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"Legalism" is way over the heads of the common, working class people who just want to go to church and worship and receive the sacraments.

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"Legalism" is way over the heads of the common, working class people who just want to go to church and worship and receive the sacraments.

So are Supreme Court decisions, but they sure can have profound effects on how they live their lives. Someone has to regulate things, like it or not; and those who do just want to go to church and worship too.

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Actually, the laity were and are the major practitioners of legalism--everything from how late one can enter Mass and how early one can leave, to what constitutes a mortal sin, to what one can and cannot eat during Lent. The whole concept of "rules-based Christianity" is how most people interact with their faith.

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But if the question is asked, like when exactly the bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ, is it wrong to try and answer it? I can see the error in reducing God to a divine intellect or thinking that God can be totally understood with reason alone, however I think you can use the mystery of it all as a way out.

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Originally Posted by Utroque
Actually there has been a great resurgence in Patristic scholarship in the west since Vatican II that has served the Church both east and west.

The Council follows the times as much or more than spurs them. Sources Chr├ętiennes, founded 1942. Westminster Press's "Library of Christian Classics" was begun by the 1950's. The work of Florovsky, et al. This is all underway decades before the Council.

Much the same could be said of liturgics. (As both the critics and proponents of the Liturgical Movement tell the history.)

The Council is greatly overrated in importance. There's no great dividing of the true and the false at the Council.

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Originally Posted by StuartK
That's certainly been changing over the decades since Vatican II, with the patristic renaissance and the breaking of the Thomistic stranglehold on Western theology. Even a return to Aquinas--as opposed to Aquinas' less talented and reflective expositors--is a return of the mysterion to Latin sacramental theology.


How so? Given the rate of annulments being handed out today, and what is a Sacrament and what is not is placed on the hands of these secular annulment canon lawyers, I fear dearly for the state of the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

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Is that the legalism? Or is the legalism rather in taking such a rigid view of the indissolubility of marriage. You should look at what Archbishop Joseph Raya wrote on that one.


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Originally Posted by ConstantineTG
Given the rate of annulments being handed out today, and [the determination of] what is a Sacrament and what is not is placed on the hands of these secular annulment canon lawyers, I fear dearly for the state of the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
Constantine,

You've got a good point here, but I would take the position that it's the legacy of having a legalistic mindset in the first place that caused the problem.

To begin with, RC Canon Law has traditionally used the assumption that someone who is baptized in the Catholic Church is "in the faith" and "a member of the faithful." From a legal perspective, this makes perfect sense, since it's impossible to measure a person's degree of commitment to God (or if he/she ever really made one), and it worked fairly well as long as social mores were every bit as negative towards divorce as Canon Law.

Now, to be fair, I believe the RCC has really clamped down now WRT marriage preparation, but we are currently seeing the fruits of policies that were in effect between ~10 and ~30 years ago, where parents who were active in church would often insist that their son or daughter be married in the Catholic Church, and the priest would do this for the parents' sake, with degrees of sacramental preparation varying from good to practically none.

Needless to say, it's primarily the ones with inadequate preparation who are now seeking annulments.

Getting back to your original statement, though, the necessity of determining what *really* is--or is not--a sacrament has more to do with fitting an existing situation into theological categories that have been codified into Canon Law, than anything else.


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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Originally Posted by JDC
Originally Posted by Irish Melkite
I suspect you'll find that a majority of Eastern Christians here, both Catholic and Orthodox, consider the Latin Church to be highly, even hyper-legalistic.

RC's know it too. We just like it that way.

Do we?

I always find myself somewhat baffled by the need of clergy and theologians to so precisely define things that strike me as being beyond human comprehension. For example, I fail to see why the Church, East and West, needs to be torn apart over competing definitions regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit. Is any human intelligence actually capable of envisioning or meaningfully comprehending whence the Holy Spirit proceeds (or what that even means) that it should actually matter to us whether the Holy Spirit "proceeds" one way or another? That the question should matter enough, in fact, to rend the Church in half?

Is it such a terrible thing to behold the question and respond "what difference does it make?" It's a mystery. It happens how it happens. Why must we be commanded to accept one insufficient "understanding" of something we can't see over another, under penalty of being anathematized? Did the 12 apostles understand how it worked? If they didn't, then why must I? Did our Lord command us to comprehend with crystal clarity dizzying theological questions which our feeble minds are not equipped to comprehend, or did he command us to love one another?

This, of course, doesn't speak to a legalism of the Roman Church, specifically, since the Orthodox Church is just as inflexible on this particular matter. But why must men be compelled under pain of sin and excommunication to assent to doctrines which no man is capable of comprehending?

I can recite every day for the rest of my life the words "and I believe in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the Father and the Son..." and no matter how many times I profess that I believe it, I fail as many times to have any clue as to what I'm insisting I believe in! I have no idea what I'm actually saying when I say that! The Apostles Creed states simply "I believe in the Holy Spirit." End of story. Why can't we all agree for unity's sake to simply go back to that and leave it there? It was sufficient to believe only that much once upon a time. Why not for all time?

