PopeWatch: Ghost Written Encyclicals



Lots of furor over the apparently ghost written encyclical on the environment:


The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical has been delayed because the Holy Father feared the first draft would not be approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register May 14 that the “preparation procedure of the encyclical took place, and is taking place, in a completely normal way, and there has not been, and there isn’t, any delay compared to what was expected.”

He added there have “never been reliable predictions” about the time of the publication of the encyclical, which is expected to reaffirm the Church’s teaching on safeguarding the environment and controversially endorse the science of anthropogenic climate change.

Those who have claimed to know the date of its release have based their comments on “rumors and fantasies,” Father Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman did say he has always thought it would appear “before the summer,” but added that it has already been “announced and repeated that the final text is being translated, and it’s reasonable to expect the publication within a few weeks, probably in June.”

Father Lombardi’s comments came after veteran Vaticanista Sandro Magister claimed on his blog “Settimo Cielo” May 11 that the Pope had “binned” the first draft of the encyclical when he spent a week in March examining the document.

Magister said the Pope feared the first draft — which had been ghostwritten by his theologian friend from Argentina, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández  — would have been “demolished” by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “once it had gotten into his hands.”

But Father Lombardi said it is “normal and obvious” that, as with any encyclical, the CDF would check the document before publication and that he was unaware of “any cause of delays or problems.” He called the speculation “totally unfounded” and said it “seems almost unbelievable that such things are written.”

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch hopes that the powers that be at the Vatican take their time with this “green” encyclical.  This time next century may be an apt time for it to be released.  More seriously, what is the duty of a faithful Catholic to an encyclical written by someone other than the Pope.  I assume that most modern popes have had help in regard to their writings, although both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had styles that were quite evident in what they wrote.  However, what if a Pope writes almost none of an encyclical but merely issues it with his approval?  In the New Advent entry on Encyclicals there is this interesting passage:  As for the binding force of these documents it is generally admitted that the mere fact that the pope should have given to any of his utterances the form of an encyclical does not necessarily constitute it an ex-cathedra pronouncement and invest it with infallible authority. The degree in which the infallible magisterium of the Holy See is committed must be judged from the circumstances, and from the language used in the particular case.

If the utterances of what purports to be a papal encyclical are not actually the words of the Pope but rather the product of the brain of someone else, I assume that perhaps questioning of the Pope might be appropriate to ascertain that he at least has read what has come out under his name.


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  1. If a document is incorrect – whether in matters of science and engineering or in matters of faith and doctrine – then regardless of who issues the document (Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Layperson, etc.) Or what the document is (Encyclical, Papal Bull, Apostolic Exhortation, etc), we must continue to believe the Truth. Yes, we must respect the office of the Holy Pontiff. But such respects demands that we always and everywhere support the Truth. What is of greater disrespect to the office of the Holy Pontiff than to fail to support the Truth?
    Man will properly discharge his stewardship over the environment only when he repents of his sin. That is the message which must be preached.

  2. The problem is Paul in regard to the Pope that only he is invested with the Petrine office. The charisms that go with that office only relate to him. Delegation by him of functions of that office raise tricky questions, especially when a written work purports to be by him and is not.

  3. Oh, dear… I think I can remember some mention that infallible teaching can be issued by the Magisterium when they join as one to teach it, but that is matters of faith, not science.
    Not sure it’s ever had to be fought out, so there may not be a hard’n’fast rule.

  4. I don’t have an objection to the idea that a Pope might have others write some or most of
    an encyclical that goes out over his signature– it’s been done, many times, before. Pope
    Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, was largely the work of Benedict XVI– it had
    been in the works for many months prior to his abdication. Pius XI’s Mit Brennender
    was written in great part by the future Pius XII, who was nuncio to Germany at
    the time and thus rather an authority on the subject matter.
    That said, I must agree with T. Shaw’s succinct observation above– Pope Francis might be
    able to have others write some or all of his encyclicals and Apostolic exhortations for him,
    but he cannot delegate his responsibility for what goes out over his signature. And that
    responsibility extends to the choice of subject matter for encyclicals and exhortations.
    What assent is owed to such documents when they aren’t concerned so much with matters
    of faith and morals as much as science, economics, and prudential judgement?

