"Come on in… it's awful!"

"Come on in! It's Awful" by Joanna Bogle

Of course, this is the well known title of the book by Joanna Bogle (click the picture to go to the Google books page). But never was a truer word spoken. We Catholics are not under any illusions about how bad things are in Holy Mother Church. Past Elder, when he used to frequent this blog, delighted in calling her a “whore” rather than a “mother”. We can see how he might come to that conclusion.

Here is a less colourful, but rather more extended critique of things as they stand, from an article by Philip Blosser [ ‘The Kasper-Ratzinger Debate and the State of the Church’]:

With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of Tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like U.N. meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous.

No wonder a gap is widening between the Church’s official teachings and the actual practices of many local churches! No wonder the Church’s official positions are implemented with increasing reluctance or simply ignored! For over two generations our faith formation has been shaped by a media culture that has portrayed our Church as a dinosaur that is either an impediment to social progress or simply irrelevant. We are blinded by ignorance. Where there is no vision, the people perish. The truth is that our Church’s traditions and teachings have not been tried and found wanting; they have been found demanding and are no longer tried.

Many blame the Second Vatican Council and 1968 and all that, but the roots of the current problems in the Church (I have it on good authority) go back long before that. One scholar (in a yet to be published book) reckons the rot can be traced back to the rise of nominalism in the fourteenth century…

And yet still we say: Come on in! Still we urge our brothers and sisters in other communions to come into full communion with the bishop of Rome. Still we carry on evangelising and baptising and raising people in the faith in this Church. Why don’t we just give up on her and go elsewhere? (Of course, there are many – most of them over on Catholica – whose litany of woes in the Church would be the direct opposite of Blosser’s above, and yet who also show a decided attachment to the Old Mother and show no signs of bailing out just yet!).

I believe it is because we are convinced that this “whore”, this “old woman” is, warts and all, the Bride of Christ. The two texts that stand out most for me are: John 6:68 (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”) and Matt 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” They give one a kind of reckless optimism which nothing can extinguish.

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211 Responses to "Come on in… it's awful!"

  1. Louise says:

    They give one a kind of reckless optimism which nothing can extinguish.

    LOL! Yes.

  2. PM says:

    As I have reached middle age and (at least sometimes) shed the intolerant streak that often goes with youthful enthusiasm, I have learned to love the messiness that goes with Holy Mother Church. A body of a billion people can never, Deo gratias, become a mere narrow sect for people who think they are perfect – and there is room in it even for spiritual mediocrities like me. ‘Here comes everyone.’

  3. Anne says:

    Our beautiful church is “The Word” of Jesus which He spoke from the Cross and it came to birth.
    Yes this “Word” is made up of many nuances but it is still the “Word” (bride) of Christ and beloved by Him.

  4. Christine says:

    A sect? No, the RC is so roomy there’s never going to be any danger of her being a sect. As long as one maintains even the most tenuous connection to the institution and assents to the “unity” of the Bishop of Rome, all is well.

    There was an article in Our Sunday Visitor back around 1996 or so that opined that since most people don’t have the “gift” for truly religious life (meaning, of course, the consecrated life) the RC makes room for people at all levels. The most “gifted” will live at the “highest level” of religious life, those not so gifted will do a little more than just attend Sunday Mass and try to keep the Ten Commandments while the “least gifted” will just make do with the very basics.

    What a sad assessment. I have long since ceased to be impressed with the “billions” of Catholics on the planet, many of whom are basically baptized pagans, which John Paul II readily acknowledged. Perfection is not the issue, none of us is, faithfulness to the Gospel is.


  5. Matthias says:

    These criticisms can also be levelled at other churches.
    Pentecostalism for their allowing of the prosperity heresy
    Anglicanism for not as a body standing up for the Gospel but revelling in cultural relevance
    Baptists and Church of Christ for letting in at times at their services a triumphalism that is praising what they have achieved ,rather than what God has done and is doing.
    Orthodoxy for allowing themselves at times to identify Christianity with nationhood or membership of a particular ethno-cultural group. ie look at Tolstoys writings “Amongst the Cossacks” to see this or The Fourth balkans war ie the troubles in the Former Yugolsavia ,serve as an example of this.But let us not forget that the Third Balkans War ie what occurred in the same area during WW2 when Croatian Catholic Ustashi Government persecuted Serbian orthodox .
    What about that long term Irish joke-Northern Ireland when protestants and catholics fought each other in the most horrendous way. Certainly no True Christian would sanction that.
    . i believe Christine has hit the nail on the head.Faithfulness to the Gospel , following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Your comment was called to my attention by another reader.

    Actually David, the “messiness” you discuss has nothing whatever to do with why the RCC is a whore rather than a mother let along mother church.

    Nor do I delight in the description.

    All church bodies, including my own, are full of messiness, and on any given day, I may be part of it.

    So, that is not at all why I came to that conclusion, or reject the Catholic Church (to be distinguished from Catholics) as the catholic church, or even these days, as the Catholic Church.

    I have made my case for why I came to that conclusion as much as I am going to on this blog.

  7. Christine says:

    Matthias, there is one very important factor that you have left out. None of the churches you have mentioned make the monumental claims for themselves that the Catholic church does, so the burden of proof is on her.

    I have found the evidence wanting.


  8. Matthias says:

    Well i was not going to mention that seeing as i am a guest on this website

  9. Brian Coyne says:

    Perhaps a couple of decades ago, David, Joanna Bogle might have been a hero in my eyes. Today I read these sort of people and all I want to do is run outside, stick two fingers down my throat and throw up. I honestly don’t believe they offer a “way forward” for Catholicism. The prospect I think we honestly face is the one Benedict predicted, or is trying to facilitate: “a smaller, purer Church” that is basically irrelevant to the vast masses in society. I think he, and they, are now almost deliberately fulfilling their own predictions and trying to create “a museum of the remnant”.

    The vast majority have just given up (thinking about anything much). Young people today don’t know what those of us who experienced the excitement, the dynamism and hope that was unleashed in the Church following the Second Vatican Council are talking about. That “excitement, the dynamism and hope” is not something that is easily conveyed by words. Pell, Benedict and Co believe they can re-evangelise the Church by appealing to the appetites of a small minority in the youthful population — those the vast majority of young people classify as “odd balls”, “social misfits” or “nutters” but this side of hell freezing over they’re never going to be able to communicate with the societal mainstream.

    The irony, as I and other writers/researchers keep suggesting, is that there is actually a tremendous amount of “spiritual vibrancy” in human civilisation at the moment. But the vast majority have turned elsewhere to find it. We see it in the rise of what I call “secular liturgies” — we see them at sporting events, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, News Years Eve in Sydney, Australia Day celebrations in other States, and a “local dynamism” in liturgy in, say, Catholic schools (but not in parishes). Young people almost universally report in surveys of attitudes about Catholic schools that they “love the liturgies”. They can’t find anything equivalent when they leave school and in addition they find a lot of “old lifer language” that turns them off in their droves. We also see it in the extraordinary growth of published, commercial literature on what are broadly “spiritual” subjects and themes.

    You, David, are an interesting character — and, if I may say so, something of an abberation. You’ve recently come wandering into Catholicism and seem magnetically attracted to a particular view or “culture” of Catholicism. It is the one shared by Benedict but it is not the one shared by the vast, vast majority who were brought up Catholic from the cradle. You seem to love a particular liturgical feel, a particular type of language (that many today find quaint), similarly for a certain type of (what do you call it?) “Christian manners”. I humbly submit, a lot of the rest of us have “moved on” from all of that. We no longer believe it leads to salvation, happiness or the peace ‘which surpasses all human understanding’ promised by Jesus Christ. We’ve given up waiting for priests or popes to provide even a semblance of leadership spiritually.

    I think the stark choice the human family faces in regards to Catholicism today is between the picture broadly presented by the likes of yourself and the essayists in Joanna Bogle’s book and this search for what I label as “real Divine Truth” — what is the Spirit saying to me in my life today/how do I make the real meaningful and truthful moral choices in my life that really do lead to salvation and what Jesus Christ promised. We are disillusioned with the leadership who are unable to acknowledge the damage done by sexual abuse. We no longer believe God speaks down through some exclusive “hotline” to the Pope. He, and his predecessor were very fallible human beings driven by ego, wanting to please our mums (or the archetype models of perfection they planted in us along with their breast milk) and all the things that drive you and me. There is not “priesthood” of the “especially annointed by God”. Our Creator-God speaks not through any particular individual, including the Pope, but “through all of humanity”. The role of the priesthood — if it should survive into the future — has to be pastoral rather than dogmatic or as the “magic men” who confect Divine miracles on an altar. They have to become the facilitators of the world-wide conversation of what our Creator-God is saying “THROUGH ALL PEOPLE”. They have to re-envisage themselves as the ones who help us (the whole of humanity) discern what is of Divine Origin amidst the cacaphony thrown up by our own egos and our own fears and the white noise generated by technology and civilisation itself.

    I genuinely feel sorry for people who think the likes of Joanna Bogle, Ann Widdencombe (did you see the online debate where she recently got trounced?) or by the thinking of men like Pope Benedict or your own local hero, Cardinal Pell. All they have to offer us is a “museum for the remnant”. They might have some short-term success still appealing to the under-educated masses in the Third World but if the long term trend in human civilisation is maintained within a few more decades the “vast masses in Asia” will have access to the same levels of affluence, secular education and social sophistication we take for granted in the First World and perhaps only a few generations after them the great masses of the poor and uneducated in Africa and South America will be experiencing or aspiring to it all as well. Where will the “great recruitment policies of Benedict and JPII” be then?

