PopeWatch: Anthropological Issues?



Sandro Magister at Chiesa has a new column up which is rather troubling.  Is the Pope about to softpedal Church opposition to abortion, homosexual marriage and contraception, these being relegated to the status of mere “anthropological issues”:

Pope Francis is showing that he has very clear in his mind both the battles that he wants to fight and those for which he sees no need to do so. Both “ad intra,” meaning within the ecclesial body of which he has become the supreme pastor – and in the Roman curia in particular – and “ad extra,” in the world.

With regard to the latter, pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said loud and clear, in the interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica,” that he does not see as a priority the battles over anthropological issues like the questions “connected to abortion, homosexual marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.”

This undoubtedly constitutes a change of stance with respect to the  last pontificates: not only of Benedict XVI and of John Paul II, but also of Paul VI, the pope of “Humanae Vitae” and of the strenuous resistance against the introduction of divorce in Italy.

It is a change of stance, this of Pope Francis, who although he has not yet eliminated even one iota of doctrine has nonetheless raised widespread expectations among the more progressive sectors of Catholicism around the world.

But it is also a change of stance that has backed into a corner those episcopates – of Italy, of Spain, of the United States – which in the past were considered models in their way of addressing on the public stage the anthropological challenges present in the contemporary world, but which now find themselves singled out as “scarcely in line” with the new papal leadership.


In Spain, one signal has come from an editorial on the website “Religión Digital” that begins with this rhetorical question: “Is the Spanish hierarchy in harmony with Francis and with the new wind that is blowing from Rome?”:

> ¿Está la jerarquía española en sintonía con Francisco?

“Religión Digital” is a website of Iberian religious information that has always been critical toward the cardinal of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, for about twenty years the uncontested leader of the episcopate and the bearer of a stance theologically orthodox and  politically opposed to the anthropological revolution decisively introduced above all by Rodríguez Zapatero, as well as being contrary to the pro-independence currents also very strong within the ecclesial body of Catalonia and of other regions.

In the United States, the liberal magazine “National Catholic Reporter” has emphasized the extent to which the words pronounced by Francis against “the current pastoral ‘obsession’ with gay marriage, abortion and contraception” manifest an “imbalance” between the pope and the U.S. bishops that goes so far as to “undermine” also the vigorous campaign for religious freedom undertaken by the latter against the morally unacceptable aspects of the healthcare reform of the Obama administration in relation to American ecclesial institutions:

> Imbalance between Francis, U.S. bishops undermines religious liberty campaign

In Italy, finally, in the newspaper “La Stampa” the vaticanista Andrea Tornielli has presented it as a certainty that with Pope Francis comes “the end of an era: that inaugurated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and continued by his successor Angelo Bagnasco, now called to open another”:

> Così il Papa fa cambiare i vescovi

This same shift has also been welcomed by the historian Alberto Melloni, who has noted how in his first encounter with all the Italian bishops last May the pope “gave a talk soft in its forms but hard in its substance, and indicated a stance different from those followed until now.” The representative of the “school of Bologna” – which advocates a progressive interpretation of Vatican II – added: ‘In recent decades a pastoral and political project has been proposed by the Italian episcopal conference. Now the pope is placing at the center of attention a model of the bishop. For Italy it is a great leap.”

The Spanish, the American, and the Italian therefore seem to be three episcopates under fire, in this new ecclesial season.

The effects of this new situation, unimaginable until eight months ago, will soon be apparent.


The general assembly of the Spanish bishops will be held November 18-22. On that occasion they will have to vote for the new secretary general of the episcopal conference.

The outgoing secretary general, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino – a Jesuit like Bergoglio, but in full harmony with the hardly “Bergoglian” Ruoco Varela – cannot be reelected. Now it remains to be seen if the bishops will select his successor from among – to use the language of the aforementioned Iberian website – “los candidatos de Rouco” or “los candidatos franciscanos.” How the Spanish bishops will vote, and how strongly the “new wind from Rome” is blowing in Madrid will therefore be seen before too long.

But Pope Francis will also be able to intervene more directly in the leadership of the Spanish bishops when he appoints in Madrid the successor of Ruoco Varela, who has passed the age of 77 and whose mandate as president of the episcopate expires in March.

One strong candidate for the succession, not one of Ruoco’s favorites, seems to be the cardinal of the curia who is the current prefect of the congregation for divine worship, Antonio Cañizares Llovera, more inclined to dialogue in the political arena. The pope will probably make his decision on Madrid after receiving the Spanish bishops on an “ad limina” visit between the end of February and the beginning of March.


The assembly of the bishops of the Unites States, the USCCB, will also meet November 11-14. And this will also be an electoral session. The American prelates, in fact, will have to choose their new president and vice-president for the next three-year term.

Three years ago the bishops, in a surprise break with a longstanding tradition, did not elect as president the outgoing vice-president – the bishop of Tucson, who had been the auxiliary of the deceased cardinal of Chicago, the “liberal” Joseph L. Bernardin, for decades the undisputed leader of the USCCB – but over him chose the combative archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan.

