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Parallel columns, parallel Churches?

In the eighth and last paragraph of Lumen gentiums first chapter, "The Mystery of the Church," attention shifts to ask where the Church that was given its basic and central theological description in the first seven paragraph is to be found. Before providing the Catholic answer to that question, the Council made an important point, one which I think sets out the fundamental challenge of ecclesiology. It presents, as if in parallel columns, distinct dimensions of the Church, as here:community of faith, hope & love // visible structuremystical Body of Christ // hierarchical societyspiritual community // visible assemblyendowed with heavenly gifts // earthlyholy // always needing to be purifiedThe Council insisted that these sets of characteristics do not describe two realities, two Churches, but a single reality, a single Church, that is comprised of a divine and a human element. It then cautiously offered "a not middling analogy" with the mystery of the Incarnation. As in christology, however, there is a great temptation not only to distinguish but to separate these elements of an integral ecclesiology. One sees it when an opposition is stated or implied between conceiving or imagining the Church as mystery or communion and as People of God, or when Avery Dulles five ways of thinking about the Church are hardened into five ways of being the Church, or when people speak of "the institutional Church" as if it were something apart from them or apart from the spiritual communion.Five decades ago, James Gustafson published a little book Treasure in Earthen Vessels: The Church as a Human Community. He aimed it at what he thought was a common tendency in Protestant ecclesiology that he described as "theological reductionism," that is, "the exclusive use of Biblical and doctrinal language in the interpretation of the Church," this done, on "the explicit or tacit assumption that the Church is so absolutely unique in character that it can be understood only in its own private language." Gustafson offered an analysis of the Church as a human, natural, political community, a community of language, interpretation, memory and understanding, belief and action. Throughout he made use of a method that instead of beginning with what is unique and transcendent about the Church begins with what it has in common with other human communities in order to discover what is unique about it.Gustafson once told me that some Protestants reacted by wondering if he was about to become a Roman Catholic. Catholic ecclesiology at the time, after all, so concentrated on the human aspects of the Church, particularly its institutional character, that the theological aspects were largely neglected. I sometimes think that since Vatican II Catholics have so emphasized the theological elements as to be in danger of falling into the theological reductionism Gustafson was trying to counter. In any case, the danger of separating the unique and transcendent elements from the common and quite human elements continues to exist.


Commenting Guidelines

The Church is "his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph 1:23), "God's household" with Christ as the "cornerstone" (2:20); through the Church the manifold wisdom of God is made known in the heavenly realms (3:10); Christ presents her to himself as "a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (5:27). The phenomenological foundation of this should be the experience of the holiness of the praying community and its charisms, and particularly the experience of plenitude born of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in the new community. A "congregational reduction" of this language can have the positive sense that the word carries in the phrase "phenomenological reduction" -- re-ducere, a leading back of language to the phenomena that found it.

Fr. K - had a momentary thought that we should wait for firther developments. But, to be honest, and following up on your blog below about the parallel church.....some of us have been dealing with sexual abuse since the early 1980's and seeing one side of the parallel church not exactly live up to the spirit of the People of God.Just take Ireland - we have had three judicial reports on the scope and context of the Irish abuse culture; the role of institutions and religious communities, and now Dublin archdiocese. If other diocesan judicial reports are done, they will merely repeat the patterns of Dublin - smaller numbers but the same emotional impact.Realize that part of the parallel church is the institution and the hierarchy ......they have their proper role to play. But, this effort and meeting continues to reflect a partial, limited, controlled response to devastating and long lasting events. Will the rest of the people of God be included, addressed (beyond a Lenten letter), will religious communities be included; what about the Irish government (realize that Rome must protect its diplomatic sovereignity but these events might call for a different response from the papal envoy?); what about the victims that the bishops met with; their request for justice - not just the $1.3 bl in euros?Do you really think that this piecemeal approach does justice or reflects the gospel imperatives for the total People of God?

Fr. O'Leary,I think that the phenomenological reduction is exactly what is impossible, given these texts. For one thing, the very singularity of "the church" implies, to my mind, that this cannot be a local church, even if universalized to mean every local church; it especially cannot be limited to those local churches now on earth, and those Christians now on earth.Interestingly, Christ here, as in Paul's body analogy, is a member. He's the directive member, the founding member, the sine qua non member by which membership is measured. But Christ is not divided.

