onsdag 25 mars 2015

Mark Shea Advises a Convert, Making Some Mistakes

Catholic and Enjoying It : On the Development of Doctrine–for a Perplexed Reader

Reader of Mark Shea
I converted to the Catholic faith in 2000. I accepted the fact that revelation, from the Church’s viewpoint, includes both Scripture and Sacred Tradition. At that time, however, I understood that Tradition came from the Apostles.

Mark Shea
It does. But it often comes in seed form and is most assuredly not fleshed out by the apostles. They gave no though whatsoever to matters ranging from the doctrine of the Trinity to the problem of embryonic stem cell research. But as the Church marches out into history, she is forced to and draws on the tradition to help navigate such waters.


Apostles giving no thought whatsoever to doctrine of the Trinity hurts. They were after all baptising in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost!

I hope Mark Shea meant there were details in it to which they gave no thought.

As to whether Holy Ghost when proceeding from the Father “at the same time” (but procession is ab aeterno!) proceeds from the Son, one can have three opinions on whether Apostles dealt with it:

  • they said no and the West bungled it
  • they said yes and parts of the East bungled it
  • or they had no thought on the matter and both sides added.

Of these alternatives, the last one, which is pretty much what Mark Shea is saying, is the least convincing. Especially as Christ promised the Apostles that the Spirit would instruct them in ALL truth. Either Filioquism or Photianism being a heresy is perhaps not necessary but more sensible than saying BOTH sides and therefore ALL of the Church erred by adding and by dogmatising additions.

Stem cell research may or may not have been on their minds, but since stem cells from embrya come from aborted such, their thoughts on abortion are sufficient guidance as to those (there are also adult stem cells, for which this is not quite the case), and they were very clear as we see from Didaché.

Reader of Mark Shea
Right now I struggle in the fact that many of the dogmas have little basis in the Scriptures (or going far beyond anything written in Scripture) and many have very little support in the Patristic Fathers.

Mark Shea
Scripture is not the *basis* of the Church’s teaching, but the witness to it.

Scripture and Tradition contain all the bases (plural) which the Magisterium can ever have for declaring any doctrine revealed. Tradition means mainly Magisterium of the past, but also writings approved by it, as through canonisation of authors.

Reader of Mark Shea
The doctrines on Mary really didn’t get a solid foundation until 800 a.d. and have been developing throughout Church history.

Mark Shea
Not so. Every one of the Marian dogmas (there are only four) is reflected in Scripture. Indeed, the actual reason you don’t hear about the Marian beliefs of the Church is that they are not controversial in the early Church. They are simply a part of life and become enshrined in liturgy without much ruckus because everybody takes them for granted. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the oldest writing is the first time somebody thought of something.

That is perfectly true.

Genesis 3:15 is giving a promise which implies Mary was always enemy and never slave of the Serpent.

The two who call her Blessed among Women and her own qualification of Blessed refer back to only four women in the Old Testament. The ones called Blessed among women (of Israel or who live in tents, not among all women like the Blessed Virgin) were so called because of having won very complete victories over Sisera and Holophernes – which underlines Genesis 3:15.

And absence of Marian tractates reflect uncontroversiality of this traditional reading.

More from Shea’s self quote
Science and theology have this in common: they’re constrained to deal with facts, not fancy. But facts, of course, are tricky things. As any murder mys¬tery fan knows, facts can point in all sorts of confusing directions and leave you puzzling for a very long time. It’s the same with science and theology.

For a long time, there was open debate about the shape of the earth. Some thought it might be round since they noticed the way coastlines sank below the horizon when you sail away from them. By the third century b.c., the Greek astronomer and mathematician Eratosthenes had already estimated the earth’s size by comparing shadows cast at two locations at noon and concluded that the earth must be a giant ball. But, of course, many other people trusted the obvious evidence of the senses: after all, in Kansas, at sea, or on the Russian steppe any idiot could see the world was flat. Just look at it!

Various schools of thought contended for years. Sometimes compro¬mises were proposed, such as the Pizza Theory (“The world is round, yet flat!”). But eventually, a consensus in the educated community arose that Eratosthenes was right: The world was spherical. And so, among the edu-cated it became, if you will, a “scientific dogma” that the earth was a sphere, centuries before it was possible to go into space and verify the dogma by direct observation. Science stopped debating the question of the earth’s shape and those who continued to assert a flat earth were no longer taken seriously by anyone who knew what he was talking about.

So, a question: Does the dogma of a round earth stifle thought and crush the human quest for knowledge and truth? Nope. Instead, it does what all real dogma does: It says, “We’ve examined all the evidence soberly and come to the right conclusion. We’re really done debating this question. Instead of ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 2 Tim 3:7), let’s accept the fact that this matter is now settled and move on to talk about something more interesting.” Indeed, the dogma of a spheri¬cal earth, like all real dogma, serves as the foundation upon which later explorers, wonderers, and questioners can stand as they conduct their next investigations of reality. Dogma is not the prohibition of thought. It is the conclusion of thought. It’s what you get when you’re done thinking some¬thing through.

We knew Earth was a globe since, not space travel (those pictures could be conspiracies) but well before : Vasco da Gama. Heliocentrism so far has no real Vasco da Gama, Han Solo does not count. Earth turning even has no Vasco da Gama, not even if Moon Landing was genuine : if Geocentrism is true, Moon circles us at less than the Sun’s angular speed Westward and the men on the Moon who “saw the Earth turning around itself” were subject to the same illusion they claim the rest of us are always subject to when observing the matter from Earth.

So, trusting the senses Earth stands still is NOT a bad idea, just as with Scripture trusting the literal sense is NOT a bad idea either.

Now, does the witness of the senses in any way shape or form make a good case against a spherical Earth?


"But, of course, many other people trusted the obvious evidence of the senses: after all, in Kansas, at sea, or on the Russian steppe any idiot could see the world was flat. Just look at it!"

In Kansas, at sea, or on the Hungarian Puszta, any stay at home can see that the world is flat and any traveller can correct the impression by travelling far enough. Whichever direction is not obfuscated by anything before horizon, horizon is surprisingly round. Whichever direction you approach sufficiently high objects (mountains or buildings in ports approached from sea and mountains and buildings on land close to borders of the plains) the lower parts appear later than the higher ones, due to curvature of the plain. At the most, if only oldsters are listened to and they sit in mid plain and look and have forgot the phenomenon, the youngsters who travel and can see it can be too shy to correct them. And in the more numerous non-plain, either hilly or mountainous, regions, there is not so much of even a vision of unbounded flatness. So, the flat Earth heresy has another source than trusting the senses. I think I have discovered it here:

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Flat Earth theories - Common Sense or Solar Mythology?

Similarily, no Protestant heresy ever came from reading Biblical History in the obvious literal sense. They also have other sources. The Denial of Real Presence even flies in face of obvious literal sense and it can probably be traced to a sect in Orléans which denied Incarnation due to its miracles being impossible.

Hans Georg Lundahl
from Nanterre
University Library
Solemnity of Annunciation
of the BVM, 2015