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Canon Law Anyone?

Christianity

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1lawecon
Nov 2, 2011, 9:38am Top

Just reading this article http://forward.com/articles/145351/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&amp... and was wondered why the notion of religious law was so alien to so many Americans today. Is it because Holy Roller Protestant Churches don't have discussions about Canon Law?

2nathanielcampbell
Nov 2, 2011, 10:05am Top

It's not so much that Protestant churches don't discuss canon law as that most of them don't have canon law. The only protestant denomination I know of that continued a canon law tradition is the Anglicans, and (with the exception of the staunch traditionalists at the edges) they don't think much of it anymore.

The better reason, however, is that canon law has never held any secular jurisdiction in the United States. That's why the Vatican's attempts to handle things like sex abuse with in-house legal procedures cause such an uproar. In the United States, there has never been a tradition of parallel legal structures outside the state's legal system.

Now, religious groups have historically been able to adjudicate certain matters internally, but only ever matters that would have been civil and not criminal had they been taken to the secular courts.
A current case before the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the points of friction. In fine, a tenured teacher (and ordained minister) at a Lutheran school was dismissed after she took a too-extended leave of absence to deal with narcolepsy. (When she returned from her absence, the school asked her to resign; when she refused and threatened to sue, she was fired.) The Justice Department is trying to claim jurisdiction based on the American with Disabilities Act; the defense (with amicus briefs filed by just about every Christian denomination you can think of, including the Catholics) argues that this falls into the "ministerial exception", by which religious bodies are exempt on First Amendment grounds from employment laws when dealing with their ministers.

Based on the oral arguments (summed up in the link above), it looks like the Court will probably uphold the ministerial exemption and deny the teacher's appeal. As one of the six Catholics on the Court pointed out, if they overrule the ministerial exemption, it would open the door for the Obama administration to dictate, for example, that the Catholic Church must ordain women.

3timspalding
Edited: Nov 2, 2011, 11:46am Top

I think canon law can be usefully separated from Sharia. While one civil and canon law were formally separate but often dovetailed, they are now quite definitively separate. There is no nation on earth where being convicted of heresy in a canon law can get you imprisoned, and it certainly never touched ordinary civil-later matters. Canon law never chopped off the hands of thieves or accorded the testimony of women half the value of men in a contract dispute. Sharia does all this--it's not a parallel system of religious law at all.

the Court will probably uphold the ministerial exemption and deny the teacher's appeal

I don't think anyone thinks they'll overrule the ministerial exemption. It wasn't really in the cards. The question was whether churches could be questioned on their application of it. This presents something of a limit case, where the teacher was primarily an ordinary day-to-day teacher who occasionally taught a religion class. She was fired from the class, not as a minister per se.

There are good arguments on both sides, but a rule requiring churches to have their legally protected-and-disabled ministers be significantly involved in ministry doesn't touch the Obama administration forcing the Catholic church to ordain women!

I mean, imagine the absolute limit case, where an employer required all employees to be "ministers of the Church of No Unions." This religion would have no real duties for its ministers, but it would have a strong, deeply held belief that unionization is heresy. Employees who attempted to unionize would be fired on religious grounds, and couldn't appeal because, after all, they held a ministerial position in the Church of No Unions. That wouldn't stand up and it should. There can licitly be some lines drawn.

4cjbanning
Nov 4, 2011, 1:33pm Top

2: "The only protestant denomination I know of that continued a canon law tradition is the Anglicans, and (with the exception of the staunch traditionalists at the edges) they don't think much of it anymore."

That's not quite right. For example, I was at a meeting last night where one of the items to be discussed was the pending retirement (in 2013) of our diocesan bishop. How do we go about electing a new bishop? The canons hold the answer, and got mentioned quite a bit.

5nathanielcampbell
Nov 4, 2011, 1:53pm Top

>4 cjbanning::
Sorry, I should have been more (or perhaps less) precise with the exception qualifier. It's not so much just the "staunch traditionalists at the edges" as it is most high churchers who still look to the canon law tradition. And I see from your bio that you're a high churcher.

6vpfluke
Nov 4, 2011, 1:55pm Top

Within the Episcopal Church, things relating to Bishops are very much done a canon law basis. There are people who would like to remove the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Bennison, but Episcopal Church canon law does not allow that in any kind forthright manner.

