Report on ACTA's Caterham Meeting

You may remember I drew attention to a meeting of ACTA in Caterham recently which was condoned and even supported by Bishop Kieran Conry.

Protect The Pope had a communication from a reader who was present for some of the meeting and reported the following:
'I left just as we were being broken into Discussion Groups, and I was not the only one. Wish I had the courage and knowledge to stay and argue but I was shaking the whole way through. First up, after some prayers asking for guidance, was a meditation about a round table; to make a round table hurts the wood and the people (?) but you end up with a table around which everyone sits in equality, no head of the table. No elaboration was given, but I imagine this is a hint of the levelling of the church hierarchy. 
There was a talk by Brian Pointer, Chairman A&B ACTA, briefly outlining the origins of ACTA and how some single ideals which were overwhelmingly important to individuals had to be ironed out as they couldn’t accommodate too many aims and needed to have an agreed direction. They approached +KC who was very cautious at first but then relaxed (or should that be chillaxed?) with them, and when they asked if they could organise meetings in the diocese he said OK. This they took as endorsement of their being a “Catholic” organisation. 
Fr Tom O’Loughlin seemed a very genial man, but did not hide his disdain for JP II or B XVI, or the new rite. He also said there was no such thing as the Hermeneutic of Continuity. He described himself as a Theologian of History, not of Doctrine.
There was quite a number of ACTA reps there, and Fr Ian Byrne (one of the seven signatories on that letter) was among the audience. As expected, the listeners were probably 90% bus pass holders. I would guess there were roughly 150 to 200 people but there had been a bad accident on the M25 so maybe some were waylaid.
Sorry not to have stayed any longer, but there was going to be a collection and recruitment drive and I just felt awful being there. The meeting is still going, but they are probably wrapping up to prepare for mass. Dear Lord, please protect our church.'
Protect the Pope comment: A reader of Protect the Pope has sent us eye-witness testimony of the A Call to Action meeting at Sacred Heart Church, Caterham, which was given the go ahead by Bishop Kieran Conry, ordinary of the Arundel and Brighton diocese. According to this eye-witness testimony of ACTA's meeting at Sacred Heart Church, Caterham, A Call to Action in Arundel and Brighton sees itself as a 'Catholic organisation' endorsed by Bishop Conry, which at the same time expresses disdain for soon to be canonised John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and disdain for the New Translation of the Roman Missal. It appears that the good people of Sacred Heart, Caterham, were served the usual fare of a la carte Catholicism specialised in by dissenting Catholics.

I think the part of the meeting attended here seemed not too bad, as bad things go, although as Nick (Protect the Pope) comments, it does show a worrying disdain for JPII and BXVI, the Popes who, after Vatican II, unfolded the philosophy and the theology for the faithful. It is this 'pick-and-choose' mentality that runs against the whole foundation of the Catholic faith, which takes into account the sensus plenior. More over, the anger and bitterness that these people often exhibit with the Church has to be a clue to their personal and spiritual confusion.

One of the big issues with ACTA is their disingenuous modus operandi. I have seen communications between ACTA members who openly acknowledge that the key to success and getting the backing of Bishops like Kieran is not to be too vocal (at this stage, anyway) about their true objectives. They recognise that the 'dialogue' and 'Vatican II' labels legitimise them. Ultimately their agenda is to destroy the Church.

It's OK though, because people like Nick Donnelly and lots of other Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium and interested in preaching the Gospel instead of their own agenda are on to you ACTA.


  1. What nonsense to say that the agenda of ACTA is to destroy the Church. On the contrary too narrow a definition of orthodoxy is contrary to the spirit of 'the Great Church', Catholic in more than name.

    1. Thanks Thomas. Personally I don't think it is nonsense (obviously). I think it is arrogance and ignorance to consider that you can assert a democratic principle on the Church and somehow lobby to overturn expressed dogma.

    2. Everything isn't black and white. It is not a case of the Church as total democracy on the one hand or a complete clampdown by fear of the inquisition on the other. There has always been a place for legitimate dissent on matters of conscience in the Church as Newman suggested. Then there is the sensus fidelium. You will see already that attitudes are changing after a narrow dogmatism that tries to make everything infallible. But that approach -- ironically, because I am sure it is well intentioned-- is ultimately anti-Catholic in the fullest sense of what the Catholic Church is, universal, inclusive, and thus -- obviously within limits-- pluralist.

