The reform of the reform of the reform

The inaugural convention of the American Catholic Council took place during June. It approved a 10 point bill of rights and responsibilities. The 2000 attenders were for the most part over 50, and educated to graduate levels. I hesitate to apply any collective term for such a group since I cannot find one which is not inherently judgmental. But their intentions seem clear: they wish to restore and develop the reforms of Vatican II, which they perceive as being threatened by the current hierarchy.

I reproduce their points here, and I would be interested to know how you view them. One of the problems of making such a judgment is that one cannot always be sure of the real agenda behind an item. For example, in the first point about conscience, it is not clear whether they are merely repeating orthodox Catholic teaching, or whether they are suggesting that a person may hold any view or perform any activity which is in accord with his conscience while remaining a Catholic in good standing. Anyhow, here is the list. And you can read some interesting context here.

Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

The introduction to the Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities cites the U.S. Bill of Rights and international documents on human rights to say that in joining the church, Catholics do not give up those fundamental human rights. In keeping with Catholic teaching that rights also involve responsibilities, it links the two throughout.

Its main text says that Catholic rights and responsibilities include:

1. Primacy of conscience. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to develop an informed conscience and to act in accord with it.

2. Community. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in a eucharistic community and the right to responsible pastoral care.

3. Universal ministry. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to respond to the community’s call to ministerial leadership.

4. Freedom of expression. Every Catholic has the right to freedom of expression and to the freedom to dissent.

5. Sacraments. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in the fullness of the liturgical and sacramental life of the church.

6. Reputation. Every Catholic has the right to a good name and to due process.

7. Governance. Every Catholic and every Catholic community has the right to a meaningful participation in decision-making, including the selection of leaders.

8. Participation. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to share in the interpretation of the Gospel and church tradition.

9. Councils. Every Catholic has the right to convene and speak in assemblies where diverse voices can be heard.

10. Social justice. Every Catholic has the right and the responsibility to promote social justice in the world at large as well as within the structures of the church.

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115 Responses to The reform of the reform of the reform

  1. Vincent says:

    Really! What next? Shall we have congregations marching up and down the aisles shouting Pope! pope! pope! Out! out! 0ut!? And the clergy fighting back with asperges water cannon?

  2. mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin isnt this just a re run of the Bishop Morriss thing-according to the Reporter article in your link the issues are identical and it is evident that the 2000 are seeking the right to dissent over the liberal/conservative agenda……perhaps they are afraid for their jobs or something.

  3. John Nolan says:

    The so-called American Catholic Council is an umbrella organization for around 20 groups who openly dissent from Catholic teaching on a number of issues. Rather a lot has been made of the fact that they are overwhelmingly white, middle-class and middle-aged; since I happen to be all three I shall forbear to draw any inferences. The Archbishop of Detroit forbade his priests and deacons from participating in the closing liturgy on 12 June on the grounds that there would be serious liturgical abuses. A number disobeyed him. Film of the event shows the entire congregation donning red stoles and joining in the consecration; a number of women are wearing clerical collars (perhaps they were Episcopalians – one of the speakers, formerly a Catholic priest, is now a Protestant minister, and thereby excommunicated latae sententiae.)

    Most of the participants are active in lay ministry at parish level. That they should be involved in catechesis I find more than a little worrying. And one thing puzzles me. Where in Vatican II do they find support for women priests and homosexual marriage? Neither was even on the radar in the 1960s.

  4. Rahner says:

    “who openly dissent from Catholic teaching on a number of issues” So what? Catholics need to grow up and recognise that dissent is an essential component in the development of Christianity.

  5. John Nolan says:

    Of course they can dissent. It’s a free country (as long as you stay on the right side of received liberal opinion) and the Inquisition is hardly likely to come knocking at your door. The question is, how far can you dissent from Catholic teaching and still call yourself a Catholic? If I became a Trotskyist there must come a point when I would cease to consider myself a Tory.

  6. John Nolan says:

    You certainly don’t have to agree with everything that comes out of the Vatican. I thought Paul VI’s Ostpolitik was misguided (although I understood the reasons for it) and the Vatican’s treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty was shameful. I thought Humanae Vitae was too legalistic, although I can’t say it was wrong in Natural Law and in the face of the demographic crisis in Europe it appears almost prophetic. And anything emanating from Eccleston Square I take magno cum grano salis.

    The bottom line, however, has to be a willingness to assent to the profession made by those received into the Church, which I quoted back in January under ‘Golden Anniversary Reflections’, and which one contributor saw fit to describe as ‘Stalinist’. Hilaire Belloc was once dining with a Jesuit and a well-known atheist. The atheist asked how a man of Belloc’s intelligence could believe that bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ. The great man replied “I would believe that they became an elephant if the Church told me so”. The Jesuit was profoundly shocked.

  7. mike Horsnall says:

    “With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed. I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals. Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”

    I guess this would be it..

    I don’t remember reading this out in full when I was received -but certainly a version of it perhaps it all. The only thing I find ‘difficult’ with this is that the word ‘believe’ is for me synonymous with ‘understand’ Its hard to put a full informed and held assent to things which one has not first considered at length. So Belocs reply -half jest though it may have been – would be difficult for me. Presumably, firmly holding to and adhereing to also implies acting in accord with to the best of ones ability?

    • Rahner says:

      Though of course what the Church teaches is itself subject to change and development.

    • Quentin says:

      Mike, I find “the religious submission of the will and intellect” a strange phrase. No one may will something which he sees as wrong and no one can force the intellect away from the truth as it discerns it. And if both will and intellect already adhere through autonomous judgment then the whole phrase seems otiose. As the Vatican II decree Dignitatis Humanae says: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” And I am not sure that Canon :Law makes it any clearer: ( Canon 752) – “While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic Magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith and morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ’s faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.”

      Am I being cynical if I suggest that at least it sounds like “If I don’t believe items in this category, I promise to act as though I did because I am an obedient Catholic.”?

      Fortunately, when I was received into the Church at about the age of one month I was not asked to profess this directly. But presumably you must have understood it. What do you understand it to mean?

  8. mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin: At the time I took it to mean the assent of the heart and will to the defrinitive teachings of the Church. I guess I still see it that way and probably think that if I were really not able to give that wholehearted assent then I wouldn’t be able to call myself a Catholic-nor would I wish so to do. There is the ‘yes’ of God which simply means that we approach our lives reverently and submit our wills to Christ. This means in a nut shell that we do not run away dancing after every liberal or conservative idea that tickles ourpost modernist fancy -rather that we begin from the standpoint that our own individual rebellious thoughts and attitudes need a thorough examination in the light of what the church believes to be revealed truth.

    I’m not that opposed to ‘acting as though I did’ as you put it since that way often brings one to a deeper truth when one becomes able to accept that deeper truth. I tend to view the journey of the individual heart as one of revelation of the infinitely greater heart of God-which means that we are likely to make many revisions as we go along. Your quotes are interesting and go towards the notion of a truth that will set us free-but can only do so when we recieve it as truth; its a tricky little business and I’m not surprised that the circle cannot be fully squared I’m troubled by what I understand as the churches teaching on divorce though.

  9. Quentin says:

    Mike. Thank you for your answer – which I find helpful but which, as I think you are saying, not entirely conclusive. But I certainly agree that there is a real difference between those who are disposed to dissent and those who are disposed to assent. The former seem to start by saying: in what way is the Church wrong here?; and the latter by saying let me try and understand the way in which the Church is right here. This requires a degree of humility and a true acceptance that Christ gave the Church authority to teach and rule, and over a much wider range than infallible issues.
    Can you develop the point about marriage which you adumbrate? This could be interesting to explore.

  10. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes. I also think on the subject of assenting to Church teaching that it comes as an almighty shock in this lidberal age when one realises that one is actually meant to walk the talk and the first response is often indignation, yet there must be mercy too for our imperfect stumblings after obedience.
    As to marriage: this is a good example of what happens when an area of church teaching is poorly understood and the individual concerned (in this case me) probably needs to look a bit deeper to discern whether that which troubles them is a genuine issue or one based on their own misunderstanding-I guess there is a lot of this!. The thing that bothers me is this:
    I meet people in the course of my job-women usually- who feel wronged because they have been divorced, have then remarried and believe themselves not to be able to fully participate in eucharist. I’ve heard this several times now from individuals- given usually as a reason for not attending Mass.. I read in the catechism CCC 2386 that a spouse can be an innocent victim who, by trying sincerely to keep the sacrament of marriage becomes unjustly abandoned. I’m not quite sure where that person stands should they seek to re marry and subsequently attend Mass . So as I write this I am aware of a lack of coherence in my own understanding-a bit of clarity would be welcome- or a direction of reading.

