We are all Jesuits now

October 9, 2017 § 68 Comments

LMS Chairman writes:

The practice in Confession of not absolving unrepentent sinners is intrinsically related to its nature as established by Divine Law.

There is a problem with this view though. The ‘pastoral’ practice of absolving unrepentant sinners goes back to well before Vatican II, and is not a new or novel thing with the publication of Amoris Laetitia.

The Vademicum for Confessors in 1997, under John Paul II though not signed by him personally, authorized absolution of penitents who were unrepentant on contraception.

The various Sacred Penitentiary and papal audience rulings on usury in the 1800’s authorized absolution of unrepentant interest-takers in a couple of cases: specifically when those unrepentant usurers rationalized their behavior by appealing to either (1) the fact that they made mutuum loans to businessmen (condemned as an excuse by Vix Pervenit) or (2) by the fact that the ‘law of the prince’ authorized charging a certain rate of interest.

Amoris isn’t the camel’s nose in the tent: it is the other end of the camel coming into the tent.

That doesn’t make the current round of clarification any less urgent, but it is important to have a full and adequate grasp of the situation. Pope Francis is not an innovator. As the first Jesuit pope he is simply completing the centuries long Jesuit project of fighting the Protestant heresy by embracing it.

The History of Economic Thought website describes, consistent with my own understanding, the Salamanca Jesuit approach to morality in economic life and politics:

It is common to associate early Jesuit philosophers like Leonard Lessius, Luis Molina, and Juan de Mariana, with the Salamanca school.

The Jesuit Order (‘Society of Jesus’), founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius de Loyola, was erected to combat the appeal of Protestantism. […] The Scholastic doctrine of ‘just price’ was rejected out of hand as all-too-divine, the Jesuits arguing that value is a human affair and was determined by natural human interaction on markets. They followed much the same line on money and inflation. On moral defenses of usury and profit, the Jesuits were eager to reform Catholic doctrine to bring it more in line with current practice, to ease their efforts to overcome the resistance of Protestant towns to re-catholicization.

Quite more controversial was the Jesuit view of the basis of civil government, something the Salamanca scholars had largely and judiciously avoided. In line with their general approach, Jesuits like Molina, de Mariana and Suarez proposed that government rested on human consent […] Jesuit musings on the human rather than divine sources of government made them downright subversive to the established order. It did not help matters that, notoriously, the Jesuit philosopher Juan de Mariana (1598) openly contemplated that the murder of a monarch might be justified, if he proved tyrannical to the people. This was uttered at a tense time of notorious political assassinations – Henry IV of France (attempted in 1595, succeeded in1610), James I of England (Gunpowder Plot, 1605), Paolo Sarpi of Venice (attempted, 1606), etc. – in which Jesuit activists were suspected of having a role (and may indeed have had one).

In the popular mindset of the time, the Jesuits became synonymous with regicide and political destabilization.

The Jesuit approach (or, more fairly, a prominent and pervasive Jesuit approach) has always been to downplay and subjectivize the moral law as a way of making the Church seem more familiar and appealing to non-Catholics, especially Protestants. From this point of view, if pervasive everyday practice is contrary to the moral law as traditionally understood then what has to change is our understanding and application of the moral law, to accommodate everyday practice and get these people into the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.  The important thing is Catholic unity, and if the moral law is a cause of disunity then that implies a problem with our understanding of or application of the moral law.  What is important is how people actually live, not the abstract moral demands of the Gospel.

Jesuits have been doing this for centuries, and the fruits of this approach are manifest. We are all Jesuits now.

§ 68 Responses to We are all Jesuits now

  • 2 Catholics were talking, and one asked the other “what is the same between the Jesuits and the Dominicans?” He replied “they were both founded to combat heresy; the dominicans to combat the Cathars and the Jesuits to fight Protestantism.” The first queried “well, what’s different about them?” The second replied “have you met any Cathars lately?”

  • John says:

    @Zippy,

    Jesuits like Molina, de Mariana and Suarez proposed that government rested on human consent […]

    Jesuit musings on the human rather than divine sources of government made them downright subversive to the established order.

    It did not help matters that, notoriously, the Jesuit philosopher Juan de Mariana (1598) openly contemplated that the murder of a monarch might be justified, if he proved tyrannical to the people.

    It seems that this is clearly derived from previous theologians such as Manegold of Lautenbach during the 11th-12th century and others of his time, who, during the Investiture controversy about whether or not the Pope had the sole authority of ordaining bishops or the Emperor as well, made the argument that only the Pope could ordain a bishop because a king is only a king insofar as people do not dismiss him if their conscience disagrees with the way he rules .

    Such an idea was also found in Germanic law of the early middle ages where there was an implicit rule of thumb that the people could justly revolt against a monarch if they sincerely felt in their hearts that he was doing something wrong.

    And strangely, the Pope at the time made use of this and accepted this idea to support the Church over against the Emperor at the time, likely as an official Church position.