  2. And PS whilst I do not wish to be as uncharitable as you have been it is worth noting that this is a libellous statement about Acta, a widely supported national organisation. We are meeting with our own Bishop, Philp Egan, shortly.

    1. 1. You don't wish to be uncharitable, but you are threatening me with legal action for stating my opinion? That seems indicative of ACTA's renowned desire for "dialogue" :-)
      2. ACTA is a widely supported national organisation supported by 1,500 members nationally. Wow. That's not many is it! Most of them are only interested because the organisation lies about its agenda and dresses itself up as supported by the bishops.
      3. "We are meeting with our own Bishop" Good, good luck!

    2. Mr Woodman

      You describe your organisation as "widely supported". There are 5.8milion Catholics in this country as per the last census. Your 1500 members accounts for 0.026% of them. (all rounding has been in your favour)

      You don't even reach the heady heights of the 7000 members of the British Sausage Appreciation Society.

      Surely calling yourselves "widely supported" is inaccurate. I would suggest that "widely ignored" is more accurate.

    3. Not so, that is active members-- I could myself if there were time give you 50 names of people I know personally who sympathise. Have you seen any surveys of attitudes of practising Catholics in the UK -- the YouGov one is revealing

    4. I have done. It shows just how bad catechesis is in this country.

    5. By the way, it now looks like Thomas is wrong about Bishop Egan meeting with ACTA. See: this post on Linen in the Hedgerow

    6. Completely mistaken Mark. We meet with Bishop Egan on March 6 at the Cathedral. The info you cited was his saying he wanted to complete his pastoral framework before meeting us.

    7. Thanks for clarifying Thomas. How did the meeting go?

    8. Mark, you are posting too hastily-- please read the above.

    9. Sorry- you are meeting him on March 6th. My bad! :-)

  3. As I think you know I was not threatening you with legal action. I do not have an official place in national Acta and I don't believe they would want to anyway. I was trying to point out to you the extreme offensiveness and gravity of what you said. No one has claimed the bishops support acta, but various bishops have met with us -- guess what to dialogue. Everything isn't black and white and the alternatives aren't total democracy on the one hand and blackout on the other. The real danger comes from those who clampdown on legitimate conscience-driven dissent, which Newman asserted as essential, in the interests of a new fangled supposed conservatism that sees everything as infallible. This is antithetic -- however well intentioned- to the true spirit of Catholicism, the 'Great Church', inclusive, universal, and -- within limits obviously-- pluralistic. It is also open to the sensus fidelium which we are already beginning to hear more of.

    1. Might I suggest you consider the level of offensiveness with which ACTA's actions are viewed by many Catholics.

      For an organisation that talks about transparency and openness they are nothing of the sort. For all this talk of dialogue I see very little of it.

      Come now, do us the honour of telling us exactly what ACTA wants? I would love to hear ACTA views as "conscience driven dissent".

    2. Acta is not some elaborately centralised cabal. It is devolved to the dioceses. Nor is it a liberal pressure group supporting particular causes eg Same-sex marriage or women's ordination. It seeks precisely what it says it seeks, dialogue, in the first instance with the bishops and with parish priests. In some situations this already takes place, in others it is sadly lacking. Canon law says that the laity has the right and the duty to make its opinions known to the clergy.


  4. Just for the sake of clarity Thomas, you're saying that my comment, that it is the agenda of ACTA to destroy the Church, is libelous, extremely offensive and grave? I really find that difficult to accept. There is now a great deal of evidence about the content of these meetings. Clergy that I have discussed the matter with tend to disregard the organisation as unimportant; a rag-tag bunch of old hippies and ex-religious who will soon die out, but have long since ceased to be of any real relevance. They sweet talk their way into credibility by clever use of a smoke-screen of legitimacy, but their foundational concepts demonstrate a quite extraordinary determination to mis-understand theology and doctrine. This is simple to demonstrate right here. Tony was ordained and broke his vows to marry, fair enough, it happens. But he is not an idiot. Do you think he really doesn’t know why Latin was and is used by the Church? When I tried to offer a reasoned response there wasn’t any “dialogue” Thomas. I was blocked from the website.