  11. John Nolan says:

    They are obliged to attend Mass but are not supposed to receive Holy Communion. Quentin is more ‘liberal’ than I am (I hate these terms but you can’t get away from them) but like him I see a lot of grey areas and I think it problematic that the innocent party in a divorce case must then stay celibate or be denied the most important Sacrament. I suppose it’s a cop-out but I would say inform your conscience and then follow it. But at the same time I don’t want to encourage the Romophobes of the ACC. Difficult. Prayer is probably the only answer.

    • Quentin says:

      John Nolan, a difficulty here is that a fair number of people find it hard to live with a conscientious belief which is opposed to the Church’s definitive teaching. I have heard, but cannot evidence, that some confessors, convinced of the questioner’s sincerity, are prepared to reassure them. This seems an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the problem, but it may be the only practicable way.

      I favour the idea of continuing to go to Mass but only to spiritual communion. In that way one can bear witness to the reality of marriage, while accepting that one’s own circumstances are otherwise.

      At a more pedestrian level, it may be worth investigating whether the first marriage was null ab initio. While the grounds are strictly applied, they are wider than people often think.
      But I fear that we haven’t really solved Mike’s difficulty.

  12. Rahner says:

    ” a fair number of people find it hard to live with a conscientious belief which is opposed to the Church’s definitive teaching.” I can’t say I have ever found it hard!

  13. mike Horsnall says:

    Its not really a difficulty. I find the uncovering of this ‘tension’ between things quite helpful because its in that place we find Christ. To fill this out- I think there are many dilemmas which are not solved by causuistry or legality -only by conscience. John Nolans answer -inform your conscience and follow it seems correct to me-its only in that difficult place- on the altar as it were- that ones life in Christ is made truly real. These matters , for confessors as for bruised souls, cannot be legislated for except in broad terms and so will always feel as if a ‘cop out’ or a partial solution; yet their very presence indicates a grace. Were I to be the innocent party I do not know what I would do but it is really hard to see that the refusal of the very needful sacrament is correct except at a generic level. Having said that though God is able to impart grace in many ways and I would imagine the soul that is clear of conscience can find peace.

  14. John Thomas says:

    As a non-Catholic, whose church has suffered terribly at the hands of revisionists (or post-Christians; they call themselves “Liberal”) I would advise any Catholic, who is for just one second tempted to flirt with “Liberalism”, to spend ten minutes (no, one will do) looking at The Episcopal Church (USA) to see just exactly where it leads. Then, inevitably horrified, sweating and shaking, they will see the “Liberal” temptation for what it truly is …

  15. mike Horsnall says:

    Er..Don’t worry John, most of us have already noticed that!

  16. John Candido says:

    I could not agree more with the Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I would say yes to all of them immediately. They represent much of what I have been espousing for several years. The Catholic Bill of R&R is clearly inspired by the ground-breaking conciliar documents of the Second Vatican Council, and is a logical development of their implicit understanding or interpretation.

    The very first point about the primacy of the human conscience says it all for me. Every other point is a development of the very first point on conscience. In much the same way, the implementation of the Second Vatican Council is one of the interpretation of its implicit meaning. The documents of the council do not explicitly spell-out specific goals together with their concomitant progress markers. It is one of careful and implicit reading and interpretation. I acknowledge that it is also problematical due to the obvious differences between peoples’ dispositions and starting points.

    However, I don’t believe that this process is one that is particularly difficult, because its starting point can be located within an appreciation of the dignity of ordinary human beings and the primacy of their human consciences. Everything naturally flows from these two beautiful principles.

    These two principles point to or suggest that authority needs to become more democratic, accountable, and transparent. Authority needs to become a smaller version of its current self. Power structures that have endured for centuries need to be reviewed in the light of contemporary standards of governance and current theological understandings. The power of the institution over the common person has towered over them historically. This needs to be rebalanced with the laity’s sincere participation in the governance of the church.

    I am assuming that most Catholics are at least a little flexible despite their curmudgeonly attachment to their perspectives. I know that I am as committed as anybody else so I have to show some understand towards others! Alas for some people such a journey is nigh impossible. And I can understand that. One thing is quite obvious to me should the church disregard the Second Vatican Council. It would be doomed to irrelevancy.

    • Horace says:

      Dissent and the primacy of conscience?
      I cannot resist posting a brief quotation from Joseph Ratzinger’s book “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week”.
      [Admittedly the context is properly exegesis – but it still applies to this blog]

      “It is faith that gives us the ultimate certainty upon which we base our whole lives — a humble commonality of belief in company with the Church of every age under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

  17. mike Horsnall says:

    ….a difficulty here is that a fair number of people find it hard to live with a conscientious belief which is opposed to the Church’s definitive teaching….

    This is a good point I think.We have numerous examples in scripture-Davids men eating sanctified bread, Jesus’ disciples eating ears of corn on the sabbath and jesus teaching that the sabbath was made for man not the other way round. Much of the New testament confrontation with the religious establishment-eg the healing of the man with the withered hand was around this issue of what is right in the eyes of God as opposed to the eyes of men.

    Then we have simple human weakness-about which we all know plenty.
    Then there is the salutory evidence from scripture of the dificulty faced by many in following the harder teaching s of Jesus and the tendency of men to fall away each to his own path.

    So to follow the ‘conscience’ is not always going to be an easy or a correct way. Were I in the way of being refused communion for whatever reason then I don’t think I would be able to trot off to another Catholic church and take the sacrament because my ‘conscience’ told me I could. I would be afraid of ‘eating and drinking judgement’ whateve that may mean. It would be rather like taking communion as a non catholic when you knew that you should not be doing so.
    So I think there is a point here-a genuine stumbling block in fact-because we believe the settled teaching of the church to be the teaching of God -and no one is going to be able to square that particular circle with any ease.
    The same is true regarding the bill of rights of the ACC. It is doomed to register merely as dissent and protest because I would suspect the great majority of catholics do not in fact trouble themselves overmuch with the political philosophy of the church. Instead they approach it and their lives with due reverence because they believe-as do I- that they have come to Mass to touch the robe of the living God, to discover his ways and to seek his mercy for their lives….as I understand the New Testament with its call to freely given service, the bill of rights- even as a broad brush-fails completely to comprehend the nature of discipleship. Applied specifically to catholicism items 4,5,7 of the agenda are literally without sense when demanded as ‘rights’ No human being on the planet has ‘rights’ before God.

    • Rahner says:

      “because we believe the settled teaching of the church to be the teaching of God” What “settled teaching”? Christian belief has been evolving for centuries and will continue to do so in future.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        There isn’t much that changes so quickly as to escape the notion of authorative withness. The creeds for example do not change within a lifetime or two and are unliikely to do so over the next few lifetimes. Certainly it may have taken the church several hundred years to come to a clearer understanding of say the trinity but I do not see core beliefs such as a triune God or of a catholic interpretation of eucharist, or of the deity of Jesus Christ becoming something other than settled. Rahner you need to be more specific if you want to display Catholicism as a belief system in flux-some substantiation please..

  18. Vincent says:

    I note, John Candido, your immediate acceptance of the list of Catholic rights and responsibilities. I would want to make 3 points,
    1. You will not need me to quote the New Testament accounst of the authority to teach and to bind and loose which Christ gives to the Apostles. You will also have noticed St Paul’s insistence on his role as an apostolic teacher. Perhaps you can explain how your views relate to this.
    2. Do you regard these rights as absolute and unlimited? As one example “Freedom of expression. Every Catholic has the right to freedom of expression and to the freedom to dissent..”Would you say here that dissent without limit is compatible with being a Catholic? if not. who sets the limits?
    3. Do you have any sympathy with the view that I expressed indirectly as the first comment on this topic — that you seem to be supporting a Church which is not a co-operating community but more like a trade union and management.?