Canon law also specifies where the rector of a parish has more absolute authority (such as worship) with ina parish. How deacons are deployed is also under canon law. Adding saints to the Episcopal Church is done according to canon law.

Doctrinal issues tend not to be under canon law, beyond the short catechism in the Book of Common Prayer.

I think Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, have rules of polity, which are not called canon law, but cover issues that the Roman Catholic church would use canon law.

7timspalding
Nov 4, 2011, 2:09pm Top

It depends on definitions, doesn't it? Any church that has formal rules on ecclesiastical topics has canon law. Take the Presbyterians, who have what one law-journal article calls a "parallel legal universe," including multiple levels of courts and a 495-page "Book of Order" (see http://www.callawyer.com/story.cfm?eid=916590&evid=1)

8quicksiva
Edited: Nov 13, 2011, 11:46pm Top

There is a "pagan libel" that the bishops at Nicaea got tired of fighting over the issue and decided to determine the true Canon by "shooting craps". How true is this story? I'm told that they were following "apostolic tradition". Anybody know about this? Many ancients believed that knuckle bones could reveal the will of God. Modern casinos are full of people who still do.

9jburlinson
Nov 13, 2011, 10:49pm Top

I can see it now -- a circle of bishops on their knees, rolling the dice and shouting, "Little Joe from the Land of Go(shen)" and "baby needs a new pair of sandals"!

10timspalding
Edited: Nov 17, 2011, 10:09pm Top

Has anyone seen Voting About God in Early Church Councils by Ramsay MacMullen? I've got to get it. It sound fascinating.

11lawecon
Nov 14, 2011, 2:48am Top

12lawecon
Nov 14, 2011, 2:55am Top

~2
In the United States, there has never been a tradition of parallel legal structures outside the state's legal system.

Really? http://www.bethdin.org/arbitration-mediation.asp

13nathanielcampbell
Nov 14, 2011, 9:47am Top

>12 lawecon::
Did you read my next sentence? "Now, religious groups have historically been able to adjudicate certain matters internally, but only ever matters that would have been civil and not criminal had they been taken to the secular courts. "

The qualification is that what parallel legal structures there have been have been purely in the realm of things that, in the secular courts, would be civil. The US does not recognize any legal authority outside of the state's jurisdiction when it comes to criminal law. Thus, the problems with the Roman Catholic Church's handling of sex abuse cases.

14lawecon
Nov 14, 2011, 10:39am Top

Indeed, you are correct about criminal cases, but that has been the same since King John. As to civil cases, most U.S. jurisdictions recognize the parties' rights to have an "arbitrator" decide those cases on a binding basis. That has nothing, per se, to do with an "internal" decision by a church, synogogue or mosque - it has to do with what law and what jurisdiction the parties to a civil dispute choose to resolve their dispute.
In general, "binding arbitration" clauses in contracts that name the arbitrators and "choice of law" clauses that specify the body of law to be applied are also enforced by government courts.

15nathanielcampbell
Nov 14, 2011, 11:13am Top

>14 lawecon::
While I cede that you certainly know more than I do about the current legal procedures of arbitration, I do take issue with you claim that "that has been the same since King John." Yes and no.

Magna Carta did set out certain secular legal principals around which English courts continued to grow (the process was organic and had started decades before the nobles forced John to sign; on this, see M. T. Clanchy's From Memory to Written Record). In terms of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, Magna Carta can be seen in concert with the Fourth Lateran Council to finally and irrevocably bring an end to the ordeal as a judicial procedure. This removed the Church from its most widespread secular juridical funtion. But it did not de facto bring the Church's criminal jurisdiction to an end, especially in regards to clerics and church properties. (Not that those claims weren't abused and ridiculed; see, for instance, Langland's treatment of Will's fishy claims to be under clerical jurisdiction in Piers Plowman C V.53-88 and XIV.128-130.)

Indeed, whether to a lesser extent in England or to a greater extent on the Continent, the Church continued to claim, at least, univocal jurisdiction over its own clergy and property until after the Reformation in what became Protestant areas; until after the Revolution in France; and until the later nineteenth century in much of Spain and Italy.

Those claims have only ever been recognized in the U.S. on a very limited basis, e.g. as regards the ministerial exception or as regards the seal of the confessional (and even that has been callously called into question in the last decade).

