The Republic of Venice

doge-palaceI am reminded of the dotty “Romantic” ladies in England and the Great Invisible Empire to be contemplated whilst looking at a British flag and burning joss sticks before it! They had a “school” in England for a while, where young ladies could get their bottoms whacked with a cane. Then came Aristasia. I leave that subject without further comment.

I was looking through YF’s blog a few moments below and saw the final sentence of Catholic vs. classic Anglican debate:

It’s Rome or the abyss, folks. By Rome I mean our doctrine, not Catholic churchmen’s opinions, even the Pope’s.

I sent in a comment saying: This seems to suggest some very strange metaphysics. What happened to Bellarmine’s saying that the Church is as visible as the Republic of Venice? If the Church can subsist independently of the men and institutions in Rome, this idea is indeed far-reaching.

How indeed does one uphold the idea of a “true church” whose present authorities and institutions do not uphold it, nor even any Caudillo sending his critics and opponents to the garotte?

It is a long time since I had anything to do with the Society of St Pius X. They like to think of themselves as the “true church” whilst not being so at the same time. When I was at university studying philosophy, one principle of Aristotle’s epistemology was that of non-contradiction. Nowadays, we call it cognitive dissonance, someone holding onto a belief they know is not true. It’s something like the Workers’ Paradise in the days of Stalin, so beautifully portrayed by Orwell in his famous dystopia. You don’t think – you just obey the leader. In the light of twentieth-century European history, it is monstrous. The true church is its doctrine, but anyone can teach it or read it in books. Read this book and you will be saved! The atheists are laughing…

Oddly, the situation in the Roman Catholic Church and indeed all the mainstream institutions has brought about this dilemma. If we want to be ruthlessly logical, going from this assumption the idea of the Church is unmasked as a scam and a lie – or the Church consists of more than an institution. Therefore it subsists in more than one ecclesiastical institution, including Anglicans, Orthodox, Old Catholics, etc. – but such an idea is anathema to a conservative Roman Catholic apologist. I also came across this way of thinking with the sedevacantists. A typical case would be a priest having got Orders from an independent Vilatte or Mathew line bishop, and then he goes and claims to be a true Roman Catholic in contrast to all those he calls heretics and schismatics. His biggest problem is being canonically irregular through illicitly receiving orders. Such shenanigans have been going on for decades. Those who took the “true church” paradigm to the uttermost end of its logic are (or were) the home-aloners, lay people who reacted in the same way as the Безпоповцы Old Believers in the seventeenth century. It is one consideration that made me “cut the crap” and return to Anglicanism via the Continuers. Our situation is far from perfect, but we do what we can to do the work of Christ’s Church – whatever Christ meant.

Julius Evola made the point that such traditionalist groups do not have the authority to speak for the universal Church and the authorities of the same Church have poured out the baby with the bathwater. What is left? For Evola, there had to be another spiritual principle, a kind of lost “perennial tradition” – which like the Philosopher’s Stone has never materialised.

Should we dismiss it all as bunk and be materialists? Should we seek authentic spirituality and intelligence outside Christianity? Should we have a fresh and honest notion of the Church that relieves our cognitive dissonance? I don’t think any two human beings will have the same answer. All I can advocate is to make progress.

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39 Responses to The Republic of Venice

  1. J.D. says:

    Intuitively I believe that the Church subsists in more than one institution. It’s taken a lot of agonizing, reading, pondering and praying about things to come to that conclusion but these days I’m comfortable with it. The Church is both visible and invisible, it’s boundaries more mysterious than some within the world of either Roman Catholic or Orthodox traditionalist circles would like to admit.

    It’s true, logically speaking the most robust erudite and lock tight answer to the true Church dilemma within Roman Catholicism is sedevacantism and its various offshoots. The recognize and resist position of the SSPX crowd is the one with the most cognitive dissonance since it’s so blatantly obvious that the modern Roman hierarchy does not teach or hold to the same faith, and yet traditional Roman teaching makes of the pope and the ” magisterium” pretty much always right and worthy of obedience and deference. It puts them into an unsolvable koan to which their logic can only lead to sedvacantism or a continued cognitive dissonance.

    They hold on to a Church that exists nowhere outside their own 1950’s style chapels, to a faith that exists only in their minds and not in reality, and they claim allegiance to a man and an institution that wants nothing much to do with them or their late 19th to mid 20th century piety and theology. While I love Gregorian chant, the Benedictine Office and some traditional Catholic piety, and while I much prefer the 1962 Missal to the newer one, I cannot in good faith consider myself a Roman Catholic traditionalist.