    • mike Horsnall says:

      There is something of great importance here-if we can get down to it then we may all be helped. It seems that we divide somehow on the issue of what the church actually is. We can easily all agree on the social mission of the church and easily all support CAFOD etc-but we cannot agree at all on the notion that the church is merely an execcutive tool of its supporters because we are Catholic christians and for many this means we live ,move and have our being in the economy of God.
      I too would like to see how John Candido can hold these twin polarities -on the one hand the holiness of the living God and the expressed understanding that it is God the father,God the Son and God the holy spirit incarnate in the church which we comprise……and on the other an almost ‘ external’ view of the church as status quo ..the church as close to being merely human in other words.

      I say this is important because having followed for several months now the various points of view on this site it is clear that the nub of the matter revolves around this kind of issue. No so called ‘conservative’ will have truck with a line of approach that seems to bring God down to a mere man and no so called ‘liberal’ will be easy with the high view from the altar which sees Aaron, afraid to move lest he be consumed by the fire of God. It really would be very nice if we could get somewhere with this quandry.

  19. John Candido says:

    In reply to Horace, Ratzinger’s ‘a humble commonality of belief in company with the Church of every age under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’ is fine. As long as the meaning of ‘commonality’ is broad enough to tolerate a diversity of ecclesiastical opinions, I don’t have a problem with it.

    In reply to Vincent,
    Regarding question 1, please read my post on the 1st February 2011 at 1:18pm in the topic called ‘Take the Tube’.

    In reply to question 2, both rights and responsibilities are important and the two balance one another out. All rights are limited by our responsibilities towards others, and therefore have limits. You also ask, ‘Would you say here that dissent without limit is compatible with being a Catholic?’ I would say that religious freedom is a very important right of all human beings.

    The limits of dissent are something that would be personal to the individual in question, and their particular circumstances. Therefore I would say that dissent is compatible with being a human being. Dissent is also compatible with being a Catholic who has seriously and conscientiously informed his conscience to the maximum, gathering all sorts of information, both religious and secular, and coming to a private decision after a prayerful period of personal reflection. My post in ‘Take the Tube’, as referred to in question 1, is also relevant here.

    Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraphs 1776 through to 1802, and relevant parts of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’ (1963), known as ‘On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty’, which can be accessed below… .

    If you have got the time and energy, read relevant parts of these two Vatican II documents regarding human conscience, human dignity, and human freedom. Namely, ‘Gaudium et Spes’, known as the ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ (1965), which can be accessed below… and ‘Dignitatis Humanae’, known as the ‘Declaration of Religious Liberty’ (1965), which can be read below… .

    Regarding question 3, I don’t have any sympathy for your view here because it fails to acknowledge the autocracy of Vatican power and the autocracy of Papal power. It also fails to acknowledge the doctrine of Papal infallibility, which is an extraordinary claim to authority.

    This exchange between two regular participants in secondsight is one that I find relevant to your question. It was taken from ‘I beg Leave to Differ’.

    John Nolan writes: June 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    ‘Exactly. The ‘liberal’ position advanced by John Candido, Superview and others of that ilk is self -contradictory to the point of absurdity. They would deny the Pope the right to define doctrine and at the same time insist that he has the authority to overturn 2000 years of tradition in order to conform to late 20th-century social and political mores.’

    In reply, Superview writes: June 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm.

    ‘John Nolan, you can’t get away with attributing to me views that I have not advanced, although I would from time to time like you to get away with something, just out of a sense of fair play. As far as the Pope and defining doctrine is concerned, do I take it that you are happy to believe that the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is true in every detail, as a Pope defined as doctrine not that long ago? You see, that’s the problem – they don’t get things right, even very important things, and when they are seen to be wrong it takes centuries for their successors to admit it. If modesty prevailed they might approach things differently, but then again, when you are divinely provided with supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom – another doctrine defined by a recent Pope of course – something other than modesty is in the cup from which you drink.’

    ‘As for conforming with late 20th century social and political mores, well you make my point for me: Is it just possible that Jesus was conforming to early 1st century social and political mores when he took 12 men on the road? Isn’t it a simple historical question?’

    The church, like our broader society, is a dichotomy. It is constituted by opposite polarities in tension with each other. The temporal and the spiritual, the material and the theological, the political and the ethereal are a part of our church. This has not been a stumbling block because material matters, for example, are an important sphere of the church. Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical in 1891 called ‘Rerum Novarum’, which is known as ‘On Capital and Labour’. In it he wrote about the natural conflict between employees and employers, the right to private property, how all property originally belonged to God but it is in our possession to be used for the common good as a form of trust, the right of workers to fair and sustainable wages and conditions, the right to association, the right of unions, and the right of labour to withdraw their labour in serious cases of injustice.

    When there is strike action, the encyclical has stated an important principle that the harm that a strike will cause must be less than the original injustice that workers have withdrawn their labour in the first place. There certainly are tensions between capital and labour but the church has looked at its principles and has come up with a compromise between these polarities. I don’t think that the church has been the same ever since the promulgation of Rerum Novarum. Successive Popes have published their own thoughts on these temporal issues at several anniversaries of Rerum Novarum since 1891. Pope John XXIII did so in 1961 with ‘Mater et Magistra’ (1961), called ‘On Christianity and Social Progress’, which you can read below… .

    Pope John Paul II did the same in 1991 with ‘Centesimus annus’ also known as ‘The Hundredth Anniversary’, which you can peruse below… and in on its ninetieth anniversary in 1981 with ‘Laborem excercens’, also known as ‘Human Work’, and accessible here… . Other Popes have provided a number of encyclicals or apostolic letters whenever the anniversary of Rerum Novarum has occurred in terms of decades proceeding 1891.

    The church is deeply interested in human rights, the rule of law, the United Nations, the crimes of political leaders, as well as a plethora of other issues which I have referred to in previous posts. The church is not bothered by such an intense involvement in temporal matters and is quite an enthusiastic commentator on a smorgasbord of contemporary issues. It seriously tries to never get involved in party political matters no matter what the issue. So as spiritual as the church is, it is intensely involved in the modern world of politics, economics, and a host of social and scientific issues.

    All of these issues can be summarised by the church’s overwhelming interest in the dignity of the human person, the freedom of humanity, and the inviolacy or primacy of the human conscience. All of these issues have been written about by many Popes, Saints, and Theologians for centuries. These three issues have been written about by Pope John XXIII, contained within the documents of Vatican II, and given serious examination in one document by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace called, the ‘Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church’ and can be read here… . The church is a dichotomous mixture of opposite polarities, but it is never flummoxed about this at all.

    • Vincent says:

      John Candido, thank you for directing me to your contribution to “Take the tube”. I find it interesting, and certainly coherent. The only point with which I would disagree is your use of the current revolutions in the Middle East etc, as a metaphor for the magisterium of the laity. These revolutions aim to replace the existing dictatorial authority with a democratic authority. You are not I think championing a takeover of the Vatican. You would then, I imagine, become Pope John 24th.

      My approach is rather different to yours. I would of course agree with you that the Church, even in modern times, misuses her authority – or, at least, fails to live up to her vocation of authority. And, looking back through history, I can see many incidents and periods when the rulers of the Church have behaved scandalously or have been in error.

      Indeed, when I first read Luther’s 95 theses, I was surprised to find how much I agreed with so many of them. But Luther did not stop at criticising the Church – he moved out and started his own. Since then non Catholic Christianity has split into so many diverse forms that we do not know without asking what anyone actually believes.

      Thus it would seem, and so I believe, that the papacy and the episcopacy have acted as a touchstone of unity. The very fact that you and I have taken our religious inheritance from the Catholic Church requires our acknowledgment that this unity under authority has preserved it over two millennia. That means that, to a large extent, we have to take the rough with the smooth. Of course that doesn’t stop us from expressing our points of view providing that we do that with prudence and with the avoidance of scandal. Conscience is the ultimate arbiter but I do think we have to be very humble about this. Unless we are truly open and truly virtuous (and I am neither!) there is a danger that we will cut our consciences out of our own cloth rather than God’s.

      • John Candido says:

        Vincent, you write that…

        ‘Thus it would seem, and so I believe, that the papacy and the episcopacy have acted as a touchstone of unity. The very fact that you and I have taken our religious inheritance from the Catholic Church requires our acknowledgment that this unity under authority has preserved it over two millennia.’

        Well of course you cannot have any human organisation for any period of time without a government of some sort. Think of the UK or the USA, or Australia without national, regional, or local governments, preserving the good and limiting the bad, to put it in simple terms.

