Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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An Essay on Theology

December 6th, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

What can I say, I’m becoming a huge fan of the recently ordained Fr. Carpenter. Here is an excerpt from his essay on theology posted over at his Working To Beat Hell Web site. Click here to read the entire document. It is very much worth your time.

“In my conversation with my friends, which were very different in subject matter, what became clear is that as they tried to enter into theological discourse, they did not start from a position of faith. Rather, they started from a position that wanted to study the faith to ensure that what the Catholic Church teaches is indeed correct.

The problem with this, is of course, that it subjects the teachings of the Catholic Church to some “higher” (and presumably earthly) authority. For example, it assumed that the Catholic Church could possibly have an “incorrect” teaching. The problem with holding this view is that for a person to declare a teaching of the Church “incorrect” they must do so by subjecting it to some other authoritative standard. For example, a person who claims that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass might claim that all you need to do is examine a consecrated host and unconsecrated host under a microscope to determine that they are materially the same. The problem (or at least the one I am addressing) with this is that it assumes that science is the ultimate authority, and not Jesus Christ. It does not start from the point of faith that Jesus Christ is the Truth, and the source of all truth. Rather it gives this honor to science.

The same thing holds true with moral truths. Some people feel the need to scour through every Church document to ensure that they agree with every Church teaching before they are willing to accept the Catholic faith. Aside from the impracticality of this solution (there are far too many Church documents to reasonably expect that a person could read them all), there is a fundamental problem with this mentality – it assumes that the individual doing the studying is infallible, while the Church is potentially fallible.

The real question in both of these cases comes down to this: Do I believe the Church to be who She claims to be. If the answer to this is yes, then what this means is that we must accept the Church’s claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and free from Moral error. In essence, it means that by definition, the teachings of the Church must be correct. This does not mean that individual members of the Church enjoy this same level of guidance by the Holy Spirit. Individuals (including the pope when he is not speaking ex-cathedra, or from the Chair of Peter) can do and say things that are morally wrong. What it does mean, however, is that the Church itself is free from moral and religious error in its official teachings.”

The future of the Diocese of Rochester is looking bright.

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