Santorum at St. Catherine of Sienna

In the New York Times today, there is an article about Rick Santorum. It mentions that he attends St. Catherine of Sienna, a Catholic parish in Great Falls, VA. Justice Scalia attends there, Louis Freeh used to (maybe he still does), convicted spy Robert Walker did, as do other luminaries. It’s also a heavily Opus Dei parish by all accounts. I visited there six years ago and wrote about it here.

Hugh Latimer Disputation

A few years ago I set about to modernize the language of this disputation, but alas, I didn’t get very far. Here is what I have to date:

The Disputation Had at Oxford, the 16th Day of April, 1554, Between Mr. Hugh Latimer, Answerer, and Mr. Smith and Others, Opposers.

The disputation began on Wednesday, the 18th of April, at 8 o’clock. It was in the same manner as before, but mostly in English. Mr. Latimer, the answerer, alleged that his Latin was out of use, and unfit for that place. Mr. Smith of Oriel College replied, Dr. Cartwright, Mr. Harpsfield and various others bit at him, and gave him bitter taunts. He didn’t escape hissings and scornful laughing any more than those who went before him. He was very faint and desired that he not stay long. He did not drink for fear of vomiting. The disputation ended before 11 o’clock.

Mr. Latimer was not made to read what he said he had painfully written, but it was exhibited up, and the prolocutor read part of it, and then proceeded to the disputation.

Weston’s preface to the disputation

“Men and brethren, we are come together this day, by the help of God, to vanquish the strength of the arguments and dispersed opinions of adversaries against the truth of the real presence of the Lord’s body in the sacrament. And therefore you, father, if you have any thing to answer, I do admonish that you answer in short and few words.”
Latimer: “I pray you, good master Prolocutor, do not exact that of me which is not in me. I have not these twenty years much used the Latin tongue.”
Weston: “Take your ease, father.”
Latimer: “I thank you sir, I am well. Let me here protest my faith, for I am not able to dispute; and afterwards do your pleasure with me.”

The Protest of Mr. Latimer

The conclusions that I must answer are these:
1. The fist is, that in the sacrament of the altar, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really and naturally the very body of Christ present, as it was conceived of the virgin Mary, under the kinds of bread and wine. And, in like manner, his blood [in the cup].
2. The second is, that after the consecration there remains no substance of bread and wine, or any other substance but the substance of God and man.
3. The third is, that in the mass there is the lively sacrifice of the church, which is propitiatory for the living and the dead.

To these I answer:

1. Concerning the first conclusion, I think it is set forth with certain new terms, lately found, that are obscure, and do not agree with the speech of the scripture. Nevertheless, however I understand it, thus do I answer, although not without the peril of my life. I say: there is no other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we both abide in Christ, and Christ in us, to obtain eternal life, if we persevere in his true gospel. And the same presence may be called a real presence, because to the faithful believer there is the real, or spiritual body of Christ. I say this again, so that some sycophant or scorner supposes me, with the Anabaptist, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign. As for what is pretended by many, I, for my part, take it for an invention of the Popes, and therefore I think it should be utterly rejected from among God’s children, that seek their Savior in faith and are taught among the fleshly Roman Catholics, that will be again under the yoke of antichrist.

2. Concerning the second conclusion, I say boldly that it has no support or ground from God’s holy word; but is a thing invented and found out by man, and therefore to be reputed and known as false; and, I would almost say is the mother and nurse of all other errors. It would be good for you my masters and lords, the transubstantiators, to take better heed to your doctrine, so that you do not conspire with the Nestorians. For the Nestorians deny that Christ had a natural body: and I cannot see how the Roman Catholics can avoid it, for they would contain the natural body which Christ had (sin excepted) against all truth, into a wafer cake.