        My point is that surely a plurality of views, the rule of law, the decentralisation of power, and democratic governance, has not done any harm to Australia, the UK, or the United States. If it is good enough for the goose, it is good enough for the gander, and I am sure that you can follow the meaning behind my metaphor.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      John Candido

      Thanks for all the above-particularly the sources which are interesting. However there are some grave problems with quoting such voluminous refeences. For example:

      155. The teachings of Pope John XXIII,[314] the Second Vatican Council,[315] and Pope Paul VI [316] have given abundant indication of the concept of human rights as articulated by the Magisterium. Pope John Paul II has drawn up a list of them in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality; the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth’s material resources, and to derive from that wor
      k the means to support oneself and one’s dependents; and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one’s sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person”[317].

      It would be impossible for example to use the above from the compendium of social doctrine to in any way support a campaign for active homosexual marriage…I think you are being very over ambitious with your examples forgetting that they are in large the Church setting out its view of the dignity and sanctity of life ACCORDING TO THE EXISTING MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH. To quote these documents wholesale as a means of subverting that magisterium -as does the ANR bill of rights- is more than a little tricky. Thanks though for the links they are interesting to me. Perhaps if you want genuine discourse on them you could bookmark with paragraph numbers in future those bits you think bolster your passionate cause?

      • John Candido says:

        What would be of help for everybody when dealing with long documents that are online, such as those that are located on the Vatican website and do not have a comprehensive index at the bottom of it, would be if you were to make use of a very helpful and brilliant aid in your windows browser known as the ‘Find’ function. This function can quickly locate every single example of a word in an online document instantly. For example, if you are looking for every single example of the word ‘sin’, or ‘salvation’, or ‘dignity’, or ‘human rights’, or any other word or phrase that is of interest to you, use the ‘Find’ function, and it will blow you away. It will save you an enormous amount of time and frustration.

        It is an incredible tool because it will highlight every single example of the word or phrase you are looking for, and allow you to jump from one example of it to the very next one, instantly. You can have every single example of the word or phrase highlighted by using the ‘Highlight’, tool located in the very same ‘Find’ tool, which will enable you to easily spot every single case as you scroll down the page with greatest of ease.

        My browser is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer version 9. I am sorry if you don’t have this browser because I do not remember any of my past browser functions and therefore I cannot direct you to them efficiently. My comments here are limited to Internet Explorer version 9; however, the same or similar tool is in previous versions of windows. It is a matter of finding it, making use of it, and enjoying its many conveniences.

        If you were to go to the top of your screen in Explorer 9 and click on ‘Edit’, at the bottom of the dropdown menu you come to the words ‘Find on this page…’. Click on it and the ‘Find’ tool appears under the function tools and above your internet page. From left to right you have the following functions. The ‘x’ will close the Find tool. The word ‘Find’ is immediately followed by a search box where you type the word or phrase you are interested in. You then have the words ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’, which is located immediately after the search box. If you want to go to the next or previous example of the word or phrase that you are interested in, you simply click either ‘Next’ or ‘Previous’.

        To the right of the ‘Next’ function, you have a tool which can visually highlight the word or phrase that you are interested in. This is a function which is represented by a pen symbol, which highlights every single example of your selected word or phrase in the document that you are reading online.

        You then have an ‘Options’ function which when clicked will give you two options. One being to ‘Match whole word only’ and the other is ‘Match case’. If you leave these two options un-ticked, examples of your selected word could be highlighted within other words. For example, if you asked the ‘Find’ tool to find all examples of the word ‘sin’ for you, without selecting the ‘Match whole word only’ option, you will have cases highlighted where ‘sin’ is inside words such as ‘sincere’ or ‘assassin’, and would not be of any use to your search.

        Finally, to the right of ‘Options’ you have the specific number of cases of your selected word or phrase. If it is more than 100 it will simply say that the number of cases is more than 100 in number. If it is less than 100, it will specify the exact number of cases for your convenience.

        I hope that you can make use of the ‘Find’ tool for any future online reading involving very long documents. Relevant reading is always helpful to save you a lot of time, effort, and frustration.

        Quentin says: If I may hitch a lift on John’s contribution, I can confirm that Firefox 5 (click on Firefox label) and Google Chrome 12 (click on spanner) also have “Find” functions.

      • John Candido says:

        A note about the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding what it says about our human consciences. The relevant parts are located at paragraphs 1776 to 1802. The entire catechism is located on the Vatican website and if anybody is interested, the link is accessible here… .
        Apart from the ‘Find’ tool that is a part of everybody’s browser, you can also select ‘Click here to show the links to concordance’, which is a handy variation to the ‘Find’ tool. For example, after clicking on the above link, you come to the very first page of the catechism. If you were to click on any section of the catechism on the left-hand side, you will come to a particular part of its text.

        For arguments sake let’s click on ‘Prologue’. You then simply click on the phrase, ‘Click here to show the links to concordance, which is located in the centre of the page, and it will highlight every word that is linked within the Prologue, to the concordance provided with the catechism. These are called hyperlinks. All of the words that are hyperlinked to the concordance are underlined, and the vast majority of them are coloured brown, and contrast with unlinked words which are ordinary text and are mostly coloured black.

        If you go back to our starting page and this time choose another part of the text of the catechism on the left-hand side, say ‘CHAPTER ONE MAN’S CAPACITY FOR GOD’, and select ‘III. The Knowledge of God According to the Church’, you come to a short section containing paragraphs 36 through to 38.

        If you were to click the ‘Click here to show the links to concordance’ located in the centre of your page, all of the most important words that have been catalogued in the concordance will be underlined and highlighted in brown. Choose any example of the word ‘God’ in the text that has been highlighted and you are automatically directed to the concordance itself.

        Under the un-capitalised word ‘god’ you have a breadcrumb thread of six pages listing all examples of the word ‘God’ in the catechism. Starting with the page you are on, you can access to the first example of ‘God’ to the 500th example in the catechism. The next page lists the 501st example to the 1,000th example of the word ‘God’ in the catechism, and all the way through to the final 2,788th instance, which is located as the final page on the right-hand side of the thread.

        Every one of these 2,788 examples is presented in numerical order in the catechism from the first example of its appearance, which might appear on the very first page of the catechism, to its very last occurrence, which might or not be on the final page of the catechism. Every example of the word ‘God’ in the concordance is numbered in its strict order of appearance.

        If you were to go to example 20 on the left-hand side by scrolling down the page a little, you will notice that there are four columns apart from the numbers on the extreme left that number each example. The four columns relate to each example in terms of its ‘Part’, ‘Section’, ‘Chapter’, and ‘Paragraph’. If you were to click on any of these four columns, you will go to the direct quote of the catechism that has the word ‘God’ in it. I hope this helps apart from the ‘Find’ tool.

      • John Candido says:

        There is one more thing that I would like to add regarding very long online documents. There are a number of ways to scroll down a page in the most common internet browsers in use, such as windows internet explorer, Google chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Firstly, you can repeatedly use your mouse to click on the scroll bar to get to where you want. Secondly, your mouse might have a wheel in the middle of it which can scroll your document up or down, several lines at a time. Lastly, there is what I think is a not very well known method of jumping instantly from one point of a very long online document to another, using a combination of keyboard and mouse.

        What you need to do is to hold down the Shift key and you then point and click your mouse on the scroll tool to the point you want to go to. So regardless if you want to scroll down to the very end of a very long online document, or scroll to the very beginning of the same document from the end or bottom of it or any point in between, you can do this instantly and effortlessly by holding the Shift key down and pointing your mouse to your desired destination. I hope this is helpful to all.

      • John Candido says:

        You also need to practice the use of the Shift key and your mouse in order for it to become an ingrained habit. Please go to any long online document on the Vatican website and give it some practice. You will not be disappointed.

  20. John Candido says:

    I want to alert everybody that the next episode of ‘Compass’, an ABC religious affairs program on Australian television station ABC1, will broadcast a debate on the right of homosexuals to marriage this Sunday evening. The participants include lawyer and Jesuit priest Fr. Frank Brennan, other clergy from other denominations, Professor Dennis Altman of the faculty of politics at La Trobe University, as well as a variety of other individuals from the community. If you can’t watch it on television you can always go to the website at to watch it after its broadcast.

