Monday, June 17, 2019

Don’t Leave the Barque of Peter For a Ship of Fools

Another day, another case of people committing rash judgment in response to something they think the Pope is doing, but has nothing to do with the actual events.

This time, the case involves a synod called to look into whether the Church should ordain married men living in the remote regions to provide people with access to the priestly ministry when there are too few priests to meet the need of the people living there. If accepted, the Church would call married men of stable families—similar to how she calls married men to be permanent deacons—to fill the role.

This would not be an abolition of celibacy in the West. This would not mean that those already priests could marry. The only precedent it could set is that if it happens that another region should wind up with the same circumstances, the Church could allow this to the people there as well.

But some are declaring that the discipline of celibacy is a doctrine and the Pope is a heretic. In doing so, they have met challenges by denying that Eastern Rite Catholics are in communion with the Church. Others say that the Church should start ordaining women instead (she can’t). Some misinterpreted this as throwing open the doors to allowing priests to marry everywhere. 

All of this shows that the people who are “defending” the Church from the Pope (a small but very vocal portion of the laity) are ignorant about what the Church teaches and/or what is going on beyond the headline [§], and condemning the Pope for doing things he has no intention of doing. They sound increasingly like the typical anti-Catholic who condemns what he thinks is Catholic teaching when Catholic teaching is either nothing like their accusations or else held for reasons completely different from what they think.

These critics are sure that they represent the true Church while holding views at odds with her actual teaching. But they overlook the fact that some Catholics who are convinced that the Church is in error have wound up in various sede vacantist groups, fundamentalist anti-Catholic groups, Old Catholic groups, or the Orthodox church—all of which require deny some part of the long held Catholic teaching. That’s ironic, considering they’re claiming to defend the Church from error. But it’s not surprising because they have never believed a crucial teaching. Blessed John Henry Newman wrote [#]:

I will take one more instance. A man is converted to the Catholic Church from his admiration of its religious system, and his disgust with Protestantism. That admiration remains; but, after a time, he leaves his new faith, perhaps returns to his old. The reason, if we may conjecture, may sometimes be this: he has never believed in the Church’s infallibility; in her doctrinal truth he has believed, but in her infallibility, no. He was asked, before he was received, whether he held all that the Church taught, he replied he did; but he understood the question to mean, whether he held those particular doctrines “which at that time the Church in matter of fact formally taught,” whereas it really meant “whatever the Church then or at any future time should teach.” Thus, he never had the indispensable and elementary faith of a Catholic, and was simply no subject for reception into the fold of the Church. This being the case, when the Immaculate Conception is defined, he feels that it is something more than he bargained for when he became a Catholic, and accordingly he gives up his religious profession. The world will say that he has lost his certitude of the divinity of the Catholic Faith, but he never had it.

An Essay in Aid to a Grammar of Assent, page 240

The critics, whether they leave the Church or remain within, either never believed in or stopped believing in the infallibility of the Church. Whether they stay or go, they have effectively abandoned the Barque of Peter to become a ship of fools, attacking the Church for not accepting their error as truth.


[§] I’ve seen it get as ridiculous as some critics assume that the “Amazon synod” meant that was involved in changing Church teaching. This is not a joke... though I wish it was.

[#] While he was writing about Catholic converts who returned to their original denomination, I believe it also fits cradle Catholic critics.

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