    The Investiture episode is thus regarded as a point in history where strangely libertarian views of society existed amongst the populace, which makes the fact the later middle ages were much more authoritarian quite weird, mostly because of the rediscovery of ancient Roman law and the fact law could be formally codified, as opposed the law being informal, uncodified and being more abstract by depending upon natural law.

  • John says:

    In other words, the Jesuits didn’t actually start this, in a similar way to how some claim that William of Ockham didn’t actually start nominalism, but rather that such ideas can also be found in the writings of Peter Lombard.

  • itascriptaest says:

    I would urge some caution when reading modern liberal interpretations of the School of Salamanca. The scholarship of Schumpter, De Roover, Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson and especially Rothbard’s account of Scholasticism is fraught with anachronisms. Their interpretations often involve pulling teachings completely out of context while completely ignoring other passages. Overall, their scholarship is pretty shoddy and amounts to little more than propaganda. The liberal historiography of Scholasticism was arguably inaugurated by Lord Acton who famously claimed that St. Thomas Aquinas was the first Whig.

    Here are some interesting links on this point:

    http://distributistreview.com/corporation-christendom-the-true-school-of-salamanca/

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/business/fr94302.htm

    We can find notions of popular consent in St. Thomas’s thought and in other quintessentially medieval thinkers like John of Salisbury. Bear in mind too that Bellarmine and Suraez were arguing against the novel Protestant doctrine of the divine right of kings and both argued in favor of the Papacy as the only divinely instituted government. This is a long way away from liberalism and even if liberalism opportunistically appropriated these arguments out of their Catholic context I don’t see why we should blame these thinkers anymore than the Church should be blamed for Protestants employing scripture against the Church.

  • itascriptaest says:

    William of Ockham didn’t actually start nominalism

    I actually think Ockham could be a better candidate as a precursor for modern liberal political theory (beyond the question of Nominalist epistemology). Reading Brian Tierney’s account of Ockham’s canonical dispute with the Papacy is viewed as one of the first instances of a “rights talk” being used to undermine monarchical authority. Tierney himself is a liberal and sees this as a good thing.

  • I suspect that ideas are more like plants than house. They start small and through time become bigger and more fleshed out. Aristotle finds roots for his thinking hundreds of years before him though he is often seen as the source of many novel ideas. Wisdom is mostly bringing order and clarity to the insights of a thousand other.

    As for nominalism, some point to Porphyry for planting the seeds and the recovery of Aristotle in Western Europe providing as providing the water. Whatever the ultimate origin it seems Ockham brought nominalism to a level by making it thematic in his thought as the Jesuits of Salamanca did for liberalism.

  • TomD says:

    I suspect much of the confusion comes from arguing against a position (Kings are directly instituted by God and even the Pope can’t disagree), answering objections with hypotheticals (things like where kings come from at the start), and then later writers ignoring the position argued against and just using them as givens.

  • Aristokles Contra Mundum says:

    John,

    Do you have a citation for that position in Manegold? It rings a bit anachronistic to me given my other readings in Investiture polemics, though I confess that’s not my field of expertise.

  • “The Jesuit approach (or, more fairly, a prominent and pervasive Jesuit approach) has always been to downplay and subjectivize the moral law as a way of making the Church seem more familiar and appealing to non-Catholics, especially Protestants.”

    A bit ironic, Zippy, I think I respect your Pope much more than many Catholics seem to. As to the church, it’s actually not their unwillingness to subjectivize moral law that keeps me away, but rather their willingness to do so. There are different rules for different people, there are politics at play, there is history, and there is a frequent unwillingness to admit their flaws when questioned. Moral law becomes very subjective depending on who you are, whether or not you can afford an annulment or a pardon or an unrepentant waiver or whatever bit of churchian red tape is fashionable at the time.

    That, and then there are so, so many Catholics who have never read the bible, don’t go to church,don’t appear to have an actual spiritual relationship with the Lord at all.

  • itascriptaest says:

    A bit ironic, Zippy, I think I respect your Pope much more than many Catholics seem to.

    Where is the irony? You comment confirms Zippy’s point.

  • donnie says:

    As to the church, it’s actually not their unwillingness to subjectivize moral law that keeps me away, but rather their willingness to do so. There are different rules for different people, there are politics at play, there is history, and there is a frequent unwillingness to admit their flaws when questioned….

    That, and then there are so, so many Catholics who have never read the bible, don’t go to church,don’t appear to have an actual spiritual relationship with the Lord at all.

    Well, if that’s what keeps you from being a Catholic, why are you a Protestant?

    Your criticisms of the Catholics apply at least as much to Protestants, if not much more so. There is plenty subjectivizing of divine law, establishing different and contradictory rules, a rich history of corruption and politics, and plenty of obstinacy in the face of charitable correction.

    And there are certainly a whole host of Protestants who have never read the Bible, don’t go to church, and never bother to cultivate a spiritual life.

    All of this reminds me of an old quip: the Catholic Church will tolerate any heresy, but no schism. The Orthodox churches will tolerate any schism, but no heresy.