Now the vice-president is the moderate Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, and it remains to be seen if he will be made president or if another will be preferred to him, for example Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. There are ten candidates currently in the running, almost all of them moderate or conservative.

In the United States as well, Pope Francis will be able to intervene directly in the episcopal leadership. In fact, the moment is drawing near for the selection of the occupant of the important see of Chicago, where Cardinal Francis E. George will turn 77 in January.

But also drawing near is the date of the first consistory of the current pontificate, expected to take place in February, which means that the names of the new cardinals would be announced in January. It will be interesting to see which churchmen the pope will wager on, to verify if there will or will not be a return to the Bernardin era in the United States, as the “National Catholic Reporter” seems to anticipate and hope:

Go here to read the rest.  Pope Pius XII has often been taken to task, falsely, for not speaking and acting in regard to the Holocaust.  A Catholic Church which did not actively speak out against abortion and homosexual marriage and in favor of the liberty of the Catholic Church could justifiably be criticized as a Church which restricted the message of Christ  to an hour on Sundays only.  Additionally, the retreat or silence of the Church on such vital issues would merely embolden those who hate and despise the Church and wish to see her silenced in the World.  PopeWatch hopes this column by Magister is merely a false alarm.



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  1. No one and certainly not the Holy Father is denying the moral demands of the gospel. No Catholic I know would deny that, even in the temporal order, as Maurice Blondel says “we find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity.”

    But, there is a need to put first things first, One recalls the scathing words of the Abbé Lucien Laberthonnière, written a hundred years ago now, to those French Catholics, who hoped for “the triumph of the Church in society.”

    “The triumph of the Church in society? That would be excellent. But then, it is necessary to examine by what means our religion permits us to pursue it. Moreover, it has not been promised us. And then, it is not, perhaps, the most pressing of our tasks.

    The Church is like Christ. To go to souls, she is, in her own essence, a soul of truth and kindness [bonté]. And, if He needs a body to act in the world, it is by His soul and for His soul that His body subsists. And, if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labour to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls. Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above. It is to give birth to, and to cultivate in consciences, the supernaturalising obligation [l’obligation surnaturalisante] to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through temporal defeats to a triumph that is timeless [un triomphe qui n’est pas de temps].

    Do not indulge in childish dreams, when you have in your grasp eternal realities that invite you. Understand, all you who would triumph and reign on earth – Et nunc, reges, intellegite.” [To a French audience, instantly recognizable as the text of Bossuet’s funeral oration for Henrietta Maria, widow of the executed Charles I of England]

  2. ” One recalls the scathing words of the Abbé Lucien Laberthonnière, written a hundred years ago now, to those French Catholics, who hoped for “the triumph of the Church in society.””

    Today MPS it is not the triumph of Church in society that is at issue, it is rather whether the Church will stand aside and allow those forces in society to take control who wish to destroy her. Many Catholics do not realize what is at stake in what is often called a Culture War, and I greatly fear that the Pope may be among their number. On the other hand Pope Benedict clearly got it:


  3. Though it’s important to keep in mind, there’s no papal action or comment cited by Magister in this piece, he’s strictly talking about what progs imagine might happen as they run around talking about the “Spirit of Francis”.

    Sometimes the “Spirit of Francis” runs into the cold facts of reality, and so we recently had the spectacle of Michael Sean Winters wringing his hands and wailing at the appointment of Bishop Blair of Toledo to the see of Hartford CT: “Francis, why can’t you be more like Francis!!!”

    One can only hope that in the end the “Spirit of Francis” has no more to do with Francis than the “Spirit of Vatican II” has to do with Vatican II.

  4. “Whether the Church will stand aside and allow those forces in society take control who wish to destroy her…”

    M. Laberthonnière was writing in the wake of laws that had forbidden religious to teach (The Law of 7 July, 1904, which formally declared that “teaching of every grade and every kind is forbidden in France to the congregations;” which had dissolved most of the monastic orders and confiscated their property (Law of 1 July, 1901) and which had cancelled the salaries of the clergy, to the tune of 42,324,933 fr ($8,464,986; current real value is $470,653,221) and which had declared every church and every kind of religious property to be « Les biens nationaux » [the goods of the Nation] (Law of 9 December 1905). Certainly, there were those in society that wished to destroy the Church

    It was against this background that he insisted that “Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above,” a power that is wholly supernatural.

  5. Would the Holy Father have regarded the gassing of the Jews in the 1940s as an anthrapological issue not worthy of considering a priority?

  6. I had read the original Magister article a few days ago, and came away from it, with a sense of unquiet as well. Unlike other articles in the past which I found to be quite insightful, I sensed, as Darwin writes in his response, that Magister was reporting on conjectures concerning the ‘spirit of Francis’ rather than on the actual substance of Francis. The fact that the reporting of Magister has become more spotty is becoming more evident. Why this is the case remains to be seen.