    • John Nolan says:

      John, of course homosexuals have the right to marriage. Oscar Wilde was married. The question is, firstly, can civil partnerships between persons of the same sex be described as marriage, defined by Chambers as ‘the union of a man and woman as husband and wife’, without inflicting yet further violence on the English language; and secondly, can the Church consider such unions as compatible with the Judaeo- Christian concept of matrimony?

      Lest I be accused of hiding behind Roman juridical authority, I shall quote from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: ‘[Matrimony] is an honourable estate, instituted by God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church … First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.’

      If your answer to both parts of the above question is in the affirmative it would be interesting to hear how you justify your position.

  21. John Candido says:

    Thank you for your question and your reply. I will try to answer your query on homosexuality, given some time to gather my efforts. I would first like to look at the debate on the ‘Compass’ program on ABC1 before I reply to you. You have asked a perfectly legitimate question and I thank you for it. By the way, I hope you are keeping well.

    • John Nolan says:

      Very well, thank you. In my question I referred to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but it also applies to classical pagan culture. The Romans would have regarded homosexual ‘marriage’ as not only absurd, but also immoral, since it would have involved an adult male citizen consenting to being sodomized.

      In fact, I can think of no human institution more firmly rooted in natural law, whether or not one considers this to be also God’s law. I am not commenting on the morality of state-sanctioned civil partnerships; this is a separate issue.

      • Rahner says:

        “In fact, I can think of no human institution more firmly rooted in natural law,” Does this “institution” include polygamy by any chance?

  22. John Nolan says:

    No, it certainly does not. Are you a Mormon by any chance?

    • Rahner says:

      The existence of polygamy demonstrates that the institution of marriage is not so firmly rooted in natural law, whatever “natural law” means.

      • John Nolan says:

        Do you know of a (primitive) society that extended polygamy to include partners of either sex which would in fact require another definition of the greek-derived term?

  23. John Nolan says:

    Were you a Catholic, you would understand what Natural Law means.

    • Rahner says:

      If the claims of the natural law are so clear then why do so many Catholics reject them?

      • John Nolan says:

        Do they? And what other things do they reject? And going back to the original post, are they Catholics in any meaningful sense of the word? This begs a lot of questions.

  24. John Nolan says:

    Also, pseudonymous Rahner, you have not addressed my question posted at 7:35. I am all agog (well, half agog anyway).

    • Rahner says:

      No, so what? Are you seriously suggesting we follow primitive societies in our understanding of human nature?

      • John Nolan says:

        Polygamy does not necessarily contradict the concept of matrimony. It merely says you can have more than one wife.

  25. mike Horsnall says:

    While you are pausing to define what exactly ‘primitive society’ means and what it is about human relationships that we should or should not emulate Rahner perhaps you might also want to have a go at telling us a bit more about the continuous flux of Catholic belief you were alluding to earlier but didnt substantiate-. One liner sniping, though it is great fun, does run out of steam pretty quickly.

  26. Rahner says:

    “you might also want to have a go at telling us a bit more about the continuous flux of Catholic belief you were alluding to earlier but didnt substantiate” You have to examine each teaching on a case by case basis. For example, no one today, apart from a few Catholic fundamentalists, would dream of interpreting the book of Genesis in the same way as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, the Council of Trent or Bellarmine. No one today would defend the teachings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the historicity of the Bible issued at the start of the last century. No one today would accept the rejection of ecumenism set out by Pius XI in his encyclical Mortalium Animos(1928). No one today would think it was OK to execute heretics. Vatican 1 would have condemned some of the Vatican 2 documents. One could go on and on…….

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Thats better. If you look at the timespans involved in your examples we do not exactly have a continuous state of flux do we Rahner? Hardly a strong defense of the shifting sands view you attempt to promulgate is it? One of the very interesting things about fundamentalist views of religion is that they often go hand in hand with a fixed worldview in science I think the 19th centurey fundamentalism of biblical interpretation was a good example of will find that even the Conservative Evangelical wing of the church now struggles with large parts of its own doctrines-this has nothing to do with Catholicism per sec. It is quite normal I would think for the church to change tack at its margins and to attempt to engage with the culture of the day. Also quite normal for the church to trim the sails of her weak and erring humanity from time to time -but so what? .Are you seriously suggesting that the catholic worldview will be substantially different in 20 years time than it is now? I think not.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        By the way everybody-John Candido’s secret Vatican searching appliance -see above posting re windows internet explorer 9 is also available on my browser-Windows 7… Now we will all have highly forensic weapons at our disposal. Thankyou John.

      • John Candido says:

        Well I am very happy to assist everybody, regardless of whether or not anybody is a liberal, a moderate, or a conservative. The reason for this is that we can all respond efficiently to each other in an informed and civil manner, with relevant replies to another person’s substantive points. Everybody and anybody can do this with a little effort regardless of their starting point.

    • Tim Roberts says:

      By all means go on. But maybe we can have further and better particulars for some of this. Please specify a specific Vatican II document, and explain why Vatican I would have condemned it. (twr57 AKA tim)

      • Rahner says:

        For starters, Unitatis Redintegratio, Dignitatis Humanae, Nostra Aetate and probably parts of Dei Verbum and Gaudium et Spes as well……

    • John Candido says:

      Thank you Rahner and welcome! Where have you been hiding? I don’t recall any of your past posts so I will assume that you are new to Secondsight?

      • Rahner says:

        Yes. I will have more time for Secondsight now that I have finished my magnum opus “The Daphne McLeod Experience”.

      • John Candido says:

        Rahner, can you very briefly tell us what is ‘The Daphne McLeod Experience’ about? I am simply curious.

      • John Nolan says:

        I’m a troll, fol-de-rol …

    • John Candido says:

      Fantastic stuff!

  27. Rahner says:

    So you are content to reject Trent on Orginal sin?

    • mike Horsnall says:

      So you are content to reject Trent on Orginal sin?

      Perhaps, Dear kind Rahner, a little amplification of this
      pithy little sentence- which currently doth verily smack of the inquisition….? Perhaps you could even go for a whole paragraphs worth of context.. (gosh!)

  28. mike Horsnall says:

    Anyway, having quickly perused the said 1537 statement and noted its similarity-given stylistic changes -to CCC415-420 I’m not sure where you are trying to get with this one…perhaps,as per last request you could enlighten me?

  29. mike Horsnall says:

    John Nolan:

    John I see from past posts that you are a historian? I wonder if you get chance could you peruse a comment I make about veracity of scripture on the next topic ‘Remembering my birthday’ please? The reason I ask is that I have moved-over a period of 20 years or so- from an Evangelical position of believing almost every word of scripture to be ‘fact’ (whatever that means) My current view, probably a result of embracing the apothatic tradition, holds that the quest for “The historical Jesus” is a flawed and fruitless endeavour and that we really hold to our faith by means of the living tradition and revelation.

    I’m never really convinced that the views of any individual-my own included- do much other than describe that persons view of themselves at any given time (!!!) so I would welcome your thoughts on the matter. If the subject has been aired elsewhere on this blog perhaps you could give me directions?

  30. mike Horsnall says:

    Rahner i see you answered my question- for me and on my behalf – without even feeling the need to elaborate on the reason for asking for it..Marvellous….but why do you bother even posting questions to others that you then answer yourself?

  31. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes of course master-that also explains the merely faint applause-its only the sound of one hand clapping..pagan of course but nonetheless inmpressive.

  32. John Candido says:

    Actually, don’t worry about going to the Vatican website or anywhere else to practice using your Shift key and mouse. Simply use the page you are on and you will see what I am banging on about.

  33. mike Horsnall says:

    John Candido

    The compass programme on homosexual marriage was excellent-what did you learn from it?

  34. John Candido says:

    The discussion was balanced because it had a cross section of opinions. This is very important for the discussion to be a fairly wide representation of varied points of view. I agree with the point that religion in a modern secular state such as Australia and the UK, does not own marriage. It is a longstanding canon of liberal democratic societies that religion must be separated from the state for many good reasons. Of course this doesn’t stop religious people or organisations from presenting their points of view and thereby engaging with the rest of society to their mutual advantage.

    I agree with the Baptist clergyman who said that the state should not privilege any particular religion. This is what needs to happen in the case of Israel and other nations within the Middle East. All sorts of injustices, both small and large, occur when a state is based on one privileged or official religion.