Bill de Haas:No, I don't think that. But that's why I opened a separate thread to talk about the Irish situation and what it might say about the contemporary Church. I still don't like to speak in terms of "parallel Churches"; the whole point Vatican II was making here was that there are not two Churches but one single, complex one. That's why I don't like to use the word "Church" when the hierarchy or clergy are meant, and also why I don't like the phrase "the institutional Church." If one means by that the hierarchy, it is simpler and clearer to say "the hierarchy." Another reason I opened a separate thread is that I have found that many people find it difficult to concentrate on what the texts of Vatican II meant because they want to rush on to talk about the contemporary Church. I have no problem with wanting to do the latter; but it's also legitimate to ask what precisely did the Council say and mean, which was the point of this thread.

Father O'Leary,I think there is a richness in what you term "phenomenological analysis" that I by no means want to deny, but rather affirm.You write:"Augustines thought on the heavenly church and the communion of saints begins from his experience of friends and relatives who had gone to Abrahams bosom. The heavenly extension of the lived, earthly sancta societas remained thus a vivid phenomenological reality for him."Let me even concede your point as to where Augustine's reflection "begins." But I do not think it ends there. There are legitimate further questions to be addressed -- questions of a speculative nature that sound the ontological depths of the newness that Christ's paschal mystery reveals and the new people it calls into being.I take it that is why Augustine did not end his Confessions with the phenomenological analysis of the first ten books, but felt compelled to move on to Books eleven, twelve, and thirteen. Not merely a re-ductio ad phaenomena. but a re-ductio in mysterium Trinitatis.

the very singularity of the church implies, to my mind, that this cannot be a local church, even if universalized to mean every local church Kathy, I think this is the point where this discussion started on an earlier thread. If the Church in heaven is united with the Church on earth, why would the local church on earth not be the 'whole' church? The singularity of the Church implies that every Eucharist is but a single Eucharist, and it includes all who gather with Christ to join in his offering, no matter when or where. That is how I read the quotes above, Bouyer and Augustine as well as St Paul. The communion is one, shared by me and you through communion in Christ in our local churches. It is not the communion of my church and the communion of your church and every other communion added together, but a common communion in Christ. (Though certainly there are times when universal and local are appropriate ways of talking about the Church) Uncovering the mystery of the local church is the route to discovering the mystery of the 'whole' church, which I think is not quite the same as "phenomenological reduction" but is very similar to it. The concrete reality of a local Church is the reality in the mind of God, and there we have a little access to God's revelation of that mind.

Fr Imbelli, the reductio in Trinitatem would not be necessary if the trinitarian structure of church community was vividly apprehended. The Trinity itself undergoes a phenomenological reduction of sorts in Rahner and Barth (though not in the reductive sense of, say, Tillich).

"Who are the Church described in Eph and Col? That is, in whom, of whom, does it consist?"Fr. Komonchak, it seems to me that through points already established in our discussion, especially regarding the Communion of Saints, the Church as described in Ephesians and Colossians cannot be identified with any particular sociological group. It transcends any group one could point to. I don't think this is a new idea. When the Psalms speak of "Israel" they do not mean one man, nor the people of Israel who are currently alive. They mean something inclusive of these and yet transcendent of them. The Psalms are speaking of a covenanted people.The Church, similarly, refers not to only the people we can see. It includes them, neceessarily and not accidentally. But it transcends them.

Father O'Leary,Blessed Ash Wednesday! As I said before, there is much that you say with which I agree. I too would like to see "the trinitarian structure of church community" be "vividly apprehended."But that "trinitarian structure" points beyond itself to the Mystery of the Trinity. Otherwise the re-ductio risks becoming a Kantian reduction to the phenomena alone.I think this is why Congar and others found Rahner's "Grundaxiom" wanting.

The Church on earth is a particular sociological group, full incorporation into which is described in LG 14. This Church is also in communion with the holy ones who have gone before us or will come after us. In that sense, the Church is more than those we can see, but I have identified who it is in whom the communion of holy ones transcends thosw whom we can see. I'm not sure that you have identified them, or even if you think it important to be able to identify them.

I understand that part of the danger of abstraction, as suggested in the initial post, is the positing of a "real church" or a "true church" that has no connection to the visible structure. Many of the separated brethren feel that they belong to the "true church" Having just googled "true church," I found 891,000 results, of which this is by far the most enjoyable: think that the basic assertion of this post is correct, and that the "true church" is integral with the "visible church"--the spiritual community with the visible community. But explaining the integration of these two would, I think, is of a difficulty on a similar scale of explaining the two natures in Christ, and might best be done, as in the Calcedonian definition, in negative rather than positive terms.

This is a great discussion! Next week I begin teaching a little course on the church for our permanent deacon candidates in the diocese. Rare is a discussion about which i want to take notes. Joe: Thanks for triggering this discussion. Blessings to all as Lent begins.