    The question Donald raises from his reading of the article still needs to be addressed. It is a valid question. Has Pope Francis relegated abortion, so called gay marriage and the issue of contraception to ” mere anthropological issues” ( as Magister phrased it)?

    Can or could Pope Francis, or any post-Vatican II pope, relegate such issues to be “merely anthropological issues”with the sense that all fundamental questions concerning the humanum, the real issues of humanity and what it means to be human” are somehow outside the theological focus of the Church. See, there is a not so subtle split taking place in the very substance of Magister’s question/conjecture between the theological and anthropological issues (Donald did not split the two, his question, questions this split).

    Besides taking the question “Church, what do you have to say for yourself?” very seriously in Vatican II, the Church also rooted all the questions and issues of the humanum within the Gospel vision of the Incarnation of Christ (this is the great gift of Gaudium et Spes which is itself rooted in Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation). To put this succinctly, because of the Incarnation, we can no longer divide ‘theological’ from ‘merely anthropological issues’. Or as as Gaudium et Spes teaches, “Because of His Incarnation, Christ has identified Himself in a mysterious way, with each man”. And again it teaches, “Man remains a mystery to himself without the revelation of Christ” ( these quotes are by memory; sorry if the are not exact).

    I believe what Pope Francis was actually saying in the Jesuit interview, was exactly this. The questions of the humanum cannot be isolated from the Mystery of Christ, and the proclamation of that Mystery in the Gospel. To see or to “harp” on these issues, isolated from the revelation of Christ is to relegate them to the “merely anthropological”

    This is the change of attitude to which Pope Francis calls the Church. Far from breaking with Vatican II and his papal predecessors, Pope Francis is continuing and deepening this Christological/Incarnational trajectory.

  7. Botolph is right.
    Too often, the “anthropological issues” have been addressed with an anthropology that is not Christian – a legacy of the Neo-Scholasticism that Cardinal Henri de Lubac said was destroying Christian though.
    As Maritain says, “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology…” Or, as Pascal has it, “We do not understand the glorious state of Adam, nor the nature of his sin, nor the transmission of it to us. These are matters which took place under conditions of a nature altogether different from our own, and which transcend our present understanding” and “Thus, without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing and see only obscurity and confusion in God’s nature and ours.” Any discussion of abortion, SSM and contraception must begin with the proposition that we are miserable, corrupt, separated from God, but ransomed by Jesus Christ.

  8. The notion that we must first convert non-believers into believing Catholics before they will appreciate the evil nature of abortion strikes me as dubious. Call me neo-scholastic if you wish, but God does imprint his moral laws on the hearts of men, and those laws are ultimately consistent with reason properly understood. While I applaud any renewed importance being attached to conversion and evangelization, I do not think that such efforts are a substitute for working in this fallen world, with non-believers, to promote positive laws that are more in concert with Natural Law.

    If our Pope truly does not see the battle over abortion as a priority then I think he is flat out wrong, for the same reason as any failure of the Church to combat the Holocaust would have been or was flat out wrong.

    It may be that the Holy Father rightly understands that the horrors of abortion and other moral outrages can be traced to the fall of Christendom and its theological assumptions in favor of a secular world grounded in assumptions that are wrongheaded and dangerous, and perhaps he wants to concentrate on reversing that phenomenon. If so, I certainly cannot argue with that. But there are much better ways of making that point than dismissing abortion as an anthropological non-priority.

  9. Also, it’s important to note that:

    – So far as I can tell searching around, the pope himself has called these “anthropological issues” but has not attached the word “merely” to that. Making “anthropological” into a dismissive is something that Magister is supposing based on progressive commentary.

    – The sense of “anthropological” which is being used here is “understanding of what it means to be human”. In this sense, yes Nazi racial theory was an “anthropological error”. The term is not being used to refer to the value neutral (indeed, often explicitly relativistic) academic discipline of “anthropology” which we have in US universities. So, for instance, in an AP story, I find the following Francis quote:

    Gay marriage is “an anthropological step backward. If there’s a private union, then third parties and society aren’t affected. But if they’re granted marriage rights and can adopt, there could be children affected. Every person needs a masculine father and a feminine mother to help them settle their identity.”


  10. Mike Petrik,

    If you think I was stating that we must convert non-believers into believing Catholics before they will appreciate the evil nature of abortion, then I am sorry for this confusion. That was not what I was attempting to say. I believe that all three of these so called “anthropological issues” are evidenced by what we have traditionally called Natural Law (available to the whole of mankind with the use of reason). In more recent teachings concerning this subject of natural law, Pope Benedict used the term “human ecology”. I especially like that phrase.

    When Saint Thomas Aquinas, basing himself already spoke of natural law, most especially in his treatise on Law, he was speaking in a Scholastic environment that was working in an Aristotelian, objectivist world view. We however have gone through a completely different philosophical/academic shift, captured in the now well known phrase “return to the subject”. We cannot wish or pretend that this anthropological shift has not taken place, any more than Thomas could wish that the shift from the Neoplatonic/Augustinian to Aristotelian world view had not taken place.

