Saturday, October 6, 2007

Boettner - More Examples of Error

When I say "error," I don't just mean issues where we disagree. I mean he just flat-out got things wrong. It exposes the shabbiness of his "research," and for that matter it exposes a deplorable concern for accuracy on the part of his publisher, Presbyterian & Reformed. I'm pretty disappointed in P&R. It was always my impression that they were a very reputable company. Unfortunately the fact that they have kept this thoroughly worthless book in print (with a paperback edition appearing as recently as 2000) shows that I was wrong: Like Boettner they really aren't very concerned with truth at all.

On pp. 204-205 of his diatribe, Boettner writes of the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
For the devout, sincere Roman Catholic salvation depends upon his ability to call to mind while in the confessional all of his sins and to confess them. It is impressed upon him that only that which is confessed can be forgiven. ... What spiritual agony that means for many a soul who fears that he may have omitted some things that should have been told, and that he will have to make amends for them in purgatory!
The error here is that a Catholic is NOT responsible to confess that which he doesn't remember. One must make a sincere examination of his conscience, in good faith, and confess those mortal sins that he remembers. But the priest's absolution covers all sins - not just those confessed - when the penitent is in fact truly repentant, and has in fact made that good faith effort to confess all of his mortal sins. Now, if we afterwards recall some sin that we had not previously confessed explicitly, then we ought to confess it: not because it is not already forgiven, but rather because if we do not, we demonstrate that we do not really care about that sin after all. On p. 200 this same error is repeated: "All mortal sins must be confessed to the priest in detail or they cannot be forgiven." This is true only if we recall them. But that is not what Boettner says - anywhere.

Also on p. 200 there is this simply wretched nonsense:
The theory is that the priest must have all the facts in order to know how to deal with the case and what penance to assign. The real reason, of course, is to place the penitent more fully in the hands of the priest.
Boettner has this outrageous delusion that makes his book an exercise in hideous bigotry rather than a rational analysis. The delusion is that he knows better than the Church what the "real reason" for her laws are. With a dismissive flick of his pompous wrist, he tosses aside the facts in order to inject a venomous lie. It appears that this angry little man and his publisher believe that the purpose of this holy Sacrament is to place power in the hands of the priest (and by extension of the Church):
Through the confessional Rome has been able to exercise an effective control not only over the family, but over political officials of every grade, teachers, doctors, lawyers, employers and employees, and indeed over all who submit to that discipline (p. 202).
Lies. Utter garbage. And it's not like this is a big secret. But Boettner is not concerned with the truth, or he would accept the explanations that the Church provides for what it teaches. These things are not done in a corner, and the truth is not hard to find. And simple courtesy - the courtesy of a gentleman - would demand that he charitably do so.

On page 191, Boettner says this about the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
The Word of God teaches that the sinner must truly repent from the heart for his sin. Otherwise there can be no forgiveness. But the Church of Rome to a considerable degree substitutes penance for Gospel repentance. Penance consists of outward acts, such as repeating certain prayers many times, e.g., the Hail Mary or the rosary, self-inflicted punishments, fastings, pilgrimages, etc. Penance represents a false hope, for it relates only to outward acts. True repentance involves a genuine sorrow for sin, it is directed toward God, and the person voluntarily shows by his outward acts and conduct that he has forsaken his sin.
Here's the problem: This totally misrepresents what the Catholic Church teaches.
Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again" (CCC 1451; emphasis added).
There is no forgiveness without repentance. Period. This is a condition of receiving the sacrament rightly. The priest assumes that it is present, and he only intends to pronounce the absolution for those who truly are penitent. This is why the Church emphasizes that God alone forgives sins (CCC 1441). In fact, half the purpose of penance is to demonstrate that we are truly sorry for our sins - just like Zaccheus:
"Behold, Lord, I give one-half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:8-10).
What was Zaccheus doing if not a work of penance? What was he doing if not demonstrating his genuine repentance by his actions? And this is precisely the attitude that the Catholic Church rightly says that we must bring to the confessional. In short, then, Boettner is just lying when he says that the Church downplays genuine repentance. We may be charitable and presume that he was simply ignorant when he first wrote this, but he lived for 28 years after the book was published. It went through five editions and 27 printings in his lifetime. Both he and P&R had ample opportunity to learn the truth, thanks to Catholic objections to the lies in the book. But garbage like this - pretending that the Church denies the importance of genuine repentance - is still there.

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