Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More with Apolonio - Part 1

I'm not going to toil any more about this over at Philosophia Perennis. Like I said in my post, I'm out of my league there, and it's better if they don't have to waste their time on the likes of me; it's also better for me if I don't invest unnatural amounts of time in trying to get into their league.

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I don't have some more to say, and it doesn't mean that I'm convinced that I'm mistaken about what I've said. Sometimes the Big Boys are wrong. :-) On those occasions, it may not be appropriate for us little guys to try and tell them so. It's better to know your place. But even Sam Gamgee can see things more clearly than others sometimes, and while it may be too much to hope that I'd be in Sam's shoes (so to speak...!) I can still go back to the pub and have my say :-)

It would probably be a good idea - in terms of what I'm going to say here - to review his post more carefully. The first paragraph can probably be summarized thus:
It is very easy to simply let the Magisterium tell you what to believe. ... The Magisterium is not a substitute for critical thinking. It is not a substitute for the heart.
I guess the only things I'd say here is "of course." But that is because that is not its function, and speaking as a convert who came to the Church because he found what she teaches to be the Truth, I'd say that this is hardly controversial. I also don't think that it's solely converts who wonder about why the Church doesn't address things like ensoulment or frozen embryos. I'd also say it's a bit ridiculous to respond to such a concern with a "who cares?" The one asking the question - you know, the fellow Catholic who really wants to believe the truth, not just formally, but materially - obviously does care.

Maybe more to the point, the Church consists of all sorts of people. Some are Augustines. Some are Aquinases. But some are Joe Sixpacks - guys who are the salt of the earth, working hard to provide for their families, faithful Catholics who nevertheless just aren't gifted for theology. They need help to know how they ought to think about such things. So who cares? Joe Sixpack, for one. He doesn't read the best theological and philosophical journals, and he doesn't read Philosophia Perennis, and all he wants to do is to be faithful to the Church's teaching.

So is it brainless for such a man to ask these questions? Is he childish or foolish for doing so? Absolutely Not. He cares about the answers, and for a very good reason, and he deserves better than to be told that the Magisterium isn't a substitute for critical thinking. He deserves to get the help he needs so that he can believe what the Church teaches. And if Apolonio doesn't think that such folks exist...I can introduce him to them. LOTS of them.

Now I'm going to jump ahead, because later Apolonio will suggest that Joe is asking the wrong question. That, it seems to me, is at least part of the point of his conclusion:
If you are to become Catholic because of a theology, get yourself a book and do not waste your time in the Church.
Well, no, it's not a waste of time for the convert, and it's not a waste of time for Joe Sixpack. The heart has to be guided by the brain.
The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it? (Jer. 17:9)
That's why we've got to use our heads. And that's why Joe is 100% right when he wants to know the truth about ensoulment or frozen embryos. That's why the convert is completely correct to want (like any devout Catholic) to be faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium. Please note: I'm not saying that Joe is necessarily right to expect the Church to answer his questions in the form of a dogmatic pronouncement, but he's certainly within his rights to want help in answering an important moral question of our day. And it's not going to do to dump on him for that. So Apolonio is simply mistaken to the extent that he downplays the importance of such things. He may have his ducks in a row, but others don't, and sometimes they need to have them in a row. And just so you don't get the idea that I'm making this up :-)
It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals (CCC §890).
Now if that is the Magisterium's task - its pastoral duty - it's just crazy to suggest that it's foolish or immature to expect it to fulfill that duty.

Yes, there is more to the Faith than this...but not at the expense of this.


Apolonio said...

I think you're missing the point of my posts. See http://perennis.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/criticizing-the-church/#comments



There I even defined what I mean by "heart." You said,

"Please note: I'm not saying that Joe is necessarily right to expect the Church to answer his questions in the form of a dogmatic pronouncement, but he's certainly within his rights to want help in answering an important moral question of our day."

Okay, the person asked me why the Church hasn't DEFINED anything on ensoulment. And I pretty much said who cares because the Church, as you said, does not have to form a dogmatic pronouncement.