    There are genuinely Catholic responses (as well as those that we have discovered to be less genuine-the whole point of Blessed John Paul’s encyclical, Veritatis Splendor). The whole of creation is dynamic and related to God and to us. To God, in the very fact that all of creation is at this moment.coming forth from God as pure gift (created out of nothing). Related to us as the ones to whom the gift is given-including the gift of ourselves being given to us. This “given ness” is discoverable with the use of reason (the basis of all science). We have discovered that we are all star stuff, that every single ‘thing’ visible and invisible is a cosmic sibling. Ecology, and the care for the entire environment then is even cosmic ( whole different perspective then secularist environmentalism) In a very real sense we have arrived at Saint Francis of Assisi’s vision of “brother sun and sister moon”.

    We are just beginning to really understand the fragile but real human ecology (we would traditionally use the term ‘natural law’). That we emerged “from the clay of the earth” on this third planet with its powerful magnetic field, is significant singular moon literally regulating our time and seasons, after five mass extinctions with our particular and amazing human genome that reveals both our relatedness to our fellow creatures, yet nonetheless singular and unique among all the creatures of planet earth, is nothing short of miraculous.

    My point in the above post, is that the Church in the Second Vatican Council, coming to grips with the scientific/historical epistemology ( the way we come to know what we know), the radical ‘turn of the subject’ of Descartes, Kant et al., has sought to believe, confess and express our ancient and Catholic Faith in this new setting. In Vatican II (arising from genuine development of Catholic philosophy and theology) the Church overcame the old divide between objective and subjective, theoretical and pragmatic, theological and anthropological- united in Christ Jesus, the Mystery of the Incarnation.

    Abortion, so called gay marriage and contraception, among others (remember the stem-cell controversies? The Church was castigated for her protest against embryonic stem cell research-yet in a relatively short period of time- the scientific community discovered that adult stem cells are far more productive) remain revolving around questions of the humanum, human ecology. Since we have received the Revelation of God, first and foremost in creation, in dialogical form (In the beginning was the Word…) we will continue the dialogue of life, of salvation with ” the world”-not blasting others with condemnations, but with the deep, penetrating relational Truth about the humanum we have discovered in Christ.

  11. Botolph’s continuing optimism about Vat2 and this Pope can be measured by the number of times that most pro-Bergoglio types have to say now “I believe what Pope Francis was actually saying…” I don’t think this Pope has clue about the ramifications of his speech and his positions, but he is definitely a Martini-change-agent from beyond the grave. I also think that speaking as though Dei Verbum pronounced some new doctrine (it did not, as neither did any of the Vat2 documents, as witnessed by Paul VI, JP2, and Benedict XVI again and again and again) deliberately overlooks the disaster of recommending text- and form-criticism as valid means of interpretation (which of course are a-traditional anyway): (Botolph speaking): “[At] Vatican II, the Church also rooted all the questions and issues of the humanum within the Gospel vision of the Incarnation of Christ (this is the great gift of Gaudium et Spes which is itself rooted in Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation). ” Because we authorized runaway scriptural revisionists, most notably Raymond A Brown (who gave us the a-scriptural “Hail, most highly favored one!” instead of the literal Greek-based “Hail, Full of Grace”, and who didnt believe in the Virgin birth or the Immaculate Conception) and Edward Schillebeeckx (who deconstructed sacraments, esp. priestly ordination and divided Christ into two beings based on his unique self-validating text-criticism), we are able now to say that the Lord of the Gospels would never have taken a stand on abortion, homosexuality or anything, because it is all now pea-soup.
    And 50 years later, the drift continues, with this Pope not even trying to validate his positions based on traditional Catholic teaching, but on his own peculiarly unique reading of certain isolated scripture passages. Yet let the “Aves” rise from those who think he (Pope Francis) is making some spectacularly scintillating pronouncement that has been hidden from us all for about 2000 years.

  12. Steve,

    You continue to reveal a profou nd confusion conce ring the the Second Vatican Council. In your latest reply you even claim the post Vatican II popes against Amy interetation that takes Vantican II as authoritative. It is authoritative, Steve. If it were not there would not be any real duuTancing between such groups as the Society of. piusX and the Catholic Church, a distance which sadly continues. Pope Benedict called for the Year.of faith in which we still livve, precisely to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Council and to further its reception.

    I would invite you to consider the Council as authoritative in the life of the Churnch.and then join us in speaking of the strengths and weaknesses, the lights and, shadows found in this Council, just as we find the same in the other Councils as well.t

  13. Botolph,
    My point was simply that Pope Francis’s characterization of the Church’s cultural and political battle against abortion as an “obsession” is disorienting and unhelpful. To understand why just substitute genocide or Holocaust for abortion. It is possible that the phrase “not a priority” might be Magister’s, not Francis’s, but even if so the phrase represents an inference that is being made by all too many people, including secularists and Catholics who do think that abortion should not be a priority.