    Summorum Pontificum was only a lifeline to people who wanted the 1962 rites as an option. The trad fantasy that modern Rome will someday roll back the clock and bring back the 1950’s style Catholicism on a global scale is an absurd fantasy. It’ll never, ever happen.

    Somehow reality is a lot less cut and dry than scholastic theology and rigorous lawyers logic of counter reformation ecclesiology. Perhaps this logical stuff is why so traditionalism appeals so much to lawyers!

    Best to find a little niche somewhere where you can pray or worship and grow in Christ and let all the lawyers and other characters who want everything to be neat, systematic and logical to duke it out, hurl anathemas and try to solve unsolvable koans about authority, ecclesiology and other things with no easy answers.

    • This is a nice reflection. We’re not making any personal attacks or treading on the feet of anyone in good faith. I think that the only reason for anyone to join a Church is because he feels at home in a given parish or other community and it appeals to his beliefs and liturgical sensitivities.

      The Church is a mystery, not a political institution. It would be tempting to see in Putin a new Constantine (I do hope he gets Hagia Sophia for the Orthodox), but it would involve people being unjustly tortured, imprisoned or even executed in a situation of war. The Church is a mystery and should be able to sanctify human souls without having the support of authoritarian and absolute secular leaders, whether legitimate kings or elected presidents or dictators who got by with a coup d’état.

      Julius Evola was right – unless we can come up with real salt and something about Christianity that is credible and not a load of rubbish for the credulous. The atheists promise us a more healthy and happier life without belief or spirituality, but their promise is a trap. Their message is appealing because it invites us to think. We have to be critical and be prepared to scrap what we discover to be untrue or harmful.

      I was born in the 1950’s but don’t remember anything of them. My very first memories go back to about 1962, but I was a child of 4. We still had pounds, shillings and pence, and my Saturday pocket money was 6d or a tanner. I had a vague idea of living in modern times and that there was nothing magical about my little world in the north of England. I can understand being nostalgic about the post-war generation when it seemed that people were on the whole decent and concerned with rebuilding the post WWII world. They were prosperous times, as were the 1960’s. We only started hearing about financial problems, the energy crisis and strikes in the 1970’s. But, those days for the Churches contained the seeds of what was coming. Some very nice churches were built in the 50’s as well as some very ugly ones.

      Pius XII himself was committed to a programme of reform, probably not unlike what came with the man he appointed as secretary of State, Giovanni Montini who became Paul VI. The seeds were sown probably long before WWII and maybe during the pontificate of that most revered Pius X. See Who Was Papa Sarto? which gives a very interesting portrait of the RC Church in the 20th century.

      People will do what they think best. I moved on as many others have moved on in different ways. We had to. I was rescued from scholasticism by a good theological education at Fribourg University, which was not liberal but neo-patristic and “ressourcement”. The apologists on both sides of the Tridentine polemics were lawyers and saw theology in terms of law. Dry as dust and fit for the dustbin

      Indeed, there are no easy answers, and we each have to find our own way.

  2. William Tighe says:

    I made a response to your comment over at YF’s blog:

    ‘I believe that Bellarmine both clearly acknowledged that a pope could teach heresy and went on to discuss the implications and remedies in the event of such a situation. So his claim that the Church is as visible as the Republic of Venice did not seem to involve, for him, any “far reaching” ideas about the divisibility of the Church, or of its “subsistence” in various distinct bodies (or “branches”) not in eucharistic communion with one another – or at least one should identify and discuss any inconsistencies or “strange metaphysics” in Bellarmine’s highly systematic writings in order to make such a case.’

    My real problem (as you know well, since we have had exchanges about it in the past) with your view and J.D.’s that, to quote from J.D.’s comment “that the Church subsists in more than one institution” is that there is not so much as a scintilla of a shred of support for such a notion (which far pre-dates the Counterreformation or Hildebrandine “papalism”) expressed anywhere, at any time, or by anyone before the 15th Century. No Church Father ever broached such a notion (they were all clear, on those infrequent occasions when they addressed the question, that “the Church” is “our communion”); none of the “classical heresies” (or “heresiarchs,” in the case of movements which looked back to a particular founder or organizer, like Marcion, Novatus, Donatus, and so forth) espoused any such ecclesiology. The “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” – and note in how many manuscripts the word “monen” (one only) is found as a variant of “mian” (one) – meant, to the Fathers at Nicaea and at Constantinople, “our church – and nobody else’s.” The Marcionites, Novatianists, Donatists each and all thought of themselves, and not those terming themselves “Catholics,” as the One and Only Church, as, later, once the messy and complicated process of defining orthodoxy was accomplished in each instance, did the Arian communion of churches, the “Assyrian” Church of the East (aka “Nestorian” Church), and the “non-Chalcedonian” or Oriental orthodox churches. And today not only magisterially-faithful Catholics, but the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and – after some waffling and wavering on the subject at some points in the 20th Century – the Church of the East all make the same claim about their respective selves. The historical accuracy of this representation was underlined by the “liberalising” Anglican Evangelical clergyman and Church Historian (sometime Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Oxford) S. L. Greenslade in his *Schism in the Early Church* (1953) in which he argued that all strands or schools of Anglicans should repudiate such a view, despite its possessing “universality, antiquity, and consent” (as he proved at length and in great detail) because the acceptance of such a view rendered the English Reformation “unjustifiable;” and the then Abbot of Downside (a former Anglican) B. C. Butler, used Greenslade’s scholarship to good effect in his *The Idea of the Church* (1961).

