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Sunday, June 10, 2007


Robert Miller

Whatever the merits of ecumenical dialogue may be, we would do well to recall Belloc's idea that heresies are "things" and that they have a "savor" -- a smell and feel that disgust Catholics. No matter how much dialogue may narrow the difference between Lutheran and Catholic doctrinal definitions, the stench of heresy will not be lifted from the spirit of Lutheranism ( or Anglicanism, or Calvinism). Interestingly, our Protestant interlocutors understand better than "Catholics" (like Kung?) that the stink of heresy can't be perfumed with a formula of words.


So, we convert them to Catholicism. I like that. And I think referring to them as heretics will soften up their resistance. Only then will they fully realize how much superior we are to them. Being called a heretic when I was a fundamentalist would certainly speeded up the conversion process.

We are right. They are wrong. We can probe their theology in nice dialogs, then we strike. "It's just business."

Chris Burgwald

Dr. Malloy's thesis is a powerful one, and one that merits a response, which I hope those closely involved with the JDDJ might offer. I have a couple comments on issues which Dr. Malloy didn't address in the interview, but has elsewhere.

First, what is the precise status of the JDDJ in relationship to the Magisterium? Defenders of the document point out that the Catholics involved are members of the Roman Curia, and acted as such; that the CDF ultimately signed off on the document, with some attending appendices (Cdl. Ratzinger was instrumental in avoiding what appeared to be a permanent derailment in '98); and that a papal representative signed the text with papal approval. Ecumenical texts are not magisterial texts, but it does seem difficult to say that this document has zero magisterial weight behind it. One of the difficulties is that there is no precedent... there is no similar ecumenical text... this is something new, and presents difficulties as such.

Second, defenders of the JDDJ also note that the text does not indicate that Catholic & Lutheran teaching on justification are identical in substance, merely with differing languages... they note that it does acknowledge differences, but that these differences are no longer seen to be so vast as to be church-dividing. This also invites further exploration... who, precisely, is able to determine whether or not a doctrine is church-dividing, from a Catholic perspective? The apparent answer is the Magisterium, and here we return to the first point.

Finally, regarding concupiscence: I agree with Dr. Malloy that we neither can nor should attempt to confess concupiscence. At the same time, we also recall that concupiscence must be cleansed before we can enter the beatific vision, and that Trent allows for a description of concupiscence as sin, albeit imperfectly. This isn't so much a disagreement as a point of emphasis on my part, but then I'm biased: my own dissertation focused on concupiscence in U.S. Catholic-Lutheran dialogue and in the JDDJ, and while my conclusions are not opposed to Dr. Malloy's, they do differ somewhat, at least on this matter.

I do want to echo my first comment, though: I hope his book prompts a thorough response from those associated with the JDDJ. Any reviews from Root et al., Dr. Malloy?

Christopher Malloy


Many thanks for your charitable comments! (Side note -Respondent #2, thank you for your good comment. I remember being interviewed one time. I was asked whether I was 'to the right' or 'to the left'. [The interviewer was himself quite 'to the left'.] At any rate, I said and would say again, 'neither', but 'I hope to be an extremist - extreme in the true faith and extreme in the true and gentle but fervent charity. I'm not saying I am either of these at all, just that this is my hope.)

Chris B, As for reviews, stay tuned! A very competent and charitable person is working on an essay-review, my response will be included in the issue (but these have yet to be written). (Chris - I'll let you know by email when things develop.)

Of course, Chris, when you say "signed off", we need some clarity. I do not think the CDF "signed". Was not the absence of Ratzinger noted at the time? It is very important to note that the PCPCU is not charged with doctrinal responsibility. Further, the papal endorsements were not authoritatively issued. What is very interesting, and in many respects wonderful, about the recent use of the papal office is that it has become less "official" in many of its actions. It has been used prophetically and charismatically in many ways (World Youth Days; Theological Audiences, etc.). That's what I observe, at any rate.

The papal endorsements were, for the most part, rightly noting the "milestone" character of the document. You and I certainly agree on that character, even within our disagreement (a differentiated consensus between us on this point!).

I think a very important item to examine is the JD's own task, set forth in its body (#4). It is to state the state of the issue so that the churches can go to make "binding" decisions. When Leo Cardinal Scheffczyk states of a part of the JD that it is "plainly untridentine and false", he did not, I think, see himself as disagreeing with a Magisterial teaching, even if a low-level one. Perhaps I am wrong on that; perhaps he did see himself as having to offer, on a theological plane subject to later, official ecclesiastical judgment, a critique of a non-irreformable teaching. This is not the sense I got from reading him. Nor was it the sense I got from reading Dulles. In any case, it is clear from these and other thinkers that this document is open for scrutiny and criticism.

