Dealing with apparent contradictions in Church teaching
#11
For actual Magisterial texts**,the non-definitive acts (which Vatican II exercised and where most of the content of most papal encyclicals falls) are to receive religious submission (obsequium religiosum) which Ott defines;

"as an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See. The so-called 'silentium obsequiosum,' that is 'reverent silence,'does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error."

From other old manuals I've read this form of assent requires a spirit of docility that gives a presumption of truth to the teaching and a good faith effort to assimilate the teaching. If that effort fails, then assent can be suspended, but criticism may only be given in a manner consonant with one's rank and competence and with due reverence for the Magisterial organ doing the teaching.

See also par. 24 to 31 here:
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congre...on_en.html

**(in addition to the more obvious means like encyclicals, since the time of Bl. Pius IX, this seems to also include allocutions/audiences which are published in the Acta; see here: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/thec...cution.htm)

For other actions and words of Popes, I think general Christian charity which we should extend to anyone suffices.  For example, there is the 36th maxim of St. Alphonsus Liguori's maxims for Christian perfection:

"36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action."

Likewise, I read a sermon from St. Vincent Ferrer where he says when something is ambiguous and if it there is any possibility at all of interpreting it in a good manner, we must. He gives the very example of Our Lord, Who, when accused of being a Samaritan and having a devil, only denies having a devil. St. Vincent points out that His accuser most likely had malicious intent and meant a heretic with the word Samaritan. However, since Samaritan can also be interpreted as a watchman, Our Lord does not deny it since He could rightly be considered a watchman.


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#12
(08-17-2012, 07:51 AM)SaintSebastian Wrote: For actual Magisterial texts**,the non-definitive acts (which Vatican II exercised and where most of the content of most papal encyclicals falls) are to receive religious submission (obsequium religiosum) which Ott defines;

"as an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See. The so-called 'silentium obsequiosum,' that is 'reverent silence,'does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error."

From other old manuals I've read this form of assent requires a spirit of docility that gives a presumption of truth to the teaching and a good faith effort to assimilate the teaching. If that effort fails, then assent can be suspended, but criticism may only be given in a manner consonant with one's rank and competence and with due reverence for the Magisterial organ doing the teaching.

See also par. 24 to 31 here:
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congre...on_en.html

**(in addition to the more obvious means like encyclicals, since the time of Bl. Pius IX, this seems to also include allocutions/audiences which are published in the Acta; see here: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/thec...cution.htm)

For other actions and words of Popes, I think general Christian charity which we should extend to anyone suffices.  For example, there is the 36th maxim of St. Alphonsus Liguori's maxims for Christian perfection:

"36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action."

Likewise, I read a sermon from St. Vincent Ferrer where he says when something is ambiguous and if it there is any possibility at all of interpreting it in a good manner, we must. He gives the very example of Our Lord, Who, when accused of being a Samaritan and having a devil, only denies having a devil. St. Vincent points out that His accuser most likely had malicious intent and meant a heretic with the word Samaritan. However, since Samaritan can also be interpreted as a watchman, Our Lord does not deny it since He could rightly be considered a watchman.

Perhaps but none of this goes as far as Jaynes post suggests which essentially requires those who don't meet her subjective standards to believe church teaching in blind faith.

Moreover a great number of theologians go further than you do via a vis people's reactions to false teaching,  certainly one must be prudent and respectful but equally one must openly and firmly resist as those same theologians including St Thomas Aquinas clearly state.

But anyway all of this is quite hypothetical and unreal to paraphrase Bl Cardinal Newman, the proof of these principles comes in their application. Moreover we should be careful not to make this presumption absolute as some have done, a presumption doesn't require us to do things completely repugnant to reason such as read in words and meanings that are not present in the text and clearly would be foreign to the mind of the person speaking, writing etc...
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#13
Someone smarter than I will have to deal with the apparent contradictions in Church teaching. I can't, because worrying about such things has done nothing for me spiritually; the contradictions depress and confuse me.

The traditional Mass, the sacraments, the rosary, life of Christ, consecration to Jesus through Mary, the lives of the saints strengthen me and help me get by in the godless world. I KNOW there's life in these things, so I stick with that, and I don't need anything other than that.
Oh my Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.--Fr Dolindo Ruotolo

Persevere..Eucharist, Holy Rosary, Brown Scapular, Confession. You will win.
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#14
(08-16-2012, 09:07 PM)JayneK Wrote: As Catholics, our starting assumption is that Church teaching is not in error.  This is our default position. 

Not so...only when we are talking about Dogmatic teaching is this correct.
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#15
(08-17-2012, 01:45 AM)DrBombay Wrote: The problem is with people who claim contradiction but then refuse to take that to its logical conclusion which is that the Church has defected. 