    Legalising marriage for homosexual people is a justice issue. It is based on the notion of everybody being equal before the law. It also requires our compassion for the countless homosexuals who have been victims throughout history of discrimination, abuse, bullying, murder, prejudice, and vilification. Young people who are homosexual have a suicide rate four times greater than the heterosexual population.

    If the legalisation of homosexual marriage were to be in some way ‘harmful’ to society, the only way that I would concur with this is if it were a demonstrable scientific point, which was replicable in the scientific literature of qualified scientists, both domestically and internationally. I am 99.999% sure that it will have a zero impact in terms of it being harmful to society, or on marriage in general, and in the lives of children raised in such a marriage.

    When you consider the considerable historical baggage that heterosexual society has with its relationship to homosexual people, it is easy to understand the reticence that some heterosexuals have regarding homosexual marriage. However, despite the long and rather difficult history, I believe that if it is no longer a crime for adults to have homosexual sex in enlightened societies, and it is no longer tenable to say that homosexuality is a mental illness, then they should have the very same legal, cultural, social, and theological rights as the rest of us.

    The fostering of views about gays and lesbians as being in league with the devil, or are paedophiles, or that their state is a form of mental illness, is totally inconsistent with contemporary notions of fairness and justice, and is incongruous with scientific reality. This is why homosexuality has been expunged from the DSM, which is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses.

    You can peruse the following links to find out more about the DSM and mental illness in general.

    All fundamental institutions change progressively through time in most societies. To reform the marriage law is about progressive social change. In fact, the meaning and definition of marriage has been evolving for generations. This phenomenon has been occurring hand in hand with the change in the role of women, as they moved from being chattel, to free and independent people who have a mind and a life of their own. This has directly impacted on the meaning and definition of marriage in society for generations.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that marriage is a strong and everlasting institution, which has evolved through history. It can easily absorb the relatively small number of gay and lesbian people who want to join our ranks.

  35. mike Horsnall says:

    I believe that if it is no longer a crime for adults to have homosexual sex in enlightened societies, and it is no longer tenable to say that homosexuality is a mental illness, then they should have the very same legal, cultural, social, and theological rights as the rest of us…..

    Thats all ok if you cross out the ‘theological’…I agreed with the bishop and the jesuit priest.-but it was a good debate

    • mike Horsnall says:

      By the way, if you want to look at the calamitous effects of diluting family ties look carefully at Mao’s China in the so called ‘great leap forward’

  36. Iona says:

    Rahner – somebody asked you for more information about “The Daphne McLeod Experience”, and I don’t think you’ve responded yet.

    John Candido – On what is your 99.999% certainty based? – particularly as regards the effect on children raised within homosexual unions?

  37. John Nolan says:

    John, having viewed the ‘Compass’ debate are you any closer to being able to address the questions I raised in my 7 July comment? Also, you seem to come dangerously close to arguing that if something is legal it is ipso facto moral. Of the Ten Commandments only three (murder, theft and perjury) are illegal in western societies. Since the law allows me to commit adultery, can I claim that I have a right to do so?

  38. John Candido says:

    John Nolan, I haven’t forgotten your questions on the 7th July 2011. Your question is important, but difficult to answer immediately, and this is why I have not supplied a timely response to them. I have not been entirely derelict as I have written four pages of notes in readiness for my eventual reply. If you can be somewhat patient with me I would appreciate that very much. You have provided me a legitimate question that is very difficult for me to answer off my own bat right at this moment. I have ordered a theological title on sexuality that has not arrived at my home as yet and I hope that it can assist me to reply to you as best I can. Once I have perused this title I will make an attempt at answering your question. Thank you.

  39. mike Horsnall says:

    John Candido:
    Thanks for all your research into these fascinating topics. I wonder if I might reccomend you something for a change?. Read very carefully indeed the small CTS booklet about Cardinal Newman called The Mind of Cardinal Newman. Its only £2.50 and is compiled by CS Dessain. The pertinent topic about the nature of conscience-something of which you make much but as far as I’m aware have never defined…Newnans thoughts on the subject take up a few pages at the beginning of the booklet:
    “It must be borne in mind that, as the essence of all religion is authority and obedience,so the distinction, between natural religion and revealed lies in this, that the one has a subjective authority, and the other an objective. Revelation consists in the manifestation of the invisible Divine Power, or in the substitution of the voice of a Lawgiver for the voice of conscience. The supremacy of conscience is the essence of natural religion, the supremacy of Apostle or Pope or Church or Bishop, is the essence of revealed…”
    This I think comes close to explaining why it is that a certain disposition-mine included -sees in your work only a subjective view-passionate and researched though it may be…also why it is that opponents of your thrust will quickly begin to discuss the term ‘authority’ I hope you fnd time to work through this small booklet.

    • Rahner says:

      “the essence of all religion is authority and obedience….” Sorry, Newman, but you’re just wrong.The essence of Christianity is the person of Christ. And it is perfectly possible to be a Christian and not accept the Catholic ecclesiology.

      • John Nolan says:

        ‘The essence of Christianity is the person of Christ’. Glib, but on closer inspection meaningless. It is what Christ taught and revealed which matters, and, we are told, He spoke as one having authority. You can’t dispose of Newman in a single sentence.

  40. Rahner says:

    “the essence of Christianity is not an idea, not a system of thought, not a plan of action. The essence of Christianity is a Person: Jesus Christ himself.”–Cardinal Josef Ratzinger

    • John Nolan says:

      Quite so, in the context of Ratzinger’s overall theology. Are you suggesting that the Pope, like yourself, thinks Newman is ‘just wrong’ on the question of authority and obedience?

      • Rahner says:

        I’m quite sure the Pope would agree that papal authority as understood by the Catholic church does not constitute the essence of Christianity.

  41. John Candido says:

    Mike Horsnall, if you have a disposition towards central authority, which might or might not involve a strict legalism and a strict rigorism, then the way the Roman Catholic Church is currently constituted should leave you satisfied. I don’t have such a disposition. I would prefer it to be far more adult about the laity’s freedom and dignity, and all this would mean towards our right to freedom of religion and the primacy of our human consciences. This is especially so when so many ecclesiastical documents refer to the dignity of people and the validity and inviolacy of the human conscience.

    The tenth edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘legalism’ as 1. excessive adherence to the details of law, and 2. (Theology) adherence to moral law rather than personal religious faith, on page 810. For ‘rigorism’, on page 1,233, the noun: extreme strictness in interpreting a law or principle. The dictionary proposes an example: ‘the Roman Catholic doctrine that in doubtful cases of conscience the strict course is always to be followed.’

    What Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote above doesn’t worry me in the slightest. It can be easily counterbalanced with what he wrote in ‘A Letter to the Duke of Norfolk’…

    ‘…there is no scoffing of any Pope, in formal documents addressed to the faithful at large, at that most serious doctrine, the right and the duty of following that Divine Authority, the voice of conscience, on which in truth the Church herself is built.’

    ‘So indeed it is; did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet. His very mission is to proclaim the moral law, and to protect and strengthen that “Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” On the law of conscience and its sacredness are founded both his authority in theory and his power in fact.’

    ‘1. First, I am using the word “conscience” in the high sense in which I have already explained it,—not as a fancy or an opinion, but as a dutiful obedience to what claims to be a divine voice, speaking within us; and that this is the view properly to be taken of it, I shall not attempt to prove here, but shall assume it as a first principle.’

    ‘2. Secondly, I observe that conscience is not a judgment upon any speculative truth, any abstract doctrine, but bears immediately on conduct, on something to be done or not done. “Conscience,” says St. Thomas, “is the practical judgment or dictate of reason, by which we judge what hic et nunc is to be done as being good, or to be avoided as evil.” Hence conscience cannot come into direct collision with the Church’s or the Pope’s infallibility; which is engaged in general propositions, and in the condemnation of particular and given errors.’

    ‘3. Next, I observe that, conscience being a practical dictate, a collision is possible between it and the Pope’s authority only when the Pope legislates, or gives particular orders, and the like. But a Pope is not infallible in his laws, nor in his commands, nor in his acts of state, nor in his administration, nor in his public policy.’

    4. But, of course, I have to say again, lest I should be misunderstood, that when I speak of Conscience, I mean conscience truly so called. When it has the right of opposing the supreme, though not infallible Authority of the Pope, it must be something more than that miserable counterfeit which, as I have said above, now goes by the name.’

