The Personalist Project

Comments (21)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Aug 24, 2013 12:29pm

Samwise, it makes me happy to see activity on the Member Feed again. Thank you!  I'm glad, too, to see others taking on the sort of traditionalists who make an idol of the pre-modern period, and conflate modernity itself with the heresy of modernism.

It's ironic that many of those so-called traditionalists fall into a reverse heresy, making themselves, rather than the Pope and the Church, the arbiter of what does and doesn't accord with Catholic doctrine.

I have some quibbles with your way of putting the case.  For instance, I would argue that it isn't a reliance on St. Thomas that guarantees the validity of the teaching.  St. Thomas isn't the Bible. His teaching isn't doctrine.  Rather, the Church looks in admiration to his openness and fidelity to truth, his philosophical objectivism. 

But you are surely right in pointing to both Augustine and Aquinas as prime instances of thinkers who brought Catholic doctrine into fruitful contace with the "streams of thought" of their respective periods, which greatly enriched the Church's Tradition.

I think JP II is in their class of greats.  Newman too.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Aug 24, 2013 1:00pm

I'm reading Centesimus Annus for an article I'm working on about social justice.  This line made me think of your post:

The treasure is the great outpouring of the Church's Tradition, which contains "what is old" — received and passed on from the very beginning — and which enables us to interpret the "new things" in the midst of which the life of the Church and the world unfolds.

It's the latter part, viz. that the Church is able to interpret and assimilate "new things" into her living Tradition, that the traditionalists so resent.

They treat the Tradition as if it's something static.  Cardinal Schoenborn once said about them ( in a homily commemorating the Feast of St. Thomas) that they want "a decapitated" tradition. 

Samwise

#3, Aug 26, 2013 7:37am

Unfortunately, 'decapitated' tradition implies schism--as I have already seen and heard from select friends of mine (both married and celibate) who insist that the Church has been in schism for a long time, even apart from SSPX.

As for the rebuttal of Aquinas as a litmus test, I'm afraid I don't know who else could be qualified...  The trouble is that Pius X's "Pascendi" is misinterpreted, and my argument is that a sure way to debunk the misinterpretation is try and prove that Pius and JPII are Thomistic, as well as Augustinian!

Do you have another suggestion?  The Bible doesn't hold much water with traditionalists...

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Aug 26, 2013 8:18am

Samwise, Aug. 26 at 7:37am

Unfortunately, 'decapitated' tradition implies schism--as I have already seen and heard from select friends of mine (both married and celibate) who insist that the Church has been in schism for a long time, even apart from SSPX.

Of course, It's not the Church that's in schism, but those who don't recognize the authority of the Church. (You agree with that, right?)

As for the rebuttal of Aquinas as a litmus test, I'm afraid I don't know who else could be qualified...  

The only individual person who qualifies as the authoritative interrpeter of Catholic doctrine is the Pope.  Otherwise, we look to the Magesterium and the Tradition as a whole, as it's taught by the Church and received by the faithful.

But you are surely right that the fact that recent Popes have been so careful about showing the continuity of their teaching with the Augustian and Thomistic traditions dramatically undermines the Traditionalist's claim that they have apostasized.

I doubt they'll se it though. Radical traditionalists are in the grip of an evil schismatical spirit. Arguments generally don't avail it.  Only fasting.

That's my guess, anyway.

Samwise

#5, Aug 26, 2013 8:33am

Thanks, that's helpful.

I do agree with the first part, after all the marks of the Church are One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Patrick Dunn

#6, Aug 26, 2013 9:44am

Samwise, Aug. 26 at 7:37am

As for the rebuttal of Aquinas as a litmus test, I'm afraid I don't know who else could be qualified... 

Apart from the response Katie already offered to this, which I agree with, I think a few questions are worth asking:

1) How could any one person, apart from the Pope at a given time, ever serve as a litmus test, since that person is bound by their own time period, while doctrine develops as well as our understanding and unpacking of Church teaching on the whole?  If we remain with one individual, we are always going to read developments in light of them, which is reasonable to a degree, but it would inevitably stifle developments after a while.

2) Aquinas is a great thinker and a Doctor of the Church.  He provided probably the most systematic summation of the Faith to date.  That said, why do so many cling to Aquinas as if he is the be all and end all?  I don't get it.  There are over 30 other Doctors, some very recent.  And besides, a lot has happened since Aquinas. 

Samwise

#7, Aug 26, 2013 10:37am

Patrick,

1)As for the first question, all I can say is that I agree as long as the pope is taking the counsel of the magisterium.  AKA, one person is more prone to heresy than a group inspired by the Spirit.

2)Aquinas' methods are so fool proof, that in my opinion, no other doctor can improve on them...and he has Aristotle to back him up!

Samwise

#8, Aug 26, 2013 10:40am

*correction on #1--one person is prone to heresy when not speaking "infallibly" or ex cathedra

Patrick Dunn

#9, Aug 26, 2013 10:48am

Hi Sam,

Perhaps the methods may be, though what he particularly taught is informed by his worldview and his era, no?  I don't believe we conceive of reality in the same way he did, at least in some cases.

I am not overly enthused about Aristotle either.  I think we too readily accept his insights as self-evident.

Katie van Schaijik

#10, Aug 26, 2013 10:51am

Samwise, Aug. 26 at 10:37am

2)Aquinas' methods are so fool proof, that in my opinion, no other doctor can improve on them...and he has Aristotle to back him up!

Aquinas is not infallible, though, right?  You would agree with that, I'm sure. Nor, being limited like all human beings to time and place, is he capable of answering the questions that have arisen through human experience in the 800 years since he lived.

Wojtyla's essay, "Subjectivity and the Irreducible in Man," offers a very deep and fundamental critique of the Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition.

