Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Analysis from Outside

The following analysis, by a priest not from an Anglican jurisdiction, expresses pretty much what I’d have liked to say, but better expressed than I would have produced. I ran it by Fr. Hart and he also thought it worthy of posting.
----------ed pacht

Dear Reader

It has become to concern me somewhat of late, the over spin and positive gloss that some Reverend Colleagues are placing on the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. The most recent example being a Pastoral Letter issued by +Louis Falk, head of the TAC in America, issued this past weekend (22/11/09).

Taking my life into my own hands possibly re ruffling a few feathers, but my thoughts below on +Louis Falk’s recent Pastoral Letter concerning the AC...

Quote:
22 November 2009 – Sunday Next Before Advent
To all the Faithful of the Anglican Church in America
Greeting:
The great Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff has been quoted as remarking that genuine Christian unity would require humility on the part of many, and charity on the part of all. I suggest that to those two paramount Christian virtues we must add the more workaday quality of patience. It took 450 years to raise all the questions posed by the possibility of real and corporate unity between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. We will not have all the answers in 450 minutes.

Indeed, John Meyendorff is worth reading, but the Apostolic Constitution does not offer corporate reunion - it offers "corporate" (at best) conversion - this is not Communion it is absorption. It is not the reunification of the See of Canterbury with the Holy See, but the absorption of some Anglicans as Roman Catholics.

Quote:
Yet with the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus we do now have the possibility of addressing those issues directly and in cooperation with each other. As most everyone knows by now, the Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion, meeting in October of 2007 in Portsmouth, England, addressed a petition to the Holy See seeking to explore what would need to be done to achieve full, visible unity while maintaining the best characteristics of our beloved Anglican heritage. The Apostolic Constitution is meant to provide an approach to just that question. It is an extremely generous and pastoral document. Indeed, it explicitly address the desirability of preserving our Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony intact and undamaged after the ravages of such as Jenkings, Spong, Robinson and Schori.

The Apostolic Constitution provides "full, visible unity" in as much as a convert will become a Roman Catholic. That is Rome's understanding of "full, visible unity". Rome's answer is, "convert and you will achieve full, visible unity" with us. The "Anglican Patrimony" can only be cultural if people as converts take on Rome's doctrine, her thinking, her praxis... what is left to bring accept cultural appreciation if by converting you necessarily leave all else behind? The AC is an "accommodation" it is not the recognition of an inherent Catholicism in Anglicanism.

Quote:
An initial set of Complementary Norms has been issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will be discussed in detail by representatives of that body and of the TAC College of Bishops within the near future. We are now asking members of the ACA (and other TAC provinces) to study the Norms and then pose such questions as may occur.

Complementary Norms can be discussed, this is stated in the Apostolic Constitution [Anglicanorum Coetibus Article II] suggesting that Ordinariates can have their own Norms in sympathy obviously with those already given together with the AC and normative Roman Canonical and doctrinal praxis. This is not to replace the Complementary Norms promulgated by the Holy Father and issued with the Apostolic Constitution. These other Norms will be supplementary to cover practical details, not policy.

Quote:
Some already have, such as: Question: Will we be able to continue to have married priests indefinitely? Answer: Yes.

More accurate answer: not exactly. For as long as the applications of married candidates are reviewed by the Holy See and are successful, on a "case by case basis" - then "yes". However, as the AC makes it clear that Clerical Celibacy is to be regarded as the "norm" [Anglicanorum Coetibus Article VI:2], in reality, after the first generation, married applicants will be expected to become less, not more. But certainly the option for married candidates to apply will be "indefinite" in that, it is a provision of the promulgated Apostolic Constitution.

Quote:
Question: Will those of us who were formerly Roman Catholics be excluded from the Anglican Ordinariates? Answer No.

More accurate answer: not exactly. Former Roman Catholic Clerics, who became Anglicans and now might seek to repent and return to the fold, could become lay members of the Ordinariate. The AC is clear that they will not be able to function as Sacred Ministers. Former lay Roman Catholics similarly returning to the fold will be eligible to fulfill their Catholic obligations as normal, which will include attendance at Mass in an Ordinariate. However, it should be remembered that Article 5 of the Complementary Norms states that "Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate."

Quote:
Question: Will we lose control over our Church finances and property? Answer: No.) There will be more. These can be sent to your own Bishop, and he will see that they get to the appropriate TAC representatives. Your concerns, as well as your thoughts and prayers, are an essential element and a vital part of this process.

More accurate answer: we don't know. It stands to reason that if whole parishes sought to convert it would make sense for them to offer their property also to Rome. Roman Canon Law though is not straightforward about the ownership of property. Generally temporal assets are "given" to the Church whose own laws provide for their governance and administration. The principle is that the Faithful are expected to provide to the Church that which is necessary for the Church to serve them but it is the Church who possesses them and decides how they are used. It may be that as a "juridic person" current property might be given to the Ordinariates for particular "in house" governance, unless the Ordinariates provide for the retention of ownership of property by the Parishes as juridic entities (those supplemental, discussable "Norms"). It could be complicated and could be done, depends on how long people want to take to work it all out and how much of a concession Rome would give Canonically to such proposals. [Mug up on Book V. CCL]

Quote:
Bishop Langberg has remarked that library shelves around the world are packed with books and papers on the topic of 'ecumenism'. Up to now it's all been theory; but with respect to the world's largest Communion of Christians, there has been no 'test case' or anything like it, trying to work out 'how it will work' on the ground. That opportunity has now been presented to us. In view of our Lord's prayer (John 17) that all his followers might be one, the fact places upon us, and upon our Roman Catholic counterparts, a very great responsibility along with the opportunity. The real-world answer to that practical question will be worked out in real life and in real time as we move forward.

Erm... but this isn't about "ecumenicsm" or "unity" it's about "conversion" so the books can stay on the shelf for further study, obviously. There is nothing to discuss or work out with your Roman "counterparts" (shouldn't that be brethren?) as you will share one doctrine and praxis i.e. Roman Catholic doctrine and Roman Catholic Canon Law and Roman Catholic praxis. There is nothing to discuss as Anglican Patrimony is seen as cultural, not theological.

Quote:
This will require genuine good faith on all sides. That we come in good faith can be seen from the 'Portsmouth Letter'. That our Roman Catholic counterparts come likewise can be seen from Pope Benedict’s unprecedented offer of a parallel structure for Anglican Catholics, a 'House of our own' (as it were) within the 'compound of Catholicity'. Ecclesiastical life within the colony will evolve over time as adjustments are made. We trusted each other enough to begin our ecclesiastical journey together in the ACA with an original canonical structure based on what we had known in the past. We have adjusted that structure more than once as circumstances has show the wisdom of doing so. Christians of good will can and must continue that process together in unity as Jesus commanded us to do. He promised us the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and his promise remains true.

Yours in Christ Jesus,
+Louis W. Falk
President: House of Bishops.

Oh dear... +Louis doesn't write in terms of "conversion" but "unity" and unfortunately that is just not what is being offered by the AC.

Ex fide bona... mmm... we haven't seen the whole letter sent by the TAC Bishops to Rome, excerpts but not all of it (despite promises), and judging by the confusion on the ground, particularly amongst the laity, it would seem the Bishops have not exactly acted in "good faith" with their own people about their approach to Rome.

Something about this letter seems to convey a sense that things are up for discussion and mutual agreement - rather more than is actually the case. The Apostolic Constitution and its Complementary Norms, is what it is - it is not a proposal - it is "take it or leave it". Some finer points re the practicalities are open to discussion naturally, the supplemental Norms peculiar to each Ordinariate etc and perhaps how exactly the whole process of corporate conversion will begin.

