Thursday, September 14, 2017

So, Like What's Up With the Church Changing Teachings?

A Day in the Life

This was as far as Bear got. It took
several valuable seconds.
Oh, dear. The Bear has not felt very motivated of late to dip his paw into the polluted waters of the Tiber and rake the muck.

He did spend several hours, however, planning a Game of Thrones type intro video for this ephemeris. Locations like "Beaver Dam," "Badger's Den," "The Big Clearing," and "The Bear's Cave" would come to 3D life by the patient use of stop-action video and construction paper locations.

So that was time well spent.

Then he had a Department of Fish, Game and Wildlife Office of Large Talking Predators mandated doctor's visit at the VA hospital. The doctor claimed to have finished and enjoyed "Judging Angels" (having purchased a copy during the Bear's last checkup after the Bear got on his knees and cried) and prescribed a sequel.

Or Seroquel. Bear isn't sure.

He promised to write a review. (Hint. Reviews make the Bear's morale soar and inspire him to tend to things like this ephemeris.)

Meanwhile, Over at the Bear's Other Blog

JUST IN: Judging Angels picks up two more 5-star reviews to bring its unbroken string to 20! The book no one expects but everybody likes.

Speaking of which, there is a new, short and funny review up at Amazon, so the Bear reposted it on his other blog as he accompanies and dialogues with the clever reviewer. For those of you who wisely ignore said other blog, the news is that the sequel stands at 85,600 words, or 2000 more words since yesterday. Also, the last-finished chapter is entitled "The Sting of the Lash and the Solace of the Bite." But, anyway, if you're interested in the sequel, there's plenty to read over there.

Did the Bear tell you about his idea for the intro video? Oh. Yeah.

So, here's what the Bear would write about if he were not distracted and beset with ennui.

The Big Question: 
Has or Has Not the Church Changed Its Teaching
on the Necessity of Being a Faithful Catholic in Order to be Saved?

Is there any real question that the Catholic Church has changed its mind on some pretty significant topics like, oh, salvation?


The Bear is not thinking about Pope Francis.

It was commonplace until living memory for popes to condemn "indifferentism" (which is now pushed as "ecumenism"). Numerous exercises of the ordinary magisterium of popes in their encyclicals rap Catholics who dare fraternize in any religious way with Protestants - let alone non-Christians - sharply across the muzzle.

And salvation for heretics, pagans, Jews and other infidels? Surely, you jest.

Now, don't get the Bear wrong. Personally, he doesn't care for that teaching at all. Between him and you, he's not quite sure how much stock to put into it. But, then, the Bear is a terrible Catholic. Nonetheless, that it was the way things were until recently.

Not just here and there. You cannot stroll through Church documents for the vast majority of her existence without tripping over this teaching.

Even into the 20th Century, popes are still acting as if they were the monarchs of a Church that remained the only means of salvation. (Various narrow exceptions were always argued, such as whether catechumens prior to baptism might be saved and "invincible ignorance," but the list was never long, and the exceptions went, as the saying goes, to prove the rule.

"No salvation outside of the Church" was not something invented by Fr. Feeney, as some people seem to believe. (In any case, there is a lot more to the Fr. Feeney story than the validity of a doctrine.) It was harped on by popes on their magisterial harps for ages, and expressed by the Church's extraordinary magisterium three times, just in case you missed the first two. (Council of Florence, Pope Eugene IV, Bull Cantate Domino; Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam; and Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council.)

The tantalizingly blighted 15th Century Council of Florence, which saw an agreement on the healing of the Great Schism that was ultimately rejected by the East, put it in fairly typical language.

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

Pope Eugene IV, Bull Cantate Domino, Council of Florence. (If the Bear is deluded in this, someone ought to let EWTN know.)

Bear means, "Yikes!"

Of course, nobody talks like that anymore. Bear thinks it would be a hate crime and certainly a trigger. But, as far as the Bear knows, while Lumen Gentium of Vatican II backpedals glibly across the centuries, the Bear does not remember it stating anywhere that, "Oh, and all that stuff about belonging to the Catholic Church being essential to salvation? We hereby formally declare it all nonsense."

The closest it comes are some confusing hints that the Church might actually be a lot bigger than previously suspected. (As the Bear always says, though, he firmly adheres to whatever infallible teachings might be contained in the turgid meanderings of the pastoral Vatican II Council compromise documents that he can be expected to make the least sense of as a degreed professional and paperback writer.)

On this one issue alone, the Bear is firmly convinced that the Church has always officially stood for the proposition that your chances of salvation were, to say the least, exceedingly dim unless you were a faithful Catholic.

Until, that is, well into the 20th century, when things... mysteriously changed sub silentio.

So, if this is true, then why is everyone up in Pope Francis' business? The Bear suspects the Woodland Creatures and Welcome Visitors might be able to shed some light on the topic.


  1. I'm pretty confused by this puzzle, too. The whole "subsistit in" thing from LG appears to my rigid Pharisitical eyes to have been a ruse designed by Modernists to attempt not to offend the tender sensibilities of the Protestants and other heretics. I mean, development of doctrine is one thing, but how can infallible crystal clear statements of "extra ecclesia null salus" over so many centuries suddenly become fallible, in that they must, according to the V-2 "fathers", have misunderstood what "ecclesia" really means? To quote the hilarious robot from the hilarious 60's TV show "Lost in Space" (which maybe reflects on all of V-2, now that I think about it), "It does not compute." If those previous pronouncements were wrong, then the whole idea of Magisterial infallibility is wrong, and the entire structure of Church teaching would collapse. Which may be exactly what the people in charge of V-2 wanted; I don't know, I'm just another retired professional user of language like Bear, who thinks words have to mean the same thing whenever they are spoken or written, or they mean nothing at all.
    Naturally, my preferred view is that those earlier pronouncements were right, and the squishy, ambiguous "pastoral" V-2 is just a lot of words that may mean something, but don't have any real binding force, so we can ignore them and go back to worshipping God like the Church always did before those confusing things started happening in the last century.

    1. "Subsists in" is the conservative language in that section of the document. It is not modernist, but a fine philosophical point sitting in the middle of a not very philosophical section without being properly defined.

