Feed my lambdas

June 14, 2017 § 36 Comments

Doctrine is to pastoral practice as [fill in the blank] is to farming.

I’ll start: “mathematics”.

§ 36 Responses to Feed my lambdas

  • Biological knowledge.

  • TomD says:

    the earth

  • […] Source: Zippy Catholic […]

  • Advenedizo says:


  • Terry Morris says:


  • ~ITT ZippyZombies

    TRN: Given the developments of the past fifty years, however, the neo-Catholic polemic, which arose essentially as a defense of novelties in the post-conciliar Church, does not defend Apostolic or ecclesiastical tradition as such, but only the most recent papal pronouncement or decision (which may or may not coincide with objective tradition). Standing with Saint Epiphanius and the entire history of the Church the traditionalist says: “It is a tradition. Ask no more.” The neo-Catholic, however, unable to reconcile the post-conciliar novelties with the bimillenial teaching and practice of the Church before Vatican II, retreats into sheer papal positivism: “The Pope said it. Ask no more.” The result is a Catholic variant of Protestant nominalism, equating the exercise of authority with truth. And it is no coincidence that so many of the prominent figures in the neo-Catholic current are former Protestants.

    Accordingly, neo-Catholic doyens such as Mark Shea denounce as “hysterical reactionaries” Catholics who raise serious objections to the scandalous statements and actions of Pope Francis, including his approval of, and directive to publish to the world’s bishops, the vile midterm report of the “Synod on the Family” despite its utter rejection by the Synod itself, which refused to subscribe to this disgraceful document’s call for a “pastoral” accommodation of “gays,” “homosexual unions,” divorce and “remarriage,” cohabitation and artificial birth control.

  • Zippy says:

    I think “calendar” and “seasons” are pretty close, maybe a calendar of seasons. “Biological knowledge” is good too but I don’t know that doctrine is quite so epistemically dense, if you will.

    The point I suppose is that pastoral practice – farming – isn’t at all the same kind of thing as doctrine, despite their connectedness. And the pope (qua pope) is and has ever been like a farmer, not a truth machine. His main property qua pope is authority, not an epistemic guarantee of the production of true propositions or even wise choices. Thus my choice of mathematics in the analogy: farming depends on mathematics in so many implicit ways, and yet farming is not math.

    Ritter derImmaculata:
    Fifty years isn’t nearly long enough, if we are starting the clock when a pope formally authorized absolution of certain unrepentant mortal sinners — despite the conflict of that pastoral practice with doctrine.

    Anyway, what would you propose in the analogy? I didn’t understand your cryptic zombie reference or acronyms.

  • Zippy says:

    Mathematics is also too ‘epistemically dense’. I’ve often mentioned the irony in the most common complaints about the Church: it is always telling everyone what to do and how to think, and we need to know what to do and how to think but the Church won’t tell us.

    Whatever the case, it is true that doctrine and practice are related or connected in countless implicit ways; while at the same time they are not even the same kind of thing, so the idea that some pastoral practice can represent a logical contradiction of doctrine (as opposed to being, say, a prudentially unwise or even evil choice) rests on a basic category mistake.

  • Papal Coronation Oath:

    “I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein;
    To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;
    To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order that may surface;
    To guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the Divine ordinances of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, Whose place I take through the grace of God, Whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to the severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;
    I swear to God Almighty and the Saviour Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared.
    I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I.
    If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.
    Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone – be it ourselves or be it another – who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the Orthodox Faith and the Christian Religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture.”

    The Pope is subject to His predecessors in matters of Faith and morals and in matters of canonical tradition. He is supreme in matters of governance and discipline (which are subject to matters of Faith and morals).
    For example priestly celibacy is not De Fide, it is a discipline and yet it is a Tradition of Apostolic origin.
    No power on Earth can depose the Pope but He can be declared ‘self-deposed’ by the Council of Cardinals due to the excommunication leveled at Himself in the Coronation Oath. This has happened to Pope John XII and his days were ended by the husband of his adulterous concubine.

    Liudprand of Cremona gives an account of the charges leveled against him:
    “Then Cardinal-priest Peter got up, and testified that he had seen the Pope celebrate mass without communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, cardinal-deacon, declared that they had seen him ordain a deacon in a stable, and not at the proper hour. Cardinal-deacon Benedict, with other priests and deacons, said that they knew that he ordained bishops for money, and that in the city of Todi he had ordained as bishop a boy ten years old. They said it was not necessary to go into his sacrileges because they had seen more such than could be reckoned. They said in regard to his adulteries…. They said that he had publicly gone a-hunting; that he had put out the eyes of his spiritual father, Benedict, who died soon after in consequence; that he had mutilated and killed John, cardinal-subdeacon; and they testified that he had set buildings on fire, armed with helmet and breastplate, and girt with a sword. All, priests and laymen, cried out that he had drunk a toast to the devil. They said that while playing dice he had invoked the aid of Jupiter, Venus, and other demons. They declared that he had not celebrated matins, nor observed the canonical hours, and that he did not cross himself.

