The faithful greet Pope Francis as he arrives at the Campus Misericordiae during World Youth Day in Brzegi, near Krakow, Poland, on July 31, 2016. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Young people to talk with Pope Francis about future of the church

(RNS) — Around 300 young people from all over the world will descend on Rome next week to have a conversation with Pope Francis about the future of the church. This meeting is in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which will be held in October.

In holding this pre-synod meeting starting on Monday (March 19), the pope shows he understands that a bunch of old, celibate bishops are not going to come up with solutions for the Catholic Church’s failure to attract or keep young people.

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“(T)he church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people,” explained the pope. “We must listen to young people."

The church has a big problem with young people, which means that it has a big problem with its future. While nearly 1-in-3 Americans (31 percent) were raised in the Catholic faith, fewer than 1-in-4 (24 percent) now describe themselves as Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center.

Almost half of Catholics who identify as unaffiliated (48 percent) left Catholicism before reaching age 18. As a result, only 18 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 identify as Catholic. In the United States, twice as many young people are unaffiliated with any religion.

Young people greet Pope Francis during an audience for middle schools belonging to the Cavalieri group, which promotes Christian life for youth, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on June 2, 2017. (L' Osservatore Romano via AP, Pool)

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Thus, while the data shows that the church is losing young people, it also shows there is a huge pool of young people in need of evangelization.

Those young people who do stay with the church are very loyal. About half of Catholic adults (56 percent) under age 30 say they can’t imagine leaving the church, according to Pew.

The young people coming to Rome are from this pool of loyal young Catholics, who have been chosen by their national bishops’ conferences, religious communities and seminaries to meet with the pope. One of their challenges will be to represent not only themselves but also those of their age group who are disenchanted with the church.

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Coming from the United States are:

  • Brother Javier Hansen, who has been with the De La Salle Christian Brothers for five years and teaches religion at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas.
  • Nick Lopez, director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas.
  • Katie Prejean McGrady, a wife, new mother and youth minister from the Diocese of Lake Charles, La. She wrote a blog for the U.S. bishops’ conference with her husband when they were engaged and newly married.

The University of Dallas is well-represented among the delegates with both Lopez and Prejean McGrady having gone to school there.

Katie Prejean McGrady. Photo courtesy of Katie Prejean McGrady

As she travels around the country giving talks, Prejean McGrady said, she's been asking “a lot of people questions about what they think the state of the church is right now and how the church is reaching young people.”

She has found that young people have a great mistrust of institutions, including the church. “It does not help that the sex abuse crisis happened when we were all kids,” she said in a phone interview.

Millennials are also strapped with debt, career decisions and trying to figure out life. These issues are pressing, “so sometimes faith and the church just get shoved to the side because Jesus is always going to be there and the church is never going anywhere,” she says.

In addition, young people are “bombarded constantly by the noise of our culture” and “oftentimes the church loses the battle because of all of the more attractive gunk and junk that our culture throws in our faces.”

But the real problem, according to Prejean McGrady, is that “for many, many years in our church, what we have done is just teach the facts of the faith — do this, don’t do that; believe this, don’t believe that — instead of engaging young people in trying to help them have a personal relationship with Christ, actually know him, and not just have ideas about him in their heads.”

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But young people should not just be looked at as a problem for the church. They are also a great asset.

“The young people in our culture, they know how to use the internet really well,” explains Prejean McGrady. “They know how to be connected really well, and in their connectivity, young people have built a great creativity. They have really cool ideas; they are thinking outside the box.”

Prejean McGrady believes that with that creativity and that connectivity, “they bring to the church the opportunity and the chance to do some really incredible and beautiful and unique things.”

Let’s hope the young people at their meeting with the pope — which I will go to Rome to write about — can help the church unleash all that creativity.


  1. “The young people coming to Rome are from this pool of loyal young Catholics, who have been chosen by their national bishops’ conferences, religious communities and seminaries to meet with the pope. One of their challenges will be to represent not only themselves but also those of their age group who are disenchanted with the church.”

    I don’t know what I expected but not just a group of those who don’t find anything wrong with Catholicism, anything that needs to change. Is there going to be a discussion of LGBT issues, women’s issues, divorce and remarriage, even contraceptives, for heaven’s sake???? Do our bishops have a handle on what turns off young people to the Church?

    And what is going to happen after the all male, celibate bishops (average age – what – 62?, 65?) “listen” to the carefully chosen group of young people? Then the all male, celibate bishops will gather and think together about what they heard, weigh it based on what they know and have experienced themselves, and come up with something creative, something renewing, something attractive?

    Lord, I hope I am surprised!

  2. If they are actually loyal young Catholics, it is unlikely they will find anything wrong with Catholicism doctrinally. So, it is unlikely they will be point persons for the readers of the National Catholic Reporter or Commonweal since they already know:

    LGBT issues – Doing certain things is naughty, treating people badly with inclinations towards doing those certain things is also naughty. How to communicate both is a problem.

    women’s issues – Women cannot be ordained. Other than that, there’s room for change.

    divorce and remarriage – Divorce is forbidden by divine command. If you’re in a putative marriage, you can’t validly remarry.

    contraceptives – The use of artificial contraceptives is forbidden.

    Kvetching when the solution is to exit and join a denomination that agrees with you seems a waste of a conversation with the Pope.

  3. Here’s what the pope needs to address ASAP before their religion implodes:

    • The inadequate response to the inappropriate conduct of many priests, the emotional stress on the victims, the resultant $1 billion in lawsuits and bankrupt dioceses.

    • The lack of talent in the priesthood, the lack of Vatican response to the historic Jesus movement, the Church’s continuing to cling to original sin and the resulting subsets of crazy ideas like baptism and limbo.

    • The denial of priesthood to women, the restriction of priesthood to single men (unless they are former Episcopalian priests), the continued chain of Vatican “leadership” by old white men and natural “birth control” leading to many unplanned pregnancies and resultant abortions.

    • Uncontrolled suffering of the elderly and infirm that need not be and unrealistic dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception, Assumption, atonement and papal infallibility.

  4. Divorce is forbidden by divine command? How about forbidden by a man of magic!!

    Actually, Jesus was a bit “touched”. After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today’s world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J’s gospels being mostly fiction.

  5. “Divorce is forbidden by divine command?”

    Except, of course, for you.

    Btw, you’re also exempted from damnation for suicide in case you’re feeling blue.

    “Actually, Jesus was a bit ‘touched’. After all he thought he spoke to Satan ….”.

    I’m having an on-line exchange with him right now.

  6. A 21st century definition of satan:

    A demon of the demented.

  7. Thanks for correctly identifying the problem – only carefully selected youth will attend. I don’t think you’ll be surprised.

  8. Young People: Pope, we’d like you to change policies X Y and Z

    Pope: Hmmm…naaaah. Thanks for coming. Oh and kiss my ring.

  9. I believe this is what we call a Dog and Pony Show.

  10. Indeed…don;t catholics view the Pope’s declarations as infallible? So any suggestion that his policies change would by definition be incorrect.

  11. Chances of these being resolved….zero

  12. No, Catholic view Some papal declarations as infallible.

    The definition is pretty narrow.

  13. Interesting, “Rational Conclusions”…after thoroughly trashing what most Christians hold dear (Protestant as well as Roman Catholic), you actually have the unmitigated gall to turn around and lecture them inre what we SHOULD do and believe!! Wow…there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with atheists; I’m beginning to think that, in an inverse of Carl Sagan’s famous claim, you all live in a “God-haunted universe”…it’s actually quite amusing. ???

  14. Tis a shame to not recognize the historic and theological errors of all religions but we will persevere in our quest to bring reality to the brainwashed.

  15. If Christ were with the RCC, they would not be faltering. Instead of worrying about the church – essentially, I assume offerings and people to control are down – teach salvation and how to be faithful to God. People will come then.

  16. Wow…in light of the truly tremendous contributions the Christian Faith has made to Western Civilization, contributions that only the most determinedly ahistorical person would even attempt to deny, a denial that would serve to expose a frightening intellectual paucity, you would do well to ask yourself exactly WHO has been “brainwashed” here, Rational Conclusions. ( Do people even use brainwashed anymore?)—Get a grip my friend. Learn some authentic history and stop drinking the mythicists Kool-Aid!! ???

  17. Thank you. I wish I’d thought of that.

  18. Cleansing a brainwashed mind with the new Creed

    The Apostles’ Creed 2018: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of
    historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    Some of the references used to prep the new Creed:

    . Historical Jesus Theories, – the names of many of the
    contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books
    on the subject.

    Early Christian Writings,

    – a list of early Christian documents to include the year of publication–

    30-60 CE Passion Narrative

    40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q

    50-60 1 Thessalonians

    50-60 Philippians

    50-60 Galatians

    50-60 1 Corinthians

    50-60 2 Corinthians

    50-60 Romans

    50-60 Philemon

    50-80 Colossians

    50-90 Signs Gospel

    50-95 Book of Hebrews

    50-120 Didache

    50-140 Gospel of Thomas

    50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel

    50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ

    65-80 Gospel of Mark

    70-100 Epistle of James

    70-120 Egerton Gospel

    70-160 Gospel of Peter

    70-160 Secret Mark

    70-200 Fayyum Fragment

    70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

    73-200 Mara Bar Serapion

    80-100 2 Thessalonians

    80-100 Ephesians

    80-100 Gospel of Matthew

    80-110 1 Peter

    80-120 Epistle of Barnabas

    80-130 Gospel of Luke

    80-130 Acts of the Apostles

    80-140 1 Clement

    80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians

    80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews

    80-250 Christian Sibyllines

    90-95 Apocalypse of John

    90-120 Gospel of John

    90-120 1 John

    90-120 2 John

    90-120 3 John

    90-120 Epistle of Jude

    93 Flavius Josephus

    100-150 1 Timothy

    100-150 2 Timothy

    100-150 Titus

    100-150 Apocalypse of Peter

    100-150 Secret Book of James

    100-150 Preaching of Peter

    100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites

    100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans

    100-160 Shepherd of Hermas

    100-160 2 Peter

    4. Jesus Database,
    http://www.faithfutures.o-rg/JDB/intro.html –”The JESUS DATABASE is an
    online a-nnotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings
    of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era.
    It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to
    the traditions found within the Christian New Testament.”

    5. Josephus on Jesus

    6. The Jesus Seminar, http://en.wikipedia.o-rg/wiki/Jesus_Seminar

    – books on the health and illness during the time of the NT

    8. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman,
    Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

    9.The Gn-ostic Jesus

    (Part One in a Two-Part Series on A-ncient and Modern G-nosticism)

    by Douglas Gro-othuis:

    10. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical

    Presented on March 18, 1994

    11. The Jesus Database- newer site:


    12. Jesus Database with the example of S-u-pper and Eucharist:


    13. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:

    13. Historical Jesus Studies

    14. The Greek New Testament:

    15. D-iseases in the Bible:

    16. Religion on- Line (6000 a-rt-ic-les on the
    hi-story of religion, churches, theologies,

    theologians, eth-ics, etc. religion-online.o–rg/

    The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT

    Writing the New Testament- e-xi-sting copies, o–r–al tradition etc.

    19. JD Crossan’s c-onclusions about the
    a-uthencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the c-onclusions of other
    NT e-xege-tes in the last 200 years:


    20. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books
    by t-itle with the complete translated work in English

    21. Luke and Josephus- was there a c-onnection?


    22. NT and beyond time line:


    23. St. Paul’s Time line with discussion of
    important events:

    24. See for a list of JD
    Crossan’s books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books
    are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be
    found on-line at Google Books.