3. The third conclusion, as I understand it, seems subtly to sow sedition against the offering which Christ himself offered for us in his own person, for all, never again to occur, according to the scriptures written in God’s book. In that book read the forceful and brief words of St. Paul in Hebrews 9 and 10, where he says that Christ himself made a perfect sacrifice for our sins, never again to be performed; and then ascended into heaven, and there sits a merciful intercessor between God’s justice and our sins; and there shall wait until these transubstantiators and all his other foes are made his footstool. This offering he freely made of himself, as it is written in John 10, he did not need any man to do it for him. I say nothing of the amazing presumptions of men, that dare attempt this thing without any manifest calling, especially that which intrudes to the overthrow and make fruitless (if not wholly, then partially) the cross of Christ. Therefore, a man can worthily say to my lords and master offerers, ‘By what authority do you do this? And who gave you this authority? When and where?’ St. John says, ‘A man cannot take any thing except it be given him from above,’ much less then may any man presume to usurp any honor before he is called to do it.

St. John also says, “If any man sin, we have,’ not a masser, nor an offerer upon earth who can sacrifice for us at mass; but ‘we have an Advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one, who once offered himself for us long ago.” The efficacy and effect of that offering endures forever, so that it is needless to have such offerers. But if they had a nail driven though one of their ears every time they offer, as Christ had four driven through his hands and feet, they would soon stop offering. Yet, if their offering did not bring gains in addition, it would not be done so often. For they say, ‘No penny, no pater noster.” What does St. Paul mean when he says “They that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel?” He should rather have said, “The Lord has ordained that they that sacrifice at mass should live of the sacrificing.” But although the Holy Ghost appointed them no living for their saying mass in God’s book, yet they have appointed themselves a living in antichrist’s decrees. For I am sure that if God would have had a new kind of sacrificing priest at mass, then he or some of his apostles would have made some mention of it in their master, Christ’, will. But perhaps the secretaries were not the masser’s friends, or else they saw that it was a charge without profit.

 

No Sacred Space

Writing in the London Review of Books, Keith Thomas says of sacred space and the Church:

All these practices presuppose that divinity is immanent in the world, but in a localized way. The demarcation and protection of holy spaces becomes one of the means by which religious institutions assert their claim to supernatural authority. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that the first Christians should have rejected the whole notion of sacred space. Whereas the Greek and Roman world had been full of holy places, the early Christians were encouraged to see themselves, not buildings or sanctuaries, as the temple of the living God (II Corinthians 6.16). For them, God was ubiquitous, rather than located in some particular spot. Only in the fourth century did Christians begin to construct their own sacred topography. The driving force as the cult of the martyrs and the building of urban churches to contain their relics. It set in motion a long process by which Catholic Christianity would construct a new geography of the sacred.

This same glorification of space still exists in Protestant circles with regard to Jerusalem, the “Holy City” which is thought of as somehow closer to God than Ames, Iowa or anywhere else. The fact is that all the land is now sacred.

Calvin’s Education

In our day seminary costs a lot of money. I sometimes wonder how Calvin and the other Reformers did it? How did they get their education, how did they preach and write so much? Well, in some cases, if not most, they were coming from somewhat wealthy families. Carlos Eire writes of Calvin:

He had, after all, grown up Catholic and funded his entire education with income from ecclesiastical benefices.

A benefice was revenue from church property granted to an individual. This biography says:

Having distinguished himself at an early age, Calvin was deemed worthy of receiving the support of a benefice, a church-granted stipend, at the age of 12, so as to support him in his studies. Although normally benefices were granted as payment for work for the church, either present or in the future, there is no record that Calvin ever performed any duties for this position. Later on he held two more benefices, for which he also did no work. Thus supported by the Church, at age 14, Calvin was enrolled at the College de la Marche in the University of Paris, though he quickly transferred to the College de Montaigu.

So Calvin benefited from a church-funded education, he did not work his way through school like many of his modern followers are forced to do.