      The term doesn't mean is or is equal to. This is not an equivalent example, but consider the human individual. Is the human individual the soul? No. The soul is the form of the body. Does the soul exist out side of the body? No, but it can. Is the the Church of Christ the Catholic Church? No, the Church of Christ subsist in the Catholic Church. Does the Church of Christ exist outside of the Catholic Church? No, but it can.

      Clear as mud.

      Also, remember THIS is the conservative "win" in this section. I might have the book around here with the working schemas.

    2. I belief it was later "clarified" at least once by the CDF to mean "a fancy way of saying 'is'"

      Bear knows Owl holds out more optimism than Bear about deriving clear magisterial teachings from V2 documents. Lumen Gentium is a sweet gooey mess that tries to clean itself up by shaking a devil poppet at the very end to make it seem like nothing's really changed. (And the Bear is habitually in his own sweet gooey messes and is perhaps the world's greatest expert on same.)

    3. Friend Frank and Bear agree. Lawyers must learn how to spot "dicta" in order for them to ditinguish it from "the holding," which is the language that counts in court. Dicta is thinking out loud, etc. Lumen Gentium seems to be all dicta, unless the holding is really "Lookee us! See how nice and tolerant the Church has become in our groovy Age of Aquarius, which will, like, man, never end and all of what we wrote will never seem dated and as breathless as a teenage girl writing Twilight fan fic."

      That couldn't be it, could it? A council run amok into a massive PR virtue signalling campaign?

      There was a reason for Tridentine terseness. "Cubs over Cards? Anathema. Next!"

    4. Great Bear is referring to this

      "Subsists in" doesn't equate to is, just as Owl cannot be reduced to Owl's soul but one cannot consider Owl apart from Owl's soul or Owl's soul apart from Owl. The Catholic Church cannot be considered apart from the Church of Christ (hey here is the dogma of indefectability) nor can the Church of Christ be considered apart from the Catholic Church (dogma of Unity of the Church).

      Owl considers "subsists in" to be the most brilliant worst idea of Vatican II. It is massively out of place in the document and obviously inserted to prevent the section from being heretical. Given that nobody understands what "subsists in" means, people read the section wrong nearly all of the time.

      Owl is also sure that Owl reads the section wrong unless Owl has had enough sleep and has the time to sit down and make a flowchart of the disjointed thoughts that keep looping around, being self-referential, and discussing things that are not defined yet or not in that section.

      Owl an optimist? Hmmmmm. Owl tends to fill in the deep end of the pool while digging out the shallow end. No safe space, we are all going to drown, cannot hide pre VII, cannot flee to another church, we are all just stuck here, in the thick of it, in the goo, dealing with sausage and sausage makers. wubba lubba dub dub.

    5. Which supports the Bear's contention that no Catholic is bound by documents so poorly written as to defy his understanding. As a lawyer, the Bear sees and smells such a smokescreen whenever he reads them he immediately puts on his Smokey Bear hat and starts beating them with his shovel. (And note that this is different from proclaiming the Council illegitimate, which the Bear does not run around doing.)

      In his own way, the Bear has adapted, and reached an understanding of reality that resolves his cognitive dissonance. It isn't heresy - it's therapy.

      In the end, the Bear thinks it comes down to whether a loving God has built us a road to salvation or set before us a thick dark forest full of traps. Does He want us to be with Him or is He eager to send us to Hell of Fire?

      In a way, Bear recognizes it is more entertaining for people of a certain cast of mind to debate silly things like "subsisit in" than useful. Do not offend God's justice, put your faith in Christ, love your neighbor, and if you can do all that in a Church that has appears to have gone into self-contradiction (no matter what the fideists, professional and amateur apologists, and ultramontanists say) then so much the better. In other words, Francis is Pope. He is also a huge distraction and scandal for Catholics who are trying their best to somehow hold a 2000 year old institution intact inside their heads.

      We can't live in our heads and we can't survive on argument and scandal. Further Bear saith not.

    6. Owl doesn't read or listen to much of Pope Francis, the USCCB, etc. It is all in a giant pile of "these guys said these things one time, but let us go and read these other writings instead".

      There is beautiful depth to Catholicism, but it is a religion for the simple. If the core truth of what a deep document is trying to say isn't simple, there is something wrong, vastly wrong.

      Owl considers it to be both a road and a thicket. The Loving God doesn't accept us as we are because love isn't about accepting but about willing the good for another. Sometimes love is no and this is going to hurt. The path goes through the thicket until we are crowned in thorns and cloak torn to pieces and ends nailed to a cross.

    7. The road is there, but we will depart from it and fall into traps. Like Pilgrim's Progress.

    8. We can't judge God, but we must care about how God will judge us. I'm deeply troubled by our Church not pointing out the significant differences between the God of the Catholic Church and the gods of other religions. What are the negative consequences for not believing the Catholic faith? What are the negative consequences for not following the Catholic faith, and partaking in the sacraments that the Catholic Church provides? What ever happened to the notion of false ecumenism? Why wouldn't a Catholic want a Jew to become Catholic? Why wouldn't we want our loved ones to become Catholic? The only thing I can think is that for many it doesn't matter, and if it doesn't matter what's the point?

    9. Keith~ It is a truism that men tend not to know a whole lot of what their neighbor's faith is. There was a thought that if we just knew each other's religion, then we would see that we were not that different. Problem was that religions are very different, especially when practiced. Lax believer A is not that different Lax Believer B but very different if they are both strong believers. So the thought tends to be now that the best way to bridge gaps is not through knowing one's self and one's neighbor but rather in the not knowing and instead promoting a lax attitude where there is common grounds.

      It is very true that the West doesn't love itself. And without self love, there can be no love of neighbor. Loving one's neighbor means willing the good for the neighbor. The ultimate good of course is Christ, and if a Christian is not preaching Christ Crucified, then that one is both a thief and a murderer, for they steal the good from another and murder them by keeping them from that which would bring them life.