    ‘If in a particular case it is to be taken as a sacred and sovereign monitor, its dictate, in order to prevail against the voice of the Pope, must follow upon serious thought, prayer, and all available means of arriving at a right judgment on the matter in question. And further, obedience to the Pope is what is called “in possession”; that is, the onus probandi of establishing a case against him lies, as in all cases of exception, on the side of conscience.’

    ‘Unless a man is able to say to himself, as in the Presence of God, that he must not, and dare not, act upon the Papal injunction, he is bound to obey it, and would commit a great sin in disobeying it. Primâ facie it is his bounden duty, even from a sentiment of loyalty, to believe the Pope right and to act accordingly. He must vanquish that mean, ungenerous, selfish, vulgar spirit of his nature, which, at the very first rumour of a command, places itself in opposition to the Superior who gives it, asks itself whether he is not exceeding his right, and rejoices, in a moral and practical matter to commence with scepticism.’

    ‘He must have no wilful determination to exercise a right of thinking, saying, doing just what he pleases, the question of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, the duty if possible of obedience, the love of speaking as his Head speaks, and of standing in all cases on his Head’s side, being simply discarded. If this necessary rule were observed, collisions between the Pope’s authority and the authority of conscience would be very rare. On the other hand, in the fact that, after all, in extraordinary cases, the conscience of each individual is free, we have a safeguard and security, were security necessary (which is a most gratuitous supposition), that no Pope ever will be able, as the objection supposes, to create a false conscience for his own ends.’

    ‘I add one remark. Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.’

    Newman’s ‘Letter to the Duke of Norfolk’ was written in 1875 is about 150 pages in length. It would be better to use the ‘Find’ function and whatever headings that are provided in the online document below, in order to get to relevant parts of this rather long piece of writing.
    The above letter is contained within the Newman Reader below…

    A short biography is located below…

    Catholic Diocese of Parramatta in Australia celebrates the Beatification of Newman below…—events/latest-news/latest-news.aspx/celebrating-the-beatification-of-cardinal-john-henry-newman-.aspx

  42. John Nolan says:

    That’s not what I asked.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Mike Horsnall, if you have a disposition towards central authority, which might or might not involve a strict legalism and a strict rigorism, then the way the Roman Catholic Church is currently constituted should leave you satisfied…

      And that is not what I said!!

      Read again carefully John. The disposition is not towards central authority…did I use those words? Did I refer to legalism ? The disposition is one that recognises revelation as a divine power operating in the church. As you may know Newman had a healthy regard for the operation of divine revelation which is why in the (short and thus discussable) quote I gave you Newman attempts to delineate the operation of the two principles. I think it was his intention to show how they worked together but also to show that you cannot have the one operating well without the other and that the divine revelation acts as the objective. I think you would do well to sit down, re read carefully the letter you have just posted then tell us what you think it means using your own words…third and fourth paragraph up from the bottom are particularly pertinent.

  43. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    I’m confused. What is the point in quoting at length from Newman’s famous (and rather hackneyed) letter to Norfolk unless it be to demonstrate that Bl. John Henry’s idea of conscience is poles apart from your own, as evidenced by your many contributions on this subject? By the way, the after-dinner toast remark, so often quoted out of context, is an example of Victorian humour. Most 1875 jokes would fall flat nowadays – try reading contemporary issues of ‘Punch’!

  44. mike Horsnall says:

    John, have you actually read this letter in full and tried to understand it?

  45. mike Horsnall says:

    The reason I ask is because I have read it.

  46. mike Horsnall says:

    Sorry the question was for John Candido…because it seems to me that you have simply pulled out a few quotes and misapplied them to your own concept of conscience. Read the letter John paying attention to paras 207-10, 225-7, 246-55…just for starters.

  47. John Candido says:

    It is pointless going on about the issue of who has the most correct understanding of Catholic ecclesiology. I am afraid that these sorts of discussions don’t stop or go anywhere. Even though we are members of the same church, we will never get to the end of these debates on reform. We are doing the very same thing as debates between Anglicans and Catholics, or debate between any other two members of different churches, where the object is to prove who belongs to the true church of Jesus Christ. Everybody knows that they are a waste of time, can lead to nastiness, and are totally unproductive.

    Debates are important, just as a free press, high quality investigative journalism, and democracy are important. But some debates don’t go anywhere, and this is one of them. I am not saying goodbye to the blog, however I am saying that this debate needs to be brought to a sharp halt for the benefit of everybody’s sanity.

    Mike Horsnall, can you please read my post on the 1st February 2011 at 1:18pm in the topic called ‘Take the Tube’ at . It is a summary about my thoughts on ecclesiastical authority. Regardless of whether or not you agree with me in full, or in part, or do not agree with me at all. It is what I believe and it is not something that I want to debate with anybody, for reasons I have already explained. Apart from that, we can all fruitfully summarise that a conservative is a conservative, a moderate is a moderate, and a liberal is a liberal, and neither the twain shall meet.

    I will reply to the questions that Iona and John Nolan have already given me, but I don’t think that I will debate my replies with anybody unfortunately. You can either accept them or reject them, as you are perfectly entitled to, but I am afraid that I will only reply to questions about my views that I will be happy to reply to in future, and leave others unanswered.

    Let me apologise upfront for my limited responses. I am not trying to be arrogant because I have not got anything to be arrogant about. I will reply to some questions that seek to elucidate any point I make, but this will entirely depend on my disposition. There is a saying, ‘life is too short’. I am sure that you understand me. Respectfully yours, John Candido.

    • Rahner says:

      The Catholic Church is still operating with what is basically a 19 century ecclesiology and the Pope and the Vatican machine are fighting a rear-guard action to preserve it. But eccelesiologies come and go and I am quite sure that the whole drift of modern culture will mean that in the long run their attempts will fail. The Church will either have to adapt to the cultural context of modernity – just as it has adapted to cultural change in the past or become an introverted and probably slightly paranoid sect that spends its time condemning just about everybody and then wondering why nobody is listening.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Read it awhile ago John Candido. Understanding does have an objectivity which we are bound to seek. Otherwise we really would be sunk…and that is the whole point. As to life being short you are right-much to short to spend it talking only to oneself.!!

      • John Candido says:

        I will not be leaving the blog and I will be communicating with others. However, I will be limiting my posts when this sort of topic comes around again, as I am sure it will in future.

  48. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    “We are all members of the same church”. I thought from what you have said earlier that you had left the Church because of her refusal to adopt lock-stock-and-barrel your liberal/modernist/secularist/relativist agenda.

  49. st.joseph says:

    Rahner, I am interested to know what the ‘Daphne Mcleod Experience.’ Two people have asked you already .I am the third .I would really like to know.And what is magnum opus. ?

  50. John Nolan says:

    Forget it, st.joseph. Rahner is a troll, perhaps the first on this blog. And don’t expect the great work (magnum opus) to appear any time soon.

  51. John Candido says:

    I believe that I am still a Catholic in the sense of what Michael Mahoney wrote on the 22nd May 2010 at 7.28pm in ‘Candid Candido’…

    ‘I have never had a wish to leave the community of the Roman Catholic Church, either to row my own boat or to join some other “distorted” group – presumably a reference to our separated brethren!’

    ‘I believe that the Mystical Body of Christ encompasses not only the Roman Catholic Church, but all the countless faithful of other Christian denominations and of none, whose witness to the gospel in their lives and in their teachings have been and continue to be an affirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, a world that God so loved that he sent his only beloved Son to redeem it.’

    My ‘liberal/modernist/secularist/relativist agenda’ as you put it John Nolan, is a broadly accurate way of describing my set of beliefs; beliefs that I personally hold to be correct and beliefs that I believe will be used in future in order to save the church from further harm to itself. However, I do feel that conservatives most definitely use such a description in what they truly intend as a pejorative putdown of their ecclesiological opponents. If you intended this example as a pejorative putdown John Nolan, I do not accept your putdown at all. I have been referred to as a ‘liberal relativist’ in its pejorative sense by John Nolan several times in the past and I utterly reject them all.

    Describing Rahner as a ‘troll’ is quite a hurtful putdown for anyone to take and I wonder why you indulge yourself in such irrelevant statements. Both you and I have been educated at a university, and you know that such language is unacceptable in academic circles or in tutorial discussions between students at any university. They are beneath your intelligence John Nolan and beneath the finer aspects of your character, of which I am quite sure there are many.