Kathy: In support of the difficulty there is this: In explaining the meaning of the title of the first chapter of Lumen gentium, the Doctrinal Commission said: "The word 'mystery' does not simply point to something unknowable or abstuse, but, as is commonly acknowledged today, it designates a transcendent and salvific divine reality that is revealed and made manifest in some visible manner. The word, then, which is quite biblical, is quite apt for designating the Church." If the Church has to do with God, or God with the Church, there is proper mystery (or Mystery) at its heart, analogous to the proper Mystery in that in a particular Palestinian Jew the Word of God was made flesh. So it is in the scruffy group of believers in him that we believe is found the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Mystery in the sense intended disappears if one or other of the elements is removed, the Palestinian Jew or the eternal Word, the scruffy group or the trinitarian presence. Congar has a lengthy article, not available in English, I believe, on the contributions and limitations of the analogy with the Incarnation.

To extend the analogy, maybe Vatican II was the Nicea of ecclesiology. "Subsistit in" is just the beginning of understanding, much as "consubstantial" was. It isn't a negative term, precisely, but it isn't exactly content-rich, either. It begins to establish the fact of the mystery of the unity.

Bob Imbelli asked what the Doctrinal Commission might have said about Chapter VII of Lumen gentium. This is what I found in the Commission's report of July 1964: "This chapter was introduced at the wish of Pope John XXIII, who entrusted its preparation to Cardinal Larraona and a special commission....Formerly entitled On the consummation of holiness in the glory of the Saints, the chapter is now entitled On the eschatological character of our vocation and on our union with the Church in heaven. The text talks about this union rather directly about the cult of the Saints; that is, the emphasis falls on the glorifying offered to God by the whole Mystical Body, that is, the Church both in heaven and on earth. It should be noted that the Churchs eschatological character was also dealt with passim in earlier chapters. The whole of paragraph 48 was given a new order so that the eschatological tendency of our life might be stated more clearly and more vividly, that is, the continuity of our life that begins on earth and is brought to completion in heaven. A lively awareness of this truth logically leads to a consideration of those who are already in heaven, and this consideration in turn yields a fuller understanding of the Mystery of the Church. For in this way the communion of all who belong to Christ is perceived and heavens realities become more vividly present to us.As is clear from the text, the presentation of the eschatological character of our vocation, which relies chiefly on scriptural texts, has been done in such a way that the faithful, recalling the vivid words of the Lord and the Apostles, may reach a deeper perception of the intrinsic links among these truths and of their fundamental importance for our Christian life.At the same time the desire of the Supreme Pontiff and of many fathers was met: that the principal truths concerning the Last Things be at least alluded to.Paragraphs 49 and 50 were written in such a way as to show the ultimate doctrinal foundation of the whole chapter, that the Church on earth and in heaven constitute one People of God and one Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. This union is described in terms of the many vital relationships that exist between wayfarers and citizens of heaven, especially the beneficent activity of the latter toward the whole Church.Paragraph 50 chiefly indicates the ways in which wayfarers should actuate their relationships with the saints in heaven; it sets out the principal motives for fostering our union with the Church in heaven: that the saints in heaven offer authentic examples of Christian life; that our interaction with them leads us more closely to Christ; and especially that association with them brings fullness to the Churchs Christ-centered worship. ....(Alberigo-Magistretti, Synopsis historica, 485)

On Rahner's Grundaxiom, of course it does not unsay the basic specifications of the fourth century trinitarian dogma (which Newman famously summed up in nine simple propositions). But it does, very firmly, relocated the mystery of the Trinity in the trinitarian event of revelation, and not in a speculative construction behind the scenes. The dogmatic specifications have a negative role, as a hedge about that event, a minimal set of safeguards of its integrity. To make them into the launching pad of brilliant speculation, increasingly alien to the Gospel, is to cultivate an ambition that has more to do with Greek philosophy than with Scripture. To glorify uncritically the Trinitarian speculation of St Thomas Aquinas (the best of that bunch) would be a failure in theological discernment.

Fr. O'Leary--Could you tell us a bit more about Newman on the Trinity?

Fr. O'Leary,Why would speculation necessarily have to become "increasingly alien to the Gospel?"Dei Verbum 2.8 says "There is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her."

Augustine's idea of the Trinity (and the one articulated by Aquinas) as Father as being, Son as self-awareness and Spirit as the love between the two (my words) is the only explanation of the Trinity that has ever made any sense to me.