      What is the point of all of this ecumenism without Christ? Numbing the pain, Owl would say. Finding away to get beyond the separation that alienates man from himself, others and God. Christ told us the way, but we don't want to listen because it means leaving things behind, becoming alienated, becoming a pilgrimage. It is sooo much easier just to work to get everyone to sit down together over the fleshpots of Egypt.

    10. Great Bear

      Yes. It is worse in the pitch of night. Great Bear is stronger than Owl and can bust through brambles that Owl cannot. Owl flies in the moon light and can see ahead of the ground dwellers. Catholicism is not a place of saved individuals but a life-line makeup of persons stretching across time and space grabbing on to those lost at sea. It is a fire ant colony swept along by Harvey. It is a Spartan Phalanx. It is a Woodlands.

  2. Right or wrong, the doctrine of EENS at least made for a confident Church with a mission and sense of purpose. Somewhere the Bear has called the about face on this teaching the "Jenga block" that caused everything to collapse. If the Church is one option out of many and everyone is pretty much saved anyway, that, my friends, leads us directly to where we are. The logic is inexorable, Frank, as you also have realized.

    In other words, Francis cannot be said to be wrong in anything because if so many previous popes have been wrong about the role of their own Church, the very idea of right and wrong, let alone infallibility and indefectibility have been made a hash of.

    1. .....UNLESS, bergoglio isn't Peter. And he isn't.

    2. This artical wasn't about him, is it?

    3. I think in a tangential way it certainly is. There is a very big difference between authentic development of doctrine and upside-down-changing doctrine. Because of bergoglio's attempt to blow everything up by the latter, it is tempting and easy to confuse the prior.

    4. What happened was the wars.

      EENS exists in Protestantism and mostly akin to the feeneyite error where it exists. The horrors of the wars produced a great existential crisis and a rethinking of the ways people relate to one and other and a rejection of the older systems that promoted separation without properly respecting why the divisions existed.

      Thus the Protestant Ecumenical Movements. Catholic EMs come later as a response.

      A simplification of the error in all of this is that divisions can be resolved in a Hegelian dialectic rather than a Socratic dialectic.

    5. I belive my earlier (lower) comment misunderstands your post as your argument. I apoligize. As if Owl could be in error! Owls are the wisesr of Woodland Creatures.

      Yes, WWI finished off the West. Nothing has ever been the same, the lamps went out all over Europe, etc.

      But, why did not the terrible religious wars convince people to seek peace through accommodation? The answer is it was still the long age of certainty. In the 20th c. the culture lost its nerve and (now, literally) its men are losing their balls as if in unconscious revolt to the emptiness of the new age of existential doubt. Even if they do not go all the way as to get rid of their jumbly bits, they misuse them in ways to prevent a new generation if the could.

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  3. I don't have the lifelong immersion in Catholic thought and teaching to make salvation outside the Church impossible, in my red-squirrel brain anyway. What do I know, I'm running around gathering acorns and trying not to get squished. This is one of those things that is like contemplating space and what is after space. I defer to greater minds and God will inform me of His thoughts on this as soon after I depart this world I'm sure.
    I do wonder about this. I see lots of crappy Catholics, and then I contemplate Billy Graham, a man for whom we hold the highest esteem, seeing how many souls he has brought to Christ, and the kind of life he apparently lived. While I admit many things are beyond my brain, certainly deep Catholic theology, and my thinking is not like God's, that presents to me a conundrum. Right now there are a great many Protestants who are sticking more closely to the Gospel I recognize than the contemporary church.

    1. Squirrel, the Bear says this. We meet in the Big Clearing and talk about things with the understanding of simple, good-hearted beasts. We see the strange birds trailing white smoke across the blue skies and will we ever know the mysteries of their flight, or the lands of their travels? No. Yet, being curious and having the serious, decent nature of good beasts, despite the buffoonery of some, we must wonder.

      And yet, we remember the approach of autumn. There are nuts to be hidden, and hibernation snacks to be obtained, and nests to be feathered and who knoweth what all but the Good God? We know by instinct what is right and what must be done, and we do not have to argue everything out like men, who lost their innocence in the first days and have had to rely on their powerful, but fallible intellects ever since.

      There may be as many answers to our questions as there are Woodland Creatures, and your benevolent despot, the Bear, has never said the Woodland Creatures must believe this or that. The point is to do what our better natures would have us do as we understand our faith, even though it is in the hands of men who change their hides with the season, forget how to mate properly, and even become confused as to whether they are male or female!

      It is certain that the serpent made the world mad first, and we are learning just how important it was for men to create a good culture to support their Church, and why the Church is beginning to become confused in the very same way as the world before it.

      We Woodland Creatures are fortunate. We know our place and our ways and they will never change because they do not depend on the intellectual fashions of men, but the instincts God gave us as informed by the ancient lore.

  4. The Catholic Church fully maintains that human beings, like wildlife, have the right to migrate when necessary. This represents a central tenant of contemporary Catholic social justice teaching. So if you wish to migrate, there is nothing stopping you morally from a Catholic perspective.

    Relating this teaching to, 'The Necessity of Being a Faithful Catholic in Order to be Saved?', results in a series of natural questions: Why must we stop at the assumption that the right to migrate is limited solely to the physical sphere? Doesn't the right to migrate also apply to the spiritual domain? In other words, doesn't everyone have the right to migrate spiritually just like they have the right to migrate physically? Especially in times of persecution and turmoil? And if not, isn't this a glaring double standard? Shouldn't freely choosing one's religion be a fundamental human right? One that cannot be coerced by fear of eternal damnation? Isn't maintaining the contrary position a form of tyranny which makes Catholics spiritually no better off than those who where forced to physically live behind the Berlin Wall, complete with mines, spotlights, barbed wire, and machine gun towers? If I'm Catholic, and I wish to convert to the Greek Orthodox church for example, shouldn't I be able to do that without being told by Church authorities that I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity as I walk out the Catholic door? If another Catholic, baptized as an infant, wishes to become a Protestant when they reach the age of reason, why are they not afforded that right without threat of spiritual penalty? There is a great outcry from the Catholic Church today from all corners against building a wall on the US-Mexican border. It pales in comparison to the fiery walls built around Catholics who are kept within the Church through abject fear of eternal hell if they decide to leave the Church. If you want to leave Mexico, the Church is perfectly OK with that and will go overboard to help you break the law and live in the US. If you want to leave the Church, you're going to hell.

