Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The New Geocentrism: Excessive Interest in Usury Comes to Naught

The modern geocentrist fixation on their pet cause is like a monkey who reaches into a precious Ming vase to grasp a pebble. Intent only on holding onto that bit of rock and unable to extract his clenched fist, the monkey will happily smash the vase to get his "prize", heedless of the priceless nature of the treasure he has wrecked.

It looks to me as if at least some of these individuals will do anything to hang onto their private judgment that geocentrism is taught as an article of faith, even if it means (were it possible) smashing the Catholic Faith itself. On Dave Armstrong's blog, one "johnmartin" (a pseudonym) was perfectly content to assert that, “I’ve presented a list of doctrines that have been de facto denied by the modern church” and “I believe the church silence on the matter of geo[centrism] in the last 300 years is easily accounted for through either inept leadership or fear of the science establishment”. Three hundred years of doctrinally inept and cowardly Popes—gee, what faithful Catholic could fail to be content with such a simple explanation?

He offered as "proof" for this supposed ineptitude a whole panoply of issues which the Catholic Church had "stopped teaching": the sinfulness of contraception, the indissolubility of marriage, the nature of and need for the sacrament of matrimony, the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin birth, and the establishment of the sacrament of Holy Orders by Christ himself. It was painful to have to point out to this fellow Catholic the obvious, namely, that the Magisterium has explicitly taught each and every one of those things, right up to the present day.

To his credit, geocentrist Rick Delano didn't join "johnmartin" in this brazen Church bashing. But he deployed his own example which he contends is the only other one that matches geocentrism: usury. According to Rick these two constitute the "unique" examples in all of Church history in which the Catholic Church has simply stopped teaching a doctrine of the Faith:

Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 6:31 PM By Rick DeLano

I have, as I said, personally been the beneficiary of several hours of direct instruction from Father Sweeney. I can assure my fellow bloggers on this thread, that any question of his fidelity to, familiarity with, or ability to expound (to at least seventy five levels of historical development), the teachings of the catechism, is, for me, beyond the slightest question. The man is simply a treasure, and I am going to do my utmost to try and get one of my sons up there to enroll in his course of study and, as a bonus, to make Father Sweeney's life miserable with questions concerning, especially, the surrender of the dogmas against usury and geocentrism (hello Father Sweeney!)

Rick DeLano said...

I hope that all defenders of geocentrism will be sensitive to the ambiguity inherent in this (and only this- plus one other to my knowledge) instance of the magisterium proposing a binding doctrine under the ordinary magisterium, and then abandoning- not reversing!- it.

The unique nature of these two instances- the other being the condemnation of usury- require the utmost care in extending the same latitude the Church Herself extends. . . .

Fri Nov 19, 11:50:00 PM EST
(My emphasis.)

So is Rick right? Has the Catholic Church "surrendered" the dogma of usury? Does geocentrism have at least one lonely companion in doctrines supposedly "abandoned" by the Church?

Nope. Since Galileo's time the doctrine of usury has been reaffirmed by the Magisterium numerous times, right up to our present day. The only way this view gets any traction at all is if people embrace the mistaken view that usury is identical with interest-taking, or with excessive interest. Neither view is correct (the tongue-in-cheek title of this article aside).  My own contribution to this question in This Rock magazine, which I now consider to be somewhat simplistic but still essentially correct, may be found here.

Misunderstandings aside, the magisterial view of usury has been reiterated numerous times. The most solemn instance is, of course, Pope Benedict XIV's 1745 encyclical Vix Pervenit, On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit. And Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum §3 in 1891:

The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.

From the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X (1908):

9 Q: Is it only by theft and robbery that another can be injured in his property?

A: He can also be injured by fraud, usury, and any other act of injustice directed against his goods.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2269 (1993):

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.

From Pope John Paul II, Address to the Members of the National Council of Anti-Usury Foundations (1999):

I know well, dear friends, the difficulties that you face. But I know that you are determined and united in fighting this serious social evil. Continue to combat usury, giving hope to individuals and families who are its victims. The Pope encourages you to pursue your generous work to build a more just society, one of solidarity, and more attentive to the demands of the needy.

From Pope John Paul II, General Audience (4 February 2004):

Finally, three final precepts are listed for our examination of conscience: to be faithful to our word and to our oaths, even in those cases where the consequences will be detrimental to us; not to practice usury — a plague that is a disgraceful reality even in our days that can place a stronghold on the lives of many people; and finally to avoid all corruption in public life, another commitment that we could also rigorously practice in our time . . .

