An email from a Reader

I received the following email from a reader who (for some reason) finds his computer does not let him communicate with this blog (perhaps it is a dissenting computer…?). He gave me permission to stick it up here for your comment:

Hi David,

I have been reading some of the posts on your blog and came to a realisation about the theological position of Past Elder.

Prior to the council there were parts of the Church, and this was a particluar problem in America, which didn’t sufficently differentiate between the teachings of the Church and the scholastic theology that sought to explain them. The teachings of the Church were not and are not based on the thoughts of St. Thomas, however mighty those thoughts may have been, nor on the thoughts of any other theologian.

To be clear, unlike the situation in the Anglican Church, theologians as theologians have NO teaching authority within the Catholic Church. No theological explaination, however clear or well accepted, becomes part of the teaching of the Church until it is annunciated by the proper teaching authority – the bishops and the Holy Father in communion – and then only to the extent proper to the manner in which it was annunciated: a favorable comment in a pastoral encyclical doesn’t really count as an inclusion in the body of faith.

However, scolastic, and particularly Thomistic, theology was so clear and the explainations were so complete that an understandable confusion arose between these wonderful explainations offered by the Church and the actual teachings of the Church. The problem was that all theology is human thought and thus limited. By the 60s it was clear that scolastic theology has ossified into an intellectual straightjacket that could no longer connect with the ordinary experience of christians or express the mystery which is Christ and His Church.

Vatican II changed not one jot of church teaching but updated and revised whole reams of theological explaination. To those raised in the conservative, intellectually rigerous and Thomistic schools of the US this must have seemed like a revolution.

I think it is to this that PE is referring. The post concicular church was no longer exclusively scholastic in its theology. Actually it never was exclusively. The Augustinians had never gone away and the Franciscan School of Bonaventure was another major way of looking at things while both the Benedictines and Carthusians kept their own style.

This then is the problem: if you identify the teachings of the Church with the scholastic explanations then the Church changed at Vatican II and is not the same body. If, however, you see the theology as secondary to the teaching then the church has changed not at all in its fundamentals – even though the liturgical reforms were not well handled.

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60 Responses to An email from a Reader

  1. Kiran says:

    I shall restrain myself to quoting:

    “there are traditores in our time, yes, but unlike those of old, they have not handed over Scripture to Roman Imperial authorities who outlawed them, but handed over Catholic doctrine and worship to history and outlawed it, being the only Imperial functionaries extant now, though lately allowing, in good Imperial custom, its local observance so long as one does not deny their religion.”

  2. Kiran says:

    My point, PE, is that if you disagree with Catholics because they are not the Church, that is fine by me. Or at least, I can disagree validly. If you keep attacking the post-conciliar Church, then you are in quite a different position.

  3. Kiran says:

    I am sorry for being petulant, PE, but sometimes you are more than a bit provocative. I don’t mind even if you call me not a catholic, i.e. not a member of God’s Church, but being told that the Sacrifice is no longer valid within the Church (as you did in your comments regarding the EF and the NO) is a bit much.

  4. Past Elder says:

    What? Past Elder more than a bit provocative? Great Judas in the forum, am I not known throughout my home turf, the Lutheran blogosphere, for my placid and altogether irenic tone! Just ask Pastor Weedon!

    Now, as to your not being catholic, ie not a member of God’s church, I say no such thing at all. Not that God, you, or anyone else should give a royal, noble, or commoner crap what I think in that regard, just since it came up. From your background as stated in these comments, it would seem you were either baptised by water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost with the intent of joining you to Christ’s church by the Roman Catholic Church or in their judgement another body which correctly baptises (it would seem a part of the Anglican Communion). Therefore I would have no reason to question that you are a member of God’s church.

    As to the Sacrifice no longer being valid within the Church — by “Church” you would seem to mean the Catholic Church — that is not what I said.

    What is now called the Tridentine Rite is hardly the only possible ordo missae in the (Catholic) Church. Its chief virtue is that it corrects the valid objections of the Reformers to the liturgical laxity of their time by ensuring that matter, form and intent will be present in each and every Mass rather than the laxity cited or the subsequent errors of the Reformers re the nature of the Mass.

