Critiques & Controversies: July 2002 Archives

Gary Wills Redux

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Gary Wills Redux

I know that I am coming in late on this, but I normally don't like to comment much on controversy--I find it makes me exceedingly irritable and not particularly charitable. However, I happened on this article over at Emily Stimpson's blog and was so profoundly annoyed by some of Mr. Wills's comments that I needed to note at least one glaring stupidity. This quote, ". . . and it's also obvious that loyalty to the papacy has been made the test of what makes you a Catholic," must stand as the archicon of idiocy. Whether or not Mr. Wills cares for the point, loyalty to the Pope and to his teachings is, in fact, part of what distinguishes Catholics from every other faith. I will grant that it is not the entirety of the difference; however, if you have the entire doctrine of the Catholic Church without loyalty to the Pope, you are either Anglican of some variety or some other faith--you simply are not Catholic. The Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ upon the Rock (St. Peter) is defined by having a single head who speaks with authority for the whole body. Remove the head, and you don't have a church; you have a headless body. Now, how Wills, a purportedly intelligent man, can come up with such a profound piece of religious blinkered thinking, I don't care to speculate. But I do say, that without loyalty to Rome and to the Pope, you cannot be Catholic.

I will go further to say that surely in the course of your investigations, you may come upon things that don't fit right, that you have doubts about. I think doubts offer an opportunity for growth, if approached properly. Where there is doubt, it is best to approach with the idea of finding the truth, not supporting an agenda. Mr. Wills seems to have cast this aside. As with many supposedly informed and intelligent modernists, he has be blindsided by the world and secular society into believing that his vision of the Church is indeed the church. If you stop to consider (after you get over the aggravation) this is sad situation, one requiring more prayer than fury. People who belong to this distorted church miss the fullness of the faith. They have mixed their faith with water--or unfortunately as with Israel entering the land of Canaan, they have sullied their practice with the idols of the Land of Milk and Honey. They do enormous damage to themselves and to those around them without realizing what they wreak.

I trust God in His providential wisdom and great mercy will deal kindly with those who have so wandered. Jesus promised to leave the 99 and go off in search of the single strayed sheep. For those who have strayed, like Mr. Wills and others, I pray merely that he is one brought back into the fold by the great caring of Incarnate Love. I also pray for myself and others incidentally affected by Mr. Wills that our momentary irritation and annoyance does not stray off into judgment. I'm sure that it shall not, but my assurance comes (paradoxically) from my confidence in prayers being answered.

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More on Pius XII

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More on Pius XII
This article from a reporter in Great Britain looks once again at the Pius XII controversy. Frankly, I don't really know what to make of the whole thing. We are attempted to judge actions of the past with a newly reconstructed (deconstructed) ethos. I would tend to side with those who point out historic anti-Catholic bias; but then, that really is an easy way out. Events, people, and ideas are often so complex and nuanced that there is wide margin for interpretation, particularly depending upon the bias with which you approach the question. I remain hopeful that the true Light of Jesus Christ will shine brightly upon this situation and make clear to all people of reasonable aspect and approach where the truth is.

Brief excerpt from the article:

Indeed, Rabbi Dalin accuses three of Piusís attackers, two former seminarians and a former priest, of using their accusations to conduct an internal argument within the Catholic Church about the future of the Papacy after John Paul II.

Perhaps the reason why these charges against Pius XII are so infectious is that they are constructed in such a way that they cannot be disproved. They are what Karl Popper called an unfalsifiable proposition: however many public attacks on Nazism Pius XII did make, one can always say he should have made more.

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Violence Morally Neutral?

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The gentleman or lady who runs the blog Kairos has given me something to write about in my blog. Kairos asserts without proof (in the article in question) that violence is morally neutral. He then goes on to challenge those who disagree (actually those who "donít like that Iím not a pacifist,") to "get your own blog and say so." Well, in point of fact, I am neutral on whether Kairos is a pacifist or not. I have read cogent articles and treatises that argue both sides of the issue and I stand firmly on the side of the pacifists, though not so firmly as, say, Stanley Hauerwas, a man for whom I have enormous respect. That said, I do find myself in disagreement with the bald statement that violence has no moral content. However, anything I would have to say in the matter amounts simply to another bald assertion as it sits as a core belief.

I simply had to respond, and say, "New York abstains, courteously." (Though conscience leads me to confess that the statement is for dramatic effect only, I do not have any right to represent the state of New York, being neither natal nor resident.)

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Forming New Churches

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This post from Sean Gallagher's Archive brought to mind an amusing anecdote regarding the formation of churches. He quotes a reader as saying, "Very, very few churches are started from disputes." I don't know about the truth of this; however, I do have an illuminating story regarding one new church that did form as a result of a dispute.

Some time ago my grandparents (whom I love very much, and so this should not be read as a criticism of them) belonged to a small church in a midwestern state. This church met mostly in homes and in such public places as they could find accommodations. I don't believe they had an ordained minister, but all the men took turns preparing teachings for the entire group. One Sunday the teaching centered around the Pauline admonition that, "Women should not wear those things that pertaineth to a man," and what the implications of this might be today. Somewhere in the course of discussion, someone asked or brought up the subject of pantyhose, saying that they were very much like pants. This particular point of discussion became very heated and over the next several months was introduced and reintroduced. Apparently some went so far as to denounce any woman showing up to the meeting wearing hose under the supposition that they must be pantyhose. Finally the church split into two groups--those that said that wearing pantyhose was a grievous offense to God, and those that said that God probably didn't give much thought to the matter of pantyhose, having other things on his mind. My grandmother and her sister ended up in opposite camps, with my ever-sensible grandmother being threatened with hellfire for the sheer temerity of wearing pantyhose (pun intended).

This story is true. I don't know all of the details, but I keep it in my treasury of "protestantism gone wild" stories. One thing it demonstrates profoundly and that is the wisdom of the Church's teaching on the interpretation of scripture. I won't say this can't happen here, but if one interprets scripture in accord with Church teaching, it is far more difficult for the Church to split over pantyhose.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from July 2002.

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