16timspalding
Nov 14, 2011, 11:35am Top

and even that has been callously called into question in the last decade

Reference?

17nathanielcampbell
Nov 14, 2011, 11:53am Top

>16 timspalding:: While I don't have a specific reference at hand, the power of the seal has increasingly come under scrutiny in relation to priests and bishops to whom other child-abusing clerics confessed their activities. Prosecutors seem ever more impatient when a member of the hierarchy invokes the seal when refusing to divulge knowledge of others' potentially unlawful acts.

18timspalding
Nov 14, 2011, 12:03pm Top

I wonder what the Catholic Church's opinion—US or generally—is on the proper legal scope of confessional privilege. Of course, the church defends the core situation--information given to a priest in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation. But, in the US, confessional privilege is extended to other situations, such as spiritual conversation with a minister who doesn't have a notion of confession being given through another human beings, etc. And, I gather, the definition of "minister" can vary enormously. Does the church assert that non-sacramental remarks to your high school religion teacher should be protected, or does it draw a thin line around the sacrament?

19johnthefireman
Nov 15, 2011, 12:18am Top

>17 nathanielcampbell:, 18 It would be interesting to see some statistics on the extent to which cases of child abuse were first discovered in the confessional. My sense is that it wasn't really an issue, because most of these cases were known outside the confessional and still covered up

20nathanielcampbell
Nov 15, 2011, 9:03am Top

>18 timspalding:, 19:
Strictly speaking, none could have been "first discovered" in the confessional, insofar as the confessor is barred by the seal of confession from repeating anything confessed. Furthermore, the seal is categorically different from the legal confidences held by a therapist or even lawyer. The confessor is acting in persona Christi, that is to say, he is acting as a conduit from the penitent to God. Properly speaking, the confessor should not retain anything said to him by the penitent. Whereas the therapist is supposed to remember these things from session to the session, the confessor is supposed not to, insofar as he hears the confession not in his own person but in the person of Christ.

Since this is categorically different from the way most protestant denominations understand the confidential pastoral relationship (with the possible exception of certain high church Anglicans who still use sacramental confession), I'm honestly not sure how the Roman Catholic Church views the legal relationship between the seal of sacramental confession and the privilege of pastoral care.

21johnthefireman
Nov 15, 2011, 10:16am Top

20 Strictly speaking, none could have been "first discovered"

Correct, and my phrasing was clumsy. What I meant was how many cases were first heard in confession and the confessor was unable to report them, as opposed to cases which were known about through other channels and were still covered up.

22lawecon
Edited: Nov 15, 2011, 5:21pm Top

Strictly speaking, none could have been "first discovered" in the confessional, insofar as the confessor is barred by the seal of confession from repeating anything confessed. Furthermore, the seal is categorically different from the legal confidences held by a therapist or even lawyer. The confessor is acting in persona Christi, that is to say, he is acting as a conduit from the penitent to God. Properly speaking, the confessor should not retain anything said to him by the penitent. Whereas the therapist is supposed to remember these things from session to the session, the confessor is supposed not to, insofar as he hears the confession not in his own person but in the person of Christ.

=====================================

Very aspirational - like much of Christian teaching. Nearly impossible in practice, of course.

23timspalding
Nov 15, 2011, 8:42pm Top

>22 lawecon:

Strictly speaking, the priest's only obligation is not to reveal anything they hear to anyone. Not remembering it, even to the same individual at another time(1), is a useful piece of advice in achieving that end.

1. I gather that if you say "remember that terrible thing I told you about last time" (or whatever) the priest is supposed to say "please refresh my memory" or whatever. I wonder what would happen if you clearly showed yourself to be a pathological liar--told the priest sins on subsequent days that couldn't both be true. Can the priest notice this, or must they allow you to confess your sins as a policeman, doctor, house painter and lumberjack successively, as if the priest had no information you weren't any of them.

24johnthefireman
Nov 16, 2011, 12:23am Top

>23 timspalding: "Not remembering" may work in the anonymous confession box, but at least since Vatican II the Sacrament of Reconciliation has often been celebrated face to face and has developed an element of long-term spiritual counselling. In that situation the priest doesn't have to pretend he doesn't remember what was said in the previous session.

