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Just a Reminder to Those Who Get a Bit Carried Away in Praise for the Present Pope

February 23rd, 2011
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Pope Benedict XVI, in today’s general audience, during his catechesis presentation, praises the nemesis of the Lutheran Reformation after the death of Luther, Robert Bellarmine. It was against Bellarmine that Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard directed much of their work in systematic theology.

This is just a reminder that some things have not changed.

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Categories: Roman Catholicism
  1. February 23rd, 2011 at 21:38 | #1

    A very necessary reminder, Pr McCain. In an interview done when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (for the benefit of readers not familair with the Vatican – this is the office which is the modern successor of the Inquisition of medieval & counter-reformation times), the then Cardinal Ratzinger said that, hypothetically, if Luther were alive today, he would still be under discipline by Rome. Interestingly, if I remember rightly, it was not so much Luther’s theology per se that Ratzinger had a problem with, but his disobedience to the church. He failed to submit to Rome. Instead, as we would claim, he took his stand on scripture. That is clearly something Rome still has a problem with.

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    February 24th, 2011 at 00:05 | #2

    Make that Roberto Cardinal Bellarmino, SJ. Quite apart from the Disputationes, he was a Cardinal Inquisitor, and concurred in the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, OP, as well as the summoning of Galileo, both for denying the Bible’s clear statements showing that the sun revolves around the earth, and if one denies that then faith itself eventually falls apart.

    Bruno’s reported words at his sentence are worth remembering, especially since some even now see a threat to faith if Genesis is not taken as a scientific treatise from God. Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam. (You pronounce this sentence on me with greater fear that I receive it.)

    But hey, St Robert Bellarmine parish here in town is one of the most liberal ones there is!

    Bleeding Jesuits anyway. Our Jesuit institution of higher education here in town (Creighton) just endowed a chair of liturgy, immediately provoking controversy re the new translations of the novus ordo missae. Creighton was not founded by Ed Creighton though, who funded construction of Lutheran and Catholic churches alike and had Lutheran banking and business partners, but by the bleeding Jesuits from a bequest through his widow from his estate.

    Past Elder lives in a house on a lot that was once part of Ed’s farm. Bleeding Jesuits anyway. The only one worth crap was Teilhard, if I may say that without blowing any chance whatever of CPH one day publishing Gesammelte Werke Past Elders.

  3. Christine
    February 24th, 2011 at 09:25 | #3

    the then Cardinal Ratzinger said that, hypothetically, if Luther were alive today, he would still be under discipline by Rome. Interestingly, if I remember rightly, it was not so much Luther’s theology per se that Ratzinger had a problem with, but his disobedience to the church. He failed to submit to Rome. Instead, as we would claim, he took his stand on scripture. That is clearly something Rome still has a problem with.

    Would be comical if not so tragic. Luther, a faithful son of the church is excommunicated while Father Hans Küng, whose theology is rather eclectic and at times downright heterodox loses his “license to teach” but remains a Catholic in good standing.

    Unity at the expense of truth is no unity at all.

  4. Bethany Kilcrease
    February 24th, 2011 at 15:10 | #4

    Re: “he was a Cardinal Inquisitor, and concurred in the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, OP, as well as the summoning of Galileo, both for denying the Bible’s clear statements showing that the sun revolves around the earth, and if one denies that then faith itself eventually falls apart.”
    I won’t defend Bellarmine’s theology, or burning anyone at the stake, but seeing Bruno as some kind of martyr for “science” is incorrect. The guy was a total occultist who dabbled in calling up demons. He got burned for his heresy. Check out the most excellent work of Frances A. Yates on him. Regarding Galileo, he was not tried for his scientific theories, but for his attempt to privately interpret Scripture and assert his theories as fact before there was hard evidence either way (true!). Even this would have been OK, but for the fact that he totally alienated his patrons with his lack of tact and the fact that heliocentrism had already become associated with occultism (due to Bruno) and Protestantism (due to Kepler). In any case, Bellarmine was actually quick to reassure Galileo in 1616 that he had not personally been condemned and that he even thought heliocentrism “made excellent good sense.” Anyhow, seeing Galileo and Bruno and martyrs for science and Bellarmine as some kind of reactionary dogmatician is problematic.

    Bethany Kilcrease

  5. Jonathan
    February 25th, 2011 at 07:47 | #5

    If the Pope would have just allowed the Gospel, Luther was prepared to submit to the Pope’s authority. The Pope kicked Luther out instead.

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    February 25th, 2011 at 19:55 | #6

    Re Bruno, it was not the intent of my comment to uphold him or Galileo for that matter as martyrs for science. It is about Bellarmino, to point out, beyond PTM’s mention that he was a highly effective controversialist against the Reformation, that he was complicit in Rome’s even worse offences against the Gospel, namely, that the Roman Church, as the true church, is to be protected and advanced by the state, for which reason Bruno et al were handed over to civil authorities to carry out church sentences.

    And beyond that, to point out that while burning at the stake for contradicting the Roman Church is a thing of the past, attempting to regulate science by reference to Scripture as if it were a scientific treatise, with the imagined consequence that if an apparent contradiction were true, the faith itself falls apart, is still very much with us — all of us, not just the RCC.

    Nor do I think that suspicion that Simplicio was a mask for Urban VIII constitutes a lack of tact. Rather, it was yet another example of the RC tendency to tell you what you have said no matter what you say you said — to which I am no stranger myself — in this case also fuelled by Urban’s concern for his position, in which it was desired to enforce a sort of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell re the Psalms clearly stating that the Earth cannot be moved etc.

