"A Strong Sense of Dogmatic Certitude and Faithfulness"

I recently received an email from Brian Coyne, the editor of the Catholica website recommending this article by Dr Andrew Kania (a regular contributor to Catholica)in the Tablet: “Let other lights shine”.

Except for a slight uneasiness in the way in which “new” rites emerge in the Church (the Latin Church recently experienced the imposition of a “new rite” prepared hastily by a committee and it wasn’t all that happy), I would say that what Kania says is true, and is recognised as true by the Church.

But I do note one paragraph that might not be entirely to Brian’s taste despite his energetic defence of the article:

For the call to ritual diversity within the Church – the establishment of new rites, and new sui juris Churches, is one that demands from the architects of such planning a strong sense of dogmatic certitude and faithfulness. A compass is only useful inasmuch as it tells the traveller where a certain direction lies from the place in which they are holding the device. If one does not know where they are dogmatically speaking, all they will do is eventually lead others into a nowhere land.

Can Brian honestly say that Catholica is a website which encourages “a strong sense of dogmatic certitude and faithfulness”? When leaders (lay or clerical) urge the Church in directions that are not characterised by such a sense, the final destination is indeed, as Dr Kania so wonderfully puts it, “nowhere land”.

Note that Kania is not suggesting that a “strong sense of dogmatic certitude” alone is sufficient, but also “faithfulness”. I am sure that Brian has “dogmatic certitude” in spades, its just that by his own admission, “faithfulness” to the dogma of the Church is not such a strong point…

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4 Responses to "A Strong Sense of Dogmatic Certitude and Faithfulness"

  1. Brian Coyne says:

    Thanks for your email, David. I have posted your comment on Catholica also along with my own responses to the question you directed at myself. See: http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/forum_entry.php?id=16711

    Brian Coyne
    Catholica Australia

  2. Schütz says:

    Here is Brian’s full response:

    Andrew and I have had some long and fascinating skype discussions on precisely this point of the place of dogma. In the long run I suspect Andrew Kania and I would be much closer in our thinking on this subject with each other than either of us might be with yourself. In the end the difference comes down to what we define as being “dogmatic”. There are many things that conservative, insecure or uneducated Catholics might define as “dogmatic” which is in fact not defined by the institution as “dogmatic”.

    At heart, if you have followed my arguments closely, you might appreciate that I am actually fairly close in my thinking to the position that Dr Kania advances. I do think it is ultimately those dogmatic questions that largely define our “Catholic identity”. The question, as I posed long ago on the old CathNews discussion forum “what are the core dogmas, precisely, that one needs to subscribe to in order to define oneself as a Catholic?” Are they, for example, only limited to the credal statements? Or do they encompass every paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Or do they extend to every paragraph in the Catechism, plus all the footnotes, plus all the encyclicals, quotations from Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers down through the ages referred to in the Catechism. Or do they refer to all the foregoing plus the Code of Canon Law as well? I have not yet received the courtesy of a response from anyone in authority within the institution to my query. Do you have the authority to answer my question? And do you have an answer — with or without any discussion of your authority to provide a definitive answer?

    The problem, at least to me, is what others have defined as “creeping infallibility”. Some people are of a mind to try and define — whether they actually understand that this is what they are doing or not — virtually everything the Catholic Church and the Popes have had to say about every subject undere heaven as “dogmatic” or even “infallible”. That is actually not what the Church teaches — or has ever taught. The dogma of the Church is actually quite limited in scope. (In the question I posed so long ago on the CNDB I was essentially trying to understand how limited the scope is?)

    At heart, I actually agree with Dr Kania’s perspective on this matter as you have quoted it. Where you and I would more than probably disagree is what falls within the scope of being labelled as “dogmatic”?

    The objective of Catholica is not some kindergarten game of running around trying to constantly prove what faithful or obedient tykes we all are and how everybody else in the world are unfaithful, or disobedient, or “sinners”. We are endeavouring to create a community that excites people about the wisdom, the insight, the love and the peace offered by Jesus Christ if one bothers to take the trouble to discern “the Way” of Jesus Christ. “The Way” of Jesus Christ though is not necessarily “the way” of some people in the world who think of themselves as Jesus’ “most faithful or obedient” disciples. Some of them are clearly “loopy” — and not just within the Christian denominations separated from Catholicism. You can find plenty of them on the “Catholic” websites that define themselves as the “most faithful to the Magisterium”! In particular, here at Catholica, we are endeavouring to provide some kind of outreach to the more educated sectors in Western society who are amongst the sectors who have become most disenchanted with what the institution has to say about anything much these days. We don’t see ourselves as engaged in any endeavour of trying to browbeat anybody into what they have to believe. I think I can more or less speak on behalf of the community to say that we are endeavouring to stimulate a conversation about why it might be an intelligent thing to follow Jesus Christ and to think in an authentically “Catholic way”. I suspect many in our community would disagree with the definition that some people on other “faithful to the Magisterium” websites and discussion boards might attribute to the word “authentic” in the previous sentence.