    Cheers, Brian Coyne

  10. Christine says:

    The two texts that stand out most for me are: John 6:68 (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”) and Matt 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

    With the understanding, of course, that they are read differently by millions of Orthodox and other Christians outside of Rome’s jurisdiction.


    • Christine et al,
      As it happens, I recently added some patristic comments on the second verse David quotes over at lutherancatholicity.blogspot.com, and I have more to follow.

      (Blatant link bait, I know, but it is relevant.)

  11. Christine says:

    I do feel compelled to point out to Mr. Coyne that Christianity is doing quite well in Africa and Asia, and not only among the “uneducated” (the “anawim”, who were so beloved of Christ).

    But then, the liberal version of the Gospel is so far from the mind of Christ and the Word of God I hardly know where to start.


  12. Matthias says:

    Could Brian Coyne perhaps consider joining the Quakers as what he has talked about under the area of “the search’ fits them,nad at least he would be theologically comfortable and find people of his own perusasion.
    I also concur with Christine around the orthodox and other denominations reading Scripture and who has the keys of the kingdom differently. and yes mr Coyne the Christian church is doing very well-Catholic,orthodox,protestant and charismatic-in Africa and Asia,at the interface with islam and often under extreme persecution.they hold to the truth of the Gospel.
    and nice dig at schutz being an aberration mr Coyne and sayig that you have moved on from where he sits. All you are doing is repeating the modernism of Protestantism i saw in the 1960s’ but as Solomon says “there is nothing new under the sun”.

    Christine i need to ask are you Proddy,Catholic or Orthodox,anyway thanks for the stimulating conversation before i go to Church

  13. Louise says:

    I genuinely feel sorry for people who think the likes of Joanna Bogle, Ann Widdencombe (did you see the online debate where she recently got trounced?) or by the thinking of men like Pope Benedict or your own local hero, Cardinal Pell.


    A few years from know I suppose you will have “moved on” from the Trinity.

    A few years after that you will likely “move on” from reality.

    Re: the interpretation of the Bible. Whose Bible is it? Who decided which books are in the canon and which are not and by what authority? Who had the authority to determine which ideas were truly Christian and which were heretical, as regards the identity and nature of Christ?

  14. Louise says:

    There is not “priesthood” of the “especially annointed by God”. Our Creator-God speaks not through any particular individual, including the Pope, but “through all of humanity”. The role of the priesthood — if it should survive into the future — has to be pastoral rather than dogmatic or as the “magic men” who confect Divine miracles on an altar. They have to become the facilitators of the world-wide conversation of what our Creator-God is saying “THROUGH ALL PEOPLE”.

    Who says? Do you just have fun making up all this stuff?

  15. Matthias says:

    I think Louise that Brian is trying to show us he credentials for being “progressive”.I repeat that if he were honest ,that he would find himself very comfortable in the Quakers or in the UCA where the pastoral priesthood as in all protestant churches has been present for a long time.

  16. Schütz says:

    Well, Brian, all I can say in reply is that if my take on Catholicism is the same as the Pope’s, it can’t be too much of an abheration!

  17. Louise says:

    those the vast majority of young people classify as “odd balls”, “social misfits” or “nutters” but this side of hell freezing over they’re never going to be able to communicate with the societal mainstream.

    Actually, it’s very easy to show that “progressive” ideas (particularly in relations to that pesky commandment about adultery) are pretty well insane, so being described as a “nutter” for holding contrary views is hardly a problem.

    They might have some short-term success still appealing to the under-educated masses in the Third World

    Patronising much?

    I honestly don’t believe they offer a “way forward” for Catholicism.

    Why would the Church need a “way forward”? Towards what?

    The only question of any relevance is whether or not the Church is right.

  18. Louise says:

    Interesting article here, Brian:

    Also, some non-religious reasons to consider the current milieu to be nuts:

    Flouting ancient moral codes is the postmodern version of the proverbial rich guy lighting cigars with $20 bills.

  19. Brian Coyne says:

    It’s aberration, David, in the sense that 86% of the baptised have walked out the door across the face of the Western world. Who’s the minority who believe they alone know the truth or are the guardians of the truth? Certainly if you believe God speaks exclusively through the Holy Father and our only pathway to salvation is by agreeing with everything the Holy Father says in a role that you believe he has been appointed to by the Almighty Himself then it is not an aberration. The vast majority of the baptised though no longer seem convinced by that picture.

    Time will be the ultimate decider as to who got the correct picture in their minds. We are all effectively betting our lives, and salvation, on that aren’t we?

    • Tom says:

      Brian, I’m sorry – but what you’re saying just doesn’t make sense. If one wants to be a Catholic, one must be a part of the Catholic Church, which is formed by communion with the Holy Father. If you don’t want to be in communion with the Holy Father, then be a schismatic, but don’t pretend you’re still being a Catholic, because that’s just not what a Catholic is.

    • Schütz says:

      86% of the baptised have walked out the door across the face of the Western world

      Have you ever heard the word “apostacy”, Brian? It is a real possibility, one which the Scriptures warn us is in fact an eschatological likelihood, and one which does not respect democratic majorities and minorities.

      • Brian Coyne says:

        David, I think apostacy is a real problem but not as big a problem as you seem to believe. If we take the 86% figure of those who have left across the Western world I am sure Benedict and JP’s arguments about apostacy and them (to use my words) being sucked out of the Church by the allures of secularism, consumerism, nihilism, etc. does carry SOME credibility. Some of left for those reasons. I don’t know if anyone has done deep research into it but my anecdotal sense is that it could be perhaps half of the 86%. A heck of a lot though have not left because of apostacy. They simply do not believe the agendas that Benedict, JPII and friends have endeavoured to impose on the institution since Vatican II. They disagree with the direction these pontiffs have endeavoured to take the Church (while all the while proclaiming that what they’re really doing is finding the ‘true spirit’ of Vatican II. What utter bullsh#t. Where are you George Orwell and NewSpeak?) The vibrancy and energy that was in the Church through the sixties, seventies and even into the 1980s has all been snuffed out as these zealots, at every turn, have endeavoured to undo Vatican II and return Catholicism to some feudal, clerical state where salvation is promised through a formula of “Pray, Pay and Obey”. Many, many people no longer believe it and have gone off searching for alternative — principally into a private exploration. The needs of those people are not being attended to while this incessant panding to the insecurities of a tiny minority of the Catholica population goes on.

        So, yes, I agree with you that to some extent apostacy is a problem. But what about all those who have left but not for reasons of apostacy — losing their faith and belief in God altogether?

  20. vynette says:

    I followed a link to this blog from Catholica and I would like to ask you, Louise, what you consider to be the answers to the rhetorical [I think] questions you posed.

    “Whose Bible is it? Who decided which books are in the canon and which are not and by what authority? Who had the authority to determine which ideas were truly Christian and which were heretical, as regards the identity and nature of Christ?”

    What answers would you provide to these questions?

    • Louise says:

      Well, the Church wrote the New Testament and decided which books were to be included in the canon and which were just ordinary books (or letters).

      • vynette says:


        I cannot believe that you are serious when you say that the “Church wrote the New Testament and decided which books were to be included in the canon…”

        Surely you don’t believe this…do you?

        • Louise says:

          Well… who did then?

          • vynette says:


            I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that when you used the word “Church,” you were referring particularly to the Roman Catholic Church. If you were, then your statement is erroneous.

            • Louise says:

              I was. Why is it erroneous?

            • vynette says:


              From apostolic times, the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were in possession of the various materials which form our present New Testament.

              The formation of the canon was due to a growing grass-roots consensus rather than a decision that was handed down by ecclesiastical authorities. The canon was not imposed by Eastern or Western church leaders or by councils. They stand at the end of the process rather than at the beginning.

              When the first official canonical list identical to the New Testament we have today appeared in 367 AD, it was not compiled by the Bishop of Rome but by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria. This list merely ratified the books considered “canonical” which had been in use in the various communities for nearly three centuries.

              No action of a council or a synod was early enough to have had a decisive influence on the course of events. The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.

            • Louise says:

              From apostolic times, the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were in possession of the various materials which form our present New Testament.

              I know that. Thanks. These writers were members of the Church, yes?

              The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.

              I’m assuming your comment is correct. The point is that someone with legitimate authority was able to ratify the general opinion of the Faithful.

              By comparison, during the Reformation, which person decided to remove certain books and portions of books from the canon? By what authority did they do so?

            • vynette says:


              When you say “These writers were members of the Church…” you still don’t specify which Church you are referring to.

              Is it an Eastern church, or a Western church, or what?

            • Louise says:

              *The* Church, vynette, *the* Church; the one that Christ founded.

              “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”

              (not churches)

            • Son of Trypho says:

              The Christian communities were guided by Apostolic Tradition and had their own recognisable hierarchies (presbyters, deacons) or if you prefer authorities/leadership who were derived from the Apostles.

              This Tradition is where the Church derives non-Scriptural doctrines noting of course that the NT is itself an example of the process of living Tradition.

            • vynette says:

              Son of Trypho,

              I only accept doctrines based on the New Testament. If they are not tried and tested against the teachings of the New Testament, then they are worthless, in my opinion of course.

              Let us not work backwards from tradition, but forwards from the New Testament. Only then will we be able to see if the Hellenist and Latin “fathers” were correct in their formulations of doctrine.

              Now, unlike the Hebrews apostles and the Hebrew Jesus, Hellenist theology extolled “virginity” and “virgin” mothers. The minds of the Hellenist fathers, including Ignatius, were set in the key of a different structure to that of the Hebrews and they retrojected onto the New Testament documents elements from their own prevailing religions. They did not understand the Hebrew mindset or its modes of expression. They did not understand Hebrew messianic expectations or the Hebrew concept of God.