    "No salvation outside the Catholic Church," is at complete variance and does not square with contemporary Catholic social teaching concerning the rights of immigrants. And at the end of the day, we are all immigrants trying our best to get into heaven.

    1. I always enjoy your comments.

      As the Bear has shown in his exhaustively researched investigative journalism piece, "The Aqualung Code " (see search box) Pope Francis was tremendously influenced by English prog rock band Jethro Tull's religiously saturated concept album, "Aqualung."

      Is it not possible that his tastes would extend to another great English prog rock band, Pink Floyd? And what is Pink Floyd's best known album? "The Wall." There is even a movie featuring wall imagery and a final breaking down of a great wall to chants of "tear down the wall!" Although this is reasonable speculation on the part of the Bear, might not Francis see himself as the "Breaker of Walls?" All walls that separate. Borders, yes, but why not religious lines? Ironically,

      just as only Nixon could go to China, only a pope can demonstrate that people of good will do not need a pope to live, and, in his own way, he has been sending that message since the beginning of his pontificate. And if no pope, then no Church. Not in the sense that he wishes to destroy the Church - far from it! He may be leading by example, dousing those walls of fire which keep Catholics in by walking outside the Church - unhindered by any wall - to accompany people of all faiths as they learn to tear down their own walls.

      He, then, may represent "the bleeding hearts and artists" of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" who triumph over The Wall through their compassion at the very end of the album. Clearly, the Bear must return to his sources to investigate this promising line of inquiry.

  5. Jesus said that the unbelievers of his day, namely the gentiles, would be saved, despite not knowing Christ, if they lived out the corporal works of mercy. The Church teaches that those who follow the Light they are given receive Baptism of desire and are therefore members of the Church.

    1. Um, excuse me, but where did Jesus say that? I remember "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Maybe I missed something? I am not being sarcastic, merely inquisitive. The only place I remember seeing anyone say non-believers can be saved is in Lumen Gentium, one of those squishy Vatican II documents we've mentioned here. Which, as noted, is not what the Church ever said before.

    2. Doing good works is not rewarded by salvation. God doesn't owe us anything for what we do that is right. Doing good is only to act in harmony with our nature, and there is no obligation of reward in that.

      As Jesus said, even the wicked do not give their children snakes when they ask for bread. God owes the wicked no salvation for the bread that they give their children.

      The Church teaches that those who follow Truth as far as is allotted to them, MAY find salvation, but this requires following whereever Truth leads and not, when the Landlord encounters them to invite them to the banquet say to the Landlord that they have other obligations.

      Following the truth leads to the invitation and entering into the Banquet hall, which is the Church, where salvation is.

    3. St. Paul writes in Romans 2:14-16 about the gentiles whose conscience is their law and which they are judged, although he also says no one gains salvation by good woorks. Perhaps that is what our welcome guest Mary is thinking about.

      As for Baptism of Desire, one must follow up with actual baptism at the earliest opportunity.

      The writer of Song of Bernadette was a Jew, although he showed a great admiration for the Catholic Faith. His friends expected him to convert on his dearhbed, but he didn't.

      A counter-example is Alphonse Ratisbonne, a 19th c. Jew who was converted after receiving a Miraculous Medal, then later made a saint.

      Now, in the Era of the Magisterium of the Photo-op, Jews are saved without regard to Christ by their own special Road to Salvation relying on out-of-context proof text of Romans 11:29 which says "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance," i.e. are not revoked. Paul never says Jews do not have to accept Christ, and spends many words in Romans grieving for their stubborness.

      But the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate was coming up and the Church feared editorials saying, "50 Years Later, Church Still Hates Jews."

      So there is another place where the Church has reversed its solemn teaching. Today, whoever it was that gave Ratisbonne the Miraculous Medal would be condemned for proselytizing and anti-Semitism.

      The funny thing is, this is completely the result of following worldly sensibilities. As for the ever-valuable Owl's "wars," it may be so, but is a prudential policy of man's wisdom to be a substitute for the settled magisterial teachings?

      Which brings us to the real question. In light of the fact that the Church now rejects in embarrassed silence magisterial teachings of the vast majority of its existence, how should Catholics react? One answer is that the Church has been a mighty witness to Christ with details of its message suited to the various ages. We should not be troubled by changes that keep the gospel in a relevant context for our own.

      In other words, whatever the merits, could the Church really tell Jews, Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc. they had better get themselves into the One True Church or burn for eternity?

    4. The question that Owl has debated with Owl's friends is how far can a story be changed before it is no longer the same story but something separate and new?

      One of the complaints that the Eastern Churches have had is that the Roman Church tended to suck all the air out of the room and not give other legitimate voices a place to speak. The Old Guard at VII DID treat the Eastern Patriarch's shabbily UNTIL the Rhine/LatinAmerican bloc shifted the agenda. The differentness of the non "Roman" centric verbiage of VII can be mistaken as only Modernism when some of it is the legitimate voice of non-"Roman" theology.

      That is not to say that there isn't a bunch of bad modernistic verbiage in there, just that it is not all modernism.

      The slight of hand that went on, in Owl's understanding, is that the Modernist / anti-Catholics used the promise of giving room for other legitimate expressions of Catholicism to create a bloc that would oust the Old Guard, and give room for them to insert non-legitimate thought, maneuver to fill the power vacuum, and then proceed to oust the other legitimate voices and make their non-legitimate thought the only legitimate thought.

      But back to Great Bear's question. First, isn't all magisterial teachings just attempts at prudential judgements? Sausage might be a mystical meat, but if you look at how it is made, it is a bunch of decisions that take a bit of this and that that include rejecting of some better meat and the keeping of some offal.

      What Church document isn't sausage?

      The New Coke example is a great one, but might I also suggest the question of whether or not Pringles are a potato chip? No they are not, for the same reason Kraft Singles are not cheese but cheese food.

      Or more importantly, why are Mormons not Christians but Lutherans are?