    But the Protestant churches? Taken as a whole it’s pretty clear that they’ll tolerate just about anything.

    Maybe you don’t think it’s fair to compare the Catholic Church to Protestant churches taken together, since, after all, they’re each in schism from one another. But then again, that’s sort of my point. If your solution to the problem of, “How do I avoid belonging to the same community of faith as these other embarrassingly terrible Christians?” is schism, well, that’s not solving a damn thing.

    And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.

    (John 17: 20-23)

  • “How do I avoid belonging to the same community of faith as these other embarrassingly terrible Christians?”

    LOL! No,that is not the issue. There is no way to avoid that. We are all just stuck with it.

    One thing Catholics and protestants tend to have in common is a fear that the church is going to “downplay and subjectivize the moral law as a way of making the Church seem more familiar and appealing” to non-believers.

    I’ve been saying for a long time that the precise opposite is true, it is the constant subjectivity of moral law that makes us look like hypocrites and untrustworthy. The problem is not that we are going to do that, the problem is that we have done that for so long, we look like hypocrites.

    The very idea of “absolving unrepentant sinners,” is more political, than scriptural.

  • The very idea of “absolving unrepentant sinners,” is more political, than scriptural.

    The same can be said of schism.

  • Mike T says:

    There are different rules for different people,

    Our buddy Dalrock has provided many examples of that and how it corrupts the church and society to their core. It’s especially ironic when you consider that Protestants harp on the need to recognize that you are a sinner in need of a savior, and then go on to downplay the sinfulness of women. It’s almost like they subconsciously prefer women to veer off onto the wide path that leads to destruction for the sake of peace.

  • “Our buddy Dalrock has provided many examples of that and how it corrupts the church and society to their core.”

    Not my buddy. There is a far bigger schism between Dalrock and I than between me and the Catholic church.

  • Gabe Ruth says:

    That link to W4 is amazing. I had know idea how lonely your struggle has been, thank you for your persistence.

  • Gabe Ruth says:

    One aspect of looking back at these discussions after a number of years is you can critique them on their own grounds (consequentialism). It must be stated at the outset that one rejects their grounds, but I don’t see a way that a person invoking the continued existence of Western civilization as his justification for torturing some asshole FOR LIFE SAVING INFORMATION will be moved by reason. Perhaps taunting him with the tawdry and moronic implementation of his desired course of action would help? Sadly, I suspect the very thing they object to Zippy doing (explicitly stating a principle and holding to it) will miraculously prove within their grasp when the vanity of the GWoT is demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • donnie says:

    insanitybytes22,

    Maybe I’m not grasping your point then. Are you saying what keeps you away from the Church is that there aren’t any fewer hypocrites within than without?

  • I’m pretty involved with the church, donnie. I am the church,we are the church,”the church” is us, so to speak.

    One reason I am protestant and not Catholic is because I do not trust the politics of the Catholic church, their historic propensity to make moral law subjective and to waive it for certain people in certain situations. That does not mean protestants do it any better. It is just that on the protestant side if I see too much hypocrisy I can move to a different group of believers.

    What tends to push people away from church on both the Catholic and protestant side is hypocrisy, when moral law becomes subjective. As my husband often says,”it’s not what you do,it’s who you know.”

  • Mike T says:

    It is just that on the protestant side if I see too much hypocrisy I can move to a different group of believers.

    As a fellow Protestant, I’d also point out that the flip side to this is that it is impossible to impose church discipline broadly on someone who deserves it. So instead of being brought under authority, they simply slink off to find another group that doesn’t know them and/or is not inclined to honor a sanction from their current body.

    While there are times that that could benefit a person legitimately, more often than not it just means that wolves have an easy time moving from place to place until they find a group where they can operate easily. We’ve seen more than a few of those types try to show up at my church.

    Not my buddy. There is a far bigger schism between Dalrock and I than between me and the Catholic church.

    Way to take a light turn of phrase into something more serious than it needed to be…

    I do find it interesting that in general, conservative Christian women seem to loathe Dalrock with a passion. Lydia at W4 seems to positively despise him.

  • “I do find it interesting that in general, conservative Christian women seem to loathe Dalrock with a passion.”

    Well, on the bright side, he’s a fabulous argument for the Catholic church,for church discipline, and for the value of centralized authority. On the other hand, if Dalrock ever attained any kind of power or authority within the church, I’d simply follow John The Baptist’s lead and head for the wilderness to feast off locust and honey.

  • Zippy says:

    My takeaway from our Protestant commenters in this thread is that, at least in their case, the ‘ecumenical’ approach of dishonestly subjectivizing morality as a marketing ploy has had the opposite of its (at least putatively) intended effect. Acting as though the objective truth isn’t important in the moral domain just convinces people that we don’t really care about the truth and don’t really believe what we say we believe.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    I’m pretty involved with the church…

    In the spirit of plainspoken truth, from our point of view you aren’t actually involved in the Church at all. You are part of a group of laymen outside of the Church who are play-acting — it is kind of the equivalent of two unmarried people shacking up and play-acting at being “married”, claiming to be in a state equivalent to marriage. In our understanding this is a terrible thing for you: it separates you from the source and summit of the Christian faith, that is, from Christ Himself truly and fully present in the Eucharist. Next to that, concerns about politics and the like could not possibly be less relevant.

