Sunday, September 29, 2002

The No-Kneeling Rule

I know I am late to the party in commenting on this, but some recent posts on a few blogs and an NCR article sparked some thoughts on the subject of the directive that kneeling is not the licit posture for receiving communion in the United States.

For the life of me, I don't understand how this rule ever came up as topic of consideration. Maybe it's a big problem at parishes around the University of Steubenville, but in most parts of the United States standing is already the norm. I've attended mass regularly at some 8 to 10 parishes during my life. I can count on one hand the number of people that regularly kneel to receive communion -- setting aside churches where altar rails are still in full use. I suspect most people have had the same experience. I would venture a guess that less than 5% (maybe even 1-2%) of Catholics regularly kneel to receive the Eucharist.

Given that, why create a law on the subject? One of the first principles most lawyers learn is that not every issue needs a law addressing it. In fact, very unique, factual cases often lead to the worst legal rules precisely because they are unique cases that don't have a general application. To me, that is part of the problem here. Assuming that those who kneel are disrupting the orderly distribution of communion, is it that widespread that a law was needed rather than pastoral attention?

Similarly, the other reasons offered for the rule seem equally weak. For example, the need for uniformity to show unity. Unity is not one of those things that can be evaluated in isolation. That we now all stand to receive the Eucharist makes up for the fact that those in attendance widely differ in their adherence to the Church's teaching on abortion, homosexuality, and even the Real Presence? Besides, as I said from my own experience, Catholics in the United States nearly universally stand. Perfect uniformity is never going to be achieved. So this seems like a straw man of an argument to me. Moreso, it seem to deny an alternative view of all of those expressions of piety people use today. Few would argue with the fact that it is the Eucharist, not the standing, that is the unifying element. So why not recognize all the different forms of pious expression (kneeling, bowing, genuflecting, sign of the cross) for what they are -- the diversity of our Catholic Faith testifying through their unique and varying forms to our central unifying belief: the Real Presence of Christ. That seems like the better (and correct) way to view things.

Second, we hear about the delays caused by kneeling or genuflecting. Again, I haven't seen it. But even if I accept it, isn't this really a pastoral matter? Besides, whenever I hear of reasons based on time I have to ask whose stopwatch are we using to judge what qualifies as a mass of proper length. I know many U.S. Catholics think so, but, no, God didn't have an 11th commandment saying: "Thou shall celebrate Mass in 55 minutes or less, or you shall offend the Lord your God." Seriously, what are we talking about here: an extra couple of minutes at most?

Clearly, I think this is a silly, unnecessary rule. That said, I don't comprehend why anyone aware of the rule would conciously choose to kneel in defiance of the rule. If you don't know about the rule or forget, fine. But why set the priest up for a confrontation? It strikes me that some feel a greater need in scoring a point for kneeling than actually receiving the Lord! And, if told to stand, why would one refuse? It's not like you couldn't say something afterwards. Receiving the Lord would be far more important to me than some small "victory" for traditional piety. I know, many will cite the statement that went along with the new rule that the faithful who still choose to kneel are not to be refused communion. I agree that a priest shouldn't. But there is something to be said against overt disobedience even if motivated by piety.

I also think that that clarification is part of the problem and another example of bad law-making. It sets up a conflict within the rule itself, allowing both the priest and parishioner to believe that they are in the right -- kneeling is not licit vs. don't refuse communion to those who kneel. It's a sign that the rule shouldn't have been adopted in the first place and that a pastoral approach is how the Bishops should have addressed this "problem".

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Lawyers Making Sense?!

A lot of sites around St. Blog's are discussing Dreher's recent NRO article on libel/defamation suits. Throughout the flurry of activity in the comment boxes on these sites, you will find a number of comments from a handful of us lawyers. And they all strike a similar theme: (1) libel/defamation cases are difficult to prove, especially where the claimed damage is damage to reputation; and (2) they rarely actually correct the harm that the plaintiff believes he suffered.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Have To Love Blogger

Blogger ate my last post. But it did so in a fashion that prevents me from editing it by screwing up the edit hyperlink. I will try and fix it, but knowing Blogger, that may take some time.