      The core of everything here is the Gospel Message -- what is the Gospel message in it's most fundamental form? We can present that message in different times and places in different ways, but it remains always the same, which is why Mormons are not Christians but Lutherans are.

      Become Catholic or burn is perhaps a caricature of the Gospel, but it is also non an untruth. It is still a potato -- it is still Catholic.

      We don't tell children certain truths of being an adult until they are an adult and can handle it. Thus, leading with convert or burn isn't really the way to go. Today's day and age might not be the time for a fully vocalized EENS, and not leading with that point doesn't change what is being preached from being the Gospel.

      Other things do. There are more fundamental points than EENS, which is a derived dogma. That EENS isn't heard often shouldn't be as worrying as what is going on with the presuppositions, axioms, data of revelation, and dogma from which EENS is derived from.

    5. The Eastern Patriarch came a long way, then, from being treated "shabbily" to becoming the most vigorous opponent of the "Old Guard" i.e. orthodox/Ottaviani minority (or, rather the catspaw for the Rhine Alliance)!

      The Eastern Patriarch was motivated by the same fear that motivates the Ecumenical Patriarch today. Fear that if the Catholic Church were not more tolerant of all the Muslims that surrounded the Eastern Catholics, their peace Muslim neighbors would start slaughtering them.

      The Council fathers heaved a big sigh and said, "But we've just managed the Jews, and now you say our niceness to them is going to make Muslims angry. Oh bother."

      So much for the appeasement strategy, mmm?

      Anyway, Bear agrees with much of wise Owl's speech. However, he urges his feathered nocturnal friend not to confuse soft pedalling the necessity of belonging to the Church for salvation with the explicit and unqualified rejection of it. That is an entirely different kettle of salmon.

      Can we stipulate to the facts that:

      1 - the Church has a long history of insisting on being a faithful Catholic in submission to the Pope as the only means of salvation (allowing for an extremely short and highly debated list of near alternatives not to be safely assumed by anyone), a magisterial teaching that went on until the V2 era; and

      2 - the Church has at the very least abandoned that teaching, where it has not implicitly, or even explicitly, reversed itself on it.

      The Bear maintains both of these propositions are factually true beyond dispute.

      So, to go back to the original question, if the Church has reversed magisterial teaching on something as significant as salvation BEFORE Francis came along, how much criticism is based on change (which he certainly did not start) and how much because he is just unlikable and annoying - in other words has he made himself a lightning rod for all the pent-up frustrations of traditional-leaning storm Catholics and we may be overstating his actual contribution to a process that has been going on for a lot longer?

    6. As a point of order, when Owl speaks of Eastern Church and Eastern Patriarchs, Owl is referring to Catholics. Owl always uses Orthodox as a prefix if referring to things that belong to the Orthodox. Just so there is no confusion. (Owl sees Eastern Catholics as the principle manifestation of "the other lung").

      Owl DOES agree with Great Bear. Owl doesn't think that what is going on is "soft peddling". VII is soft peddling but nobody listens to those documents. The hermaneutic of continuity crowd is more apt to mine those documents for teaching and instruction than the hermaneutic of discontinuity. When was the last time that anyone got into a VII proof-test debate with a heterodox Catholic?

      Owl will gladly stipulate to #1 but not #2 as #2 conflates the teaching arm of the episcopate with the Church. Often people will say "The Church Teaches X" when it is not really the Church teaching X but rather an organ of the Church or often just the prudential judgement of an authority. The Ratzingerian position of what the Church truly teaches is rather limited in scope. Owl doesn't agree with this very reasonable and learned position.

      Owl's position, which Owl considers is not contrary to Great Bear's is

      #2a. The practice of the episcopate and the experience of the laity is such that the majority of the teaching and Evangelistic Mission as presented and encountered in the West is such that the uniqueness, centrality, and necessity of the salvific action and person of Jesus Christ is either ignored or outright rejected, instead replaced by, at best, a MODEL of Jesus as guru or socio-political revolutionary.

      Owl considers that Pope Francis being "unlikable and annoying" has less to do with his (perceived) heterodoxy, then his tenancy to throw the weight of his office around in a hamfisted sort of way.

      Owl has been saying that Pope Francis is just a South American Jesuit -- dime a dozen and very predictable and not at all unique. South American Jesuits are easy to brush off because they are boring and passe. The problem with Pope Francis is that he is both codifying nonsense and thinks that the Papacy is an oracle of God.

      Owl considers that digging into the problems surrounding St. Simenon the New Theologian and his theology might be worthwhile to create a template of how to judge and deal with "new" theology. Then use that to judge our current situation.

      Owl does STRONGLY think that Great Bear's overall attitude of checking himself and asking if he is being "too judgmental" or not viewing Pope Francis in the best light is both right and laudable.

      We do desperately want our Pope to be a good Pope whom we can ask for bread. A starving Church asks for bread and is confused by getting snakes in return.

    7. Addendum: Owl thought long and hard about writing the "getting snakes thing". Still unsure about that, but keeps coming back to the people of God begging for something of sustenance to be said on marriage and getting AL instead.

      Owl doesn't understand why the Man in White would do such a thing. Owl is also very unsure about the degree Owl can publicly vocalize dismay as to why Owl is holding a snake when Owl was asking for bread.

  6. With utmost respect, Mary, the Bear believes that the Church's teaching on "the baptism of desire" and salvation without formally belonging to Christ's Church in general, is far less simple than you may believe. Actually, it may be more correct for the Bear to say the "old teaching" of the Church is far less simple than that. Whatever it has come to say today (see "New Jew View" via search function) is certainly a far cry from its historic teaching. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The Bear saith nought but that it is "a thing."

  7. I think MaryP was thinking of this passage from Romans 2, which demonstrates, IMO, that Paul had a far more sophisticated understanding of these matters than the Council of Florence. I've translated the Greek "nomos" as "Torah", but feel free to substitute "Law":

    9 There will be tribulation and anguish upon every person who does evil, Jews first and then Greeks, 10 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what's good, Jews first and then Greeks. 11 God doesn't play favorites--12 those who sin outside the Torah will also perish outside the Torah, and those who sin under the Torah will be judged by the Torah. 13 For those who hear the Torah aren't the ones who are righteous before God--those who observe the Torah will be vindicated. 14 When Gentiles who don't have the Torah do by nature what the Torah enjoins, even though they don't have the Torah they're a law for themselves. 15 They show the working of the law which is written on their hearts.1 Their consciences also bear witness, their conflicting thoughts accusing or even defending them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God judges men's secrets through Christ Jesus.

