Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Question of Respect: Intermezzo

The Church and Holy Scripture.

Objection: Who are You to Know Better than the Pope?

The matter of respect due the Pope by bloggers like the Bear invites a question:

Assuming it can ever be proper to criticize any pope, and even to use the sharper rhetorical tools in doing so, what makes you think you know better than the Pope?

After all, the Church is not a natural institution such as the court system, as you have used in your illustrations. It is a divine institution with protections guaranteed by no less a figure than Christ Himself. As such, the Holy Spirit guides the Pope in a special way that has nothing to do with random Bears wandering around growling and making a nuisance of themselves.

Even the Pope's ordinary magisterium - the teachings he emphasizes in a consistent manner in his regular communication with the world - requires the assent of Catholics.

If this Pope makes a theme of his pontificate that borders should not be closed to migrants, or that climate change is a matter requiring your concern, then it is the teaching of the Church - one of those teachings you are supposedly so hot to protect, you disrespectful barblogger - that even a pope's ordinary magisterium is a product of a charism he has and you do not.

If you want to pick an argument with him about that, or ecumenism, or interfaith, then it is you who are fighting the Church you claim to be defending.

Bear Agrees: Under Ordinary Circumstances, the Pope's the Pope

The Bear concedes this in theory. All things being equal, Catholics should not pick fights with the Pope. A certain amount of humility and trust is required, even docility. All of which the Bear freely admits that he lacks.

Your Bear also agrees that even with ordinary, man-made institutions like the judiciary or the government, the proper functioning of valued, even essential, mechanisms of a well-ordered society require that we show respect for its offices. (There is a good reason extreme politeness and deference are required of lawyers in a courtroom. Otherwise, in the heat of battle, a trial would quickly degenerate into a shouting match, if not kick boxing.)

Yet, of course the Church is different from a man-made institution like the judicial system. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it," as Christ promised.

By the Way, at Least the Bear Respects Holy Scripture

By the way, the Bear is willing to stipulate to the accuracy of the Gospels in that matter, even if - ironically - that accuracy is routinely questioned everywhere in a Church that is quick to throw a half-dozen favorite proof texts at a poor Bear faster than a Seventh Day Adventist at the first open door of the day.

The top Jesuit was recently quoted as saying we're not sure what Christ said about anything, since, after all, you stupid peasants, they did not have tape recorders in those days! Ha! Bet you didn't think about that like we Jesuits did! (Which is why, "So, like, what's up with Jesuits, anyway," is the most common start to all Catholic stand-up routines now.)

The Bear trusts the Church's current disdain for Holy Scripture (still following dubious 19th century German theories long since questioned by everyone else) is so obvious to the honest observer that examples (e.g. notes from the USCCB's NABRE) need not be multiplied.

However, Christ said many things - and the Bear believes we have them accurately recorded for our benefit - including that there would be a loss of faith. He even wondered if there would be any faith at all left when He returned. Private but respected revelation also warns of this, with scarier specifications.

We're not going to get very far cherry-picking proof texts. One never does.

However, the Bear digresses.

The Temptation of Papolatry

In any of these matters, it is easy, even tempting, to assume more than is taught. The Bear believes it is unwise to blindly rely upon our understanding - or the self-serving teaching - about the exact way the will of Almighty God is worked out with regard to His Church. The Bear will not cherry-pick or take anything beyond reason.

The Bear says "easy, even tempting," because most many average laymen want to be the very best Catholics they can be. They are willing to be quite strict in their understanding of things, and will not trust their own mind - or eyes, ears or even noses. Perhaps the Bear has been ruined for life by his career as a lawyer, but it is impossible for him to reject evidence in favor of cant. There is something, if the Bear may be frank, a little strident in some of the defense of a pope, especially from the popular "conservative" wing of the Church and its spokeshumans.

The Bear will make no friends by saying Catholics have, at times, shown a superstitious streak. (Of course, humans are prone to that. Did you know the very first thing they worshiped were Bears? Go figure.)

Instead, the Bear understands the validity of religious teaching by anyone in the context of the historical Deposit of Faith and Holy Scripture. If a pope says something, even repeatedly, the Bear is not going to agree with it if it clearly contradicts or distorts the testimony of those two witnesses.

Your counter-arguments are
invalid because Ginger.
The Bear would call such a statement heresy, but more learned authorities than he (and he is not an authority on much except horse flesh and Ginger Rogers) are free to debate technical terms.

