A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Rupture Theology is Heretical

The Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gherhard Muller, has recently confirmed in published remarks that the so-called "hermeneutic of rupture" with respect to Vatican II is a heresy.  The head of the CDF noted that this false thesis of rupture exists in both progressive and traditionalist camps.  These comments come in a period where discussions between the SSPX and the Holy See appear to be in a state of pause.  The firmness of tone, however, appears to underscore previous remarks given by the newly appointed vice-president of Ecclesia Dei as well as the formal directives given by the Holy Father himself concerning the necessary "acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes".   Some have called for a new Syllabus of Errors with respect to Vatican II and this can certainly be viewed as a step in that direction. 

The SSPX responds by affirming the "major premise" denouncing the "hermeneutic of rupture" as heretical.

"...let us remark that, aside from the reference to Vatican II, we agree totally with the anti-progressive statement of Archbishop Mueller:
This interpretation (of a magisterial act in continuity with the past) is the only one possible according to the principles of Catholic theology, in consideration of the indissoluble link between Sacred Scripture, the complete and integral Tradition and the Magisterium”.
We completely agree with this proposition and also affirm that whoever denies it is heretical..."

As previously observed, however, the SSPX do not wish to recognize the Second Vatican Council as a "magisterial act" by reason of its theological and doctrinal defects.  Rather, they see Vatican II as the expression of a totally new self-styled "pastoral-magisterium" that is "foreign to the ends of the divinely instituted magisterium".  This same reasoning applied to the liturgy concludes that the Mass of Pope Paul VI (New Mass) does not have the binding character of a "true law" by reason of its "serious theological defects" contributing directly to a "lessening of faith, piety and religious practice...it is neither right, nor just nor helpful to the common good". (Cf. The Problem of the Liturgical Reform, Angelus Press, p. 106)    

The SSPX position contrasts with "sedevacantism" insofar as the latter simply do not wish to recognize the legitimacy of the office holder whereas the former do not wish to recognize the legitimacy of his various acts (Vatican II and post-conciliar magisterium) as either authentically magisterial (legitimate teaching) or canonical (legitimate law).  For the sedevacantist, the man sitting on the Chair of Peter is an anti-Pope only with the outward appearance of being a true Pope.  For the SSPX, the documents promulgated at Vatican II (including post-conciliar teaching) are anti-magisterial even if they have the outward appearance of being authentic magisterial acts.  While sedevacantism broadly tends to shun the Pope the SSPX chooses to maintain open lines of communication with the aim of drawing him back to the fulness of Catholic truth. 

Finally, it is interesting to note that this is not the first time the term "heresy" has been used in connection with positions held by the SSPX.  Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, former head of Ecclesia Dei, had commented in an interview 
We hope that they will come to the full communion with the Church. But some people are going too fast to schism and to the heresy, because if they begin to be teachers of the Pope, this is not schism, this is heresy. And if it is confirmed, people going with that kind of movement will be excommunicated, too, because of the heresy.                 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Archbishop DiNoia Speaks

Archbishop DiNoia, newly appointed vice-president of Ecclesia Dei, has recently given an interview with some perspective into the obstacles that must be overcome prior to the hoped-for SSPX reconciliation.

For Achbishop DiNoia, there can be no possibility of holding a view where the Church is seen to have fallen into heretical error.

"...membership and full communion involves faith that the Holy Spirit is preserving the Church from error and that communion with the See of Peter is part of the reality of being in full communion. It’s not accidental.  So, if they comply, it has to be with the necessary requirements of being fully Catholic, not simply what the Pope says or what I say.… They have to say: “Yes, I do believe the Church is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit.” Then I can say, “Okay, then; you’re a Catholic.”  The society has been fed by people who use the word “error.” “Error” is a vague word in the Catholic tradition. There are many different levels of error. Sometimes it means you’ve fallen into heresy; sometimes it means that you are rash."

As a consequence, the council must be viewed in the light of Tradition.

What I’ve tried to argue is that all they have to do is to say there’s nothing in the Council that is contrary to Tradition and that every text, or every part of it that is controversial, should be read in context of the Council — and read it in light of the Tradition. It seems to me, despite their difficulties, they should be able to do that.

