You Never Know When Something Will Come in Handy

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John-Henry-Newman

 

 

 

In the coming turbulent days of the pontificate of Pope Francis, and rest assured that such turbulent days are rapidly approaching if not quite here, I rather suspect I will be accused by some of adopting an attitude towards him contrary to the way I analyzed the actions of his predecessor.  Such is not the case.  From a comment that I made on a thread relating to papal infallibility in 2010:

At Vatican I Eric, there was a conflict between those who wanted virtually every thing written or said by a Pope to be considered infallible and those who wanted a restrictive definition.  By and large those who wanted a restrictive definition prevailed.  The problem with a broad view of infallibility is that popes often contradict each other.  Consider Pio Nono’s view of religious liberty as compared to that of Pope John XXIII.

This is a complex area filled with minefields for faithful Catholics, and my thoughts in this area have been aided greatly by the writings of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, especially the essay linked below:

http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/vatican2/newman.html

“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

Go here to read the post and the thread of comments.

The Church is not a ring binder by which each succeeding pontiff may willy-nilly change the corpus of the Faith, and no pope is greater than the Tradition which guides and sustains the Faith.  I do not expect that Pope Francis will attempt to change the corpus of the Faith, but I greatly fear, based upon his interviews, that many people, some even among the highest clergy of the Church, will attempt to do precisely that, and will cite him, falsely, as their authority to do so.  I hope and pray that I am very, very wrong in regard to this prediction.

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24 Comments

  1. Daily mass last Wednesday, Feast of the Guardian Angels, the celebrant coul not contain himself. When there is typically no homily, we got a long reflection about the wonderful and timely changes that were coming from our new pope. You are more right than you know. I pray the Church’s guardian angel has his eyes open.

  2. Ditto. In my diocesan paper this week, the editorial headline blares “Francis’s Tells Us Not Get Caught Up In Morality, But the Gospel Message.” I thought the Gospel message included what one must do to others as well as to attain eternal life.

  3. When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Pope, then the Holy Spirit is infallible. Indeed, when the Holy Spirit speaks, the Holy Spirit is infallible regardless of the one through whom He chooses to speak. That said, not everything that the Pope says is from the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It would do well for us to get away from the cult of personality. That old AA saying – principles before personalities – comes to mind. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition should guide our thoughts, words and actions in these matters. In these coming turbulent times it behooves me to keep up with my daily Rosary, my daily Scripture reading and frequent attendance at Confession. Without doing those things how can I differentiate between the True and the False?

  4. Thanks Don…I struggled through reading Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (struggled because ‘we just don’t speak good English no more’…) and was excited when Pope Benedict XVI beatified now-Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman…these comments are good to find.

    Dave Armstrong, a Catholic apologist, has a book called The Quotable Newman: A Definitive Guide to His Central Thoughts and Ideas…it’s in my lengthy queue for must-reads. I’d wager there are a lot more gems in that.

    I also have to echo Nate’s query…occasionally I run across something that has me say “Someone at TAC needs to hear about this”…without opening you guys up to spam, is there some way to give you guys news or story tips?

  5. I think the most shocking thing for me has been the level of anger elicited if you even dare to suggest that we might have to wait and see to determine if Francis is going to be a great pope. If you do not immediately understand how awesome he is, and how really profound everything he says is, then you are either: (1) stupid; (2) a heretic; or (3) maybe you were never actually Catholic in the first place.

  6. “(1) stupid; (2) a heretic; or (3) maybe you were never actually Catholic in the first place.”

    Here is a make-believe word for that: adhominemize.

    As in, “Don’t adhominemize me, Bro!”

  7. In this world, when anyone presents someone in an all or nothing manner, such as ‘everything he says’, followed by a brickbat for those just considering the same; then there’s a case for further consideration. It’s as if the singer is the song to that someone without regard to the Composer.

    This world is a place where inconsistency causes trouble, dangerous trouble.

  8. “It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”
    This is the finest definition of the principle of separation of church and state. Thank you.

  9. In his Letter to the Dukeof Norfolk, Bl John Henry Newman also reminds us that “Billuart speaking of the Pope says, “Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible,” t. ii. p. 110 And for this simple reason, because on these various occasions of speaking his mind, he is not in the chair of the universal doctor.
    Nor is this all; the greater part of Billuart’s negatives refer to the Pope’s utterances when he is out of the Cathedra Petri, but even, when he is in it, his words do not necessarily proceed from his infallibility. He has no wider prerogative than a Council, and of a Council Perrone says, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connexion with dogma.” Præl. Theol. t. 2, p. 492. Thus, if a Council has condemned a work of Origen or Theodoret, it did not in so condemning go beyond the work itself; it did not touch the persons of either. Since this holds of a Council, it also holds in the case of the Pope; therefore, supposing a Pope has quoted the so-called works of the Areopagite as if really genuine, there is no call on us to believe him; nor again, if he condemned Galileo’s Copernicanism, unless the earth’s immobility has a “necessary connexion with some dogmatic truth,” which the present bearing of the Holy See towards that philosophy virtually denies.”

  10. Pio Nono and John XXIII did not contradict each other on religious freedom: they were addressing two different matters, viz., whether conscience is the final arbiter of truth on the one hand (no) and whether everyone has a right to seek the truth about God and act according to the truth he discovers (absolutely). Both popes would agree on both points.

    Catholics need to distinguish between what Pope Francis actually says, in the context of what he says, and what the media report him as saying or meaning. Pope Francis knows Catholic moral doctrine and fully agrees with it. He is proposing alternative ways to evangelize, not alternative ways to believe.

  11. Is anyone familiar with the writings of an Irish priest Fr. Denis Fahey? He wrote in the 30’s- 40’s his main book being The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World. He laid out the forces that were against the Church and society. The book is still so relevant today.

