, calling an elderly and learned (you must admit regardless) priest a "phoney" (ehem, phony)is not nice!
Santiago | Homepage | 06.16.05 - 7:24 pm | #

I meant, "you must admit" he is very learned, not "you must admit" he is a priest. Just wanted to clear that up.
Santiago | Homepage | 06.16.05 - 8:16 pm | #

Here we go again with the cries of 'charity, charity' for challenging someone's position. C'mon. What 'names' did I call him? I said that I thought his intellectualism was phony (oh, those type-o's really discredit me, eh?); that is a criticism of an approach, not the person. I don't see what being elderly or a priest has to do with anything, and made it clear from the get-go that I didn't know who O'Leary was.

For O'Leary to claim that Chesterton was inane & had no concept of theology (that [gasp] only as a child could he have liked GKC)... to accuse the Holy Father of being a "cautious bureaucrat"... to denigrate the Tridentine Mass as "old, tired theologoumena"... to call men of great virtue like Fr. Hardon "old dreary names of warped reactionaries"... THAT'S being learned?! Did you miss that name-calling Santiago? I'm old enough to know that studying in Europe & breaking into Latin do not automatically constitute one as being 'learned'. The question is not about how clever one can sound but rather, "WHAT has one learned?" And based on his arrogant & disrespectful comments about -real- intellectual giants, I'd answer - "Not much."
Confeitor | 06.16.05 - 10:06 pm | #

Hey, hey, I meant my comment to apply to both sides. I thought Fr O was a bit pedantic, busting out the Latin and making crazy statements about Chesterton like that. But the most immediate example of a something mean was you calling him a phony (albeit indirectly). So I say again: Charity! Charity! Acknowledging, at the same time, my own lack of charity (I'm sure you can find an example of it on my blog, so I'm making the disclaimer here). Just be nice to each other. Imagine how much better it would be if you guys parsed the subtleties of Gaudium et Spes calmly and quietly. I'd love to read.

And I was very shocked about the comment on Fr Hardon. And about Fr Schall, who I think is a great educator.
Santiago | Homepage | 06.17.05 - 12:07 am | #

I meant Fr O's comment of Fr Hardon and Fr Schall.
Santiago | Homepage | 06.17.05 - 12:23 am | #

Hey, sorry to be so irritating, but you know that literary critics have often looked at Chesterton and usually found his style hollow and over-wrought, and a great writer like Sean O'Casey is not to be dismissed when he finds his contemporary GCK to be inane (or whatever the exact word he used was). As Ratzinger's remarks on Rahner above show, critics and theologians often have to be acerbic to make their points (and I admit that there is some truth in Ratzinger's point -- though I suspect that Ratzinger himself confuses mere erudition with a deep and critical historical vision). Now as to Chris G-Z's question, in its new version, yes of course I accept Scripture and Tradition as the pillars of the Church, the sources of Christian truth etc. If he read any of my posts properly he would know that. The magisterium is the supreme interpreter of Scripture. The right of the magisterium to say what a given pericope means is a tricky question, because as every literary critic knows, there is no final interpretation of any text, and the magisterium has in practice refrained from ever giving such an interpretation of a given pericope. Even the doctrines of the papal primacy and the virgin birth and the resurrection are not tied to the exegesis of any particular pericope. As I have shown, the magisterium has signalled its distance from literalistic readings of Scripture, such as Chris upheld in his initial interventions here, while stressing the historical reliability of Scripture more broadly.
Joe O'Leary | 06.17.05 - 1:14 am | #

Padre, there may be no final interpretation of a text - the riches of Scripture are such that these texts above all are never fully comprehended - but this does not mean there are no true interpretations - perfectly true, if not final as such. No?
Boeciana | Homepage | 06.17.05 - 7:02 am | #

This discussion is fun and useful and all -- but, um, wouldn't it be nice if we talked about Woods' book . . . maybe?
St. Polycarp | 06.17.05 - 8:15 am | #

"in its new version"? Please elaborate. The point of my question was precisely NOT to rely on caveats such as this one.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 06.26.05 - 7:43 pm | #

Father O'Leary ????

You usually reply so quickly and so dismissively. It has been almost four days. What's wrong?

Chris Garton-Zavesky | 06.29.05 - 8:30 pm | #

Oh dear. Father O'Leary has now gone almost a week without responding.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 07.01.05 - 7:56 am | #

He's been pretty busy up in the "Father O'Leary's 'New Gospel'" commentbox, so he apparently forgot about this one.
St. Polycarp | 07.01.05 - 5:16 pm | #

At least if he's busy cluttering up Dr. Blosser's blog, he's not preaching this nonsense in Japan? Does that make it an act of charity to keep this particular priest busy?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 07.04.05 - 1:59 pm | #

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