More On The Fathers

Fellow blogger Locdog (see I linked you) has posted many comments below and on his own blog about my comments relating to the Church Fathers' view of baptism and my questions as to why Glen rejects their understanding of baptism (which he recognizes as being salvific). Now, I was tempted to not make a formal post in response to Locdog's arguments. Mostly, because my intuition suggests that Locdog just enjoys an argument and isn't that interested in clarifications or dialogue. However, his recent post in the comments box here at Integrity and at Nota Bene made me reconsider. In that comment, Locdog points out some difficulties in Hermas' view of the Trinity. (I'm setting aside for the moment his quote from Justin Martyr as he doesn't bother to take the Trinitarian quote that Sean cites into the mix.) His post gave me some insight into what Glen might have been talking about in his use of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity as an explanation for why he has no issue rejecting the Church Fathers' position on baptism. (We'll get to the flaws in the analogy in a moment.)

Now, I am neither a patristic scholar nor a church historian. So I am somewhat unequipped to address Locdog's comments about Hermas. I suppose it was good luck on his part that I chose to quote from Hermas as one of the Fathers supporting a salvific view of baptism. If Hermas was so wrong on the Trinity, why take his word on baptim, or so the argument would go.

Of course, there is a limit to how far to take that argument. As I told Locdog, in no way am I presenting each Father as infallible. Also, each Father didn't address all aspects of doctrine. They didn't always speak explicitly about things that weren't in dispute (yet). The reason for presenting the Fathers stemmed from the fact that Glen and I had differing views on interpreting John 3:5. I presented the Fathers as an example that the early Church thought similarly to the Catholic Church of today when it came to interpreting John 3:5 and whether baptism was just a symbol.

Locdog doesn't give you much background on Hermas. If you would like some, check out this link. One of the things Locdog doesn't tell you is that the book is of the apocalyptic and visionary genre. Accordingly, it is one that needs some care to interpret. You can see this in part from the very passage that Locdog quotes suggesting that Hermas equates Christ and the Holy Spirit. He selectively leaves off the start of that passage which would tell you that the the person saying "I wish to explain to you..." isn't Hermas but the "angel of repentance" which the text tells us was speaking to Hermas. Second, the work is not primarily a doctrinal work but an ethical one, especially focused on repentance and penance. Given that and the genre of the writing, most scholars are a little more forgiving when addressing Hermas. Other passages of Hermas suggest he does see the Father and the Son as two persons. Nevertheless, I will readily agree that The Shepherd contains a view of the Holy Spirit which is muddy at best. And, as Locdog, I am sure would point out, there were others of that time who struggled to understand the Holy Spirit. The question wasn't settled until the defining of the doctrine of the Trinity at the later council.

That, however, is the key point: a council was called that defined Christian doctrine on the point, namely, the Trinity. For the development of the Trinity doctrine to be an analogy for development of the doctrine of baptism, it would seem then that a council would have been in order. Especially given that many of the Fathers teaching a salvific baptism were heads of local churches, not mere theologians separated from the common Christian faithful. A council would have been appropriate to correct the wrong and establish that baptism is merely an external sign. However, I'm not aware of any such council. So the analogy appears to be inapt.

Certainly, a demonstration that Hermas may have been wrong on the doctrine of Trinity is support for your idea that the Fathers were wrong on the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus may be wrong on baptism. However, I think it is important to give Hermas his due. People interested in some posted by JACK @ 7:39 PM  0 comments

Sunday, September 08, 2002

More On Baptism

Glen Davis has posted a reply to the recent posts by Sean and me regarding the meaning of baptism. I need to take some time to digest it, but some quick thoughts.

Glen starts with scripture and posits that the Bible states that salvation stems from placing one's faith in Jesus. He cites several passages of scripture to support this. Part of the difficulty, I think, is that Glen seems to view the matter as an "either/or" situation. If we speak of a baptism as something more than just a symbol, then we must somehow be discounting or ignoring the importance of faith. I'm not sure if that is true.

