Reviews, Critiques, Surveys

About Fr. Martin’s book

September 16, 2017 by Dr. Ed Peters:

webRNS-JAMES-MARTIN2-040617Defending his book, Building a Bridge (2017), Jesuit Father James Martin claims that its consistency with Church teaching is attested to by (A) his own good standing as a priest, and (B) the canonical approval the book received from his Jesuit superior.

Martin’s first claim, that he is a priest in good standing, is neither contested nor relevant to the question of whether his book is doctrinally sound or pastorally trustworthy.

Martin’s second claim, that his book enjoys canonical approval, requires some context before one can appreciate what that means—and doesn’t mean.

The Roman Catholic Church’s canonical discipline on publishing materials related to faith and morals is found chiefly in Canons 822-832 and focuses on two well-known markers of doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral suitability, namely, the “nihil obstat” (a theologian’s certification that nothing obstructs faith or morals per 1983 CIC 830 § 2) and the “imprimatur” (a local ordinary’s determination that the writings may be responsibly published per 1983 CIC 830 § 3). The nihil obstat does not imply that everything in a text is stated correctly, but rather, is concerned with whether anything is stated wrongly; the imprimatur does not imply that a book is actually good or helpful, but rather, asks whether it is a bad idea to publish it. Throughout the process, authors and their works are generally, and understandably, viewed benignly (e.g., 1983 CIC 212).

Martin’s book, though falling within the categories for which a nihil obstat and an imprimatur are expressly recommended (1983 CIC 827 § 3), does not, in my opinion, require such certifications and he is within the law to have published it without them. Of course, the lack of these common certifications is hardly evidence of the soundness of his work.

Martin’s book does have what it is required to have, namely, a religious superior’s “permission to publish” (imprimi potest), a clearance all members of institutes of consecrated life must obtain prior to publishing these sorts of materials. Instructions issued in 1992 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expect religious superiors, prior to issuing their permission for publication, to consult with at least one trustworthy theologian about whether anything in a book such as Martin’s is harmful to the faith or morals. Martin himself might or might not know whether this prior theological review was actually carried out but Fr. John Cercero, sj, the superior who granted permission for Martin to publish his book, would certainly know.

But let’s assume that a qualified censor cleared the content of Martin’s book whereupon his superior concluded for its general prudence. Does that mean that Martin’s opinions and views are, as he seems to claim, necessarily acceptable in the Church?

No.

First, there are notorious examples of quite unworthy books boasting ecclesiastical approval until the faithful’s consternation over such aberrations finally gets someone’s attention somewhere and the approvals are withdrawn. The decade-and-a-half argument over Wilhelm’s Christ Among Us (1968), which lost its imprimatur in 1984 after Roman intervention, lingers in Catholic conscientiousness to this day.

Second, and more importantly, and notwithstanding some “hyperbole” (CLSA New Comm. at 984) in the CDF instruction about ecclesiastical approval constituting a “juridical and moral guarantee”, the nihil obstat, the imprimatur, and the imprimi potest are, in the end, judgment calls made by ecclesiastical officers about how authors have presented their views on important (and often complex) Church teachings and practices, and are not themselves infallible exercises of the Church’s teaching office. One would like to think, of course, that all Church officers are qualified for and committed to performing their duties in this area but, even without reaching the extreme cases recalled above, differing analytic approaches can be followed and old-fashioned mistakes can and do happen in the course of such reviews.

So, Martin’s book apparently does not have a standard nihil obstat or imprimatur; it might or might not have a Jesuit theologian’s in-house certification of its avoidance of doctrinal error; it does have a Jesuit superior’s indication that, in his view, the book can be prudently published.

Thus, in short, to tout a religious superior’s imprimi potest as proof of one’s personal or authorial orthodoxy is to misconstrue what that certification is and what it means.

Update (same day): Martin’s superiors have just released a statement indicating that his book did go through a theological analysis. They do not identify who performed that assessment, but then, the new law does not require disclosure of that name, as was generally required under the old law. The canonical commentary I offered above applies as I indicated.

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When reading the Bible devoid of its historical and textual context, there is no context except the context which any person might supply for it.

or put otherwise,

A text without a context is a pretext.

I always get frustrated when self-proclaimed Bible students or teachers start pontificating about the meaning of the Bible and theology without a clue what they are talking about or what the Bible is talking about. We had a classic example of this in our family this week. A Fundamentalist condemned us Catholics for emphasizing the need for good works (cp. James 2:24) using verses like Romans 3:28 that says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”

IMGP0964.JPGWith great ignorance the Fundamentalist said “This verse proves you Catholics wrong. We are saved by faith alone and not by good works.”