    25. Father Edward Schillebeeckx’s words of wisdom
    as found in his books.

    27. The books of the following : Professors Gerd
    Ludemann, Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and
    Bishop NT Wright.

    28. Father Raymond Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY,
    1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.

    29. Luke Timothy Johnson’s book The Real Jesus

  19. Yawn…You’ve got WAAAY too much time on your hands, my friend. All this is old hat and been done to death, so? The Risen Christ and Savior will forever live in the hearts and minds of EVERY Born-again, Blood-bought, Spirit-filled son/daughter of Almighty God in Christ Jesus then,now,and forever, AMEN!!! I’m not sure why atheists, mythicists, and what-not keep embarking on the Sysiphean futility of thinking that the Christian Faith will EVER be overthrown; after all, you just trotted out a list of individuals way better educated than you or I, and the Risen Christ prevails and ALWAYS will. (By the way,there is NOTHING John Dominic Crossan can EVER tell me about the Christian Faith; he had the unmitigated gall to claim that Jesus’ body was dug up and eaten by dogs.Anybody idiotic enough to believe THAT is what my grandfather would call…”an educated fool”…Nuff said. So, just save it, and put an end to the Don Quixotic quest to refute the Truth that is Jesus the Christ, or whatever it is your attempting to do. Speaking only for myself, I will take the Life-giving, Life-transforming power of The Risen Christ and Savior over the dead, dry, nihilistic emptiness of atheism ALL.DAY.LONG., whatever you want to call it; if it’s brainwashing, I’ll live another 42 years embracing and celebrating my life IN CHRIST!!! Now, I’ve no more to say on this subject, my friend; we will agree to disagree, and I won’t be replying to you again. God bless you. ???

  20. The reality: there was no Easter and there never will be. i.e. you have been bred, born and brainwashed by those who made up most of the story surrounding the life of a simple Jewish, illiterate, rabbi from the first century CE.

  21. “About half of Catholic adults (56 percent) under age 30 say they can’t imagine leaving the church, according to Pew.”

    Hmmm…that would have included me 40+ years ago. It’s amazing what can happen when one learns more about the history of the church including the sacraments — and then observes Joseph Ratzinger as cardinal and pope tout Catholicism as the only Christian body with the fullness of Christianity. Ugh.

    “The young people coming to Rome are from this pool of loyal young Catholics, who have been chosen by their national bishops’ conferences, religious communities and seminaries to meet with the pope. One of their challenges will be to represent not only themselves but also those of their age group who are disenchanted with the church.”

    And therein, respectively, is both the problem and the challenge. Indoctrination in institutional culture produces the “company man” mentality. Ugh.

    “But the real problem, according to Prejean McGrady, is that ‘for many, many years in our church, what we have done is just teach the facts of the faith — do this, don’t do that; believe this, don’t believe that…”

    The “real problem”, however, is that nobody can change the Church of Rome’s status as a *doctrinal* church, not even young folks from the University of Dallas, not exactly a progressive institution. Even Rome’s presentation of church history is heavily laden with doctrine, not fact. Nothing’s going to change in this respect.

  22. LGBT issues: Like discussion of slavery during previous centuries, we are witnessing doctrinal development on LGBT matters. Even if the doctrine does not officially change, most Western Catholics will (likely) continue to reject or ignore it.

    Women’s issues: Women are already being ordained to the Catholic presbyterate and episcopate, just not within the Church of Rome. Ordination is a disciplinary matter with a faux doctrinal veneer. Because it is a disciplinary matter, there is a real possibility that Rome will eventually embrace the ordination of women, who comprise half the Catholic populace and likely more than half (in terms of population) its worshiper and contributor base. Since ordination is to the presbyterate and not to any kind of priesthood, there is no legitimate obstacle to ordaining women to serve the Church of Rome as liturgical presiders and bishops.

    Divorce and remarriage: That train “left the station” decades ago. Couples have ignored church law, which attempts to impede sinners from coming to Jesus in the eucharist, or they have exercised good conscience in accordance with the “internal forum solution”.

    Contraceptives: lolololololololol…………………..

    If you have not already done so, you need “to exit and join a denomination that agrees with you.” As a future pope once acknowledged, “[F]acts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine” (Joseph Ratzinger, THEOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF VATICAN II, Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966, p. 16).

    I suggest you deal with reality, not in wishful thinking.

  23. Most official Catholic doctrine is not infallible.

  24. Good thing that copy and paste function works, eh?

  25. There really has been no doctrinal development on slavery.

    There has been some confusion on the par of people who don’t understand the in and outs of the morality of things that we might call “slavery”.

    Yes, most people will continue to reject or ignore some part or parts of the moral law.

    Women are currently not being ordained in any part of the church which holds and maintains the apostolic succession.

    “’[F]acts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine’ (Joseph Ratzinger, THEOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF VATICAN II, Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966, p. 16).”

    If you believe that, the discussion on the ordination of women is already concluded.

    I suggest you deal with reality, not in wishful thinking.

  26. John T. Noonan, Jr. has already addressed the “ins and outs” of slavery in his A CHURCH THAT CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CATHOLIC MORAL TEACHING. As he demonstrates, doctrine in this instance *did* ultimately change in light of sufficient time, reflection, and empathy. I would simply add that change in moral doctrine, while not an overnight occurrence, may not need centuries of development since Catholics today are generally better educated and informed. Thanks to the media including the internet, we are exposed as never before to alternative moral thinking that, sadly, exposes the weakness of “traditional” Vatican teaching relying on outmoded analytical approaches.

    “[T]he moral law”? If pre-Vatican II thinking types continue to hold to this viewpoint, the rest of the People of God will leave the self-described “orthodox” in the proverbial “dust” if Rome does not embrace a more realistic moral outlook based, inter alia, on the Gospel.

    What do you mean by “the apostolic succession”?

    Thanks to the contributions of historians, theologians, exegetes, and canonists, discussion of women’s ordination has not abated, contrary to the wishes of “Saint” JPII.

    If your reply reflects the limits of your understanding of these issues, it would appear you cannot fight your way out of the proverbial “paper bag”.

  27. The late John T. Noonan, Jr. was absolutely in error in his treatment of slavery and the development of catholic moral teaching.

    The Church from the apostles forward taught that the exploitation of others, their treatment as things other than as fellow human beings, violated the Beatitudes and Jesus’ summary of them and restatement of the Mosaic law’s “Whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person.” as “All things you would that men should do to you, do you to them.”

    As a jurist Noonan applied the tools of his trade, buried in the fine print of the pronouncements and minutiae of them, and missed the forest for the trees.

    Yes, we are exposed as never before to alternative moral thinking, but in this case the analysis simply involves noting that the moral prohibition against exploitation never came and never went, it was there at the beginning.

    Insofar as my reply includes what that denomination teaches about itself, your rejection of that denomination and its teaching is not particularly noteworthy. Many millions of people disagree with its teaching in whole or in part. That doesn’t even qualify you for an honorable mention.

  28. “The Church from the apostles forward taught that the exploitation of others, their treatment as things other than as fellow human beings, violated the Beatitudes and Jesus’ summary of them…”

    The problem with your response is that Jesus, while teaching the need to respect and help others, also countenanced slavery, a normal practice of his time and place. Jesus never condemns slavery in the canonical gospels, and Christian writers would take their cues re: slavery accordingly. In Luke 12:45-48, for instance, Jesus upholds the right of the slavemaster to “beat” and even, if the situation warrants, to “severely beat” a disobedient slave. To put it another way, Jesus would expect humane treatment of obedient slaves. His thinking reflected the Roman view of the practice as a way to minimize chances of rebellion and maximize economic productivity. Contrary to your view, slavery was not seen by the earliest churches as “exploitation”. It was part and parcel of ordinary life.

    “That doesn’t even qualify you for an honorable mention.”

    I’ve never asked for any “mention” — “honorable” or not. I share what I’ve learned from respected scholars, Catholic and otherwise. Would that you do the same.

  29. The problem with your response is that you belief Jesus countenanced slavery, which you ASSUME is what you mean by slavery – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wuppins, degradation.

    That, of course, is malarkey, much like your interpretation of:

    Luke 12:45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish[a] him, and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. 48 But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.

    which clearly does not “uphold() the right of the slave master to ‘beat’ and even, if the situation warrants, to ‘severely beat’ a disobedient slave” but simply illustrates, via a parable, that those in authority – including the Creator – will serve just desserts.

    What the Church understands by the word “slavery” or “servitude” (the word “serious” in Latin can be rendered in either way) is not that one man owns another man, but that one man owns the labor of another man. Now, while the former is intrinsically evil, there is nothing inherently wrong in the latter arrangement. What matters is how it came about that one man owns another man’s labor.

    A great majority of Britons who left their homeland to make a new life in the North American colonies during the 17th century did so by entering into an agreement with a settler, that if the settler paid for their passage, they would work for him for, perhaps, two years for the added remuneration of a place to live and food to eat. This agreement – commonly called indentured servitude – is a form of slavery, according to the definition given above, and the indentured servant was held to his work by courts and punishments, if need be.

    Another so-called just title for servitude or slavery is penal servitude. In this case, the slave – the one whose labor is owned by another (perhaps the state) – is enslaved as a just punishment for his crime. Hence, few would find it strange that criminals are put to work in the laundry of the prison for little more remuneration than food, shelter, and pocket money. Even the Geneva Convention allows prisoners of war to be put to work. This explains the fact that, in the past, soldiers captured in battle were often enslaved.

    It is obvious that these forms of servitude contrast with chattel slavery, where one man owns another. That the Church, from the very beginning, has never accepted this more radical form of servitude, can be seen from the fact that she, unlike the cultures into which she was born, has always defended the right of slaves to marry and even to marry a freeman or freewoman. This would be impossible under chattel slavery because the slave does not have the freedom to dispose of himself in this fundamentally free way.

    All this goes to show that the Church has always made a careful distinction within the phenomenon of slavery, and also explains why the Church never made a blanket condemnation of slavery, and still has not.

    It is not true to say that the Church has changed her teaching on slavery, at first permitting it, and only very recently condemning it, as Noonan suggested. This is not true for two reasons. It condemned the type of slavery that we associate with the New World slave trade long before it became an issue in Britain or the Americas. Even now the Church does not condemn all forms of servitude as intrinsically evil, and Noonan’s legalistic conclusion about a change in teaching fails to take into account this rather important fact. He conflated all forms of servitude into the ownership of one man by another, just as you do.

  30. It is you who misunderstand the *practical* import of Luke 12:45-48, upon which the Church relied, inter alia, to justify slavery. You make a distinction between (a) ownership of a human being and (b) ownership of said person’s labor. When discussing slavery, this is a distinction without a difference. As Noonan noted, the scriptural reference to “servant” refers to “slave”. As a teacher, it’s true that Jesus used the parable to present God’s right to punish sinners. A reputable teacher, however, would not cite morally reprehensible behavior (slavery, for example) in approving fashion as Jesus does in the parable. He was dealing with listeners of a particular time and place. They regarded slavery as normal. In sanctioning slavery, the Roman government encouraged humane treatment of slaves for the reasons I noted earlier. Nowhere in the New Testament do Jesus or his disciples condemn the practice.

    You write that slavery is “intrinsically evil”. The first pope to describe slavery in this way was JPII in his “Veritatis Splendor” (1993). He wrote in relevant part:

    “80. Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed ‘intrinsically evil’ (intrinsece malum):…the Church teaches that ‘there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object’.131 The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “…whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as…slavery,… all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator’.132”.