Kathy --I find your answer to that question very interesting. It reminds me of some fundamental questions that the modern mathematicians have tried to answer about math, specifically the Peano system of arithmetic. (Yes, arithmetic.)The advent of the non-Euclidean geometries forced mathematicians to question whether intuitive approaches to math were a good idea, whether they inevitably lead to truth. So the mathematicians speculated about the nature of deductive systems and about the criteria of an ideal system. It seems to me that theologians trying to understand the Mysteries, especially the Trinity, are vexed with some similar questions. These days ideal math systems begin with definitions, axioms, and rules. Theologians ask: can the Trinity be defined or even accurately be described?? Which statements about the Trinity are axiomatic? Those in Scripture? Creeds? What else, if anything? (Axioms need not be proven, of course.) Which rules should/can/might guide the theologians thinking? Are explications of Mysteries subject to logical rules? And/or other rules or other constraints in thinking? How about the fittingness of a new description with other views of the Trinity? What is fittingness? How do you identify it when you find it? Some criteria of a perfect math system include consistency (that's an old one). A new, very important one is completeness. The theological problem t I think you're wondering about above concerns completeness. It was discovered that if the Peano system of arithmetic was *complete* then it was also, necessarily *inconsistent*. Something like this seems to be the case with the theology of the Trinity -- if we think we have everything accurately, then we're being inconsistent about something somewhere, even if we don't know what it is.It was also proven that there are certain arithmetic statements which can be articulated but which cannot even be proven to be either true or false. They're arithmetic mysteries!! Not that we can tell which those statements are -- we just know that there are some. Mathematician can't even prove which individual statements are essentially unprovable, excepting, of course, those which they have in fact been proven or disproved. This seems analogous to the situation with the theology of the Trinity. You might think that your new description of the Trinity is consistent with the rest of the theory, so that your intuition is quite possibly true. But it might not be and perhaps there is no way of proving that it is -- or isn't. This is where I think the point about too much dependence on Aquinas is relevant.All this convinces me that the Mystery of the Trinity simply cannot be exhausted. The body of statements about it must be consistent, but God alone must know which statements are false. I believe we cannot know whether or not some possible statements can ever be proven either true or false, so the possibility of an exhaustive theology of the Trinity would be impossible. (Makes sense to me. I wonder if my statements before this one are provable :-)

Ann,I think the analogy to geometry is a fair one, and one that Aquinas for example would agree with. He thought that the principles of the science of theology were given in revelation."Sacred doctrine is a science. We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed. Hence, just as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God. " (Ia.1.2)However, I'm not sure we could find a similar analogy to the rethinking occasioned by the non-Euclidean geometries. The problem with Euclidean geometry is that one of the principles, Postulate V, was the sort of thing that *should* be proven--it would normally be the conclusion of a process of deduction. But instead of proving it, Euclid adopts it as a principle. In other words, there is a weakness in his foundation, a flaw due to circular reasoning in his principles.I think in order to accept the analogy completely, one would have to say one of the axioms of Catholicism was weak to begin with.

Kathy --As I understand it Principle V (sbout parallel lines not intersecting) *can't* be proven from Euclid's other axioms, so it must given as an axiom if it is to be included in a Euclidean system. In fact its negation can be postulated in a non-Euclidean system and it will also be a consistent one. This is what shook up the mathematicians so much. The objection to it in antiquity was that it wasn't simple enough to be an axiom (simplicity to them being a requirement for axioms).One reason I think these criteria might be interesting for theologians is that there might be some theological statements which are intuitively assumed to be true when speaking of God (or other things perhaps) but turn out not to be. I suspect these counter-statements would be particulatly important when making statements about God's infinity which might seem to be known to be true intuitively (like Euclid'sparallels postulate) but which aren't when applied to God.My main point was that consistency, completeness and decidability might be valuable when used to wonder about and critique particular theological statements and systems. As to weak Catholic axioms, they are as weak as ou understandings of them. Nowhere does Jesus promise that the Holy Spirit will answer all of our theological questions nor that our understandings of His answers will at every time be completely accurate.

I hope I do not repeat, having only scanned this educational thread.Fr. K wrote: Of every statement about the Church it is legitimate to ask: Of whom, in whom, is this true? Excellent point.I am reminded of David Gibsons comment in The Coming Catholic Church p. 117 in regard to answering the above question when it comes to apologies by popes:The apologies that John Paul has offered in recent years for terrible chapters in the churchs past(Holocaust)illustrate this problem. Rather than apologizing for what the Catholic Church per se has done, the pontiff invariably apologizes for the sins of the sons and daughters of the church who went astray. John Pauls tradition of apologizing is widely welcomed, but this distancing language can appear so couched and diplomatic that it fuels the very resentments it was designed to assuage.The world is not a faculty lounge of parsing fine distinctions. Whose responsibility is it to speak to the modern world in ways that clarify instead of obfuscate, own a crisis instead of just manage it? p. 118 For lay Catholics this is the background: a Vatican II model of church as the People of God versus the institutional, hierarchical model that reigned for centuries and is struggling to reassert itself. (yes!) The priority for lay Catholics(quoting theologian Thomas Groome) is to reclaim our vocation as a priestly people in keeping with the spirit and documents of Vatican II. The theology is in place; now we must implement it on the ground.Fr. K also wrote: The Church is not something apart from its members. To many, the problem is the hierarchy identifies itself *in practice* as the Church apart from its lay members and as David says above, is struggling to reassert itself as such. The gap is huge, maybe not in theological language, but in on the ground reality.An example of the divide: Davids description of US bishops listening to survivors in Dallas: Most sat quietly, or fidgeted, or looked down at the papers in front of them. Response of one bishop: Well, that was interesting. If memory serves, the standing ovation was reserved later for Wilton Gregory, not the courageous survivors who just bared their souls. The detachment was unnerving, David wrote.

