Tuesday, 3 April 2018

PRIESTLY "ONTOLOGICAL CHANGE"

BY FATHER RICHARD G MALLOY SJ






Once asked to explain the ontological change theory, Father Malloy responded like this:


No! (LOL).  If I could explain it, it wouldn’t be what it is!  Seriously, “ontological change” is very meaningful in the context of St. Thomas Aquinas’ medieval theological synthesis of Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology, a stunning intellectual achievement for both his time and, to some degree, ours.
But once we move out of the Thomistic formulation of questions and the meaning of words in his system, we can find it more than difficult to explain what he meant then, and what it means for us now.  Terms like “ontological change” and “Transubstantiation” need updating for the 21st century.  Jesuit Bernard Lonergan’s work is a great place to start with that task.  Yet, I fear most will find Lonergan quite deep and difficult.  One Jesuit once said to me, “Mugs! Lonergan?  Life is just too short!”
So, what does the idea of “ontological change” try to express?  The Catechism states that ordination “confers an indelible spiritual character” which “cannot be “repeated or conferred temporarily” (CCC#1583).  “The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently” (CCC#1583).  Ordination is done once and for all as are Baptism and Confirmation.  Holy Orders places one in another position (i.e., order or group) in the community, not a better or more privileged place, but a place from which one is called to spend one’s life exclusively in service of the people of God.
Let me try and get at the deeper and more mysterious meanings of priesthood the idea of “ontological change” aims to reveal.  All of us who have been graced to serve the people of God as priests know there is often much more going on in a pastoral situation than we can understand or for which we can take credit.  Someone comes up after a homily and tells you that your words were just what they needed to hear.  And you realize you don’t think you said what they heard… but, hey the Holy Spirit works in ways wonderful and wacky.
A story may help.  When I was a Jesuit scholastic, in my 11th year of preparing for ordained priesthood (Why do Jesuits study for so many years?  Because we need it!), I was leading a parish youth group in confirmation preparation at St Pat’s on Blue Hill and Dudley Avenues in the Roxbury section of Boston.  The agenda for the night was having the group make a poster with symbols of all the sacraments.  The kids came up with a waterfall for baptism, bread and wine (and pizza and Pepsi) for Eucharist, an ambulance with flashing lights in the form of a cross for the sacrament of the sick, etc.  Lots of fun and ingenuity.  They really got stuck when it came to Holy Orders.  They looked at me, and I said, “Nope.  This is your project.  Put what you think being a priest means.”  Little 13-year-old Egiberto piped up and said, “Draw an ear!”  We all looked at him like he was a little crazy (which he often was in a harmless 13 year old way).  “What do you mean an ear?  Why an Ear?” we all asked.  Egiberto replied, “Because priests listen.”  I’ve never forgotten that moment.  I think God was trying to teach me something that night.  As Sharon Parks-Daloz taught in her pastoral ministry course, “God gave us two ears and one mouth.  We should use these gifts in the proportion given.”
Getting people like me to shut up and listen is quite a change, ontological or whatever you want to call it.  Whatever happens on the day of ordination, I always remember what we were told by a wise, old Jesuit: “If you’re not a priest the day before ordination, you won’t be the day after.”  Ordination recognizes and brings to fruition a process that has been going on for some time in a person’s life.  That growth in listening to God and the people of God, while trying to facilitate conversations between God and people, continues all the days of a priest’s life.


PAT SAYS:

I think that Malloy answers the matter quite well above.

My own father had a good saying:

"If nature play not her part, in vain is labour"

In other words, priests if you haven't got it in you to be a priest no amount of laying on of hands or Chrism oil will ever make you a real priest.

Real priests are born not made.

I think that the ordinary man and woman can recognize real priests a mile away.

I think that they can also recognize non-real priests a mile away. 

The "ontological change" is NOT of Divine Revelation.

It is a philosophical way of trying to talk about Grace and Mystery.

I am not rejecting it out of hand.

But I do think we should look at it again in the context of the 21st century




69 comments:

  1. I couldn't be bothered reading all that.

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  2. Your sentence "Real priests are born, not made" is a very important one
    Real priests have their inborn vocation ready to be awakened in God's good time. It will be a persistent longing to be a priest which cannot be satisfied by anything else.
    There will always be good priests created by God and called by Him when their moment comes. That won't change no matter what the modern secular world has to say about it and about the Church..
    For that, we should be very grateful to Him..
    (Incidentally I think really good teachers are born knowing only teaching would make them feel fulfilled and happy although it's such a difficult and tiring profession I am a lay teacher myself and I know that this is true. I have known I "was" a teacher from early childhood. I just needed to grow up and get the education and the qualifications certificates to allow me to legitimately start to practise..I couldn't wait! . It's the same idea)

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  3. 00.33. I believe you have explained it well. Ideas here are analogies and do not contain the full reality.