  • donnie says:

    One reason I am protestant and not Catholic is because I do not trust the politics of the Catholic church, their historic propensity to make moral law subjective and to waive it for certain people in certain situations. That does not mean protestants do it any better. It is just that on the protestant side if I see too much hypocrisy I can move to a different group of believers.

    What Zippy stated above is the most important point by far. This reasoning is no justification for turning down Christ who offers Himself to you daily in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in every Catholic Church around the world.

    But there is also another point, not nearly as important as the one Zippy mentions, but important nonetheless. It was what I was trying to get at in my earlier comments above.

    Schism is much like a divorce. And divorcing yourself from the spiritual heads of the Christian household is analogous to divorcing yourself from the spiritual head of your own household. Sometimes the head of your household is not very good at his job. Sometimes he mucks it up so badly and for so long that you really begin to lose trust that he can execute his authority as head of household competently to begin with.

    Well, none of these concerns, however legitimate they may be, are justification to divorce your head of household. Likewise, no concerns over the competency of the Church Fathers to exercise their Christ-given authority justify divorcing oneself from your spiritual heads of household. And it certainly doesn’t justify seeking out a new spiritual household and attempting to form a second “marriage” with this new community.

    Human authority is messy, incompetent, and often corrupted. But ultimately Christ has given us our spiritual Fathers, His Apostles and their successors, because He loves us. If we love Him, we will obey those whom he has placed in authority over us. We will marry ourselves to the Church which He established, and never look back.

  • “Acting as though the objective truth isn’t important in the moral domain just convinces people that we don’t really care about the truth and don’t really believe what we say we believe.”

    Exactly, Zippy.

    I agree with what donnie is saying too, and the concept of shacking up rather than being married, is quite good too. On the other hand, I am the kind of person who could never have a marriage on paper only, a formal covenant that was lacking love and authenticity. Marriage really means something, but to place more value in the license,the ritual,the ceremony, than on the substance and condition of the marriage itself bothers me. That is kind of an analogy for how I perceive the Catholic church and what keeps me separate.

  • Zippy says:

    This may be a case of both/and, as opposed to either/or.

    But the marriage analogy only takes us so far. Christians belong to the Church as children belong to a family. To be baptized is (among other things) to be born into the Church. “Staying single” isn’t an option.

  • […] the Jesuit Order has suffered a corruption of Holiness that is now degrading into outright heresy. The Zippy Catholic writes of this under the style “We Are All jesuits Now”: “Amoris isn’t the camel’s nose in the […]

  • donnie says:

    This may be a case of both/and, as opposed to either/or.

    It definitely is a case of both/and. Overemphasizing marriage as a formality, to the detriment of the bond between the spouses, is a problem. But the fact of the matter is that without the formality of marriage, without the spouses formally making vows before God and before one another, there is in fact no marriage at all. Insisting that one’s adulterous relationship is pretty much the same thing as marriage, or that one can have the substance of marriage without the formality of marriage, is a much bigger problem.

    Likewise, if one wants to truly have a deep and intimate relationship with Our Lord, then one must go to Him and receive Him in the deepest and most intimate way possible: by uniting oneself to His very Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity. Yes, this means assisting through the formalities present within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Those formalities pale of course to the reality of the Real Presence, the reality of Christ physically inside you after you receive Him in the Sacrament. But to reject Christ’s Real Presence because you’d rather not see the formalities so heavily emphasized is the most foolish decision you can possibly make.

    Scripture and prayer are wonderful, but they are nothing next to having Christ’s own flesh and blood within you.

    Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.

    (John 6:53)

  • Karl says:

    insanitybytes22,

    For what it is worth, I think you should become Catholic, and your husband, too, if he is not.

    This is from a guy treated with contempt by the institutional Catholic Church via many of is clergy, both priests and bishops. I understand your reticence.

    Karl

  • Professor Q says:

    For what it’s worth, there are some dodgy passages in Familiaris Consortio, too:

    First, there’s: “On the same lines, it is part of the Church’s pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavor to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm.” (Hmmm, “endeavour to establish the conditions” – doesn’t that remind you of a certain Cardinal who said “the desire to change is enough” in reference to The Pope Francis Self-Help Guide to Happy Families?)

    Second (and this may sound harsh, but believe me, I have thought long about it) is the entire “brother and sister” concession for divorced and remarried couples. My issue with it isn’t so much the potential occasion of sin, but the fact that it de facto accepts the dissolution of the first marriage and creates a de facto “second sexless marriage” in which an unmarried couple can share all the “goods” (using this word in a broad sense) of marriage, including rearing their (illegitimate) children together, except for sexual intercourse. Perhaps that is a big “except”, but not for all couples and not in all cultures.