Personally, if I were a member of the Roman Curia I would be a little put off by this last paragraph - a "parallel structure" if meaning a separate entity - is not what the AC offers.

The AC offers the structure of a "Personal Diocese" subject to the Holy Father (naturally) and the local Episcopal Conference. The Ordinary is a juridical entity but not with the same authority, quite, as a Roman Diocesan Bishop. His powers are limited to the Ordinariate and his influence will be also. While he may sit in the Episcopal Conference he will do so rather like a Provincial Religious Superior does, his contribution to the policy decision-making of the Bishops will be limited and generally confined to matters affecting his own particular remit, yet he will have to follow the policies of the Episcopal Conference and cannot function anywhere without their specific cooperation (he can't just erect Parishes where he likes but must consult etc).

+Louis seems to think the AC offers a "church within a church" - one presumes he knows it's not a Unitariate, but his language and thinking seem to betray a sense of that. That's not a true understanding however of the AC and I fear it will become a shock to many when they discover that the reality of the situation will not be quite as rosy as it was presented to them.

I repeat again - I'm not against the AC per se - if one wants to become a Roman Catholic and retain something of what one appreciates culturally about being Anglican - go! But what does bother me is the over positive spin being put all over it. It is a generous structure from a Roman/Anglican perspective in comparison to... well nothing else has been offered (in such detail) before. But it is not a reunion corporate or otherwise, it is an opportunity to become Roman Catholic - not remain Anglican Catholic and in communion with Rome - it is about becoming Roman Catholic and having some of your cake but not all of it. That I suppose is the measure of humility +Louis refers to. I think actually it's a self-deception, delusion even and one that might entice others to do something they actually don't want to do i.e. deny their Orders and their Sacraments. All that of course, (deliberately?) not referred to by this pastoral letter at all.

(P.S. I have actually met +Louis and thought him a marvelous "Catholic" Bishop - he has a "presence" and a humility about him which I was quite in awe of. I respect the man, but can't help but feel he hasn't really grasped what this is really all about... That's my personal opinion, not a judgment!)

-----Fr. Jerome OSJV

45 comments:

David Gould said...

In the words of a late confessor of mine, "My son, the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Archbishop Falk may have the best of intentions, and I also understand that some in the ACA are willing with all their heart that the Apostolic Constitution equals a genuine corporate reunion of a Uniate Anglican rite.

Perhaps Rome would more willingly consider a Uniate Anglican rite if Rome had an undivided Continuum of Anglican Catholics to deal with. The multiplicity of jurisdictions ranging from the orthodox St. Louis three - the ACC, the UECNA and APCK to internet vagante bishops also does not inspire any confidence in the continuum, at least to a Roman outsider for whom a unitary Church is at least on paper a reality.

As I read my local newspaper yesterday and saw two Roman nuns, both in lay clothes, corporate business suits at some function, with hair-styles fresh from the hairdresser, I wondered how homogeneous is the Roman Church?

It may be that the TAC bishops and any priests and laity out of their 400,000 faithful (sic) who follow them to the Ordinariate will find a huge breadth of differences within the Roman Church in the west that is at least as bad as dealing with a fragmented continuum.

As I read the first reading for Mattins today from the Wisdom of Solomon 5:1-15 I was struck also by the hope in verse 14-15 -
" But the righteous live for evermore; their reward is also with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand; for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them."

George said...

I have to say this analysis is a lot of my concerns. Faulk's letter seems disconnected from everything that has been published and said by the Vatican. This is absorption not intercommunion. It seems like not everyone is being honest about what is happening.

And for people apart of the ACA like me what will be left of the ACA and what happens with its members who are left behind by not taking this offer and those parishes.

Andrew said...

A short note to Mr. Ed Pacht:

Although I do not agree with you, I can sense that you want to disagree with your church leadership in charity. For this I commend you, even if I cannot follow you in your conclusions. What is amazing to me is that you continue to associate with those that call Bishop Falk a liar in the most plain language possible. Could it possibly be that he may know more about all of this than we do?

poetreader said...

Blogger Jakian Thomist said...

I remember listening to Nuala O'Faolain, a famous Irish Journalist, being interviewed when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was agnostic and the interviewer, her friend, asked her why wouldn't she believe? Nuala replied that she really wanted to, but couldn't. She just didn't think that God was true, even though He could have given her great comfort.

Perhaps this is similiar to the scenario of some Anglicans. They may want to join the Ordinariate but for whatever reason find it impossible to do so.

As a Roman Catholic who's interested in my faith, when I find an area that I find problematic, I ask myself is what I'm expected to believe (i) logically impossible or (ii) scripturally impossible. I'm not interested in probabilities, just possibilities. As I studied more, the areas I first found difficult soon became very important and central to my faith. No better doctrine than the Immaculate Conception ensures the protection of the divinity of Jesus. Newman in his Mother of God testifies to this.

I would hope that any potential Ordinaries would ask themselves does the RCC position have the potential to be true? If so, they have the duty to study and be open in prayer. But only if they want to believe.

For those interested, reprints of books by Newman and books about him by Fr. Stanley Jaki can be viewed at http://www.realviewbooks.com/catalog2.html

Also Anglican convert Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about obstacles to Anglican-Catholic unity at http://gkupsidedown.blogspot.com/2009/11/obstacles-to-unity.html

You have my prayers whatever path you choice on your journey.

poetreader said...

NOTE: The previous post is not mine. I reposted it here for Jakian Thomist after moving it from a thread where it did not fit.

Andrew,
I don't see what has been said as calling anyone a liar. I do see statements that what is being said does not seem to agree with what appears to be true. I believe ++Falk has badly misinterpreted what is in front of him, probably out of a desire to believe it is as he says. However, a careful comparing of texts leads me to believe that, if he is working from secret texts, they cannot be compatible with what is openly known. It's a puzzlement at best.

And, yes, I do want to do all things with charity. Thank you for recognizing that. I believe it to be obligatory on a Christian to do so.

ed

George said...

I keep hearing about these "secret" texts. There should be no secret documents. The private letter was one thing, but now if there is secret documents (we won't see) it as though we are being tricked into accepting without knowing all the facts. There should be no assumptions on anyones part (That includes the Vatican, parishes that accept the offer, TAC/ACA, clergy or the laity).
Plus, I don't think it is good to speculate on what we have no basis for.

(Yes, I know I made reference to the secret documents. It is out of frustration because I keep reading about them.)

Anonymous said...

In my life i have come to understand that things claimed but withheld are generally for the purpose of propaganda. Since a little boy I have heard this claim in one form or another many times for many reasons and none were in my interest.

We are all adults here. Is there any reason to believe ++Falk is not in possession of his faculties? Is there any reason to believe he is incapable of assessing the information at hand- a document plainly understandable on it's face value?

To borrow from C.S. Lewis there are three possibilities: 1) he is purposefully misleading. 2) he is mentally ill or 3) he is telling the truth.

RCC canon is clear and we know that there will be no back room deals that controvert RCC Canon. Period.

The published A.C. and "Norms" are clear as a ring in a church bell.

If you cut one small group a special deal all the rest get angry. That is school boy level understanding of human nature. Do we really think the Vatican is going to risk turmoil over a few thousand people? even a hundred thousand assuming such actually exist? Rome has 1.2 billion people- if they cut deals to a few thousand then everybody wants a deal- WO, Homo's, Marian godhead cult, South American Death-cults, everybody. Secret deals and unwarranted special treatment = chaos and that is no secret.

Can anyone seriously believe that their is a 'secret' document with a different deal? Does anybody here believe Rome is going to shoot themselves in the foot with a doc that won't be secret for long and provides special treatment not offered to the Intra Anglicans?