    1. Great minds think alike. And yet, as St. Peter observes in his Second Epistle 3:16, St. Paul's style of argument can be difficult, and Romans is his masterpiece of argument. In the Bear's opinion, where people go wrong with Holy Scripture is by reading verses and chapters without trying to understand the broader point. Paul seems quite contradictory in the parts of Romans, but the overall theme is coherent. He is writing to a loose group of new Christians in the very seat of the Empire. They are gentiles and Jews. His point is to get them thinking of themselves as brother Christians now, acknowledging that the Jews had advantages, but that they did them no good, and that God also provided for the gentiles. Every person has a chance from God, but none have used their chance, which turns out to be more theoretical than a practical method of salvation. That is why ONLY through faith in Christ does salvation come as a free gift to ALL men who are otherwise perishing. Much oc Romans is an elaborate "setup" for a few simple points.

      And yet, as I have been studying the Bible lately, I am struck by the continual pleading for unity and brotherhood. As you correctly note, welcome guest Mark, God is no respecter of persons.

      If there is no Jew and no gentile, no follower of Cephas, or Paul, or Apollos, or even Christ, and no Christian should interfere with a brother's observances... the Bear reads all sorts of pleas like this all over the NT and gets a little squirmy himself with the divisions he sees, and admits to the barest sympathy for Francis, although the man lacks the insight to address the divisions properly.

      As to the authority of the Council of Florence vs. your interptretation of Scripture - okay, let's make it easy and drop the tendentious "your interpretation of" - that is another discussion and a source of great contention historically during the Reformation.

      The Bear is surprisingly ecumenical and indifferent in the spirit of Woodland egalitarianism (although he remains first among equals, of course). As a convert, his whole family is burning in Hell, according to the Church of yore, and that would include many extremely decent, loving and God-fearing people.

    2. The Rabbinic position had ethnic overtones -- only by doing the Law could one be saved and only a ethnic decedent of Abraham could truly follow the Law of Moses because only an ethnic decedent, an heir, could receive the Law. Law is both Legal Code and Birthright.

      It is also pretty clear that St. Paul does not equate following the Law with salvation, but rather as something that leads to salvation, which is Christ, and more than belief in Christ but belief that propels towards acting in Christ, fulfilling in the person the Law rather than it being an external to the person.

      St. Paul is not saying that the good works of a Gentile are salvific, but rather they are good works that God is pleased about. (In this, Luther and Calvin are shown to be wrongheaded). But this does not mean that these good works merit salvation anymore than the good works of the Jew. St. Paul doesn't teach that. All fall short of the Glory of God not because no Gentile can do a good works (Luther/Calvin), but because good works / the Law is not salvation in it of itself.

      The unity that St. Paul speaks of is not unity between Christian and non-Christian, but rather the unity that comes from Baptism -- being united in Christ through His death and Resurrection. In Christ there is no division, but division still exists for those outside and those inside as what separates is the fact that those outside are not yet in Christ.

      The Modern World thinks that peace is the absence of hostilities -- this is false. Peace is the presence of justice, who is Christ. Modern Ecumenism gets this wrong by trying to end hostilities without increasing the presence of Christ and thus justice.

      Christians divide themselves from each other, and thus Christ, not when they rigidly hold to truth, who is Christ, but rather when they see the truth that they have been given as superior to the truth that their brother has been given -- when they demand that the finger is greater than the foot for example. A Christian may also create walls when they separate themselves from Christ by suggesting that peace comes when all is accepted as foot and/or there is no head who distinguishes between hand and foot. They wall themselves off from Christ.

    3. As I read Romans, I see Paul showing respect for the law, but also realizing that (1) to fail in the smallest part is to fail in the whole; and (2) it somehow "awakens" sin within the flesh. So one could please God by following the law, but there would always be need for the sin offering of blood. Individual eternal salvation was not a key element of Judaism, except by Jesus' day the Pharisees believed in the resurrection.

      The propitiation by blood ended once the perfect sacrifice was made by Jesus on the Cross.

      "Good works as the means of salvation" is Christian folk-religion and a caricature of Catholicism. Sometimes Catholics caricaturize Protestants as not caring about sin, because, after all, they're saved. I don't think this is charitable. The idea is that while good works are not the means of salvation (that would be faith in Christ and - depending - baptism), they are made possible by the Holy Spirit working within the believer ("regeneration") and are the bona fides of having been saved. This is also Biblical. Jesus judges by good and bad works, "doers of the gospel" are contrasted with "hearers only," etc.

      In any case, Francis is correct in reemphasizing that religion pleases God that engages others in love and material assistance. There is nothing in any of this that should be a serious obstacle to Christian unity.

      The early Church had their creeds before the epistles, even, and long before the gospels, and still much longer before the Bible.

      Aside from all that, the real question remains as asked in the article. And, you know what? It is not a question Catholics can answer easily unless the model Church - where once a truth is formally proclaimed, it cannot be "untruthed" to keep up with the tines - enjoys a perfect one-to-one correspondence with the real Church. Just as one accepted miracle would destroy the entire edifice of Western Hyper-rationalism, one genuine conflict would destroy the Church's claim to be indefectible.

      The Bear writes challenge article like this partially in the hope that someone will approach the topic with charity and humility and have a good explanation that is not just cant. Can a truth be true in one age, but in another be true, but unuseful? Is the culture so degraded that it can no longer accept truth or conform behavior to norms, so the Church must be "pastoral," and "less rigid," as Pope Francis claims? Is the Reformation such an established fact of history and Western culture that that ship has sailed, and a Lutheran after 500 years of Lutheranism is not in the same position as a Reformer? In other words, does it make a difference that the world - including the West - has fractured beyond ever putting it back together, and the Church must, in realism and charity, accept the fact that Lutherans are not all going to Hell for the fact of being born Lutheran? Did sweeping claims of the unique role of the Catholic Church make sense in ages when the Church was the only game in town, and leaving the Church meant leaving Christ, but today, should the Church recognize Protestants as brothers and sisters in Christ?