    These things are indicative of what I have already said about topics such as ‘the reform of the reform of the reform’, in that it can and does lead to nastiness at times between Catholics of different persuasions. These outbursts are not solely owned by any camp and unfortunately liberals can be just as culpable as conservatives. It is a natural but unfortunate outcome of debates on questions of reform to the Roman Catholic Church, a church which has an enormous intelligence and an enormous capacity for good in this world. It is also partly why I will either offer posts within, or not respond to, or limit my responses to, the substantive points of my critics in such topics in future, as responding to them can and most likely will be a total waste of everybody’s time.

  52. mike Horsnall says:

    But Rahner is a troll in the accepted internet usage of the term. “Troll” simply describes someone who visits,perhaps infests, is a better term, websites and blogs largely to incite argument for purposes of self satisfaction- rather than to properly engage-a simple perusal of Rahners interventions on this thread show it clearly. Rahners profile on this site and this thread also fits the description perfectly regardless of how well educated we are I’ve been to university too-,I am a senior lecturer and clinical tutor at a university-I’ve just finished my third degree-but that doesn’t alter the fact that Rahners posting is that of a troll-well educated or otherwise-I guess he just likes it that way.

  53. John Candido says:

    Michael Horsnall, if you don’t mind me prying a little, what are your three degrees please? I am curious, but I am aware that the readership of secondsight does contain some highly qualified individuals, and it is a joy to hear it too! I have a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne’s La Trobe University and doing it just about killed me. I was a far too conscientious mature age student! I was utterly exhausted in the end. I got into honours in politics but did not finish it. To this day, I am fairly sure that someone was being generous towards me in admitting me into honours. Along the way I got into law twice, but due to a lack of interest and my overwhelming tiredness, I dropped out of law on both occasions.

    John Nolan is a historian and he certainly strikes me as being extremely literate and intelligent. He is probably an academic, although I don’t really know. Quentin is a journalist, an artist, a counsellor, and has probably done a lot of other things with his life as well. Horace is a retired consultant neurologist. RMBlaber has a PhD in something and it is really sad that he has left the blog. Boy, I am in some elite company I must say!

    It is also important that the blog be available and open to individuals of all walks of life. Regardless of one’s background, everybody is welcome to contribute to secondsight, and I certainly hope that everybody has a go at posting their opinions. It is important that the blog be populated by and reflective of the community in general.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      John Candido:
      I havent noticed myself flying very high I’m afraid John! My first degree many many years ago was in Politics and philosophy from Leeds university. My professional training, begun 25 years ago now is as an Osteopath which is a 4year Bsc Hons degree. I train osteopaths under the auspices of the School of Health and Rehabilitation at Keele University here in the Midlands and I have my own osteopathic practice nearby where I live . Not long ago I completed a part time Honours degree in Fine Art at Staffordshire University-I am a part time artist you see. Awhile back I did some formal theology through St Johns in Nottingham which is an Anglican College but I got too busy to finish the degree. So as you see I am a jack of all trades in tems of thinking and doing. I start my formal diaconate training in September at Oscott college in Birmingham which I am very much looking forward to-but being a practical man I spend most of my days dealing with sciatica and frozen shoulders…cant see retirement anywhere on the horizon due partly to a misspent youth and partly to me loving my job and no one can sack me!! You are in Australia still are you?

      • mike Horsnall says:

        PS John again- Over-conscientiousness is the bane of the mature students life. I see it time and time again because the training programme I help with is mainly for mature students changing direction-its a 5 year part time Bsc (Hons) which will quite easily kill horses if taken too seriously…on the other hand if a thing is worth doing then its worth doing well. I’m 60 now and have finally learned that discretion is often the better part of valour-but like you I probably learned it the hard way round!

      • John Candido says:

        Yes I still live in Melbourne.

    • st.joseph says:

      John-if you stay in the company of the Lord, that is just as important!

  54. Quentin says:

    You can find out more about me (if you are interested) at To operate the Science and Faith column on the CH, I have to have to be literate in theology, philosophy and several branches of science. My formal qualifications in all of these are exactly equal.

  55. John Candido says:

    Thank you st.joseph. Your thoughts are appreciated! I did not know that you are a diabetic. We have this unfortunate condition in common. I am an insulin dependent type 2 diabetic. I have been a diagnosed diabetic since 1996. I was given a pathology report on the state of my kidneys ten years ago by my general practitioner, which demonstrated the very start of kidney leakage of proteins. They were leaking very tiny amounts of proteins called creatinine and albumin. A more recent pathology report was presented to me by my Endocrinologist and he has stated that the leakage has slightly increased since my first report. Again, it is not a significant leak in terms of having advanced stages of kidney disease, but it was very sobering none the less. I do not want my kidneys to worsen so that I end up on kidney dialysis. Heaven forbid!

    I have an annual eye examination by an Ophthalmologist and he has cleared me of any diabetic retinopathy. But the recent report about my kidneys has given me a jolt to be more dedicated in managing my diabetes. I am currently somewhat overweight due to having recently had two successive bouts of the flu and had to stop exercising as a result. This, in combination with a poor attitude to my diet and the need to take insulin twice a day has ensured my weight gain. I have gone on an immediate diet and it is doing me wonders. I have some way to go but I will get there with some application and patience.

    My Hb1ac has been very poor ever since my diagnosis, but I remain confident that it will start to decline given my improved attitude and diet. For those that do not know, a Hb1ac is a statistical summary of the likelihood of suffering diabetes related illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, etc. I am not currently exercising with my diet as I want to establish proper dietary habits without exercise, in case I get the flu in future, and have to stop exercising as result of it.

    I figure that if I know what portions of food I truly need without exercise, I will easily survive bouts of the flu together with my insulin without gaining any weight at all. I will return to exercise once I have lost a good portion of my weight gain. I will need to then adjust my diet and medication as a result of increased energy expenditure. I should not have any significant trouble doing all of this. However, it would be a gift to the entire world if some research centre could find a cure for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a significant disease and the rate of its occurrence is increasing alarmingly in advanced economies.

  56. John Nolan says:

    My first degree was a BA (Hons) in Modern History from Durham University (1972) and my second an MA in War Studies at King’s College, London (1983). I taught history at secondary school level, but now I am semi-retired I am usually called upon to teach French and German. I consider myself an historian, but to call me an academic would be stretching it as I do not have a research degree. I was an officer in the South Notts. Hussars Yeomanry (Royal Horse Artillery) in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties which got the military bug out of my system, and great fun it was too, although in the event of WW III we Forward Observation Officers would have had a life expectancy of around six minutes. Apart from history my main passion has always been music, and six years ago I decided to take up a serious study of Gregorian Chant. I am training up a small schola in my local parish.

    I am interested in matters liturgical, and not surprisingly I don’t have much truck with those who think the history of the Catholic Church began in 1965. I believe John Paul II to have been the greatest man of the second half of the 20th century, and fully support Benedict XVI’s reform of the reform. I would not be surprised if a future pope (say in 100 years time) were to declare that both Vatican Councils were a mistake.

  57. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John for your concern. I have diabetes now for 15 years.
    Unfortunately my mother died at 65 with pneumonia (no injections for it in 1976)
    I was injecting 4 times a day, but now only 2 ,a mixed
    I could recommend a very good book for your diet as this has helped me remarkably, recommended by my doctor.It is The Diabetes Revolution by Dr Charles Clark and Maureen Clark. Although I have never been very heavy-but would do if I didn’t watch it
    My son-in law sent for it on Amazon for £1 sterling.It really will help your diet. and stabilise your blood glucose levels,lower your cholesterol, cut the risk of heart disease, and reduce your need for statins and insulin. Like you I do have various problems with my health but nothing as serious as yours.You could look up a review on the web I think
    I also think exercise helps, I am luck y I live in a very rural part of the country and plenty of walks and bike rides are a help. Although I have to watch my hypos!
    Good luck with it all!

    Good luck with it all!

    • John Candido says:

      Thanks for the advice about the book st.joseph. It is written by an English authority on diabetes and diet and I will be ordering a copy.

  58. mike Horsnall says:

    Right thats enough of all this fraternising…everyone get back in their trenches….

  59. John Candido says:

    Quentin, what are your degrees in theology, philosophy, and science?

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