  • […] This in particular is a dangerous temptation for orthodox Catholics.  Just because an opinion or practice is old, comes from a (supposedly) respectable source, and has not (yet) been forcefully condemned, it does […]

  • Zippy says:

    Professor Q:

    (I just found your comment in SPAM).

    On the first, a lot of JPII’s writing has that style. I have to admit that it isn’t my cup of tea, but in JPII’s case the ‘therapeutic’ language is backstopped by unequivocal statements of the orthodox position.

    On the second, I have my own take on the brother-sister thing which is probably too long for a combox, but I’d summarize it by suggesting that my view on that situation is similar to JPII’s view on the death penalty (from which my own is not far off): that is, that the number of cases to which it licitly applies is vanishingly small.

    Like the DP though it is critical to affirm the moral principles which apply, and I do think this was a central concern of JPII’s when he wrote FC. I extrapolate this from the context of his other magisterial writings, especially Veritatis Splendor. Adultery and fornication are always and intrinsically immoral, so even in the most contrived prudential case where a ‘brother sister’ arrangement may be justifiable, sexual relations are ruled out absolutely and without exception.

  • […] – as within the legitimate power of the Prince, starting with the theories of Adam Tanner (SJ) of Ingolstadt in 1620.   Tanner and his pupil Christopher Haunold argued […]

  • donnie says:

    Zippy – I’m curious if your view of Jesuit practices extends to those of Matteo Ricci. A cursory glance at his policy of accommodation would seem to indicate that he was a Jesuit in precisely the sense you describe above: a man trying to convert the Chinese by embracing them in their erroneous beliefs, practices and customs. With this view it is easy to see why Pope Clement XI and Pope Benedict XIV took the later stances that they did. However, it is also indisputable that Ricci’s approach succeeded in spreading Catholicism in China and winning many converts, and that the Holy See’s later approach led to disastrous consequences for the Faith in China.

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on this notable historical example.

  • TomD says:

    Rites are different than doctrine – though they may represent it. The extent to which the Church incorporates foreign “custom” is something that can be argued, but the doctrine cannot. (An example is All Souls Day in Mexico taking on much of the culture there.)

    The Letter to Mellitus is a good example.

  • donnie says:

    TomD – My understanding is that the dispute was less over whether Catholics could embrace Chinese cultural rites, but whether Catholics could embrace Chinese cultural rites that included things like the worship of Confucius, the worship of ancestors, and worshiping inside a pagan temple. In Clement XI’s and Benedict XIV’s view, these actions were heathen in nature and thus condemned, however both Popes encouraged Chinese Catholics to continue practicing Chinese customs and traditions which did not include pagan worship. This meant that Catholics could no longer follow the policy of Matteo Ricci, which embraced Chinese customs and traditions including those which were later judged by the Holy See to be heathen in nature. Following this the Catholic Church in China suffered greatly as a result of abandoning Ricci’s policy.

    Of course by 1939 Pope Pius XII reversed the decrees of Clement XI and Benedict XIV and judged that the practices did not constitute worshiping Confucius and one’s ancestors, merely honoring them. If Pius XII’s judgement in the twentieth century was also true and correct in the eighteenth century, I would have to consider the decrees of Clement XI and Benedict XIV to be one of the most unfortunate and imprudent decisions ever made by the Holy See. All the progress Ricci and others had made toward converting China was lost, and history has been ever the worse as a result.

    However, it is far from clear to me that the judgements of the eighteenth century Popes were wrong. Perhaps in the 1700s these practices did constitute pagan worship, but by 1939 they had evolved so that the worship aspects had been stripped and/or secularized. I don’t know. I just know that Ricci’s Jesuitical approach toward these practices yielded enormously impressive results, and abandoning his approach wrought disastrous consequences.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    donnie,

    It’s an example that weighs dearly on my heart, as well, and one I don’t know the answer to. However, we should keep in mind that these ‘enormously impressive results’ – and that they are – are only truly good if they are indeed Catholic results, and if the Popes at the time were correct, then this was leading souls into error.

    Of course, spiritual progress and all that, but still, we don’t want to lead people into an accommodation with the devil.

  • TomD says:

    One of the saddest things in recent history has been the Church trying to deal with the Protestant Reformation at the same time as trying to expand into China and America, which no doubt prevented accommodations that may have otherwise been permitted. The Church has often been more lenient with “newcomers” or Gentiles than she is with her own children.

  • donnie says:

    One of the saddest things in recent history has been the Church trying to deal with the Protestant Reformation at the same time as trying to expand into China and America

    You’re probably right, and this might be one way in which the liberal Catholic talking point of “the counter-Reformation ruined everything” might actually have a shred of underlying truth behind it. Jesuit-style accommodation worked in certain instances. Matteo Ricci made it work in China, and came the closest anyone’s ever come to converting that nation. It worked remarkably well in Japan in the late 16th century too, once again largely driven by Jesuit approaches to missionary work. I’m sure there are other examples.