  5. The faithful are to give an assent to encyclicals of the pope. To have a priest ( who also wrote a book on kissing!) do the writing is to further denigrate the office of the papacy, even if the pope signs off on it. And why spend he time on such controversial things such as the unproven theory of climate change when millions of souls need to be attended to????

  6. So. Reading between the lines, Lombardi’s saying that any delay is expected because vetting by the CDF is part of the process. Which means Sandro Magister got the story essentially correct, yes?

  7. “And why spend he time on such controversial things such as the unproven theory of climate change when millions of souls need to be attended to????”

    Because in large measure that is what the social justice crowd is about. Not about saving souls but saving society and that through material means.

  8. The Church’s and the Pope’s competency: Faith & Morals.
    The Church’s, the Pope’s, and the Magisterium’s relationship with science: If required, to make a judgment whether or not a science, its methodology, and its conclusions [etc.] are compatible with the Faith [& Morals].

    – What is covers: Cf. CCC 2035.

    – The Church’s: Cf. CCC 889-91.

    – The Magisterium of the Pastors’: Cf. CCC 2051.

    – The Pope’s: Cf. CCC 891.

  9. What science is:

    “Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists.”

    “Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet, many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence.”

    “Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare.” – Source: Cf. 9. in WMAP Site FAQs

  10. The Roman Pontiff has no business writing an encyclical about the enviornment and climate change. His words regarding certain Catholic teaching (annihilation of souls?) has been suspect and the Roman Pontiff has not one day of working experience in anything related to air pollution, water pollution, power generation of any kind, mineral and /or energy extraction. In short, this upcoming encyclical is much ado about nothing and I will treat it as such. Given that the first week of March in Pittsburgh featured below-zero temperatures I consider global warming types to be beyond stupid.

    Fracking has opened up the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota and the Permian basin of Texas, as well as the Marcellus, Utica and Point Pleasant shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. As Mr. Primavera has pointed out too many times to recall, the Earth has sufficient uranium to power nuclear reactors for God knows how many years. The US is approaching energy self sufficiency and if heating oil in the Northeast were replaced with natural gas we would be there. The American Spectator has an article about how Russia is openly and not so openly supporting anti-fracking types in Europe and the USA because Russia needs the hard currency from its oil and gas. Of course, if Russia fracks, then that’s great.

  11. The Church’s, the Pope’s, and the Magisterium’s relationship with science: If required, to make a judgment whether or not a science, its methodology, and its conclusions [etc.] are compatible with the Faith [& Morals].

    *two thumbs up*

  12. Thank you; I do try to share the neat stuff, although I think I’ve got a very, very long way to go before I’m well read instead of just eclectic. (And it’ll probably be a lot longer with these kids!)

  13. No one disputes that the condemnation of the Five Propositions of Jansen in Cum Occasione of 31 May 1653 is infallible, although Pope Innocent X had not drafted it. It would have been impossible for him to do so, as he had not read the Augustinus.

    The work had been examined by Nicolas Cornet, Syndic of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris and he had drawn up a list of seven propositions digested from it, the first five of which were those ultimately censured. These were condemned by the Sorbonne and sent to the Pope in a letter from Isaac Habert, Bishop of Vabres and subscribed by 85 of the French bishops.

    The bull itself was drafted by Francisco Cardinal Albizzi, Assessor of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, based on an examination of the book by a commission of six cardinals. In it, the Five Propositions are simply condemned, without a word of argument or explanation. As Peronne says, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition,” and the pope has no wider prerogative than a Council and the Pope’s reasoning would add nothing to the dogmatic force of the condemnation.

    At the last moment the pope was perplexed as to whether he should issue a declaration and thus provoke further controversy. Cardinal Chigi told him that a failure to make a decision after such protracted discussions would give rise to the impression that Jansenism had really been approved.

    Nevertheless, the promulgation of the bull was the Pope’s own act and he intended to pronounce a definitive judgment on the Five Propositions.

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