  14. Mike,

    Ahh ok. I see what you are saying. On the face of it, saying that the Church’s cultural and political battle against abortion (and other ‘anthropological issues’) could indeed be disorienting and definitely unhelpful. The fact that many Progressive/liberal forces within and outside the Church took it at this face value and ran with it seems to validate the face value reading.

    My response however is to go beyond the face value reading. Pope Francis has not equivocated at all on abortion in statements he has made since becoming pope. In a post above Darwin has given us what the then Cardinal Broglolio stated about so called gay marriage (“an anthropological step backward”). In the working paper to prepare the bishops of the Church for the Extraordinary Synod on marriage and the family, there is no equivocation on contraception. Therefore I would state that the face value reading of Pope Francis’ words do not ring true.

    In the Gospel vision of Christ, in the light of the Incarnation, there is and cannot be “merely” anthropological issues. They are all issues, questions that ultimately must be answered in the light of Christ. Christ reveals what it means to be God in His Divinity and reveals what it means to be human in His human nature. Vatican II simply applied Chalcedon to the issues facing humanity

  15. Botolph, thanks. Yes, I agree emphatically with your (and Darwin’s) understanding of Francis. My concern is about audiences. If the Holy Father wishes to make the rather deep and nuanced (and important) point you suggest, an informal interview to be shared with the popular press may not be the best place to do it. Just google “Francis abortion interview” and you’ll see what I mean.

    Overall, most pro-life Catholics love Francis, and do not remotely think he is somehow “soft” on abortion, etc. But by allowing himself to be so easily misunderstood, he has inadvertently comforted the pro-aborts and discomforted pro-lifers.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care about being discomforted, but I do care about babies being butchered, and I know he does too.

  16. Botolph at times holds that Vat2 was definitive of something “new”, yet here are the facts: To others who may want to know the truth, let us just look at the argument that “dogma” was defined @ Vat2 (something Botolph believes). Yet Paul VI affirmed the opposite, “Differing from other Councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.” (Paul VI, General Audience, August 6, 1975)

    Benedict XVI affirmed the same: :”The truth is that this particular Council (Vat2) defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.” (Address to the Chilean Episcopal Conference, according to Il Sabato, 1988) JP2 repeated this same position (Angelus address, Oct. 27, 1985):
    “Pope John conceived this council as an eminently pastoral event.”

    Let’s just look at Sacro. Conc (On the Liturgy): no where was the Traditional Latin Mass abolished in the text of SC—yet it was forbidden by Vat2! Even by its own document, SC contradicts Vatican II: the liturgy is to remain normatively Latin (no. 36), Gregorian chant is the proper musical form (no. 116), and the pipe organ is the normative liturgical instrument (no. 120). Is that the way the liturgy is celebrated in your parish each Sunday? If so, they must be “radical traditionalists?”

    Shall I go further? Yes. Card. Suenens exulted that Vat2 had become “1789 in the Church”, a new French Revolution and a break with the past. Even then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented in 1988: “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as part of the entire living tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of super dogma which takes away the importance of all the rest. (1988 address. Chilean Episcopal Conference).
    Yves Congar, one of the Vat2 periti, remarked with quiet satisfaction that “The Church has had, peacefully, its October revolution.” Schillebeeckx admitted, “We have used ambiguous phrases during the Council and we know how we will interpret them afterwards.” Congar also affirmed that Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty is contrary to the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX, saying: “It cannot be denied that the affirmation of religious liberty by Vatican II says materially something different.”

    For Pope Francis and the Botolphites to claim Vat2 is definitive of something new, and that that new doctrine has never yet been tried, as he declared in an October interview, is not so, as declared by 3 prior popes; And yet on the other hand, we know there was a discontinuity in Catholic tradition and thought due to what went on from 1962-1965 simply by looking at the “Novus Ordo” liturgy. Or do we not? It must be hard to be a Pope Francis-Botolphite these days. Nothing makes sense. And I will continue to point it out to them, over and over and over.

  17. Steve,

    Wow you have exceeded your already exaggerated comments and positions concerning the Second Vatican Council. However to place me with Pope Francis as well as each of the other post conciliar popes is indeed a compliment. For the record this will be the last response I will be making to you and your extremist positions. I see a growing divide between Catholics who take the Council as authoritative and those sectarian groups that do not. It is very sad. However there have been divisions after almost every Council of the Church

  18. Meanwhile, the “Head, Meet Desktop” award goes to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who cited Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” quote on the floor of the House today as justification for legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples:


    “Madigan, who rarely speaks on bills on the House floor, spoke in favor of the same-sex marriage bill, invoking Pope Francis to support his position.

    “’Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church was quoted as saying ‘If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge,’ ” Madigan said. “He has articulated the basics of my thinking on this issue. For those who happen to be gay and living in a very harmonious, productive relationship, but illegal, who am I to judge if it should be illegal?”

