Friday, July 20, 2007

Catholicism, Protestantism, and Evidence

I think there needs to be more clarity about this, so I'm posting it. It should be obvious which is the seeker's text and which are my replies.
To him the case is: where's the evidence to get from who Jesus is and
what he taught to the Catholic church. He believes you need to, to be
justified in believing in papal infallibility, which in my mind (and
in his) is the key doctrine, since it is unique among all
Christianities (as it were!). To him you need to have evidence that
Jesus authorized Peter to teach with His (Jesus') own authority, that
is, infallibly.
[Trent] I don’t disagree one bit, I’m an evidentialist to the core. But of course there is the testimony of the Church Herself. I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of dong a dilemma argument on the Church. She claims to be the fullest expression of the visible Body of Christ on Earth, headed by the viceroy of Christ. That’s either true or false. If it’s false, then the Catholic Church must be destroyed. But if it’s true, then…

But of course there is evidence. Given that the Church has claimed—via the ordinary Magisterium and by the Extraordinary Magisterium in Vatican I—that the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, is the viceroy of Christ—Ever seen the study on the keys in the OT?—anyway, given that claim, then we may be practically certain of the following conditional

(1) If there was not apostasy before Vat II, then Papal Infallibility is a true doctrine.

This assumes, as I said I would assume before, since I honestly don’t take it to be historically tenable to deny, that the doctrine of Apostolic Succession is true. Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian all testify to it. The very successors to the Apostles, and their immediate successors, teach Apostolic Succession pretty straightforwardly.

Let ATS state the Apostolic Fathers testimony to Apostolic succession.

Let S state the doctrine of Apostolic Succession.

(A) Pr(S/ATS) = very very high

Since I take ATS to be part of my background information, I’m taking S for granted.

Since I think the balance of evidence greatly supports the claim that there was no apostasy, I am forced by Bayesian Evidentialism to give at least equal credence (the theorem says at least as much, but it could be more) to S.

So again, I am in *complete* agreement that one's cognitive states need to fit the evidence, but it still seems to me that the Protestant position has it completely backwards with regard to the default position and who needs evidence for what.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lacrimae Sancti Monicae

A dear Catholic friend with a deep respect for the Eucharist commended to me today--in a moment of near despair--the tears of Saint Monica.

If you have a friend whose self-destructive behavior is breaking your heart, I commend those tears to you along with this traditional prayer.

"Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven. Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray."

Like God the Father--Isaiah 66, Matthew 23--we can all express this motherly love for those wandering in some wilderness.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Latin Mass is Back

Actually, it never really went anywhere according to canon law, but liturgists kept it in the background to say the least. I can't help but lead with this quote:

It has clearly been demonstrated that young persons, too, have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the mystery of the most holy Eucharist particularly suited to them.

This document has been in the making for quite some time and is in part aimed at bringing back into the fold members of the Society for Saint Pius the Tenth (SSPX) who broke away from the Church over changes real or imagined in Vatican II.

The text has not yet been translated into English, but an explanatory letter by the Pontiff has (link). The official Latin text is here.

Following are some leading Catholic news wire storeis.

Catholic News Agency: Pope establishes the full return of the Tridentine Mass with new letter

Catholic World News: Pope broadens access to 1962 Mass

Surprisingly, Zenit and bunch of others still haven't posted stories at the time of writing.

Saint Blog's Parish will be ablaze I imagine. Here's a list of Catholic blogs I watch:

Just a few weeks ago--just a few posts ago--we discussed the growing popularity of the Latin Mass--again, especially among younger people as Chesterton predicted. In fact, I doubt doors will be broken down by parishioners demanding the Latin Mass. This fact--to be expected--will no doubt be reported attended by such headlines as "Latin Mass Falls Flat" and "Faithful Not Interested in Aged Pope's 'Reforms'".

Of *course* most people--including priests and Bishops--will go on with life as usual. That's the American way. The "small" difference--which I think could have big ramifications--is that fewer people will feel the need to turn to organizations like SSPX for a "traditional" Mass and the more reasonable members of that group will feel comfortable in returning. There's some good energy in SSPX too, and it will be nice to have it back in the Church.

It should also provide an opportunity for folks like me--and some less traditional folks--to occasionally ground themselves in a Mass which wears its reverence on its sleeve. I like my kids to see a more traditional, more obviously relevant Mass, and I don't like the current narrow range of choices.

Please alert me when you see the first headline long the lines of those I mentioned above, I want to see just how long they wait.

Until then...semper fi! ;-)

Looking for the Church

Another snippet from a recent email inqury...

(Some of the formatting is messed up.)

Ahhh, the first stage…remember it well. Actually, Chesterton’s first stage is already dangerously far down the road: few return ***spooky music plays***.

As a fellow co-exemplifier of silliness, internalismness (of sorts), epistemologistness, as well as evidentialistness (which is, after all, independent of internalism link), I salute your desire to look before you leap. I will happily
describe the lay of the land from my angle, but first I wonder if you haven’t
got thing quite the wrong way around.

What I mean to say is that don’t you really need evidence *not* to be a Catholic? One thing seems just plain clear: in, say, AD 987 there was one Church: one visible body of Christ on Earth under the direction of Bishops—with some special role played by the one in Rome—whose oversight was considered constitutive of the Church. I just don’t think there’s much room to dispute that—I mean really dispute, not dispute in the way that silly analytic philosophers can dispute ANYTHING!

Now after that point there are lots of places to jump off the train. Some hop off at station 1054. I spent some time sleeping on benches there. Lots of people get off at 1517, though few can say quite why. The least sophisticated stopping points are in the 1820s, the two most, I think, are either 1414ish or perhaps even 1870.

The Real Protestants up thar in Moscow, Idaho are quite consistent and rational (to the point of being kinda scary) and posit apostasy at the Council of Constance. I considered that option well myself. But, to return to my main point, *unless* one has good reason to posit apostasy, one has reason to be Catholic by default (assuming one has reason to be a Christian simpliciter).

Relatedly it’s often overlooked that—all things considered—it would be better to be united to the Catholic Church even if you thought it in *serious* need of reform than exist outside her without good reason. I highly doubt you’ll find any communion of Christianity with which you don’t have pretty significant disagreements—and as you’ll soon find, the papacy does not afford as serious a disagreement as one first expects. So *even if* I thought that the Eastern Church was fundamentally correct in its ecclesiology and that the Bishop of Rome, though the last court of appeals—had nowhere near the authority claimed in Vatican I, I’d still be Catholic, for I am, after all, a child of the West. This extends quite far I think.

Nevertheless, I will be happy to address your question concerning books. I’m a primary source guy myself and was most affected by what I read in the Apostolic Fathers, especially the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch. Also, that third generation is a very good read: Justin Martyr and, especially, Irenaeus of Lyons. There are nice one-volume editions of the Apostolic Fathers, including the Lightfoot edition
once published by Baker. Of course I’m sure you’re aware you can get full text
. There’s also this book which a lot of Catholics rave about (his blog: and
his list of top books
). It seems too broad to me, but has lots of extra info you might be interested in.

I’m pretty fond of the book _Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words_. It’s the one I most often give to people. But, as I said, I’m a primary source guy—taught Great Books and all—and I don’t have much info on where you’re coming from. If you have a strong attachment to some of the core Protestant doctrines like sola fide then maybe you need to start with a theological tome like _Not by Faith Alone_. If it’s culture shock then _Crossing the Tiber_,
_Evangelical is not Enough_, or _
By What Authority?:
An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition_ might be the right books. Almost
forgot another good one:

Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early

I hope you find these recommendations helpful, and please do follow up.

Pax Christi,