              Ignatius introduced the idea of a “virgin-birth” because such a notion was already present in his mind. In reality, it was an attempt to explain away what the infancy narratives clearly reveal – that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of man other than Joseph.

              So, does the New Testament record a virgin birth/virgin conception or not?

              A complete analysis will be very lengthy so I will leave it up to David as to whether I proceed on this thread. Or on any thread.

            • Son of Trypho says:


              Being a Hebrew Catholic myself, I’m fascinated by your seeming assertion that virgin birth ideas were unknown to the Hebrews or ancient Jews – I recall Isaiah 7.14 referring to such a concept.

              You do recognise the OT don’t you?

              Similarly, I disagree with your assertion that Ignatius was unable to understand the Hebrew mindset etc. Antioch had a significant Jewish population and many of the Christians of Antioch were Jewish converts, many would have been first and second generation converts. Ignatius was clearly aware of Jewish issues cf. his letter Ad Magn.

              And again, if the NT was a product of Apostolic Tradition how then can you deny non-Scriptural doctrines which originate from Tradition?

            • vynette says:

              Son of Trypho,

              Well, your assertion that Isaiah 7:14 refers to a virgin-birth merely proves my point that Ignatius and others simply did not understand ancient Hebrew thinking. Proximity does not mean understanding.

              Virgins were not extolled in ancient Hebrew thought.

              The text of Isaiah 7:14 reads “hinneh ha-almah harah” – “behold, the young woman is pregnant” – and refers to a young woman in Isaiah’s own time.

              I can most easily deny doctrines which are not based on the New Testament. New Testament writings first, everything else second – that’s the only safe and sure way to proceed.

              If we cannot agree to debate the content of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament only, there is no point in continuing.

            • Joshua says:

              Dear Vynette,

              (Is that your name? It’s nice, but I’ve not heard it before)

              You wrote:

              “If we cannot agree to debate the content of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament only, there is no point in continuing.”

              Well, have you not noted the very title of this blog: Sentire cum Ecclesia – “To think with the Church”?

              As Catholics, the blog owner and many of us poor commenters here do hold that “to think with the Church” means embracing not the Scriptures alone (I note you are amusingly P.C. about referring to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Scriptures, yet still call the New the New, in contradistinction to-?), but accepting the Church’s own declaration that we embrace Divine Revelation mediated through the canonical Scriptures and sacred Tradition.

              Hence, it would seem by your argument that “there is no point in continuing” – but I hope you will continue to learn from us! ;-)

            • Son of Trypho says:


              I agree – I see no further value in continuing the discussion with you.

              You are requiring everyone else to agree to the parameters that your setting which define your positions – a stance which is not conducive to open and free discussion.

        • Louise says:

          Also, I believe in the Trinity, Virgin Birth etc, so you could hardly be surprised that I might see other things differently.

        • Son of Trypho says:

          God is the author of Sacred Scripture.

  21. Matthias says:

    brian only one pathway to Salvation,Jesus Christ,not the Pope.Deny that then why call yourself a Christian let alone a catholic

    • Schütz says:

      I am not implying that communion with the Holy Father is a means of salvation (although communion in God’s Holy Church is, and the Holy Father is the Universal Pontif of the Holy Church, so go figure), but I am saying that communion with the Holy Father and submission to his teaching authority is a requirement for Catholic faithfulness. Which is not, I think, too big a thing to say.

  22. Brian Coyne says:

    You might find this hard to believe, Matthias. I don’t think I am denying one bit of what you write. In fact that is my very point. I think it is others who substitute Popes, and rules, and other things in place of the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ. That is in fact the whole thrust of my argument and all that I stand for.

    • Schütz says:

      If you think I “substituted Popes, and rules, and other things in place of the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ” you are much mistaken, Brian.

      However, I believe your difficulty is that you believe that the “Popes, and rules, and other things” of the Catholic Church are somehow in opposition to “the “Way” offered by Jesus Christ”, rather than (as most readers of this blog believe) a reliable guide to the “The Way” of Christ.

      • Brian Coyne says:

        David, by coincidence, the extract from Tom Lee’s exploration of the origins of Christianity which we published on Catholica today covers Vincent of Lerins who was the first to try and formulate a response to heresy and how the people decide when the Church has run off the rails. Why are you so sure Benedict has the right formula? My confidence is not so much buoyed by the 86% the “majority” that interests me far more is what the “majority” of bishops in the Church discerned the Holy Spirit was saying at the Second Vatican Council. The anecdotal evidence is that the vast majority of bishops did not expect Vatican II to result in any radical departure from the past. Vatican II was not some plot by the radical bishops of the world. By and large they were very conservative men. Yet something happened at that Council and they did end up moving the Church in a completely new direction — one away from clericalism and re-envisaging the Church as in a real sense “the Body of Christ” — priests and the laity working together … a ‘communio’ or true communion of the people of God. That has been overturned by this small gaggle of malcontents who, at every turn, have plotted and schemed to undo the express discernment of the vast majority of bishops. Since then we have had these attempts to stack the College of Bishops on a number of continents and it is truly disgraceful. Our bishops have been effectively gagged from representing their people and have been turning into “branch managers of head office”.

        I appreciate one of the things that attracted you to Catholicism, and it has long been embodied in the very title of your blog is that you do sincerely believe Benedict and JPII have been on the right track. Many disagree with you. After long discernment over a decade and a half, I disagree with you. I think JPII was a disaster. More people left the institution during his pontificate than in any other pontificate in history. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when he was called to account and see how all the stage acting and ‘media savvy’ stacked up against the real facts? Benedict, by his policy decisions, particularly those of the last 18 months-2 years has only accelerated the whole process.

        • Schütz says:

          Brian, note that, by and large, Vatican II, in Dei Verbum, actually rejected Vincent of Lerins formula for deciding what was and was not true Tradition, true Catholicism.

    • matthias says:

      Well I hope so brian .i am not catholic ,just Baptist,and like Luther-no offence here to my brethren in Christ ,who are Catholic-i stand bound by Scripture and my conscience.

  23. Joshua says:

    I can see your argument, Brian, but I don’t agree with it. It seems to show you don’t agree with the Catholic Church, in which case, why not do a South Brisbane? I believe Gamaliel’s advice is pertinent here. But remember that truth lies not with the majority vote in matters of revealed truth. The crowd will always choose Barabbas. I do know what you mean by your caricature of those who are in the faithful-to-Pope side of the equation, but it is a little cruel. There can be a tendency to look down one’s nose…

    I myself turned away from liberal modernism because of its bitterness and nastiness as well as because of what I learnt of religion. Increasingly, I came to see it as a manifestation of left-wing intolerant ideologues (anyone wanna burn a climate change denier? ).

    I don’t believe your examples (e.g. Yay, we had a liturgical dance and hand-waving at school Mass) suggest any great flowering of a free, happy, vibrant non-Papal Catholicism, just a lot of wishy-washy ideas that lead to nothing much (yes, the parish liturgies – apart from the very few in the EF! ;-) – are terrible, but they’re terrible because of tired seventies gits; and no, them youf who like the school carryings-on are not thereby impelled to do anything; they just drift off). Time will tell.

    But do you really think that if – for argument’s sake – we Aussie Catholics (from Pell down to you and me) could thumb our noses at nasty ol’ BXVI and do as you say, producing a sort of imitation Anglicanism of the Spong variety, that it would actually achieve your desiderata of a liberated mass movement back to God, delivered from outmoded morality and antiquated notions of faith? If anything, it would only speed the total victory of religious apathy I firmly reason.

    Catholicism in Australia is simultaneously too weak and too strong – it is too weak, in that nearly all its local instantiations are embarrassingly vacuous; and too strong, because everyone knows the basics of official Catholic teaching, which are yet not believed nor even given much apologetic explanation, producing the fatal image of an organization whose members only pretend subscription to its tenets, which, unexplained, appear as nonsense for silly fools. The schizophrenia within Catholicism is fatal, and scandalizes even those outside – ecumenical dialogue partners routinely report that the Catholics they discuss with will cheerfully deny Catholic teachings in a most disconcerting manner, repelling and repulsing those who are there out of some sincere interest in discussing these vexed issues, and not very impressed to find their putative defenders unashamedly bagging them!

    • Brian Coyne says:

      Yes, Joshua, I can understand you moving in the opposite direction to me. Some do. It just so happens the vast majority seems to have been swimming in the direction I’ve found myself moving. For a long, long time I bucked the trend and was as fervent and committed for the sort of agendas that some of you in this place are still trying to push.

      You’ll probably get upset when I write this but I write it with sincerity. Yes, I honestly do think writers and thinkers like John Shelby Spong, Hans Kung, Karen Armstrong, Michael Morwood and others do present, or are exploring, alternative theologies, Christologies and Pneumenologies that provide a better understanding of the relationship God calls his people into. I don’t necessarily believe slavishly everything they say — and on some matters I disagree with some of what they write just as they sometimes also disagree with one another. I do think our God is speaking to humanity in new ways and through the sciences (which are not some human invention but an “uncovering of the very structure and laws of Creation which were created by the One whom we believers worship as God”) and through advances in knowledge in other disciplines and it is incumbent upon us to adapt our thinking to the new understandings and insights these things give us into the nature of the Mystery we try to condense into the word “God”. God is not static. Never has been. I believe deeply that our Creator-God is in dynamic relationship with Creation, and each of us. The heart of the spiritual quest is to try and discern what God is say to me (each of us individually) and us. That implies, ipso-facto a very personal and dynamic relationship. We are not here primarily to obey a whole set of laws that were inscribed on tablets of stone back in the mists of time.