    A modern defence of such a defender of the RCC’s aspects of anti-Gospel doctrine and practice is what is problematic, for the reasons Pastor cites, and more. Which, with a mention that even outside of the RCC one meets even now that same tendency to evaluate science as if Scripture were a scientific work, was my point.

    Eppur si muove.

  7. February 25th, 2011 at 23:09 | #7

    Terry,

    I would still have to disagree that the fundamental issue in the Galileo case was not “attempting to regulate science by reference to Scripture as if it were a scientific treatise.” The primary problem was that after Trent the RCC was tied to Aristotle via Thomism (as I’m sure you know from your RC background) and that, therefore, moving away from Aristotle’s natural philosophy in astronomy was problematic since it cast doubt on the entire philosophical structure of the Roman system. It’s not so much about trying to regulate “science” by the Bible as it is trying to maintain the coherence of their intellectual system (they failed). I would argue that to talk about “science” prior to the 19th century is anachronistic in any case. Also, I would still have to argue that Galileo lacked tact, to be sure. A previous example to the Simplicio episode was his battle with the Jesuit Orazio Grassi over comets (Grassi turned out to be basically right, by the way). The nasty way in which the episode was conducted turned the powerful Jesuits against him and left him lack patrons later in his career. Anyhow, the whole Galileo episode is so layered with mythology as a result of its use by anti-clerical republicans during the European secular state-building projects of the 19th century that it can still be difficult to sort out today.

    Just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.
    Best,
    Bethany Kilcrease (not Jack)

  8. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    February 26th, 2011 at 16:29 | #8

    That is still a problem for the RCC. The Aristotelian philosophical basis of RC theology, that is, and any movement away from that seeming to be a movement away from Catholicism, which in that mindset is Christianity in its fullness.

    No-one would be more aghast at that than Aquinas himself, except perhaps Aristotle himself. Aquinas — who in God’s eyes is really a Benedictine you know, the family had abbot of Monte Cassino bought and paid for for him, as these things are properly done in the monking world, until the rag dog friars got to him, and he could not even be dissuaded by that nice Italian girl the family tried to fix him up with — was quite forthright that these theological arguments are for the edification of believers, not to preach faith or propose belief, which is to be based on Scripture (contra gentiles). And Aristotle hardly set out to record his observations of the material world as religious tomes of truth to be argued from instead of conducting further observation.

    Argumentum ad verecundiam is no less destructive of human knowledge in theology than in science. It is not only a fallacy of inductive reasoning, but a misapplication to other sources of the modesty, if you will, to be shown to Scripture. Not to mention the loss of the real meaning of argumentum ad hominem, which is not just slurring someone.

    This has been a problem from Occam — another damn friar, but of another kind — on, and you are quite right; in Luther’s time, it seemed the way in which the whole of creation was understood, faith and everything else, was being shaken to its core. Not to mention the loss of power by the institution, the RCC, if that core were shaken.

    In term of knowledge, it is true that most of whom we would to-day call scientists have existed within my lifetime (the last 60 years). However, this too is an enduring mistake, to equate a system of knowledge with the knowledge is systematises. Which was the point of my work when I was an academic, before finding honest work, in which I sought to demonstrate the independence of the knowledge of the ancient world from the system for classifying it as passed on by my man Boethius to the Mittlealter.

    But that is not to say there were no scientists, if by that one means those who proceed by observation rather than an authority, and regard the material world as something to be observed rather than dismissed as a shadow of an unseen reality, like the blasted Platonists and those who baptised his thought into Christianity, the pathological pear-eater Augustine coming to mind.

    I’ll leave the question of Galileo’s tact aside here. Being known throughout the Lutheran blogosphere as a writer of irenic, cadenced academic prose and an avoider of controversy, I am no, er, authority on such things.

    Besides, if there’s anything worse than a friar, it’s a bleeding Jesuit, as everyone knows, Teilhard being the only one worth reading. Not even a St Louis U prof taking me through the Exercitia spiritualia in Latin could deter me from a proper monking monk based education at a monkatorium sponsored school. Maybe if he had tried a nice Italian girl, but I don’t think he knew any.

    In fine, we should take to heart the cautions Pastor offers in his post; nothing I say be way of additional reasons for the caution detracts from that, and even if one dismisses them entirely, Pastor’s caution remains.

  9. Christine
    February 27th, 2011 at 05:23 | #9

    Besides, if there’s anything worse than a friar, it’s a bleeding Jesuit, as everyone knows, Teilhard being the only one worth reading.

    Oh yeah, Teilhard, who lives on as his namesake Father Merrin in the Exorcist! Bleedin’ Jebbies is right, the once-former “troops” of the papacy, oughta ban ‘em again already. It’s a common joke these days in Catholic circles that if you want your kids to lose their (RC) faith send ‘em to a Jesuit institution. They teach them how to “think”, you know.

    I agree, Pastor’s caution remains.

  10. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    February 27th, 2011 at 22:52 | #10

    Ha! The Jebbie who tried to get me to go to St Louis U said just that — the Benedictines can only pray and work, they can’t think! (A reference to the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora, Pray and Work.) Once at die Abtei, he sends me “The Intellectual Life” by a Dominican named Antonin Sertillange, a ruddy Dominican, which is a bleeding friar, and “The Prayer of Love and Silence” by a Carthusian. Judas H Priest OSB. I never told Godfrey though.

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