Plus, your whole critique of my statements from previous posts does not actually interact with the overall framework or with what I have said. You misinterpreted what I meant by "encounter"

You told me we have to use our "brains." Um, isn't that what I said in the first paragraph, that we must use our reason? What I was getting at is that reason is not reduced to the logical or scientific analysis.

So it's not that I'm wrong, it's just that you have misunderstood me.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Apolonio -

I haven't read your previous posts. I happened to "pop in" on the one for which I left a comment. That's the Internet for you. And the very nature of blogging basically requires you to reference old posts by a link if you expect people to take them into consideration for a new one. Heck, you'd have to do that in an academic setting, too, with a footnote or two :-)

I have already conceded - repeatedly - that I may have misunderstood you. Whether I actually have in this case may perhaps be determined by whether you have any intention of retracting or clarifying the meaning of your closing sentence in the post - which is what really got my dander up :-)

I did misinterpret what you meant when you used the term "encounter" in a comment on the post in question. But you hadn't used the term in that post, and you didn't refer to any previous posts of yours wherein you explain your usage. I submit that if you're using it as some sort of synonym for "grace" - which is hardly an obvious connection - that you ought to document (by a link at least) your usage.

More later; I am late for work.



Apolonio said...

People usually ask questions when they don't understand something or when they are not sure how words are being used. At least that's how we're supposed to charitably interpret people's words.

But I do stand by with everything I have said in my posts. I think if you're going to attempt to critique someone try to at least understand what the other person is saying.

Mike Burgess said...

I think if you're going to post things without definitions which have given rise to the kind of confusion and consternation RdP and others have expressed, you should perhaps be much more careful how you express yourself, Mr. Latar.

RdP wasn't uncharitable in writing what he did in reaction to what you wrote; calling peoples' understandable search for clarity and certainty "stupid" certainly seemed to be, I thought.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Well, at least one thing has become clear...there's apparently precious little point in attempting to carry on this conversation with you, Apolonio. I'm sorry about that.

The first point you made in your comment here was to defend yourself by appeal to old posts. Fair enough. But - as I said - the very nature of Internet conversations is such that unless you explicitly reference them, you simply have no grounds to expect readers to be familiar with them. None. People drive by all the time - the web is channel surfing to the Nth degree :-) Since you never referenced these old posts (before today, here on my blog), I'd say - with no disrespect meant at all - that it is very unfair of you to expect Internet readers to be familiar with them. The medium does not lend itself to this. Yes, misunderstandings certainly arise as a result of this, but the best way to minimize them is by healthy use of hyperlinks, in my opinion.

Secondly, as ought to be clear by now, I am not the only one who took your closing words ("If you are to become Catholic because of a theology, get yourself a book and do not waste your time in the Church") as a dig at certain sorts of converts or prospective converts (or something in that neighborhood). You may not think much of me (and I can live with that, being - hopefully - fairly familiar with my weaknesses), but there are others whom you presumably respect more - Lee Faber for one, and Mike Liccione for another, and Mike Burgess as well - who seem to have taken it similarly to me. Maybe we all misunderstood, but we can't chalk up their errors to my inadequacies, can we :-)

To top that off, Mike L. read the two previous posts you've cited here, and he still objected at least in part to what you wrote in the post in question, along lines substantially similar to my own objection. So if you say I've blown it by not reading your old posts, what will you say of Dr. Liccione who did read them and still objected?

Thirdly, I didn't post over at Perennis for my health :-) I sincerely hoped for a clarification. So to suggest that I didn't ask questions - when in fact I did - is incorrect.

Fourthly, you've now made it pretty clear in a variety of ways that I didn't really misunderstand you with respect to the Objectionable Sentence - or if I did, I'm in some pretty good company with Messrs. Burgess, Faber, and Liccione. So I consider the matter closed. You should consider the questions in this comment to be rhetorical :-)

In spite of this little dustup, I do respect you, and I expect you will do good things for God's kingdom. May he bless you in your studies.



Mike Burgess said...

Well said, Reg. I concur with it, all the way to the end.