    “When the Emperor had heard all this, he bade me, Liutprand, bishop of Cremona, interpret to the [Pg 84]Romans, because they could not understand his Saxon. Then he got up and said: ‘It often happens, and we believe it from our experience, that men in great place are slandered by the envious, for a good man is disliked by bad men just as a bad man is disliked by good men. And for this reason we entertain some doubts concerning this accusation against the Pope, which Cardinal-deacon Benedict has just read and made before you, uncertain whether it springs from zeal for justice or from envy and impiety. Therefore with the authority of the dignity granted to me, though unworthy, I beseech you by that God, whom no man can deceive howsoever he may wish, and by His holy mother, the Virgin Mary, and by the most precious body of the prince of the Apostles, in whose Church we now are, that no accusation be cast at our lord the Pope of faults which he has not committed and which have not been seen by the most trustworthy men.'” The accusers affirmed their charges on oath. Then the holy Synod said: “If it please the holy Emperor let letters be sent to our lord the Pope, bidding him come and clear himself of these charges.” ~ H. D. Sedgwick (1905) A Short History of Italy.

    The essence of authority is the promulgation of objective truth, the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God. Should any authority dare to disconnect itself from God it shall not fail to perish. That’s what happened to Catholic Monarchies, they became ‘enlightened’, they joined masonic sects, they no longer claimed God’s anointment as the source of their authority.

    “With God and Jesus Christ,” we said, “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.” When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. (Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 1925)

  • Zippy says:

    Ritter derImmaculata:

    Who are you talking to? Try to stay on topic, and avoid posting walls of text in the combox.

  • Zippy says:

    From the wall of text:

    The essence of authority is the promulgation of objective truth…

    No it isn’t. The essence of authority is a capacity to morally bind subjects to (or to avoidance of) certain actions.

    Post-protestant Christians want the essence of authority to be the production of true propositions, because that ‘saves’ them from the humiliation of being subject to actual authority; especially authority with which they disagree.

  • I thought “mathematics” was good, and wondered if your original point is that the two are related but very different.

    I chose “biological knowledge” because:

    (a) It’s knowledge. Biology is what it is, and biological knowledge is what we [think we] know about biology. Similarly, God and the universe are what they are, and doctrine is what we [think we] know about them.

    (b) It’s broad and objective. There are an infinite number of ways this knowledge might be applied to any particular situation, and a very large number of factors that might tweak the precise application, but the knowledge that you have is still knowledge — it still tells us something real about the situation.

    (c) Alignment with the one helps with the other. Aligning your farming with properly understood biological knowledge will improve it; aligning your pastoral activities with properly understood doctrine will improve them.

    They’re not exactly directly related, though. People have farmed without a real knowledge of biology for millennia, but their results were poorer; people understand biology even when not specifically applying it to farming. But farming has led us to better biological knowledge, and better biological knowledge has led us to better farming.

    One analogy that springs to mind from this long-winded comment: Sometimes farmers use techniques that provide very good short-term results, but that ultimately destroy the land. Similarly, they sometimes farm in ways that provide a greater abundance of food, but that food has lower nutritional value. Looking at the results in the field, while important, is not biological knowledge: At most, it can be a pointer to biological knowledge.

  • “No it isn’t. The essence of authority is a capacity to morally bind subjects to (or to avoidance of) certain actions.”

    I think that’s an incredibly important idea that gets lost or misunderstood all too often.

  • Zippy says:


    I thought “mathematics” was good, and wondered if your original point is that the two are related but very different.

    Yes, and I suppose mathematics might be taken as an exaggeration of the point for effect, whereas “explicit knowledge of the nature of land, crops and seasons” (cherry picking and synthesizing the comments) might be more accurate.

    Which I suppose makes Denzinger a kind of Farmer’s Almanac.

  • Terry Morris says:

    I knew I should have specified Geography *the science*. The farmer needn’t be a professional Geographer, but he must have a good grasp of certain geographical principles. To be an effective farmer, that is.

  • Step2 says:

    Fertilizer. Should use the amount appropriate for the geography, weather, and crops, to maximize the yield.

  • Professor Q says:

    Is “botany and / or zoology” cheating? =)

  • Elostirion says:

    For how often we hear of Doctrine being used to bludgeon, perhaps a tamper?

    As an aside, I suppose the truth has a kind of authority in as much as we are bound to believe it.

  • Josh says:


  • Dismal Farmer says:

    Are we describing actual practice or intent?

    Well, the closest thing to doctrine would be something like a market plan. One might intend to sell wheat but end up planting oats because of the weather.