      We are called on to make intelligent decisions, make the right moral call, in the nitty-gritty of lived life. How do you respond when your daughter comes home pregnant and wants to have an abortion? How do you respond when you find your boss has his hand in the till but if you squeal you’ll lose your livelihood? Catholicism is not some game of running around the streets of civilisation trying to demonstrate that we know God’s Right to Life Agenda. It is demonstrating that when the shit hits the fan in your life, or in your family’s life, you can demonstrate you can actually make the correct moral choice that enables all the parties that are involved make intelligent moral choices and grow in their own sanctity and goodness.

      Sadly, under JPII and Benedict, Catholicism has been turned into a grown-ups version of the schoolyard game “Nerny, Nerny my Dad’s (my God’s) bigger ‘n your God! I know God’s laws and all of you heathen (who are having abortions, fornicating, getting divorces or advocating euthanasia or whatever), you don’t and you’ll all go to hell!” Give us a friggin’ break. That is not the pathway to heaven, salvation or however one defines the end-objective of our beliefs and practises.

      As events are unfolding, particularly in Ireland, it is becoming increasing apparent that the sexual and other forms of abuse that has gone on in the Church has not been been because of the sinful behaviours of a few misguided or immature priests. It’s been caused by the entire structure of clericalism and putting priests on a pedestal as though they were superhuman. They are not superhuman. They are individuals who struggle just like you and me to make sense of their lives — and to make intelligent moral decisions. The true horror of the abuse revelations is not the abuse itself, as horrific as the scale of that has been, it has been the cover-up of bishops and men who should have known better even under the moral and civil laws of the time. That is a failing of a system that took all ties of accountability off its ruling classes. They ended up protecting “the system”, and their own backsides, rather than protecting the most vulnerable of God’s children who were placed in their care. It has been brave bishops like our own Geoffrey Robinson, and now the Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who have had the guts, and moral judgment, to “blow the whistle” and still the Vatican is dragging its feet acknowledging that this is an endemic problem and not merely some failure of a small group of individual priests and nuns whose power had gone to their heads (or other more private parts of their bodies).


      • Joshua says:

        Last things first: I, and anyone not completely confused, fully agree that the shameful scandal of child abuse is today’s number one proof of arrogance, hypocrisy, duplicity and every other vice on the part of priests. As I heard preached in an EF Mass in NZ, this is not traceable to modernism – since in Ireland way back when, before the Council, dissent was unheard of – but to a Pharisaical, Old Testament mindset, retreating from the New Law of the New Testament (which is the Holy Spirit written on our hearts) into a cruel parody of old-time religion. Of course, after the Council when everything was being questioned, it’s easy to see how the unscrupulous and the wicked and the weak indulged and/or permitted filthy crimes to be hushed up (as society then required). This is an outrageous shame.

        However, mark that clerical sexual abuse is largely a problem of the Irish diaspora – which is why it crops up in the US and the old “White Dominions”. A downtrodden culture, with the almost stereotypical problems with drink, and with weak father figures… you don’t need to be a psychologist to see the issues here.

        I think, though, that to tie clerical abuse to faults of the right or left is actually to mistake the problem. Certainly a part of it was exalting priests as if they were sinless, but that was always a perverse thing.


        I find your caricature of Catholicism under JPII quite bizarre, since it more accurately caricatures the Divine-command theory of morality (which is in essence nominalistic and inhuman, as BXVI pointed out w.r.t. a certain rival system at Regensburg) that used to be pushed, and which is itself fundamentally unCatholic. Natural Law and virtue ethics, as Thomists prefer, is far better than some appalling bastardized version of “thou shalt nots” with no rhyme nor reason to them. I would argue that the strange image you hold up is so far from the truth that it is but a straw man: it may have been that way in the 1950’s I suppose. (All of this is just rehashing the Fundamentals of Christian Morals courses I took some years back at CTC and JPII.)

        And I don’t get the implied contrast between difficult moral decisions and some sort of struggle that validates them… what are you trying to say?

        And you can’t seriously think poor Michael Morwood is any kind of deep thinker? LOL! No, I find these modern pseudo-intellectuals of the type to whom you refer desperately uninteresting and superficial. I prefer something a good deal weightier and more profound.

        I find, rather as did Chesterton, that Catholic writers, not pompously deriding all before in the conviction that they and they alone have discovered the truth, but delving into the riches of our tradition, are far more profitable.

        Silly talk about ongoing revelation and science (as if science is a new thing, it’s been around for centuries) doesn’t really appeal. I do have a B.Sc.(Hons) in astrophysics you know, I’m not some Creationist fool hiding under a rock!

        All this puts me in mind of the wimpy ageing blokes and mannish peevish nuns and middle-aged women with chips on their shoulders whose company I had to bear while doing my B.Theol.: so boring, so last generation.

        What I cannot understand is your assertion that you, dear Brian, and your ilk are being oppressed, when in actual fact in my experience and those of all whom I know, it is persons of your general sort who do exercise all the power – the grey cardigan brigade, or “Fr Beige” as they say in Melbourne.

        Take the obvious example: it was only after twenty years of a blind eye toward them, once the most egregious shenanigans were made international news, that Bathersby finally and with the greatest reluctance picked on the South Brisbane shamozzle.

        Contrast that with the persecution of orthodox priests, who are hated with a vengeance and often suffer at the hands of their bishops and fellow priests! Just imagine if you will the incredible storm that would descend upon a priest who said Mass facing east (which all contemporary research shows is Catholic and universal, as the Eastern rites all testify; and which the very rubrics of the modern Missal presuppose) – I have seen this happen to a young priest who, out of devotion, said Mass at an altar in the Lourdes grotto next to the church, and he got into heaps of trouble! And as for those who actually prefer the ’62 Mass, well, they may as well get themselves nailed to a cross in the Philippines and be done with it.

        No, it is the liberals who are in power, even despite some more recent appointments (many of whom are quite disappointing in their caving in to liberals).

        But I return to my thesis, which I perceive you can see: the Church suffers from schizophrenia or cognitive dissonance, because what is said, believed and practised at one level is the reverse of what is said, believed and practised at others. Now, the Church having a robust hierarchical structure, it will bend and even break on the diocesan and national levels (e.g. Netherlands, Switzerland, parts of Germany, Austria), but not at the centre. This is why Anglicanism has fallen apart, but our one stay is the Pope. It seems fair to say, even leaving aside issues of faith on this point, that the Church is very unlikely to do a complete volte face tomorrow on the usual list of controversial issues: which is why liberal dissent, even when in the majority and in control, is ultimately frustrated and futile.

        Best wishes, Josh.

        • Son of Trypho says:

          Hear! Hear! with regards to pointing up the glaring error of Coyne’s argument – it is the liberals who are running the show, especially at the local level, and they have, and continue to cause most of the problems which Coyne is complaining about.

          Similarly, throw his desire for genuine liturgy which is in touch with people and ask the obvious question – why has Islam’s relatively unchanged religious functions/services (liturgy) not suffered the same failure and has shown growth?

  24. Joshua says:

    Why not, Brian, establish the Majority Catholic Church of the 86% (or whatever it was), within which all irrelevant and archaic balderdash will be discarded? I somehow can’t see that this body – a Personal Ordinariate perhaps? – would pack them in, apart from the usual ageing nuns, brothers and REC’s (see previous remarks re: South Brisbane).

    Any updated Catholicism that totally agrees with the spirit of the age would be completely superfluous, since it would exist only to affirm the sufficiency of the world: it would die of inanition, since it would not be needed by post-modern human kind.

    Amusingly, what you call for is in fact what is already largely provided by our Aussie clergy: as a friend said to me this weekend, look at the congregation at the cathedral of ____; they are all conservatives, and yet look at Fr ____ at the altar, doing his best to preach to the liberals! This is very widespread, as for instance in Adelaide. The clergy are by and large possessed of a more aCatholic view than their congregations (apart from the usual pro-Father clique).

    This produces Catholic cognitive dissonance, or ecclesiastical schizophrenia.

    Note that those who don’t darken the door are hardly likely to do so (bar a miracle), even if tomorrow the Pope did a U-turn, ordained women, and permitted everything now forbidden. Given the even faster fall-off in more progressive denominations, versus the strength of stricter, less-changing sects, I think that sociologists would agree.

    • Schütz says:

      Actually, Josh, that is a good point. I know Brian says below that he isn’t interested in starting a new Church, and I believe him, but if these “86%” – or even half of them – left because the Church was doing something wrong, wouldn’t they have gone to a Church that was “doing it right”? Eg. the Liberal Catholics or the Independant Catholic Church, or, for that matter, the Uniting Church and the Anglican Church?

      But they don’t. They have simply stopped practicing Christianity entirely.

      That tells me that something more is wrong than just “they don’t like the Pope and Cardinal Pell”.

      It tells me that what has been lacking is real evangelisation and catechesis, and it is real evangelisation and catechesis that will turn the tide, not marketing ourselves to be more attractive to the world.

      • Son of Trypho says:


        There is another reason of course why they (chronic dissenters) usually don’t go off and establish a new church – its too hard. The Church has a massive and well established infrastructure and is financially solvent. Its much better to be on the Church’s payroll and use its infrastructure than it is to go off and set up something which is responsible to itself.

  25. Joshua says:

    Oh, and when I crossed swords with Brian Coyne on this blog earlier, I got a bit hot under the collar, so I hope he will accept me in my new slightly more irenic mood, and overlook matters past.