    It must be noted that footnote 131 refers to previous statements by Paul VI and JPII. Footnote 132 cites Vatican II’s “Gaudium et Spes”, paragraph 27, which mentions “slavery” as one of several “infamies”. In other words, you are using a term — “intrinsic evil” — that apparently was never before used by the Church of Rome to describe the moral status of slavery!

    You refer to “indentured servitude [as] a form of slavery.” You are wrong. The former practice involved a free person entering into a contract with a settler as you’ve described. Settler and prospective servant entered into a mutually binding arrangement, the terms of which — as you’ve noted — were enforceable by the courts. Legally, the indentured servant had rights which slaves did not have. The servant would eventually go free; the slave did not unless manumitted or by other arrangement. Whether the settle owned the *servant* or only the *contract* is debatable. In any event, slavery is ownership of a human being including his or her future.

    You mention “penal servitude” and “prisoner of war”. During much of the church’s history, convicts and POWs were slaves because they were effectively *owned* with no prospect of freedom. The term “galley slaves” comes to mind. “From 1600 to 1800 a total of two-thousand slaves, almost all Moslem, manned the galleys of the pope’s navy. As late as 1800-1807 in the troubled papacy of…Pius VII, four privately owned slaves and eleven slaves of the state were registered in Rome at the Casa dei Catecumi” (Noonan, p. 102).

    You claim that the Church “has always defended the right of slaves to marry and even to marry a freeman or freewoman.” This is not true. The 1917 Code of Canon Law “maintained the positions set out in the old law that a free person contracting marriage with one believed to be free but in fact a slave contracted invalidly; and that slavery was an impediment to the reception of holy orders” (Noonan, p. 117). “Also close to the era of Vatican II, Karl Rahner…published the thirtieth edition of ‘Denzinger’. This authoritative and convenient handbook, first produced in 1854…contained the teaching of popes and councils from Clement I in the first century to the date of the edition…Not a single word repudiating or condemning slavery occurred in the collection” (Noonan, p. 117).

    Your attempt to whitewash the history of the church’s involvement with slavery is the “malarkey” here.

  31. No, the Church never relied on Luke 12:45-48 to justify slavery.

    Noonan, as I noted earlier, incorrectly stated the scriptural reference to “servant” refers to “slave”. It can mean either. It can, in fact, mean a prophet. Pauls calls himself the same word in Koine.

    Your perception of “Veritatis Splendor”, like Noonan’s from which you obtained it, is incorrect.

    John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor (§80) includes slavery with abortion, genocide, and suicide as “intrinsically evil”. However, John Paul II also lists deportation among these evils. But it is clear that some deportations are justified: for example illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes might be sent back to their own country. The Pope is referring to mass deportations as in the case of ethnic cleansing.

    In other words, context is everything.

    Noonan lacked the theological chops, as I have pointed out to you in the past, unlike St. John Paul II or Avery Cardinal Dulles, to assess that.

    You have already stated in the past that you reject the Catholic, Orthodox, high Anglican, Assyrian, Ethiopian, and Oriental Orthodox understanding of apostolic succession. I see no point whatsoever in rehashing that.

  32. ATF-45 has made some
    excellent points. Modern theologians recognize that the first “Word of God” is not the Bible but
    Creation itself. The old images of “Sky-god” i.e. Father in Heaven do
    not make sense to modern young adults. Educated young adults see the whole
    image of atonement and incarnation as dead on arrival theologies. God is
    Believable but not as presented today. Let’s move on and recognize that
    it is 2018!

  33. The Church did rely, inter alia, on Luke 12:45-48 to justify slavery.

    I have noted that Jesus “approved” of the practice. Noonan, in all fairness to you, wrote that Jesus did not “legitimate” slavery. Why? “It needed no legitimation. No one in the Mediterranean world of the first century wrote an abolitionist tract. Slavery was an institution as accepted as animals used for agriculture or as tables used to furnish a house” (p. 32). While I’ve no problem with Noonan’s portrayal of the times, I would note that Jesus, in not condemning the practice and, in fact, using favorable imagery of slavery in his teaching, gave it his tacit approval. The Christian scriptures present slavery in metaphorical — and spiritually lofty — terms. (Noonan, however, does describe how God in the Old Testament in fact approves of the practice: “A slaveholding society is assured in two of the Ten Commandments promulgated on Mount Sinai that God is aware of its slaves and that God has protected the slaveholder by proscribing the desire to take what is the slaveholder’s property…..Slaveholding as an institution is presented as divinely sanctioned. No Hebrew prophet, no Hebrew text condemns or criticizes the institution recognized and secured by the divine commandments” [pp. 17-18].)

    Furthermore, the CATECHISM OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT states, “To enslave a freeman, or appropriate the slave of another is called man-stealing,” which is against the 7th Commandment. Elsewhere, this catechism states, “The words, nor his servant [10th Commandment], come next, and include captives *as well as other slaves* whom it is no more lawful to covet than the other property of our neighbour” (emphasis added).

    “Jesus is never presented in conversation with a slave. Assuming that the evangelists present encounters with Jesus that will instruct those for whom they write, we may infer either that Jesus had no conversation with a slave or that the gospel-writers found it difficult, embarrassing, or pointless to recall such a meeting. Whichever inference is drawn, a distinct reserve is suggested as to slaves as potential followers” (Noonan, p. 25).

    You write, “Noonan, as I noted earlier, incorrectly stated the scriptural reference to ‘servant’ refers to ‘slave’. It can mean either. It can, in fact, mean a prophet. Pauls calls himself the same word in Koine.” Your reference to “prophet” aside, your comment echos that of Joel S. Panzer, a presbyter with the Lincoln, NE diocese and author of THE POPES AND SLAVERY, who writes that both ‘servitude’ and ‘slavery’ “are possible translations of the Latin ‘servitus’. When speaking of the ‘servitus’ which rested on one of the so-called ‘just titles’, we translate the Latin as ‘servitude’; when speaking of that form of ‘servitus’ which did not rest on just title, we translate the Latin as ‘slavery'” (p. 5).

    Noonan, however, offers a corrective:

    “Slaves in the biblical world are partly hidden from us. What disguises their ubiquity is our translation. Hebrew for slave is ‘ebed’, male slave; ‘amah’, female slave; ‘n’r’, young slave. The Septuagint faithfully translated these words into Greek as ‘doulos’, male slave; ‘doule’, slave girl; and ‘pais’, slave boy. The Vulgate rendered the terms in Latin as ‘servus’; ‘serva’ or ‘ancilla’; and ‘puer’. But when John Wycliff translated the Vulgate into English in 1382, he translated the Latin ‘servus’ as ‘servant’ and the Latin ‘ancilla’ as ‘handmaiden’. These conventions were followed in the sixteenth century by William Tyndal, by Myles Coverdale, and by the Geneva Bible. Wycliff and his early successors did not bowdlerize the Bible deliberately. Slavery, for them, was not a racist institution. Slavery as such was not current in England. ‘Servant’ could carry the sense of ‘slave’. By the time of the King James translators, ‘slave’ was associated with blackness, as Shakespeare’s treatment of Caliban in ‘The Tempest’ demonstrates. A deliberate choice may have been made to avoid the new connotation by retaining ‘servant’. THE NEW OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY lists as a special meaning of ‘servant’ its use as the English translation of what means ‘slave’ in biblical Hebrew and Greek. The editors also observe that in the American South, from colonial times through the eighteenth century, ‘servant’ was a usual term for a slave. It may be supposed that Southern slaveholders adopted the usage from their English bibles [p. 23].

    “…That Jesus moves in a society in which slavery is an institution and that he draws on this institution for illustrations, metaphors, and sayings is not an impression one obtains from our English translations from which the vocabulary of slavery has been largely expunged. Today, it is a bowdlerization of the Bible not to use the rougher terms that accurately translate the Scriptures” (p. 24).

    Regarding JPII’s “Veritatis Splendor”, our focus is slavery, not the other practices mentioned therein. JPII employed the term “intrinsic evil” to label slavery in a way the Church had not done so before. As Noonan points out, if slavery had been considered by Paul, for instance, as intrinsically evil, the Apostle would have been morally obligated to tell masters to release their slaves. Paul did not do so.

    You claim that “Noonan lacked the theological chops…unlike St. John Paul I…” Really??? JPII was not a theologian. He was a philosopher by training and experience. The late pope also was not a historian. Judge Noonan, on the other hand, was a jurist, historian, and prodigious author of historical works, to wit:

    +The Scholastic Analysis of Usury (Harvard 1957)

    +Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Harvard 1968)

    +The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Harvard 1970) (editor)

    +Power to Dissolve: Lawyers and Marriages in the Courts of the Roman Curia (Harvard 1972)

    +Persons and Masks of the Law: Cardozo, Holmes, Jefferson and Wythe as Makers of the Masks (California 1975)

    +A Private Choice: Abortion in America in the Seventies (Free Press 1979)

    +Bribes: The Intellectual History of a Moral Idea (California 1984)

    +The Antelope: The Ordeal of the Recaptured Africans in the Administrations of John Quincy Adams & James Monroe (California 1990)

    +Professional and Personal Responsibilities of the Lawyer (casebook editor, with Richard W. Painter)

    +The Lustre of Our Country: The American Experience of Religious Freedom (California 1998)

    +Religious Freedom: History, Cases, and Other Materials on the Interaction of Religion and Government (Foundation Press 2001) (casebook editor, with Edward McGlynn Gaffney)

    +Narrowing the Nation’s Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States (California 2002)

    +A Church That Can And Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching (Notre Dame 2005)


    Finally, you claim that I “reject the Catholic, Orthodox, high Anglican, Assyrian, Ethiopian, and Oriental Orthodox understanding of apostolic succession.” Which Catholic “understanding” did you have in mind? Please clarify.

  34. The only slavery which is intrinsically immoral is the ownership of another human being, their treatment of that human being as mere property, ala “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. In this response my ONLY definition of “slavery” is that one, all else called “slavery” being other things whether you, Judge Noonan, or the Greek chorus at National Catholic Reporter believe otherwise.

    The Church did not rely, inter alia, on Luke 12:45-48 to “justify” slavery.

    The Church has never justified “ownership” or “exploitation” of others, period.

    You have incorrectly stated that Jesus “approved” of the practice of owning others.

    The Christian scriptures present servitude in metaphorical and spiritually lofty terms. The prophets referred to themselves as servants. The Pope is called “the Servant of servants”.

    servitus , utis – the condition of a servus; slavery, serfdom, service, servitude (freq. and class.).

    Translations of servitus, noun: servitude, services, enslavement, yoke, liability to certain burdens, dependence, dependency, subjection.

    Noonan does not offer a corrective, he offers an error. He is not only not a theologian, he is not a linguist.

    JPII did not employ the term “intrinsic evil” to label slavery in a way the Church had not done so before, since slavery, unlike servitude, had been consistently treated as intrinsically evil.

    Judge Noonan was a jurist, John Paul II earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

  35. “The only slavery which is intrinsically immoral is the ownership of another human being, their treatment of that human being as mere property…”

    Thank you for the clarification, but, again, you are making a distinction without a difference vis-a-vis how slaves are acquired (i.e., Panzer’s categories of criminal convict, prisoner of war, slavery freely chosen for economic reasons, and children born into slavery). Noonan’s focus, he writes, is “on what appears to be true of slaveholding in every context: the right of the owner to determine the identity, education, and vocation of the slave and to possess the fruit of the slave’s body” (p. 6).