The leadership of the ACA has played a lot of things on this topic close to the chest for years without proper discussion between the clergy and laity to the point of absurdity. A lot of claims made turned out to be false. That's the track record.

++Falk may be a lot of things- but I have never heard he was mentally ill or so that leaves 1 or 3 straight up. And #3 seems mighty remote as a possibility.

As for me I am on the Apostle Thomas program- and preparing to cut ties to the ACA. If no "secret Document is presented to back up these claims then what the ACA has is a man unfit to lead anybody anywhere. That may be strong language but there are three possibilities for communication: 1) deception 2) misunderstanding & 3) clarity.

1 & 2 are not of the Holy Ghost. So if the document becomes the stuff of golden plates then we may have here is a situation where a few are willing to throw many into turmoil over a perceived place in history- selling us out for some notion of a glorious legacy. If that is true that is idolatry and pride at it's worst.

Alan

veri:endism

Bill Havens said...

In regards to Jakian Thomist statements...

The concept of viewing something that is viewed as dogma as a possibility I believe does disservice to the fact that it is considered a dogma. Now that being said I understand that you are saying that this will allow people to get to a place that they can understand said dogma.

Here is my concern however. The Bible clearly demonstrates the divinity of Christ. We don't need something that frankly comes from Pagan origins to defend this.

The trouble with the extra Marian doctrines that the RCs put forward is that to accept them I believe is contrary to the faith and good reason and to deny them one often ends up saying things that should not be said and Mary ends up getting dragged through the mud. The Devil wins in both situations.

The age old discussion of "What is Required" will continue I suppose until the judgement. Now I as much as anyone on here belive that we can't go on Bible alone. I love the early pre inperial church and it's simply purity. The fact is that these men were AMAZING at showing Christ in the Old Testament and proving his divinity without ever using a creature to prove that divinity. How does that work that one of his creations is the proof for his divinity...does that proof not exist completly apart from Mary?

I believe that it is sinful to require God fearing Christians to believe something that is not explicitly in the Bible nor discussed in the first 300 years of Christ history.

In Peace,
Bill

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Andrew wrote:

What is amazing to me is that you continue to associate with those that call Bishop Falk a liar in the most plain language possible.

I am on record as having said: "I do not know Abp. Falk; I assume he believes all this stuff, or would not put his name to it. But, I believe it will come back to embarrass him mightily, because it is utter non-sense." I take everyone at his word, that is, I assume that he believes it himself unless and until I have reason to doubt his veracity (this general assumption is a formal custom of my own personal praxis).

Nonetheless, a problem of incompetence related to ecclesiastical matters is a problem in and of itself.

Could it possibly be that he [Abp. Falk] may know more about all of this than we do?

What is not possible is for his words to be correct. We have the new Constitution, we have the existing Norms, and we have a working knowledge of RCC Canons and polity. What Abp. Falk is promising his people cannot be true, because it is impossible.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I too want to respond to Jakian Thomist.

Why would I want to believe that something is true? St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the theory (as it was in his day) of Mary's Immaculate Conception (IC) (are you really a Thomist? I think not). If it is true, why would the Church not know that IC is true until 1850? Was the Incarnation of Christ in doubt among true believers before that, or was the mystery of His two natures in One Person somehow impossible to believe, without this rather silly explanation? And, indeed, it is silly (to be mild about it) to suppose that Christ's sinlessness would have depended on his mother somehow being free of Original Sin, as if He was not her Savior. This is the kind of thing that makes some Eastern Orthodox theologians accuse the West of being too scholastic. It is another attempt to drain away the mystery of God, and to describe His miracles in purely scientific terms, and to subject his revelation to man-made philosophy elevated wrongly into dogma.

To answer the confused mind of poor Cardinal Newman (who I cannot admire as a great thinker), I do not need IC to believe that Christ was spotless and without sin any more than Thomas Aquinas needed the same rationalization; nor do I want to believe anything that is not revealed. IC is not revealed, and is, at best, a theory.

George wrote:

The private letter was one thing, but now if there is secret documents (we won't see) it as though we are being tricked into accepting without knowing all the facts.

And, how can we refrain from asking, a secret publicly announced?

Abp. Falk's statement could be explained as the Big Stall. The inevitable breakup of the ACA over this business, now that the Pope has created a problem for ++Hepworth and ++Falk by bringing an end to the shenanigan (with the assistance of the outspoken Cardinal Kasper), ++Falk's statement may be a way of stalling the inevitable, an act of desperation ("Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!").

But, golly, you didn't hear it from me. I just mean that, heck and doggone, that's how it could look to somebody somewhere.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

It seems to me that the discussion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary doesn’t readily lend itself to the pithy nature of blogging. The newadvent.org website has a detailed exposition of the development of this doctrine, starting with the Church Fathers:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm

As far as St. Thomas is concerned, this is the conclusion it offers regarding his opinion on this matter:

“St. Thomas at first pronounced in favour of the doctrine in his treatise on the "Sentences" (in I. Sent. c. 44, q. I ad 3), yet in his "Summa Theologica" he concluded against it. Much discussion has arisen as to whether St. Thomas did or did not deny that the Blessed Virgin was immaculate at the instant of her animation, and learned books have been written to vindicate him from having actually drawn the negative conclusion. Yet it is hard to say that St. Thomas did not require an instant at least, after the animation of Mary, before her sanctification. His great difficulty appears to have arisen from the doubt as to how she could have been redeemed if she had not sinned. This difficulty he raised in no fewer than ten passages in his writings (see, e.g., Summa III:27:2, ad 2). But while St. Thomas thus held back from the essential point of the doctrine, he himself laid down the principles which, after they had been drawn together and worked out, enabled other minds to furnish the true solution of this difficulty from his own premises.”

After reading this fascinating history, I did find it interesting that so many Catholics in pre-Reformation England contributed to the development of this doctrine.

poetreader said...

To borrow from C.S. Lewis there are three possibilities: 1) he is purposefully misleading. 2) he is mentally ill or 3) he is telling the truth.

That's not complete. It is quite possible that he has misread the sources, or that they are not actually as clear as others think they are. On ething I have noticed is that statements I have made that I thought cryatal clear have been interpreted (in good will, I assume) in precisely the opposite sense. Maybe I said it less than clearly, but the fact is that what I said and what was heard are different. My point?

One can be quite sincerely wrong, telling the truth of what he believes he sees, and yet objectively presenting untruth.

ed

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

For me The Catholic Faith is the same today as it was yesterday, in that it mirrors Our Saviour, “Alpha and Omega” – what was necessary for salvation yesterday will be the same today and tomorrow.

Thus my simple problem with Rome's additional doctrines is the same that I have with innovators of the ordination of women - it is "un-Catholic" because it adds to the Received Tradition and requires something more of "today's" Catholic than was required from "yesterday's" Catholic to attain salvation and suggests that "tomorrow's" Catholic may yet be expected to believe something else too. This is contrary to the Apostolic Tradition, Scripture and reason. We have received in Scripture and Tradition all that is necessary for our salvation. Christ calls us all to Him on the same terms! Our God is fair and just!

I truly lament that those who had once held to the Vincentian Canon - deliberately and stubbornly for so many years - should now abandon it so quickly to embrace doctrines totally unnecessary for salvific belief; and apparently in the name of Catholic unity?!

It is clear to anyone who knows the Received Catholic Faith that the additions of Rome are THE prime obstacles to the reconciliation of The Church Catholic. It is also clear to me, that at every occasion the Roman Pontiff has exaggerated his power... 597 (Britain), 1054 (Constantinople), 16C (England/Europe), 1870 (and other dates besides) he himself has been the prime cause of division and schism - asserting or requiring something new, based on false premise.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Mark VA

I am sorry, but, making St. Thomas appear to have believed, finally, in something leading to IC simply contradicts the only opinion he ever wrote of the matter. It is the kind of twist I would expect on something presented by New Advent, where they post sources that make the RCC's teaching appear consistent with itself and with the Fathers.