The Petrine Office

This is me thinking out loud. The prominence of Peter in the New Testament is striking, but it does not mean what the modern RCC says it means. So what does it mean? I’m not sure. The famous passage from Matthew 16 says:

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It looks to me like Jesus is addressing Peter, not everyone. Peter features prominently in the Gospels and the early part of Acts. He is given a lot of attention. His post-Resurrection restoration by Jesus is portrayed at length. Why? Why the focus on him?
Thoughts:
Peter was flawed, he was not infallible, he made mistakes.
He was not in charge of the church in Jerusalem.
Paul says Jesus appeared to him first of all.
A party in Corinth claimed to be of him.
He led the church in the earliest days.
Peter was the rock, the leader of the early Church, but it was leadership in council, a conciliar model. He was not even first among equals, but one of perhaps a triad of leaders.
I believe that he did go to Rome.
The NT cannot possibly lay obedience to the See of Rome on believers as a necessity.
Jesus built the church on Peter in some sense.
The gates of hell did not prevail in some sense.

Respect for the Dead

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a masterful document – I wish we Anglicans had something like it. Due to my Mom’s death, I read what it says about the treatment of the dead:

The dying should be given attention and care to help them live their last moments in dignity and peace. They will be helped by the prayer of their relatives, who must see to it that the sick receive at the proper time the sacraments that prepare them to meet the living God.
The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.
The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.

I love how the Catechism deals with just about everything you can think of in life. I don’t like autopsies, giving organs or cremation, but the Catholic approach does seem sensible to me. And it must be comforting to know that there are answers to these things rather than simply making up an answer.

Outside the Catechism, canon law states:

ECCLESIASTICAL FUNERALS (Cann. 1176 – 1185)
§3. The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.

I Can’t Interpret the Bible but I Can Interpret History

Perhaps responding to recent apostasies, Mark Horne put the problem with certain conversions to Rome and the East perfectly:

You are not impressing anyone when you claim that you don’t have the ability to read the Bible for itself but you do have the ability to study all of Christian history and identify the supernatural office that can tell you what to think.
If you can really read and argue from history in the hope of persuading others, then why not simply argue for your views from Scripture?  If you aren’t following your own authority in deciding which church to submit to then how are you following your own authority when you read the Bible and believe what it says? If you are willing to argue over the meaning of the last papal writings, why not argue over the meaning of Scripture?
The fragmented nature of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches gives the lie to the “unity” narrative. And yes, you think you can interpret history perfectly, but not the Bible…patently absurd.

Is Conversion the Answer?

Rod Dreher makes several salient points about converts to Rome and Orthodoxy:

Yes, but in my personal experience, the Catholic Church in America has only a facade of unity. Every Catholic parish I’ve been a part of has been basically Protestant, insofar as most of the people seemed to believe that they had a right to believe whatever they wanted. The unity was fairly superficial. Mind you, I’m in no position to say to what extent the Orthodox Church in this country is any different, because my experience is relatively short and limited almost entirely to my own parish. But I would be surprised to learn that we Orthodox on the whole were much different in that regard.

I’ve said the same thing myself: Catholicism in the USA is just Protestantism with a different name. You have gay Jesuits, hardcore Trad Opus Dei types, the First Things crowd, EWTN, liberals like the Kennedys, and on and on. There is no unified, glorious Church. It’s an illusion in the mind of the convert who lives in the world of ideas. Dreher continues:

I keep telling Protestants I know who want to convert to Catholicism that I don’t want to get in the way of their decision — though I would like them to consider Orthodoxy — but that they should realize that they’re probably not going to find an escape from modernism in their local parish. The church of Pope Benedict and First Things magazine, and your favorite conservative Catholic bloggers, is not the church you’re likely to encounter down the street. If you’re convinced of the case for Catholicism, then you almost certainly have to become Catholic — but go in with your eyes open. Similarly with Orthodoxy, we have, like Catholicism, the institutional and historical tools for resisting modernism, but if the pastors and the people remain indifferent or hostile to them, Protestants searching for solid ground to stand on may be unpleasantly surprised.