    In his text, Noonan offers a few observations, to wit:

    + “Apologists for the acceptance of slavery in the Bible have sometimes asserted that ancient slavery was different from the chattel slavery of the American South. This argument was used by nineteenth-century abolitionists, embarrassed by defenses of slavery based on the Bible. The argument appears to be without historical support. Chattel slavery is slavery in which persons count as things to be bought and sold. In this respect, the slavery of the non-Hebrew slaves of the Hebrews was no different from slavery more generally in the Roman world, although Roman law, as more developed, was more extensive in its regulation of the disposition of slaves as property” (p. 22).

    + “The Church never prohibited the enslavement of baptized Catholics if their baptism followed their enslavement or if they were babies born to slave mothers. No pope or general council laid down as law that Catholic Christians might not lawfully enslave Catholic Christians defeated in battle and along with them their wives and children…..Neither John VIII [872-882 CE], nor the councils…tell us that the emergent Europe had a general rule against slavery. In the early thirteenth century when the ordinary gloss on Gratian was written, enslaving the enemy captured in a just war was accepted as legitimate” (pp. 52-53).

    + “Neither “In Plurimus” [May 1888] nor “Catholicae Ecclesiae” [November 1890] appeared to have any effect on the Roman congregations dealing with slavery in Africa and Asia, nor on the moral theologians who analyzed the morality of slavery. Rulings judged pertinent to the missions were published in 1907 by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Roman bureau in charge of missionary activity. The collection went back to the founding in 1622 of the congregation…..Without exception, the Roman congregations had assumed that slavery in itself was a morally acceptable institution. On June 20, 1866,…the Holy Office answered a variety of questions raised by…the vicar apostolic to the Galla in East Africa…..The Holy Office replied with the general reassurance that, although the popes had left nothing untried by which slavery might be abolished, slavery per se was not repugnant to natural law or to divine law, and it answered several questions along the lines it had already done in 1776…, including the remarkable proposition that victims of kidnapping could be kept as slaves if, advised that they were rightly free but unable to free themselves, the victims presented themselves for sale to Christian masters who might evangelize them; again the Holy Office judgment was reached ‘with respect for the privilege of the faith'” (pp. 114-115).

    (According to Panzer, Leo XIII’s “Catholicae Ecclesiae” was written to the “bishops of the world” [p. 58]. However, according to the Vatican’s own website, Leo’s encyclical was addressed to the “Catholic missionaries in Africa”. See

    The Church of Rome has, indeed, justified “ownership” of a human being by another, just as it has relied, inter alia, on Luke 12:45-48 to “justify” the practice.

    You write, “The Christian scriptures present servitude in metaphorical and spiritually lofty terms.” What you refuse to acknowledge is that “servitude” in this context refers to slavery. I do not know which New Testament prophets you have in mind, but slave language is used at times to describe Jesus and followers. Your mentioning that popes have referred to themselves as “Servant of the servants [of God]” proves nothing. I refer you to Wikipedia’s brief background on this title at In Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Thank you for the link. It gives several translations of the word, but it does not (so far as I can tell) address the subject of our exchanges. An interesting and informative “take” may be found at This minister understands the slave language used in the New Testament.

    You claim I “have incorrectly stated that Jesus ‘approved’ of the practice of owning others.” As I noted previously, Jesus never condemned the practice and cited it approvingly in some of his parables. This behavior constitutes tacit approval of slavery. “Actions speak louder than words.” In Luke 12:45-48, one can reasonably conclude that Jesus, when upholding the right of a slave master to “beat” or even “severely beat” a disobedient slave, would otherwise expect masters to treat their property humanely. Neither Jesus nor any disciple condemns slavery.

    You assert that Noonan “is not only not a theologian, he is not a linguist.” I never claimed Noonan was a theologian, and, so far as I know, neither did he! If your internet link is the best you can offer to rebut my assertion that “slavery” is the correct term, you have failed in your task. Your link addresses the word’s various meanings; it does not (again, so far as I know) address scriptural context. In other words, your online link is irrelevant. I remind you (from Noonan): “THE NEW OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY lists as a special meaning of ‘servant’ its use as the English translation of what means ‘slave’ in biblical Hebrew and Greek.”

    Contrary to your viewpoint, the Church had never spoken of slavery as “intrinsically evil” before JPII’s statement. I refer you to pp. 121-123 in Noonan’s text.

    Finally, you state unequivocally, “John Paul II earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.” I stand partly corrected. Per CNN, “1946-1948 – Wojtyla studies in Rome, where he earns a doctorate in philosophy. After returning to Poland, he also earns a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Jagellonian University in December 1948.”

  36. Actually it is the ONLY difference, and it deals not with HOW a slave is “acquired” but whether, in fact, a slave is “acquired” (ownership).

    Among Noonan’s errors is including possession the fruit of the slave’s body as part of a definition of slave.

    The workers at the Louisville Assembly Plant of Ford Motor Company would be stunned to find out they are slaves, since Ford owns the products manufactured in that factory.

    Apologists for the acceptance of servitude in the Bible correctly point out that ancient slavery was different from the chattel slavery of the American South, and that proposition is based on extensive historical support.

    Yes, I refuse to acknowledge is that “servitude” in this context is “slavery”.

    Yes Noonan was not only not a theologian, but he was also not a linguist.

    The Church never used the exact language of St. John Paul II’s statement before.

    It also never used the exact language of the Council of Trent prior to the Council.

  37. It was Panzer who focused on HOW a slave is acquired. As I wrote earlier, Noonan — in his own words — noted “what appears to be true of slaveholding in every context: the right of the owner to determine the identity, education, and vocation of the slave and to possess the fruit of the slave’s body” (p. 6).

    Your comparison re: the Ford plant falls flat on its face. The workers are not slaves although the *employer* (not their *owner*) possesses the “fruit” of their labor. The Ford Motor Company does not determine its employees’ identity, education, and vocation. Unlike slaves, furthermore, the employees are organized into a recognized union that represents Ford employees in labor negotiations. I’m unaware of ancient slaves having the legal authority to organize for better wages and working conditions.

    If you refuse to acknowledge that “servitude” in this context is “slavery”, so be it. The evidence demonstrates otherwise. As Noonan noted, “Chattel slavery is slavery in which persons count as things to be bought and sold.” The author demonstrates how Panzer’s “just title servitude” is, in fact, slavery if/when the definition of slavery is met.

    You continue to harp on the fact that Noonan was not a theologian. I repeat for your benefit: The author never claimed he was (a theologian) even though he obviously had a good grasp of the subject. In addition to his law degree from Harvard, he held a doctorate in *philosophy* from Catholic University of America. If there’s one secular field in addition to linguistics or the law that pays careful attention to language, that discipline is philosophy. If Noonan was “not a linguist,” neither was the late Cardinal Avery Dulles whose doctorate was in theology. I’m willing to note that both Dulles and Noonan would have been careful in their use of language, whether English or Latin, etc.

    “The Church never used the exact language of St. John Paul II’s statement before.” No kiddin! What you refuse to accept is the fact that the Church before Vatican II had never “categorically condemn[ed]” slavery (Noonan, p. 120).

    Throughout our exchanges, you have tried to whitewash the practical and doctrinal import of the church’s involvement with slavery. It’s apparent you are trying to put lipstick on a pig. It doesn’t work.

    Are you an ordained Roman Catholic cleric? I ask because you appear (as I said before) to be “buckin’ for a red hat.” You don’t need to be a hierarch. Dulles, after all, got the cardinal’s red hat. Maybe you can be so honored someday?

  38. Until we determine that the subject is owned, either legally or effectively, we’re dealing with servitude rather than slavering.

    Noonan – in his own words – rigged the definition to back into his conclusion.

    Yes, I refuse to acknowledge that “servitude” in this context is “slavery”, because it is not.

    Rather than continuing to harp on the fact that Noonan was not a theologian, I simply point it out. His errors originate from that fact.

    Oddly you now argue that “…. he held a doctorate in *philosophy* from Catholic University of America. If there’s one secular field in addition to linguistics or the law that pays careful attention to language, that discipline is philosophy.” while earlier you argued AGAINST St. John Paul II’s expertise because you claimed he was a philosopher.

    Are you a KJV street corner preacher? I ask because you appear to be dedicated to proof-texting the Catholic Church into oblivion.

    Jack Chick died, perhaps you can take over operation of his tracts:

    Of course it would probably involve moving to California.

  39. “Until we determine that the subject is owned, either legally or effectively, we’re dealing with servitude rather than slavering.”

    It has been so determined, i.e., that “the subject” was owned by the master. Noonan, contrary to your assertion, did not “rig” the definition to suit his own purposes. He was relying on his own knowledge and research to detail the historical development of church doctrine on slavery.

    Noonan was writing as a historian (as he did with most of his other works). Theology deals with faith. History deals with fact. You have been conflating the two.

    You claim that I earlier “argued AGAINST St. John Paul II’s expertise because you claimed he was a philosopher.” I made no such argument. Fact is JPII spent his professional career (his theology doctorate notwithstanding) in philosophy, not theology. My only reference to the late pope deals with his describing slavery as an “intrinsic evil”, nothing more.

    Your final comments reflect your obvious frustration at dealing with someone familiar with the history of the church’s involvement with slavery. Throughout our exchanges, you have offered very little if anything of substance, relying, instead, on me to provide historical information from a renowned historian.

    TO REPEAT: What is *your* Catholic understanding of “apostolic succession”? To clarify for your benefit, I ask this question because there is more than one such understanding.

    TO REPEAT: Are you an ordained Roman Catholic cleric?

  40. No, it has not been determined that “the subject” was owned by the master.

    That was Noonan’s script, and he bent the texts and translations to it.

    The history of theology, which was Noon’s topic, requires as much theology as history, and he was not up to the task.

    St. John Paul II spent his professional career in theology, including his pontificate.

    My final comments reflect familiarity with the rigging of arguments about the Church by unqualified persons who rely on the National Catholic Reporter, popular texts written to seel books rather than serious studies, and throughout our exchanges you have offered very little if anything of substance, relying, instead on cutting-and-pasting from the text you happen to like.

    TO REPEAT: What would be the point of discussing the apostolic succession with someone who on a number of occasions made clear he rejects the understanding shared by most Christians?

    TO REPEAT: Are you an itinerant preacher who believes his task is to discredit the Catholic Church?

  41. JPII, contrary to your ill-informed observation, did not spend “his professional career in theology.” He taught philosophy, not theology. Be careful giving JPII credit as a theologian during his pontificate. Just a fer’instance: He wanted to proclaim Mary as “Co-Redemptrix”. Reportedly, it was Ratzinger the theologian who persuaded him not to do so. God only knows how many other times the CDF prefect may have gotten the pope’s proverbial “ass out of the sling.” (There’s also Ratzinger’s “Letter” in which he had to clarify that “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” was not itself an infallible pronouncement.)

    “My final comments…blah, blah, blah.” To repeat, you’ve offered little if anything of substance, and what you have provided has often enough been refuted by me. (It helps to quote subject-matter experts.) Anyone is entitled to hold and share his opinion, but it helps to *demonstrate* some knowledge of the subject.

    RE: apostolic succession, you appear unaware that the Church of Rome has offered more than one interpretation of the term. Hence, my request of you to give us *your* understanding.

    No, I am not a preacher, “itinerant” or otherwise. As a faithful Catholic, I take to heart Joseph Ratzinger’s commonsense observation that historical fact trumps even “pure” church doctrine when the two are in conflict. I value faith *and* reason. The institutional church “discredit[s]” itself when it ignores this basic truth. I “get it”. You apparently don’t.