    Or so I was taught, before I was taught that it was a late mediaeval straight-jacket into which the “Church” cast the Mass in an extreme reaction to the situation of the time, regretable then and unnecesary now, from which, coupled with the advances since in knowledge of apostolic and patristic worship, we are now thankfully delivered by a novus ordo missae, more fully in harmony with the nature of the Mass and indeed accomplishing the desired reform of the Mass of Pius V more fully than was possible at that time.

    Sound good? I tried to buy it for a long time, until, tired of constantly having to look past the “excesses” nearly universal and impose this Platonic ideal on nearly every reality one experiences, I studied the typical Latin of the novus ordo itself.

    Whereupon it revealed itself as a high church Protestant service in full retreat from what specifically the “Church” had intended to make inescapable, whose only validity could be in that it was celebrated by clergy properly ordained to confect it.

    So, in a Catholic context, I do not say the movus ordo is sacramentally invalid, but rather that it is impossible due to its revisionism to state with certainty that intent is present when it is celebrated. And therefore, assuming one understands this, full animadversion being necessary, a sin in which to participate — to which I add immediately, full animadversion apparently hardly ever the case, or even possible due to the similarly faulty catechesis from the nouvelle theologie revisionists who crafted this new lex orandi to effect in worship what their new lex credendi did in teaching.

    These latter-day traditores have not repented of their deeds, and indeed (that was fun — deed, indeed!) persist in them, most recently in the outrageous motu which proclaims a thing and its denial two forms of the same thing, the former being allowed on condition of recognising the latter. Therewith the comparison with the Donatists ends, the traditores of that time having repented and seeking reintegration, the traditores of our time completely unrepentant, handing over to history Catholic faith and teaching and handing on to us a most foul parody of it.

    I will stop there, to divorce this point from my later faith history and underscore that if I were to lose my “Lutheran” faith entirely — because of which Faith I might add I am now able to see Christ’s church present in both the post and pre Vatican II Catholic Church — I would still hold to what is expressed above, which preceded my current faith by years, and in no case involve myself with the post-conciliar “Catholic Church”.

    inchally: measured by inches, as opposed to feetally or yardally.

  5. Joshua says:


    Many, many thanks – I think I now understand you!

    So it’s a question (you wearing your former Catholic hat for the moment) of intent: the N.O. in your view (qua former Catholic) requiring a much greater degree of formal intent on the part of the celebrating priest.

    (Praying, say, the old Formula of Intention before Mass – would that suffice? Ego volo celebrare Missam, etc.?)

    I get this, but I thought that the only needed intent was/is “to do as the Church does” – so a priest who didn’t believe in transsubstantiation (golly, imagine that) would still confect the Sacrament, however unworthily on his part, since by his going to the altar, etc. he would be doing as the Church does.

    Again, qua Catholic, what’s wrong with that as a very basic intent?

  6. Kiran says:

    “it is impossible due to its revisionism to state with certainty that intent is present when it is celebrated. And therefore, assuming one understands this, full animadversion being necessary, a sin in which to participate.”

    I know someone else who holds this (though a little more consistent being a Catholic). But I am yet to see a why either from him or from you. Whatever the original intention of the reformers has been (and I should say here, as an indication of where I stand, that I attend Mass said according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, which you attack elsewhere, every day so far as I can), why should that necessarily and so profoundly affect the intentionality of the actions of the priest?

    epurbi: over the city

  7. Past Elder says:

    The intent to do what the Church does, even if what the Church does is imperfectly understood by the intender, is sufficient re intent in sacramental validity.

    Thus, the novus ordo does not, because no rite can, require a greater degree of intent on the part of the priest.

    Again, what I am saying has nothing to do with what is going on with the priest.

  8. Kiran says:

    So, what are you saying when you claim the intent can’t be there? That the form militates against the possibility of such an intention? I don’t think so, and if you want to maintain that, you would have to go further and say why you say that.

    And by the way, keep in mind you have said this against both the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form.

  9. Joshua says:


    Now I’m more confused than ever! I thought you were saying that the intent was the issue?

    Please, I would appreciate it much if you could clarify this (and of your charity omit the “Judas H. Pope’s” and whatever other perfervid exclamations you would otherwise tourettishly interject).

  10. Past Elder says:

    Flying Judas in the aviary, oh, holy living cheeseballs, I wasn’t to do that, pardon me all to hell, is it not standard that the CELEBRANT of a sacrament need only intend to do what the Church does even if he isn’t altogether clear on what that is?

    It’s about the text, not the priest.

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