Otherwise, explain to humanity's satisfaction why it is absolutely crucial that we, each and all, understand perfectly the precise way in which the Holy Spirit "proceeds" (and what "proceeds" means).

"It is crucial and mandatory that you all understand and subscribe to this mostly incomprehensible notion in exactly this way because..."

It would seem to me that if the Church cannot satisfactorily complete that sentence, it might consider dropping the issue, altogether, and say, "let this not divide us any longer".

It seems to me that the same sort of approach could very likely be taken toward quite a few theological "definitions".

Let me state that in all that I say and opine, I recognize that I am no theologian and in no way do I ever mean to defy the authentic orthodoxy or orthopraxis of the Church. Should I ever ask a question or posit an opinion that shouts "heresy" please understand that it is out of my own ignorance and that it is asked or posited in good faith. In every case, I submit to the judgment of the legitimate pastors and teachers of the Church.


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it was not always so. The insecurities generated by the Reformation created on both sides a preference for certitude in place of trust and hope.

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Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
I always find myself somewhat baffled by the need of clergy and theologians to so precisely define things that strike me as being beyond human comprehension.
Roman,

I think you have a very good insight here.

When I was a young man, I really thought that the answer to the Church's contemporary problems (1970s) was a return to the Church's "traditional" teaching and practice.

It was years before I realized that
  • Tradition always involves a human element as well as a divine one
  • The human element, not suprisingly, is always limited in scope and fallible
  • The divine element can only be distinguished with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • It is a constant temptation for man to focus on the tradition for its own sake, rather than look beyond to the unseen reality to which it points
  • Traditional theologies can contradict one another outright, without either of them necessarily contradicting the eternal truths to which they both point

One thing that helped me to understand this was the concept of apophasis, which gives voice to the principle you stated here:
Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
Is any human intelligence actually capable of envisioning or meaningfully comprehending [such eternal truths as] whence the Holy Spirit proceeds (or what that even means) ...
Clearly, there is a certain amount of arrogance at work whenever man tries to express the inexpressible. Then, of course ...
Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
That the question should matter enough, in fact, to rend the Church in half?
I really think there were many at the time of the schism, in both East and West, that really wanted to be done with the other, for reasons they really thought were holy (and were able to make sound so holy), but were in fact no more holy than the Pharisees' desire to crucify Our Lord. (It's worthwhile to note, too, that there were many on both sides that did not want the schism.)

Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
Why must we be commanded to accept one insufficient "understanding" of something we can't see over another, under penalty of being anathematized? Did the 12 apostles understand how it worked? If they didn't, then why must I? Did our Lord command us to comprehend with crystal clarity dizzying theological questions which our feeble minds are not equipped to comprehend, or did he command us to love one another?
(I have to admit I'm really tempted to put something sarcastic here ... think I'll bite my tongue--er, fingers!)

Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
The Apostles Creed states simply "I believe in the Holy Spirit." End of story. Why can't we all agree for unity's sake to simply go back to that and leave it there? It was sufficient to believe only that much once upon a time. Why not for all time?
The funny thing here is that both East and West recognize the principle that for a teaching to be considered dogma, it must have been believed "always, everywhere and by all." I wonder how many dogmas really pass this test?


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Deacon Richard

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Deacon Richard:

Thank you for that contribution; I really enjoyed reading it. I'm glad I'm not alone in wondering about the importance of clinging to the things that divide us.

Yesterday I was at a Coptic Orthodox church that I have been to before, and as I sat there watching a presentation about missions of the Coptic Orthodox church to the poor and sick in Latin America, I thought to myself (as I have thought to myself before) that I perceive no separation between myself and this community.

I sat there in the church thinking that the divisions that exist between us are sinful and ridiculous, and probably imaginary. I felt at home among brothers in that Coptic Orthodox Church and I have trouble believing that my Church and that Church are not, ultimately, two components of the same Church.

In the choir loft of that Coptic church, there is a great big tapestry of the Catholic image of Our Lady of Grace. I asked the sacristan about it, and he just laughed and said, "we're very ecumenical...we're all really the same family, though, aren't we?"

The generals may still be at war, but I think the troops are over it. Although I think even the generals are beginning to tire of it.


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Just my two cents:

I think people misuse the term "legalistic." I think the term people are actually wanting to use is either "juridical," "formalistic" or "forensic."

"Legalism" is an attitude wherein the law is maintained even though it harms people.

The more rational/cataphatic paradigm of Latin Catholicism is not "legalistic."

Blessings,
Marduk

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Have not heard from you in a long time how are things? and are you back in california?

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The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives:

LEGALISM
1: strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code <the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice>

First Known Use of LEGALISM 1928

Another, simpler definition would be: "placing the letter of the law above the spirit of the law."

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