  • Mike T says:

    My wife has Cajun relatives who left the Catholic Church because of its accommodation of blatantly heathen practices, one of which was the consumption of blood which was unequivocally condemned at the Council of Jerusalem. That is corruption and it would be better for the heathens to burn in Hell than for Christians to accommodate them within the Body.

  • Mike T says:

    It’s also not a real dichotomy. I have relatives who are baptized in the Episcopal Church and they’ve got more in common spiritually and doctrinally with the unconverted Chinese Ricci met than anyone commenting here. (I can say that with a straight face given the number of times I’ve heard blatantly heathen #$%^ like “have you prayed to the universe about X”)

  • donnie says:

    My wife has Cajun relatives who left the Catholic Church because of its accommodation of blatantly heathen practices, one of which was the consumption of blood which was unequivocally condemned at the Council of Jerusalem.

    That’s unfortunate for your wife’s relatives, because unless there’s more to the story the Church was not in the wrong. In Acts 15:19-21 we read, “For which cause I judge that they, who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted. But that we write unto them, that they refrain themselves from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him in the synagogues, where he is read every sabbath.”

    The Apostles make clear that while they were attempting to accommodate the Gentiles as best they could, they also wanted to accommodate the Jewish Christians as well. It was therefore deemed that Gentile converts should refrain from certain things which violated the Old Law. But we know from other passages that not all of these things were intrinsically evil. Fornication certainly is, but not consuming of the food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8:4-13). How do we know if consuming blood is intrinsically evil? This is another one of those instances where a positivist approach to Scripture interpretation fails and we require competent apostolic authority to judge the matter appropriately. Which it has:

    “You must not eat any fat or any blood.” (Lev 3.17; 7.26; Deut 12.23–24); the New Testament takes up this prohibition unrestrictedly, to the point of imposing it upon Christians coming from paganism (Acts 15.29; 21.25). From the viewpoint of exegesis the explicit reason for this prohibition is not exactly theological, it rather reflects a symbolical representation: “the life (nepheš) of all flesh is in the blood” (Lev 17.11, 14; Deut 12.23). After the apostolic era the Church did not feel obliged to make this a basis for formulating precise rules for the butcher and the kitchen, and still less in our own times to prohibit blood transfusion. The trans-cultural value underlying the particular decision of the Church in Acts 15 was a desire to foster the harmonious integration of the various groups, albeit at the price of a provisional compromise.

  • donnie says:

    I think it’s worth noting in regards to Matteo Ricci and the Chinese rites controversy that the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 takes the position that the rites at the time were not heathen in nature, since the educated Chinese scholarly classes did not believe Confucius to be divine, did not believe their ancestors to be divine, and were simply attempting to show due gratitude for those who went before them in accordance with Chinese custom. However, the Encyclopedia also notes that the uneducated masses were superstitious and did not understand this, and in their minds they believed they were worshiping their ancestors. So, according to this view, the rites could not accurately be described as heathen in nature but their prohibition was nonetheless called for, since seeing a Catholic participate in them would cause scandal to the uneducated.

    Again, I have no way of judging if the Catholic Encyclopedia is correct in their interpretation of the facts, but if they are and the rites were never actually intrinsically evil I would have to say that the abandonment of Father Ricci’s policy of Jesuit-style accommodation was still horrendously imprudent in this particular case. The resulting loss of so many souls is, to me, the greater scandal.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    I don’t have an informed opinion about Matteo Ricci, though it strikes me that de novo evangelization of pagan Chinese is an entirely different situation from accommodating Protestantism and post-Protestantism on usury, contraception, divorce, etc. It is entirely possible that the Jesuit accommodationist mindset did fit certain genuinely missionary tasks while at the same time being wildly counterproductive, scandalous, and destructive of the Church when employed in the task the Jesuits were actually assigned, that is, resisting the spread of Protestant heresy.

    But I would further suggest that you may be taking a rather modern, quantitative, possibly even utilitarian approach to religion with this idea of saved-soul-counting (as if that were something we are in a position to measure in the first place, leaving aside the assumption that soul count would make an objectively good quantitative metric even if we were in a position to measure it, let alone the assumption that quantitative metrics measure the good at all).

  • Zippy says:

    In other words who are we to say that a large Church filled with mostly heretics saves more souls than a small Church bringing holiness, the sacraments, prayer, and acts of penance to the world? What basic mistakes are we making about the whole economy of salvation and arc of salvation history when we assume that quantitative soul-count is the measure of ‘success’ and presumptuously suppose that we are in a position to make that measurement?

  • donnie says:

    But I would further suggest that you may be taking a rather modern, quantitative, possibly even utilitarian approach to religion with this idea of saved-soul-counting

    That’s a fair point, and the thought had crossed my mind earlier. We can’t actually know that Father Ricci succeeded in leading his converts to Heaven (unless the Church canonizes them) but we can maintain good hope that he did. And we can’t entertain good hope of salvation for souls who die outside the Church, though of course we cannot despair either.

    But I would cautiously suggest that the extent to which the Church succeeds in carrying out the Great Commission is something which can at least be approximately quantified.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    But I would cautiously suggest that the extent to which the Church succeeds in carrying out the Great Commission is something which can at least be approximately quantified.