    Mathematics or other such knowledge are certainly useful, but aren’t analogous to “doctrine”. Doctrine is intent, not a body of knowledge.

    Mathematics is to farming as canon law is to pastoral practice.

  • Zippy says:

    Dismal Farmer:

    Doctrine is intent, not a body of knowledge.

    I can’t agree with that. Doctrine is a collection of truths about faith and morals.

  • Zippy says:

    Now that we’ve collected some great ideas for the analogy of pastoral practice to farming, we open the Good Book to Matthew Chapter 13.

  • Martin T says:


    Wait, what was the question?

  • Zippy says:

    Martin T:

    The main point of this post was to make a bad math pun.

    It is kind of interesting how many people see doctrine as something other than a collection of truths though. Praxis and doctrine are related, to be sure, but they aren’t really the same kind of thing at all.

    Botanists may tend to have a green thumb, and good gardeners may tend to have accurate botanical knowledge. But I imagine that there exist great botanists who have black thumbs and great gardeners who would find a botany textbook unintelligible.

    The connection between good botanical knowledge and good gardening in other words is not a positive (ahem) logical connection.

  • GJ says:

    It is kind of interesting how many people see doctrine as something other than a collection of truths though. Praxis and doctrine are related, to be sure, but they aren’t really the same kind of thing at all.

    Something I’ve been wondering for a while: how important is it for a clergyman to have a theological degree? Seems to me that putting up that barrier discourages a lot of men who would be good leaders.

    It’s not like going to a seminary promotes orthodox beliefs in the clergy; if anything the opposite sees to be the case.

  • Zippy says:


    I may be prejudiced, since some of my favorite saints were reportedly rather, shall we say, ordinary in intellect. St. Joseph of Cupertino was known as “Brother Ass” for his stupidity, and St. Martin de Porres was notoriously suited only for rather menial work.

    I don’t know about clergy in particular — some amount of domain knowledge seems important. But certainly it isn’t necessary to be knowledgeable to be a good Christian.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: GJ

    I was under the impression that the main reason there’s a priority put on education for clergy is because education has typically been one of their main jobs.

    That said, the value of a certified education has been blown out of all proportion for everything in society, and clergy are certainly no exception.

  • My favorite Saint is probably Nicholas, mostly because he’s Santa Claus, except he punches heretics in the face.

  • Jack says:


    Doctrine can be looked at as the accumulated Wisdom of the Church.

    That’s how a farmer knows that he should plant wheat and not corn in this or that particular field.

    Of course, some lessons people have to learn from themselves. But by then, the farm might be foreclosed.

  • Zippy says:


    I think experience is too broad though – which implies that ‘botanical knowledge’ and the like are also probably too broad.

    Lots of accumulated wisdom – sometimes reflected in the various disciplines and/or positive law of the Church – is not doctrine. It isn’t doctrinal that priests are celibate, that we abstain from meat on Fridays, that feast days fall on a certain Julian calendar date, etc etc. The inventory of non-doctrinal wisdom and practice is vast.

  • TomD says:

    One of the things you see quite often how is the discounting of “non-certain” knowledge – even in the sciences, but also in the Church.

    The Church in her wisdom asks us to abstain from meat on Friday; but it’s not doctrine to do so; but it is highly unwise to therefore dismiss it as “random and unimportant.”

    Which is why we still listen to Pope Francis even if he hasn’t doctrinally commanded anything directly of us; as much of the knowledge doesn’t come via that channel.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Doctrine is to pastoral practice as government is to farming.

    Hear me out; I think the metaphor is expansive.

    Good government is vital and beneficial to farming; the sovereign must guarantee the market and the roads at the very least, but can go a great deal further to encourage good farming practice. Further, in an important sense, the purpose of government is to enable and cultivate farming, but at the same time the purpose of government goes beyond this simple perspective. Even further, in times of crisis or other exigent priority, government (or, more accurately, governors, through their roles as such) can and should directly interfere with the practice of farming (intentionally distorting the market to prepare for famine, commandeering foodstuffs for the army, burning down fields and farms to avoid them falling into the hands of the enemy, etc.)

    However, government can easily harm farming, most often by becoming too invasive and particular in its demands or regulations.

  • Doctrine is a collection of [what we believe to be] truths, which therefore stand regardless of what anyone says, thinks, or does.

    Government is an organization that has authority, and therefore imposes its will on those who fall under that authority. With the exception of that authority itself, government is what people say, think, and do.

    So we see that government and doctrine are not even remotely similar to each other in nature.

    Pastoral practice and farming, meanwhile, are very similar in nature (they’re both practices used to achieve specific ends).

    Thus doctine:pastoral practice::government:farming seems to miss the mark as much as doctrine:pastoral practice::fashion trends:farming does.

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