    This is a longer comment than I had intended to make, but it has always bemused me to behold defenders and asserters of particular aspects (or features) of what, for want of a better phrase to hand, I may term “Catholic Tradition” – and sometimes invoking the so-called “Vincedtian Canon” in that behalf – being willing to jettison with such insoucisance an ecclesiological postulate about the nature, unity, and unicity of “the Church” to which both the Catholic “Church Fathers” and the “Dissenting Fathers” of various “counter-Churches” alike held without exception (except for the Gnostics, of course, who appear to have rejected the very concept of an authoritative Church).

    • J.V. says:

      Fair enough, but one then is pressed to define which institution can make a substantiated claim to being the “one Church,” and that is where things get messy. Is it under Rome’s umbrella? The “evidence” usually cited to prove that point is usually an eclectic grab-bag. One is challenged to find any coherent data proving Roman ecclesiology from the New Testament (misreading the Gospel of Matthew doesn’t count). And one is further challenged to find universal and consistent belief in Rome’s conception of primacy, let alone other exclusively Roman doctrinal points. Is it as simple as saying, as Orthodoxy occasionally does, that Rome is a dissident patriarchate and whatever primary the Bishop of Rome has is forfeited until such time as he brings his patriarchate back into doctrinal regularity? I suppose this accurately reflects the position I came to with regards to certain developments in the Roman Catholic tradition. Conversely, can the Orthodox Church claim “universality?” Perhaps with regards to dogma, although it borders on absurdity due to its ignorance of the Latin tradition – and dogma/doctrine is nothing without praxis, liturgical or otherwise.

      There is comfort in taking a more “traditional” position. Although, an honest and critical assessment of the historical record (and textual analysis) shakes the credibility of such claims. Certainly, this was the aspect of Roman Traditionalism I found repugnant Then again, I’m not especially comfortable when I hear something similar among Orthodox circles.

      Is it necessary to have “one true church?” I suppose. But unless one wants to whitewash much of the available evidence, one has to accept that it is difficult to identify the one institutional church which can make a legit claim. To a certain extent, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church can make claims. Clearly, however, these claims cannot be considered conclusive and thoroughly substantiated. So perhaps there is some wisdom in saying there is one Church, and it is not united – and leave it at that. Granted, such a position solves nothing; one cannot rest one’s hat on having found the “one true church”, nor does it press one side or the other to assent to certain disputed doctrinal matters. It may however be the most honest option.

      • Thank you for this. I once came across a priest in America, ordained in the Ngo-Dinh-Thuc succession and married. He was also a Feeneyite. Because he claimed to be Roman Catholic, I pointed out to him that he was canonically irregular and had probably committed the delict of schism. He would only be accepted back into what he considered to be the “true church” by submitting to the CDF in Rome and returning as a layman. As always, there is the Platonic “universal idea” of a true church, not something manifested by the current Roman Curia, the Pope and the diocesan bishops. If you challenged such a person on this “universal idea”, he would deny it and would be unable to explain his claim rationally. He could only claim that other priests like him, in the same canonical irregularity, were heretics and schismatics, and not in the “true church”. Perhaps one is in the “true church” by shouting the loudest and making the others in the room stop talking.

        There only ever was a ”one true church” in the Patristic era through the persecution of Gnostics and others with the help of the “secular arm” embodied in the Roman Empire after Constantine. It was easy to hound such “heretical” communities out of existence. It was a little harder when it was the Church of Constantinople, also with large numbers of clergy and faithful and a lot of political clout.

