Help me contribute to a defence of "Sentire Cum Ecclesia" for Catholica Australia

Okay, dear Reader, we’re going to have a go at interactive essay writing.

In this exercise, I stick up ideas for inclusion in my essay to be published in Catholica Australia defending the attitude of “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” and you give me your reactions. I then incorporate these ideas and criticisms into the ongoing compilation of the defence. What do you think? Ready to have a go? Here is the first installment.

God alone knows why I chose the title “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” for my blog. These things are done on a whim and a prayer. But over the years since, I have been very happy with my choice. Sort of like hand me down clothes that I find I actually like…

A quick web search will tell you that “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” is actually a Jesuit motto, from St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, “Rules for Thinking with the Church”. I never thought of myself as a Jesuit, but maybe there is something in that.

Rule number one is:

Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgement of one’s own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy.

Honestly, I couldn’t have put it better myself. This is the attitude that Brian Coyne contends is “obsequious”. But that only expounds what the phrase “Sentire Cum Ecclesia” means. It is not in itself a defence of the attitude.

A couple of other key rules from St Ignatius:

9. To uphold especially all the precepts of the Church, and not censure them in any manner; but, on the contrary, to defend them promptly, with reasons drawn from all sources, against those who criticize them.

10. To be eager to commend the decrees, mandates, traditions, rites and customs of the Fathers in the Faith or our superiors. As to their conduct; although there may not always be the uprightness of conduct that there ought to be, yet to attack or revile them in private or in public tends to scandal and disorder [Take note, Brian!]. Such attacks set the people against their princes and pastors; we must avoid such reproaches and never attack superiors before inferiors. The best course is to make private approach to those who have power to remedy the evil. [ie. no public petitions…]

And most astonishingly:

13. That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same;…

I propose that I will embark upon a definition of the term, followed by a explanation of the positive reasons for adopting such a position, and then answering the negative objections that Brian and others have raised. Your contributions will be very welcome.

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6 Responses to Help me contribute to a defence of "Sentire Cum Ecclesia" for Catholica Australia

  1. Arabella-m says:

    An objection Brian raises to those who ‘think with the Church’ is that they are like little children (in a bad sense), don’t think for themselves, etc, etc.

    If we look at those in history who have ‘thought with the Church’ – St Ignatius being the prime example – we see that rather than being like simple little children they were some of the greatest innovators of their times.

    E.g. St Ignatius wrote the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ (~1548) “with the object of helping many in their struggle for perfection” and coming to know God’s will in their life. The ‘Spiritual Exercises’ remains a classic and to this day exerts great influence.

    Others will be able to come up with different examples.

    [ JPII and with his ‘Theology of the Body’ may be a modern example, in this instance time will tell.]

  2. Christine says:

    I am amused by the reference to “obsequious”. Is there anything more obsequious than the kenosis of our Lord, who humbled himself in order to assume our human nature?

    To think with the mind of the Church is to think with the mind of Christ, whose mystical body she is.

  3. Past Elder says:

    Shucks, I’m going to have to sit this one out.

    And now poor old Ignatius is dragged into it. In my high school years, the early days of the Revolution, er, Vatican II, I served Mass for an SJ priest late of the faculty of St Louis U who “retired” to the area — if by retirement one means forced out by the Black Shirts for the Intergalactic Observance of the Spirit of Vatican II. He took me through the Spiritual Excercises, in Latin of course, and did his best to dissuade me from going off to the Benedictines who pray and work but do not know how to think or study.

    Perhaps I should have listened to him. That would have put me in St Louis for Seminex, the liberal side of which was aided by the same forces that threw him out of St Louis U. Maybe I’d have encountered confessional Lutheranism much earlier, when I was still young enough to grow up to be a Weedon or McCain. But I stuck with the SOBs, I mean OSBs, and found out they aren’t much good for praying or work either.

    But he did send me a copy of a work by a French Dominican called The Intellectual Life. Anybody heard of THAT? I may have the last copy on earth after the Kristallnacht visited upon Catholic education by the Black Shirts.

    Maybe I’ll click and see if Brian is looking for help.

  4. julie says:

    What a beautiful idea, “To think with the Church”. The title for me points to solidarity with Christ and the authority given to the Church

    Best wishes David.


  5. The Warden says:

    I quite like the Brian Coyne notion that those who think with the Church are just ‘children’ even in the derogatory sense in which he intends it… the fool doesn’t see the beauty of his analogy.

    Christ said: Let the children to come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever, does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Luke 18: 15-17

    Children ‘believe’ because they want to believe. Their thoughts and motives are pure and they thirst for the truth.

    Coyne and his ilk are so busy believing they are ‘right’ there is little room for a belief in God or his Church.

    Sentire Cum Ecclesia!!

  6. Schütz says:

    Cooee, Warden! What a pleasure to have your company. I knew you guys must be reading your “little brother’s” blog from time to time, but thanks for taking the time to leave a message. I am in awe of the stuff you guys can do. What a wonderful thing anonymity is! But then again, it is probably pride that prevents me from acting anonymously. And fear. There is always the danger of being caught out!

    On the topic: the more I think about it, the more I see there as being something “beautiful” in “thinking with the Church”, the beauty of being a “little child”.

    The 20th Century saw so much “grey” ideology, where we were supposed to be mature and independant and our own boss. So, out with monarchy and in with republicanism. Out with personal freedom and in with Communism. Grey, grey, grey. Awful, awful, awful.

    Sometimes there is something beautiful in being a child.

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