25timspalding
Nov 16, 2011, 12:31am Top

Sounds like a pretty humane rule to me. Without it, parishioners might well expect priests to remember all sorts of personal details--things very important to them which hardly make the grade as far as the priest is concerned.

26johnthefireman
Nov 16, 2011, 12:41am Top

>25 timspalding: And yet I've worked with very good parish priests for whom remembering those small "unimportant" details is actually a crucial part of being a parish priest - making people feel known and accepted.

27nathanielcampbell
Nov 16, 2011, 9:38am Top

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has some thoughts on the boundaries of the seal this morning: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/11/quaeritur-priests-role-duty-when-someone-misuses-...

28lilithcat
Nov 16, 2011, 10:12am Top

> 27

That's very interesting.

I got curious, and went to look at my state's rules on various privileges. There are some interesting differences among them. The clergy-communicant privilege (and some others) states that the clergy member "shall not be compelled to disclose" information received as a spiritual advisor. This differs from the physician-patient privilege ("shall {not} be permitted to testify") or the spousal privilege ("neither may testify as to any communication or admission made by either of them to the other or as to any conversation between them during marriage").

29cjbanning
Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 11:37am Top

the possible exception of certain high church Anglicans who still use sacramental confession

I'm not sure what you mean by this. The form for the reconciliation of a penitent is printed in every copy of the Book of Common Prayer, and I'd imagine it'd be a rare parish where the rite was not available upon request. The dictum for Anglicans concerning confession is of course, "All may, some should, none must."

Interestingly, Anglican confession does add an extra additional wrinkle, since it eschews sacerdotalism and allows any baptised Christian to hear a confession: "The absolution in these services may be pronounced only by a bishop or priest. Another Christian may be asked to hear a confession, but it must be made clear to the penitent that absolution will not be pronounced; instead, a declaration of forgiveness is provided."

Later on, the BCP's discussion of the rite adds, "The content of a confession is not normally a matter of subsequent discussion. The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken."

(All quotes from the 1979 U.S. BCP.)

30nathanielcampbell
Nov 16, 2011, 11:41am Top

>29 cjbanning::
Having been raised on the 1928 (American) BCP, I'm not familiar with the newer versions. But even if the 1979 BCP does include the rite of sacerdotal confession, how popular is it really? How many folks in your average Anglican parish actually go to the priest and ask him(her) to hear their confession? How many priests actually do so on a regular basis?

My guess is that this falls into the same category as the Roman Catholic Rite One (the traditional Roman Canon). Even though it's printed in every Sacramentary, you almost never hear it used except by the staunch traditionalists.

31timspalding
Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 12:26pm Top

If I'm not mistaken, Fr. Zuhlsdorf misunderstood the question, which was surely about what he added as an addendum—the assertion by some traditionalist that people were "misusing" the confession for spiritual guidance—"what should I do" not "I have sinned"—or without what they think of as an appropriate feeling of remorse, etc. Anyway that's my guess at the question, not what he took it for, whether a priest can report that he's been held up at gunpoint in a confessional! :)

Yes, see comments—people using confession to ask marriage counseling, etc. I love the threat in another comment that if the penitent is not sufficiently penitent, the seal doesn't apply. "I'm sleeping with my girlfriend but, sorry father, I don't feel sorry about it" is hardly an excuse for the priest to betray someone's trust.

32nathanielcampbell
Nov 16, 2011, 12:44pm Top

After reading the comments over at Fr. Z's, I'm reminded of a hypothetical case put to us by our curate some years ago in an armchair discussion of the sacrament (literally -- he was seated in his favorite leather armchair, a gift to him by the Youth Group). Suppose a man comes to the confessional just minutes before the confessor is to say the Mass and confesses that he has poisoned the communion wine. He claims true repentance and seeks absolution. Setting aside for the moment whether the priest should give absolution (since, as Tim Ferguson said above, we can presume that the seal adheres because of penitent's intent, not absolution), does the priest break the seal by changing out the communion wine? (Let's presume that he can legitimately communicate the congregation under one kind, such that the only risk of poisoning is to himself.)

33timspalding
Nov 16, 2011, 1:42pm Top

I think you also have presume that the priest can't change it out without anyone else suspecting that either a sin had occurred or the individual had done a sin. In absolute pinch, one could yell "ladies and gentlemen, I've set fire to the sacristy!" get everyone to flee and then go set that fire yourself.