Taking his point of view for the moment, the scriptures I cited merely indicate that baptism is important, but not necessarily anything more than a symbol. It certainly is one possible read of the passages. However, many of the references to belief come within the context of water baptism. Take some of the scriptures that Glen cites: John 3:16-18 is set in between Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus and baptizing people in Judea; Acts 16:31 is immediately followed by the baptism of the jailer and his household (Acts 16:33); and Galations 3:27 speaks of those who were baptized as being those who put on Christ. So, although I think Glen's view of these passages is a reasonable one, I'm not sure if I am convinced that it is the only one. And there are more explicit references to baptism than the ones I cited. Take 1 Peter 3:20-22, where Peter refers to Noah being saved by the waters of the flood, such waters being a symbol of the baptism that saves the believers.

I think part of the reason why Glen and I have different reads of what these scriptures mean may be from different concepts of faith. I suspect that Glen focuses far more on an explicit, intellectual assent by a person. I need to give some thought to a response on this point. I will try and do that later this week if I have a chance before flying to NJ to meet my goddaughter.

However, what I find of more interest is Glen's response to my presentation of the views of some of the early Church fathers. In his reply, Glen agrees that the Fathers saw baptism as something more than a symbol. But, according to Glen, they were just wrong.

I find that a touch perplexing without explanation. Let me be clear. I do not mean to suggest that each Father was infallible. But I do wonder why Glen suggests that we are to reject the collective wisdom of the Fathers on this subject. After all, we are talking about many individuals who learned the faith from the Apostles themselves or the first generation of Christians to follow them. Without further reason, I am more likely to think the Fathers correct than a modern group with a position contrary to theirs. Yes, the Church's understanding of the faith deepens over time. But what Glen suggests is more than that; it suggests that the Church may change course altogether. To go from belief that baptism is a sacrament to belief that it is only a symbol is hard to describe as a "development". Given that, one must wonder what else the Church might change its mind on in the future. If I may be so bold, I think Glen recognizes this, which is why he finishes with the caveat that there may have been early Church theologians with views on baptism more agreeable to his own.

Update: A reader suggested in the comments box that I unfairly presented Glen's position on the Church Fathers when I said that he believed "they were just wrong." A fair point. Let me make clear that it wasn't an intentional slight. Glen does present the brief sketch of an analogy drawn from the doctrine of the Trinity. As I replied to the reader in the comments box, I don't find that analogy to be on point. Check out Nota Bene for more on that. So I am happy to make this clarification as I didn't intend to suggest that Glen had not presented such an analogy. The problems that result in trying to post a quick response late at night. However, I do think my questions are still relevant. And, contrary to locdog's suggestion, I ask them as an effort to dive further into the issue and understand how Glen's view plays out, not merely as a debater's retort.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

I Will Make You A Deal

Clearly, Nihil Obstat must have posted about Integrity again because my site statistics have a few too many referral references from N.O's blog for that not to be the case. Oh, I'm sure the post makes sure to insult me with some overblown remark instead of merely pointing out some typos. Hey, Nihil, I'll make you a deal. I don't have time to proof-read this blog so closely, but you clearly do. Send me an email with the appropriate information and I will give you full permissions to Integrity so you can correct, and not just call attention to, my typos all you want. I only ask that you limit your changes to Integrity just to that.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The Fathers And John 3:5

Sean Gallagher and I have been having an interesting conversation with Glen Davis about the differences in the Catholic and pentecostal understandings of baptism and, in particular, John 3:5.

Recently, Sean added a reflection on John's use of "water" in his Gospel. I thought that I would add a post to our discussion on how some of the early church Fathers interpreted the reference to being "born of water and spirit" and what importance they put in water baptism. Unlike Sean, I'm not a historian, but I play one on TV.