    ACTA’s Heythrop document makes it clear what it wants to “dialogue” about and yet it is a closely guarded secret. Why are ACTA so shy about this?

    With regard to your comments about via media, I totally agree. I have studied theology and know that the history of the Church, especially visible in the Great Ecumenical Councils tends to demonstrably be about finding a via media between to extremes. Perhaps the perfect example is the over emphasis on the humanity of Christ by the Antiochenes and the over-emphasis of the divinity of Christ by the Alexandrians sorted out at Nicea.

    But these issues were and are sorted out by bishops, arch-bishops, and the great theologians of the Church. My discussions with ACTA members reveal they grossly mis-represent, or just misunderstand Church teaching.

    Answer me this: is it not true that our faith is about objective truth? That Jesus promises us that we can know the truth and that it will set us free? So when you consider the Church’s teaching on women priests, homosexual acts, abortion and same-sex unions, one would expect the Church’s position to be to assert the revealed truth. That truth cannot change, and the Church is very careful about making pronouncements on difficult subjects.

    I would be very interested to hear exactly what, in your opinion, constitutes “legitimate conscience-driven dissent”? Because as far as I am concerned, you are only Catholic if you assent to the teachings of the Church.

    Utilitarianism, consequentialism, these are not Catholic mindsets. I am no naive neo-con subscribing to some new strain of ultramontanism, I am a faithful Catholic, a seeker of truth and a defender of the faith. I believe the faith is truth and I know that it is a truth deposited by Jesus Christ to be held in perpetuity until the parousia. I know that it is a difficult time for our faith as it is beleaguered on all sides by people who want to accept temporal fashions. I think we should all be working together to build up the Church, but it seems self-evident to me that ACTA are working to tear it down from the inside. If members of ACTA disagree so fundamentally with Church teaching, why not join the Anglican Church? It seems anything goes there and they would welcome them with open arms.

    1. I know you are a very sincere person, and I have heard nothing but good about you. You are polite and use your real name, However, Protestant fundamentalists believe that God stopped revealing Himself after the canon of Scripture was closed. Catholics of course do not believe that. But it seems equally fundamentalist to think that God has stopped revealing Himself on all major issues at some point in the past. In the great fundamentals of faith in the hierarchy of truths Walter Kasper describes certainly, but not in everything that the Church has ever taught. Newman as you know talks of the Development of Doctrine-- this means that we come to understand them more completely and even on occasions reinterpret them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the way the magisterium itself works and I believe that those who think like you are deceiving themselves and failing to look at the evidence of Church history. Anyway I wish you well. As I have mentioned before I am quite preoccupied with other tasks and outlets which I won't go into now and so I can't go on arguing on this site. Occasionally when there is blatant misrepresentation of demonstrable facts I cannot resist. Otherwise I think there is not much point.

    2. Mr Woodman, your assertion that there continues to be revelation following the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ runs quite contrary to the Catholic Faith which is set out in the CCC:

      "65 "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."26 Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

      In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.27

      There will be no further Revelation

      66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries."

      Yes, there is such a thing as the legitimate development of doctrine, but that is subject to the strict conditions laid out in the Vatican Council:

      "Hence, too,that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by holy mother church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding."
      De fides et ratio

      With the resulting Canon:

      "If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands:
      let him be anathema."

      The whole aim and purpose of ACTA is to "re-interpret" dogmas and doctrines of the Church in order to make them mean things which are quite contrary to what the Church has always believed. The organization thus comes under the condemnation of the Vatican Council and the Rt Rev Fabian Bruskewitz justly excommunicated your US counterparts, Call To Action.

      Your disgusting dissembling about being a different organization is shown up for the lying rant it is by virtue of the fact that CTA and ACTA share exactly the same objectives. I only hope that an English bishop will have the same fortitude as Bishop Bruskewitz and excommunicate the whole reprobate lot of you.