  42. St. John Paul II, contrary to your ill-informed observation, spent his professional career in theology.

    His doctoral thesis was titled “Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce” (The Doctrine of Faith in St. John of the Cross).

    He taught ethics at Jagiellonian University and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin.

    In 1954 he earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology, evaluating the feasibility of a Catholic ethic based on the ethical system of the phenomenologist Max Scheler with a dissertation titled “Reevaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler”.

    Wojtyla developed a theological approach that combined traditional Catholic Thomism with the ideas of personalism, a philosophical approach deriving from phenomenology.

    From from 1978 to 2005, just shy of three decades, he was the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

    To repeat, you’ve offered little if anything of substance, and what you have provided has copied and pasted from Noonan.

    Re: apostolic succession, you appear to want to have a “discussion” when we already acknowledged complete disagreement and incompatibility of our views.

    Somehow I don’t think Jessie M. Jaglowicz would consider you “a faithful Catholic”, and while you purport to admire Joseph Ratzinger’s commonsense observation that historical fact trumps even “pure” church doctrine when the two are in conflict, based on historical analysis he arrived at a diametrically opposed conclusion to your own as to apostolic succession.

    He and St. John Paul II are and were heavy hitters, John Noonan was a heavier hitter than yourself but out of his league with them and with Avery Cardinal Dulles, and you’re a pipsqueak.

    I value faith *and* reason and find an argument that begins with an eccentric definition of “slavery” that disagrees with the Church’s and with history, and then backs into a preconceived conclusion by bending things to fit unreasonable.

    You don’t “get it”.

  43. A doctorate in one field (e.g., theology) and subsequent *professional experience* only in a different field (e.g., philosophy) means the professional career was in the second field, not the first one. I acknowledged JPII’s doctorates in theology and philosophy, but I also made clear that his *professional experience* was in the field in which he taught. JPII is an example of how a a person with a doctorate in one field can, in fact, devote his entire professional career to a separate discipline. I wasn’t denying his professional degree in theology. My focus, instead, was on JPII’s *professional experience* in a different field. His *work career* before the papacy was in philosophy, not theology.

    Ethics and phenomenology are branches of philosophy, not theology. You yourself mention “personalism [as] a philosophical approach deriving from phenomenology.”

    Being “Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church” does not a theologian make. Pope Francis comes to mind here. So does JPII, and so do popes in centuries past who had little if any background in theology.

    I did not ask you to give us Ratzinger’s understanding of “apostolic succession”. I asked you to give us yours! (According to, “Jessie M. Jaglowicz” died in 1962. I’m unfamiliar with this woman’s educational background, but it would not surprise me if — were she still alive — she were to disagree with me. I would merely surmise that Ms. Jaglowicz perhaps was ill-informed on church history and theology.)

    “[Ratzinger] and St. John Paul II…blah, blah, blah.” Your frustration is showing, mon ami. Not recommended.

    “I value faith *and* reason and find an argument that begins with an eccentric definition of ‘slavery’that disagrees with the Church’s and with history, and then backs into a preconceived conclusion by bending things to fit unreasonable.”

    An “eccentric definition of ‘slavery'”??? Your assertion is “eccentric”, my fellow Catholic. Slavery is quite simply ownership of one human being by another human being. Given the nature of the interpersonal relationship, the master claims legal title to the slave’s work output.

    Anyways, let’s look a bit more at the late antiquity/early medieval slavery environment since there’s no question of the pervasiveness of the practice in Jesus’ time and place. My source is Kyle Harper’s SLAVERY IN THE LATE ROMAN WORLD, 275-425 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Per Amazon’s brief bio:

    “Kyle Harper is a historian of the classical world and the Senior Vice President and Provost at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Letters from OU and then received his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 2007. His first book was published by Cambridge University Press as Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425. The book was awarded the James Henry Breasted Prize by the American Historical Association and the Outstanding Publication Award from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South. His second book, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality was published by Harvard University Press in 2013 and received the Award for Excellence in Historical Studies from the American Academy of Religion. Kyle’s third book, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, will appear from Princeton University Press in the Fall of 2017. The book argues that climate change and pandemic disease were integral to the fall of the Roman Empire…..A committed teacher, Kyle offers a range of courses on ancient history and early Christianity.”

    + “‘Why do you have so many slaves? Just as with clothing or dining, it is right to live according to our needs, so also with slaves. What need is there for them? There’s none at all. For one master should need only one slave, or really two or three masters, one slave. If this is hard to bear, think about those who don’t even have one….but you, if you don’t lead around a herd of slaves, think it is shameful, not realizing that this *thought* in fact is what shames you…It is not from need that slaves are owned. If it were a necessity, one slave would suffice, or at most two. What does he want with this swarm of slaves? The rich go around to the baths, to the market, as though they were shepherds or slave-dealers. But I won’t be too harsh: have a second slave'” (p. 52, quote from St. John Chrysostom).

    + “The sources sometimes provide unexpectedly detailed information about who was expected to own slaves in late Roman society. John Chrysostom, for instance, anticipated that the Christian priest would own at least one slave. Urban professionals, such as doctors or painters, were presumed to have slaves as a matter of course. Less savory urban characters, such as popular prostitutes, owned slaves. Petty military officers might be expected to have a slave. A metal collar of the Constantinian era was worn by the slave of a linen-worker. It was said that ‘many slaves’ even owned slaves, out of their *peculium*. In Gaza, it was claimed that respectable stage performers could own ‘droves’ of slaves. Humble urban households, innkeepers or families who sold grapes or figs in the marketplace, might own slaves. The assistant rhetors working under Libanius at the municipal school in Antioch rented, rather than owned, a home, ‘like shoe cobblers.’ They were so poor that one of them had three slaves, another two slaves, and another not even that many. In other words, the adjunct professor of the late fourth century, living in a rented apartment, would own a handful of slaves” (p. 53).

    + “A deacon at Hippo, whom Augustine claimed was a ‘poor man,’ had bought several slaves with the money he earned before becoming a cleric. If the rich had multitudes of slaves that necessitated complex managerial hierarchies, and small households had multiple slaves, it was a mark of *severe* poverty to have no slaves…..Basil asked that a poor man he knew receive a fair tax rating, since ‘he was reduced to the most extreme poverty, with barely enough for his daily sustenance, having not one slave.’….Fourth-century ascetics had to be counseled not to buy slaves. Legal evidence points in the same direction: in a law of 365, a runaway slave was considered a trifling legal matter, even for an official like the municipal *defensor*. The fourth-century visual evidence amply and convincingly confirms the impression of extensive sub-elite slave-ownership” (p. 53).

    + “The Christian church fundamentally accepted the practice and ideology of slavery. The church could accept the existence of mastery and slavery as social roles, and it could even allow that they were just, but it insisted that there were values which transcended these roles, there was a scale of good and evil which did not take its measurements from the place of mastery and slavery in the world…..The fourth century was a particularly intense phase of accommodation and conflict between values old and new. The burgeoning ascetic wing of the church stood as a stark challenge to those who believed that life in the world could be reconciled with Christian salvation…..Long before the monastic habit had become a standardized costume, the pioneering ascetics of the fourth century took off their honorable clothes to don the humble attire of the slave….. A more drastic act of inversion entailed marking the body, with tatoos…a viscerally evocative sign of enslavement, even of a degraded form of subjection…..The ascetic celebrities of late antiquity formed a spiritual *avant garde* who deliberately and conspicuously posed the conflict between secular and religious values in the starkest possible terms. In its pastoral guise, the church appears as an institution more committed to reconciling traditional social structure and new spiritual values” (p. 347).

    + “This book has argued that the relationship between Christianity and slavery was complex and dynamic. Always at the core of the relationship, embedded in the scriptural legacy of the religion, was the church’s willingness to accommodate slavery as an institution. The church accepted slavery and with it the practices of domination. But this is obvious, and should be the beginning of discussion rather than the end. In every generation the church found itself in a new position vis-a-vis society, and its ideas interacted with social realities in a constantly shifting framework of church, state, and society” (p. 506).

    + “The long fourth century was the age of conversion. The massive and rapid growth of the church lies in the background of the Christian authors who have been our guides. The waves of new believers, and the newfound civil authority of the church, prompted the Christian leadership to sort out many of its social attitudes at a new depth. We find men like Augustine and Chrysostom trying to explain the origins and justification of slavery in Christian terms. The long fourth century thus became an age of creative social discourse” (p. 507).

    + “The church accepted most of the practices associated with slavery. It accepted the violent underpinnings of the master’s authority. As pre-Christian philosophers had done for centuries, Christian advocates promoted a discourse of polite mastery to temper the extreme use of violance, but the use of physical discipline was too deeply embedded to be the object of any radical questioning. Likewise the church fully accepted the exploitation of the slave’s labor” (p. 507).

    + “[T]he late Roman church did not recognize servile marriages” (p. 507).

    + “A history of Christian attitudes towards slavery would have to be different still in the post-Roman centuries, east and west. In some ways the creative window opened by the age of conversion would slowly close, and the fifth and sixth centuries saw a re-accommodation between church and slavery along many of the lines set down in the fourth century. In the post-Roman centuries, moreover, religious identity and slavery began to overlap in new and fateful ways. The roots of this process, to be sure, lie in the fourth century, where we find the first laws restricting Jewish ownership of slaves. But in the early middle ages, the ideology of slavery will become intertwined religious boundaries in unprecedented and irreversible fashion…..By the eighth or ninth century, the lines which had been forming hardened, and the Mediterranean was a slaving lake divided along firmly religious boundaries [Islam and Christianity]” (pp. 507-508).

    Slavery, in short, was — UBIQUITOUS!!!

    Bloggers following our exchanges can make up their own minds. I simply remind them that “facts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine” (Joseph Ratzinger).



  44. You managed to copy and paste so much material this time Disqus truncated it.

    You really don’t have much original to say, and I can read your source materials without all the regurgitation.

    St. John Paul II’s subsequent *professional experience* was not, per se, in philosophy, unless you consider being a pastor, a theology professor, a bishop, and Supreme Pontiff philosophy.

    Philosophy and theology differ primarily in their intellectual starting points. Philosophy takes as its data the deliverances of our natural mental faculties: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. These data can be accepted on the basis of the reliability of our natural faculties with respect to the natural world. Theology, on the other hand takes as its starting point the divine revelations accepted on the basis of divine authority, in a way analogous to the way in which we accept, for example, the claims made by a physics professor about the basic facts of physics. Philosophy can be put to the service of theology and vice-versa. Certainly the tools applied to the starting points and materials are the same.

    Ethics and phenomenology are branches of philosophy, put into use in theology by St. John Paul II.

    If being “Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church” does not a theologian make, it certainly seems to beat the pants off being a reader of ncronline and a career as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    “So does JPII, and so do popes in centuries past who had little if any background in theology.”

    Except, of course, for a doctorate in theology, which place him miles ahead of you and Noonan and the editors of the National Catholic Reporter.

    I gave you Ratzinger’s understanding of “apostolic succession” because you keep referring admiringly to his emphasis on history. Using history and with qualifications vastly better than your own he reached conclusions diametrically opposed to yours. Unless you have some up-to-this-point hidden theological bona fides, reading your copy and paste job opposing him would waste everyone’s time.

    Your frustration is showing.

    “Slavery is quite simply ownership of one human being by another human being.”

    And yet in the vast array of things called “slavery”, chattel slavery in Christian lands was nearly unknown except in the UK and the Commonwealth.