  26. Brian Coyne says:


    I am not interested in starting some new Church. I am interested in seeing Catholicism return to its roots — roots way back with the original direction Jesus seemed to give it and not some power plays from the Holy Roman Empire or later periods of history. It’s prime mission given by Jesus himself was to go out and bring to Good News to ALL nation i.e. ALL people. Quite frankly, for some reason, it is blatantly failing in that task today. The reasons for the failure are well debated on Catholica and in other places.

    My honest prognosis is that you people have won. Benedict will achieve his dream of a “smaller, purer Church” — a remnant. I don’t expect that is going to be the end of the matter though. The situation will be different nation-to-nation. The situation here in Australia particularly interesting because the Church draws the great proportion of its income today from government, not from collection plates and members. What is going to be interesting is whether the Australian public, through their governments will tolerate a remnant continuing to control all those public moneys in another 20, 30 or 40 years down the track. I expect we might see enormous changes in the infrastructure if the institution is controlled by those with the remnant agenda. What is perhaps more interesting though is that there is a huge amount of what might be called “spiritual vibrancy” in the world at the moment. At the moment it is largely searching and directionless except from the point of view that it is not accepting the agenda of the remnant. What is going to be interesting is what happens to them and the question of who eventually claims the name to be “authentically Catholic”. You think you might have all that sown up. I wouldn’t bet on it. There are huge social forces at work in all these matters and it would be a fool who predicts confidently where it will all end up in another 100 years time.

    What at heart though is up for contention is two mutually exclusive, incompatible views about how God interacts with human civilisation and all of Creation. Is it through some exclusive royal telephone through the Pope? Or is it via ALL of humankind and the role of our ecclesial leaders is one of assisting the human community discern what our Creator-God is saying? My own personal view is that why the institution has lost contact with the great majority of the baptised is because it has gone off on a little tangent believing that God speaks through the Pope alone. Most people would appear to have given up believing that. You can accuse them of not being authentic Catholics all you like, or invite them to go off and start their own churches. They seem pretty keen though to still consider themselves “Catholic” when it comes to designating their allegiance on a government census form.

    At the end of everything all of us have to make a choice: will following the present direction given by Rome lead to our salvation or will it not? I don’t believe it will. I believe those who have been responsible for making the institution irrelevant to the vast majority of the baptised will, at some point, be called to account for their behaviours. I do believe the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council, freely assembled and voting surprised even themselves at what happened at the Second Vatican Council. They were NOT engaged in some liberal or progressive plot. The outcome of that Council was an authentic work of the Holy Spirit. At every turn since though a small gaggle of reactionaries have never accepted that and at very turn they have endeavoured to return Catholicism not to the authenticity of Catholicism as discerned by St Paul and the early Church leaders but some feudal, semi-monarchic system from a much later phase of human history. There endeavours have been an unmitigated disaster to the point where the vast majority of the baptised have simply given up listening and participating. The remant can rave on all they like about how secularism has sucked people out of the Church or that it’s all the fault of the people who have left why they left. Try telling that to the Almighty when the time comes given what his Son had to say about tending to the needs of the single sheep that had gone missing let alone the 86!

    Cheers, Brian Coyne

    • Tom says:

      But Brian – I don’t think anyone thinks the Pope has a royal telephone. Part of the Catholic understanding of such things as the Scripture is that it is a way of understanding God, and understanding God’s will for one’s life. Yes, in matters of faith and morals, the Pope’s word is the final word, but even then it still passes through x,y,z dichastry who, serving the people, help us to understand who and what God is. The important thing is, God is not natural, his nature cannot be known without the assistance of revelation (except a shortlist of about 8 features, existence, simplicity, omnipotence, omnipresence, and I forget the rest). Natural Theology is quite explicit in the very limited knowledge it can give of God.

      Supernatural Theology, that is, revelation, requires the Church. It’s not possible to have something like the Bible without having someone tell to us that the Bible is the word of God. That is, it is not self-evident (otherwise it would not be possible, or reasonable, to deny). Further, this means that the Church does not have a ‘royal telephone’, no-one suggested it does. It DOES have a Deposit of Faith, one that it must keep true to, one that it must keep pure. It further has a tradition of interpretation that helps us non-theologians to understand the will of God without having spent 20 years studying theology (it is just not possible for everyone to study theology, that’s why tradition and traditional interpretation is so important). Finally it has an authority to teach, granted to it by Christ himself through the Apostolic tradition, which we call the Magisterium.

      Calling the Deposit of Faith, Tradition and the Magisterium a ‘royal telephone’ does not make a good argument Brian. You’re right, God can talk to everyone – but sometimes when people hear what they think is the Voice of God, it turns out to be their own ideas, or any sorts of possibilities. The Church exists for the very important reason of keeping us anchored to a true God, not a manufactured, self-fulfilling God, that ultimately wont be able to help us because he doesn’t exist.

      Once more, if you want to be a Christian, you can’t follow your ‘own Christ’, you must follow Christ. That means things that a lot of people just don’t like. Further, if you want to be Catholic, you must be in communion with the Pope, just as the first Church was in communion with Peter. Remember, communion does not mean always agreeing with the Pope, (St. Paul had a rather public disagreement with him) but it does mean obedience to the Pope. The Church, in matters of faith and morals, has the final word. Nothing to do with a royal telephone.

    • Joshua says:

      You start with the admirable, evangelical concern for those who’ve gone away from the Church; but I think your diagnosis of cause and treatment is erroneous.

      As my old P.P. Bp Jarrett said, people have a sort of idea of the pre-Constantinian Church as “the Dreamtime” – whereas, let’s be honest, I suspect few of us would be up to the rigours of Primitive Christianity, with the everpresent threat of persecution, and much stricter penitential disciplines, and much higher moral expectations, than we have nowadays!

      “The Dreamtime” is a pretend account of the early Church, akin to dreams of “Celtic spirituality” that are a world away from the frightening austerities of the Irish monks and hermits.

      We do all agree that the Church’s mission in the West is in bad shape.

      We could do without so much government money: he who pays the piper call the tune, after all. And if the Church of the future will be a remnant, well, already most in Catholic schools are baptized pagans. (Not that I want this, but it’s true.)

      I really can’t see your theory that suddenly everything was changed, but evil forces a la Dan Brown are frustrating this right development. On your theory, everything pre-Vatican II was wrong; and if that’s the case, the Church failed long centuries ago, ergo Christ’s promises were not vouchsafed her, and she is a false Church to be abandoned – this is Past Elder’s logical deduction. Have you considered Lutheranism, dear Brian?

      It is the fault of secularism and false teaching by the clergy et al. To imagine that a vast right-wing conspiracy (surely you know the most persecuted, marginalized, and smallest, group in the Church are the “right-wing”, such as Traddies and conservatives like poor me?) has overthrown the Council is just not credible. Read the Council documents, and see if what you pretend it called for actually was! If V II had been implemented, frankly things would be far different, but in a quite more conservative mode than has actually transpired: think of how we’d be if the 1965 Missal – the actual “Conciliar” Mass – was still in, for example.

      You rightly have great anxiety for the unchurched, an anxiety that is a lesson to me because I am so shy and unsure how to evangelize.

      I think your egregious caricature about the Pope having a royal telephone to heaven is quite offensive, and smacks of Protestant bigotry. Why is it that, Proddies no longer attacking Catholics as ignorant Papal brainwashed slaves, we Catholics now slag off ourselves with this canard? This is the hallmark of the cultural Catholic, a transient generational form between ancestors who believed, and the descendents who will have forgotten even what religion their forebears abandoned.

      You know quite well that the Pope’s role is to preserve the Deposit of Faith, and not to innovate contrary to the dynamic unfolding of the Scriptures – see St Vincent of Lerin’s beaut comments about the latter to revise the difference between true development versus monstrous deviation.

      And Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle – God preserve us from neo-Gnostic faffing about and navel-gazing in place of holding to Scripture and Tradition.

      In any case, thank you for being so civil; I do honestly get your argument, and in fact probably once held it, but I have come to disagree.

      • Son of Trypho says:


        I would agree with your view. Folks like Coyne have a poor understanding and knowledge of the primitive Church and their calls to go back to that sort of thing is actually quite reactionary – they have been unable to deal with the historical developments of the Church and keep harking back to an earlier, golden age. Ironically, much like the “remnant” that he keeps criticising all the time. You also see this with his romanticising of the time of the V2 Council with the emphasis on excitement and energy etc.

        Additionally, Coyne ignores the fact that much of the local parish infrastructure eg. liturgy committees, councils etc are run by people of his generation and outlook, certainly not by those of the “remnant” who are indulging in their EF antiquities. In that way its folks of his generation and outlook that have driven the youth away and are responsible for much of the travails of the modern Church.

        I agree though it was nice not to see any dehumanising language used in his comments here.

        • Louise says:

          Interesting about calls to be more like the Primitive Church.

          Just trying to recall when it was that the Primitive Church condoned fornication, sodomy, abortion, contraception and all those other things irritatingly prohibited by the Commandment against Adultery. (Abortion is actually covered by the Commandment not to Kill, but is heavily associated with promiscuity).

          Seems to me that pelvic issues are the crux of it for the aCatholics.

    • Ann Baumber says:

      At 66 years of age and having been a Catholic all my life, baptised at 2 weeks of age, I object to anyone telling me whether I can call myself Catholic or not.

      I would ask all the young people writing to bear this blog in mind as they go through life and encounter all the issues that come up while you are trying to do the best you can to be a Christian Catholic.

      Try having more children than you want or can afford, try living in a distastarous marriage that is sending you mad.

      Then you might start thinking that perhaps the Pope doesn’t have all the answers.

      My relationship is with God and his Son and the Holy Spirit. With their help and guidance I face each day and all the issues it brings me.