  12. Vatican I wisely limited the infallibility doctrine of the Pope to Ex Cathedral solemn prnouncements. This solemn dogma states that when a pope makes an ex cathedral statement, that statement is equal to dogmas proclaimed by Ecumenical Councils. Both (papal and conciliar) are forms of extraordinary actions of the Magisterium of the Church.

    However, there is the ordinary form of the Magisterium’s ( pope and bishops) infallible teaching in matters of faith and morals. This is one of the great clarifications made during the ministry of Blessed John Paul and worked out by Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation of the Faith. However, even this does not make every utterance from a pope “infallible”, etc.

    In a post above Brian makes a great point. He complains about those who go bonkers when one suggests it might take some time to see if Pope Francis ( or any pope for that matter) will be seen to be a good or even great pope. However the same applies when someone suggests it might take time to see if all the fears and criticisms pan out and Francis (or any pope) is a ” problematic”, ” not so good” or even a ” bad” pope.

    While we have been blessed with some very good and even great popes in the recent past, and it is important to recognize that some popes in our two thousand year history have sadly been ” bad”, history reveals that a vast majority were somewhere in the middle. They were neither great or terrible. They simply were the successors of Peter preserving both the teaching and unity of the Church as best they could in the historical context within they ministered

  13. “Pio Nono and John XXIII did not contradict each other on religious freedom:”

    Wrong.

    ” 15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.”

    One of the propositions condemned by Pio Nono in his Syllabus of Errors.

    “14. Also among man’s rights is that of being able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public.”

    Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

    Religious liberty as such did not exist during the reign of Pius IX in the Papal States, as it had not existed under his predecessors. He was somewhat more liberal on the question at the start of his reign. He freed Jews from the Roman ghetto at the start of his reign, and also freed them from the necessity of hearing Christian sermons periodically. These salutary reforms were reversed by Pius after he lost control of the papal states in 1849 and was returned to power by a French army that same year. Pius, although personally affable to people of all faiths, did not believe in religious liberty in any shape or fashion, except the traditional grudging tolerance that the Church extended to Jews.

  14. Do I understand your statement/ position correctly Donald-that there is a real (versus perceived) rupture in the Magisterium of the Church(in this case between Pius IX and John XXIII?

  15. I think it is an extremely troubling question Botolph, and far keener minds than mine have wrestled with it.

    The best face that can be put on it was done by Cardinal Dulles:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/003-religious-freedom-innovation-and-development-41

    I of course as an American am all in favor of religious liberty and celebrate that it is now the policy of the Church. However, I am enough of an historian to recognize that the development in doctrine in this area is an extreme one and is almost a 180 degree development.

  16. Fair enough Donald. The answer is by no means simple, as Cardinal Dulles well shows. Overall, though, Cardinal Dulles would interpret such a question concerning. The relation between the Magesterium of the 19th century and the 20th/21st centurity as one of continuity and not rupture.

    The declarations of the Church in the 19th century were made in light of and in the context of the principles of the more radical French Revolution and the power of Masonry in Europe and more specifically in Italy. When Pius IX was speaking America was not even a blip on his radar screen. It was the much milder and far from radical American form of Freedom of Religion that became the context within the Church at Vatican II’s teaching on religious freedom to offset at that time the lack of rel.igious freedom behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains.

    Now, in the first quarter of the Twentieth century, we have a new historical context. The Iron Curtain is gone; the bamboo curtain is not what it was, although still a problem. The new context is a widespread “war on Christianity” in many countries, most especially by Islamicist forces (not all Moslems by any means). In the West however we are facing new forces, even here in America-that seem to be attempting to limit freedom of religion merely into freedom of worship. However, this weekend we are witnessing even our Govt’s intervention in our worship ( troubling issue of not allowing priests to celebrate Mass or baptize etc because the Govt is shut down) While I do not doubt that this will be straightened out, the fact that priests who would be volunteering would be arrested if the celebrate Mass or baptize should be recognized by all as new ground, a line that has been crossed.. We all need to become more aware.

    It therefore.becomes imperative that we Catholics work through our genuine questions on the subject of religious freedom-as the Church really understands this teaching

  17. Actually, Donald, regarding religious liberty and whether or not Pius IX and John XXIII contradicted each other, let’s let the Catechism of the Catholic Church speak:

    2108 The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, ( 37 Cf. Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum 18; Pius XII AAS 1953,799) but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right (Pius XII, 6 December 1953).

    2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner (Cf. Pius VI, Quod aliquantum (1791) 10; Pius IX, Quanta cura 3). The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with “legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order” (cf Pío IX, enc. “Quanta cura”).

  18. I often feel that some theologians are inclined to treat past magisterial pronouncements in the same way that Bl John Henry Newman, in a memorable piece of biting satire, accused his erstwhile colleagues of treating the Fathers: “I read the Fathers, and I have determined what works are genuine, and what are not; which of them apply to all times, which are occasional; which historical, and which doctrinal; what opinions are private, what authoritative; what they only seem to hold, what they ought to hold; what are fundamental, what ornamental. Having thus measured and cut and put together my creed by my own proper intellect, by my own lucubrations, and differing from the whole world in my results, I distinctly bid you, I solemnly warn you, not to do as I have done, but to accept what I have found, to revere that, to use that, to believe that, for it is the teaching of the old Fathers, and of your Mother the Church of England. Take my word for it, that this is the very truth of Christ; deny your own reason, for I know better than you, and it is as clear as day that some moral fault in you is the cause of your differing from me. It is pride, or vanity, or self-reliance, or fullness of bread. You require some medicine for your soul; you must fast; you must make a general confession; and look very sharp to yourself, for you are already next door to a rationalist or an infidel.”

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