Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hendo, papal infallibility, sneering secularists, and a host of theological cards ...

(Above: British PM William Gladstone taking a swing at the tree of papal infallibility, watched by Mr. Punch, per a cartoon in The Punch).

The pond was quite tickled by the insight, quite astonished, and all the more so that it came from Gerard Henderson.

When it comes to comment, silence is preferable to defensive paranoia.

Here it is in its original context, in Papal pundits should repent of unforgivable ignorance, as Hendo finishes off in the usual Hendo way with the ABC, that bastion of liberal cardigan-wearers (because you know, it's so much more sensible to be a conservative cilice-wearing Catholic or a mad Mullah):

On 702 ABC Sydney, Linda Mottram suggested the Catholic Church would be a better place if it embraced a liberal agenda. She also accused Benedict XVI of being ''divisive'' because, as Pope, he upheld traditional teaching. This overlooks the fact that he is the Bishop of Rome, not the head of the Rationalist Society. Moreover, members of the Anglican, Jewish and Orthodox faiths do not regard Benedict XVI as being divisive. Quite the contrary. When it comes to comment, silence is preferable to ignorance.

Oh wait, the pond got the quote quite wrong.

It's actually when it comes to comment, silence is preferable to ignorance, and everybody should shut the fuck up, because I'm the only one who knows anything and everything about everything under the sun, and everyone else should just listen in silent awe, while I yabber on endlessly in an opinionated way, you ignorant mob of swine herders and cackling geese, and no, I'm not up myself, I'm just cosmically wonderful.

Never mind that it would only take a second to find Anglicans who regard Benedict XVI as having been divisive, especially when he made the ploy, the feint, of inviting Anglicans back into the fold. Oh there were a bunch of angry Anglicans roaming about saying "sola scriptura", and dozens of stories along the lines of More Anglicans leave Church of England for Rome.

There was even an Australian angle, as the Catholics did their white-anting down under, as you can read in Pope establishes Australian ordinariate for former Anglicans.

As for Jews, there was a similar fuss when the Pope brought back into the fold bishops from the rebellious Society of St. Pius X, one of whom was Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier. It got so hot in the kitchen that the Vatican had to declare Williamson would have to make an absolutely unequivocal statement distancing himself from his previous position on the Shoah if he wanted to make it back into the fold.

And things didn't proceed too smoothly with the Islamics, what with the Pope reverting to a 1391 text expressing the views of Byzantine emperor Manuel 11 Paleologus:

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. (wiki it here)

Now the pond doesn't much mind or care as the fundamentalists bicker amongst themselves, but can such matters all be swept under the carpet with a sniff of Hendo's nose and "quite the contrary"?

Quite the contrary, and it's possible to sniff Mark Latham circling with a view to yet another easy kill.

What's even more disarming is yet another convincing example of Henderson's complete lack of humour.

This came when he decided to tackle Peter FitzSimons on the matter of papal amiability.

Now FitzSimons is an amiable boofhead of the rugger bugger kind, who fancies himself as a comedian when he usually comes across as a twit. Here was his criminal crime:

Meanwhile, Fitzphile Frank Hewins poses an interesting question: ''When a man is elected pope, according to Catholics, he becomes infallible, so what happens when he resigns? Does he lose his infallibility? Do we have two people who are infallible? What if they disagree on something? Whose infallibility is strongest?'' And how many angels are there on the head of a pin, finally? Discuss.

It's a joke, and just below it is a shaggy crow story, about dead crows on the road, with an even more appalling punchline:

''When crows eat roadkill, they always set up a lookout crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger. But while the lookout crow could warn the other crows by saying 'Cah', he had not yet learnt to call out 'Truck!'''  (here)

Ye ancient cats and dogs, Fitzy calls it the joke of the week, but you couldn't even sell that one to Australasian Post.

So how does Henderson react? Why he draws himself up to his full height of pompous Polonius prattling to deliver a death blow to Fitzy and his reader:

The fact is that there can only be one Pope and he only claims infallibility on rare occasions - the last such occurrence took place in 1950.

Yep, that's Hendo's knockdown sensa huma for you.

The fact is that at times there have been several Popes claiming the throne, and the claim of any kind of infallibility, directly delivered by god to pope is a laughable absurdity, quaintly claimed in desperate theological times in the 1869 Vatican council.

There's more than enough jibber jabber on the subject at the Catholic Encyclopaedia, where you find out why Hendo routinely sounds like a pompous twit who considers himself inerrant when compared to the swill in the rest of the media:

It is only in connection with doctrinal authority as such that, practically speaking, this question of infallibility arises; that is to say, when we speak of the Church's infallibility we mean, at least primarily and principally, what is sometimes called active as distinguished from passive infallibility. We mean in other words that the Church is infallible in her objective definitive teaching regarding faith and morals, not that believers are infallible in their subjective interpretation of her teaching. (here)

And so on and so forth. The point is that it's jabberwocky, yet there's  poor old Hendo with his vorpal blade snicker-snacking and galumphing at the sneering secularists.