Hermas-- who tradition tells us lived around 140 A.D. and was the brother of Pope St. Pius I -- speaks in The Shepherd of baptism as a regeneration of life and water plays a key role in that:

"'They had need,' [the shepherd] said, 'to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For,' he said, 'before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead, and come out of it alive.'"
St. Cyril of Jerusalem -- who tradition tells us lived between 315-386 A.D. and wrote his Catechetical Lectures around 350 A.D. -- speaks at length to water and spirit being part of one baptism:
"Since man is of a twofold nature, composed of body and soul, the purification also is twofold: the corporeal for the corporeal and the incorporeal for the incorporeal. The water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul. Thus, having our heart sprinkled by the Spirit and our body washed with pure water, we may draw near to God. When you go down into the water, then, regard not simply the water, but look for salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit. For without both you cannot attain to perfection. It is not I who say this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter. And He says, 'Unless a man be born again' -- and He adds the words 'of water and of the Spirit, -- he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' He that is baptized with water, but is not found worthy of the Spirit, does not receive the grace in perfection. Nor, if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but does not receive the seal by means of the water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine; for it is Jesus who has declared it."
St. Basil the Great -- one of the great Eastern fathers who lived between 330-379 A.D. --, in his work The Holy Spirit around 375 A.D., directly connected the phrase "born again of water and spirit" with water baptism:
"This then is what it meas to be born again of water and Spirit: just as our dying is effected in the water, our living is wrought through the Spirit. In three immersions and in equal number of invocations the great mystery of baptism is completed in such a way that the type of death may be shown figuratively, and that by the handing on of divine knowledge the sould of the baptized may be illuminated. If, therefore, there is any grace in the water, it is not from the nature of water but from the Spirit's presence there."
Other Fathers give us additional background on the importance of water. Tertullian -- who tradition tells us wrote his treatise on Baptism around 200-206 A.D. -- paints a picture of water resting at the core of the battle of good versus evil:
"A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous. Vipers and asps, as is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. But we, little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding permanently in the water."
Similarly, he draws on all of history and tells us:
"The Spirit who in the beginning hovered over the waters would continue to linger as an influence upon the waters. ... All waters, therefore, by reason of the original sign at their beginning, are suitable, after God has been invoked, for the sacrament of sanctification. The Spirit immediately comes from heaven upon the waters, and rests upon them, making them holy of Himself; and having been thus sanctified they absorb at the same time the power of sanctifying. Even so, there is a similitude well-adapted to the simple act: that since we are defiled by sins, as if by dirt, we are washed in water."
These quotations can be found in William Jurgens collection The Faith of the Early Fathers.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Best Legal Drama On Television

Hands down, it is The Guardian. All of you Law And Order devotees, catch your breath. I love that show, but come on: it's been on for eons and, as enjoyable as it is, it is running dry. Besides, as brilliant as it can be, it's not a pure legal drama. Ah, The Order part. So setting that to the side, The Guardian is wonderful. Simon Baker's understated performance is thoroughly enjoyable and a relief from The Practice style of lawyer. And, finally, evidence that there is a transactional side to the law and that some lawyers really don't spend all their time in court! (Maybe my relatives will start to believe me when I tell them that I negotiate deals, not represent people seeking divorces.) Now if only I can convince someone good over at Television Without Pity to do episode recaps for the show.

Tonight's episode had an interesting segment. The CEO of a company hired Nick Fallin's father's firm to help his company acquire a food products company. The CEO tells Nick that he wants to get the company at a cheap price, so Nick negotiates a deal where they buy the company excluding assets not involved in the business operation of the company, which included a jet. Exclude the assets, drop the price. Well, it turns out that the CEO really wanted that plane because he couldn't have bought one himself and the company wouldn't buy one for him to use. But if one was acquired as a by-product of the acquisition... Nick tries to get the plane back in the deal and negotiates a deal to pay a real estate developer three-hundred thousand dollars to back out of a purchase of the plane. (The company sold the plane to him after it was excluded from the asset sale.) The CEO screams at Nick, because the board of his company isn't going to approve such a payment that clearly is to get the plane. Well, someone else in the firm negotiates another deal for the client that gets him another food company that has a plane.