And, following what Canon Jerome Lloyd has said, it is not simply that Thomas Aquinas, canonized by the Church of Rome, did not believe a doctrine later declared to be dogma. It is the deeper implications of all that this so clearly demonstrates.

The earliest theory of Doctrinal Development held by John Henry Newman, in his pre-Tiber swim period, simply meant that any true development of doctrine must be consistent with the seeds sown by revelation. But, what this theory grew to become has been elevated by his fans into an alternative to the Vincentian Canon. It is now stylish for earnest followers of Cardinal Newman, writing they suppose on behalf of Rome, to reject the Vincentian Canon in favor of Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development, despite the fact that the See of Rome officially rejected his theory during his lifetime.

In retrospect, they appear to endorse his theory; after all, what choice do they have? Honesty forces the learned among them to acknowledge that the modern Roman Catholic religion is not the Christian Faith "believed everywhere, always and by all." It is doctrinally over-developed. We prefer to "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)

(By the way, St. Jude did not mean by "saints" only canonized dead people.)

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Father Hart:

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think this issue lends itself to blogging. The long time scale involved, the large number of discussions by prominent theologians, the mixture of revelation and tradition, all advise against the effort to explain this in a few bites on a blog.

This is homework for individuals who truly want to understand why the Roman Catholic Church teaches what She teaches, rather than be satisfied with conclusions (pro or contra) only.

To all my Anglican blogging friends on our side of the pond - happy Thanksgiving!

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Mark VA

Could you explain why Jesus couldn't be conceived immaculately - i.e. without sin - if Mary could? And why Anne or Joachim weren't conceived immaculately in order for Mary to be?

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Canon Lloyd:

As you undoubtedly know, the sublime doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of our Lord’s Mother is not explicitly given in the Scriptures. For some, sadly, this necessarily means the end any further inquiry as to why such a doctrine would exist, and a judgment against it.

On the other hand, this doctrine should not be seen as license to view Mary as a goddess, or an object of worship. As a Roman Catholic, I also occasionally encounter such warnings from some of my Protestant friends.

For those interested in this subject, please allow me to suggest Dr. John Macquarrie’s book “Mary for all Christians”, in the hope that we “might find in Mary resources for reconciliation, rather than reason for conflict”.

Since this doctrine is truly sublime, it has captured the imagination of certain artists graced with genius. Diego Velázquez is one such person:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/diego-velazquez-the-immaculate-conception

poetreader said...

For some, sadly, this necessarily means the end any further inquiry as to why such a doctrine would exist, and a judgment against it.

Mark, sadly you miss the point entirwly. Perhaps some "Make a judgment against it." but that is a terribly simplistic judgment of most of those of us who simply do not find it compelling. Scripture does indeed not speak directly FOR such a doctrine, nor does it speak directly AGAINST such a doctrine, nor is there a clear consensus of the Fathers, one way or the other. Does that slam the door on further inquiry? Of course not. In controvertable matters one is free to speculate and to investigate reasons to take one side or the other of the issue. One is free to believe that one's conclusions are true, to say that one so believes, and to attempt to convince others.

Without scriptural and patristic certainty, however, one is not free to teach with authority that the matter is closed and that one's opinion must be accepted. I, for one, am open to be convinced that what I presently find unlikely is actually a reasonable belief. I am not the least bit open to being told that it is true because an authority I do not quite accept has proclaimed that to be the case.

Sorry, Mark, but it is Rome that has declared the question closed and further inquiry to be chasing after heresy. I have my tentative opinion on the matter on the matter of the Immaculate Conception, which is that it lacks Scriptural authority and atleast appears to present certain problems in incarnational and soteriological theology. I haven't stopped looking. It is still an open question, and I believe will remain so until He returns.

ed

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Mark VA

Thank you - I am, as you say, aware of the Scriptural issues concerning the Immaculate Conception. But what concerns me also is the unstable logic upon which this dogma is based...

My point is, that doctrines such as these will need to be reviewed by Anglicans serious about becoming Roman Catholics.

Jakian Thomist said...

To respond to Bill and Fr. Hart:

First of all, I have not researched Thomas’ stance on the Immaculate Conception to a scholarly extent so I will postpone my response on that point. Just to note, I do not adhere to Thomas’ stance on Aristotle’s physics. Does that mean I am not a Thomist, in the accepted use of the term?

Next, I never used the Immaculate Conception as a proof of Jesus’ divinity. Re-read what I wrote, it was used ex-post not ex-ante as has been suggested. What I intended was that one cannot hold the Immaculate Conception and logically deny Christ’s divinity. At this time of neo-Arianism and theologies of Christ’s ‘adopted’ divinity, do you not see how the Immaculate Conception (if true) hits these arguments at their root?

Now, to Bill’s statement: “The Bible clearly demonstrates the divinity of Christ.” Says Who? Who decides? The Jesus seminar disagrees along with many liberal theologians. I don’t think I can agree either with Bill’s statement “I love the early pre imperial church and it's simple purity”, given the permanent struggles already displayed in the letters of Paul and that almost all Christological heresies were already mooted within a few generations of Christ’s Resurrection.

I strongly disagree with Fr. Hart’s statements on miracles and on scholasticism. Is it man-made philosophy or God-made logic? Is our knowledge of the world orphaned and divorced from the Creator? I cannot find refuge in mystery-monging if a logical explanation can be found. God gave us our minds – let’s use them!

However, our will is certainly corrupted by the fall. This may answer Fr. Hart’s question: Why would I want to believe that something is true? Do you not agree that plenty of people do not want Christianity to be true? Why might that be?

I dislike the term ‘extra’ applied to Catholic doctrines. If they have been argued deductively – not inductively – then how can they be called ‘extra’. A deductive argument is not time-dependent. It doesn’t matter whether it was infallibly declared in 300AD or 3000AD if there is no logical choice in the matter.

Finally, Newman is widely recognised as an excellent scholar. “Confused” is hardly the term to apply to such a critical, logical thinker as Newman – you don’t have to agree with a thinker to recognise his or her greatness.

I pray for us all, that despite our differences we will be united by the sacrifice of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

John A. Hollister said...

Jakian Thomist wrote that "one cannot hold the Immaculate Conception and logically deny Christ’s divinity."

That, however, is a non sequitur. What is logical is that one cannot hold the Immaculate Conception without very possibly coming to be unable to deny Mary's divinity.

John A. Hollister+

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Poetreader:

My comment regarding the Scriptures was not meant to include those who blog here - such fundamentalist views are not present here. I didn't make that clear, so please accept my sincere mea culpa. I was trying to say that the foundations for some Church doctrines draw on a variety of sources, many of them from different times, all of which must be considered and logically synthesized. Those of us who want to understand these types of doctrines, must share in such labors, and this takes time. This is an invitation, as Pope John Paul II once remarked, to think with the (Roman Catholic) Church.

Canon Lloyd:

It seems to me that questions related to Mary and her role in the Church are very much alive today in ecumenical settings. This certainly includes the Anglicans, as the link below shows:

http://www.esbvm.org.uk/

Let me close with a bit of ethereal humor. Professor Macquarrie’s biography in Wikipedia contains this statement regarding his ordination in the Anglican Church:

“He was ordained priest by the Bishop of New York on June 16, 1965 and the next day (the Feast of Corpus Christi) he celebrated his first Eucharist at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in New York City”.

poetreader said...