    Can it really though? Maybe the idea that the number of people baptized should be maximized is inherently problematic.

  • donnie says:

    Maybe the idea that the number of people baptized should be maximized is inherently problematic.

    As long as we’re talking about valid baptisms of people who have made a free choice to become followers of Christ, I don’t see how maximizing this number could be inherently problematic. There may be a litany of other problems which are themselves inherently problematic (e.g. heresy, abysmal catechesis, scandal galore, etc.), but I don’t see how maximizing converts could itself be a problem. A heathen who joins a heretical Christian sect is still better off with the grace of baptism than he was without it.

  • donnie says:

    In other words who are we to say that a large Church filled with mostly heretics saves more souls than a small Church bringing holiness, the sacraments, prayer, and acts of penance to the world?

    Also, I feel like this is a bit of a false dichotomy. The Church should bring holiness, the sacraments, prayer, and acts of penance to the world, that’s the whole reason for Christ instituting the Church in the first place. But the whole point of bringing these to the world is to enlarge itself for the salvation of souls and for the greater glory of God.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    As long as we’re talking about valid baptisms of people who have made a free choice to become followers of Christ, I don’t see how maximizing this number could be inherently problematic.

    That is because you are treating the number as some outcome totally isolated from means. Reality doesn’t work that way.

    If we have to tell lies to maximize that number, does it become inherently problematic?

    If the answer is yes then you have agreed that we should not maximize that number. We always have to use good means to attempt to convince people to be baptized, and fear of losing a whole continent to paganism doesn’t justify choosing evil means.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    Also, I feel like this is a bit of a false dichotomy.

    And I think you are trapped in a modernist, utilitarian, consequentialist mode of thinking. Your whole point seems to be that even if Ricci chose evil means, the end justified those means.

  • TomD says:

    The problem is that consequentialism is still consequentialism if we up the ante to “billions of saved souls”.

    And we have to resist the siren song there, especially hard, since it might very well be true as “Now the law entered in, that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” seems to indicate. It still doesn’t let us violate the Divine Law.

    If we don’t deny it, then there was no sin in handing Christ over, because by the death of one Innocent Person, many are saved.

  • donnie says:

    Your whole point seems to be that even if Ricci chose evil means, the end justified those means.

    No, not at all. My point is that if Clement XI and Benedict XIV were factually wrong at the time and the rites were not intrinsically heathen in nature than their decision to prohibit Father Ricci’s accommodation of these rites was a catastrophe.

    If they were factually correct and the rites were intrinsically heathen in nature then their actions were both correct and necessary.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: donnie

    I don’t really have an opinion on the China questions, but it is far from obvious that maximizing baptisms is a good thing. Just off the top of my head, there are three counterpoints which readily present themselves:

    1) Consider the story in Matthew 12 about the demon who leaves a man only to come back with seven brothers worse than himself, and St. Paul’s warning of the danger of apostasy in Hebrews 6. A man who after baptism returns to a sinful life may very well be worse off than if he had never been baptized.

    2)a) And remember that Christ said, “If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.” Now the whole claim of (at least the bulk of) heretical sects, especially Protestant ones, is that they see more clearly than the deluded Catholics who rely on what has been passed down to them.

    2)b) He elsewhere also said, “I am come in the name of my Father, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory one from another: and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek? Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one that accuseth you, Moses, in whom you trust. For if you did believe Moses, you would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” Protestants shall, perhaps, not be accused by Moses. But how about, for instance, St. Paul? Or even their own heresiarchs, who had many virtues their spiritual descendants lack. Something similar is likely true of other heresies as well.

    3) Maximizing baptisms has not in fact been the usual practice of the Church. Especially not in its earliest days, when many delayed baptism until they thought death was near. Simply because it was an early practice does not, of course, mean that it is the best way of doing things, but it does way heavily against the idea that such delay is always worse than not.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Should have been “weigh” in the last paragraph, not “way.” Sorry.

  • donnie says:

    Hrodgar,

    Thanks. Those are all great points I had not considered.

  • Mike T says:

    donnie,

    (Disclaimer: I am relaying information from people I know to be trustworthy and who have direct exposure to the local culture for at least several years, if not their entire lives)

    The way the issue has been explained to me, it is absolutely not a culinary matter or a dispute about proper butchery practices. Rather, it has a connection to pagan spirituality and the voodoo influence in that region.

  • Mike T says:

    I don’t really have an opinion on the China questions, but it is far from obvious that maximizing baptisms is a good thing.

    As an outsider, I have met plenty of Catholics who will act like their infant baptism means something when they have only marginally more faith in Jesus than an Orthodox Jew does. This belief that their baptism means something very significant in the absence of faith in Jesus is an extremely serious pastoral lapse on the part of the Catholic Church. That faith is the keystone of salvation, and without it the whole thing collapses.