I think we've discussed this "concupiscence" thing before. Indeed, we must be healed of concupiscence before entering the vision. That is an important thing to note. As for "concupiscence" as being called sin, however, Trent means that it is "sin" only in the improper literal sense (read - it is a literary device). It is metonymy, cause for effect and also effect for cause: Since "concupiscence" has hit the human race as a consequence for Adam's rebellion, and since this inheritance presses us towards sinful actions, therefore, it can be called "sin", as the Apostle calls it. Yet, this is sin in the improper literal sense. Now, venial sin (tradition's reading of St. John's 'a sin that is not deadly') - this is true sin, but by analogy and not by metonymy. That is, venial sin is radically different from mortal sin, but both involve free human actions. Therefore, both have something commonly predicable of them. However, concpusicence lacks even the character of venial sin.

Thus, the healing from concupiscence has a different character from the healing from venial sins and the atonement for outstanding debt.

As always, Chris,
Peace and good!

Josh S

Well, Cranky, since we're not technically in the Church, don't have any sacraments except for baptism, don't have ministers who can absolve sins, and don't have access to Christ because we refuse to receive him with and through Mary, through whom "all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body," what option is there besides converting us to Catholicism?

Mike Sirilla

In response to the issue raised by Chris Burgwald (hello, Chris!) regarding the PCPCU's relationship to the Church's magisterium, I believe it is complicated. Virtually every one of the dozen or so "Pontifical Councils" issues documents that are more or less directly related to the Church's teaching on faith and morals. For all that, those documents are not ordinarily (or ever?) organs for the clarification of doctrinal questions. Obviously, we turn to the CDF, encyclicals, etc. on those matters. That the PCPCU issued a "Joint Declaration" is, for this reason, odd or, better, unprecedented. Former joint declarations have been issued by Ecumenical Councils (Florence, e.g.) and by Popes (Paul VI's and Athenagoras' Joint Declaration, e.g.). In any event, I think Catholic theologians are at complete liberty (acting in good conscience) to express our disagreements with documents issuing from the Pontifical Councils.

On another note, I appreciate Chris Malloy's (hello Chris!) attempt to focus attention on the metaphysical reality of justification. Regardless of what various federations or Lutheran Churches have professed (and apart from the question of the proper interpretation and reception of those historic confessions), the more important matter is the very nature or essence of human justification itself. In his book, Chris does an excellent job highlighting the tension between statements from Trent on justification (such as: "simul iustus et peccator" and the constellation of other issues similarly related to justification) and the statements in the Catholic section of the JDDJ.

I just heard Root's presentation at the CTSA this last weekend. I do hope he writes an article in response to Chris' book. My other hope is that we can get some clarification from the Church on the status of the JDDJ and the role of the PCPCU (though I don't think that will happen).


"Does this mean that every creature offends God? Of course not!"

Why of course not if we are in fact all debtors?



You and Robert Miller are both so very clear in your Catholicism. I admire that. Your straightforward approach hearkens back to the "turn or burn" of my fundamentalist roots. You both have shown me that there's little or no need to dialog with loser protestants anyway. They need to see our light.

And you both have become models for me in attitude, if not substance. I'm you. We're the people of God, don't you know. And after all, one can't be safe doing business with heretics unless our dialogs are just cover to seduce them into our worldview. Whether or not their ignorance is invincible, we can count on their theological stupidity. We must never forget that the "only good protestant is a converted protestant."

At least that was the message I got reading your posts. Of course, being from a red state and all, I may have missed some subtle nuance. I do so hope we can be together on this.

Of course, there just could have been another point in
Carl's typically magnificent interview that got overlooked by me, maybe by us. I think I'll re-read it now.

Yep, there seems to be. It just may be possible he's promoting being staunchly Catholic while understanding what Luther really said rather responding to a caricature.

That's hard. We always caricatured Catholics when I was a fundamentalist, then wrapped it all in a thin intellectual veneer to make it appear profound. As a Catholic, our caricatures are often much better, and our veneers are a great deal thicker. But they still work pretty well until Carl brings us to the facts.

It's not always so pleasant to be shown that my Catholicity is correct based on an even-handed treatment of the facts rather than falling back to invective or cant. I am forced to think clearly, too. I must use something than ageless soundbites to defend my own beliefs (while crushing the opposition if I can.)

I haven't noticed many blogs doing that. That makes this one of Carl's dear.

So, guys should I stay with "only good protestant...". or do I go for thoughtful reflection? Being even-handed will stretch me. How about you?

Mike Sirilla

Cranky, could you just say what you think instead of veiling it in sacracasm? I am too simple to untangle all the nuances. Seriously. Thanks.



I apologize if I came across sarcastic. I wasn't intentionally trying to wound any fellow brother in the Lord. Mercy and Grace are what I must depend upon as I try to share my heart. They are what drug me to Catholicism. Those coupled with a close reading of scripture.

I am still battling with a lifetime of Fundamentalism that slips through on occasion. Fr. Dubay's writing continues to aid in ameliorating my dysfunctionality. See recent post on this blog.