Mark VA
Understood. My major point remains, however, that it is indeed Rome that slammed the door on further inquiry into a long controverted matter, and that that, in itself, may be taken as a piece of evidence that Papal claims may be somewhat overblown. Though I find myself unable to accept the Immaculate Conception as true, it is not the doctrine itself that disturbs me. Many have accepted it and it is not up to me to sit in judgment over them. What does disturb me is that one bishop can find himself so authoritative as to make such a proclamation when none is needed, and when such a proclamation will, in its very nature, further divide Christians.

ed

Jakian Thomist said...

Excellent reply John, I think I will have to tidy my argument up a bit.

I would like to comment on your statement that “one cannot hold the Immaculate Conception [of Mary] without very possibly coming to be unable to deny Mary's divinity.”

What happens when we insert the names Adam and Eve instead of the Mary into your statement, since they were also created without original sin? Are we unable to deny their potential divinity? On a technical note, I believe that Adam and Eve were conceived - I am not a creationist.

Also divinity is inexplicably linked with being the creator of all, I don’t see how Mary being conceived sinless makes her a potential candidate to become creator.

If Jesus Christ is the new Adam [i.e. new man], who is to be new Eve [i.e. new woman]? Surely only one also conceived without sin? Note: This last paragraph does not mean that I equate Mary with Jesus as God - it has always been argued that Mary also needed Jesus as saviour.

I pray you all every blessing.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

On a technical note, I believe that Adam and Eve were conceived - I am not a creationist.

Objection: The interpretation of any literature has to begin with accepting the text on its own terms. Whether you believe that the story of Adam and Eve contains allegory (a sort of Pre-Incarnate-to coin an inadequate phrase- Parable of our Lord), or is pure history, you have no license to rewrite the story by giving them human parents.

This gets to the point of why they cannot be examples of individuals born with no original sin (whether understood with a Western or Eastern mind). They represent Man in a state of innocence, and as the creation of God. The story of the Fall points to the introduction of sin by some act of disobedience creating the knowledge (דַּעַת) of good and evil; i.e. intimate experience (Gen. 3:7; 4:1 יָדַע a form of the same word, דַּעַת) that included evil as well as good.

You can't rewrite the story; they were not conceived. And, that really has nothing to do with "24/7 Creationism."

If Jesus Christ is the new Adam [i.e. new man], who is to be new Eve [i.e. new woman]? Surely only one also conceived without sin?

That does not follow. We must understand the One and the many (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 5:12-21) in terms of headship. We do not speak of the Fall of Eve, but of Adam; and we do not speak of redemption through Mary, but through Jesus Christ.

So, the necessity of IC is not apparent.

Jakian Thomist said...

Fr. Hart,

I think we have a misunderstanding here, my intention certainly was not to "rewrite the story by giving them human parents." How can Adam and Eve be our first human parents if they also had human parents? That doesn't make sense.

But I do believe that they individually did exist on earth and my subjective reading of the text (this is where we need guidance from you know who ;) ) leads me to believe that the scribe believed so also.

I'm just curious if Adam and Eve were not conceived and sort of 'parachuted in' somehow, does the same apply to Cain and Abel? But that is to go off topic.

I understand your point that "We do not speak of the Fall of Eve, but of Adam; and we do not speak of redemption through Mary, but through Jesus Christ." But I didn't write "New Adam" in the sense of redemptive act - which is something only our Saviour i.e. God can do - Mary needed to be saved also as I said earlier.

I am speaking about the 'result' rather than the 'act' - the nature of mankind having the potential to return to the pure created state of Adam and Eve as exemplified in the human nature of Christ and the witness of Mary.

When you say that Adam and Eve "represent Man in a state of innocence", I say they ARE man in a state of innocence - real tangible examples. This is of course a massive divide in interpretation and perhaps our whole discussion on the Immaculate Conception can't be resolved until we further investigate this difference.

I am unsure whether you hold that there can never be an individual free from original sin, or is it that you hold that Adam's circumstance is different?

If you hold that an individual can NEVER be freed from original sin - i.e. it being a contradiction to do so - then surely even God's grace is held as hostage?

If you hold that Adam was 'different' and (i) not human in our everyday sense - then what's he to do with us or (ii)soul in a different environment with 'intimate experience' or 'knowledge'. But man is not his soul, it is not body or mind that knows but man through both.

Father, just in case you get the wrong impression, i'm not being smart here, but I cannot see how these problems can be resolved by your interpretation of the fall. I am all ears for a better explanation.

But perhaps we can discuss this another time, there are still many points on my second reply on the topic of this thread to be discussed. May God bless you all.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

About Adam and Eve, the text shows each of them created directly-Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from Adam's rib (their names were Man and Life, A-dom and Chavah). Your interpretation amounts to an editorial change of the text. Literature is what it is, whether Biblical, secular, pagan or whatever. The Adam and Eve of Genesis were not conceived, but directly and divinely created.

We know that Jesus identified his mother as "the woman" whose seed He was, the Savior (from Gen. 3:15). So, she is the new Eve and has been given a vital place in our salvation history.

But original sin passes to us from our fathers, ultimately from Adam, for man is the head, that is, as God designed humanity. This has implications for everything from the Incarnation to the all male priesthood.

The question about IC, does correctly belong, as you have indicated, to the subject of grace. Gabriel said to her "Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women (Luke 1: 28)."

The word "favored" is χαριτόω (charitoō), a form of χάρις (charis meaning "gift" or "grace"), which appears in v.30: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God."

None of this teaches IC by revelation, but it is at least, perhaps, an acceptable theory when we remember that it is about grace, not some merit of Mary's own.

Jakian Thomist said...

Father, as a rule I do not engage in debate over scripture translation – it invariably ends up in a – who decides? – situation, totally subjective, no better than a house of sand.

Next, when I interpret scripture subjectively, I use a simple rule – Scripture tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. So I take massive umbrage when you can state that “the text shows each of them created directly-Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from Adam's rib” and later state “But original sin passes to us from our fathers, ultimately from Adam”. These two statements are not reconcilable in the real world. This “Adam” who on your interpretation was “directly” created from the dust is not the same Adam who is responsible for our original sin. Science explains the how of our bodily origins perfectly well.

Hence, your argument (if I have interpreted it correctly) that since original sin is passed by our fathers, and Mary had a biological father, hence Mary was conceived with original sin, cannot hold without resolving the problem of Adam – the actual Adam. Which brings us right back to the choices I gave in my last post.

May we all find salvation though our Saviour, Christ Jesus.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jakian Thomist:

You are blending pure science with Biblical interpretation. If you cannot follow the literary nature of the Canon, then, whether you see those earliest chapters as allegory or fact, you will not be learning from the Canon, but thinking around it. The difference is very large.

Hence, your argument (if I have interpreted it correctly) that since original sin is passed by our fathers, and Mary had a biological father, hence Mary was conceived with original sin...

I am disappointed that you missed the point, which I thought would be obvious. Jesus did not have a biological father. By the paradigm of Scripture (which is, indeed, patriarchal) the whole matter is about Him. For Him to be free from taint of Original Sin did not require a mother with an immaculate conception. Believe in IC if you like; but, it "solves" a problem that never existed.

Jakian Thomist said...

Father Hart,

I understand your concern that my argument can appear to be thinking around scripture instead of learning from it. And indeed I am “blending pure science with Biblical interpretation”, and I’m afraid I’ll continue to have to do so because both are supposed to apply to our world, the real world. If we do not then soon we will not have a “reasoned faith” as St. Paul required of us and will become a laughing stock as St. Augustine warned.

Going from the premise original sin passes from our fathers – I agree that “For Him to be free from taint of Original Sin did not require a mother with an immaculate conception.” But from my point of view, the minute that one suggests that the transmission of original sin is a biological process, then you must open the door to science and find the original Adam.