      Say what you will, hard questions are presented to Catholics today. We all know it, although we also know it isn't a subject for polite conversation. It isn't just Francis.

      The Bear sometimes feels he is the only one having this conversation and everyone else is completely satisfied where they are, from the ultramontanist apologists at one end to the sedevacantists on the other. Is only the Bear left trying to figure out what is really going on and satisfy both Catholicism and reality? Or is he the only one to still think that is possible and hasn't yet hunkered down in an absolute position?

    4. I think it's possible to believe Francis is truly our Pope, and also to believe that his words are not helping people to find salvation.
      Whatever happened to the sin of presumption? I realize the Church has the authority to call individuals Saints. Next thing you know Martin Luther and Emma Bonino will be made "Saints".
      Should people agree with Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia that God desires some people to commit fornication/adultery depending on the their situation?
      Should people agree with Pope Francis that the Church focuses too much on sins below the belt?
      Do we believe that the poor would be helped more by socialist policies. Do we believe, as Pope Francis seems to, that the poor, because of their environmental situations, are incapable of living moral lives? Should we believe,as Pope Francis clearly seems to, that individual morality and purity are just not as important as macro issues like government intervention and Climate Change?

      I grew up in a poor environment, and there has been nothing less damaging to the poor than taking away from them the notion that their actions, and lack of faith could very well lead them to hell. I get angry when people deny the Truth of Christ Jesus to those who I love. Especially when they tell the poor that they are incapable of doing what is right before God because the worldly powers are holding them down.
      The poor can shame the rich to conversion, and Christ is closer to the poor. Pope Francis gives the poor worldly, atheistic, socialist solutions, and I'm angry about it.
      The poor were better off when the Church was the only game in town. The world was better off when the Church was the only game in town. The Church hurts the poor, and all who live in this world, when it conforms to the world. The Church does not lead people to Heaven when it presumes that most people end up in Heaven despite what they believe and what they do.

    5. Owl finds Great Bear's approach unique, though Owl doesn't read many Catholic blogs anymore. Great Bear wrestles with spiritual things as Jacob did.

      Owl takes an absolutist position as a dialectic device (and sometimes foil) as it servers Owl's purpose.

      Owl 110% agrees with Great Bear that the issue isn't just Pope Francis. Owl also strongly argues that it just isn't VII either. Owl's position is that it is all on fire and there is no "safe space" and that utopia building (both secular and religious) is a bad idea.

      Can a truth in one age be true but useful in another? Yes. St. Paul speaks to this when he talks about meat offered to idols. That it does no harm to eat such meat is true but that truth is useful if it brings scandal to baby Christians.

      Owl asks, why does "pastoral" equate to "less rigid"? Why must we accept this as fact? Also, who of the "dogam is cool" crowd wants a "rigid" priest? Owl finds the "less rigid" to be the least pastoral of the priests that Owl has met.

      A Lutheran is not in the same position as the "Reformer". Luther's Lutheranism grew increasingly hostile to Augustine. Melanchthon restored a respect of Augustine to Lutheranism. Is a Lutheran at fault for being born a Lutheran? Does God hold us accountable for the sins of our parents? Scripture is yes and no on this. Yes, in that the effects of a parent's sins can be passed to their descendants, no in that it is counted as the individual's personal sins. They start out life farther from God, but being farther is not counted against them, just as those born into the Faith do not have their position counted in their favor. Much is forgiven of those in great debt and much is demanded by those who are given great wealth.

      Most people are lax in how their follow their particular religion. Those who believe and do are few and far between. A believer and doer of Lutheranism and a believer and doer of Catholicsm cannot have worship in common. However, can two lax members? Perhaps, and Owl would be game to finding a bridge to be built here. BUT Owl doesn't think that is what is going on -- a grand scheme to unite Christendom amongst the lax and then bring the untied lax to orthodox/orthopraxy.

      Owl only sees the Orange Catholic Bible. Owl fears that this is the plan and sees it writ large.

      Are Protestant's brothers to Catholics? Yes. Where has the Church taught that they are not? But that doesn't mean that we can ignore our brothers's desire to know Christ. The human heart longs to know and worship God. Why are Catholic Bishops so keen on not feeding the hearts of their separated brothers?

      Because it is hard. Because it means forgiving one's brother and inviting them home. It is much easier to ignore family divisions and sit down for thanksgiving and pretend that all is well over a little bit of bread and wine.

      It is easier to talk about accepting one and other instead of breaking out the rags and bandages to tend to the broken bodies.

      It is easier to pretend.

    6. I hold no brief for EENS. I merely use it as an example. There are either conflicts between past magisterial teachings and magisterial teachings of today or there are not. This is a fact no matter what the Bear or anyone else believes about it. As with the death penalty, the Bear has learned that beliefs held on a deeply emotional level do not make for profitable discussions.

      There are. Or, there are not. How things are supposed to be is irrelevant when determining a fact.

      And, unlike Owl, I believe that the Church does teach when it issues statements and takes action under color of authority. The change in teaching regarding salvation for Jews was done via non-magisterial photo-op / press release. And yet the world treated it as "what the Church now teaches." Well of course! Everyone has figured out that the easiest way to change things is to simply ignore the past and operate only in the realm of the media moment. There will be some who will insist that, whether anyone agrees with them or not, the Church can only teach in a few specific, official ways. And the Bear supposes that is true. It is also irrelevant. Speaking from your official position in the Church with an intent to instruct and persuade is teaching, whether it comes wrapped in magisterial swaddling clothes or not.

      "Today, the Church said..." and people will hear and believe.

      And it is not that I do not understand Lumen Gentium. I have studied Lumen Gentium at length and read books about it and Vatican 2. I, like anyone else, can also read the original teachings online. (They are much shorter and clearer, and, therefore, to that extent, anyway, would seem to have more authority because they teach without confusion.)