    3. Of course there is revelation about the meaning of revelation> Is the Pope not inspired to reveal the truth of the meaning of the deposit of revelation. It all depends on the meaning of the word revelation. It was Mark Lambert who was the one proclaiming the definitive revelations of the Church about various matters not me. And the CCC is certainly not infallible, any more than my penny catechism which told me I had to believe in limbo was. catechism is only infallible when it reveals the revealed truth of the faith. When it doesn't it is a snapshot of the Church's teaching at a particular time and place. However I shall not be continuing debates with you on here-- your intemperate language is not argument.

    4. Dear Thomas,

      I have to say I am certain that you've got Newman's ideas about development of doctrine completely wrong, did you read Newman? I studied this exact subject quite extensively at Maryvale under the renowned Maynooth lecturer, Rev Prof Tom Norris (whose nick-name, amusingly, is Chrysostom). If you are indeed an avid seeker of truth, which I believe you are, I would highly recommend his book on this: A Fractured Relationship. Faith and the Crisis of Culture, Dublin: Veritas, 2007. I have to say I think, based on what you've said here, you would find the whole book really interesting and worthwhile!

      God bless

  5. This is a further comment from a friend who couldn't get the comment box to work (he is old and easily confused :p):-

    "I think that hits the nail pretty firmly on the head, Mark.

    When I was first approached by an ACTA 'activist'(?), my suspicions were aroused immediately when it described Hans King as a 'respected theologian'. I was reminded of Sheriff JW in the James Bond movie who, after surveying the wreckage of his county, the crashed cars, destroyed wedding, totalled boats and exploded houses, said "On WHOSE side???"

    I felt that the rest of the letter, which called upon me and pretty much everyone else I could think of, whether Catholic or not, to bombard the bishops with some kind of petition supporting the ACTA position on something or other. I felt it was dishonest, both in its conduct - canvassing support from outside the Catholic Church to influence Catholic discussion - and in its objective, which was to undermine Church teaching. It came across as arrogant and, at the same time, schismatic - as schismatic as Abp Lefebvre's actions and born of the same root: overweening arrogance.

    I fear that I perceive "conscience-driven dissent" to be either a genuine and sincere error - a Protestant idea that the individual should determine their own reaction to Christ's teaching - or dishonest, a mask to cloak what is schismatic dissent.

    If ACTA wishes to split from the Church and set up something in its own image I have no objection. However, I think that they should stop pretending that this is legitimate discussion, and nor should they take innocent (but gullible) people with them.

    If anyone from ACTA dislikes my description of their behaviour as dishonest, they are welcome to get in touch, with or without the address of their legal counsel."

  6. "Informed dissent" indicates a poorly formed conscience. All adults have a duty to conform their minds to the Mind of Christ. Where do we discern the Mind of Christ but in the Teaching Magisterium of the Church? The Church is our protection.

    If we do not conform our minds to the Mind of Christ as revealed by the Church, and we have been given plenty of opportunities to do so, we shall be called accountable for our 'informed dissent", another name for Pride. Non servum....etc.

    There are sheep and there are goats-this is not merely a metaphor for poetry, but a warning of Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to be docile and humble enough to bow to the teachings of the Church in all matters. If we cannot, we must work and pray and do more studying in order to change our minds to that of Christ.

    This entire discussion must begin with each person's individual responsibility to become one with Christ in His Church. That is what Newman meant-when one has conformed and developed a truly Catholic conscience, then and only then is that conscience superior to all else.

    If anyone is still confused on this issue, I recommend time reading the Doctors of the Church and absorbing the Truth.

