Monday, June 25, 2007

What is to be considered infallible?

Unfortunately, the archives for Pontifications appear to have been lost for good (though one can still find this or that page archived at Google and other places). (The new website for Pontifications.) If I find some of the links that were given at the old site touching upon this topic, I will add them here. I won't be attempting a post in response to the question given above, not yet.

It is unfortunate that such an Internet resource has been lost--the posts by the contributors to the old Pontifications, along with most of the comments given there, were an invaluable aid for those seeking to understand [Catholic] Christianity better. It is quite humbling and sobering, recognizing that the results of the efforts one has put into a website can disappear so easily. Considering the few original posts that I have written, I don't think I would miss the website so much if it were to disappear, though I admit that I am attached to some of them because of the points I was trying to make. Xanga Premium offers one the option of downloading one's files so one can archive them on one's personal computer. I don't know if any of the higher-end blog providers do this as well. So the lesson is this: if one thinks there is anything worth saving for future use, it's best to make a hard copy and an e-copy somewhere. Not many of my posts here could be directly turned into articles, but the subjects of reflection do pertain to one part of philosophy or another.

Doctrinal development and how to understand pronuncements in the light of Tradition--these are debated topics in the Catholic blogosphere and do warrant some attention; both are related to the teaching authority of the Magisterium (and infallibility). How can what is constant be nonetheless open to "change"? (Not contradiction, but a better exposition and formulation.) Even for some claiming to be orthodox, the "hermeneutic of rupture" replaces the "hermeneutic of continuity" when they focus excessively on the writings of one particular pontiff while disregarding or downgrading what has come before. If that is what distinguishes "neoCaths" from "traditional Catholics" then I'm more sympathetic to the "traditional Catholics."

Often Catholics project the liberalism (and other modern ideologies) they have imbibed through their culture and societies back onto Catholicism and interpret the Tradition accordingly. Critiques have been written about this, one example would be Romano Amerio's Iota Unum. One could make the argument that Pope John Paul II was trying to appropriate the language of modernity and to replace the intellectual underpinnings of that language with that of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Whether he was successful or instead added to the confusion of some is a question that will have to be revisited when sufficient time has passed. ( Jaroslaw Kupczak O.P. argues that he was a Thomist more than anything else in Destined for Liberty:
The Human Person in the Philosophy of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II
. Russell Hittinger attempts to show that the project to confront the modern nation-state and delineate a Catholic social doctrine [at least that part clarifying the relationship between Church and state] was already complete by the time John Paul II became pope; his contribution, according to Hittinger, was to recognize that this was no longer the pressing issue of the day, but rather the question of "What is man?" The problems of the 20th century were the result of the Western world forgetting what human nature is. To this I would respond with 2 points: (1) Catholic social doctrine is not yet complete if we understand it as requiring an elaboration by political theology, and the notion of the common good an instrumental good needs to be explicitly complemented with the notion of the common good as a substantive good. While it is addressed to particulars, what is needed is a practical science that will show how its recommendations and prescriptions are tied to "fundamental goods." Granted there are texts discussing general principles and goods in The Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, as a whole the book does treat them in a systematic manner as a text covering political theory would. Still, much of what seems to be generalities is actually tied up with addressing the concerns and conrete situations of contemporary societies. Political theology, or political philosophy, should aim to show what the ideal arrangement should be, what is possible in most cases, and what we should be striving to implement. To take as an example: distributivism or solidarism would be a part of politics (as modern "economics" belongs properly to politics), and while distributivism may not be possible in the United States, having a grasp of its aims and their rationale behind would enable us better understand what we should be working for in the here and now. (Especially when it comes to legislating with an eye towards relocalization.) (2) Though I cannot show that this is true of John Paul II, I think it has been recognized for a while (even if it is not totally reflected by statements of the pope, members of the Curia, and bishops) that the struggle between Church and state has been lost by the Church, in as much as there are no longer any Christian confessional states or Christian princes, and the absolutism of such confessional states, itself a deviation from the proper understanding of the relation of Church and state and the limits of temporal authority, needs no longer to be address, having been replaced by the absolutism of secular nation-states, with the rulers of which little appeal can be made to Christian principles. What is needed is a new Evangelization, a (re-)conversion of peoples, so that true Christian states can be developed. As for whether this can be done with modern "democracies"--though the ideology supporting such politeia may not in themselves be hostile to Christianity, they are afflicted by the problem of size, just as their confessional predecessors had been. Consequently, they are not real democracies, except in an extended sense, and those who have real power may indeed be hostile to Christianity and exploit the political system accordingly. While it may be the case that some popes have praised contemporary forms of democracy, I think such statements need to be taken in a qualified manner.)

As for the debate between the New Theologians and the neo-scholastics/neo-Thomists, which some would claim that the New Theologians have won... the best among the neo-Thomists and neo-scholastics would not deny that one should return to the Church Fathers, or use their writings as a beginning of reflection and inquiry. What they want to uphold is the method of St. Thomas, his views on the nature of theology as both a science and form of wisdom, and the relationship between faith and reason, philosophy [especially metaphysics] and theology. While the New Theologians and their successors may have made important contributions to explicating and clarifying certain points of the Faith, it is also apparent that many of them do suffer from a lack of a good training in philosophy, especially natural philosophy. This is a weakness that handicaps many Thomists as well. And everyone would do well to take an intensive course in Aristotelian logic, which would be helpful in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. So often equivocal usages of words are unacknowledged by those attempting a refutation.

If one has the gifts and the calling to present the Faith to others and to make it more intelligible, then after asking for help from the Holy Spirit, he should do so. But if one is still a learner, rather than taking upon the burden of teaching others (even if it is in the informal manner of writing a blog entry), his time would be better spent becoming better acquainted with philosophy and theology. For one to acquire wisdom, there must first be silence.

Let us also remember what Christ says: "I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:33) Time used for blogging might be better spent on repentance.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger ...

(Adoremus [library]; Catholic Culture)

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

something on the Magsterium (printed in Si Si, No No, a publication of the SSPX, which doens't mean that it is automatically wrong on all points) (alt)

While the SSPX are known for their attachment to the "old" missal, this is not their only concern--they are fighting against the hermeutic of rupture with respect to the Second Vatican Council, although some of their writings and polemics leave much to be desired.

Hrm, CE on theological censures; Ite ad Thomam on notae theologicae. A DISCUSSION OF INFALLIBILITY.

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