At the same time, the Church allows freedom for legitimate theological discussion and debate -- within the bounds of charity. 

Another issue is there’s a failure to recognize a simple fact of the history of the Church: that all theological disagreements need not be Church-dividing. So, for example, the Jesuits and Dominicans had a tremendous disagreement in the 16th century about the theology of grace. In the end, the Pope forbade them to call each other heretics, which they had been doing. The Pope said, “You may continue to hold your theological opinion,” but he refused to give a doctrinal determination, saying the Jesuits or Dominicans were right. Now, this is a very interesting example, because it shows that Catholicism is broad enough to include a tremendous amount of theological diversity and debate. Sometimes the Church will act, but only when it sees people slipping into heresy and therefore breaking off from communion.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Tale of Two Syllogisms

What has become more and more evident by following the ongoing dialogue between the SSPX and representatives of the Holy See is two contrasting syllogisms with respect to the nature of the Magisterium and its exercise during and after Vatican II.  It is significant to note that both parties are in agreement concerning the "incontestable principles" of the major premise.

MAJOR PREMISE: The teaching authority or Magisterium of the Church enjoys the "certain charism of truth" in matters of faith.  All authentic acts of the Magisterium enjoy the divine assistance necessary for the indefectible transmission of the Faith.  The doctrine proposed by the authentic Magisterium is binding on the faithful to the degree that it demands our assent. 

MINOR PREMISE:  The documents of Vatican II promulgated by the Pope are authentic acts of the Magisterium.

CONCLUSION: The teachings of the Second Vatican Council demand an appropriate level of assent by the faithful and are guaranteed to be free from doctrinal errors against the faith.   

SSPX OBJECTION 1: : But the council introduced novel doctrines that contradict the former Magisterium and Tradition.  
SSPX OBJECTION 2: Furthermore, the council was merely "pastoral" in nature and therefore it did not have the intention to bind or demand the assent of the faithful.

ROMAN RESPONSE 1: Where there exist "difficulties in understanding the continuity of certain Conciliar Teachings with the tradition, the Catholic attitude, having taken into account the unity of the Magisterium, is to seek a unitive interpretation in which the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the preceding Magisterial documents illuminate each other." (Msgr. Ocariz)   
ROMAN RESPONSE 2: "...the pastoral motivation of the Council does not mean that it was not doctrinal – since all pastoral activity is necessarily based on doctrine. But, above all, it is important to emphasise that precisely because doctrine is aimed at salvation, the teaching of doctrine is an integral part of all pastoral work. Furthermore, within the Documents of the Council it is obvious that there are many strictly doctrinal teachings: on Divine Revelation, on the Church, etc." 

MAJOR PREMISE: The teaching authority or Magisterium of the Church enjoys the "certain charism of truth" in matters of faith.  All authentic acts of the Magisterium enjoy the divine assistance necessary for the indefectible transmission of the Faith.  The doctrine proposed by the authentic Magisterium is binding on the faithful to the degree that it demands our assent.

MINOR PREMISE:  It is evident that the documents of Vatican II (a merely "pastoral council") contain doctrinal errors against the faith.

CONCLUSION: The erroneous teachings of the Second Vatican Council are the fruit of a merely "pastoral magisterium" and not legitimate or authentic acts of the Magisterium, properly speaking, demanding the assent of the faithful.

ROMAN OBJECTION: No, you must obey the legitimate authority and give due assent to the doctrine proposed by the Magisterium, otherwise you contradict the "incontestable principles" that you have affirmed in the "major premise" and effectively become protestant. 

SSPX RESPONSE: "...the exercise of the magisterium is the employment of a function: even if most of the time this usage is correct, it always remains possible that the titular of a function may exercise the act defectively, which amounts to failing to accomplish the act...It thus appears that this magisterium was marked by a grave deficiency in its very act...when a council produces bad teaching, it is not the work of the magisterium; in fact, it is contrary to the magisterium, that is to say, against Tradition." (SSPX)

Indeed, these disparate points of view are nothing new.  The same basic lines of argumentation go back to the 70's as expressed in a letter from Pope Paul VI to Marcel Lefebvre:

“Nothing that was decreed in this Council, or in the reforms that We enacted in order to put the Council into effect, is opposed to what the two-thousand-year-old Tradition of the Church considers as fundamental and immutable.   We are the guarantor of this, not in virtue of Our personal qualities but in virtue of the charge which the Lord has conferred upon Us as legitimate Successor of Peter, and in virtue of the special assistance that He has promised to Us as well as to Peter: ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail’ (Lk 22:32)...