    Brian Coyne

    And his post-script:

    An additional problem to the one already discussed in the previous post is the problem we run into when we get down into the nitty-gritty of what might be meant by a particular "dogmatic statement". A good example of this is the discussion I contributed to a little while ago on the "Virgin Birth" — which is a Credal belief. As I argued in that post I believe the credal statement as a "statement of faith". Some Catholics would argue that this means it is to be understood in the contemporary understanding we have of what it means to be virginal. I remain open on that question for the reasons I argued at slightly greater length in that other post. I have no doubt that some would be very emphatic, even dogmatic, in their belief that Brian Coyne is a heretic and that he does not accept this dogma of the Catholic Church. I am pretty certain there would even be some gentlemen in the Holy See who would be prepared to swear on a stack of Bibles that they know with absolute certainty the genetic and chromosonal make-up of Jesus Christ and that this would prove the scientific "virginity" of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of course most intelligent people in the world today would know they would be talking through their hat. The Church, rightly, treats many of these subjects as residing in the realms of "Mystery" and our language, even dogmas, are an "imperfect" way of endeavouring to penetrate "the Mysteries of our faith".

    Brian Coyne (Editor & Publisher)

  3. Schütz says:

    Brian asked: “what are the core dogmas, precisely, that one needs to subscribe to in order to define oneself as a Catholic?”

    Well, you see, I think that is exactly where Brian and I differ. I don’t ask “What’s the minimum I have to believe in order still to have the right to call myself Catholic?”.

    I ask: “How does the Church think on this matter?” and then, following the dictum “Sentire cum Ecclesia”, work to align my thinking with the thinking of the Church.

    To ask what are “core dogmas” is to suggest that that there are “non-core dogmas”. Rings a little of the famous “non-core promises” statement by our former PM…

    When I was received into the Catholic Church, I was asked the simple question: “Do you believe and profess all the the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God?”.

    I think this is a pretty good indication of which dogmas (ie. truths which the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God) are “core” dogmas to be accepted by all Catholics.

    The answer is: All of them.

  4. Schütz says:

    Well, there have been all sorts of silly comments from one “Cliffy” on the Catholica newsboard (see: http://www.catholica.com.au:80/forum/board_entry.php?id=16711&page=0&order=time&category=0). Thanks for the tip off, Arabella.

    I’m not a registered member of the Catholica discussion board, so I can’t comment there. But I will make a short comment here.

    “a strong sense of dogmatic certitude and faithfulness certainly emanates from this former Lutheran pastor, but its sense does not seem capable of comprehension of pluralistic realities in the Church, and David Schutz’s dogmatism, certitude and faithfulness seem to stem from his own peculiar No Names brand of Catholicism which is only rescued by the apparent approval of his employer Archbishop Hart and strange conservative forces.

    You know, I kind of like that “no names brand of Catholicism” stuff. If that means that I am neither left nor right, liberal or traditionalist, or whatever other sort of label you want to put on me, then I am very, very happy to have the “no name” brand applied to “my kind of catholicism”. It’s just plain old, homebrand catholicism without any of the frills.

    As for imitating my employer in this matter, well, what am I to say other than that I am rather proud to imitate him on a regular basis (as St Paul said to his flock “Be imitators of me”).

    For someone in the field of interfaith Mr Schutz does not seem to have the breadth of vision to pass muster. He’d be well advised to read Cardinal Cassidy’s book for a start.

    Does this guy think that I am some sort of ecumenical/interfaith novice? My friend, Cardinal C., didn’t exactly give me a copy of his book to proof read before publication, but I would have been one of the first to read it from cover to cover. And last time he and I were driving to a meeting together we had the opportunity to talk about many aspects of our common passion for ecumenism and interfaith relations. It is sad to hear that he has not been in the best of health lately and that we didn’t get to see him at WYD.

    Schutz’s swipe at Catholica ruins his comment in my view. I hope that I am wrong, but there’s more than a touch of the smart alec demonstrated there.

    I can never resist the opportunity to have a swipe at Catholica whenever it is justified. And as for the “smart alec” charge – it is a part of my charm!

    David in his latest blog does not betray the slightest comprehension of the notion of hierarchy of belief in the Catholic Church. For example, some people have absolute faith in lighting a votive candle (I am one of them) or in the use of holy water, or Stations of the Cross, of saying the Rosary before a statue of Our Lady etc.

    I understand quite well the idea of the hierarchy of doctrines, but it is an abuse of this idea to use it as an excuse to dismiss doctrines that are further down the food chain. Rather, the idea of a ‘hierarchy’ is intended to give us a notion of the structure of belief. Some dogmas are necessarily prior to others – this does not mean that the secondary dogmas are optional.

    As for lighting votive candles etc. When were these ever dogmas of the Church?

    The essentials of being a Catholic are quite minimum.

    It is precisely this mindset which I reject. It is not a “catholic” (ie. “according the whole”) approach. “Catholic” literally means “whole box of dice”. I’ve tried the “minimum” form of catholicism. It’s called protestantism. Didn’t like it. Wanted the full deal.

    The Church does not want robot non-thinkers. This kind of blind loyalty can lead to great harm, and a self-indulgent, superior evangelism that leaves no space for others.

    To “think with the Church” is not to be a non-thinker. It is rather to train one thinking so that it is brought into line with the Spirit of Christ acting within the Church. It requires a great deal of thinking – a sort of “connect the dots” between “Thus saith the Lord” and my own heart and mind and soul and body.

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