Company Way or Timeless Magisterium?

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Oh good!  Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings has posted a blog article for me to steal borrow:


One of the staples of Catholic apologetics is that the Catholic magisterium safeguards the truth and ensures a unity and clarity that Protestantism lacks.

I would not be so sure of that. In fact, I would say (and have said before) that the current pontiff is demonstrating that the magisterium is little more than the mouthpiece of the reigning pope and only safeguards whatever iteration of whichever truth he wishes to utter. In short, the magisterium is sola papam currentis.

Why no, I am not a Latinist? How could you tell?

This thought was driven home by a recent piece at the estimable One Peter Five: Amoris Laetitia and John Paul II by Josh Kusch.

In short, Kusch spells out with undeniable clarity that Amoris Laetitia expressly contradicts the magisterial statements of Francis’ predecessor, and does so in a particularly unsavory fashion–by either partial quoting or choosing to ignore prior statements altogether. For the latter, Kusch points out how the encyclical Veritatis Splendor flatly contradicts what Francis wants to say–so Francis ignored it. To wit:

The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid.  They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.  (VS 52)

The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. (VS 67) 

When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth.  (VS 96)

It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man. (VS 103)  

It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer, that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God’s holy law, even amid the gravest of hardships.  (VS 103)

As Kusch ably demonstrates, each contradicts certain central assumptions in the later text.

And yet, the Vatican’s official newspaper is at pains to assert that the later text is, in fact, authoritative.

So Veritatis Splendor–with its forceful restatement of Catholic moral teaching–has been round-filed after less than a quarter of a century?

Anyone else see the problem here?

What I have not been able to suss out is precisely why I should salute Francis’ newest flag when he burnt John Paul II’s. His actions completely undercut his claimed “authority.”

Rather than call Amoris Laetitia “authoritative,” isn’t the honest answer “wait at least a couple of popes and then see?” 

Of course, progs are brandishing it like new holy writ. To be expected, yes, but wholly dishonest if one is following McCormick’s contemptuous course. But I don’t see any honest reason why I should regard it similarly. 

If this is Catholicism, then I never really understood it. And if the magisterium is just the press office of the current officeholder, then cue Flannery O’Connor.


Go here to comment.  The defenders of Pope Francis often play out the worst stereotypes of Catholics by bitter anti-Catholics:  That we are all simply papal yes men and women without minds of our own, and that if a Pope told us to paint our bottoms yellow we would only inquire what shade.  This is a caricature of Catholicism.  Popes doing unwise or wrongheaded deeds, or writing something foolish, is not uncommon in Catholicism.  However, Popes are creatures of the moment, not to be confused with the Church, Christ’s Bride.  Human folly exists, even on the papal throne, something our greatest saints and popes have ever been quick to remind us.

“The pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honor and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God.  Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory, because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy, because he who does not believe is already judged.  In such a case it should be said of him:  ‘If salt should lose its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.'”

Pope Innocent III

Therefore, as it is lawful to resist the Pope, if he assaulted a man’s person, so it is lawful to resist him, if he assaulted souls or troubled the state (turbanti rempublicam) and much more if he strove to destroy the Church.  It is lawful, I say, to resist him by not doing what he commands, and hindering the execution of his will.”

Saint Robert Bellarmine

 “If a future pope teaches anything contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him.”

Pope Pius IX

The citations could be multiplied into the dozens.  Catholicism has never taught that the Pope has the power to subvert the doctrine of the Church and take it away from the teachings of Christ.  All the careerists among the clergy and the laity cannot alter this basic Catholic truth.


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  1. Laudato Si showed the same mendacity in its workmanship. And we’ve seen the handiwork of duplicity in the machinations of the synod and post synod. This article points out the real damage to Catholic evangelization. I read a while back an interesting article that the Pope actually promotes, gives fodder to, a brand of anti-Catholicism with his straw man accusations against fundamentalists, et al, and he legitimizes the soft persecution we now ascendant. This fig tree of the progressive ideological church is not producing the fruit of faith.

  2. Notice how no one speaks of the Francis effect anymore as far as it being a positive for the Church. I guess we all knew there would be no stampede into the Church to find relativism. Folks who seek that don’t need the burden of entering the Catholic Church to find it.

  3. “Notice how no one speaks of the Francis effect anymore as far as it being a positive for the Church.”

    I never saw the Francis effect to be a positive. From the very beginning I saw people straying from truth due to it.

  4. Two wonderful nuns were stabbed to death in their home in Mississippi yesterday…nurse practitioners working with the poor….both 68 years old. Pope Francis would want their killers to not get death nor a life sentence because deep down he thinks Romans 13:4 is from Paul not from God yet Vatican II says in Dei Verbum…” both testaments in all their parts have God as their author”. Francis was not alone in this noxious trend…his two predecessors said similar things but not directly to the world press. ( cf Verbum Domini 42/ Evangelium Vitae 40).
    Pray for the nuns but I think now a plenary indulgence is automatic for any Catholics at point of death who are in sanctifying grace and having had a habit of prayer throughout life.

  5. Very good stuff for sure. Given the basic theological level of most pew sitting Catholic it is doubtful that the errors of Amoris Laetitia will be noticed. The errors will just add to the miasma of Protestant ambiguity (now re-baptized as Mercy) that surrounds Catholic theology since Vatican II. As for Pope Francis himself? He is the hero of the protestantized Catholic majority and considered a breakthrough guy just like Luther.

    We are approaching a reckoning.

  6. The Rorate Caeli combox went apoplectic at the election of Jorge Maria Bergoglio, and rightfully so. I need not repeat the various comments, deeds, appointments and demotions this Pontiff has made that have led us to this point.

    This Pontiff, and the sorry bunch who put him into the office of the See of Peter, will one day pass from the scene. They will again prove that the greatest enemy the Church has is itself.

    There has not been a Pontiff that is truly this bad for some time, and this will no doubt give pause to a certain number of converts wondering just what the hell is this man thinking. Catholics outside of Western Europe and South America really don’t know just what a mess the Church is in inside South America…..and most of the clergy there is clueless about it.

  7. @Donald R. McClarey Yours and @Dyspeptic Mutterings posts, brilliantly brief and clear. Thank you!
    And when such clarity and truth is lacking, one ought not to be surprised by the long and meandering Amoris Laetitia.

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