Again, you cannot appeal to the distinction between what is dogmatic and what is pastoral, to accept certain texts of this Council and to refuse others.  Indeed, not everything in the Council requires an assent of the same nature: only what is affirmed by the definitive acts as and object of faith requires an assent of faith.  But the rest also forms part of the solemn Magisterium of the Church, to which each member of the faithful owes a confident acceptance and a sincere application.
You say moreover that you do not always see how to reconcile certain texts of the Council, or certain dispositions which We have enacted in order to put the Council into practice, with the wholesome Tradition of the Church...Absolutely secure counsellors, theologians, and spiritual directors would be able to help you...and We are ready to facilitate this fraternal assistance for you.” (Pope Paul VI, Letter to Archbishop Lefebvre, October 11, 1976; taken from Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Davies, Angelus Press, 1979, vol. I, p. 322)

Indeed, in his letter, Pope Paul VI firmly rebukes Marcel Lefebvre for characterizing Rome as "Neo-Modernist" and "Neo-Protestant" and calling the Archbishop's behavior "contradictory" by attempting to defend the authority of the Magisterium by opposing the Pope and the Council.  The Holy Father had indicated that the root of the "problem is theological" insofar as the Archbishop adheres to an "ecclesiology that is warped in essential points" as well as a "distorted" concept of Tradition.  From the perspective of the Holy See, these are precisely the "theological" and "doctrinal" points that must be overcome.  From the perspective of the SSPX, however, the problem lies with Rome and its "defective" and "contradictory" teachings issued from the council.

Q. Can the Church err in what she proposes for our belief?  
A. No, the Church cannot err in what she proposes for our belief, since according to the promise of Jesus Christ she is unfailingly assisted by the Holy Ghost.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can the Magisterium Teach Heresy?

In a recent Open Letter to Si Si No No, Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, O.P. challenges the SSPX to take a clear and logically consistent position relative to the indefectibility of the Church and the infallibility of the Magisterium on matters of faith:

Is the Church’s Magisterium, in matters of faith, infallible or fallible? You have to choose.  It is here that we will see if you are truly Catholic or crypto-Protestants, or, despite your intentions to the contrary – crypto-Modernists. But at least the Modernists are coherent: as a principal, they have a relativist and evolutionist gnoseology. How can you, Thomists, who claim the existence of an immutable and definite truth and also see the Church as teacher of the truth, end up alongside the Protestants and Modernists by saying that the Church can err de facto in the doctrine of the truth?

The Magisterium is not only infallible when it proclaims or defines a dogma, but also when it simply teaches a truth of the faith or close to the faith, without declaring the need to define it. It is enough that is about matters of the faith, as in the case of the new conciliar doctrines. It is this teaching that is found in the [Motu Proprio] Ad tuendam fidem, which you most certainly know. Besides, when you negate infallibility, certainly with this you do not identify sic et simpliciter, the fallible with the actually false. And yet you do not exclude the possibility of error, you do not deny that in the future, that which is taught today will become false or show itself to be false.

Now this contrasts with the Divine mission of teaching the Gospel which was entrusted to the Church by Christ. Therefore, denying the infallibility of the Magisterium is against the faith and so it is heresy. The moment you accuse, even in a veiled way, the Council of having fallen into heresy, you do not realize that you have fallen in it yourselves.

Q. Can the Church err in what she proposes for our belief?  
A. No, the Church cannot err in what she proposes for our belief, since according to the promise of Jesus Christ she is unfailingly assisted by the Holy Ghost.