The episode contains hints of the problems, but mainly leads a viewer to think Nick screwed up because he wasn't paying attention to what the client really wanted. Actually, he probably was. See, the client is the company not the CEO. As much as the CEO is the practical client from a day-to-day interaction point of view, there is always the potential that the CEO's interests are not in line with the interests of the company. The CEO is not the client, but an employee of the client. (Set aside a CEO with controlling or sole equity interests for now.) It's difficult, but there could be a situation where one must go above the CEO to the board of the company to get approval for an action or advise them against an action because of the conflicting interest of the CEO. Naturally, a difficult balancing act for the corporate lawyer whose relationship and flow of business stems from the CEO, not the company. Nevertheless, that's the situation. Not entirely clear what the answer is in our fictional example, but clearly the CEO's interest in the plane is personal and not being made for the benefit of the company. Still, the company may have use for a plane (or may see the rest of the deal outweighs its cost) and they would own it. So they might still approve it even if they aren't in cahoots with the CEO's desire to have a perk.

And to think I wanted to practice criminal law.

Tales Of A Bachelor And The Supermarket

Random thoughts from my trip to the Jewel:

  • There is no such thing as "fresh" fruit and vegetables for a single person. Or at least they lose that state between the time you put them in the fridge and when you take them out to use them.

  • More men would wash their hair more often if manufacturers would sell shampoo in a bottle that a man could put in his bathroom and not be embarrassed someone might see it.

  • A trip down the frozen foods aisle reminded me of my fabulous recipe for lasagna. Here's the secret element. Transfer the lasagna from the manufacturer's tin to your own casserole dish before you cook it, not after. Trust me, it doesn't work the other way around.

  • No guilt in buying the two-for-one gourmet half-pints of ice cream. As any avid watcher of Good Eats knows, it stays fresher that way. (Less exposure to air -> less melting -> less ice crystals capturing funky freezer smells.) Keep repeating that phrase as you near the bottom of the container moments after opening it. It will get you through.

  • Joining The Conversation

    With the kind indulgence of both Sean Gallagher and Glen Davis, I have joined their dialogue. For those not following it, Sean and Glen have started a dialogue reflecting on the essentials of Christianity from both a Catholic and pentecostal perspective. Their current thread is focusing on who is a Christian, with the current subtopic being baptism. For the full background on the topic, please take a look at these three posts of Sean's over at Nota Bene and these three posts of Glen at his blog. (Naturally, some overlap between these posts.) I have entered the conversation on this subtopic of baptism, attempting to provide a couple of reflections spelling out some of the Catholic understanding of baptism and Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:5.

    First, let me give well-deserved credit to Sean and Glen for beginning this dialogue. I think it is one of the best things I have read in St. Blog's for some time now. Also, note that it is a dialogue, not a debate. It's a conversation between two (now three) Christians hoping to understand better what the other believes and wanting to help the other understand better what one believes. I have always felt that this type of dialogue is wonderful. Having been involved in evangelical groups during my college and law school days, I have had a chance to participate in some before. I think, at times, Christians worry about engaging in dialogue such as this because they know differences and disagreements will surface. That's a shame. If done with the respect and honesty that Sean and Glen have shown, I think the end result is two Christians more aware of what they share and a deeper love for one another as brothers in Christ, despite the doctrinal differences. I'm also thankful to participate given my own experiences in Chi Alpha, the campus ministry of which Glen is a part. Call me a bit nostalgic for those college days. I have a great respect for Chi Alpha and the work they do, and treasure the role they played in my own deepening conversion during college.

    Now I don't intend to make myself a nuisance in this dialogue. Too many cooks could make it cumbersome. Instead, I will add thoughts or questions where I have some relevant ones and try to respond to questions raised by Glen. Otherwise, I plan to play second fiddle to Sean. And I will be posting any future comments of mine here at Integrity.