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  4. So Pat are you saying you do not choose to be a priest, rather you are born into it?

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    1. Jesus said it:

      "You have not chosen me. I have chosen you".

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    2. So you are a believer in predestination?

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    3. No. I am a believer in an aboriginal call that can be answered or remain unanswered.

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    4. @ Pat - it sounds like you are making two conflicting arguments - that priesthood is a vocation, a calling, but also that priesthood is in some way predetermined, that a priest are born rather than called. What in essence you appear to be saying is that true priests (and I’m assuming you see yourself as the exemplar thereof) are chosen by God but ultimately have no need of formation in any real sense because you already possess the traits and attributes needed to be a priest. This essentially is placing “true priests” (or rather the ones you have decided to designate as “true priests”) above any kind of criticism or recrimination because you are naturally suited and gifted for priesthood and anyone not gifted has no grounds to criticize. At the end of the day, it seems ultimately self-aggrandizing and hollow to say priests are born, as it essentially makes the argument that priests are more gifted, more set apart than others.

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    5. Pat 15.27: What on eartb are you talking about - "aboriginal call" - Priesthood is God's gift and anyone who feels called to embrace it should do so with immense humility and gratitude.

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  5. What is priesthood? Some may explain it in terms of ontology which doesn't mean much to me. Perhaps, priesthood is about facilitating, and leading a community based on the Gospel message of inclusiveness. If ontology has not much meaning neither does the label laity. All believers share in the priesthood of Christ but we most definitely need leaders (priests). We all struggle with our weight and not all priests think they are special or above the people.

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    1. Why do 'we most definitely need leaders (priests)'? Why do you equate leadership ability with Roman Catholic priesthood? What's the evidence for this?

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    2. There has to be some sort of continuity in faith because of the way we are as people. The marks of catholicity refer to scripture the Creed's baptism/Eucharist and Apostolic succession however you interpret it. All animals have group leaders but people have more of a say in how leadership is exercised for better or worse. I believe in ontological change but I don't believe it's to be interpreted like the Divine right of Kings or queens were

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    3. You believe in ontological change? So what is it?

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  6. MournemanMichael4 April 2018 at 09:23

    What a load of codswallop from Malloy! To my mind it's self serving excessivive verbiage and tautology, but in essence, says nothing of any clarity or value.
    The whole self aggrandisement concept of the priesthood's special character brings to my recollection the description by author Bryce Courtenay in his excellant novel set in South Africa in the apartheid era. In it he compares the white south Africans' belief in their superior status to that of the English public school product. Paraphrasing, he writes: "In the first instance, like all white South Africans, they (the English public school product) believed that God had ordained their superiorty as white men." I particularly like this reference to God and ordination as apposite to the blog.
    In the words used earlier by MC "Priestly ontological character is as much a myth as Robin Hood", as Anon @ 10:55 wrote yesterday, "A load of tosh. Get off your high horses and stop thinking of yourselves as something special."

    Yes, indeed some priests are special, and I salute you, not as a matter of course, but when you earn respect and reverence by your actions.
    MMM

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    1. NOYB, spoilt priest Mournful who's now an athiest.

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  7. MMM - 9.23: There is so much written about Priesthoid - theologically, spiritually, ontologically, philosophically - that it is confusing. For those of us who are ordained many yesrs, life's experiences takes you away from these lofty concepts into the real world. I always go back to the gospels and there I find my vision of priesthood - that of the Christ Servant. If any remain faithful to this Way of Life as given by Christ, we need not get caught up in the more ethereal, cossetted notion of priesthood which can be very self serving rather than outward looking in service of others. Yes, I believe in the Sacramental dimension of Priesthood, but I also believe each os us through Baptism shares in the Priesthood of Christ, each gifted and called differently. My belief in the Sacramental nature of Priesthood does not place me above anyone, rather I value my place as equal to all whom I serve, respecting their uniqueness and dignity. As I move on in my life, my understanding changes but I have always tried to remember the One I am suppose to follow. That keeps me firmly on level ground with all whom I encounter.