Such blithering nonsense has nothing to do with Romans 3:28 — which is not a Catholic-Protestant debate but a Jewish-Gentile debate. But in an argument like this the Fundamentalist ignores the historical and textual context. He uses the Bible verse as a club–as a proof-text to promote his Fundamentalist traditions of men. He creates his OWN context to the detriment of the historical and textual context. It is his argument to trip up Catholics who are not well catechized in their faith.

In Romans and Galatians (and Acts 15) this is the argument: Can an uncircumcized Gentile become Christian (follower of the Jesus the JEWISH Messiah) without first becooming a Jew by being circumcized and obeying all the Laws of Moses and regulations of the Pharisees?

circumcision.gif“Works of the Law” is a technical term. It refers to those actions that made Jews distinct from the Gentiles. Paul says we are not justified by “works of the Law” or Mosaic circumcision and prescribing to all the 613 laws of Moses, but rather by faith.

This is how the Catholic Church understands the New Testament and why the Fundamentalist who takes verses out of their context plays the fool and twists the Scriptures to their own confusion and the confusion of all those who are foolish enough to listen to them.

For more on this read my earlier blogs “Flint Knives and the Gospel” and “St. Paul Did Not Write to Us.”

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Trump Body Slams CNN

by Steve Ray on July 3, 2017

The Left has no sense of humor or perspective. When leftists practice real violence (black hoods, beatings and all) there is no sense of outrage or condemnation.  But when there’s a humorous tweet there’s all kinds of condemnation and outrage, huffing, puffing and sputtering.

Most Americans know exactly what Trump’s tweet was saying. Only the myopic, humorless media and Left is clueless. CNN has been lying and defaming Trump, Christians, middle America, Conservatives  and normal Americans like me for a long time. Trump is resisting them and hopefully taking them down. This was just a humorous parody on that. Lighten up LEFT!

Below is an interesting article I think puts it in perspective:

When leftists have real violence there is no condemnation but when there’s a humorous tweet there’s all kinds of condemnation and out rage.

Frankly, one of the problems with the Left is they have no sense of humor or FairPlay whatsoever.

Monday, July 03, 2017
Byron York: Washington Post | Reflections on the president’s tweet
by Byron York | Jul 2, 2017, 9:48 PM

“There is a relaxed way to read President Trump’s tweet, and there is an alarmed way to read it. The media-politico complex is choosing alarmed, with a vengeance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
There is a relaxed way to read President Trump’s tweet, and there is an alarmed way to read it. The media-politico complex is choosing alarmed, with a vengeance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In the run-up to the Iraq war, a Bush White House official explained to me that 9/11 had changed the way we read national security intelligence. There was a relaxed way to read intelligence, he said, and there was an alarmed way to read intelligence. September 11 proved that we had to read intelligence — say, on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — in an alarmed way to avoid another disaster. Therefore, we had to invade Iraq.

I thought of that conversation amid the reaction to President Trump’s latest tweet, showing him taking down CNN in a World Wrestling Entertainment video. There is a relaxed way to read the tweet, and there is an alarmed way to read the tweet. The media-politico complex is choosing the alarmed way, with a vengeance.

The relaxed way to read the tweet is that the president is — among other things — an entertainer. He was an entertainer when he was a real estate developer, he was an entertainer when he was a reality show producer and star, and he is an entertainer as president. That doesn’t mean he is not other things — Trump Tower really was built, for example — but it means that he knows how to communicate in the style of an entertainer. That’s what he did in the WWE tweet.

The alarmed way to read the tweet is that the president is inciting violence against journalists. That is the way that most journalists chose to see it. “The president of the United States is encouraging violence against journalists,” tweeted Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg Sunday morning, reflecting what dozens of other establishment journalists were saying. CNN’s statement in reaction to the president, plus that of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said much the same thing.

It’s just an impression, but one could note that some journalists seemed more alarmed by the president’s tweets than by other recent examples of violent political expression — Kathy Griffin holding what appeared to be Trump’s bloody, severed head, or the Trump-as-Caesar assassination, for example. That is probably because many journalists are simply more worried about the prospect of right-wing violence than they are about the prospect of left-wing violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a favored source among some reporters, did not built up a nine-figure endowment by warning about violence from the Left.

Even with a real act of politically-motivated violence — the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, which turned out to be a left-wing attack — some found it less terrifying than the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords, which in a weird way was not politically motivated at all. Yes, all media outlets covered the Scalise shooting wall-to-wall on the first day, and on the second. But on the third? As Commentary editor John Podhoretz noted recently, “The news media focused on the Giffords shooting with little else in the mix for a week. Three days post-baseball field and they’re moving on.”