    “My source is Kyle Harper’s SLAVERY IN THE LATE ROMAN WORLD, 275-425 (Cambridge University Press, 2016).”

    I don’t believe so. That book is $144 a pop.

    I think your source was the summary on Amazon, which appears in whole or part on at least a dozen other websites.

    Jennifer A. Glancy and others have taken issue with Harper’s books on slavery on a wide range of issues, commencing with the paucity of evidence on which Harper takes leaps of revisionism.

    The Church takes issue with your definition of slavery.

    All the churches in the apostolic succession – Catholic, Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox (Coptic, Ethiopian, Eretrian Orthodoxand the Armenian Apostolic Church), as well as high church Swedish Lutheran and Anglican – take issue with your view of apostolic succession.

    I think that’s a wrap.

  45. My comments were “truncated”?

    Apparently not.

    “You really don’t have much original to say, and I can read your source materials without all the regurgitation.”

    I’m a layman sharing info with other presumable layfolk, and I prefer to quote the sources. I’ve documented my sources so you and others can access them for further benefit (I doubt you would take the time in light of your closed mind on display in this thread).

    Contrary to your assertion, the future JPII’s professional experience was, indeed, in philosophy (you’ve as much demonstrated the truth of my assertion in your previous reference to “phenomenology and ethics”. His other experience as “a pastor,…a bishop, and Supreme Pontiff” comprised pastoral work, not theology or philosophy. A Vatican website offers the following information:

    “After the war, Karol continued his studies in the major seminary,
    newly reopened, and in the school of theology at the Jagellonian
    University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on 1 November
    1946. Father Wojtyła was then sent by Cardinal Sapieha to Rome,
    where he attained a doctorate in theology (1948). He wrote his
    dissertation on faith as understood in the works of Saint John of
    the Cross. While a student in Rome, he spent his vacations
    exercising pastoral ministry among Polish emigrants in France,
    Belgium and Holland.

    “In 1948, Father Wojtyła returned to Poland and was appointed a
    curate in the parish church of Niegowić, near Krakow, and later at
    Saint Florian in the city. He was a university chaplain until 1951,
    when he again undertook studies in philosophy and theology. In
    1953, Father Wojtyła presented a dissertation at the Jagellonian
    University of Krakow on the possibility of grounding a Christian
    ethic on the ethical system developed by Max Scheler. Later he
    became professor of moral theology and ethics in the major
    seminary of Krakow and in the theology faculty of Lublin.

    “On 4 July 1958, Pope Pius XII appointed Father Wojtyła auxiliary
    bishop of Krakow, with the titular see of Ombi. Archbishop
    Eugeniusz Baziak ordained him in Wawel Cathedral (Krakow)
    on 28 September 1958.

    “On 13 January 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Wojtyła as
    Archbishop of Krakow and subsequently, on 26 June 1967, created
    him a Cardinal” (“Biographical Profile: John Paul II”).

    Another website states, “After teaching in the Jagiellonian University for approximately five years and having been appointed to the Chair of Ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin, Fr. Wojtyła was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Kraków on July 4, 1958 (“About Saint John Paul II”,

    Thank you for describing theology and philosophy. They are separate fields (if you don’t agree, consult any college/university departmental listings).

    Regarding your mention of “ncronline and a career as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” your frustration — yet one more time — is on display. Not recommended. Noonan the judge also wrote a number of historical works (see the earlier list I provided). Noonan may not have been a PhD historian, but he was most certainly a respected historian.

    Again, I did not ask for Ratzinger’s understanding of “apostolic succession”. I asked for yours.

    Why your fascination with “chattel slavery”? As Noonan and Harper have demonstrated, slavery is slavery, no matter how a person is subjected to the practice. You continue to make a distinction without a difference.

    As for Harper’s text, contact a library or use the search function.

    Jennifer A. Glancy and others have taken issue with Harper’s books on slavery on a wide range of issues, commencing with the paucity of evidence on which Harper takes leaps of revisionism.” I’ll let Harper speak for himself. His work is well respected among historians, and it is amply documented with footnotes.

    No, the Church does not take issue with my definition of slavery — unless, of course, a particular Catholic website takes a defensive stance on the issue.

    Again, you digress on “apostolic succession”. I am asking you, as a Catholic, to give us *your* Catholic understanding of the term.

    And, again, I ask, Are you an ordained Roman Catholic cleric? If so, why do you hesitate or refuse to acknowledge your status? Are you governed by FEAR of some kind?

  46. Yes, your comments were truncated. They concluded:

    “…. slave was considered a trifling legal matter, even for an official like the municipal *defensor*. The “

    Contrary to your assertion, the future JPII’s professional experience was, indeed, in theology.

    From your own sources:

    “After the war, Karol continued his studies in the major seminary, newly reopened, and in the school of *theology* at the Jagellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on 1 November 1946.”

    “Father Wojtyla was then sent by Cardinal Sapieha to Rome, where he attained a doctorate in *theology* (1948).”

    “He was a university chaplain until 1951, when he again undertook studies in philosophy and *theology*.”

    “Later he became professor of moral *theology* and ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the *theology* faculty of Lublin.”

    “Noonan may not have been a PhD historian, but he was most certainly a respected historian.”

    This topic was theological. He did not have an education or career in history. He was an advanced amateur historian. He was not a theologian.

    Again, Ratzinger’s understanding of apostolic succession, since you so respect his reliance on history, should clear up your confusion.

    Noonan and Harper have argued slavery is slavery, but morally that is simply untrue.

    Neither is a theologian.

    Yes, the Church takes issue with“slavery is slavery”.

    No, I am not governed by FEAR of some kind. I can see you’re undergoing withdrawal symptoms from’s cessation of comments, and as a result are fishing for some sort of debate.

    In reading your posts I simply see gainsaying of Catholicism, repetition and regurgitation of canned materials from authors you happen to like, and nothing much spending a lot of time responding to.

    I have a finite time and wish to spend it on more productive conversations.

    I see no point in giving you a “fix” – were I you I’d just complete going through withdrawal and find some other way to kill your free time.

  47. Which party did the ‘defensor’ defend? It was the slave: “in a law of 365, a runaway slave was considered a trifling legal matter, even for an official like the municipal ‘defensor’.” Apparently slaves escaping from their masters was not uncommon (wouldn’t you try to run away from the master if you thought you had a chance?). Did the slave have legal right to services of a ‘defensor’, or did the ‘defensor’ indirectly serve the master in a slave society? If runaway slaves were a “trifling legal matter”, in other words, perhaps the *defensor* was only “going through the motions” since a concerned master surely would pursue his slave to reclaim his property.

    Re: JPII, academic study in theology and consequent conferral of the PhD in theology do not constitute *professional experience*. The PhD is a professional degree, but only subsequent experience *in theology* is *professional* experience in theology.

    Was his later teaching experience in moral theology and ethics in Krakow, as well as his theology experience in Lublin, professional experience? Some of it was professional experience in theology, but what percentage of time/coursework did Wojtyla teach theology and not philosophy? (I’m writing as a former federal civil service examiner with the Civil Service Commission and Office of Personnel Management.) One can reasonably conclude his teaching experience during this time was *mixed* at best. What’s revealing is that “[h]e assumed the Chair of Ethics and lectured for 25 years before his election as pope in 1978.” Ethics is a branch of philosophy, not theology. University departments typically recruit candidates with professional degrees and experience in their specialized fields.

    Did Noonan have “an education” in history? I don’t know, and neither do you unless we have access to his university transcripts (speaking again as a former civil service examiner). Did Noonan have a “career in history”? Certainly so: see his written works. Was Noonan, as you contend, “an advanced amateur historian”? Only in your wildest dreams! See “Remembering John T. Noonan” at Was Noonan a theologian? Not that we know of, but he wrote prodigiously on the history of theological subject-matter (again, see his list of writings).

    Do I respect Ratzinger’s “reliance on history”? Only with great care. Do I respect his observation that “facts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine”? Yes, most assuredly.

    “Noonan and Harper have argued slavery is slavery, but morally that is simply untrue.” We disagree. Noonan and Harper, albeit not theologians, can recognize ownership of one human being by another (and its inherent economic/productive value) as slavery. Slavery may be a moral issue, but its definition is not.

    In suggesting you are governed by FEAR, I can clearly see it in your efforts to defend a religious institution that “traditionalist” Catholics have always regarded as “a perfect society” that can do no wrong (a popular pre-Vatican II description of the Church of Rome). When one clings so strongly to an institution, it can be difficult to be open to new information that reveals the underbelly — warts and all — of said entity. One writer surmised that “traditionalist” Catholics have made the institutional church itself into their god (lower case ‘t’). I can’t disagree. On this point, I remind you, too, that Joel Panzer is incardinated in what is still one of the most conservative (some would say “reactionary”) Catholic dioceses in the United States.

    As to your ending comments, God bless you, too, Sir/Pastor.

  48. Re: St. John Paul II, your own evidence torpedoed your position, as did also his experience as a bishop and Pontiff of the Catholic Church, your wishful thinking notwithstanding.

    John T. Noonan graduated from Harvard in 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He graduated from the Catholic University of America with a Master of Arts in 1949 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1951, both in philosophy. In 1954, he received a Bachelor of Laws from Harvard Law School.

    He never served as a bishop or Supreme Pontiff, btw.

    “Do I respect Ratzinger’s ‘reliance on history’? Only with great care.”

    That translates into “when it suits my purposes”.

    In suggesting I am governed by FEAR, I can clearly see “Freudian projection”, a defense mechanism in which one attributes to others one’s own unacceptable or unwanted attributes, thoughts, or emotions.

    I am sure whatever set you off against the Catholic Church makes sense to you, but frankly you come up off as an ill-prepared curmudgeon grinding an axe.

  49. So John T. Noonan, Jr. “never served as a bishop or Supreme Pontiff.” If he were still alive, I’d say that Noonan would have reason to be supremely grateful to God. I mean — the organizational politics, backstabbing, butt-kissing, ad nauseum. Noonan did not strike me as a “company man”. And, of course, the bishopric does not a theologian or historian make.

    If Noonan were applying for a Historian position with the federal government, I would apply the flexibility allowed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (my employer of 8-1/2 years including with the Civil Service Commission), the agency that develops classification and qualification standards for the federal civil service. Specifically:

    “It is important to recognize that on rare occasions there may be applicants who may not meet exactly the educational requirements for a particular series, but who, in fact, may be demonstrably well qualified to perform the work in that series because of exceptional experience or a combination of education and experience. In such instances, a more comprehensive evaluation must be made of the applicant’s entire background, with full consideration given to both education and experience. To be considered qualified, the applicant’s work experience must reflect significant full performance-level accomplishment directly applicable to the position to be filled, and be verified by a panel of at least two persons who have professional standing in the field. Such verification is necessary to insure that the applicant’s background is compared to the appropriate duties and responsibilities required at the full performance level in the occupation. It is important that the comparison be based on a correctly classified position description or on OPM position classification standards or grade level criteria.”

    “That translates into ‘when it suits my purposes.'”

    No, but believe as you will. I have cited Ratzinger’s historical observations in past blogging (albeit not in recent years). If I remember, discussion(s) dealt with liturgical history.

    I’m not “projecting” anything. There is a very real fissure within the Church of Rome today between reactionaries who got their way under JPII and B16, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, progressives who welcome a return to the reformist spirit of Vatican II. Both previous popes were authoritarian pontiffs who “walked back” from the reformist direction of the council. As authoritarian leaders, their *executive style* appealed to Catholics who preferred the perceived security of a top-down approach to church governance. The problem, as one psychologist noted years ago, is that authoritarian leaders and followers are ultimately governed by FEAR. Your comments reek of FEAR.