I note that you regularly confuse churchmen with "The Church " .
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#16
Some other tips in dealing with apparent contradictions in Church teaching:

1. Don't freak out. Panic does not help.
2. Assess the situation. Step back. Don't get sucked into the polemic on forums, comments in articles, and websites which often feature rash judgements.
3. Seek an understanding and background of the comment/text. What is it addressing? Is there any communication breakdown? Is someone misquoted? Is something else being stated altogether? Etc.
4. Go to tried and true sources for clarification. These are catechisms, papal teachings understood to be authoritative, theological manuals, etc.
5. Compare and contrast and find the exact point of contention if it still exists.
6. Engage in the arguments in favor of the apparent contradiction. Oftentimes the clarification by these solve most problems, or at least eliminate the idea that the teaching is complete foreign and disgusting. And example I cited recently concerning a reversal in the ends of marriage: http://www.twotlj.org/G-2-9-A.html.
7. Disengage from anonymous internet mind. This is a mode of internet communication in which one write things that are bold and rash, which never would be writing if one's name was there, or in person. Write about the Pope as if he were right with you in regalia and all.
8. Be humble. Proceed knowing full well you can be wrong. Be silent, and speak only after thinking it over. Avoid the broad brush. Know that your opinion is not essential.
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#17
(08-17-2012, 08:41 AM)Jacafamala Wrote: Someone smarter than I will have to deal with the apparent contradictions in Church teaching. I can't, because worrying about such things has done nothing for me spiritually; the contradictions depress and confuse me.

The traditional Mass, the sacraments, the rosary, life of Christ, consecration to Jesus through Mary, the lives of the saints strengthen me and help me get by in the godless world. I KNOW there's life in these things, so I stick with that, and I don't need anything other than that.

Words from the wisest in our midst.
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#18
The problem is that even after following all the tips Jayne and others have given contradiction is still apparent. It would be best for those who deny that there is any contradiction to address this rather than giving vague and broad explanations.
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#19
(08-16-2012, 11:21 PM)TrentCath Wrote: a) I do not intend to behave, even if provoked, as I did on the other thread and I unreservedly apologise for any and all wrong things I did

I accept your apology.  I need to deal with the points you are making later.
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#20
(08-16-2012, 09:07 PM)JayneK Wrote: As Catholics, our starting assumption is that Church teaching is not in error.  This is our default position.  We have a duty, if we are capable of it, to reconcile apparent contradictions in Church teaching rather than claim that a teaching is in error. These are common explanations to consider:

Quotes out of context.
The meaning of one or more passages has been misrepresented by taking it out of context to create a false illusion of contradiction.

Lack of significant difference.
A difference is not necessarily a contradiction. For example,  compare the statements "Heresy and schism are closely related sins." and "Schism and heresy are closely related sins."  The difference in word order does not mean that these statements contradict each other or that one is in error.

Shift in emphasis.
Different truths may be emphasized, depending on the audience or circumstances.  St. Augustine, writing against the errors Pelagians, makes different points than when he is writing against Donatists.  These differences are not contradictions. 

Contingent vs. timeless truths.
Some Church teaching is contingent on specific situations and should not be understood as a timeless truth.  There is nothing wrong with contingent teachings being different from each other when they are dealing with different situations.

Legitimate development of doctrine.
Sometimes new terminology or conceptual frameworks are introduced which assist the Church in her mission of teaching the truth.  These changes may produce differences which might be perceived by some as contradictions, but they are not.

Some people seem to think that any difference constitutes a contradiction.  I hope the above points show that this is not true.  A difference between two Church teachings is not necessarily a contradiction between them.  However, at times one needs a fairly strong background in theology and/or history to understand why two teachings are different.  People who do not have this background should go to the default position - Church teaching is not in error.  They should assume their lack of knowledge is the reason for their perception of a contradiction.

It is theoretically possible for a non-infallible Church teaching to be in error.  But very few people know enough to eliminate all the other possible explanations for a difference between two Church teachings and be left with the conclusion that one of them is in error. 

Thank you for these exlanations, Jayne.  If I may make a few points:

1.  A doctrine is denied by either contradictory ("Jesus is God" vs. "Jesus is not God") or contrary ("Jesus is God" vs. Jesus is only a man") statements.  Regarding taking comments out of context, it should be noted that innovators have long employed the method of espousing error alongside orthodox doctrine, in order to have it pass by without much notice (see Pope Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei and Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 18.).

2. I'd be very interested in being shown some examples of contingent truths.  I pray that the Church's doctrine regarding Church/State relations is not counted among them, for the denial of such was called "a species of... modernism" (Pope Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, 60f).

3. I certainly agree that there is a legitimate development of doctrine.  On the other hand, with regard to a shift in emphasis, several Pontiffs have stated the need for Catholics to not pass over the more difficult doctrines so that we might instead focus on what we have in common with non-Catholics.  I'm sure the Church has discussed the difficult doctrines in private -- and has declared the outcomes of some of these meetings -- but the manner in which some prelates have acted truly obscures the importance of several fundamental Catholic dogmas (e.g., the Church alone is the divinely revealed religion, and her necessity for salvation).  Going back to the issue of the development of doctrine, I would say that certain doctrines have, far from being made more explicit, been made more obscure over these last 50 years.  The neglect of scholastic terminology has borne some very bad fruits (e.g., the Church understood as "communion," instead of an emphasis on "membership" in the Church, with its precise requisites).
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