Does speculation necessarily become increasingly estranged from the Gospel? Yes, the kind of metaphysical speculation that seeks to "explain" the Trinity has indeed grown alien from the Gospel. The kind of deepening insight into the revealed mystery that Vatican II refers to is what I woul call Thought rather than speculation -- Vatican II, stressing that Scripture is the very soul of theological study, is correcting the speculative addiction of the De Deo Trino tractates.In short, Vatican II realized that theologians were asking the wrong questions. In Gabriel Marcel's terms, they were treating a Mystery as a Problem. The misleading analogy with geometry was quite widespread.Rahner pointed out that all talk of a Trinity was an extrapolation from the biblical contemplative apprehension of God, Logos, Spirit -- theses modes of being of the divine were fully given in the revelation event, not pieced together by speculative deduction.Augustine plays with Trinitarian analogies (actually treatiing the idea of the Spirit as bond of love between Father and Son quite casually) to show how the one God could have three distinct modes of being. He thought the most helpful analogy was the way the one human mind was memory, intelligence and will, though he saw this only as a very dim and inconsistence image of the Trinity, per speculum in aenigmate. In fact the lesson one could draw from Augustine (reading the WHOLE of his De Trinitate, which ends on a quite negative, apophatic note) is that such speculative stabs are intriniscally feeble and limited and that they send us back again and again to the simpler and stronger language of Scripture. The scholastics ignored these existential qualifications of Augustine's efforts and sought instead to build up a Science of divine being.

Aquinas put the Trinity in the category of revelation, where it clearly belongs, and not in the category of things you could rationally figure out. And even that which he thought could be figured out about God was solidly tempered with "negative" theology (e.g., you know God best by knowing that you don't know anything).

Newman's "reduction" of the Trinity is in the Grammar of Assent.The Vatican's refusal to disown the Inquisition in 2000 is of a piece with its stonewalling on sexual scandals.

Aquinas is apophatic in principle but it is hard to remember that when one is deep in the thickets of his stunning exposition of the logic of processions, persons, relations and notiones. It was certainly forgotten in most theological practice. Apophasis was not a sufficient safeguard of theological sobriety. A more thorough regrounding in biblical phenomenality was needed and Vatican II pointed the way to that.

Revelation is not about trans-rational propositions but about the encounter with the divine in history. Vatican II wrote on Revelation to correct entrenched distortions on this point.

Aquinas's apophaticism is more clearly in evidence in his discussion of De deo uno -- the first tenet he upholds is the divine simplicity, which as a classic theme of apophatic theology.

Ann,I think that the "simple" answer to the problem of the Trinity is Arius' answer. In other words, the wrong answer. Providentially, Arius was a useful foil for the early Church--a foil and a goad. But he was wrong.

Carolyn Disco: When I posed as a general principle, Of every statement about the Church it is legitimate to ask: Of whom, in whom, is this true, you thought it an excellent point, but then seem to me to have contradicted it by regarding as an academic parsing of fine distinctions when Pope John Paul II spoke of the sins, not of the Church, but of her sons and daughters. But let us take the case of racism. Should the Church confess the sin of racism? Well, who are the Church that is making this confession? And who are the Church convicted of that sin? It is easy enough to answer that by the Church in the two cases one means the hierarchy; but if, instead, one means by the Church the entire body of believers, it becomes more difficult to determine who are the Church guilty and who are the Church confessing her guilt. Many people mistakenly took Pope John Paul IIs reluctance to speak of the Church as herself guilty of the scores of sins for which he expressed regret and repentance as an attempt to excuse the hierarchy, but it clear from more than one of those statements that he included prelates and his own predecessors as among the Churchs sons and daughters who had given counter-testimony to Christ.You also wrote: To many, the problem is the hierarchy identifies itself *in practice* as the Church apart from its lay members and as David says above, is struggling to reassert itself as such. The gap is huge, maybe not in theological language, but in on the ground reality. I think this is a real problem, but a solution is not brought nearer by our using the Church in our indictments when we really mean the hierarchy. If we mean the hierarchy, say the hierarchy. Its far more precise, and leaves the Church to refer to the whole body of believers, lay and clerical alike, and together.