  50. I am having some difficulty deciding whether your comments reek of FEAR or INSANITY.

    In any case,

    John T. Noonan, Jr., was a “company man”, a Federal judge.

    I will believe as I will.

    There is the same very real fissure within the Church of Rome today there always has been, between those who think they are their own special little popes, bishops, and councils, and those who adhere to it.

    Apparently somewhere along the line you jumped ship and joined the former.

  51. Your comments clearly reflect frustration. I’ve provided at least 90 percent or more of the substantive content; you — at least 75 percent of the ad hominems.

    So a federal judge, by definition, is a “company man”? I’d say that depends on the nominee. In Noonan’s case, he was nominated to the appellate bench by President Reagan. He did not always agree in rulings with his counterparts. He wrote what is still regarded as the definitive history of the Church of Rome’s treatment of contraception, notwithstanding his later disagreement with Paul VI’s condemnation of the practice.

    You assert (rightly), “I will believe as I will.” Good (really).

    Regarding your last two paragraphs: BINGO.

    Before I forget, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER had a nice retrospective of Judge Noonan’s lifetime accomplishments. See

  52. Of course ncronline has a nice retrospective. They’d like to canonize him a saint of their revolution. Unfortunately he himself remained Catholic.

    I would run your various ad hominems past you – “Both previous popes were authoritarian pontiffs who “walked back” from the reformist direction of the council.”, “authoritarian leaders and followers are ultimately governed by FEAR. Your comments reek of FEAR because you appear determined to defend the indefensible” – blah, and blah, and yet more blah but there appears to be no point.

    I am not sure what your problem is. You’ve severed contact with the Catholic Church. You reject its authority. You reject its teachings.

    So, you should be happier than a clam.

    And yet you continue.

  53. “Unfortunately he himself remained Catholic.”

    Why not? You’re not the only Catholic in the world. If you think a “good Catholic” is a person who kowtows to hierarchical authority regardless, so be it. I and others disagree on the basis of primacy of conscience informed by knowledge of official doctrine and respect for our experience.

    “Authoritarian” has a meaning based on observation of human behaviors. It is a term used in social psychology. (I used “blah, blah, blah” to avoid repeating what did not merit repeating. You should try it sometime: saves copying and pasting, as well.)

    I have officially “severed contact” with the Church of Rome, not with the larger Catholic Church in terms of my appreciation for the Catholic tradition. Perhaps someday a pope will persuade me to return to membership in the institutional Church of Rome, thereby giving me a possible opportunity to sit in a pew near you — or receive communion in the hand from you!

    I do not reject authority. I reject authoritarianism. I reject non-infallible teaching of the bishops when it is appropriate to do so. I embrace dogmatic teaching and most other doctrines. I differentiate between doctrine and discipline. I challenge some disciplines when appropriate to do so. In other words, I am a *thinking* Catholic who, by definition, values faith *and* reason. I do not kowtow, nor have I ever wanted anyone to kowtow (read: “suck up”) to me.

    I’m reasonably happy. Why would God want me to be otherwise???

    Yep, I continue sharing what I’ve learned with Catholics and others alike. I very much support (in addition to freedom of conscience) ecumenical and interfaith endeavors.

    A CLOSING THOUGHT (perhaps for a future discussion): If you are an ordained Roman Catholic presbyter, were you aware that your ministerial ordination was invalid? If you’re not a cleric, were you aware that your ordained pastor cannot validly celebrate the eucharist? History comes into play here. “[F]acts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine” (Joseph Ratzinger, THEOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF VATICAN II, Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966, p. 16).

  54. You’re upset and you’re taking it out on the Catholic Church.

    It’s no more complicated than that.

  55. I am “upset” with the reactionary directions set by JPII and B16. Thirty-five+ years under these two pontiffs, especially under Ratzinger, were more than enough for this otherwise devout and faithful Catholic to “drop out” indefinitely. However, unlike you, mon ami, I have used much of the past 18+ years since retirement to study the Church including its history and doctrine.

    It has occurred to me that, were we to follow the logic of your criticism of John T. Noonan, Jr. not possessing a history doctorate, we would have to apply your thought process to historians Bruce Catton, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and David McCullough. Just as Noonan did not hold a doctorate in history, so the others did not earn a professional degree in history. Nonetheless, Catton, Schlesinger, and McCullough are regarded as professional historians because they used the tools of historical research to contribute to our knowledge of the past. Noonan did the same in his studies of Catholic doctrinal history. Catton did not live during the Civil War; Schlesinger did not live during the time of Andrew Jackson, and David McCullough did not live during the construction of the Panama Canal. Noonan did not live during most of the periods of church history of which he wrote, yet he demonstrated how official doctrine — given sufficient time — can develop to the point it actually changes (slavery).

    “It’s no more complicated than that.”

    So true. Trouble is you and folks of your persuasion are gripped in FEAR of doctrinal change and of a church being shown to be anything but “a perfect society”. I suggest you get off your “high horse”, Sir/Pastor, and join the rest of us Catholics in the “muck of life”. Such is the history of our church.

  56. You are upset with the fact that revolution never arrived, that S. John Paul II and Benedict XVI did not see it your way. You have a ton of company over at ncronline, some over at Commonweal, and few scattered hither and yon. Devout and faithful Catholics don’t suddenly decide the sacrament of Holy Orders is non-existent.

    Catton, Schlesinger, and McCullough did not attempt to use the tools of historical research to reach a theological conclusion.

    My positions are based on mature consideration of what actually works in improving general morality, and what appears to have the best bona fides in terms of both historical fact and theology, which is why I reject your views on apostolic succession.

    I live in the “muck of life”.

    It is my impression that if you die in mortal sin, your destination is Hell. But if you think Stalin and Hitler are in Heaven, well everyone is entitled to an opinion.

  57. Not proposing the sacrament of Holy Orders is non-existent.

    Noonan used historical research to show church *doctrine* had changed. Doctrine was reflected in historical events. When it comes to doctrine, “Actions speak louder than words.”

    How can you “reject [my] views on apostolic succession” when you haven’t been willing to engage me in discussion on the topic? You don’t know my views, and you refuse to give me yours.

    Some folks in the “muck of life” do so are gripped with religious FEAR. Your comments reflect such FEAR.

    Do I think Hitler and Stalin are in Heaven? Why would I think otherwise? Isn’t God’s love unconditional, “no strings attached”? Does God’s love for each of us stop at one’s mortal death? Is God’s willingness to “save” us rendered moot after one dies? If you disagree with me, you are demonstrating that orthotoxic FEAR of God.

  58. You ranted at length some months ago on apostolic succession. It was nothing new.

    No, God’s love is not unconditional no strings attached. God’s love is offered in the form of a covenant, which requires both sides fulfill the terms.

    My comments reflect reason applied to revelation.

    Yours appear to reflect zany eccentric views apparently based on getting your deal sideways with your church and trying to get out of it by inventing a ladder.

  59. We can discuss Holy Orders perhaps in a future thread.

    So you don’t think God’s love is unconditional? Shame on you. My first exposure to this unconditional nature of God’s love was more than 25 years ago at my local Roman Catholic cathedral. The vicar/pastor stressed this point repeatedly in his sermons.

    I like the following clear example of God’s unconditional love:

    “Harper’s Bible Dictionary has an even drier definition: ‘A formal agreement or
    treaty between two parties with each assuming some obligation.’ Not the type of
    relationship one would envision having with a loving God. In fact, the cartoon Calvin
    & Hobbes 5 put it rather succinctly:
    Calvin: ‘Here, Hobbes. I’ve drawn up a friendship contract for you to sign.’
    Hobbes: ‘A contract?’
    Calvin: ‘Right. It codifies the terms of our friendship. You can renegotiate in
    20 years.’
    Hobbes: ‘People are friends because they WANT to be, not because they
    HAVE to be!’
    Calvin: ‘That’s what this fixes.’
    Hobbes: ‘If your friends are contractual, you don’t have any'”

    We are more than “friends”. We are God’s children. Human parental love is ideally unconditional: “ideally” because human beings can have their limits, both psychological and physical. If a mother or father is truly a parent, he or she will go to any length possible to help a son or daughter in serious trouble: “possible” because of human limitations. God has no limitations. If a child of God sins, what does God do? God *searches* for the child “lost” in sin. It is God who initiates searching for, finding, and reconciling God’s child. This divine truth is clearly presented in Luke 15’s three parables. The lost sheep cannot find its way back to the flock. The lost coin cannot find its way back to the purse. The lost son cannot find his way back to his father. It is the father who finds his son and restores him to life (v. 32). The word “gospel” means “good news”. i.e., “glad tidings, especially concerning salvation and the kingdom of God as announced to the world by Christ” (

    In four Gospel passages, Jesus instructs his followers (including Peter) to initiate unlimited forgiveness. In only one of them is the word “repentance” used. In Luke 15, the lost son *supposedly* repents: “supposedly” because the father knows his son is scared to death of being rejected for committing a most serious transgression, namely, demanding his inheritance while the father was still alive and presumably in good health.

    The name “Jesus” means “God saves”, not “God saves if”. There is no condition in the name of Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice, not just on the cross but throughout his earthly ministry, was *self-sacrifice*. He was not sacrificed by the Father. God is Love, and divine love does not condemn or — as demonstrated in Luke 15 — allow us to condemn ourselves.

    I’ve already noted that I perceived FEAR in your comments. Your toxic belief that God’s love is conditional, that is, that your salvation depends on your abiding by the terms of a covenant, demonstrates your “traditionalist” belief that if you die in the state of mortal/deadly sin, you are going to Hell. If a covenant with God means you promise not to sin (or even try not to sin), God still loves you when you *do* sin, and — human nature being what it is — you most assuredly *will* sin, maybe (for all I know) seriously sin. Nonetheless, when you sin (even mortally), God will forgive you, regardless. What Jesus told his followers to do, God will most assuredly do. God is not a hypocrite.

    You cannot truly love whom you FEAR. It’s impossible, like trying to mix oil and water. As I mentioned to a fellow blogger a week or so ago, you may *want* to love God (for all the right reasons, I hope); you may *hope* you really love God; you may *think* you love God. However, if you FEAR God’s wrath/punishment/vengeance, you simply cannot love God. God wants your love, not your FEAR. God is that generous.

    My comments reflect reason applied to divine revelation (keep in mind that God is faithful to the Israelite/Jewish people at all times, regardless of those occasions when they were unfaithful).

    I’ll not dignify your final comment.

  60. “We can discuss Holy Orders perhaps in a future thread.”

    No, we won’t.

    “So you don’t think God’s love is unconditional?”

    Covenants require that both parties keep their end of the bargain.

    “We are God’s children.”

    We are God’s creations. The offer to treat us as children is contingent upon keeping his commandments.

    In the New Testament we are given multiple references to the place of the damned: “lower hell” (“tartarus”, (2 Peter 2:4), “abyss” (Luke 8:31), “place of torments” (Luke 16:28), “pool of fire” (Revelation 19:20), “furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42, 50), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), “everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7), “exterior darkness” (Matthew 7:12; 22:13; 25:30), “mist” or “storm of darkness” (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). The state of the damned is called “destruction” (“apoleia”, Philippians 3:19), “perdition” (“olethros”, 1 Timothy 6:9), “eternal destruction” (“olethros aionios”, 2 Thessalonians 1:9), “corruption” (“phthora”, Galatians 6:8), “death” (Romans 6:21), “second death” (Revelation 2:11).