From Pope John Paul II, General Audience, (10 Nov 2004):

The first false god [is] the violence which humanity unfortunately continues to resort to even in these bloody days,. . . Accompanying this idol is an immense procession of wars, oppression, perversions, torture and killing, inflicted without any trace of remorse. . . . the second false god is robbery which is expressed in extortion, social injustice, usury, political and economic corruption.

From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church §323 and 341 (2004):
The prophetic tradition condemns fraud, usury, exploitation and gross injustice, especially when directed against the poor . . .
Although the quest for equitable profit is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned: “Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them”.[714] This condemnation extends also to international economic relations, especially with regard to the situation in less advanced countries, which must never be made to suffer “abusive if not usurious financial systems”.[715] More recently, the Magisterium used strong and clear words against this practice, which is still tragically widespread, describing usury as “a scourge that is also a reality in our time and that has a stranglehold on many peoples' lives”.[716]

From the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church §508 (2005):

508. What is forbidden by the seventh commandment?

Above all, the seventh commandment forbids theft, which is the taking or using of another's property against the reasonable will of the owner. This can be done also by paying unjust wages; by speculation on the value of goods in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; or by the forgery of checks or invoices. Also forbidden is tax evasion or business fraud; willfully damaging private or public property; usury; corruption; the private abuse of common goods; work deliberately done poorly; and waste.

From Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience (2005):

The heart of this fidelity to the divine word consists in a fundamental choice of charity towards the poor and needy: ‘The good man takes pity and lends ... Open-handed, he gives to the poor” (vv. 5, 9). The person of faith, then, is generous; respecting the biblical norms, he offers help to his brother in need, asking nothing in return (Deuteronomy 15: 7-11), and without falling into the shame of usury, which destroys the lives of the poor.’

I would be the first to agree that additional catechesis would help the faithful to better understand the necessary distinction between usury and the taking of interest. But it is patently false to claim that there has been a "surrender" or an "abandonment" of the doctrine of usury. It is explicitly taught by the Magisterium to this day and this alleged parallel with geocentrism fails completely.

Of course the parallel fails in another way too. The Holy Office, with the Pope's approval, gave positive permission in 1820 for non-geocentric views to be disseminated in the Church. The Church has given her imprimatur and nihil obstat to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of works that present a non-geocentric cosmology as fact. Pope Benedict XV stated openly in a papal encyclical that it's not at all problematic to hold that the earth isn't the center of the universe. Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII made official in papal encyclicals the Tradition expressed best by Sts. Augustine and Thomas that the sacred Scriptures do not contain details of the physical universe, but rather speak in ordinary language according to what appears to men. Popes Pius XII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have praised Galileo and John Paul II has stated publicly that the handling of the Galileo case rested on "errors". The Magisterium has given the faithful every indication that they need not have any scruple to hold to non-geocentric views of the universe. There is no possible parallel here to usury, which has been consistently and repeatedly condemned.

Which only goes to show you that you can't get away from the fundamental axiom that if you start with a bad premise you will inevitably reach a bad conclusion. Geocentrism was never taught as a doctrine of the faith by either the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. That is the simple reason why there is no reiteration of it. No need for exaggerations, conspiracy theories, ineptitude, or cowardice.

I know this is incredibly shocking and controversial, but ordinary, faithful Catholics can feel perfectly comfortableand orthodoxwhile holding to a non-geocentric view of the universe. Not that that will stop the new geocentrists from making a wreck of their own faith as they cling to this pebble of a scientific theory, of course.

NB: I will be posting a continuing series of essays on various aspects of the new geocentrism.  Until the series is complete comments will be disabled.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Geocentric Exaggerations: The Catechism of Trent

In my last piece on the new geocentrism I pointed out how modern geocentrists consistently exaggerate the nature and authority of the various ecclesiastical documents that touch on the topic.

Another example of this may be found in how they treat some passages in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Here's what a leading geocentrist has to say about it:

One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism comes from the catechism issued under a decree of Pope Pius V, known as The Catechism of the Council of Trent or more simply, The Roman Catechism. (Bob Sungenis, GWW2, 163).