The Bear is not talking about a mere difference in emphasis or interpretation. If a pope has decided what the world needs now is love, sweet love, the Bear would agree; but if he were to assert particular contemporary political views as the only valid expression of love, then the Bear would listen, but make up his own mind on the application. (The Bear has not given the USCCB his vote to give to Democrats, either.)

By the way, the Bear rejects the circular argument that goes: "Ah, but a pope's teaching on a matter is not official if it conflicts with Church teaching." Rather, he agrees with that, of course, but it can't be a canon for judging papal teaching, can it? The point is, a pope should not be saying anything that conflicts with Church teachings in the first place, should he? If he is running around spreading personal opinions that are "unofficial," what good is he? So the argument is worse than useless. It is a smokescreen.

Authority and More Authoritative Authority

So there you have it.

It is the old contest between argument from authority versus argument from everything else.

No, that's not right. The Bear argues from authority, too. His authority is just more authoritative, because it is broader, and deeper, and higher, and more ancient. Because it is not the opinion of any one man or Bear. It is especially not easily identified with certain 20th century political movements, religious fads, nor the 21st century zeitgeist.

The Bear's authority is not sick with what the West died from (although the corpse is still warm enough for most not to notice - they will).

The Bear will believe and respect the authority when the authority demonstrates it has done the same. When a pope speaks in a way that is recognizably Catholic, then the system is working, assent is demanded and respect is due.

If - Thens

Respect the shovel of truth.
If a pope were to be clearly at odds with the Church herself on one or two matters, then assent would be properly suspended, but respect is still due under the ancient legal doctrine of "nobody's perfect."

If, however, a pope were, hypothetically, to be clearly at odds generally with the Church herself in many things, so as to suggest an opposition to her very Spirit, then such assent would be foolish or wicked, depending on the individual Catholic.

"Respect" has been forfeited by someone setting fire to the Woodlands. Smokey would not allow "respect" to prevent him from smacking an arsonist up side the head with his shovel.

So, this...

"Oh, well, if the Ranger is setting fire to the forest, he is the Ranger, after all, and we animals must respect him and presume that he is conducting a controlled burn or something else we stupid beasts cannot understand."

... is not going to impress the Bear as much as the bed of a truck filled with cans of gasoline and highway flares. If someone wants to "controlled burn" his house down, he had better be ready beforehand with some pretty darn good reasons. (The Bear will be getting to the strange absence of any serious attempt to justify changes in the next piece.)

One Very Long Sentence That Sums it All Up

Now that you have been prepared, please take a deep breath and concentrate for a long sentence. It is not making any allegations, just proposing some principles for discussion in a sort of worst-case scenario. In other words:

if the protections given the Church are not embodied in one man, and automatic, and irresistible, and absolute, and in accord with the simplest understanding of Catholics of a particular wing of the Church (and explanation by self-interested clerics) and...

if it were possible to have a pope whose consistent views were so at odds with the Faith and Holy Scripture that he in effect made himself the prophet of a different religion (becoming a "false prophet," which is nothing more than a man claiming to speak on God's authority while just making stuff up)...

then it would not only be permitted, but meritorious to resist such a hypothetical pope with all rhetorical tools available, including those designed specifically to reduce an illegitimate demand for "respect" that only prevents the proper emergency response. (That would include the Three Stooges eye-poke.)


Of course, if the "ifs" are impossible, then the "thens" don't follow.

But the only way the Bear can see for this argument not to hold water in principle is if lay Catholics never have any duty toward the safety of their religion, no matter how destructive a renegade hypothetical pope may be, to the detriment of the Church and the ruin of souls.

If, for example, one wants to argue that, for better or worse, a pope is placed over the Church directly by God Himself and operates according to His mysterious will for the purpose of "chastisement," or arbitrary change, or no purpose at all, and that "disrespect" toward a pope is always sacrilege, then the Bear respects one's right to so argue.

However, the Bear won't be following anyone into territory that would so quickly drown poor Bear and all the Woodland creatures in the swamp of nonsense or superstition or both.

Note that the Bear is speaking hypothetically here. He is more interested in exploring the principles than talking about any person living or dead.

And now a very important personal plea. Long-time readers of this ephemeris will know that the Bear has absolutely no sense of shame when begging in the most degrading manner for salmon and sales for his dubious novel. This time he's begging for something else, that won't cost you a dime. 

If you've enjoyed articles like these, and you've already read his dubious novel, won't you pretty please drop a quick review of Judging Angels at Amazon? Be the 10th reviewer and become the one to meet a major psychological milestone for a new author and make him happier than a Bear with a salmon in his teeth and a honeycomb in his paw when all the bees that made the honey are on vacation at Branson.