      That is the kind of Catholic I am.

      • Son of Trypho says:


        I would suggest that I wont be bearing this blog in mind, nor your projections of your own issues and baggage here as I go through my life.

        Rather in times of struggle I will be bearing in mind Jesus’ own words: Matt. 5:19

        “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

      • Louise says:

        Hang on, do your kids know you didn’t want them all, Ann?

        Does it actually ever occur to unhappy people that you might be making other people unhappy?

        Nobody has to remain in any marriage that is truly awful (as opposed to just ordinarily challenging). The Church doesn’t say they have to live together. It just says – rightly – that marriage is sacred and people ought not play pass the partner.

        I dunno, Ann, I’m not necessarily going to say you’re not a Catholic, but if you didn’t believe most of the contents of the catechism, I’d consider that the label would become a bit stretched. (Obviously you believe in the Trinity, so I’m not going to quibble with you about the title of “Catholic”).

  27. Brian Coyne says:

    Please forgive the typos in the previous reply. I pressed the submit button accidentally before I’d proof read what I’d written.

  28. Son of Trypho says:

    “will following the present direction given by Rome lead to our salvation or will it not? I don’t believe it will.”


    I guess the “remnant” need to make a decision – Jesus’ own words (Matt 16.18ff) or Brian Coyne’s personal judgement?

  29. Louise says:

    I’m just thinking further about Church authority.

    Seems to me that the only Church which has the authority to speak up for Sanctity of Life issues and traditional morality is the Catholic Church. Which other group does so with authority?

    The Jews do not necessarily oppose abortion and neither do any of the Protestant churches (though obviously some individuals do).

    I suppose the Orthodox churches have specific teaching on the Sanctity of Life, but do they have any central authority which can navigate the ethical nightmare created by modern technology?

    Although many baptised Catholics (the 86%) disagree with Church teaching, nevertheless, the teaching is there for all to see and is authoritative. Those who disagree, disagree with the final word of the Church on these matters.

    I cannot think of any other organisation which presents and defends the Decalogue, which most commenters here believe in.

  30. Gareth says:

    I challenge Brian Coyne’s assertion that surveys prove that young Catholics find the liturgies presented at Catholic colleges to be stimulating, yet lose ‘connection’ with the church at parish level.

    In my experience, catholic liturgy at year 11 and 12 or anythink presnted at catholic schools did next to nothing for me and it was only through reading material on the Internet that I came to have some knowledge of the church.

    As in most cases, Mr Coyne makes wild accusations with no substance and fails to put forward an alternative vision.

    I will stick with the community I deal with.

  31. Son of Trypho says:

    “That has been overturned by this small gaggle of malcontents who, at every turn, have plotted and schemed to undo the express discernment of the vast majority of bishops.”

    -This is just bizarre. The bishops who were at the Council returned to their dioceses and implemented the reforms, managed the seminaries and formation of their priests and exercised significant freedoms within their diocese to run them how they saw appropriate.

    How can you credibly suggest that the “malcontents” (whoever they are? you never actually elaborate…) undermined all of this control and influence at the local level? Certainly the Vatican wasn’t interfering on the local level (unless it was exceptionally egregious) even a small percentage of the time.

    If anyone failed on a massive scale it would be the bishops of the Council and their immediate successors.

    Additionally, too many parishes have been dominated by these aging V2 and 68ers who have so much baggage and have driven off anyone who disagrees with them. They claim that they are open to robust discussion and debate but I’ve found they aren’t – they merely use the power at their control to ostracise and marginalise anyone who they disagree with. That is also the reason why the “cockroaches” (h/t Coyne) hide away from them.

  32. Son of Trypho says:

    “How do you respond when your daughter comes home pregnant and wants to have an abortion?”

    Refer them to the Commandment which states You Shall not Murder?

  33. Mike says:

    One big problem with Brian’s argument is that his great 86% did grow up in Catholic schools, where sooooo much effort was put into “vibrant” liturgies, with drums and guitars and dancing and “themes” and banners and cushions and incense sticks and passing the communion plate around with “real bread!” The priests at their schools and their parishes sounded like Brian most of the time. I expect even Brian would say that probably most priests today would agree more with him than with Pell. They would pay out traditional Catholic beliefs as being backwards and hint about hoping for a more progressive pope to follow JP2, downplay the sacraments except for the communal aspect of the Eucharist, and put social justice front and center. There was very little discussion of Catholic sexual morality, and most of it was tangential and more about generally respecting people. They’d talk about “mature” spirituality – which sounded kind of like what Brian speaks about in his posts above. Yes, I know because I’m considerably younger than Brian, and I was actually there.

    Some of it was subtle, and some more direct, but basically it was mostly in that same “direction”.

    And guess what? It didn’t keep many people in. All these school-leavers didn’t leave the Church because they ran into some hard-core priest in year 12 and were interrogated about their morality or beliefs. Most of these lapsed youths have never even met such a priest.

    So I find the contention that this is the kind of approach that would win the 86% back just bizarre. We’ve already tried it! Okay, so it’s a small number of youth who are currently attracted to a more conservative Catholicism. But while a survey of the population might have more preferring a liberal approach, very very few put their money where their mouth is.

    They actually prefer just not to bother with religion at all. They’re not generally very impressed with talk of all religions having something to offer or with concepts such as the priesthood of all believers. They would say that women should be able to be priests, in principle, but they wouldn’t really care whether or not any actually chose to be, because it’s completely irrelevant to them.

    Now there are a group of people like Brian, old enough to remember the excitement of the Second Vatican Council, and who are still excited. But for them it’s something of a crusade – a project to change things in a certain direction. That in itself will have a certain appeal, and it’s understandable to see people so dead-keen on it. But take a look – it doesn’t mean anything much to the youth brought up right in the middle of its fruits.

    You see, unlike actual Catholicism, this liberal project has been tried – and found very much wanting.

    • Son of Trypho says:

      Pretty much spot on with my views as well.

      Coyne’s yearnings reminds me of Muggeridge’s comment:

      “The early monastic founders asked everything of their followers and they got everything; the moderns ask little and they get nothing.”

    • Louise says:

      Yep, playing the theme from the “Rocky” movies during the Mass (organised by the priest at our school who sexually abused one of my classmates) didn’t keep many of my cohorts coming to Mass.

      And are you serious, Brian? The Opening of the Olympics was some kind of rival to the Mass? A secular liturgy?


    • Joshua says:

      Too true, too true – why doesn’t Brian realize this?

    • Schütz says:

      They actually prefer just not to bother with religion at all.

      Yep that’s it.

      Which is why they don’t like “real religion” OR “pretend religion”. It’s religion per se what they’ve gone off.

    • Gareth says:

      Good post Mike,

  34. Mike says:

    I should have distinguished above: I do not mean that VII had no meaningful fruits, and I certainly am glad for a lot of the reforms. But the accompanying excitement carried with it a lot of things that get justified with catchphrases such as “the Spirit of Vatican II”. I think most readers of this blog are familiar with the distinction, whether or not they think it’s valid – but I was criticising the latter; not the former.

  35. Matthias says:

    Well Brian looks like the some of the 14% Remnant in the RCC have spoken. Good point Joshua about the connection of irish catholicism and child abuse. The priest at St Mary Magdalene in Brighton England on his blog tore shreds off the Jansenist heresy that he believed imbued irish RCC But then it was ultra calvinism that was at the back of the Dutch reformed church ‘s support of apartheid in South Africa.

  36. matthias says:

    Louise i think youwouldfind that the Salvation Army and the Lutheran church of australia are as pro life as the RCC. aS a midwife working in a Catholic hospital I nursed Salvo officers and they like my Orthodoxjewish patients only went to catholic hospitals because of the Sanctity of Life stand.,which is also why i did my obstetric nursing course in aRCC hospital As for the rest ,your comment does stand more or less.

    • Louise says:

      My point, Matthias, was that there is not much that is likely to keep them pro-life. They have no central authority guaranteed by Christ not to fall into error.

      Certainly, there are *many* Christians and even churches who are pretty good on the Sanctity of life issue, but what is their ability to assess the various challenges of modern technology re: end of life issues for example? (I was talking about the lack of authority in these churches for making definitive kinds of proclamations).

      Of course, they have reason and they have Scripture, but who exactly is the authority to make definite decisions? How do we know they won’t eventually go the way of the UCA, which says abortion is just ducky under some circumstances?

      I just can’t imagine the RCC ever going down that path.

      • matthias says:

        Louise good point but
        For the Sallies it is their army like structure as well as THE BIBLEand their conscience. For orthodox jews it would be the Rabbinical writings ,the Talmud ,the Torah as well as their current Sandhedreins. But like the Sallies it differs .Thus amongst the hasidic it would be the Rebbe-their leader who they believe is appointed by God. ChaimPotok has written good books about Hasidic life especially MYNAME IS ASHER LEV andthe GIFT OF ASHER LEV
        For the Amish their central authority are their bishops.
        For the UCA well just the prevailing culture and God’s leading….well the latterthey leave to a Committee of theologians ,usuallyradical feminist or Marxist.

  37. vynette says:

    Good morning all,

    I am a new commenter here and I would like to make everyone aware of my position.

    I am a baptised Roman Catholic who was raised in a convent. I am, however, avowedly anti-papal.

    I do not accept that Peter founded the church in Rome and therefore there is no Apostolic Succession residing in the Catholic church.

    I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings. I always offer Biblical evidence in support of my contentions.

    I am a regular contributor to Catholica and followed a link from there to Sentire Cum Ecclesia.

    I hope we can have many fruitful discussions here.