But to blame "sons and daughters" of the Church for sins committed from excess of a "zeal for truth" is really passing the buck. It was the Holy See itself who was to the fore in pushing torture and execution of heretics and very widespread curbing of human rights over seven centuries. The heritage of this lives on. Reading about the relentless persecution of Ernesto Buonaiuti (1881-1946) by the Holy See (including a campaign to have him sacked from his secular teaching position) I see that the legacy of the Inquisition was never cleanly dissolved. Catholic bloggers maintain the inquisitional attitudes with diligence, some calling for the canonization of Tomas de Torquemada. The Vatican itself wanted to canonize Queen Isabella, despite the proto-Nazi character of her expulsion of the Jews.

Newman, Grammar of Assent, ch. 5, pt.2:The Creeds are enough to show that the dogma may be taught in its fulness for the purposes of popular faith and devotion without directly insisting on that mysteriousness, which is necessarily involved in the combined view of its separate propositions. That systematized whole is the object of notional assent, and its propositions, one by one, are the objects of real.To show this in fact, I will enumerate the separate propositions of which the dogma consists. They are nine, and stand as follows:1. There are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit.2. From the Father is, and ever has been, the Son.3. From the Father and Son is, and ever has been, the Spirit.4. The Father is the One Eternal Personal God. 5. The Son is the One Eternal Personal God. 6. The Spirit is the One Eternal Personal God.7. The Father is not the Son. 8. The Son is not the Holy Ghost. 9. The Holy Ghost is not the Father.Now I think it is a fact, that, whereas these nine propositions contain the Mystery, yet, taken, not as a whole, but separately, each by itself, they are not only apprehensible, but admit of a real apprehension....This being understood, I ask what chapter of St. John or St. Paul is not full of the Three Divine Names, introduced in one or other of the above nine propositions, expressed or implied, or in their parallels, or in parts or equivalents of them? What lesson is there given us by these two chief writers of the New Testament, which does not grow out of Their Persons and Their Offices? At one time we read of the grace of the Second Person, the love of the First, and the communication of the Third; at another we are told by the Son, "I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Paraclete;" and then, "All that the Father hath are Mine; the Paraclete shall receive of Mine." {138} Then again we read of "the foreknowledge of the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit, the Blood of Jesus Christ;" and again we are to "pray in the Holy Ghost, abide in the love of God, and look for the mercy of Jesus." And so, in like manner, to Each, in one passage or another, are ascribed the same titles and works: Each is acknowledged as Lord; Each is eternal; Each is Truth; Each is Holiness; Each is all in all; Each is Creator; Each wills with a supreme Will; Each is the Author of the new birth; Each speaks in His ministers; Each is the Revealer; Each is the Lawgiver; Each is the Teacher of the elect; in Each the elect have fellowship; Each leads them on; Each raises them from the dead. What is all this, but "the Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Omnipotent; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost God," of the Athanasian Creed? And if the New Testament be, as it confessedly is, so real in its teaching, so luminous, so impressive, so constraining, so full of images, so sparing in mere notions, whence is this but because, in its references to the Object of our supreme worship, it is ever ringing the changes (so to say) on the nine propositions which I have set down, and on the particular statements into which they may be severally resolved?SO SPARING IN MERE NOTIONS! Newman is no friend of speculative theology, steeped as he is in Scripture and the Fathers. In this respect, he is a father of Vatican II.

fr. O'Leary: I don't know whom the first sentence of your post, where you talk about "passing the buck, is quoting. I myself was thinking of John Paul II's criticism of those who used violence in the service of truth. And i don't take "sons and daughters of the Church" to mean sons and daughters of the hierarchy, much less of the Vatican. As I said, he made it clear that he included clergy and some of his predecessors among those "sons and daughters of the Church."