  • Wood says:

    Mike T,

    With no real disagreements regarding contemporary catechesis, I’ll just say that I’ve sat through many a Protestant funeral where the minister assures all that the recently departed – and by all accounts lapsed Christian – is reigning now in heaven because the departed had given his heart to Jesus way back as a teenager. Once saved always saved and all that. The real problem with your Catholics is how *correct* they are without realizing it. Eternities in hell won’t efface once’s baptismal character received as an infant. It’s that important.

  • Advenedizo says:

    If the article of Wikipedia ia accurate, and I am reading it correctly, at least two of the three main points of contention were correctly forbidden.

    1. Using an unpersonal term for God like Heaven seems problematic specially in East Asia. Lord of Heaven seems perfectly reasonable.

    2. I suspend judgement on the Confucius rites. Maybe it was the chinese version of a toast. Do not know enough.

    3. Ancestor worship is a big no-no. Prayers for the dead are a perfectly nice (and useful) way to remember the deceased. Same goes for prayer for the emperor, were there is a special place in the Canon just for that.

    It is also true that the Jesuits managed to pull inty the church the whole Paraguay indians with a gradual approach, although the licenses were more in the “running around in birthday suit” variety. What would have happened in China only God knows.

  • donnie says:

    Advenedizo,

    The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia seems to take the view that the cultural rites were traditional rites of honor, not worship, and that educated Chinese scholars understood this. But since the uneducated masses superstitiously believed otherwise this resulted in controversy. Over time, most of the Dominicans and Franciscans who were opposed to the honorific rites came to agree with the Jesuits, but Rome ruled against them anyway. That is, until 78 years ago when Pius XII overturned the ruling.

    Again, I don’t know if the Catholic Encyclopedia is correct, but if it is, seems to me like prohibiting Father Ricci’s policy was a horrendous decision.

    As far as terms for what to call God, Lord of Heaven certainly sounds appropriate. Furthermore it doesn’t seem like the Popes’ prohibition of the other terms is what provoked the wrath of the Chinese Emperor.

  • Mike T says:

    As far as terms for what to call God, Lord of Heaven certainly sounds appropriate. Furthermore it doesn’t seem like the Popes’ prohibition of the other terms is what provoked the wrath of the Chinese Emperor.

    It doubt it would since the “Mandate of Heaven” is a very old Chinese concept. Christians can actually show that we not only understand the concept quite well, but could show the emperor who directs the Mandate and how to win His favor.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: MikeT

    Baptism does mean something, even in the absence of faith. But “to whom much is given…” If baptism is reason for hope even in the last extremity, it is also a reason for even greater dread of sin if its graces are squandered.

  • Hrodgar says:

    To put it another way, the fact that baptism DOES mean something even in cases such as you describe is one of the foremost reasons that maximizing the number of baptisms is such a dubious policy.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Again, I don’t know if the Catholic Encyclopedia is correct, but if it is, seems to me like prohibiting Father Ricci’s policy was a horrendous decision.

    Another possible reasoning behind Pius XII overturning the prohibition:

    At the time, it was true that the mass of ‘peasant-folk’ believed these were actual rites of worship, and therefore allowing them caused grave scandal, which it is preferred to be avoided than to allow the rites (even with their possible evangelical utility; just as it is preferable for the Psalmist to speak neither evil nor good, than risk speaking evil).

    However, at the time of Pius XII’s overturning of the decision, there had been enough of a cultural shift for the Chinese that the Pope judged the risk of scandal very much less, and therefore allowed the otherwise-harmless rites.

    (Someone would have to know more Chinese cultural history than I do to judge the correctness of this surmise, though.)

  • Mike T says:

    To put it another way, the fact that baptism DOES mean something even in cases such as you describe is one of the foremost reasons that maximizing the number of baptisms is such a dubious policy.

    I should clarify that I was not saying it is meaningless. Rather there are a lot of folks who look at it as though it is a season pass to heaven no matter when it happened, when the reality is that if you have an infant baptism and don’t choose to be a Christian as an adult it’s not going to do squat for you on overcoming the lack of faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Hrodgar says:

    While baptism, like anything worthwhile, is not without its dangers, it may very well be that in many cases the graces which attend an infant baptism are the deciding factor in whether the subject makes that choice. And even if they don’t, those graces may preserve them from sins they would otherwise have committed, and so lessen punishment; or perhaps even be the source of mercy and contrition in the end.

    Of course this hope can be taken to an extreme, and sure, if you don’t choose to become a Christian you won’t become a Christian. And “praesumptio salutis sine meritis consequendae” is a sin against the Holy Spirit. For this reason, among others, the official policy of the Church (often flaunted, but what else is new?) not to baptize infants without “a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion,” unless the infant is in danger of death – in which case, and only in which case, it may be done “even against the will of the parents”.

    But while presumption must be avoided, I think it is important to emphasize that the hope is a good one, founded in God’s mercy. I myself am inclined, if someone in an otherwise bad situation dies, to think, “at least they were baptized,” and remember that the Maccabees prayed for the souls of the idolaters among their ranks.

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