    • Son of Trypho says:

      Being a former non-Christian I always enjoy keeping in touch with them. Welcome – I hope you can give us some interesting insights.

      • vynette says:

        Thanks for your welcome.

        I hope to demonstrate that the doctrines I mentioned are not based on the New Testament but on the writings of the Hellenist-Latin fathers.

        This does not mean, however, that I’m a “non-Christian.” I hope to be counted among the followers of Jesus when the “books are opened.”

        • Son of Trypho says:

          What about the resurrection? Did it happen or made up by Greek/Latin Fathers?

          What about the references to the Holy Spirit? How do you understand that?

    • “I am, however, avowedly anti-papal.”

      Well, so was St. Peregrine before his conversion. I will pray to him for your conversion, and would ask other readers to join me in doing so (you could just recite a short prayer like ‘St. Peregrine, pray for us, particularly Vynette. Amen.’ right now).

      “I do not accept that Peter founded the church in Rome and therefore there is no Apostolic Succession residing in the Catholic church.”

      Do you think that Our Lord intended to found, and actually did found, any perpetual earthly institution (a Church, if you will)? If so, what is this institution and what does it do?

      “I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings. I always offer Biblical evidence in support of my contentions.
      (my emphasis)

      But that’s what they all say; if you want me to admit the principle of private judgment then you’re going to have to go to the end of a very long queue. You’ll offer your Biblical evidence, and the Lutherans will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Calvinists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Baptists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Seventh-Day Adventists will offer their Biblical evidence, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses will offer their Biblical evidence, and so on and so on. And it’ll all be at least superficially plausible. So how does one attain the certainty of Faith about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not, when the competing interpretations of Scripture all seem more or less credible? If Scripture is God’s Revelation (which, I take it, you think that it is), and if God wants unity among His believers, then wouldn’t God have provided some living earthly authority empowered to produce final, irreformable judgments about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not?

  38. Louise says:

    I also do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings.

    Kind of a non-creed. I’m not being snarky, however.

  39. matthias says:

    vynette welcome and ifyou “do not accept the major doctrines of the Christian churches, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and the Divinity teachings” then why stay a catholic. be a bit more comfortable theologicallyand join the UCA or the JWs’ .The latter have the same beliefs around Christ.Can you tell us Trinitarains what Bible verses you use to substantiate your position which is neo-Arian? Oh and I am not Catholic ,just non-papal

  40. vynette says:

    Thanks Matthias,

    Generally speaking, those denominations you mention both hold to doctrines which I believe are not derived from the New Testament.

    If by “Arian” you mean the theological positing that Jesus was some sort of lesser deity born before time began and creator of the world, then my position is most definitely not one of Arianism or “neo-Arianism.

    The doctrine of the Trinity stands at the end of the doctrinal process. It all began with the teaching of the Virgin Birth so it is there we must begin if we are to proceed in an orderly fashion and gain understanding.

    If you don’t wish to proceed this way, then what aspect of the Trinity would you like me to begin with?

    • Son of Trypho says:

      The canon of Scripture (including the NT) is itself a product of apostolic Tradition.

      If you accept the NT as your authority then you must concede that material/doctrines derived from apostolic Tradition are also valid.

      An example would be the belief in the Virginity of Mary – refer to St Ignatius of Antioch. Ad. Eph. 19.1

      It would also behoove you to note that St Ignatius notes that the Virginity of Mary was hidden from the Prince of this World (i.e. Satan)…

      And I’m not a traddie!

    • Vynette, could you provide some kind of credal statement for us? We know what you don’t believe, but what do you believe?

  41. matthias says:

    The Virgin Birth and please all you Traddies hop in

  42. vynette says:

    Son of Trypho and Matthias,

    I was feeling so overwhelmed by all your responses that I actually managed to post a reply to your comments in the wrong place! – somewhere towards the top of this thread. Sorry.

    Son of Trypho,

    See my comment to Louise re canon.

  43. vynette says:

    Cardinal Pole

    This thread is becoming so fragmented, I think I’ll just post at the end.

    Yes, Jesus did found a perpetual earthly institution. It was called by him the Kingdom of God. The only way a person could gain citizenship in this Kingdom was by the living of a “christ-like” life. It is obvious, therefore, that persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion.

    I realise that all Christian denominations teach a variety of non-Scriptural doctrines. My position is that the only doctrine preached by Jesus and the apostles was love – love of God and love of humanity. Not a weak, sentimental sort of love but the love which is the sign of a truly great character, the only kind of love whereby it is possible to ‘love your enemies.’

    You ask: “If Scripture is God’s Revelation (which, I take it, you think that it is), and if God wants unity among His believers, then wouldn’t God have provided some living earthly authority empowered to produce final, irreforma! ble judgments about what belongs to the Deposit of Faith and what does not?”

    I will answer your question this way.

    Why would we be given any advantage that the disciples were not? Why would we be given any “certainties” when they were not?

    The disciples had to choose between the teachings, authority and weight of tradition represented by the priestly establishment, and the weight of moral authority represented by the values and principles espoused by Jesus.

    They chose Jesus and what he represented over the priestly establishment and what it represented. They chose Jesus because their own fundamental set of values were in accord with his and because the witness of the Hebrew Scripture supported their views.

    The disciples had only the Hebrew Scriptures to guide them. They chose the witness of Scripture over the weight of tradition. I choose to follow their example.

    • Now Vynette: You said that

      “Yes, Jesus did found a perpetual earthly institution. It was called by him the Kingdom of God. The only way a person could gain citizenship in this Kingdom was by the living of a “christ-like” life. It is obvious, therefore, that persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion.”

      But here we have our first contradiction: You say that Jesus founded the Kingdom of God, but that people at any time–including presumably before He founded it, unless you think that before Him everyone was utterly depraved–could be part of it.

      In answer to your two rhetorical questions:

      “[Q1.] Why would we be given any advantage that the disciples were not? [Q2.] Why would we be given any “certainties” when they were not?”

      A1. The disciples had the huge advantage over us of having the Lord Himself there to resolve any difficulties in interpretation in His teachings and in the Hebrew Scriptures–we see this after the Resurrection, where He enlightens them as to the true meaning of the Scriptures (I don’t know the chapter and verse for the reference, though).

      A2. The disciples also had the advantage of seeing for themselves the Risen Lord, so they did have certainty–the certainty of seeing with their own eyes. But, as Son of Trypho requested, we need to know what you understand by ‘Resurrection’.

      “They chose Jesus because their own fundamental set of values were in accord with his and because the witness of the Hebrew Scripture supported their views.”

      But that required certainty about the veracity of that “fundamental set of values”, and, as I mentioned, they had the Lord to overcome any ambiguities in the Hebrew Scripture.

      “The disciples had only the Hebrew Scriptures to guide them. They chose the witness of Scripture over the weight of tradition. ”

      And this choice, and their understanding of Scripture, was validated by the Resurrection (though I still need to know what you understand by it), which they saw (and touched) for themselves. What validates our understanding, what can resolve the difficulties in interpretation, if not an infallible teaching authority?

      And more on that point: if “[t]he only way a person [can] gain citizenship in this Kingdom [of God] [is] by the living of a “christ-like” life”, how do we know that we are living a Christ-like life? The life of Christ does not give us clear direction as to how to resolve all the moral dilemmas which we face, and these moral dilemmas are sometimes, perhaps even often, the product not merely of uncertainty over how to apply moral principles, but uncertainty over the moral principles themselves. Again, we have a need for a teaching authority.

  44. vynette says:

    Cardinal Pole,

    You asked me for a “creedal” statement. Here are just a few things that the Bible teaches us –

    * That Almighty God made man in his own image but that man fell from his exalted position by choosing lies and disobedience of his own free will.

    * That the need for a Messiah arose from issues that began in the Garden of Eden, which issues may be defined as the eternal conflict between the Truth and the Lie – “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:25)

    * That this Messiah, the ‘anointed’ one of Israel, was Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans on a charge made by the priests, of whose unscriptural teachings he had warned the people to beware.

    * That this Jesus of Nazareth would one day sit upon the earthly throne of his father David, rule the world in righteousness, and judge the living and the dead.

    * That God ‘anointed’ Jesus with his Holy Spirit and endowed him with full power and authority to speak and act as his representative on earth. (Acts 10:37-38)

    * That Jesus was the son of God by human parentage (John 1:34, 45, 49) though not the son of Joseph as commonly supposed at the time (Matt. 1:25).

    * That his ‘sonship’ of God is of a purely ethical and spiritual reciprocal nature.

    * That he was the ‘only-begotten’ of God because he was the first-born from the dead, not because he was born to a virgin. (Acts 13:33-34)

    * That for would-be citizens of the Kingdom of God, the New Testament identifies the one road to follow – the “way, the truth, and the life” – and that road is love: ” A new commandment I give to you…love one another as I have loved you…” (John 13:34)

    * That by subordinating the will of his own flesh, and by choosing the truth of God instead of lies, and obedience to God instead of disobedience, Jesus reversed the sin of Adam. Through the grace of God, man was given another chance, a new creation came into existence, and all those who emulate the example set by Jesus are, like him, begotten children of God.

    That’s the Biblical position anyway.

    • Although, as you indicated, you did not intend this creed to be exhaustively complete, nonetheless there are several significant omissions from it:

      1. As Son of Trypho asked, what are your understandings of the Resurrection and the Holy Ghost?

      2. What happens to us after we die, and what happens after Christ’s judgment of us?

      3. You said that

      “Through the grace of God, man was given another chance, a new creation came into existence, and all those who emulate the example set by Jesus are, like him, begotten children of God.”