        The “one true church”, since the schism symbolically dated from 1054, understood as the way the likes of Boniface VIII described the Roman Catholic Church, is an absurdity. Since the end of secular authorities prepared to uphold the Roman Catholic Church and actively persecute any other Christian and non-Christian communities, the claim of “one true church” holds no further credibility with any thinking (critically-minded) person.

        Like Papal infallibility, “extra ecclesiam nullus salus” understood as the automatic damnation of anyone not in a regular canonical situation with Rome is a cause of rational people rejecting Christianity in general as a load of bunk.

        If there is a true church, but one that is not canonically or institutionally united, it can only come from a different ecclesiology. I tend to favour the idea of the Catholic Church subsisting in all manifestations of the Church, the minimum being a bishop with a presbyterium and a number of lay faithful – rather than the usual Anglican “branch theory”. I agree that there is no need for excessively precise definitions, but rather the possibility for a local community to believe in good faith that it does the work of the Church and that it is in the Church.

        All that being said, I know that this argument can go on forever. There are historical arguments for and against, as for the idea of Tradition and living magisterium.

  3. I don’t see the problem. I said there’s doctrine, the church as visible as the Republic of Venice, and then there are churchmen’s opinions, even those of Popes, which do not speak for the church. So a churchman’s wrong opinion doesn’t mean there’s no visible true church.

  4. ed pacht says:

    I don’t at all like “as visible as the Republic of Venice”. I don’t think it is a true analogy at all. Perhaps the visibility of Christ’s Church could be likened to the visibility of Italy, which has sometimes been a single institution, but has more often been an extremely visible single thing existing in a bunch of institutions. As a matter of fact, I’m unconvinced that the Church has ever been a single institution, even when the recognition of a single nominal leader in Rome was generally assumed. It is visible, but it just hasn’t ever acted like an institution. It has often been likened to herding cats.

    Rome’s claim (and that of the other churches mentioned) to be the one true church at least had a logical consistency when visible membership of a visible institution was considered necessary for salvation and the rest of us were damned. I could disagree with that, but at least I could understand the claim. However, I have a distinct problem with the convoluted notion that the visible Church is a specific institution to which I categorically refuse submission, and yet am somehow, in some way, a part of it anyway. That’s awfully close to the Protestant notion of an invisible church – an idea which I find to be entirely unscriptural. No, the Pope and my bishop and I are all members of the visible Church of Christ, but not currently of a single institution on earth.

    • William Tighe says:

      This puts me in mind of the remark attributed to William Temple: “I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but believe that it no longer exists on Earth.”

      • ed pacht says:

        Not at all fair. Abp. Temple erred often, and often said things that were not (I feel) expressive of what he actually thought. This particular statement certainly does not speak for Anglicanism in general, and most emphatically not for me.

        I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and I do believe that it exists on Earth, here and now, very obvious and very visible, with a unity that can indeed be seen in spite of the also obvious divisions and differences. Dr. Tighe, you and I share a commitment to One Savior whose one eternal Sacrifice has redeemed us from our sin and brought us under the headship of that one resurrected Savior. We express this unity in remarkable similar ways, in Baptism, in Eucharistic rites, superficially various, that even unbelievers can recognize as being essentially the same thing, in reliance on one sacred Book, and in our efforts to live all that out in an unbelieving world. I find our unity to be so visible and obvious that it hardly needs comment.

        Why then do we also express so much disunity? Why is there not a single institution comprising all Christians? I contend that part of the reason for that is the very insistence that there must be a single institution under a single earthly government. This, really, is the only place where our difference is substantial enough to bring about broken communion. You believe a/ that there must be a single earthly head under Christ, and b/ that union with him as vicar of Christ is what defines the one true church. Fair enough, but I don’t, I neither believe that nor accept it as compatible with Scripture. The Church is visible and most certainly concrete, but its headship is not physically on Earth. It is at the throne of Heaven that the visible expressions of Christ’s Church are made fully one.

      • Dale says:

        Dr Tighe, I am going to second Ed here. As an example there are those who would state that once Pope John Paul II publicly smooched the Koran, he ceased to be Catholic. One has to be careful in attributing the whole Faith of ecclesial bodies based upon the actions or sometimes strange statements made by their leaders. Of course, Archbishop William Temple, unlike Pope John Paul II, did not believe himself to be personally infallible on Faith and Morals.

  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Dr. Tighe & The young fogey,

    Can you say something about the ecclesiology of Lumen gentium 15, as to both its nature/character (including its history), and status?

    Whence, for example, the nouns and adjective here: “propriis Ecclesiis vel communitatibus ecclesiasticis”?