  19. Steve Phoenix

    Two points

    1) Κεχαριτωμένη in Lk 1:28 is a perfect middle or passive participle, so it means something like “having been favoured with grace” or “having had grace bestowed.” That is not a question of theology, but of grammar.

    2) As for there being “a discontinuity in Catholic tradition and thought due to what went on from 1962-1965” I can see nothing in VII that was not being affirmed over the previous 50 years. One has only to look at philosophers like Maurice Blondel and Jacques Maritain or theologians like the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, Maréchal, Lubac, Daniélou and Mondésert or the Oratorians, Bouyer and Laberthonnière to see that.

    That there was deep-rooted conflict in the Church can be seen from Blondel’s words, written 50 years before the Council: “With every day that passes, the conflict between tendencies that set Catholic against Catholic in every order–social, political, philosophical–is revealed as sharper and more general. One could almost say that there are now two quite incompatible “Catholic mentalities,” particularly in France. And that is manifestly abnormal, since there cannot be two Catholicisms.” VII went a long way to resolving that conflict.

  20. Michael Patterson-Seymour, I dont know where you studied Koine Greek, but the accurate translation of kekeirtomene is “full of grace”, meaning unequaled in grace. No legitimate translator has rendered it as “having had grace bestowed” or “favored with grace.” Even Raymond A Brown, who advised the current NAB translation editors, put it (wrongly) as “Hail, most highly favored one.” Kekeritomene is unique to the entire NT occurring only once in Luke Ch. 1 You are massively wrong in this translation and by the way, running against Catholic tradition from S Jerome, which translates this as, “Hail, full of grace.” However you illustrate perfectly the text-critical drift by equivalently making Mary equal to others who receive grace, “a saint like other saints”, much like the Anglican tradition. That is one of my points.

    The other issue here is that this Dei Verbum actually tried to supplant the long Catholic history of scriptural interpretation based on magisterial interpretation and standing with tradition. Botolph refuses to acknowledge that there is a break in teaching prior to Vat2, as I guess you wish to also do. But neither of you have chosen ton respond to the contradiction in the Novus Ordo liturgy spawned by Vat2: no where was the Trent Mass to be abolished—yet it was. The norm of music is to be Gregorian chant—but it is not. The organ is to be the preferred normative instrument of accompaniment—and it is not, as I have pointed out between what Vat2 states in Sacro. Concilium about the liturgy, and what we have now. Just look at the change in the words of institution (the “pro multis” controversy) which Ratzinger had to walk back and change to “for many” (another exegetical time-bomb without traditional foundation at all). And since you mention Congar, Congar wanted to have Dei Verbum state that only scripture is the true source of Catholic belief—essentially Luther’s sola scriptura position.
    So, it is fine to deny all these matters, just as trying to “explain what Pope Francis really meant” over and over—because the drift continues from what we taught and believed previously and to where Pope Francis seems to think we need to be taken now—no where which was prescribed in the “non-dogmatic, pastoral council” of Vatican II. And, so, if it is not dogma, why are be bound to follow it?)

  21. Steve Phoenix

    What part of speech do you claim Κεχαριτωμένη is? Do you agree that it comes from the verb χαριτόωι meaning “to show grace to”? (reduplicative in the perfect, as here)

    Try Liddell & Scott, id you don’t believe me. It is not only Koine, but Attic and Ionic as well, as every schoolboy knows (or used to know)

  22. Yes, I am familiar with Liddell & Scott, and by the way, it is not a Catholic based translation source, so you have proven my point: text-criticism has to be interpreted in the light of Catholic tradition (exactly the problem with Dei Verbum). So you went to look it up and that’s what you found. Good for you, you discovered a Koine Greek past participle, that may also be passive, you are a “good schoolboy”(your words). A valid “safe” traditionally Catholic comparison source would be the Jerome Vulgate (for the ancient language equivalent) and the Douay-Rheims for the modern language equivalent. I am well-familiar with the NT Greek: we can all play at biblical exegete and be DEAD WRONG.

    As for playing semantics on what participle it is (“it is not a matter of theology, but of grammer”), not only am I unimpressed (nor am I phased by this typical attempted linquistic imperialism) because you are flatly wrong: it is the reverse: this is exactly a matter of theology, and the scripture serves the tradition, not the reverse as you have put it. Translating it as “having been favoured with grace” or “having had grace bestowed” is no where in the Catholic traditional translation (not even Raymond A Brown’s, with whom I profoundly disagree) and it accurately reflects the Anglican system. Kekeiretomene only occurrs one time in the NT, in Luke 1: 28 (a fact I doubt you knew before this discussion). It points to the unique “Full-of-grace” title of the Virgin, not a saint as other saints, but a Mediatrix unmatched.

    And you miss my point, as does the retreating Botolph, I think intentionally: Congar, Bea, and the other biblical “experts” in drafting Dei Verbum wanted this type of exegetical reductionism that you are demonstrating (they were first-rate linquistic imperialists whom you would surely admire) so they could undermine hierarchical traditional teaching on every score: whether it be Humanae Vitae, or Jesus Christ as Son of God, an enduring immutable moral basis for church teaching, or the Blessed Virgin’s unique status in the Church: we could go on and on.