But then Jesus was in union with Mary in her womb and it makes sense to argue that Jesus, being already pure as we agree, was never in union with sin, despite the premise that original sin passes from our fathers. This also explains why Jesus never took a wife, because Jesus cannot be in union with those touched by sin. Union between God and fallen man could only be achieved in the redeeming act of the Resurrection.

Jesus’ human nature was the New Adam, pure and untouched by evil. For Mary to be the New Eve [new woman, i.e. the result, not the redeeming act] she too had to be pure and untouched by evil.

As you said earlier, this does not mean that Mary –earned- her status, it was a pure gift from God, only His grace could bestow this upon her, and indeed if it were not to be Mary who would it be? But then God knew the role that Mary would play as new Eve. Eve despite her lack of original sin said Yes to the Devil, Mary, a creature with equal purity said Yes to God and is fittingly honoured –not worshiped- as a concrete human example of what humanity could have been were it not for the fall. The saint of saints.

Father, I know we may have our differences on this topic, but for me the Immaculate Conception is directly tied to our fall. I think I have learned a lot from our discussion and I appreciate your time for discussing this with me. Perhaps our differences were not as wide as when we first spoke? I consider you all to be my brothers and sisters, and I thank God for you all. I invite you to join with me in prayer for our eventual reconciliation, whenever and however that may be.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...I’ll continue to have to do so because both are supposed to apply to our world, the real world. If we do not then soon we will not have a “reasoned faith” as St. Paul required of us and will become a laughing stock as St. Augustine warned.

That is not the same thing as altering the text itself. If your Adam and Ev had human parents (whether you believe them literal, allegorical or somehow both) then they are not the same couple about which we read in Genesis. That is not a valid method of interpretation.

But from my point of view, the minute that one suggests that the transmission of original sin is a biological process, then you must open the door to science and find the original Adam.

The effect of Original Sin on biology is very real; it is called death. Nonetheless, the patriarchal inheritance of original sin through the first Adam, and the patriarchal inheritance of salvation through the Last Adam,are both inherited, and are both primarily spiritual.

Jesus’ human nature was the New Adam, pure and untouched by evil. For Mary to be the New Eve [new woman, i.e. the result, not the redeeming act] she too had to be pure and untouched by evil.

But, this is merely human philosophical speculation, not revelation. God revealed that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that he was without sin; and that alone seemed to be quite enough for the ancient Church to make the connection between sinlessness and the virgin birth. If Thomas Aquinas saw no problem to be solved by IC, if the Church in Antiquity gives no evidence of seeing a problem in need of a solution, why did the See of Rome suddenly think they declare a mere theory to be dogma as late as 1850? Was the Church's Biblical/Chalecedonian Christology seriously flawed before 1850?

This indicates a serious difference of mind between Rome and everybody else, including the Eastern Orthodox, about the fundamental nature of revelation, and about the discipline of exploring doctrine.

John A. Hollister said...

Jakian Thomist wrote, "it makes sense to argue that Jesus, being already pure as we agree, was never in union with sin, despite the premise that original sin passes from our fathers. This also explains why Jesus never took a wife, because Jesus cannot be in union with those touched by sin. Union between God and fallen man could only be achieved in the redeeming act of the Resurrection."

This is the sort of thing that may make sense to weak, and fallible, human reasoning, but that, of course, is irrelevant to God. A decent humility should lead us to accept those things that have been clearly revealed to us (most of which are facts, not theories) and to be patient in waiting until God deigns to tell us more.

It is, at bottom, simply arrogance to dig around in matters that God did not seem to think we need to know in order to be saved. We have more than enough to keep us occupied in coping with those things He clearly imparted to us.

It is, however, an immemorial Roman tradition never to let anything remain well enough alone.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

While it is true that, in the fullest sense, Jesus is never in union with sin, it is nonetheless deeply true that He is in union with the Church, which is made up of sinners, like me. And what of St. Paul's troubling and counterintuitive word? --

...he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5.21)

Though He most certainly did not sin, a Jesus who has no contact with sin is not a Savior.

In my Holiness/Pentecostal days the standard argument for the necessity of "entire sanctification" before being "filled with the Holy Ghost" was thet the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in an unclean temple. I came to see that, of course He can and must, as there is no other kind of temple.

While the truth or falsity of the Immaculate Conception cannot be demonstrated from Scripture, arguments of this sort simply fall apart under their own weight.

ed

Nathan said...

Jakian Thomist said:
If you hold that an individual can NEVER be freed from original sin - i.e. it being a contradiction to do so - then surely even God's grace is held as hostage?

Another very telling observation. And if God's grace could not be so held, it follows that Mary's immaculacy could have been made manifest at any point before and including the Anunciation.

Nathan
'eterv'

Jakian Thomist said...

There are a lot of responses here, so I’ll try to deal with each of them briefly.

First to John “This is the sort of thing that may make sense to weak, and fallible, human reasoning”. I totally reject this reference to ‘weak’ reasoning. Something is logical or it isn’t. If God reveals information to us, we are capable – if we wish – to comprehend it. We were made in the image and likeness of God to understand him. God does not make defective produce in his likeness. This scepticism about knowledge is incredibly damaging and has haunted philosophy since Descartes, and mark my words it’s promulgation will be the downfall of Christianity. As a Thomist, I don’t want anything to do with it.

Now about what “God has clearly revealed to us”. Who decides? Whose infallible interpretation of scripture? Our logic is not fallible but our subjective interpretations certainly are, especially mine – that is why I look for guidance.

Hi Poetreader, I am more sympathetic to your point. You are correct that Jesus is in union with us sinners – but that is because of his Resurrection. My original argument about biological ‘union’ was strictly related to Jesus’ human nature as New Adam. It is through Jesus’ Devine nature that He has destroyed sin and united us with him. My apologies for not making this clear earlier.

Hello Nathan, “it follows that Mary's immaculacy could have been made manifest at any point before and including the Anunciation”. I see your point and I agree that it would be at God’s discretion. However, logically, it is difficult to understand how Mary could be New Eve unless like Eve she too was created without sin. Mary was created, so how can she be initially created with original sin and somehow then not touched by it in time for the Annunciation of Our Saviour? For the time from birth to time t, Mary still would have been in contact with original sin and hence not like the original Eve. But I do think you make a strong argument Nathan, thanks for sharing it with me.

Fr. Hart, I feel that we are going somewhat around in circles about Adam and Eve. For our discussion on the Immaculate Conception the interpretation that Eve did individually exist on earth as our first human mother is what is most relevant. Going on what we know scientifically, our first human mother was conceived by a mother from a different species from which Eve evolved. Hence, my reading of how Genesis is relevant to this discussion is that Eve was conceived. So any argument distinguishing the sinless nature of Mary from that of Eve, on the ground of conception cannot hold, unless we want to attack scientific knowledge which I have no intention of doing.

I think we both agree that scripturally Mary can be called New Eve. However, it was the essential nature of Eve to be sinless – that is what God wanted for her - and for Mary to be justified as being New Eve she too must logically share Eve’s essential sinless nature.

Now, of course, Eve rejected her God given nature as part of Adam’s original sin and died, as we will too since we are all tainted by Original sin. Does it follow that if Mary was not tainted by Original Sin then she did not die? It would be interesting to follow the history of the doctrine of Mary’s assumption into heaven. The sites of the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul have been wonderfully preserved by tradition, but perhaps you don’t agree, I don’t know. Was there talk of the tomb of Mary? I mean she was important being mother of Jesus, I would imagine it would have been preserved? This is just speculation, perhaps it can be a topic of discussion another time.