"One of the clearest official and authoritative statements"....keep that phrase in mind as we look into this a little further. Bob deploys several passages from the Roman Catechism to try and make this case. Here's one of them:

He also gave to the sun its brilliancy, and to the moon and stars their beauty; and that they might be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. He so ordered the celestial bodies in a certain and uniform course, that nothing varies more than their continual revolution, while nothing is more fixed than their variety.
Now a lot of non-geocentrists are going to look at that and say, Okay, but I agree with that. How exactly does that clearly teach geocentrism? Bob deploys another passage from the Catechism of Trent to try and answer that:

Rather, to expel any doubt about what objects are revolving the catechism adds that the sun, moon and stars have a “continual revolution.” Although the unspecified reference to “revolution” might cause a heliocentrist to infer that the sun’s revolution does not necessarily mean it is revolving around the Earth, a few pages later the catechism disallows that inference by stating the following:

The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them.…

The problem for Bob is the context that he left off after the ellipses makes his application of this passage to the earth's place in the universe untenable. Let's have the whole passage, including what he omitted:

The earth [terram] also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world [mundi], rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them. That the waters should not inundate the earth, He set a bound which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth. He next not only clothed and adorned it with trees and every variety of plant and flower, but filled it, as He had already filled the air and water, with innumerable kinds of living creatures.
While mundus can mean "universe", it can also just mean "world", e.g. Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, "The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived." But from the whole context it appears that the Catechism is using the word "earth" (terra) in terms of the "land", as distinct from the "air" and "water" and the word "world" (mundus) to mean the whole globe. (This echoes the wording of Gen 1:10, "And God called the dry land, Earth [terram]".) Thus in this context "rooted in its own foundation" means that the land is fixed in place with relation to the water, not in relation to the cosmos. If "earth" here means the entire globe then the passage ceases to make sense, since in the last sentence the "earth" is specifically contrasted with the "air" and "water" and God certainly didn't cover the entire globe, including the air and water, "with trees and every variety of plant and flower".

This passage, then, doesn't represent a description of the globe's place in the universe and it has no application to geocentrism. I should note that the English version of this Catechism by J. A. McHugh and C. J. Callanon which appears in many places on the Internet (e.g. here) has the heading "Formation of the Universe" over this section. This is a mistranslation of the Latin, De terrae creatione, which is correctly translated "Creation of the earth" (as in, e.g. the translation by J. Donovan (link). It is perhaps this mistranslation—along with an insufficient attention to context—that has misled certain geocentrists to read this as if it addressed the earth's place in the universe.

There are a couple of other passages Bob cites to try and bolster this notion that the Catechism of Trent teaches geocentrism, but they get weaker and weaker.

But though God is present in all places and in all things, without being bound by any limits, as has been already said, yet in Sacred Scripture it is frequently said that He has His dwelling in heaven. And the reason is because the heavens which we see above our heads are the noblest part of the world, remain ever Incorruptible, surpass all other bodies in power, grandeur and beauty, and are endowed with fixed and regular motion.

...all goods both natural and supernatural, must be recognised as gifts given by Him from whom, as the Church proclaims, proceed all blessings. If the sun by its light, if the stars by their motion and revolutions, are of any advantage to man; if the air with which we are surrounded serves to sustain us...nay, those very causes which philosophers call secondary, we should regard as so many hands of God, wonderfully fashioned and fitted for our use, by means of which He distributes His blessings and diffuses them everywhere in profusion.
Obviously, non-geocentrists can affirm all that this Catechism says. There is no explicit affirmation of geocentrism here whatsoever; these are generic statements that fit modern cosmologies equally well. Yet despite the weakness of this evidence in favor of his pet cosmology, Bob speaks of the "Roman Catechism’s dogmatic assertion of geocentrism" (GWW2, pp. 164f.). This is a manifest exaggeration.

We have seen that, far from containing a "dogmatic assertion of geocentrism", the Catechism of the Council of Trent says nothing at all on the subject. The evidence strongly suggests that this is a modern, private interpretation of the Catechism based on a mistranslation and a misunderstanding. The following fact should pretty much clinch that case. Bob claims that this is, "One of the clearest official and authoritative statements from the Catholic Church defending the doctrine of geocentrism. . . " But surely, if that were true, this would have been the very centerpiece in the original Galileo controversy. And yet this source was was never, as far as I have seen, brought up either by the Congregation of the Index or the Congregation of the Holy Office during the Galileo affair. The silence is deafening.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent does not teach geocentrism as an article of faith. And of course, the Church's next universal Catechism, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, also says not a word about geocentrism either. And yet the Holy Father stated in Fidei Depositum IV:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.
"[A] statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine..." But not a peep about geocentrism. That silence too is deafening.