    And this brings me back to Pope Francis, who doesnt seem to even care about the received tradition and the whole of scripture and what does it mean in light of traditional understanding. Pope Francis is now diverting us in the direction of a “New Jesus” that he has discovered, and has been lost for most of 2000 years, a new modern Pope Francis-based biblical primitivism, a Jesus who doesnt judge (even tho’ Jesus shows quite dramatically negative moral judgments all the time, a Jesus who says [active] homosexuals will be in heaven (or at least Francis says this), even tho; Thomas Aquinas states “sexus not est in anima”, i.e. the risen body is glorified, not a continuation of this life something Jesus does teach the Sadducees (Mt. 22: 23-46).
    Francis consults with his scriptural oracles and develops a whole a-traditional subjective Bergoglio tradition. The drift continues.

  23. Michael Paterson Seymour,

    The continuity of the Council with the Catholic theologians is accurate but even more is it’s continuity with the magisterium of Pope Pius XII (the most quoted of all popes in the documents). Pope Pius XIi wrote a profound encyclical on Sacred Scripture in 1943, in which he backed Catholic scholars in using the historical critical method and called for translations from the original languages oh Hebrew and Greek and not simply translating the Latin Vulgate. This encyclical is the foundation of Dei Verbum, on Divine Revelation. His two encyclicals of 1947, Mystici Corporis and Mediator Dei were foundational to Lumen Gentium. And Sacrosanctum Concilium.

    You are most correct in pointing out the deep split within the Church in France, that while mostly dealt with successfully in the Council, has been exported beyond the borders of France, and sadly remains an issue even to this day. Pope Benedict did all he possibly do to resolve this division, to no avail. The future indeed looks bleak for any real reconciliation. However, for God all things are possible; thus we can continue to hope and pray.

  24. Well-done, returning Botolph, you completely misinterpreted what is being said: we are talking about (actually) text-criticism and form-criticism (not historical criticism) which has run amok without any relationship to Catholic tradition. Pius XII would never have stood for what happened to biblical criticism after V2 (and in fact he disciplined Fr Chenu in 1942 for his nascent pre-V2 traditional reinterpretationism).

  25. Steve Phoenix

    Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, usually cited as “LSJ,” now in its 9th (1996) edition, published by the Oxford University Press is the standard dictionary of Ancient Greek, recognized by all classical scholars throughout the English-speaking world. It is for Ancient Greek what the Oxford English Dictionary or Webster is for English.

    The translation I offered can be found in every single English translation that is based on the Greek text (as opposed to those like Douay-Rheims that are translations of the Latin Vulgate text). Here are some early examples,

    The Bishops’ Bible (1568) “[thou that art] freelie beloued”
    Geneva Bible (1587) “thou that art freely beloued”
    Authorized Version (1611) “thou that art highly fauoured”

    (Note they all treat it as a present perfect)

    Daniel Mace, who produced a new critical edition of the Greek Textus Receptus in 1729, has “favourite of heaven.”

    It would be a tedious task to cite the modern translations (the New American Standard has “favoured one”) and quite unnecessary. Greek is not Hittite, known only to a handful of specialists and the notion that a false translation of the bible could be foisted on the world is fanciful.

    As Botolph point out, it was Pope Pius XII, who, in Divino Afflatu Spiritu of 30 September 1943, called for new translations of the Bible from the original languages, instead of the Vulgate. “We ought to explain the original text which was written by the inspired author himself and has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation whether ancient or modern.” Every modern scholar agrees that the original text has Κεχαριτωμένη; it is simply a question of translating χαριτόω. a verb that can be found, not only in the NT, but in other ancient authors, Aristeas, Hephaestion and Libanius.

  26. Very informative exchanges in the commentary. Botolph, it appears to me, has not been able to undo Steve Phoenix. Both have done a good job in the debate however. I have learned something for sure. Steve is right both about the non-dogmatic nature of Vatican II — authoritative only in the sense when it does not compromise what is defined — and about “full of grace.” To pretend today’s scripture critics know more than St. Jerome is ridiculous. Anyone knows that who has studied the life and labors of this doctor. We learn much from the admissions of the liberal heretics like Brown, Suenens, Schillebeeckx, and Congar. The last two of these, along with Hans Kung, denied papal infallibility and one reason they gave for the denial was because, as they argued, the Church had changed its teaching on extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

  27. Confusion exists as to our nature, our reason, and what we can attain to before and after becoming a Christian. Neo-scholasticism is, I think, a dead end. And there is no philosophic approach to all this. THere is no state of nature, of course, as someone said earlier. To posit such a thing even for purposes of a thought experiement simply makes no sense. I have come to terms iwht the fact that we are fallen and redeemed in Christ. This is augustinian, too. Certainly there is a moral law written on our consciences, if you will, but I’m not sure that’s adequate. St. Paul seemed to think it merely served to condemn us: at some level we knwo the truth but we suppress that truth in wickedness.