    Are those Patristic ways of speaking? Or Scholastic? Or quite novelly coined for the occasion? Or what, exactly?

    What is being done, when speaking of “propriis Ecclesiis” in distinction from “Ecclesia Mater”?

    And, as to status, would you designate this as “churchmen’s opinions, even those of Popes, which do not speak for the church”?

  6. Stephen K says:

    No matter which way you slice it, both William and YF, in asserting in their various ways that the “Church” founded by Jesus is none other than the Roman Catholic Church – and a Roman Catholic Church of their own specifications, mind you (rather than any actual one at any one time) – reduce God’s plan for humankind to a selective club eligibility lottery, unfair to the extent that billions of souls, born in ages and places and to parents of all other kinds, have no chance. Considering that both William and YF are intelligent human beings, the puzzle is how they can possibly support what appears to be a theology for the wilfully blind or conceited.

    • Stephen K says:

      Lest I be accused of mischaracterising their assertions, let me qualify my reference to the “Roman” Catholic Church by adding I fully appreciate that both gentlemen include the Uniate churches within their concept of the one true church. But it doesn’t qualify the substance of my criticism; we all know who they mean by the ecclesia outside of which there is no (direct or easy) salvation.

    • ed pacht says:

      Calm down a little, Stephen. You re managing to sound as exclusivist as you accuse them of being: “…the puzzle is how they can possibly support…” You know, they will say exactly the same thing about you and me. What they assert is so obvious to them that they have difficulty understanding why we don’t see it as clearly as they do. This is what people do, including you and me, and intelligent people are even more facile about doing so and convincing themselves than ordinary. Are you excluding people who come to the conclusion that Rome is the one true church from the ingroup of those who are bright enough to reject such a notion? Is your oh-so-rational viewpoint so much more ‘enlightened’ than theirs? You know, when Our Lord advises me to find the beam in my own eye, it’s not hard to find, and it looks an awful lot like the rigidity that I’m always accusing others of holding. I find that, when I see a ‘truth’ so obvious that it cannot be rationally denied, I turn out to be partially or even entirely wrong. I’m convinced that this is the case in all of theology as it is in true scientific thinking. Our minds simply aren’t big enough to handle huge issues with certainty.

      Incidentally, your comment is describing a totally unnuanced viewpoint that I’m sure both of them would reject, as does current RC official theology with its (to me convoluted and impossible) assertions about ‘separated brethren’ who are somehow a part of the very church they reject. A certain Fr. Feeney was excommunicated by Rome in the fifties, well befofe Vaican II, for assertions like those you attribute to our friends. You know, I’m tempted to call that comment both ‘wilfully blind’ and ‘conceited’, but will stop short of that lest I make myself into the kind of authority I wish not to accept.

      • Stephen K says:

        Ed, thank you for your gentle rebuke. To tell you the truth I’m really surprised this ‘one true church’ subject has come up here on Father’s site – I thought it had been shelved for the very reasons you touch on – the circularity and unresolvability of particular claims. It never seems to do any good anyway: as you imply, disputants so easily, so inevitably, end up in mutual excommunications: all rather futile, unedifying, ‘un-Christian’. In answer to your question, I am not – and would not – exclude people who think the Roman Church is the ‘one true church’ from whatever the Church is. First, to my way of thinking, the Church is not something from which any person can ‘exclude’ anyone else; the Church, in my thinking, is a verb (‘an action’) – it will be wherever and whenever a person acts and loves and gives effect to the Gospel message , and where the Spirit moves, so to speak – and secondly, insofar as I think the Church may be a fruit of many individual relationships with God (and relationships with each other), then exclusion seems to me to be quite beyond any single person’s capacity to exclude anyone else, even in their own minds.

        The sad thing, in my view, is that this particular theological item – the identification of a one-true Church with a particular institution and/or a particular paradigm – appears to underpin or inform so much other religious or theological discourse in other areas that the virus of exclusion and condemnation taints and infects and spreads quickly. I think it is the cause of much harm and violence, the source of disunity of hearts and the retardation of the kingdom. If even universalist hypotheses, like mine, are unable to avoid this kind of toxicity, then one begins to understand the appeal of the apophatic tradition, the unanalysed routine of the religion of the simple, and the dangers and dubious merits of theologising, let alone for apologetical purposes.

      • The subject came up in reaction to seeing it elsewhere. Some particular expressions got up my nose. It all goes round and round, and I can imagine a group of neo-conservatives and traditionalists in heaven locked up in their illusion – the world they make (as we all do), and unaware that “the others” are in heaven too!

    • William Tighe says:

      Your quarrel is with Jesus Christ and the apostles, not with me.