UPDATE: The Response from Si Si No No

The response given by the editors of Si Si No No confirms the SSPX position that the Second Vatican Council represents a substantial rupture in faith.  According to the authors, the doctrine of the Magisterium can be multiple or different regarding even the "substance" of the faith:

The  Church as subject is always one; She is and will always be “pillar and sustainer of the Truth ”, even if the object or doctrine taught by Her may be multiple regarding “the way” and the “substance”. Now the Second Vatican Council is “pastoral”.... So the doctrine of Vatican II is different regarding “the way” of the other XX Councils preceding it and in some cases it even deviates from “the substance”.  
According to the authors, this deviation or rupture was made possible insofar as the Second Vatican Council did not intend to "define and bind belief" and, therefore, the criteria for an infallible divine assistance was not satisfied at the council.  Rather, the type of divine assistance operative at the Second Vatican Council was only of a fallible kind and therefore subject to err -- not only in practical-prudential or "pastoral" decisions -- but also with respect to the substance of the faith.     

Friday, January 13, 2012

The SSPX Response


In early December of last year, the SSPX submitted its response to the Holy See concerning the doctrinal preamble.  While the exact contents of the response and the doctrinal preamble remain secret, DICI has revealed that "one of the components that make up this response is the cogently argued study by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize that appeared in Le Courrier de Rome (no. 350, décembre 2011)."

The study affirms at the outset the following "incontestable principles" with respect to the teaching office or Magisterium of the Church:

In the first part of his study, the Spanish prelate recapitulates the fundamental notions recalled by Pius XII in Humani Generis: the fact that an act of the Church’s Teaching Authority [magisterium] is not guaranteed by the charism of infallibililty proper to solemn definitions does not mean that it can be considered “fallible” in the sense that it conveys “provisional teaching” or even “authorized opinions.” In general, that is, when it does not give solemn and infallible definitions, the Church’s Teaching Authority is always assisted by God, and this assistance is necessary to assure the indefectible transmission of the deposit of faith. In this sense, the merely ordinary teaching authority also benefits from a certain charism of truth.1 The infallibility of the Church’s Teaching Authority [magisterium] must be understood analogously, that is, as admitting of varying degrees.2

Likewise, then, the assent due to truths proposed by the Teaching Authority [magisterium] may also be understood as admitting of varying degrees. Infallible solemn definitions ordinarily set formally or virtually revealed truths, which require an assent of divine faith. Other non-defined teachings require religious inner assent, which implies, over and above the assent to the truth properly so-called, a certain element of obedience toward the magisterial authority. Finally, acts of the magisterium may contain elements that, being extraneous to a particular teaching, do not command as such any assent.

The author then laments that this criteria should be applied to Vatican II:  "These general reminders would not present any difficulty had Msgr. Ocariz not applied them to the teachings of Vatican II."  Indeed, the author proceeds to highlight four teachings of Vatican II that are considered to be irreconcilable with Tradition and the previous Magisterium where the contradictions in question constitute a rupture or break with respect to the unity of the teaching subject or Magisterium as well as with the unity of the object or doctrine (emphasis in original): 

The fact of Vatican II:  new teachings contrary to Tradition
On at least four points, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are obviously in logical contradiction to the pronouncements of the previous traditional Magisterium, so that it is impossible to interpret them in keeping with the other teachings already contained in the earlier documents of the Church’s Magisterium.  Vatican II has thus broken the unity of the Magisterium, to the same extent to which it has broken the unity of its object.

These four points are as follows.  The doctrine on religious liberty, as it is expressed in no. 2 of the Declaration Dignitatis humanae, contradicts the teachings of Gregory XVI in Mirari vos and of Pius IX in Quanta cura as well as those of Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei and those of Pope Pius XI in Quas primas.  The doctrine on the Church, as it is expressed in no. 8 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius XII in Mystici corporis and Humani generis.  The doctrine on ecumenism, as it is expressed in no. 8 of Lumen gentium and no. 3 of the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius IX in propositions 16 and 17 of the Syllabus, those of Leo XIII in Satis cognitum, and those of Pope Pius XI in Mortalium animos.  The doctrine on collegiality, as it is expressed in no. 22 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, including no. 3 of the Nota praevia [Explanatory Note], contradicts the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme power in the Church, in the Constitution Pastor aeternus.  (…)

Therefore, according to the author, those holding the teaching office have the possibility to propose defective teachings that must ultimately be considered as non-Magisterial.  Put another way, Magisterial acts are those true teachings proposed by those holding the teaching office.  On the contrary, those defective teachings that depart from truth are not Magisterial acts, properly speaking.  We are given to understand by this that a true and legitimate Pope can nevertheless exercise or promulgate an illegitimate and anti-Magisterial act concerning matters of faith.    