  7. I fear that these discussions will get nowhere and only produce more uncharity, like the characterisation of acta members. Rather a selective bias in the conversation with 'clergy' since acta contains many many members of the clergy. What the whole debate comes down to it seems to me is a very misguided and narrowed and rather recent interpretation of the 'magisterium of the Church'. As Cardinal Kasper has pointed out, there is a hierarchy of truths. We start with the fundamentals of the Christian creeds. Then there are indeed some specifically Catholic truths that are non-negotiable. They are far less than you seem to imagine, and it is a false concept of revelation to think that what is revealed for a particular time and place necessarily stands for all time. The early Church according to that would never have declared the Jewish laws of circumcision and diet non-binding, at first for gentile Christians and soon for all. The Church has changed its mind on various issues of some importance throughout the ages, slavery being a classic example, capital punishment another and limbo a very good recent example. When I was growing up it was in the Catechism -- yes, it was, I recently checked in the famous Catechism in use in my schooldays. Other major examples would be the status of non-Catholic religions and non-Christian ones too. Teaching about evolution was condemned as was the idea that Adam and Eve were not literally the first created human beings. You will find Pope Benedict taking a much nuanced view in his theological works-- a dangerous liberal I suspect. I notice you have all ignored the sensus fidelium, recently cited by Pope Francis. How about Contraception?. Are the 98% of American married Catholics who practise it damned? Should they be excommunicated? At the time at least one national bishops' conference said they disagreed with that teaching. Were they all 'aging hippies' too? Anyway I find this site bad for my blood pressure, so if I can resist it, this will be my last post. God bless

    1. Seriously Thomas, you're misguided on these issues. The Church advocated slavery? The Church changed its mind on non-Christian religions? I think you will find that Vatican II very clearly reaffirms the Magisterial teaching with added emphasis on missions. Regarding evolution, are you aware of divino afflante spiritu? The Church was ahead of the game before Vatican II, rejecting the popularist fideism of the day and declaring that the Bible should be studied using the historical critical method. Limbo was never dogma. Contraception is wrong, that's not going to change, but we are all sinners, the Church is an ark of sinners.

    2. There is very clear condemnation of evolutionary teaching in early reactions-- then, mercifully, they changed their mind. The faithful do not regard contraception as a sin, and the issue doesn't even enter the mind of most young Catholics, for good or bad. The English clergy largely stopped worrying about it decades ago.

    3. Wouldn't you rather go with what God considers sinful rather than the faithful?

  8. Thomas Woodman, you are wrong about the teaching of the Church regarding the creation humans. We must believe, still, that we are descended from one man and one woman. No recent Pope has contradicted You also refer to the "sensus fidelium" but you do not understand what that means. The term means that the faithful believe in correspondence to the teaching s of the Church not against it.

    "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),... receives... the faith, once for all delivered to the saints... the People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."CCC 93

    And can 98% of the so-called faithful be wrong? Yes! At least 50% of the faithful and the bishops were Arians. And, yes they could have been condemned. We are reminded by Christ, Who is God, that the way to heaven is narrow, not large.

    By the way, here is the CCC. 359 “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”224 (1701, 388, 411)
    St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ.... The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life.... The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: “I am the first and the last.”225
    375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice.”250 This grace of original holiness was “to share in... divine life.”251 (1997)

  9. The Church of course uses the language of scripture. There is nothing here to say it is interpreted completely literally.
    If limbo was not a dogma why was it in the Catechism or is all that is in the Catechism not dogma.

    1. Do you think there should be "dialogue" about female ordination?

    2. Thomas, do you understand the difference between dogma and doctrine?
      In 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith discussed the category of "all those doctrines of divine and catholic faith which the Church proposes as divinely and formally revealed. . ."
      Examples given:
      The articles of faith of the Creed
      The various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas
      The doctrine of the institution of the sacraments by Christ and their efficacy with regard to grace
      The doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration
      The foundation of the Church by the will of Christ
      The doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff
      The doctrine on the existence of original sin
      The doctrine on the immortality of the spiritual soul and on the immediate recompense after death
      The absence of error in the inspired sacred texts
      The doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being.
      Therefore, a dogma is a doctrine "to be believed by divine and Catholic Faith" that has been proposed by the Church to be "divinely and formally revealed."

      "Doctrine" simply means "teaching".

      Thus, all dogmas are doctrines, but not all doctrines are dogmas.

      Limbo can refer to two distinct places.

      "Limbo of the Fathers" - the place where the righteous dead went before Christ died and opened the gates of heaven for them. This is in the Bible - see 1 Peter 3:19. This Limbo surely exists.