Amazon reviews are ridiculously important to spreading the word about a book. It's like "leveling up" in a game, decided by numbers of reviews, where "recommendations" and other powers are unlocked.

"I can't write book reviews," you say? Sure you can! Pick a number of stars, and type what you liked about it (or didn't) in a sentence or two, e.g. 

"I liked it because it had redheads and guns and quoted St. Thomas Aquinas. The spelling was excellent." 


It's a cinch that the mainstream Catholic media is not going to help the Bear, since they obviously hate Bears.

Thank you in advance.

Your pal,
The Bear


  1. You know, for the longest time I thought Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer was simply the most brilliant anthropomorphic legal mind the world had ever known. Now I realize, there is a new sheriff in town.

  2. How many ways are there to cease being the pope? That is a question I ponder.

    The customary way is to die. Dead popes no longer hold the office. Or do they? Do not their magisterial teachings consistent with the depositum fidei, continue to be magisterial post mortem? It is a slippery point.

    Another way to cease being pope is to resign the office. Also slippery: what are we to do with resignations under duress, or with what might be termed an occult resignation, in which an incumbent resolves privately to abandon or even subvert his office, even as he clings to outward appearances? At what point are we laity obliged to find ourselves in the position of the peasant woman in Cassius Dio's account of the Emperor Hadrian, yelling at his disengaged, departing back: "then cease being Emperor"? Does not the subject have any right in natural law to recall the master to his duty? Is not the master's authority in natural law contingent on his acceptance of its duties? In Roman law, a father who denied recognition to his child and ordered it to be exposed would lose his rights thereby.

    I'm just asking.

    1. Being an antipope would do it, i would think.

      If the Catholics ceased acknowledging you as pope, maybe.

      who knows?

  3. A concordant signed in 1933 between then to be Pope Pius XII and Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, finds the German Church today operating both fiscally and spiritually on the basis of simony, or pay to pray. It's a forbidden practice in the Catholic Church. And yet it exists. Pope Benedict rose through the ranks under this system of taxation. He benefited directly from it, and even though German Catholics opting out of the church tax established by this agreement are effectively excommunicated, he did not eliminate this evil Hitlerian construct in his own homeland while he was Pope. He could have, but he didn't. Sacraments are withheld from millions of Germans today because they have simply opted out of paying a Church tax. "Pay or go to hell" is the Catholic ethos emanating from the German Church today. Monetary gain in the billions is more important than the salvation of souls numbering in the millions. That is the cold hard lesson that needs to be learned from Germany.

    The Catholic Church prefers money and power over the salvation of souls. Period.

    Pope Francis is cut from the very same cloth.

    Vehemently anti US, Pope Francis is a South American Jesuit steeped in Communism's liberation theology, who is doing his level best to eliminate the economic system responsible for the way of life enjoyed in the US by actively lobbying on every front possible for the redistribution of wealth based on the false science of global warming and universal, UN-based socialism. Like his predecessor Pius XII, he's brokered a statist agreement, COPE 21, which will result in vast sums of money flowing directly into the vast social justice caverns of the Catholic Church. It has nothing to do with saving souls and everything to do with money. The papal encyclical Laudato Sii is dedicated to this earthly cause, which is why it has more in common with Das Kapital and atheistic communism, than the Holy Bible.

    "Resist?", you ask.

    In solidarity with those who refuse to pay, who have opted out, who refuse to contribute to the advancement of totalitarians and tyrants, the reply to the question is quite simple:

    "Ich bin ein Berliner."

  4. Thanks for the reviews, although I see someone is funny, like the Bear. Three 5-star reviews in 24 hours! Wow! Bear is very very happy.

  5. Bear, I'm sorry, I haven't even started it. I think I have late-onset ADD, I can't settle down and read as much as I once did, but I will make that concerted effort.

  6. This and the last post verge on being permanent things. I thought this was supposed to be ephemera?

    But seriously - these are the two most important posts I have read here. "Important" in the sense of what must be said and which I haven't seen stated so clearly anywhere else. Thanks so much for your work.

  7. The Bear is inspired by the reviews. Who knows? If we hit 25 before it was time to go, the Bear could hardly turn his back on that kind of loyalty and determination, could he?

    But, yes, the Bear wanted to really lay it out as simply and completely as possible, and he's not done. Of course, "you can't criticize the pope, ever, period," is not an argument that can be answered. It is a firmly held belief that is not without support. Unless we really are worshiping Mumbo Jumbo, though, there has to be some sort of logical limit to it.


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