Friday, April 17, 2009

Does the Pope ever miss free throws?

"Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."
- Pope John Paul II

[In response to Ben's comment on the last post... It's gotta be good to warrant a whole post response! :)]

So without further ado - Ben is right about a number of things:

- The CNS is a fringe group that, to be honest, gives the Church in the U.S. a bad name. I can understand a renewal of Catholic education (which has certainly gone astray; see: Georgetown), but not the way they go about it most of the time.

- Speaking of fringe groups, Rush Limbaugh should have been deported to Greenland long ago. They don't have radio there, right?

- Being a "Christian" doesn't always mean that you're acting like Christ.

But there are a couple of fundamentally wrong points, too:

1. Pope Pius XII was a shining light during the Holocaust. Any reasoning I give now has been tainted by the claim that they're just "excuses," but the fact is that Pius XII got a bad rap from pop culture years after WWII (see: the 1963 play "The Deputy" by Rolf Hochhuth). Many Jewish leaders have credited Pius XII for saving more than 860,000 Jews. But to a certain extent that's beside the point, because...

2. Like too many people, there is a crucial misunderstanding here of the truth of Papal Infallibility. It does not mean that the Pope never makes mistakes. Does the Pope sin? Yes! (JPII went to confession weekly) Were the Crusades evil and wrong? Yes! Was the Inquisition an act of pride, violence and sin? Yes! Again, I repeat - any Catholic who claims that Popes don't make mistakes is uninformed and misrepresents the Church. Per the post title, I'm willing to bet that I would own the Pope in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

Papal Infallibility, as restated in the document Lumen Gentium from Vatican II, only applies when "by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals" (LG §25) Infallibility only applies to the teaching charism of the papacy, and only in matters of faith and morals. So we're talking about things like the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the evil of murder, the teachings on marriage, etc.

This, of course, was the central concern during JFK's presidential campaign and the reason he's been our only Catholic president. "Will the Pope pick our Supreme Court justices? Restructure our legislature? Do away with the precious electoral college?" And the answer is, of course, no. The Pope has no right within his ministry to directly affect the temporal structures of nations and states. Now, he might teach on those elements of secular groups that pertain to moral infringements (see Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, which criticizes certain capitalistic labor standards). But there's a fine line between teaching on truths of faith and morals and executing those same truths. That's why, praise God, the Papacy no longer has the political and military authority that it once did.

So now that we all love the Pope, how 'bout some randomness? :)

And speaking of Popes, happy 82nd birthday to Benedict XVI yesterday!

Peace, y'all.

Now playing: Eric Hutchinson - You Don't Have to Believe Me
via FoxyTunes


Luke J said...

Ok, I am going to graciously dissent here for a moment, Mr. Basilisk. What you say about the infallability of the Pope is correct. It is greatly misinterpreted by non-Catholics. But, you are incorrect about the Papacy not having governmental influence. Albeit, it is not a direct influence on the workings of the government, more a subtle shift in ideology. Our trends as a church, and therefore our social involvement as Catholics, very much hinges on what kind of Pope we have. Pope John Paul II was a very progressive and liberal pope. He chose to embrace modernity and made decisions based on such. We saw an entire ideological shift in the Catholic Church over the time that he was in Papacy. On the flip side, Pope Benedict has proven to be quite a conservative pope, even by papal standards. (I don't want to turn this into a Pope-bash-a-thon, so I won't site examples here). In each instance, the mjority of hierarchy of the church stepped in line with this ideology, and these beliefs trickled down to the people of the church. So, I guess I should restate my initial thesis. The Pope doesn't have the power to interfere in government the way he once was able to, but he certainly can influence the trends in politics. Among his "flock" of course.

Ben said...

Ok clearly we are dealing with different sets of facts on the Pius XII topic, so I'll leave that one alone.

But on the doctrine itself... I should have been more clear on my understanding of papal infallibility. I understand the Church's position that a Pope must be speaking "ex cathedra" and on the subject of faith or morals.

But here are the problems with these conditions (and I'm sure they've been addressed ad nauseum in both Vatican councils). But anyway:

1) There are NO subjects that the Pope speaks about that do not have to do with faith and morals. That is part of being the Pope. I know this sounds like B.S. reasoning, but it is what it is. When the Pope puts his pen to paper, or speaks into a microphone, the subject becomes about faith and morals. It's a problem of circular logic, but the Catholics are used to dealing with those anyway ;-)

2) Similar to the problem with giving legitimacy to the Gospels, more often than not, anything spoken/written by the Pope is determined to be "ex cathedra" only after the fact. In the sense that if a Pope (let's just take...say... Horonius, for example -- totally random choice) dictates something, only Popes (or ecumenical councils) can determine that it was heretical or -- wait for it, infallible... and always after the fact.

The only exception is when a Pope establishes verbally that he is speaking "from the chair", using "a definitive act" or one of several verbal cues. Does it sound like we need attorneys to argue these little gray areas? It should.

So you see what I'm getting at. The problem is, and always has been, loopholes. There is a loophole for everything. These aren't matters of faith. At least in those cases, I can understand making leaps that surpass logic. But these are matters of men speaking (or sometimes just as dangerously, NOT speaking). When Pope Urban II made the sermon that started the Crusades, was he speaking "ex cathedra"? was he speaking on issues of "faith and morals?"

... of course not. Because the Church isn't proud of what came out of that sermon. Did Urban think he was speaking "ex cathedra" and on issues of faith and morals? You bet your ass he did. He called the crusades "the will of God".

You claimed that I had a misunderstanding of Papal Infallibility. Even if that is true, do you think you can find 10 Catholics without a degree in theology that can accurately define the doctrine for you? I bet not.

And THAT is the problem. I would contend that a majority of Catholics have a rudimentary understanding of it, at best. "What the Pope says, goes. He doesn't make mistakes."

That, to me, is truly frightening.

Jakester said...

Two things:

1. Suggesting you could beat the Pope in H-O-R-S-E sounds eerily like the attitude of the 2004 Men's US Olympic Basketball Team. Is it going to take a bronze medal for you to realize Europeans have game, too?

2. That cow abduction site was absolutely hilarious. Did you read the FAQ's?