I am enjoying our debate. I think several of my key starting points have made themselves known - First and foremost I am not an epistemological sceptic. Please don’t chastise me for wanting to know more, I trust my mind and I also trust God who made it. May our Lord, Christ Jesus, send us every blessing this advent season.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

JT:

You are talking about a historical Eve in light of evolutionary science, and I was talking about the Eve of the text of Genesis. Simply put, we are not free to alter the text itself.

Now, the tradition of Mary's Assumption is that after she died, and was buried in Ephesus, they could not find her body in the tomb, but only flowers where it had been. You might want to check the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the Dormition.

Jakian Thomist said...

Fr. Hart,

We can read the "7 days" as 7 actual days if we wish to and "not alter the text" but I'm a lot more interested in its truth content. As I said earlier I interpret scripture as how to go to heaven not how the heavens go.

But more interestingly, I seem to have opened a pandora's box by raising Mary's assumption and linking it to her Immaculate Conception and potentially shot my argument in the foot.

From the tiny bit of unreliable research I've done from wikipedia it says that Pope Pius XII's infallible declaration on the Assumption states that Mary was assumed "having completed the course of her earthly life". That leaves open whether Mary died or not, though tradition seems agreed that she did die. But then is being born free from sin an immediate 'free-pass' to eternal life? The answer is no since life is at the discretion of God. Of course, isn't the promise of eternal life the lie the Devil made to Eve?

So since life is at the discretion of Our Lord, whether one is born with or without sin is irrelevant, making the Assumption not a condition of the Immaculate Conception.

I'm still not happy with my explanation here and as I said before I am delighted to be having this discussion with you all, since it gives me the opportunity to think and indeed revise my arguments as I had to with John's first comment.

Lord, through you sent your Son to be Saviour of the World, please let your generousity be the beacon of reconciliation in our fractured world.

poetreader said...

Whether Eve was conceived or not has little or no relevance to this discussion as the text itself presents her as not having been. Even if we take the description as purely symbolic rather than literal, we are not entitled to make the symbolism of the passage depend upon things of which it quite pointedly does not speak. Eve's conception, thus is simply not under consideration here. If I should tell a long story about a barn, without specifying its color, it would be rather silly to make the meaning of my story depend upon its redness, a completely unspecified characteristic.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Exactly so. What is written is written, and interpretation requires noticing what is internal and what is external to any given text.

I am less concerned about IC itself than about the doctrinal methodology of the post 1054 modern RCC. It is not the Vincentian Canon; it is not Universal Consensus and Antiquity, and seems even to claim superiority to them.

Jakian Thomist said...

Apologies for the delayed reply. I appreciate your concerns on scriptural interpretation and I feel I have lead us on a tangent about Eve’s anthropology, albeit a very interesting one at that.

Instead, I want to summarise the points made about the Immaculate Conception and where we can go from here.

I think we are agreed on the following:
-That Adam and Eve were created without sin
-That Mary is the new Eve
-That Jesus was not affected by original sin because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
-That Mary was favoured by God and received the gift of His Grace

Now to the more contentious issues

1) On John’s point about the Immaculate Conception being linked to Mary’s divinity.
I think I have satisfactorily argued against this, because (i) God had already made creatures which have not been tarnished by Original Sin i.e. Adam and Eve and no one has suggested that they were divine and (ii) Being divine involves being the Creator of all, which was not suggested of Mary.

2) Can we call Mary the Mother of God?
This wasn’t a major focus of our past discussion but I do think it is important to deciphering the truth of the Immaculate Conception. Now perhaps “Mother of God” makes some here uneasy and for sure it will outrage the Neo-Arians among us. The Logic Statements are clear: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, then Mary is the mother of God. This conclusion cannot be escaped unless we posit polytheism. It is true of course, that Mary, a humble handmaid, can only merit this title (i) if Jesus is inexplicably product of her flesh and (ii) if Jesus is, was, and always will be God.

3) The Importance of Mary’s Yes
If we believe that God has given us freewill then we should believe that our responses to God matter. Mary had the freewill to reject the Incarnation if she chose to and this need not be because she was tarnished by Original Sin. Eve did not require Original Sin to reject God’s word. But unlike Eve who said yes to the Devil, - Mary, the second Eve, said Yes to God and is rightly honoured. It is not possible to have Christ except as Son of Mary. The Incarnation is either rooted in flesh, which can only be Mary’s, or has nothing to do with God insofar as He wanted to be incarnate.

4) God’s choice
As was made clear by the message of the Angel, God wanted nothing less than full symbiosis with a mere handmaid. God’s choice in Mary places her above any other creature, including the Angels. Indeed the Angel showed a special, deferential respect, towards her, most fitting for a creature in receipt of God’s grace. However, this grace was Mary’s unique destiny, as long as God planned for man’s salvation. This was a grace that truly sanctifies on a profoundly ontological level, not a sugar coating around a sinful creature. And this was most pleasing to God because it was His sovereign gift, which doesn’t diminish Him, just as the gift of creation does not impoverish the Creator.

5) The fruit of her womb
Mary’s exceptional statue in holiness is inseparable from the status of Mary’s son as being the Son of God. The fruit of the womb is blessed because it is holiness itself. Therefore, Mary’s womb could not experience even the least connection with sin from its very existence on, as it housed for nine months infinite holiness. To say otherwise is to diminish the need for salvation. We must ask ourselves is sin not such an affront to the holiness of God that the Son of God could be in symbiosis with sinful nature before the Resurrection, the redeeming sacrifice for mankind?

6) The consequences
I hope that readers find that the Immaculate Conception is not to be viewed as an ‘optional’ extra, but a core foundation for faith, a belief to be championed. Catholics are ‘Hail-Mary’ Christians for a reason and it is infinitely tied to God’s choice for His redemptive plan for salvation.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

poetreader said...

JT,
I find this post to be interesting, but quite faulty in logic. I'm going to comment in some detail. Your post in italics.

I think we are agreed on the following:
-That Adam and Eve were created without sin
-That Mary is the new Eve


While I can agree with this in a symbolic sense, I find no Scriptural support for any more than that, nor do the references found in early writers support more than a symbolic sense. This is a useful point for meditation, but NOT something on which one can build doctrine.

-That Jesus was not affected by original sin because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
-That Mary was favoured by God and received the gift of His Grace

Now to the more contentious issues

1) On John’s point about the Immaculate Conception being linked to Mary’s divinity.
I think I have satisfactorily argued against this, because (i) God had already made creatures which have not been tarnished by Original Sin i.e. Adam and Eve and no one has suggested that they were divine and (ii) Being divine involves being the Creator of all, which was not suggested of Mary.


The problem is not that it must imply divinity, but that is certainly can be demonstrated to fee the folk catholicism that does elevate her to a divine or quasi-divine status. Being divine does not necessarily involve being Creator. Most of the gods of polytheism condemned in the Old Testament were not creator divinities, but were worshiped. Even the brazen serpent that God had commanded Moses to make came to be worshiped as if divine and ultimately had to be destroyed.

(to be continued)

poetreader said...

(continued)

2) Can we call Mary the Mother of God?
This wasn’t a major focus of our past discussion but I do think it is important to deciphering the truth of the Immaculate Conception. Now perhaps “Mother of God” makes some here uneasy and for sure it will outrage the Neo-Arians among us. The Logic Statements are clear: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, then Mary is the mother of God. This conclusion cannot be escaped unless we posit polytheism. It is true of course, that Mary, a humble handmaid, can only merit this title (i) if Jesus is inexplicably product of her flesh and (ii) if Jesus is, was, and always will be God.


Of course Mary is Theotokos, God-bearer, loosely translated as Mother of God. That is the conciliar decision adopted against Nestorius and is the universal consensus of the church of the Councils. But this does not give her authority over Him, as a mother has over her son, even though it does give her a place of high honor.