Sorry for confusing juxtapositions, Fr. K. Yes, you made an excellent point. Lets be clear who is speaking for and to whom. I see now the source of your puzzlement that I compliment the idea, but then object to the use of such distinctions in the following text. The problem as I see it is what you specify here about popes and the hierarchy excusing themselves. It was not clear enough what JPII meant, and the use of technical language contrary to popular understanding only exacerbated the situation.Re: Many people mistakenly took Pope John Paul IIs reluctance to speak of the Church as herself guilty of the scores of sins for which he expressed regret and repentance as an attempt to excuse the hierarchy, but it clear from more than one of those statements that he included prelates and his own predecessors as among the Churchs sons and daughters who had given counter-testimony to Christ.I wonder how solidly JP2s inclusion of hierarchy was set in the popular mind. Judging from Davids statement, there was still much resentment fueled by what was widely seen as distancing language couched in theological and diplomatic terms. Rather than apologizing for what the Catholic Church per se has done I remember reading at the time about apologies not being an appropriate occasion for such fine theological distinctions *not generally understood* by our Jewish brethren or most Catholics in the pews. If it had been clear to everyone that hierarchy was included, then I believe no resentment would have followed.I have seen the inelegant term, hurch, in circulation, but prefer hierarchy.

John Paul II may have included individual bishops or popes in his apology for violence in the service of truth, but even this would not go far enough. The Inquisition was not the decision of individual bishops or popes. It was a structural organ of the Roman Church at the highest level. An individual pope who tried to abolish it might have found himself hauled before it! Several heads of the Roman inquisition graduated to the papacy. The Spanish Inquisition was abolished in the early 19th century at a time when Spain was going through a liberal phase, but the Vatican protested and had it opened again for a few years, I understand. The Roman inquisition was never abolished, but lost its teeth progressively, especially with the fall of the Papal States in 1870. The Holy Office was renamed the CDF around the time of Vatican II. There is a continuity in mentality between the Roman inquisition of the 16th century and the CDF of today, despite Paul VI's starry-eyed prescriptions for a reform of the CDF on the last day of Vatican II; he left the reform in the hands of the very people who were dead set against it.

Another piece of weaseling is the Vatican's review of the Galileo case. The Jesuit Vatican astronomer Coyne did an expose of the various falsifications in the Vatican accounts of the incident, including I think from Card. Ratzinger's pen.

However, John Paul II certainly made a historic intervention with his talk of purification of memory. The principle was magnificent, and the practice may catch up with it, perhaps in another Council.

Here is how I began an article that traced the history of the Church's attitude toward religious freedom in the 20th century. The last sentence is an understatement."In the first decade of the twentieth century, Lucien Choupin and Elphge Vacandard. S.J., carried on a lively debate over whether in past centuries it was right and just for heretics to be executed and over whether the Church still retained the right to invoke the States coercive power in order to defend the faith. In the middle of the century, John Courtney Murray, S.J., ignited a debate that would end with his silencing when he wrote an essay in which he denied that civil government had a right to use its power to repress heresy. At the end of the century, Pope John Paul II included among matters for which the Church should express repentance for the sins and failures of her children the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth. From these painful moments of the past the Pope drew the sublime principle stated by the Council: The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power."The way to this sublime principle and to the repentance urged by the pope was long and difficult for the Catholic Church."A footnote reads: "In the last three months Vatican-sponsored meetings have been held to reconsider the figures of Jan Hus and Giordano Bruno, and while there has been no rehabilitation of the views of either man, in both cases Vatican officials have deplored their execution, and the pope himself expressed his profound regret for the cruel death inflicted on Hus; see LOsservatore Romano, English edition, 22 December 1999."

Newman, Grammar of Assent, ch. 5, pt.2:"The Creeds are enough to show that the dogma may be taught in its fullness for the purposes of popular faith and devotion without directly insisting on that mysteriousness, which is necessarily involved in the combined view of its separate propositions. That systematized whole is the object of notional assent, and its propositions, one by one, are the objects of real."Clearly, Aquinas, when he preached in Naples, did not preach the notions of Part One of the Summa. But his mind was capacious enough to realize that there was legitimate, indeed necessary, place for both: first order and second order language.No one in this thread, as far as I can tell, would dispute the Council's dictum that "scripture is the soul of theology." But, in recommending the study of Aquinas, the Council itself acknowledged that it is not the whole of theology.Father O'Leary may well prefer the solid Anglo-Saxon "Thought" (with "T" capitalized in good Germanic fashion) to the airy Latinate "speculation." However, the point remains that there are further questions that are legitimate and lead beyond (without forsaking) Scripture: to the Johannine comma (with which Newman begins his list of propositions) to the fourth-century Creeds, and even beyond. Did not that recognition lead Newman to Rome?

Aquinas certainly does love to get his inner-engineer on; when reading certain passages one can practically see the logic diagrams rising from the page. Having spent most of my adult life around telephone company engineers and computer nerds, his propeller-headedness comes across to me quite strongly ;-) If he were alive today I wonder if he wouldn't end up a scientist rather than a theologian. Yet I also think he holds great potential appeal for the modern world because he doesn't fear logic and from what I can tell (not being an Aquinas scholar) fully engages with the basic phenomena of existence.