      • William Tighe says:

        Or, at least, as I understand what they both taught and instituted. And I must say, that while my historical assertions and the conclusions that I derive from them may both be questioned and controverted, which I do not in the least mind, I find it difficult even to engage with the views of Stephen K. since they seem to come (as far as I can see) from his own experience and what he draws from it.

        Martin Luther once notoriously said, “Reason is a whore,” although he was far from applying this apercu generally. As far as I can see, though, “experience” as an authoritative source in such matters, is reason’s twin sister.

      • Stephen K says:

        Actually, William, I don’t have a quarrel with Jesus at all, never have. After all, he’s not insisting half of Christian humanity doesn’t belong to the “true” Church. I don’t think I have any quarrel with the apostles either, since I don’t see that they made any similar claim or characterised the Church in such corporate terms, if Paul is typical (cf. Thess. 2:14, Phil. 2:1-11, Gal. 3:25-29, 2 Cor. 8:1, 18, 1 Cor. 3:3-4, 22-23, 12:13-14, 16:19, Rom. 10:12-13). I’m not even sure I have a quarrel with you, at least, insofar as I don’t have any expectation I would ever convince you; but I did wish to register my disagreement with what I understand to be your and YF’s true Church proposition(s).

      • Stephen K says:

        I’ve just read your codicil, William. I must say, your citation seems something of a non-sequitur, although I recognise it as a rhetorical device (i.e. to disparage my view). In any case, Luther may have said lots of things but it doesn’t follow that in his expressions he was being other than his robust temperamental personality inclined him or that he was correct or that many people, probably among them St Thomas Aquinas, would have agreed, or that in your own way you yourself do not rely on your own study, reflection, conversions and encounters (aka your ‘experience’) to draw your own conclusions. Of course I do the same. My guess is that if your difficulty in engaging with my views is not simply that you find it hard to imagine what might have constituted someone else’s experience because you can only think in terms of your own, then it is not difficulty at all for an academic such as yourself, but plain annoyance that you find it hard to answer to it. After all, my characterisations and theological conclusions are described plainly enough. If my experience and reasoning is a whore, it doesn’t say much for anyone else’s, including your own, unless you propose that you disregard both, and then your own journey must be valueless and it must become something of an inescapable vortex for you. The project of trying to understand a view or faith that is not your own necessarily involves a measure of openness to doubt and revision of one’s own. I only hope you have not got so used to the deference with which so many posters appear to accord you that you consider it beneath you to respond to others. You’ve clearly got a lot of knowledge behind you, but it isn’t always enough. Ed often rebukes me fraternally and I often deserve it, but so do we all (cf. IIa IIae, q. 33, Ben XVI, 4/9/11).

      • Dale says:

        Of course Bellarmine, threatened Galileo because he used reason to prove the obvious as well. Dr Tighe this is a horse that will not run.

      • William Tighe says:

        “Of course Bellarmine, threatened Galileo because he used reason to prove the obvious as well. Dr Tighe this is a horse that will not run.”

        Bellarmine threatened Galileo because, he claimed, Galileo was making assertions about physical reality, i.e., the truth of heliocentrism and the falsity of geocentrism, which he could not prove or demonstrate – and, indeed, it was only “proved” in the 1820s. What Galileo was arguing was that the greater simplicity of the mathematical representation of the heliocentric system when compared with the greater complexity of the geocentric system was sufficient in itself to prove the truth of heliocentrism. Bellarmine was quite right to respond that this was not a proof.

        And it was not this that landed Galileo in his long troubles at the end of his life. The upshot of his first round with the Inquisition was that he was forbidden to publish more on this matter, and if he did discuss it, he would have to treat the heliocentric view as a hypothesis only. Instead, some years later, when he published his *Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems* he gave opprobrious names to the advocates of geocentrism and had them advance blockheadedly idiotic arguments in favor of their system, while the exponents of heliocentrism were all sweet reason (and mathematics). Galileo later claimed that he had treated the question as a hypothesis, and that he had never been informed, or had been informed only orally and had misremembered, that he was not to publish on the question without permission. (Bellarmine had died by then, and so could not answer for what “oral precepts” he had given Galileo.) His big mistake, though, was so to describe one of the blockheaded geocentrists that the current pope, Urban VIII, took it as a reference to himself, and was enraged, both at the supposed disrespect it manifested towards him as pope, and for Galileo’s supposed ingratitude for the support and attempted protection which the pope, when he was Cardinal Barberini, had afforded him, and urged on the prosecution of Galileo.