It's the kind of critique that grants its timeless validity and value, but at the same time, calls for a complementary development: "a turn toward subjectivity."  This "turn toward subjectivity" is an essentially modern phenomenon.

Katie van Schaijik

#11, Aug 26, 2013 10:57am

Personally, I think a doctrinaire Thomism does terrible harm to the intellectual life of the Church.

It's not St. Thomas that's the problem, but the treating of his philosophy in a doctrinaire way.  As Dr. Crosby once said, "It creates Thomists of the sort who would have mortified St. Thomas."

Patrick Dunn

#12, Aug 26, 2013 11:00am

"

Katie van Schaijik, Aug. 26 at 10:57am

Personally, I think a doctrinaire Thomism does terrible harm to the intellectual life of the Church.

It's not St. Thomas that's the problem, but the treating of his philosophy in a doctrinaire way."

 I agree completely.

Samwise

#13, Aug 26, 2013 11:13am

Few things then folks:

1) I'm no Thomist--you can probably tell by my writing style, somewhat disjointed, hard to follow at points, etc.

2) The issue in question is Pius X's refutation of "Modernism" as heresy.  "Heresy" being a word that's hard to take lightly...but, "Modernism" is mainly based on 'unsound philosophical and theological ideas". 

*So, what I'm arguing is that St. Thomas and St. Augustine, as the best objective and subjective Doctors of the Church, serve as the litmus test for sound philosophy and theology of the post-conciliar Church.

Katie van Schaijik

#14, Aug 26, 2013 11:17am

Samwise, as I typed this line earlier today:

Otherwise, we look to the Magesterium and the Tradition as a whole, as it's taught by the Church and received by the faithful.

It occurred to me afresh that this idea that we recognize authentic doctrine not only by the fact that it, as it were, "goes out" from the Pope in union with the bishops, by that it  is received by the faithful (in the sensus fidelium) as true is a notably and vitally personalist reality of our Faith.  It made me think of Newman's focus on Augustine's phrase, "securus judicat orbis terrarum" in his own conversion.  I'll put the passage from the Apologia below.

Katie van Schaijik

#15, Aug 26, 2013 11:18am

"Securus judicat orbis terrarum." He repeated these words again and again, and, when he was gone, they kept ringing in my ears. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum;" they were words which went beyond the occasion of the Donatists: they applied to that of the Monophysites. They gave a cogency to the Article, {213} which had escaped me at first. They decided ecclesiastical questions on a simpler rule than that of Antiquity; nay, St. Augustine was one of the prime oracles of Antiquity; here then Antiquity was deciding against itself. What a light was hereby thrown upon every controversy in the Church! not that, for the moment, the multitude may not falter in their judgment,—not that, in the Arian hurricane, Sees more than can be numbered did not bend before its fury, and fall off from St. Athanasius,—not that the crowd of Oriental Bishops did not need to be sustained during the contest by the voice and the eye of St. Leo; but that the deliberate judgment, in which the whole Church at length rests and acquiesces, is an infallible prescription and a final sentence against such portions of it as protest and secede. Who can account for the impressions which are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the "Turn again Whittington" of the chime; or, to take a more serious one, they were like the "Tolle, lege,—Tolle, lege," of the child, which converted St. Augustine himself. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum!" By those great words of the ancient Father, <interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history,> the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized.

Samwise

#16, Aug 26, 2013 11:24am

Ah, there's my mistake.

I replaced Aquinas and Augustine for The Pope and Magisterium of every age.  Right, that would require sensus fide more than just relying on Church Doctors.  Good to know

Katie van Schaijik

#17, Aug 26, 2013 11:25am

So, my point with that is that the Church is the only adequate and authoritative interpreter of doctrine and doctrinal developments.  It is the teaching of the Popes in union with the bishops, received by the faithful, that is rightly considered Tradition.  

To reject that teaching is thus to oppose the Tradition in the name of Tradition.  It's to become de facto Protestants.

In other words, I think Traditionalists of that stripe have no leg to stand on.

Samwise

#18, Aug 26, 2013 2:14pm

For anyone interested in observing the other side of this debate visit the increasingly traditionalist author Louie Verrechio:

http://www.harvestingthefruit.com/triumphalism/

I'm grateful for the personalist project to keep things honest

Samwise

#19, Aug 29, 2013 10:57am

After arguing on harvestingthefruit.com that in a mysterious way, the jews are a part of God's plan of salvation in Christ, here's the response of an individual who rejects VCII:

"Why others cannot see it is a great mystery to me.The only answer that comes to mind is “diabolical disorientation.” If nothing else, Samwise (whose commentary is always appreciated) has given us a great example of how mightily the defenders of the indefensible will contort themselves in order to avoid the obvious."

I go on to reference Edith Stein, Cardinal Dulles and others who testify to the fact that the new Covenant superseceds the Old, making them a consistent record of God's work--only to the rejection of those who say Nostra Aetate and other docs of VCII are not even worthy of imprimatur--ouy Vay!

Samwise

#20, Aug 29, 2013 12:06pm

Thanks be to God for Bishop Nickless of Sioux City who wrote a letter on the "hermeneutic of continuity" as available here: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=9162&repos=1&subrepos=0&searchid=1082947

It very succintly dismisses those who dismiss VCII, but also rejects the "spirit of the council's interpretation" as a demon that must be exorcised.

Katie van Schaijik

#21, Sep 4, 2013 5:07am

Thanks for the link, Samwise, which I hope I can get to in the next day or two.  I had a long online argument a couple years back with a traditionalist who interpreted "hermeneutic of continuity" to mean he could reject anything from Vatican II that in his personal opinion didn't accord with what preceded it.

I told him that was sheer protestantism.

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