Many fundamentalist really did view Catholics as going to hell (often pronounced "Hail"). Facts (and people like Mother Teresa) were an unruly thing to be force-fit to our assumptions. Anyone who veered too far outside our assumptions were viewed with suspicion.

Before I came to this blog and Catholic Answers, I found most of those self-labeling as serious non-cafeteria Catholic were a lot like--even indistinguishable--from the fundamentalists I left, except they had a few different assumptions into which to force fit facts.

Catholics just used incorrectly labels like "heretic" or "schismatic" to label anyone who disagrees.

Fundamentalists preferred "worldly", "secular humanist", "modernist", "liberal" or even "Democrat".
Some, BUT NOT ALL are about accepting of us as I understand the Feeneyites to be of nearly everyone. John MacArthur comes to mind as such a fundamentalist

Then, "one glad morning" I began to find thoughtful Catholics such as those who post here. They love the Lord, love his church, and love clear reasoning.

I see myself as decent on the first two. Obviously, I lack on the last one. But with work and my ignatius catalog, I am hopeful of continuing my march toward the light.

Christopher Malloy


You are of course perfectly right. Seen in context, however, my statement does not contradict your statement. All sons of Adam have it due to them to be born in sin (Rom 5; Ps 51; and the upshot of Gen 3). However, God has not left us to our offensiveness, though he certainly in justice could have done so. He had mercy, sending forth his long-prepared for Son in the fulness of time. Thus, God is the Mercy who sends his Son, and his Son is the Mercy who empties himself, walks in utter abjection, lifts his arms up to his adversaries (all of us), that they (we) might nail him to the cross. He takes this in love, laying his life freely, so that he might purchase us by his blood, so that God in his Mercy might remit our past offenses - not holding these against us, and breathe also his Spirit into our bones, revivifying us in our inner mind now, so that we might walk with him to our own Golgatha - that is, the punishments for sin we still bear and must bear, these become our salvific path of expiation (in him), of healing, and of growth in divinization. When his Mercy touches us ungodless men, he MAKES us no longer ungodless by the Spirit of Life and by the love in-poured through this Spirit. Thus, we are children of God who do not sin in a damnably offensive way (1 Jn 3). That is what I meant by "Of course not".

On ANOTHER note, I also meant, of course, that neither Jesus in his humanity nor Mary is offensive to God. Although neither Jesus in his humanity nor Mary can love God to the extent that God is lovable, this "im-perfection" is not a sin. I believe (though Alzheimer's may be obscuring me) that this was the context of my statement: Just because creatures cannot love the Creator as much as the Creator can be loved (infinitely) does not make creatures sinful. The spirit of your point is well taken. Perhaps, then, we disagree on reading ROmans. I read Rom 3:9-20 as applying to the un-justified without qualification. However, with respect to the justified, there is nothing in them that is damnably offensive to God. Nor is this their doing. It is GOD'S doing (=free). It is God's DOING (=effective). Thus we have the Catholic tradition on Ephesians: Though we were enemies, and dead, HE MADE US ALIVE.

God's peace, Joe. I trust we are all seeking God. May he send his Spirit to seek us, poor sinners, whether venial or mortal, poor sinners, and all mortal sinners but for his forgiving and renewing grace.

Christopher Malloy

John Pepino

Dr. Chris Malloy:

Bravo on developing your lines of inquiry since your article in the Thomist, all those years ago. Your careful and intellectually honest work will, I hope, mark a turn in ecumenical dialogue which has for too long been mired in an apparent dilemma between discount apologetics on the one hand and imprecise language (and thought) on the other.
It is to the glory of God and to the good of His Church that your work should be distributed among ecclesiastical decision makers. You may count on my help.
Fraternally in Christ Jesus,

Christopher Malloy


God bless you, my good friend.

One of the big Catholic movers and shakers in ecumenism, Fr. Richard Schenk, O.P., has been pointing in this direction for quite some time. He calls it "relational ecumenism", according to which (without judgments on persons) we simply say "This is where we differ, and here is why." He leans on His Emminence, W. C. Kasper, and His Holiness, P. Benedict XVI, both very hopeful and positive on ecumenism, as pointers in this direction.

Presently, I am studying "related doctrines". The JDDJ points to "related doctrines" as (as it were) a certain "proving ground" for the merits of the JDDJ. Some "related doctrines" have high points (e.g., the Church as the Communion of Saints - rather good thigns in here, though this too is mixed with things seemingly in tension with Catholic faith and practice) and low points (e.g., The One Mediator, The Saints and Mary - this seems, despite some good moments, quite problematic). If disagreements on such "related doctrines" AND practices emerge, then one may well say that the agreement on justification might well have been taken differently but different communions. If that comes to be the case, my sense that the JDDJ is comparable to Regensburg (which broke down precisely over 'related doctrines') will be confirmed. Well, may God teach us, forgive us, sanctify and guide us, every one.

Cheers, John.

Christopher Malloy

"taken differently but different communions" meant to be "taken differently BY different communions".

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