        Both heliocentrists and geocentrists could both, at that time, advance plausibly reasonable arguments in support of their respective views; and to write of “the obvious” in that time, place and context, is a pretty obvious howler of an anachronism.

      • Dale says:

        Not necessarily. Galileo’s use of the telescope had already proven that the planets were not as explained by Roman Catholic theologians which taught that planets were points of light, but Galileo proved that they were bodies of dimension like the earth and moon. This alone disproved the theological “theory” that planets were luminous and proved their heliocentric arrangement. And by discovering the moons of Jupiter, he proved that there could be more than one center for heavenly orbits. The issue was not as you have posited simply one of a heliocentric universes verses that of a geocentric one. He had proven that most of the religious interpretations of the solar system were invalid; regardless of being able to prove, at that point, a heliocentric universe.

        You have also forgotten Kepler, who was able to discover the reason for Copernicus’s mathematical problems, by Copernicus’s continued attempt to force the mathematics to conform to the theological concept that the circular orbits of the planets must be perfect in their circular movement by mathematically showing that if the heliocentric universe charted the planets as elliptical orbits, and his First Law. It was theology, divorced from reason, that insisted that the planets must move in perfect circles.

        But even you admit that a heliocentric solar system was proven by the 1820’s…yet Galileo’s books remained on the Index until 1835.

        I think you wish to prove that Luther hated reason, in this issue he was not alone.

      • Dale says:

        Of course Dr Tighe, you are correct, in an age when the Pope’s could and did burn people at the stake, making fun of a sitting pontiff was, well, not only stupid, it was dangerous.

      • Dale says:

        Please excuse making a plural into a possessive. It is late, and I have been grading for hours!

      • ed pacht says:

        Dr. Tighe,
        you made this pair of statements:

        Your quarrel is with Jesus Christ and the apostles, not with me.
        Or, at least, as I understand what they both taught and instituted.

        I think this is an admission that Stephen’s quarrel (and mine) is indeed with you Neither of us has the slightest intimation that either Our Lord or His closest associates said anything whatever to support Rome’s claims, and thus that neither of us is quarrelling in any sense with Him or them.. Your interpretation (which is indeed that of the RCC) is obviously what you see in those passages. Frankly I see such assertions as to be totally unsupported by any of those texts, and, still frankly, to be in themselves a quarrel with what Our Lord said and intended. Thus we differ with one another, both having the sincere desire to be in accord with the Incarnate Master.

        A statement such as your first appears hubritical and should never be uttered, not being in furtherance of logic or charity and expressing only division, The qualification in the second comment puts the issue back where it was: our different interpretations. Perhaps one is correct and the other not. Perhaps both are true in some qualified way. Perhaps neither is an adequate reflection of truth. These are questions on which we differ, which can be discussed, but which will probably never be solved before the parousia. Ultimately they are not answered by human reason, but by faith.

        Yes, Bill, my quarrel is with you, insofar as you represent the largest fragment of Christianity and its official teaching. If a majority opinion could establish doctrine, I guess you’d win this one, but you and I fully agree that an error of the majority is still an error, and truth is still true, even if held by very few, Thus we discuss these things, respectfully and without smug assertions of superiority, and perhaps thereby somehow advance the pursuit of the fullness of Christ.

  7. T Graham says:

    The word “institution” is being thrown around and seems to carry a rather limiting sociological flavour. If one talks solely in terms of faith and sacraments, and about particular churches (under a bishop with Apostolic orders) then I am not sure that the One True Church claim is as devastating as all that. The Orthodox are permitted to receive to receive at a Catholic Eucharist because there are no doubts about Orthodox orders: as far as I know, they largely don’t. So here there is a lack of institutional unity, but a possibility of real communion in Christ’s Body. It is their own convictions about Rome that keep them apart. As for the Anglicans and churches made up of former Anglicans who are serious about their Catholicism, I am inclined to agree with the wise Rev Fr Hunwicke on Apostolicae Curae. But when it comes to identifying a particular set of bishops in communion with each other as the Church, one runs up against the whole question of the Christ’s gift to Peter. I know it sounds convoluted to say that the One Church is a specific (visible and definable) communion, that all baptised Christians belong to but are not identified with… but that is just the reflection of the convoluted nature of actual disunity (and institutional overreach too, I dare say). The alternatives are to effectively reject the Petrine office altogether, or the episcopacy or something like that, but why throw out a catholic and Christian belief that – for all we know – the Holy Spirit might one day bring to full realisation in unity again?

  8. Dale says:

    Personally, I rather like the old translation of the Roman canon of the Mass that states that those who are in the Church are those “who hold the Catholic Faith in due estimation.”