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    1. MournemanMichael4 April 2018 at 13:26

      From what you write, I think you may well be one those sensibly grounded priests whose service is regrettably overshadowed and demeaned by the example of those all too many pretentious imposters.
      While "empty vessals make most sounds, so too do those puffed up in the delusion of their own importance.
      MMM

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  8. Yes ,but in a true vocation the person is not called to a life of self aggrandisement or ease. In fact there are many examples of young men who fight the first sense of the call tooth and nail since their family may be well off and comfortable and expecting their son to join his father's law firm or go into medicine since he has clearly the academic ability etc . But the longing gnaws away and won't be denied even if he tries another career first to make sure . Then he follows his priestly vocation and ends up sharing poverty with the villagers in an African mission but he is sure in his heart and his mind that he is in the right place and there is contentment and happiness at last. It shouldn't be about self - aggrandisement, not at all.

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  9. I hate the idea of ontological change particularly for how it seeks to manipulate babies and their parents. A change or mark is supposedly conferred at baptism. A mark is just a mark. A mark cannot be a label - a label can only be put on it. Thus being marked Catholic cannot itself make you Catholic...

    Argument: "Catholics say that being Catholic has a real real, objective, and unalterable meaning. You cannot cease being Catholic any more than you can cease being human. They argue that in the same way a man cannot become a woman but after transsexual surgery ends up being only a female impersonator. For Catholics, the Church has to be a union of people. The Catholic Church is understood as union of faith, a union where people receive at least some of the same sacraments, particularly sacraments of initiation such as baptism, and a union of clerical government. Some say Catholicism is not a congregation. A free gift from God called grace unites members to him and each other even if they never meet one another. It denies that it is up to you to define yourself as a Catholic. It is not a religion of self-defining members but a religion of members who are defined by God. Grace constitutes you as a person in the Church or a member. This grace of becoming Catholic is given in baptism only. So the Catholic is not made a Catholic by anything but this grace. The human being ontologically and in reality becomes a Catholic at baptism. Ontological means what is, what is real. It is about being. The other things such as obeying the Church or believe all it says or attending its worship or becoming a priest or nun or even pope are what Catholics do but do not make you a Catholic. Once you are validly baptised even if not as a Catholic you are objectively defined as a member of the Church even if not an active one or one who is in communion with the Church. Just like being a family member, your membership of the Church is an objective and unalterable fact."

    The Church says the change is radical which is why the change is referred to as being born again. But the change does nothing spectacular which is why it is clearly only in the head of the believers. I mean that baptised people are no holier or interested in God than anybody unbaptised. Is it a change for the sake of a change without any concern for changing you as a person? Yes. The excuse offered by the Church is that God does not force you to obey even after baptism. But that still should not mean that people who are baptised and unbaptised should be much the same as people. If you give out bus tickets to thousands and nobody uses them then that is a proof that they are invalid. A change in your essence to make you a child of God would make you keep wanting peace with God even if you are estranged. A change of essence may change you but it also opens you up to certain influences that are relevant to the change. Essence is inseparably linked to what influences you are susceptible to. A pig's essence leads to his fondness for mud and a cats leads to her fondness for grooming.

    What about those who say you ontologically become Catholic at baptism? Why the word Catholic? Why not the word Christian? Why not the word spiritual? The doctrine is masking how the Catholic Church, a denomination, wants to force a denominational label on you.

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    1. @ 14.27

      If you regard your Baptismal membership into the Catholic Faith as anything less than the great privilege that it was, then you probably don't appreciate or deserve it.
      Others shed their blood for the their Faith .
      Very sad to see what you wrote..

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    2. Your comment is longer than the blog post, lol.

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    3. The vast majority of Christian churches recognise one another’s baptism.

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  10. it seems to me that Pat has offered a practical theology of the meaning of ontology and priesthood in this blog over the years. While many will not agree, I think he has drawn our attention to what priesthood ought to be: solidarity with the people of God, availability, open house, inclusivity, the sacramental life, and courage to stand up to authoritarian priests/bishops who abuse the priesthood. That requires God's grace which Pat mentions in his text above.

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  11. Only 13 comments so far. What happened Magna's comment from earlier? Pat, I think your topics of recent days are of no interest to anyone - though you are trying to have serious conversations. It seems most contributors only want subjects whuch arouse the deeper vitriol possible against the Church and priests. I wonder if we were to share our faith/spiritual perspectives, woukd you get a positive response? Today's topic - far too high brow, even for the humble cleric!

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  12. Priests need to get over themselves ! I've much more important things to worry about other than how special my priest is. He just needs a good wash, a clean jumper and trousers, and a haircut. Oh, yes, and the hairs in ears, his nose, and his eyebrows trimming. If he had a wife then he probably would be more presentable. But he's a mess. So much for ontological change and sacramental sign. You can keep it. I make sure I go to receive HC from one of the lay ministers preferably a female. At least their hands and fingernails are clean !