That said, at some point I'm not sure I wouldn't just side with Jesus on the topic of saving someone's life on the Sabbath.

34jburlinson
Nov 16, 2011, 2:06pm Top

> 32. Could the priest incorporate last rites into the Mass?

35nathanielcampbell
Nov 16, 2011, 2:27pm Top

>33 timspalding:: In other words, Tim, you think (and I tend to agree with you) that we might have entered angels dancing on a pin territory here.

36Arctic-Stranger
Nov 16, 2011, 2:42pm Top

John Howard Yoder did a great piece on why the "What if" questions are a really bad way of doing ethics. He used the idea of pacifism (he is a Mennonite theologian) and poses the question, If an intruder broke into your house to rape your wife, would you shot him? Here is a paraphrase.

Do I have a gun?

Yes, you have a gun.

Do I know how to USE a gun?

Yes, you know how to use a gun.

Is the attacker armed, and will he kill my wife if I aim my gun at him?

No, he is not armed.

Am I a good shot? Would I shoot my wife instead of him?

Yes you are a good shot.

Do I have a clear shot?

Yes, you have a clear shot.

And so on and so forth.

As it ends up, Yoder does not own a gun, he does not know how to use a gun, and the one time he did some shooting on a target range, they took the gun away from him.

In other words, you have to assume so much to make the argument work, that it is no longer worthwhile.

Going back to the poisoned wine, is the wine already consecrated? (That would pose an interesting dilemma, but never mind that.) Can the wine be switched out without any one knowing? And so forth.

I got into this with a person who told me about a girl who got pregnant at sixteen, and then asked, "Would you force her to have this baby?"

My reply was, "No, I would not. But what happened to her?"

I was told she had the abortion, and had a pretty troubled life. She became an alcoholic, got married several times, but by thirty had pretty much cleaned her life up, and was doing ok.

"Fine, I said, you gave me a 'What if.' How about this? What if she had decided to have the baby. And what if that was the first time she really took responsibility for her decisions? What if, instead of wondering aimlessly, and screwing up her life for fifteen or so years, she settled down, and focused on being a good mother, raising her baby, and doing what was best for her and the child?

(I actually know someone who did this. Later she told that her baby saved her life.)

There is no way to answer that question. The original girl in question may have been a lousy mom. But we don't know that.

Anyway, every time I hear a "What if..." scenario, I cringe.

37timspalding
Nov 16, 2011, 2:43pm Top

>33 timspalding:

No, more like "let's cut the bullshit and remember what this is all about!" territory :)

>34 jburlinson:

Sort of reminds me of the scene in American Psycho (the movie, I never read the book) where the killer starts putting plastic on the rug around the guy he's about to stab.

38timspalding
Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 2:52pm Top

>36 Arctic-Stranger:

I think that objection is worth considering. It also comes up in the course of tortured ethics examples in analytical philosophy--the "two train-track" scenarios. For example, train is heading down a track. Tied to the track are two babies. There's a lever you can pull and it will force the train onto another track, on which is tied just one baby.

But I'm not convinced. Of course what any of us would actually do in such a situation is almost beyond the point—neither our brains or our moral senses are made to function perfectly in situations of high stress, and we can all understand someone who makes a wrong moral choice in such a situation. But "what ifs" can also clarify what's really going on in morality--which holds out the possibility of making us more moral. In the train-track case, for example, we have to consider whether morality is about result or who caused the result, whether numbers matters, when we fail to make moral choices out of a fear of "clean hands," etc.

39Arctic-Stranger
Nov 16, 2011, 3:02pm Top

I like the train track question, because it is so utterly ridiculous. Who the hell has EVER had to make that decision?

And if you use actual situations, they are often so complicated, that any answer will depend on the circumstances and the people involved.

40timspalding
Nov 16, 2011, 3:37pm Top

> Who the hell has EVER had to make that decision?

All the time we make decisions about participating in an evil action for a greater good, about whether ethics is about the result or the steps taken, etc. Such examples extract out those questions from the noise.

>And if you use actual situations, they are often so complicated, that any answer will depend on the circumstances and the people involved.