      "Limbo of infants" - the place where unbaptised babies go. This isn't explicitly mentioned in Scripture (but neither is the Trinity) but can be inferred from the doctrine that all must be baptised to go to heaven (see John 3:3).

      This second Limbo is still a valid theological opinion. The Church has never formally defined it not formally repudiated it. The closest she has ever gotten was Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei where he called out the Jansenists for teaching children to out and out deny the existence of limbo (Pius uses the word). The Jansenists were teaching Augustine's theory that the unbaptised were in Hell. Note, Pius doesn't declare limbo exists, he simply rebukes the Jansenists for teaching that limbo doesn't exist, Pius is leaving the door open.

      Some of the greatest minds in Church History have taught it, including St. Thomas Aquinas the greatest doctor in the history of the Church (see HERE), and various Church Fathers including St. Gregory Nazianzen , Tertullian, and St. Ambrose. St. Augustine didn't teach limbo, instead he taught that unbaptised infants would go to Hell, but have the mildest of all punishments.

      More recently, in the twentieth century (even before VII), theologians began contemplating the idea that the unbaptised go to heaven. The Church has never officially endorsed this position. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then called simply the Holy Office) issued a statement in 1958 urging parents to baptise their children ASAP, noting that the state of the unbaptised after death is unknown,

      "The practice has arisen in some places of delaying the conferring of Baptism for so-called reasons of convenience or of a liturgical nature" a practice favoured by some opinions, lacking solid foundation, concerning the eternal salvation of infants who die without Baptism. Therefore this Supreme Congregation, with the approval of the Holy Father, warns the faithful that infants are to be baptised as soon as possible..."
      (1 of 2 cont...)

    3. (cont... 2/2)

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church likewise leaves the door open stating, in paragraph 1261:

      "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus" tenderness toward children which caused him to say, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism"

      Most Catholics today think Limbo has been rejected in favor of the idea that all unbaptised babies are saved (which dovetails with an increasing tendency toward universalism in the minds of many Catholics). This simply isn't the teaching of the Church. The fact is, we really don't know what will happen to them and Catholics are free to decide for themselves between Augustine's theory (they go to hell), Aquinas' (they go to limbo), and simply trusting in God's mercy (they go to heaven) - but Catholics are not free to teach any of these as absolutely certain.

      Hope that helps.

    4. The fact remains Mark that limbo was in my catechism when I grew up as an 'apparent dogma', to use your helpful distinction. And it is a helpful distinction because I know of no Acta member (Icannot of course guarantee there aren't some) who would deny any of the list of dogmas you cite. Where we would disagree I imagine is with I regard as the 'creeping infallibilism' by which a huge variety of 'doctrines' are regarded by you and your apparent allies as not even open to discussion. This despite the fact that the majority of theologians in the Church do not agree. I also find surprising the self-appointment of some of you (not you as far as I can see) as heresy hunters and vigilantes where the Church has its own faculties for dealing with these issues and --especially in recent years-- has been far from hesitant to use them.

    5. I would be interested to hear what 'doctrines' are subject to 'creeping infallibilism' Thomas?

      I have to say I am pleased that we agree on the list of dogmas. I think the problem with your position with regard to the rest of what you say above about Limbo etc, is that you seem to make a lot of assumptions and then assert this is the truth about the Church. I would counsel humility and that you foster a discerning heart that seeks to build the kingdom rather than criticise it and pull it down. I think that this is the result of the dearth of proper Catechesis we have suffered in this country over the last forty or so years, would you not agree?

      Did you read Pope Francis' address to the CDF today?

      ‘Since the early times of the Church the temptation has existed to understand the doctrine in an ideological sense or to reduce it to an ensemble of abstract and crystalized theories (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 39-42). In reality, doctrine has the sole purpose of serving the life of the People of God and it seeks to assure our faith of a sure foundation. Great, in fact, is the temptation to appropriate to ourselves the gifts of salvation that come from God, to domesticate them – perhaps even with a good intention – to the views and the spirit of the world. And this is a temptation that is constantly repeated.