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    1. @16.14

      Absolutely! By the time you trim your husband's nose hair and even out his eyebrows and then re-check his finger nails for length and for cleanliness it doesn't leave much time for worrying about priests now, does it. Then there are jumpers to be washed and trousers to be checked for freshness... The day soon goes in.

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    2. 16.14: With an attitude like that, you'd be better staying at home. Hope you give more respect to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist than what this suggests. Wait till your 95!!

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    3. Priceless! @ 18.22
      My sides are aching.. LOL
      You sure know how to puncture a balloon!

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    4. @18.22 What about his socks and underwear? Most priests nowadays don’t have housekeepers so you would be surprised at hygiene issues - bad breath, dirty fingernails, greasy hair, stale clothes. Another interesting observation would be lack of cleaning their shoes, appearances are important. Parishioners notice everything, every small detail.

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    5. "... till you're 95.."

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    6. 19.37. You have a point. What you say also reflects on sense of well-being and self esteem

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  13. Even Father Malloy SJ looks as though he could do with a good wash and haircut. to say nothing about losing a few pounds of lard !

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    1. Probably needs special clerical collars made-to-measure.

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  14. Perhaps been unhygienic is a Jesuit thing - I get the impression Francis isn’t too keen on cleanliness either. I knew a Jesuit priest in London and he would always be wearing his breakfast down his jumper including the egg yoke.

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    1. I used to have a Jesuit visitor who did did yoga heandstands naked in the kitchen at breakfast time while apologising for being "ad naturalibus".

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    2. Pat 18.32: Surely in your situation you must have enjoyed the spectacle and perhaps even very tempted by the unfolding masterpiece before you!! Tell us the truth..

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    3. Pope Francis always looks crisp and clean... I don't see any reason to say otherwise.

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    4. Yoga handstands au naturel at your breakfast time Pat!
      No wonder you took a bad stomach!
      Enough to put you off your sausages for life..

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    5. Ards leisure centre, as an April fool's joke, put up a poster asking gym members to discreetly, without giving their names to express interest in naked yoga being held. Twelve people expressed an interest.

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    6. I hope his Yoga was better than his Latin!

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    7. 18:26 That’s right. You are a good example of how low some will stoop to have a go at Francis. And this time based on nothing apart from your subjective impression.

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    8. 18:26 It would be a better use of your time to learn the difference between being and been than expressing comments on Francis.

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  15. My wife and I were near Newry today having a nice pub lunch. We noticed a fellow drinking Guinness on his own, well dressed, reading a newspaper. We both knew he was a Priest, he seemed very polite. Sounded like that Priest last week who said he goes into the pub without wearing his collar. He tried to use his bank card and it was declined, we could hear the commotion. He rang someone on his phone and a little later another man came in and seemed to loan him some money, he looked like a priest too. We looked out the window when they left and both driving Audi cars. Maybe they were spending the Easter collection.

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    1. You sound like a pathetic busybody @ 18.35
      I am surprised you didn't jump up and offer to pay the gentleman's bill and do your bit to save parish funds

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    2. 18.35: Here we have a complete makey up piece of s**t and not even funny. Let's ignore the ignoramus.

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    3. 18:35 Yeah. You sound like the parsimonius sanctimonius drip who posted last week who have learnt very little from the comments of people on hete.

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    4. 19:53, do you drive an Audi, too, priest?

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    5. I am not sure what a priest looks like without a collar. Perhaps it was the smell of a public convenience waffing over that gave it away.

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    6. 21.10 You so sound like a priest totally defensive as always.

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    7. Magna 22.02: Get over your petty jealousies. Go out into the real world, meet real people, get therapy, help the poor - but please, spare us your faux indignation and hypocrisy. Do something worthwhile that you can be truly proud of like the many exvellent priest in our parishes. Why are you so driven by hatred? Your poor heart must be near breaking point. Sadly, evil, nasty bullies like you are insidious abusers. Just look into the mirror and spot your ugliness.

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  16. Easter holidays is keeping the posts low.

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    1. Let's hope there will be increased interest vis-à-vis KOB's low-key funeral and subsequent internment at Edinburgh; a good two-parter for the blog readers.

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    2. Presumably you mean interment. Internment is what happened here in Ireland.