Oh there's a whole nest of these vipers - there's Geoffrey Robertson (on the ABC), FitzSimons (on the ABC's The Drum), Julian Morrow, Peter van Onselen, and Janine Perrett all outraging and shocking Hendo.

No one had any idea what they were talking about.

Which makes it hard when really you have to ask what on earth Hendo is talking about:

Commentators on Catholicism should understand that, according to Catholic teaching, the Pope is affected by the fall and, consequently, is a potential sinner. He's not divine. 

The fall?

Ah sinners, and mocking recalcitrant sneering ABC secularists, that's The Fall. Take it away Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam. (there's lots more jibber jabber here)

Yep, it seems Hendo is a true believer in the story of Adam, and of the fall into original sin, and who knows, might even believe in a young earth, and a garden of eden somewhere back around 4004 BC.

Of course these days, the church tries to skirt around the old testament and the story of Adam and the arrival of original sin - it's "a story" that the people of the god of the old testament (a polite way of saying dumb Jews) couldn't grasp the ultimate meaning of,  and it needs a little finessing:

The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

And there's a lot more jibber jabber about the fall of the angels and the rise of Satan in the Catholic catechism, as you can read here if you've got nothing meaningful to do with your life.

The point of course is that it's supremely hard not to sneer at the notion of Adam and Eve being dug out of the ground yet again, and by Hendo of all people.

He talks about people talking complete nonsense, yet he doesn't seem to mind if he strays into complete nonsense himself.

It's entirely understandable that many in the media are ignorant of the finer points of Catholic theology. A heck of a lot of Catholics are too, hence the keen desire amongst Catholics to use condoms and other forms of contraception, rather than Vatican roulette.

Heck, even Hendo doesn't have a clue. He dates the first Vatican council to 1870, when the Catholic Encyclopaedia dates the opening of the council to 8th December 1869 (actually proceedings got under way 2nd December 1869, and then the head honcho kicked the bucket and things staggered on through most of 1870, but since we're dealing with pedantry, let's do the pedantic thing. Is there a Mark Latham in the house? More at the Catholic encyclopaedia here).

The point of course is that any claim of human infallibility on any subject is entirely fanciful and silly, and if speaking of invincible ignorance in the media, it wouldn't hurt to look at the invincible ignorance of the Catholic church, which set the idea of papal infallibility in motion. (Which helps explain why having made such a monumental error, the Catholic church has subsequently been reluctant to deploy the conceit).

At heart, what's even more astonishing and painful is the reality that Hendo is a shameless elitist.

Well it's not that astonishing, since he clearly owes his allegiance to the Catholic church.

But his entire piece is about how bumbling ignorant journalists should shut the fuck up, and stop talking about the church. Which might equally apply to him, as he delivers up this sort of nonsense:

As anyone who has an awareness of Christian theology understands, the doctrine of papal infallibility does not mean that the Pope is always right, still less divine.

Catholic = Christian. Let's edit that one right away:

As anyone who has an awareness of Catholic theology understands, the doctrine of papal infallibility does not mean that the Pope is always right, still less divine.

Indeed. It's astonishing how many ways that the Pope and acolytes like Hendo get it wrong.

You see Hendo says that the last time the pope was infallible was in 1950, when he delivered the Munificentissimus Dei.

Yet each time the pope anoints a new saint - and this pope has been a fierce believer in that superstition - he's acting in an infallible way, asserting infallibly that the canonized are in heaven with god. And what of the argument about the Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, issued in 1994, and held to be infallible under the ordinary magisterium?

Faced with all this jibber jabber, it's no wonder that the likes of Fitzy are reduced to jokes about counting the number of angels you can fit on the head of a pin (no, the answer isn't 42, but you could argue for 84 as likely being twice as close).

You see,  anyone can take a view, and anyone should be able to speak, and if they get the finer points of Catholic theology wrong, why in the end they're no worse than Hendo blathering on about a mythical Adam and Eve.

As for William Gladstone, just what did that sneering mocking secularist say in his pamphlet of 1874, back in the day when sneering secularists were pamphleteers?

He described the Catholic Church as "an Asian monarchy: nothing but one giddy height of despotism, and one dead level of religious subservience". He further claimed that the Pope wanted to destroy the rule of law and replace it with arbitrary tyranny, and then to hide these "crimes against liberty beneath a suffocating cloud of incense". (here).

Yep, no wonder Hendo loves it.

The result of all this fuss? The pond is left this week with an image of an intellectual giant, assailed by a gigantic pack of sneering, mocking liberal secularist cards.

Now where can that image have come from?


  1. Christopher Hitchens once said :”My favourite time in the cycles of public life is the time when the Pope is dead and they haven't elected a new one. There's no one in the world who is infallible for those weeks. And you know, I don't miss it.”

    He was wrong when he said “there’s no one in the world who is infallible for those weeks”. He was unacquainted with the existence of Gerard Henderson

  2. LOL is a cliche, but LOL it was. Wicked.


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