Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sadly, TF is mistaken

See here.

One proviso must be kept in mind throughout this post. Like me, TF is pseudonymous, and he scrupulously resists revealing personal information about himself. That of course is his choice, as it is likewise mine. What I say in this post (or in any other one) concerning whether TF is subject to Catholic Canon law is based upon the presumption that he was not baptized in the Catholic Church and/or has never been in full communion with the Catholic Church. If that presumption is mistaken, then of course my observations would be incorrect with respect to him, though still valid with respect to the vast majority of Protestants today. It seems reasonable to suppose that this is a valid presumption based upon personal interaction with him and based upon what I have read of his writings. I could be mistaken. [EDIT, moments after posting: "personal interaction" is poor choice of words, since it suggests I know who TF is in real life and have interacted with him personally. I don't, and I haven't. I meant simply to refer to my interaction with him by way of blogging and by way of "conversation" with him in various comboxes - RdP]

First, he has mistaken the sense of Canon §96:

By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition, insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way.

He quotes this so as to defend his false claim that he is subject to the anathemas of Trent by virtue of the fact that he is baptized. Baptism is insufficient to make one subject to canon law. That this is so is entirely clear from the canon quoted above. Baptism is a necessary condition for one to be "constituted a person [in the Catholic Church] with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition," but it is not a sufficient condition. This fact follows from what follows next in the canon: "…insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way."

But TF is not – so far as we know – in ecclesiastical communion with the Catholic Church. He has never suggested otherwise; in fact, in the post above, he affirms that he is not ("I am not, however, in full communion with Rome"). But if he is not in ecclesiastical communion with the Catholic Church, he does not meet the second necessary condition presented by Canon §96. Consequently he is not, for purposes of Canon Law, a "Juridic Person," and therefore is not subject to the requirements of that law. Period. End of Discussion. Unfortunately it probably will not be the end of the bizarre longing held by TF and others to view themselves as condemned by the Catholic Church. Whatever. Knock yourselves out, gentlemen (and ladies).

But if Canon §96 is insufficient, perhaps we ought also to look at §11.

Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.

TF has not stated whether he was baptized in the Catholic Church. Presuming that he was not, he fails the first condition for identifying those who are bound by "merely ecclesiastical laws." The second condition is an alternative to the first: "or received into it." TF has not stated whether he was ever received into the Catholic Church. Presuming that he was not, he fails the second condition presented by §11. But failing these two, we need not consider the other conditions presented there: the man who was neither baptized in the Catholic Church nor received into it is not bound by Catholic ecclesiastical laws.

But if Canons §96 and §11 are not enough, perhaps we ought to consider §205 (to which TF appeals in denying that he is in full communion with the Catholic Church):

Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.

TF is not joined by the bonds of Catholic Church's ecclesiastical governance. This is clear from §11.

TF rants:

RdP appears to lack this rather fundamental understanding of the scope of Rome's claims regarding herself. She claims for the pope a recognized headship over the Roman Catholic Church but an unrecognized headship over all those who have been validly baptized. That's part of the Roman Catholic Church trying to call itself the "catholic church." The "catholic church" by definition includes within it all Christians, and Rome recognizes as Christians all those who have been validly baptized.

RdP doesn't lack this understanding at all. What is lacking is TF's grasp of the fact that there is a difference between being understood to be in "imperfect communion" (the description used in Unitatis Redintegratio §3 and in Dominus Iesus §17) and one's being reckoned subject to canon law. One who is not subject to that law does not enjoy its privileges, he is not subject to its duties, and he is not subject to the sanctions attached to those duties. Above all, it ought to be obvious that one rather glaring aspect of Protestants' imperfect communion with Christ's Church is that they are not subject to her canon laws.

I don't know any other way to say it, nor how I could make it clearer; and barring some new information coming my way I'm no longer inclined to try.

That TF's opinions on this subject are badly clouded may be demonstrated from this snippet. In response to my appeal to a previous post of my own, TF claims:

RdP's link is to a prior occasion on which he attempted to argue with me about whether Rome considered the Reformers to be Christians.