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  17. I expressed most of my opinions on this subject in yesterday's blog, but I can't resist intellectually blowing out of the water the following self-pampering tripe from the Catechism: 'Holy Orders places one in another position...a place from which one is called to spend one's life exclusively in the service of the people of God'. This is the ordained priest cast in a heroic, selfless mould, as much a piece of self-glorifying fiction as any work of historical revisionism. This is nothing less than elevating the ministerial priestly role over and above every other priestly role. One can find here echoes of the elitist nonsense, that ordained priests are 'men set apart'.

    Who says that only the ordained priest can serve the people of God in an 'exclusive' way? This is yet another way of presenting the sacramental priestly vocation as higher (more superior) than others. What arrogance! No wonder ordained priests have so badly let down the people of God over the centuries. With this kind of elitism filling their heads, how else could the fragile human ego be expected to behave other than in a highhanded and supercilious way. It doesn't matter that the Catechism, one senses almost as a disclaimer in face of such self-aggrandising drivel, tries to reassure that the place of the ordained priest, though 'in another position in the community', is 'not a better or more privileged place'. This is moral cowardice at its most urbane: effectively instilling in ordained priests the notion that they are special and superior while telling them that they must not think this way because theirs is 'not a better or more privileged place'. Do they really think that ordained priests will take this seriously after the lionisation they've experienced at the same hands? No. Nor do I.


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    1. Oh dear MC! What happened to the virtues of brevity?LOL

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    2. 19.03: Indeed Magna, you wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote nauseatingly...yawn, yawn. If you weren't so freaky a specimen with your deranged attitude and reprehensible, ignorant rants and hatred, you'd be a more likeable creature. Why should any priest allow a reject lecture them?

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    3. He's that dreaded figure, the club bore. He has five opinions, recycled endlessly.

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    4. MournemanMichael4 April 2018 at 23:09

      On the subject of the Catechism: don't tell me it's still being drummed into the minds of children! Frankly it's propaganda foisted on young unformed minds as the one and only truth.
      I last saw a catechism about 1955 when I left primary school. Because all those figures of authority, parents and teachers, seemed to believe it's dogma as truth I, like most children of the RC tribe just rote learned it unquestioningly.
      But in truth it had little real meaning or significance, for the whole farrago was underpinned and driven by a culture of fear......the all seeing eyes of God just waiting to have you fail and consign you to hellfire damnation.
      MMM

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  18. Pat your arrogance reminds me of an old yarn told about a PP in Dublin some years ago. He addressed the congregation thus "Our Lord Jesus Christ once said xxxxxxx, and I tend to agree with him" HAHAHAHAHA

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    1. If you believe it?

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  19. Pat, is it true that yet another scandal is to hit Armagh? I believe a newspaper is about to expose yet another naughty priest and you are involved in exposing it.

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    1. Is it true, +Pat, are we in danger of being scandalised yet again? How much more can we take.

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    2. Is the Giant's Ring involved? I wonder.

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    3. I can think of three Armagh diocese priests who fit the bill. Armagh has been allowed to become lax and ungoverned.

      Big dioceses such as Armagh, Dublin and Down and Connor need big, strong pastoral bishops. Armagh has a weak archbishop with a cloying piosity, and Dublin and Down and Connor are run by ex-deskmen who don't want to be in their own diocese.

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  20. Pat I was doing a bit of theological reading this evening. I'm one of those extremely rare Catholics who read Vatican II documents. I was pleased to see that the Most Perfect Council Ever taught that there is no salvation outside the Church (Ad Genres 7) and backed up by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para 1257).

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    1. I shouldn't take uncritically what the Roman Catholic Church teaches on salvation. This, after all, is the church that flagrantly dismisses one of the twin pillars of Jesus' own teaching: that we must love neighbour as self.

      The Roman Catholic Church, in direct and grave violation of this teaching, continues, officially, to endorse morally the death penalty. This is not showing love of neighbour, but seeking his destruction.

      The Roman Catholic Church has, for centuries, betrayed the one it fruitlessly claims to serve.

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    2. 23:01 what love of neighbor do you show, bastardo Carta?

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  21. Ad Gentes, sorry, autocorrect did it.

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  22. 22:57 Yes. That’s a phrase which underpins the ecclesiology of most mainstream Christianity. It means that whoever is saved, whether they have been visibly part of the church or not, are saved by Jesus Christ through his body the church.

    "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. All the categorical strength and point of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church" (G. Florovsky, "Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church", in The Church of God, p. 53). Does it therefore follow that anyone who is not visibly within the Church is necessarily damned? Of course not; still less does it follow that everyone who is visibly within the Church is necessarily saved.”
    Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware

    I suspect you were under the impression it meant something else.

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