      To take care of the integrity of the faith is a very delicate task which has been entrusted to you, always in collaboration with the local Pastors and the Doctrinal Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences. This serves to safeguard the right of all the People of God to receive the deposit of the faith in its purity and its totality. Your work seeks also to have always present the needs of a constructive dialogue, respectful and patient with authors. If truth exacts fidelity, the latter grows always in charity and in fraternal help for those called to mature and clarify their convictions.’

      Full details on Zenit

  10. Thomas, but the Popes have. "For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12] "Humanae Generis and there is more there I would recommend you to read for the formation of an adult Catholic conscience.

    Note this from the same encyclical, which is infallible, as you know all encyclicals are-"With regard to new questions, which modern culture and progress have brought to the foreground, let them engage in most careful research, but with the necessary prudence and caution; finally, let them not think, indulging in a false "irenism," that the dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution."

  11. I have on my blog written over 672 posts on the road to perfection. The first step is orthodoxy. Only the perfect see God.

  12. I am afraid I cannot continually answer all these e-mails single-handed like Horatio on the bridge. I did not come on here to debate everything in this fashion, and obviously I find this whole approach misguided. As noted, the Papacy condemned Evolution in no uncertain terms, yet both the last two previous Popes referred to it as a fact not a hypothesis. I found myself on here looking up some info, and was surprised to find an organisation I belong to and its members savaged by fellow Catholics. I am not going to give into the temptation to keep on arguing further as it is bad for my blood pressure. But thanks to you and your fellow posters input, God bless,

  13. Thomas, the fact that we must accept coming from one set of parents does not preclude evolution, as any smart person can deduce. I know all the teaching on this subject and all the resources from the Vatican.

    That there can be some sort of evolution (which I personally do not hold) is okeyed by the Popes in conjunction with Humanae Generis.

    We also cannot believe, btw,in strict creationism of the six day variety. So Popes have encouraged studies in evolution WITHIN parameters of revealed truth.

    Please do not let your own fellows take you away from the simplicity of truth-perhaps what we intellectuals all need is less reading and more prayer.

  14. “Evangelii Gaudium”
    (Here are some short quotes from the above which I think we will all find helpful)
    “Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory ”. (para 16)

    Collegiality in its fullness
    “Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the people of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service….. “At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision making.” (para 102)

    “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”
    “More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us “Give them something to eat” (Mk.6:37). (Para 49)

    “Spiritual worldliness. which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in not seeking the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being.”
    “One is the attraction of Gnosticism, a purely subjective faith…….the other…is those who ultimately trust only on their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A suppose soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.” (para 94)
    “This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”.
    “In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel has a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.” (para 95)
    “Those who have fallen into this worldliness look on from above and afar, they reject the prophecy of their brothers and sisters, they discredit those who raise questions, they constantly point out the mistakes of others and they are obsessed by appearances.”

  15. The more I read Pope Francis' now famous interview with the Jesuit magazine the better it seems. Think for a moment, for example, of the wise words reiterating that the Church is the 'whole people of God', not just the Vatican and the hierarchy: '

    “The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.

    We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.“This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

    1. What do you think he is saying here Thomas?

    2. He's saying that papal interviews in Jesuit magazines are infallible when seen thru the eyes of the sensus fidelium.

      Good piece, Mark, and even better responses. Keep up the great work!

  16. "Catholics cannot manipulate Church Doctrine to suit themselves" ~Pope Francis

  17. For once the Pope has enunciated a simple truism, which no one could contest.It is not an argument against informed dissent.

  18. But, of course, everything is black and white regarding the doctrines of the Faith. They are not for turning. One of the many great elements of Catholic theology is its precision, it leaves no room for heresy.
    And, as far as the meeting with Bishop Egan on 6th March is concerned I would say to ACTA apparatchiks, don't build your hopes up.

  19. A truism-- rare from this Pope. Nobody says they can.

  20. Thanks for your efforts, Tom. They are much appreciated by many Catholics, I am sure. I wish you all the best in your continuing work trying to explore the truth that no human being except for Jesus Christ can actually know in its entirety during their time on this earth.

    1. Thank you very much, JR. Both sides -- it is a pity to have to put it like that-- need Christian charity, and I think we all lack it.


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