"Fully engages with the basic phenomena of existence" -- of course the whole debate concerns whether his metaphysical categories can fully engage those phenomena. Even the more dynamic and existentialized categorical apparatus of Hegel is accused, by Kierkegaard, of failing quite radically to engage those phenomena. Hence the cult of Denken as at least a necessary supplement to Vernunft. Fr Imbelli recognizes that scripture provides a first-order discourse and metaphysical theology a second-order one. This in itself is a modern emphasis. Some counter-reformation theologian claimed that Jesus spoke to his disciples in private in scholastic syllogisms -- so convinced was the theologian that these provided the first-order and most adequate articulation of faith. Another question is whether the first-order scripture based thought and articulation of faith simply coexists peacefully with the metaphysical and speculative second order reasoning. Newman was steeped in authors like Athanasius, Hilary and the Cappadocians who were very aware of the dangerous power of even the simple metaphysical categories used in the fourth century debate and who were dragged kicking and screaming into the sphere of second-order discourse. He had a seasoned awareness of the gaps between biblical Christianity and the speculative mode that he would have met when he studied Catholic theology in Rome. Since the Thomistic revival had not yet begun, he may never have appreciated the genius of Aquinas.

As an Anglican Newman admired Bellarmine and took him as his guide in writing the Lectures on Justification. To my mind, this lamed Newman's openness to the insights of Luther. Though Newman is not as tone deaf to the Reformation teaching on grace as most Anglican and Catholic theologians have been (see Alister McGrath and Diane Hampton on this), he should have thought more biblically insteading of scoring "logical" points.

Oops, I meant Daphne Hampson.

There are many people who pursue "scientific" speculation about God today, often drawing on Aquinas. But they tend to be philosophers of religion rather than theologians (Eleanor Stump is a good one). What distinguishes them from theologians is that they take massive metaphysical categories such as omniscience and omnipotence as data that one can argue about logically and build speculation on. Theologians tend to have a more dubitative and gingerly attitude to these categories. Of course the philosophers of religion think the theologians are suffering a softening of the brain. (I'm sure a lot of Thomists in the past thought of Newman as a second-rate intellect.)

I'm just beginnng to read the writings of Ernesto Buonaiuti, who seems to be the greatest religious thinker of 20th century Italy. Because of the relentless demonizing of him as a Modernist by the Vatican his work is pretty much unknown to Catholics. Yet he was a godsend that the Church should have used, overlooking if need be whatever over-liberal outlooks he may have cultivated. My initial impression is that he is a greater thinker, writer, and human being than Alfred Loisy.

I came upon Aquinas about five years ago (unencumbered by metaphysics). I just read books about him and I've read the Concise Translation of the Summa. When I read things like how he uses reality as a primary source, asks why is there not nothing, considers not knowing anything about God a good start, considers goodness growing into what you are supposed to become, thinks that God thinks us into existence for a particular purpose, etc. etc. etc. then I think this guy knows something about the same world I live in. The Trinity makes sense, the virtues makes sense, grace as healing makes sense, Eucharist as presence makes sense. I take a personal rather than scholarly approach but his thought seems to work for me as a fine map of the fabric of being. And it's fun to annoy my kids with, 'Well Aquinas would say ...". Some of it may actually have sunk in.There's a good deal of Buonaiuti at Amazon but it's mostly all in Italian.

"Athanasius, Hilary and the Cappadocians ... were dragged kicking and screaming into the sphere of second-order discourse."Father O'Leary I'm trying to nudge you gently into the sphere of second-order discourse, but your kicking and screaming isn't helping!I may have to call upon un altro buon aiuto.

If there is a dominant trend in the remarkable revival of Thomistic studies in the last decade or two, it is the consideration of Aquinas, not first of all as a philosopher, but as a theologian. See Fergus Kerr's book, "After Aquinas." One part of this interest is in his biblical commentaries, which show quite unmistakeably that he was as attentive to the close meaning of the biblical text as his resources permitted. Reading his commentary on the Psalms, I am struck at how alert he is to the different textual readings supplied to him by the various Latin translations. Questions arise, and when they arise they need to be addressed. If they are metaphysical, they need to be addressed metaphysically. It would be obscurantism to rule out of court a priori whole sets of questions which can arise and have arisen.

Well, Wittgenstein would say that most metaphysical questions and their answers are wrongly phrased. As he says of the statement, "There are physical objects" -- "It is a misguided way of saying something that is not to be said in this way" (from On Certainty).So when faced with a metaphysical question, especially about God or Christ, the first thing to do is to assess the pertinence of the question, taking into account its historical context."If God knows what I am going to do tomorrow, how can I be free to do it or not?"Is this a question to be taken at face value?