  28. And I argue that neither was Adam in a state of nature. Humankind is cultural from the start. We were assigned to cultivate the earth. Created in the image of God, we too are creative, and that means we engage in arts and sciences. In the fullness of the kingdom, I imagine civilization will finally come into its own.

  29. The Christian imagination has always been cautious when it comes to what the future resurrection looks like, and rightfully so. But it has been the business of cults to flesh that out. I think of the idyllic depictions on the front cover of watchtower magazines and the ravings of mormons about eternal growth and infinite accomplishment. As one Christian writer has put it, the cults are the unpaid bills of the church. The church needs to address this gap.

  30. Kelso

    I find it astonishing that you should describe Cardinal Suenens or Cardinal Yves Congar as “heretics.”
    Cadinal Suenens’ orthodoxy was never questioned; Pope John Paul II conferred the red hat on Cardinal Congar, precisely to vindicate him from rumours of heterodoxy.

    As for Fr Edward Schillebeeckx, although investigated by the CDF in 1976, 1979 and 1984, he was never censured and his writings never condemned.

  31. Michael Paterson, all of these liberal “theologians’ went out of their way to deny the “irreformable dogma” of No Salvation outside the Church. See Vatican I’s definition on the issue of ex cathedra pronouncements. They all invented loopholes to escape the literal and “defined” (three times at least) dogma of THE CHURCH on salvation. This is the scandal of all scandals. To give the impression to non-Catholics that they can be saved by “invincible ignorance” etc. etc. is a most grievous scandal. Pius IX did not say this. If you read his encyclicals in Latin you will see exactly what he said pertaining to invincible ignorance; he did not change a negative into a positive. All he said what that no one will suffer torments in the next life (read the Latin, supliciis) for not knowing what they never heard. They will suffer for sins that their conscience accused them of in the moral law. If they follow the “lights of grace” they will come to the truth. (Vatican II, and St. Thomas BTW) This is the error of our day to say ignorance can give a positive reward, ie, eternal life, if one lives by the natural law. Who are these people that defy original sin and can live virtuously in keeping the Ten Commandments without knowing them in word? I know of no missionaries who ever encountered such people. All have sinned! All need Jesus and Baptism! Congar was one of the worst in this regard with his book and his numerous writings on salvation outside the Church. This is the one dogma that cannot be accepted as defined. No way. It is an embarrasment. It simply cannot be true as defined, the liberals say. That is why Father Feeney was persecuted, because he said ‘enough is enough’. Stop this equivocation and circumvention. Let the word stand as defined. Nothing else is worthy of humankind. Poor souls who deny the Church and do not know Jesus, or deny Him, must be challenged by both word and example. To pretend there is salvation outside the Church is the worst possible sin against charity. Where has all this false ecumenism got us. NOWHERE!! The past popes have a lot to answer for, especially for promoting the HERESY of saying that we are no longer trying to CONVERT non-Catholics, rather we are INCLUDING them in the way of salvation as a lesser communion. Vatican II did not say this, albeit Lumen Gentium was pathetically ambiguous. What a scandal!! “If you do not believe in Me,” Jesus told the Jews, “you shall die in your sins.” We may as well throw out the Gospels and Epistles if one can be saved outside the Church and without Baptism, in re or, at least, explicitly in voto (vowed intent, explicit desire to receive the sacrament). Oh, we pathetic creatures can be so much more merciful than God, so much more understanding. Just say the truth and leave the unbelievers to God. Do not put them on the road to salvation without faith in Christ. Who are we,who is the pope for that matter, to give such an impression.

  32. Kelso

    If it really all so straightforward, why were not Cardinal Suenens, Cardinal Congar and Fr Schillebeeckx censured, or at least their works condemned by the Holy See?

    On the contrary, it was precisely in acknowledgement of his work as theologian that Yves Congar was honoured with the red hat.

    One could say as much of Bl John Henry Newman: “One of the most remarkable instances of what I am insisting on is found in a dogma, which no Catholic can ever think of disputing, viz., that “Out of the Church, and out of the faith, is no salvation.” Not to go to Scripture, it is the doctrine of St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian in the first three centuries, as of St. Augustine and his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth. It can never be other than an elementary truth of Christianity; and the present Pope [Pius IX] has proclaimed it as all Popes, doctors, and bishops before him. But that truth has two aspects, according as the force of the negative falls upon the “Church” or upon the “salvation.” The main sense is, that there is no other communion or so called Church, but the Catholic, in which are stored the promises, the sacraments, and other means of salvation; the other and derived sense is, that no one can be saved who is not in that one and only Church. But it does not follow, because there is no Church but one, which has the Evangelical gifts and privileges to bestow, that therefore no one can be saved without the intervention of that one Church.” (Letter to the Duke of Norfolk)

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