    “I’ve already noted that I perceived FEAR in your comments.”

    No, you’ve made that statement, but all I have related is what the vast majority of Christians have believed for over 1,900 years and what the New Testament, and the Old, reveal.

    The vicar/pastor a quarter century ago was preaching heresy.

    The interesting phenomenon is that most people who exit a denomination or religion actually exit. They find something else, or they decide they need nothing, and they fill their time productively either in the new church or religion or playing golf.

    But when someone like yourself years, decades, later continues to carp, jibe, and protest something else is going on.

    I have some ideas about what it may be, but I do know what it is NOT: theological. The foundation you’re trying to build on is so flimsy, so contrary to Christians’ understanding for centuries, so patchwork, so jury-rigged that no one in possession of ordinary reason would find it convincing.

    In fact it reads like a litany of excuses.

  61. Many of the people in those centuries also believed the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around us. What has “always” been believed is not always correct, so is not always the last word in an argument.

    God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. Gods knows, always and already, who will and who won’t abide by what humans understand to be his rules, his supposed covenant. His power creates and undoes all that exists. Is he sadistic, deliberately creating people he knows won’t live by those rules and so he gleefully gets to send them to eternal fire, or masochistic, deliberately creating people he knows will reject him and his supposed covenant?

    Human law recognizes the impact of an imbalance of power on a supposed contract/covenant.

  62. Throwing a solar centric universe and flat earth into the discussion as though moral issues are matters of scientific ignorance rather begs the question.

    How you sort out free will is your problem, not mine.

  63. Rhetorical questions. You’re the one who seems to think we know all there is to know about God, and have since Peter first set foot in Rome — and then insist that oh, definitions and understandings have changed since then and Jesus didn’t talk about things the way we understand them now. I’m sure it was a great shock to you to learn the Catholic Church has had a number of Councils to figure out details of what we believe and why, and to declare certain prior beliefs/understandings to be heretical, wrong, or generally to be ignored..

    But carry on.

  64. You certainly made it clear that you either weren’t reading or don’t read with comprehension.

    There are two sources for knowledge of a deity. One is reason and one is revelation. Assuming there is a deity, how we would “know all there is to know about God” is puzzling, but more puzzling is your attributing a statement along those lines to me.

    More puzzling yet is “Jesus didn’t talk about things the way we understand them now”.

    I am sure that he didn’t wax eloquent about the Apple iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy.

    At the moral level, however, what he said has not been added to or subtracted from since.

    The shock to me is not the Councils, but your impression you actually know enough to talk about the topics.

    You don’t.

  65. So “we won’t” discuss holy orders in any future thread as far as you’re concerned?

    OK, have it your way.

    Yes, we are God’s “creations”, but we are also God’s children. Genuine parenthood does not require children to “keep their end of the bargain.” I mean, How sick, how toxic your understanding of parenthood — and of God!

    Your New Testament quotations illustrate the use of hyperbole. If there is a Hell, the Church of Rome has never used its infallible authority to proclaim anyone there. JPII, furthermore, conceived of Hell as a place of isolation from others (he was speaking as a philosopher, by the way, in his understanding of the doctrine).

    Have you always “related…what the vast majority of Christians have believed for over 1,9000 years and what the New Testament, and the Old, reveal”? Doctrinal history would demonstrate otherwise, and I’m not referring to heresy or apostasy in this response.

    You write, “The vicar/pastor a quarter century ago was preaching heresy.”

    No, he wasn’t, but you are demonstrating a woeful lack of knowledge of Catholicism, your religious affiliation (assuming you are still a “Roman” Catholic and not a member of some fringe schismatic group that rejects Vatican II and/or the actual history of the Church of Rome) notwithstanding.

    I may be your “interesting phenomenon”, but not in the possibilities you’ve described.

    My “foundation” is very much orthodox theologically and historically. Yours, on the other hand, is FEAR-filled based on your pre-Vatican II mindset about the history of the church in general and of Catholicism in particular.

    I almost feel sorry for reactionary/fundamentalist Catholics like you, but then I remember that adults must take responsibility for their own learning, including confronting beliefs and understandings taken for granted from childhood.

    You, Sir/Pastor, are “stuck on stuck”. Only YOU can do something about it.

  66. You are stuck on inventing a new religion.

    Genuine human parenthood requires recognition that you cannot make children act right. You can provide tools and resources, but children make their own choices.

    Divine surrogate parenthood involves radical free will. With free will comes the option of rejecting the offer from the deity, and that is in fact hell.

    The fact that the Church has never proclaimed anyone is there has not prevented it from declaring infallibly there is a hell.

    Doctrinal history does not demonstrate otherwise, and your vicar/pastor a quarter century ago was preaching heresy.

    I don’t feel in the least bit sorry for you. You apparently were given a Catholic education and should know better. What provoked your upset I have no idea, but it appears to have been an event rather than intellectual process.

    That explains your inability to find a new home.

  67. There have been many translation issues when it comes to scripture,including interpolations.The reference to hell holds a different meaning in scripture. in the first 1000 years of christianity(where no papal primacy existed),the true ecumenical councils of the united church,never touched upon the issue

  68. The assertion that in the first 1,000 years of Christianity no papal primacy existed is problematic on a good day. The only real question appears to be what exactly papal primacy meant.

    If the entire list I provided rests on “translation issues …. including interpolations”, the New Testament is so rife with errors one would do just as well relying on the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

    The ecumenical councils of the Church never touched upon the issue of fornication, either.

    The reason why is there is no reason to touch upon the obvious. A judgment on death and final judgment of all are so embedded in the New Testament that unless one does believe the New Testament is so rife with errors one would do just as well relying on the Betty Crocker Cookbook, there was never need to declare there was a hell.

    The original Nicene Creed was first adopted in 325 at the First Council of Nicaea included “From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

    No need, eh, everyone has won and all must have prizes?

  69. True Ecumenical councils rarely if ever in the first 1,000 years that is,touched upon morals.It was mainly non moral doctrine—-hell being a doctrine was never touched. As far as scripture goes even pope Benedict 16 acknowledged in his book Jesus of Nazareth,he mentions that in authoritative manuscripts of Mark, the gospel ends with 16:8,but in the second century,a addition is made(16:9-20) that makes jesus say(which of course he didnt) that those that refuse baptism will be condemned.Paul who tries to interpret Jesus,doesnt mention a hell.Bultmann,a father of historical criticism,says that christ allegedly speaking about a eternal fire was christian tradition borrowing jewish materiel to put in jesus mouth.Not everything in the Nicene creed can be redeemed at full face value but it still holds a central place in christianity.Truly those that reject God may eventually enter heaven after purgatory but they may not recieve as much fullness of Gods glory

  70. It’s all amusing stuff, rather along the lines of Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past”, but with no more reality.

    As to “ jesus say(which of course he didnt)”, were you there? I am rather certain Rudolf Bultmann wasn’t.

    Bultmann was part of one of the German schools of “historically-oriented” (it really is not “historically” anything) for interpreting biblical text and became one of, if not the most influential proponents, of “form criticism”.

    Bultmann contended that only faith in the kerygma, or proclamation, of the New Testament was necessary for Christian faith, not any particular facts regarding the “historical Jesus”, whatever he thought that might be.

    The bottom line is that a rejection of the existence of hell and the possibility of eternal damnation cuts the ground out from under the entire theology of the Atonement.

  71. Are people really “free” when they sin? Freedom, in fact, is doing God’s will. The sinner is “lost”.

    Can we actually reject God? Luke 15 informs us we cannot. God initiates searching for, finding, and reconciling us. “Your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” The finder “rejoices” upon finding and bringing the sinner home.

    If there is a hell, the Gospel — regardless of hyperbole — strongly indicates it is empty. The Church of Rome has never condemned the doctrine of universal salvation.

    It’s been said that people become like the god/God they adore. Given your highly negative/toxic view of the parental-child relationship, not to mention your vengeful/punishing understanding of God=Love, you betray a sick and twisted picture of our Creator. I can’t help but wonder if your personal life as a presbyter or layman is your personal hell.

    I’ve not been searching for a new home. I remain as Catholic as you, ordained or not. Leaving the Church of Rome under B16 was the right thing to do. I’m ready to return when the church begins to move in a progressive direction.

  72. I believe what you’re trying to say is:

    “I don’t care if scripture mentions hell or Jesus talked about it, if saints had visions of it, or if it’s a time-honored Catholic teaching. It simply can’t be justified on any level.”

    on the other hand:

    “Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately (mox) after death and there suffer the pain of hell. Nevertheless, on the day of judgment all men will appear with their bodies “before the judgment seat of Christ” to give an account of their personal deeds, “so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5.10).”

    Luke 15 tells us that God will do all possible to lead his creations to union with him, not that they are not free to reject him.

    “I remain as Catholic as you, ordained or not. Leaving the Church of Rome under B16 was the right thing to do. I’m ready to return if/when the church demonstrates consistent movement in a progressive direction.”

    That is certainly a self-absorbed fantasy.

    Good luck, but no thanks.

  73. I’ll take Luke 15 over the view of any pope who — deliberately or not — uses FEAR as a control mechanism over his “flock”.

    Furthermore, the canonical gospels are ” the heart of all the Scriptures ‘because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior'”, per CCC-125. Because Jesus’ name means “God saves”, there are no conditions to God’s saving activity. Luke 15 precisely illustrates this point by portraying God taking the initiative to find and save God’s children, regardless. The lamb cannot reject divine intervention; same with the coin; and the father ignores his son’s so-called “apology” to order preparation of a feast (vv. 21-22). It was God in the persons of shepherd, woman, and father who “found” those “lost” in sin. Love prevails and “rejoices” over the outcome.

    Paul appears to be repeating the hyperbole of Jesus that we see (today) in Matthew 25:41, 46.

    Like you, I remain Catholic and a sinner. Unlike you, apparently, I remain hopeful and am not preoccupied with “stepping on eggshells” and offending a god ready to let me burn in hell because of my human weakness.

    Good luck loving God. You’re gonna’ need it.

  74. I’ll take the plain words of Luke 15 over some cockamamie spin on it by someone with zero theological bona fides, especially wen the cockamamie spin basically destroys both the Jewish and Christian faiths.

    While the author of the ncronline link suggests “Fear is the lowest form of motivation in moral development”, making things up to suit one’s self is much lower.

    “Because Jesus’ name means ‘God saves’, there are no conditions to God’s saving activity.”

    I hope you’re kidding.

    I am not sure what you did and/or are doing that you feel the need to fabricate a “everyone wins and all get prizes” theology, but I hope for your sake you get over it.

  75. Let’s just agree to disagree. You try to love a god ready to burn you for eternity, and I’ll continue to be a sinner knowing a God who loves everyone without conditions. If you are a presbyter, you’re toxic.

  76. You’re toxic, period.

    And you’re wrong, totally.

  77. “I can see you’re undergoing withdrawal symptoms from’s cessation of comments, and as a result are fishing for some sort of debate.”

    In this case, he’s also undergoing withdrawal symptoms from Catholic World Report’s having switched from a Disqus-platform comment system to an “in-house” comment system last summer, whereby all of his many, many heterodox and heretical “word-vomit” comments on CWR articles (quite a number of which descended into the same sort of smug, arrogant, condescending, vituperative comments which he has posted here) have been wiped out – as have every commenter’s Disqus-based comments on CWR articles.

    And there is also his apparently having been banned by Crisis Magazine from posting any further comments some months ago.

  78. Upset folks tend to stay upset.

    What they lose are audiences.

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