No, it will also depend upon the principles of ethics. But if you never abstract out the principles and think them through you'll just implement whatever warmed over version of ethics you've picked up from somewhere and then add complicating factors. The result is going to be complexity on top of vagueness, and will provide lots of opportunities to excuse wrong moral choices.

41Arctic-Stranger
Nov 16, 2011, 3:48pm Top

I think there is a big difference between trying to decide whether to divorce an alcoholic for the sake of the kids, and a train rushing to kill one or two babies. I do agree that we can learn from case studies, but not the more ridiculous ones.

So I get down what I would do in the baby case, but then I have to sit with a husband who has to decide whether to take his son off of life support, while his wife is crying to keep him alive no matter what (a real life situation I was involved with at one time).

And yes, principles are important, I would not disagree with that, but in three years of hospital chaplaincy, I never saw a simple case where principles alone would give "the right answer." And in almost twenty years of doing marriage counseling and other counseling as a pastor, the same holds true.

Stan Hauerwas, my Ethics prof at Duke said that getting a Ph.D in Ethics from Yale basically taught him that he had to have three answers for every dilemma, but he didnt need to have personal ethical principles. (Something like that. It was years ago.) But teaching at Notre Dame taught him to deal with specificity, mostly through dealing with priests who heard confessions.

42lilithcat
Nov 16, 2011, 3:51pm Top

I never saw a simple case where principles alone would give "the right answer."

But don't principles assist in finding the "right answer"?

43Arctic-Stranger
Nov 16, 2011, 5:12pm Top

Principles can assist, but the truth of real life situations is that there rarely is a "right answer."

Think about this; let's assume that divorce should be the last tool in the bag for dealing with marital discord.

Now think about how many people you know who are divorced, especially if you know a lot about their situation. In how many of these cases is there a clear cut "right" solution? In how many of the cases can you definitely say that they used the last tool in the "right" way?

44jburlinson
Nov 16, 2011, 5:27pm Top

> 43. In how many of the cases can you definitely say that they used the last tool in the "right" way?

It might be morally wrong of me to make any kind of definite judgment on such a thing, no matter how much I might know about the situation.

45quicksiva
Edited: Nov 27, 2011, 11:17am Top

When discussing the Canon, two paragraphs from H.P. Blavatsky* deserve consideration:
WE must not forget that the Christian Church owes its present canonical Gospels, and hence its whole religious dogmatism, to the Sortes Sanctorum. Unable to agree as to which were the most divinely-inspired of the numerous gospels extant in its time, the mysterious Council of Nicea concluded to leave the decision of the puzzling question to miraculous intervention. This Nicean Council may well be called mysterious. There was a mystery, first, in the mystical number of its 318 bishops, on which Barnabas (viii. 11, 12, 13) lays such a stress; added to this, there is no agreement among ancient writers as to the time and place of its assembly, nor even as to the bishop who presided. Notwithstanding the grandiloquent eulogium of Constantine,* Sabinus, the Bishop of Heraclea, affirms that "except Constantine, the emperor, and Eusebius Pamphilus, these bishops were a set of illiterate, simple creatures, that understood nothing"; which is equivalent to saying that they were a set of fools. Such was apparently the opinion entertained of them by Pappus, who tells us of the bit of magic resorted to to decide which were the true gospels. In his Synodicon to that Council Pappus says, having "promiscuously put all the books that were referred to the Council for determination under a communion-table in a church, they (the bishops) besought the Lord that the inspired writings might get upon the table, while the spurious ones remained underneath, and it happened accordingly." But we are not told who kept the keys of the council chamber over night!

On the authority of ecclesiastical eye-witnesses, therefore, we are at liberty to say that the Christian world owes its "Word of God" to a method of divination, for resorting to which the Church subsequently condemned unfortunate victims as conjurers, enchanters, magicians, witches, and vaticinators, and burnt them by thousands! In treating of this truly divine phenomenon of the self-sorting manuscripts, the Fathers of the Church say that God himself presides over the Sortes. As we have shown elsewhere, Augustine confesses that he himself used this sort of divination. But opinions, like revealed religions, are liable to change. That which for nearly fifteen hundred years was imposed on Christendom as a book, of which every word was written under the direct supervision of the Holy Ghost; of which not a syllable, nor a comma could be changed without sacrilege, is now being retranslated, revised, corrected, and clipped of whole verses, in some cases of entire chapters. And yet, as soon as the new edition is out, its doctors would have us accept it as a new "Revelation" of the nineteenth century, with the alternative of being held as an infidel. Thus, we see that, no more within than without its precincts, is the infallible Church to be trusted more than would be reasonably convenient. The forefathers of our modern divines found authority for the Sortes in the verse where it is said: "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord";* and now, their direct heirs hold that "the whole disposing thereof is of the Devil." Perhaps, they are unconsciously beginning to endorse the doctrine of the Syrian Bardesanes, that the actions of God, as well as of man, are subject to necessity?