    The problem with both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic claims are now very much based upon geographical or personality issues. Both demand a full submission or supposed unity with either Rome or Constantinople (and regardless of what many Orthodox may contend, unless one is somehow canonically joined to Constantinople, one is not considered as Orthodox).

  9. Paul Goings says:

    I think of myself as a Non-Juring Roman Catholic. I believe in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, but assert that its local manifestation is simply too dire for words. Yes, the Ordinariate and the Extraordinary Form. Look at what those efforts actually consist of in the Philadelphia area, and talk to some of those involved, and get back to me.

    Obviously this will be considered an untenable possible by some. At times I question my own motivations. But, for the moment at least, this is where I am.

  10. J.D. says:

    I’m not sure there really is some magic bullet answer here. Somehow I remain a Roman Catholic, but like Mr. Goings has said right now the situation is ” too dire for words.” In that the situation is so dire I’m in no position to be smug and trash talk other Christians and try to tell them it’s blatantly obvious that Rome is the True Church when, as J.V. said the evidence is not as cut and dry as some would like to think.

    Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name…. This doesn’t do away with the necessity of the Church, but it shows that on a certain level our Lord is present when people gather together to pray in His name. He doesn’t say, ” when two baptized card carrying Roman Catholics in full communion with the Pope are gathered together”, or ” where two old calenderist true Orthodox are gathered together”, but simply ” where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” It’s hard to explain,but this closeness between Christians and our Lord being present among us when we pray together even across confessional or jurisdictional lines seems intuitively real to me.

    I don’t know how else to explain it I guess. Life in the real world has shown me that there’s a lot more gray areas in life than some of the ” super correct” Orthodox or hardline rad trad Catholics would like to think. Life— ecclesiastical and otherwise— is messy. There’s a tension in trying to take to heart what the Church teaches and what seems to be the case in day to day life. It’s not so cut and dry.

  11. Caedmon says:

    Somewhere in the Prayer Book the church is defined as ‘the blessed company of all faithful people’. Is any improvement on that possible?

    • ed pacht says:

      Good! But, then again, it does require interpretation. Who, indeed, are to be counted as “faithful people”? “One True Church” people of whatever strife will insist that faithfulness necessarily includes submission to their particular definition of what the Faith entails. In times not so very far past, among Anglicans using that very book, some old-fashioned Low Churchmen would exclude Papists from the category, some Classic High-Churchmen and some Anglo-Catholics tended to exclude Baptists and suchlike, and Broad Churchmen tended to include such as Unitarians. Very different conceptions of what kind of faith admits one to the Church. Is any improvement on that possible? For these reasons, probably not. It’s a good statement, but it doesn’t lay to rest the arguments. The faith that brings one to new birth and to membership in the true church is notoriously hard for us humans to define. We can only do the best we can with the supernatural help of God.

      • Caedmon says:

        I think the whole point of the Prayer Book definition is that it sidesteps questions of theology and denominational allegiance and makes the idea of a ‘one true church’ here on earth impossible.

  12. Ian says:

    May I share a secret here? It was suggested to me by the ladies of Romantia, back in the late 80s or early 90s, that a ‘Romantic Church’ should be established. ‘Not as a sect’, Miss Traill said, ‘But as a place’.

    Maybe an idea whose time has come….

    • I might have written to a “Miss Prism” a couple of times and she caught me out with a split infinitive! 🙂 I was in seminary at the time, so too far away for a whacking (I think they only did that to girls). I had a couple of those cassettes (the cassette player had to be hidden inside an old 1930’s wireless set) and they were quite hilarious. It also seems to me that they are pagans in the Julius Evola “tradition”, so I wonder what their idea of a “Romantic Church” would entail in the “Gweat Invisible Empire” (they pronounce their “r”s as “w”s like in the 1920’s).

      Yeah, amusing stuff to remember from long ago…

      • Ian says:

        I wish I still had the cassette tapes of the Imperial Home Service. Foolishly I chucked them all out with all my other cassette tapes when I no longer had a tape recorder to play them on.

        I didn’t know of the whacking, or, indeed, the sapphic side of it all. Nor was I aware of Lux Madriana, the strange group from which they partly sprang, with its cult of the Mother God, Daughter God and Hidden Dark God. I think they were very good at presenting different faces to different people – the all used multiple names, of course. To me they were traditional English ladies from a Barbara Pym novel. The ‘Romantic Church’ would have been an English country church from before the War, with High Church tendencies. No doubt it would have counted as a ‘fresh expression of church’!

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