      It all wearies the Bear. Let those who want to have their "Church as it Ought to Be" have it. Three cheers for Jolly Old Pope Francis and let's enjoy the freedom Amorous Laetitia and flexibility the pastoral non-rigid approach gives us. The Bear is sure this is what St. Paul meant when he spoke of "Christian liberty," right?

    7. And not accept reality, or care to figure what our real situation is.

      How many people are converting to the Catholic faith? How many people are leaving the Catholic faith? How many people believe that it matters?

      The Church would make up the money lost, and the worldly power lost, by not giving to Caesar what belongs to God.

    8. The real joke is the Bear is not a traditionalist. His chief objection is not to this or that particular change, it is to what he sees as the wholesale dishonesty of a institution that supposedly stands for the truth using using the most transparent tactics of bullying and massaging facts to avoid the truth.

      And the big dress rehearsal was the world's greatest exercise in plausibile deniability: Vatican II. Keep things vague so if a clever sheep bleats you can come in with soothing tones and tell it, "Poor dear, of course you don't understand. Here. Let me explain it for you in a way even a sheep can comprehend."

      What if the Pope came out and said,


      In the past, the Church taught only Catholics went to Heaven. It condemned to the "Hell of fire" Jews, so-called Heretics, our Orthodox brothers and sisters as Schismatics, and all non-Christians such as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists and those with no religion at all.

      History has taught us the deadly consequences of dividing ourselves. The world is different, and the Church must no longer limit God's love and mercy by speaking of salvation in the exclusivist language of the Dark Ages. Today I tell the world, as the leader of the Catholic Church, that the Church was wrong to make such statements. The zeal of the men of those times is undoubted, but their charity was lacking. It was never true that belonging to the Catholic Church was necessary for salvation. It is not true today.

      I do not need to assert any magisterium, or appeal to infallibility, my Petrine Office, or any other thing but the hard-earned truth of history available to anyone, bathed in the light of God's love. The Church has erred in the past. Today, it is a more realistic, more humble, and more compassionate Church that reaches out - not to pull anyone in, but to simply hold their hands before God, or the Light, or the Good, or whatever you conceive of as the One who loves us.

      Are you a Lutheran? Love and help your neighbor, and you will be judged a sheep. Are you Muslim? Love and help your neighbor, and you will gain paradise. Are you Hindu? Love and help your neighbor, and you will be freed from the wheel of reincarnation. Are you an atheist? Love and help your neighbor and you will be have your peace. And if you are Catholic, then love and help your neighbor and you will be saved.

      Query: Would this be a more accurate reflection of the reality of the current Church than the exclusivist exercises in extraordinary magisterium cited in the article?

    9. Owl didn't state Owl's position on what constitutes "when the Church speaks", only that 1.) Most people view this very broadly. 2.) The Ratzingerian position is very limited approach. 3.) Owl doesn't hold to the Ratzingerian position.

      Owl's personal experience is that Owl has been told one too many times to stop asking questions about what specifically constitutes "the Church speaking" when various ecclesiastics start opining.

      Owl agrees with Great Bear that much of this is moot because the normal person acts as if everything that is said is "the Church Speaking". The subjective experience of the average person in the modern World IS that the "Church" has changed teaching. This is granted and agreed upon. Owl just denies that this subjective experience is objective reality.

      As to the Query: This is agreed on.

      This vision is also all so boring. Owl though isn't going to capitulate and start holding hands at Mass.

      When Owl feels like folding up Owl's tent, Owl just plays this back in Owl's mind.

    10. It's an accurate reflection. I'm pretty sure Pope Francis has told separated brethren not to convert. I guess he has the keys right, so he can bind and loose as he pleases?

      I don't think it will happen. It would be suicide to call Saint Pious X, and countless other Saints, uncharitable liars.

      Better just to keep quiet about it.

  8. And say whatever they comments are tangential and probably nonsensical.

  9. I had a few comments on this that weren't posted. I thought that they might not have cut the mustard. I have to admit that my comments could come across as tangential and nonsensical. I often feel the same way about what I hear from Pope Francis.

    I would like my kids to believe that our Catholic faith matters. I want them to remain in the faith, but they really don't get anything that inspires them to keep the faith from our Priest, and those who teach them in faith formation classes.

  10. Before I decided that the prison system was the place for me to while away my working life, I was in the seminary. As I've grown older I've noticed things. There are many similarities between prison systems and the church (anywhere in the world at this point in history). Somethings are normal similarities (prisons are messy places with messy relationships, so to with the church. I am sure I've been a thorn in more than one pastors side). Others are verbal similarities (Francis telling otherwise good faithful Catholics they are rigid and unfair, there is a certain type of criminal who uses the exact same language to describe staff who do not let them have their way). Then we arrive at the most dangerous similarity - manipulation through guilt (the now regular pronouncements from bishops and priests which remind us that we should go along with the flow of the Church (social justice only baby!), be open to a "God of surprises" and shed that baggage of the past, if we don't do that we're not being faithful followers of Jesus, just do it and it'll feel good... Prisons are filled with people who use the exact same type of techniques to get their way... Prisoners want to manipulate and they make promises of what they'll do for you if you just help them, and they will use the phrase, "man you're just like the others, you don't really want to see us rehabilitated and you just want to see us suffer... Never mind when you give into their requests 99% of the time you also become a criminal in the process...) So to with the church... Just because bishops are bishops, priests are priests and popes are popes it doesn't mean their immune to the potential for an after-life with out parole at the worst Prison or Penitentiary possible. I can read and I can make decisions for myself. I can either read St. Anselm or I can read the latest from Father James Martin S.J., I like to think that choosing Anselm might help me along the path of faith just a bit more than the other option. But I've digressed. Back to stamping "DENIED"...

    1. I am a shy salmon, and fear that I may become food for both Bear and Owl. From where I am, I perceive that the Church is like a river. In its shallows, the mouse and Squirrel swim and drink without fear. Yet in the middle, in the swift moving depths, even the elephant may swim.

      But beware. G. K. Chesterton warns, "Any dead thing can go with the flow. Only a vital living thing can swim against it."


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