      But given that you think that “persons who live up to the example set by Jesus can be found everywhere, at all times, and cannot be confined to any particular race, gender, nationality, or religion”, you can hardly speak of the grace of God and new creation, surely?

      Finally, I’m still wondering: Do you call yourself Catholic? Also, are there others who adhere to your doctrines?

  45. vynette says:


    The reason I call the Old Testament the “Hebrew Scriptures: has got nothing to do with being “PC,” which I’m certainly not, but because our Old Testament contains more books than the Hebrew canon. I think it’s presumptuous of us to dictate to the Jews what should be the content of their own canon.

  46. Kyle says:

    I think Coyne is a bit misguided about the youth. As someone who graduated from a Catholic high school two years ago and has since visited it, I can say that most young people do not care about the liturgy. There is a pervasive apathy. As an innovation, the principal introduced Exposition. When I was there, most of the students looked bored or were quietly sniggering. For class Masses, most students do not know what to do and say and generally look very confused. To say that young people almost universally ‘love the liturgies’ is wrong. The only time I have seen any enthusiasm was when Ash Wednesday meant that they would lose a period.

    On another point, to Ann Boumber, I understand the difficulties that parents have to face and I can see why the Church’s teaching on contraception and marriage can be a huge problem. All I can say is that, from my own experiences, the alternative is not much better. Before I met Catholicism, I had never seen a functional relationship. My own father had gotten an abortion for his girlfriend when he was sixteen. At a young age he had me but then moved on. He later had two children but has since separated from their mother. My step-father too had a child from a previous marriage. But they too had experienced torn families. My father’s parents had separated, then moved on, then separated from their new partners. My stepfather had been abandoned by his mother. The result of this is a lot of bitterness, a lot of confused child-maintenance schemes, and a lot of children who don’t whom to call father (is it the biological father or the stepfather?) or grandparent. One of the most valuable things I have found in the Catholic Church is its insistence on the sacredness of each marriage and the importance of family life.

    • Louise says:

      Yes, sadly this is the kind of mess most of us are seeing in our families, especially where the members have no faith. It is tragic and is certainly no better than the real difficulties we practicing Catholics experience in marriage and family life.

      Thank Heaven you are here to tell the tale, Kyle. May God bless you.

  47. matthias says:

    Vynette thanks for your creed but ibelieve it is nothing new.Sorry .It is more Ebionite or even Essene along the lines of the Teacher of Righteousness and quite,notquite,is certainly the doctrinal position of the Unitarians today. You are honest in your position .
    You have turned Jesus into a victim ofpolitical intrigue andseem not to have accepted that the Cross was no accident.

  48. vynette says:


    Wot? Unitarians who try to be all things to all men? God is whatever you think he is, or maybe he’s not there at all? The many beliefs but one faith crowd? The humanists cum Eastern mystics, cum earth-mother bunch? Certainly not.

    Others have tried to pigeonhole me but with no success because my sole, sole aim is to discover what the Bible tells us about Jesus. That’s all, finito. Whatever resemblances there may be between me and some other group is incidental and totally irrelevant.

    No, the Cross was no “accident.” The religious and political intrigue that sent Jesus to the Cross was all foreshadowed and foreknown in the Hebrew Scriptures – that is if you believe the New Testament, which I do.

  49. vynette says:

    Cardinal Pole,

    For the Kingdom of God question, the exact same “contradiction” exists within the Church. What happens to those righteous ones born before the time of Jesus?

    There are two phases to the “Kingdom of God.” The one inaugurated by Jesus which proceeds on a steady basis like the “mustard seed” principle, is a just a precursor of the one to be established in the apocalyptic Age to Come.

    But we must remember that the Kingdom of God [New Covenant] did not replace the Abrahamic Covenant – the New Covenant added to the old by including and embracing the entire world and not just the Hebrew peoples.

    Jesus himself assured us that in the apocalyptic Age to Come, when the Kingdom of this world finally becomes the Kingdom of God and of his Christ, “many would come from the East and West and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

    How did the disciples know he was the “Lord” before the Resurrection? They didn’t, as we can see by their various responses to him. But they still hitched their star to his before the Resurrection for the reasons I have stated.

    Let me ask you a question. If Jesus turned up today preaching on some street corner, how would you know him?

    Let me assure you that there are no “certainties.” That’s the whole point. How else would each individual be judged except by how they reveal their inmost values by their responses to various situations? God searches the heart.

    How can there be uncertainty over moral principles. As revealed by Jesus’ words and actions, they are: truth versus lies; the spirit of the law rather than the letter; humility versus arrogance; personal integrity versus institutional formalism; selflessness; justice tempered with mercy; and commitment to principle to the extent of laying down one’s own life.

    And how do we put this into practice every day? Confront the perpetrators of manipulation, injustice, cruelty, distortion and lies wherever and whenever they may be found. And challenge any and all authority if necessary to achieve these ends. Every individual is expected to do this and not rely on any institution to do it for them. It’s a hard road, as Jesus said.

    The only “teaching authority” is Jesus himself.

    The Resurrection question I’ll address in another post.

    • Kiran says:

      But how do you have access to Jesus himself?

      Why pick the Bible? Why not the Quran? Or The Guide for the Perplexed? Or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Show me someone who claims to be able to interpret the Bible by itself, and I’ll show you someone who is unconsciously relying on what the Church had taught.

    • Louise says:

      The only “teaching authority” is Jesus himself.

      Who founded a Church, with St Peter as its Rock, and promised it would be led into all truth and would conquer hell.

      • vynette says:


        You are assuming the Peter founded the church in Rome. There is actually no evidence whatsoever for this claim. It was not even asserted prior to 170AD.

        • Joshua says:

          Presumably, given what you’ve told us, you won’t accept any extra-Scriptural evidences, but I would’ve thought that the extensive archaeological work done down underneath St Peter’s has given a very substantial body of circumstantial proofs – literally, given the great body of ancient inscriptions – that “Here Peter is buried”. If buried, then surely once active there? (I would of course say that the Church in Rome was founded by both SS Peter and Paul – the latter having got there first, as the Acts makes clear.)

          Speaking of things just outside the New Testament, do you accept at all the historicity and dogmatic testimony of the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch? These seem to give a very full-blooded early attestation to a monarchical episcopate, a threefold ministry, a high doctrine of the liturgy, the Eucharistic sacrifice…

          So you put any weight on what the Apostolic Fathers have to teach us, whose writings are the earliest Christian documents extant after the N.T.?

          • “… do you [that is, Vynette] accept at all the historicity and dogmatic testimony of the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch?”

            Or, for that matter, of St. Clement I’s Letter to the Corinthians.

        • But Vynette, you haven’t answered Louise’s objection directly. How do you interpret the Petrine passages of the Gospels?

    • Vynette, you asked

      “What happens to those righteous ones born before the time of Jesus?”

      They went to Hell, to the ‘Limbo of the Pagans’, where they enjoy wonderful happiness (but a happiness which is as nothing compared to the glory of Heaven). Now please tell me: What happens to any of us, righteous or un-righteous, Christian or non-Christian, after we die?

      You asked me

      “If Jesus turned up today preaching on some street corner, how would you know him?”

      That’s a useless hypothetical, but I think that I can give you the answer you’re after by answering the question of ‘if I were around during the pre-Resurrection ministry of Our Lord, how would I know that he was the Christ?’. And my answer would be: By His teachings, but primarily by His miracles. Do you, Vynette, think that Jesus did indeed work miracles?

      You said

      “Let me assure you that there are no “certainties.””

      And you’re quite certain of that? Jokes aside (though that was, obviously, not intended purely facetiously), you are at least being more logical than those in other private-judgment-based sects: Private judgment can never give the certainty of Faith, and, given human weakness, it is often unlikely even to produce moral certainty. And your rejection of the need for certainty is itself quite logical, since you think that that which is necessary to be a child of God is simply to choose moral good. And how does one recognise moral good? By the principles of Situational Ethics, as you indicate here:

      “How else would each individual be judged except by how they reveal their inmost values by their responses to various situations?”

      The problem, of course, is that many people’s sincerely-held “inmost values” will lead them to reject Jesus.

      Now when you said

      “How can there be uncertainty over moral principles.”

      Did you mean that as a question? Because the list you provide throws up uncertainties of its own: So for instance, in respect of truth versus lies, is it permissible to tell a ‘little white lie’ in order to avert a great evil or procure a great good? (And, if so, is it evil of itself, or only evil insofar as it might lead one to develop a habit of mendacity?) The Catholic answer would be that one should be prepared to die rather than tell an officious lie, however great the good which one would have expected to attain thereby. And two of your items, namely “the spirit of the law rather than the letter” and “personal integrity versus institutional formalism” are tendentiously-constructed false dilemmas.

      “The Resurrection question I’ll address in another post.”

      Yes, please do, and also please tell me, like I asked earlier, whether there are others who adhere to your interpretations. I am also wondering what expertise, if any, you have in the scholarly disciplines involved in Biblical interpretation. You quoted Hebrew earlier; are you fluent in the languages in which the Bible manuscripts are to be found? If not, whose translation do you use and why do you trust its translator?

      • Gareth says:

        I was recently having a good debate with an (un) Orthodox priest on whether St Peter did actually form a church in Rome or as he claims the whole western world has been brainwashed into thinking something in which there is actually no evidence what so ever.

        Sadly, for the poor Eastern priests views, there is much more historical evidence to suggest that Peter was in Rome for a number of years and led the church there.

        I believe Cardinal Pole has already pointed out some of this evidence above.

        There is a stronger case to suggest that Peter actually lived in Rome for a number of years, albeit under persecution and established and maintained some sort of ministry there.

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