*Please leave the ad hominem at home.

46timspalding
Jan 12, 2012, 7:42pm Top

The Supreme Court has ruled 9-0 in favor of the "ministerial exemption"
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/us/supreme-court-recognizes-religious-exceptio...

The administration had told the justices that their analysis of Ms. Perich’s case should be essentially the same whether she had been employed by a church, a labor union, a social club or any other group with free-association rights under the First Amendment. That position received withering criticism when the case was argued in October, and it was soundly rejected in Wednesday’s decision.

“That result is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "We cannot accept the remarkable view that the religion clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers."


I think the whole notion of the Obama administration persecuting religions is a lot of hot air, but they just argued a case against most major religious groups, on an issue of free expression, and lost to a unanimous Supreme Court. Yipes.

47quicksiva
Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 7:41am Top

>46 timspalding:

A number of professional Christians had better stop trying to sound so Liberal now.

Those folk who works for religious institutions have just lost all their job security. People can sometimes be so hell-bent on harming others that they screw themselves.

Could the janitor who teaches Sunday School be fired because of the books on her LibraryThing shelves? Or for filing a sexual harassment suit against her boss?

Professional Believers had better start asking for real contracts like the Unitarians.
Otherwise get ready for the poor house if you ever get ill. The bottom line is that this woman was fired from her teaching job because she was too sick to work. The public was led to believe that the Administration wanted to force the RCC to accept women priests. And it worked. In their battle against birth control, Conservatives put six Catholics on the Bench. How can this not affect the decisions of the Court?
I guess this is another example of Christian Charity at work.

In the long run, this ruling harms "Joe Six-Pack" and his wife more than it hurts President Obama now.

On a lighter note , does this mean that my coven can fire its head priestess if she doesn't completely dis-robe according to most ancient rituals ;)

48cjbanning
Jan 13, 2012, 7:52am Top

I do find the broadness of that ministerial exception rather chilling. Definitely don't agree with the Justices on this one.

49timspalding
Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 1:35pm Top

>48 cjbanning:

I think you're quite mistaken. There was no "broadness." Kagan and Alito issued a concurring opinion in which they sought to define what the ministerial exception might cover. The majority opinion, however, studiously and explicitly avoided that. They merely cited a bunch of facts that point in that direction--that she had to take theology courses (eight courses, which took her six years) to be a "called" teacher, that she had to be "called" by her congregation by a vote of the congregation, that she taught theology four times a week, lead classroom prayers three times and preach twice per year from the pulpit to the whole school. That's not the Pope, but it's pretty serious for a Protestant denomination. Lots of Cardinals do less explicitly "religious" work than that!

Or for filing a sexual harassment suit against her boss?

The issue is actually different, and was not fully answered by the court, as the full opinion explains in some detail. It appears that the church can, perhaps, fire someone for claiming sexual harassment, but they are still criminally liable for it. They can pick their ministers. They can't escape criminal prosecution.

The public was led to believe that the Administration wanted to force the RCC to accept women priests.

The public didn't decide the case. Nine justices did.

In their battle against birth control, Conservatives put six Catholics on the Bench.

And all six, a number of whom are lapsed, as well as three Jews agreed on this ruling. What Conservative plot put Sotomayor, Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan in office anyway?

50cjbanning
Jan 13, 2012, 1:45pm Top

49: "The issue is actually different, and was not fully answered by the court, as the full opinion explains in some detail. It appears that the church can, perhaps, fire someone for claiming sexual harassment, but they are still criminally liable for it. They can pick their ministers. They can't escape criminal prosecution."

That's still a pretty chilling effect.

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