3) The Importance of Mary’s Yes
If we believe that God has given us freewill then we should believe that our responses to God matter. Mary had the freewill to reject the Incarnation if she chose to and this need not be because she was tarnished by Original Sin. Eve did not require Original Sin to reject God’s word. But unlike Eve who said yes to the Devil, - Mary, the second Eve, said Yes to God and is rightly honoured. It is not possible to have Christ except as Son of Mary. The Incarnation is either rooted in flesh, which can only be Mary’s, or has nothing to do with God insofar as He wanted to be incarnate.


Yes, her fiat mihi puts her in the midst of the fulfillment of God's plan. I fail to see, though, what relationship her decision has to the presence or absence of original sin. I see no connection whatever. I was able to accept Jesus into my own life, though a wretched sinner, and do so week after week in the eucharist, still a wretched sinner.

4) God’s choice
As was made clear by the message of the Angel, God wanted nothing less than full symbiosis with a mere handmaid. God’s choice in Mary places her above any other creature, including the Angels. Indeed the Angel showed a special, deferential respect, towards her, most fitting for a creature in receipt of God’s grace. However, this grace was Mary’s unique destiny, as long as God planned for man’s salvation. This was a grace that truly sanctifies on a profoundly ontological level, not a sugar coating around a sinful creature. And this was most pleasing to God because it was His sovereign gift, which doesn’t diminish Him, just as the gift of creation does not impoverish the Creator.


(to be continued)

poetreader said...

(continued)

5) The fruit of her womb
Mary’s exceptional statue in holiness is inseparable from the status of Mary’s son as being the Son of God. The fruit of the womb is blessed because it is holiness itself. Therefore, Mary’s womb could not experience even the least connection with sin from its very existence on, as it housed for nine months infinite holiness.


How does that follow? Week by week I house the Body and Blood, the humanity and divinity within my own being. That is His gift. He comes, even to a sinner such as I. If this close and intimate cell-by-cell union were only possible to one never touched by sin, no sinner could be saved. It has been said that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean temple, That is false, as that is the only kind of temple there is.

To say otherwise is to diminish the need for salvation. We must ask ourselves is sin not such an affront to the holiness of God that the Son of God could be in symbiosis with sinful nature before the Resurrection, the redeeming sacrifice for mankind?

Yes, sin is such an affront to God, which is just why he answers that evil in such a dramatic way, by a death on the Cross and by the entering in of sinful men into union with that sacrificial death. To say that God cannot touch this sin is to say that salvation cannot occur. To try to bind salvation by the linear progress of time is to limit God and to deny the salvation of OT saints, and of Mary herself who calls God her Savior.

6) The consequences
I hope that readers find that the Immaculate Conception is not to be viewed as an ‘optional’ extra, but a core foundation for faith, a belief to be championed. Catholics are ‘Hail-Mary’ Christians for a reason and it is infinitely tied to God’s choice for His redemptive plan for salvation.


I am ready to accept that the Immaculate Conception could have been God's choice, but not that we can know that it was. I see no necessity. Your arguments here have a certain plausibility in demonstrating that it is at least difficult to prove such a notion false -- but they have not the compelling force to make this the kind of foundational doctrine that you would make it to be. If it be a core foundation for faith as you say, then you may brand me faithless, for, in the current state of my knowledge I do not accept such a doctrine, and, while refusing to condemn anyone that does, I deny with strength that anyone has the right to make such a doctrine obligatory. I trust in Jesus Christ and him crucified and not in any nonscriuptural doctrine about His mother.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us

May she indeed do so. I often adk her prayers and those of all the saints.

ed

John A. Hollister said...

Jakian Thomist wrote, "Mary’s womb could not experience even the least connection with sin from its very existence on, as it housed for nine months infinite holiness."

The implication here is that the physical touch of Christ worked not healing, as in the case of the woman who was haemorrhaging, but instead magic, by altering retroactively that which had existed before.

"To say otherwise is to diminish the need for salvation."

That is a complete non sequitur. It was precisely because we are in need of salvation that God came to earth to bring it to us, but that fact does not validate imprudent and presumptuous speculations about the means God chose for that task.

"We must ask ourselves is sin not such an affront to the holiness of God that the Son of God could be in symbiosis with sinful nature before the Resurrection, the redeeming sacrifice for mankind?"

Were that the case, Jesus would never have touched sinners in order to heal them, nor would he have sat down to eat and drink with them. So J.T.'s postulate is precisely that of the Pharisees who criticized Our Lord for doing just that.

John A. Hollister+

Jakian Thomist said...

Hi Poetreader

-On Mary being the New Eve
For scripture, I was going on the grounding provided by Fr. Hart in an earlier post, but perhaps you don’t agree, I don’t know.

On Point 1 re Divinity and Mary.
You are correct that polytheists don’t require Creator for their definition of divinity. But surely, as Christians we consider that definition to be faulty? Why should they be the standard-bearers? After all, what’s the point of worshiping something other than the Creator? Putting creature before Creator is blasphemous in my book. Any “folk-catholicism” that puts Mary on a divine pedestal is schismatic, but that must be distinguished from rightly honouring her as the saint of saints.

On Point 2, Mary the Mother of God
When you say that “this does not give her authority over Him”, I just want to note that we are agreed that Mary had authority over herself, that she could reject God’s call if she wanted to, because she was free.

On Point 3, The Importance of Mary’s Yes
“I fail to see, though, what relationship her decision has to the presence or absence of original sin.” That’s no problem, I included that because some might argue that any potential for a No from Mary would be because she was a fallen creature. That doesn’t apply here.

On “I was able to accept Jesus into my own life, though a wretched sinner, and do so week after week in the eucharist…” This is interesting because the crux of my argument is that it didn’t work the other-way-around. In other words, the fact that we are “wretched sinners” is such an affront to God’s holiness, that we had to be redeemed BEFORE God would accept us in union. Our fall means we are lacking in God’s grace, surely only one “full of grace” and filled with divine favour would be privileged to carry the Almighty in symbiosis.

On Point 5, The Fruit of her Womb
“Week by week I house the Body and Blood, the humanity and divinity within my own being. That is His gift.” But that gift was earned for us as part of the New Covenant, we didn’t merit it, it was because Jesus took on the sins of the world and offered Himself as the most perfect Holy sacrifice to God the Father. Only His perfect sacrifice cleansed the sin that is such an affront to God’s holiness.

“It has been said that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean temple, That is false, as that is the only kind of temple there is.” Is an unclean temple the “only kind of temple there is”? The answer must be no, because otherwise God’s grace is trapped. Adam and Eve were pure clean temples made in God’s image and likeness. Mary, as we agree, was subject to God’s sanctifying grace, this didn’t put a holy vale around an unclear temple but truly transformed it and made it acceptable to God that He Himself would dwell there and still remain in holiness.

“To say that God cannot touch this sin is to say that salvation cannot occur.”

Salvation in the Resurrection is totally at God’s discretion. This is what makes Christ’s Resurrection the most important event in human history. It is God’s victory over sin which opened the gates of paradise to us all. The OT saints too were tainted by sin and needed the Ressurection, only the pure in heart can see God.

On the point about “touch”. There is an infinite divide between “touch” which is always between two separate bodies who do the physical touching and symbiosis which is about metaphysical union and no touch as such. Jesus touched but He was not in symbiosis with those He cured. While I argue that Mary was Conceived Immaculate, that does not mean I hold that she did not “touch” others who were tainted by sin. It means she and no one else was uniquely filled with God’s grace because of God’s plan for her, she was God’s choice.

Lord, save us and protect us until we reach the fullness of your Kingdom won for us unworthy servants by the perfect sacrifice of your Son, Christ Jesus.