For those reasons — the fact that many journalists are more worried about the prospect of right-wing violence than left-wing violence, plus their belief that Trump is a threat to freedom of the press — many in the reporting and commentary world chose to read the president’s tweet in the most alarmed way possible.

So back to Iraq. As it turned out, the most alarmed reading of the intelligence led to a disastrous mistake, the invasion of Iraq. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to read things in an alarmed way. It just means it’s hard to know at the time.”

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Why I Like Thomas Williams and Breitbart News

June 8, 2017

Yeah, I know it gets a bad rap in the local “Main Street Media” but if you shake off their bias and take a closer look it’s a pretty good place to find out what’s really going on. My friend Thomas Williams is the Rome correspondent and I have nothing but respect for this guy.

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MEDJUGORJE – the Beginning of the End?

May 18, 2017

Patrick Coffin summarizes situation at Medjugorje.

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Fantastic Movie for Whole Family – “Lion”

May 13, 2017

On the plane to Fatima. Watched a FANTASTIC movie about adoption, love, redemption and family just now on the plane. A movie from India. It is worthy of an evening with popcorn and a box of Kleenex.. I think everyone will agree it would be good for the kids too. Redemption, hope, family… Oh, it […]

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Are You Buying REAL Holy Land Olive Wood Products? or Chinese Cheap Imports?

April 30, 2017

Tomorrow morning we will take our group to Bethlehem to buy quality Olive Wood products make and sold by the local Christians. When we bring our groups here we only take them to shops that sell the REAL DEAL, real Olive Wood products carved by the local Christians who are in much need of our help. In […]

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Reclaim the Presence of God and Dinnertime for the Family

April 7, 2017

Paraclete Press has come out with a delightful book to help families practice the presence of God and help make dinner fun. I wish I had written this book! Check out”Feeding Your Family’s Soul – Dinner Table Spirituality” Not only spirituality but fun things to make dinner and enjoyable family get-together. I echo Fr. Andrew […]

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Trail of Blood: Do Baptists Have a Claim to the Original Church?

March 23, 2017

What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct? There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the true Christians — the Baptists — leaving […]

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Did the Pope Change Doctrine with Amoris Laetitia?

February 24, 2017

I AM A LAWYER, NOT A MIND-READER February 23, 2017 By Canon Lawyer Ed Peters, Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ echoing of claims that Amoris laetitia changed no doctrines occasioned a question for me: Am I the only (or among the few) Amoris critics who agrees with Amoris defenders that Pope Francis made no doctrinal changes in […]

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‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

January 12, 2017

Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List. Jeremy Weber  Posted in Christianity Today   1/11/2017 09:00AM For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high. But the primary cause, Islamic extremism, now has a rival: ethnic nationalism. Thus, Asia increasingly merits […]

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Tomorrow She is Canonized! Books to Read about “Saint” Mother Teresa with Reviews by our Rome Guide Liz Lev

September 3, 2016

“The long-awaited canonization of Mother Teresa has sparked a renewed interest in her astounding life. Her name has become synonymous with selfless love and service to the poor, sick, disabled and dying. “I’m no Mother Teresa” was once a frequent refrain as we backed off from tasks that seemed too demanding or humiliating, and her […]

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Nice Review of my Book “Crossing the Tiber”

June 15, 2016

The diocese of Tyler Texas has a beautiful glossy magazine and this issue is about apologetics. Excellent magazine. This month has a review of my book Crossing the Tiber and Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home. The priest who wrote the article says these are “books to give away” and tells how he buys them for […]

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Interview with German Philosopher and Friend of St. JP II: Robert Spaemann on Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia”

April 30, 2016

Stuttgart, Germany, Apr 29, 2016 / 10:49 am (CNA).- Greatly valued as an advisor by Saint John Paul II, a friend of Benedict XVI, and widely held to be the most important German Catholic philosopher of recent decades, Robert Spaemann, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Munich, expressed a distinctly critical interpretation of Amoris […]

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A New Creed for the Modern World

September 21, 2015

Everyone knows the ancient Christian creeds are outdated and passé. It is time we have a new creed that fits everyone in our brave new modern world.  We believe that God is in all of us; He has been created in our image We believe that each one must find the truth that is right […]

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Pope Francis’s Encyclical: Updates, Reviews, Critiques

June 23, 2015

A lot is being said about Laudato Si both from supporters and critics — of which I guess I am both. I would fall in the camp of the Acton Institute… Here are eight links worth reading and watching as you digest and work through the new encyclical. 1) Acton Institute critique by my friend […]

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