Again, this is not an argument against becoming Catholic or Orthodox. But it is a warning that it’s impossible to escape modernity and its challenges to tradition and traditional faith. When Father Dwight says that the fissiparous nature of individualist modernist faith will eventually give way to disbelief, because it’s not anchored in communal experience, I agree with him in principle, but would ask him what his prediction is for Catholic parishes that are populated by individualists in religion? (N.B., Father Dwight recognizes in his post that modernist Catholic priests shouldn’t be surprised when people quit coming to mass.) Similarly, I am aware of several Protestant congregations who are far, far more unified in belief than any Catholic parish I’ve been a part of, no doubt because those Protestants who don’t share the core convictions of that congregation found another congregation to attend. Mind you, without a Magisterium (Catholic) or a high view of the authority of Tradition (Orthodox) to hold on to, I don’t know how those congregations over time will remain grounded in their particular judgments. But having the theological mechanism for stability, as the Catholics and the Orthodox do, is no guarantee either.

This makes lots of sense. Because Protestant churches in our day are usually based on shared convictions such as worship style or theology, we have much more unity (at the micro level) than Catholics do.

I have a friend who left the Greek Orthodox church to which he belonged, because he was desperate for a spiritual encounter with the living God, as opposed to the empty formalism of his home parish, which, as he puts it, was more interested in worshiping Greekness than in worshiping God. He became a born-again Evangelical. Despite all the legitimate criticism that can be leveled at American Evangelicalism re: its lack of stability and susceptibility to cultural trends, is it really the case that children raised in a traditional church that has valid sacraments but is spiritually dead are going to have a better chance of living as Christians there than they would in an Evangelical church that has all the trappings of modernity, and an essentially modernist, individualist theology, but that for whatever reason has chosen a theologically traditional set of principles around which to organize, and lives it out in a vigorous, vibrant way?

This is the rub. Tradition and liturgy are life to me and those like me who seek to escape the modern church wasteland, but they were death to my Mom who wanted relationship with God and wasn’t taught that in the Lutheran Church of her day (though she could have had it, had they rightly understood their own past). We can’t re-pristinate the past and create some perfect model that never existed. We can meld the best liturgy and tradition with our modern condition, all the while being bathed in the Scripture as the ultimate norm.

Scott Hahn gets pilloried!

A Catholic rips the most famous of Catholic converts here. A sample:

Such dilettantish intellectual mush that such figures as Hahn seek to feed us is very much the product of this iron age of Catholic thought. If I was to pick a legitimate criticism of this talk, and of Hahn’s “neo-Catholicism” in general, it is that I am not convinced that it is Catholic at all. When he described his first attendance at Mass, how “Patristic” the whole experience was for him, how Catholics read from the Old Testament at Mass, etc., I could only ask myself the question: “Is this man, who appears to be a smart guy, ignorant that all of these ‘reforms’ in the Mass are younger than he is? Did he really see the Catholicism of history, or was he drawn to his own vision of what he thinks the Catholic Church is? Would he have had the same experience at Mass if he had gone to one from the year of his birth?” You might think that I am splitting hairs, but I find these questions highly pertinent. For often Neo-Catholics like Hahn seem to be drawn by aspects of the Catholic Church that I would characterize as dysfunctional and illegitimate. It is the part of the Catholic Church today that is profoundly forgetful, profoundly ignorant of what the Church was like not so long ago, and only enamored with the Church insofar as it provides them with a sufficiently large bullhorn for their own strange ideas (and the book deals that go along with them). While seeking to engage the culture with its basketball gym rallies, glossy paperbacks, and events that seem to be Human Resources pep talks with a little holy water sprinkled on them, they succeed only in talking past the culture, in creating an atmosphere that is little better than a Book of the Month club, if not to say a peppy, clean-cut, bearded cult. What is missing, sadly, is tradition, with all of its boring, outdated, and inglorious burdens.