Uh…No. That's not what the post was about. Don't take my word for it; read it for yourself. I said in the third paragraph:

The error here is in supposing that the condition of Protestants today is the same as that of heretics 500 years ago.

Seems pretty clear to me: the post concerns whether Protestants today are subject to the anathemas of Trent (as were the "Reformers"). Later in the same post I observed:

So: the fact that one is a Protestant today does not imply ipso facto that one is a formal heretic. [emphasis in original]

Still later, I said:

Now the case would be different for those who - as Catholics back in the 16th century - abandoned the Catholic faith for Protestantism. As Catholics, their heresy would have been both formal and material, and so far as I can tell they would have been subject to the condemnations of Trent.

Please note how I say that the "Reformers" of the 16th century who were Catholics that abandoned the Catholic Faith were subject to Trent's anathemas. Far from suggesting that they weren't Christians, I affirmed then (and do now) that they were! If they weren't Catholics, they could not have been subject to Trent! So TF has misrepresented things rather badly by suggesting the argument was over whether Calvin and others were Christians; no, the discussion had to do with whether modern Protestants are subject to the same anathemas that Calvin and others would have been.

Perhaps TF has problems digesting the idea that someone subject to an anathema should be called a Christian. Of course they should. They must be. Heretics are worthy of the name by virtue of the fact that they were/are members of the Church who subsequently fell into heresy and were condemned by ecclesiastical courts as heretics. What makes one Christian is Baptism, and that cannot be erased. In any case, nowhere in that post do I suggest that the "Reformers" weren't Christians.

In "reply" to my saying that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church (to the extent that his beliefs are actually false and under formal condemnation), TF splits microfibers:

What is interesting is that Trent's anathema (at least the one I've already discussed) is not against particular beliefs, nor even against particular statements but against the people who make those statements. RdP seems to have missed this fact in his analysis.

Apparently TF lost track of what words mean. This can be expected from Humpty Dumpty. :-) What is really interesting is that TF seems not to be willing to accept the rather blindingly obvious fact that those who would have been condemned under canon 33 actually believed what they were saying. Do we really have to be so pedantic as to insist that it would have been these false beliefs that made them subject to the anathema? Sheesh.


Alex said...

Clearly TF is in the wrong here. In trying to be cute he ended up once again displaying an inadequate knowledge of Catholicism while attempting to explain to all of us why Catholicism is wrong.

In typical TF fashion, I predict that he will eventually say that he wasn't saying what he actually said. If you press him hard enough, he will take you down a confusing road of distorted logic and historical revisionism until you either tire of dealing with him, or anyone following the discussion would have left it long ago.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for that added value, Alex.

Alex said...

This is just an honest observation. From what I have noticed in your interactions with my fellow Catholics you do one of two things: you ignore your obvious error, or you go back and forth until you come around full circle and then deny that you ever actually held the prior position. I have yet to see you admit an actual error on your part. You might admit of an error somewhat tangential to the argument, but that’s as far as it goes.

Again, this is just my observation, and I admit that I do not follow your every comment (or even close), so I could very well be wrong.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Alex,

Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for your comments.

In considering whether to write this post (and especially the one to which it is a follow-up), I was almost overwhelmingly of a mind not to do so. The sole motivation that justified the investment of time and energy to me was to write them for the sake of providing something that might prove helpful to others. I hope that they have been helpful to you.

I have no illusions about the likelihood that anything I write will be well-received by non-Catholics, to say nothing of anti-Catholics. :-)



Turretinfan said...

Alex: thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Alex said...

RdP, I enjoy reading your work.

Turretinfan, I'm just in my "I can't believe how intellectually dishonest this guy is" phase.

I'm thinking about posting a response to the wrongheadedness of this statement:

"The problem for Rome is that today she promotes 'Natural Family Planning,' which is itself a contraceptive technique (sometimes referred to as the 'rhythm method' of contraception)."

Alex said...

RdP, to be honest I thought that the content of your post was more or less common sense that Turretinfan would have already known. I'm glad that you wrote a response because I guess somebody has to do it, and you along with Paul - as always - both did an excellent job. I'm disappointed, but not suprised, that TF still wants to argue the matter.