The same word “magisterium” is used both to designate the person who exercises the power of the magisterium [the teaching office or authority], (the pope or the bishops), and the act of the magisterium (an infallible definition or a simply authentic teaching). The person is the subject of a power or of a function which is by definition ordered to its object. For example, every man is endowed with a reasoning mind [speculative intelligence] ordered by nature to grasp first principles.50 This function either absolutely is or is not. On the other hand, the exercise of the magisterium is the employment of a function: even if most of the time this usage is correct, it always remains possible that the titular of a function may exercise the act defectively, which amounts to failing to accomplish the act, since a defective act is defined as a privation. For example, intellectual error or falsehood is defined as the privation of the relationship that should exist between the mind and reality.

We admit without challenge that Vatican II represented the magisterium of the Church in the sense in which the power of the bishops who were gathered during this council cum Petro et sub Petro was and still is the power to teach the universal Church. But we object that the intention of this Council was to meet the demands of a self-styled pastoral magisterium, the new intention of which is clearly foreign to the ends of the divinely instituted magisterium. It contradicted on at least the four points named above objective fundamental ideas of the constant magisterium clearly defined. It thus appears that this magisterium was marked by a grave deficiency in its very act. The Angelic Doctor said: “When anyone endowed with an art produces bad workmanship, this is not the work of that art; in fact it is contrary to the art.”51 Similarly, due allowance being made, when a council produces bad teaching, it is not the work of the magisterium; in fact, it is contrary to the magisterium, that is to say, against Tradition.

The study does not attempt to reconcile this conclusion with the "incontestable principles" given at the outset including that "...the Church’s Teaching Authority is always assisted by God, and this assistance is necessary to assure the indefectible transmission of the deposit of faith. In this sense, the merely ordinary teaching authority also benefits from a certain charism of truth."  In addition, the study does not attempt to resolve the problem over who has the competence and authority to judge whether a particular "act" of a Pope or a Council is true or defective concerning matters of faith.   

It is also noteworthy that three of the four rejected doctrines (above) are taken directly from the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the following manner:

"Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers.  And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God."

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on November 21, 1964.

Finally, we can observe by the study a decisive turn from previous statements seemingly affirming the will to interpret Vatican II teachings in the light of Tradition:  

“Far from wanting to stop Tradition in 1962, we wish to consider the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar teaching in the light of this Tradition which St. Vincent of Lérins defined as ‘what has been believed at all times, everywhere and by all’ (Commonitorium), without rupture and in a perfectly homogenous development. Thus we will be able to contribute efficaciously to the evangelization requested by the Savior (see Matthew 28; 19-20)."
Bishop Fellay, DICI, Press Release, March 12, 2009

UPDATE: Andrea Tornielli reports that Bishop Fellay subsequently delivered a "second response" to the Holy See concerning the doctrinal preamble.  This second "concise" response is said to comply with the expected format enabling the process to take a step forward. 

The true response of the superior of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bernard Fellay, formulated according to the requests of the Holy See, arrived at the Vatican just last week. The first reply, received by the Vatican on 21 December, was not considered adequate by Vatican authorities, who urged the head of the Lefebvrians to redraft it, considering the first delivery as more of a “documentation” than a reply. Thus Bishop Fellay has prepared a second text, more concise than the doctrinal preamble that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent him last September. This second text is now being carefully examined by consultants from the Ecclesia Dei Commission - who follow the Lefebrvian dossier - and this could take time.
...Fellay’s second response - which accepts some parts of the doctrinal preamble while questioning others - needs time to be examined... 
Recall that in the doctrinal preamble proposed by the Ecclesia Dei Commission (headed by Cardinal William Levada and led by Monsignor Guido Pozzo), the Lefebvrians were asked to subscribe to the profession of faith – that which is considered essential to being Catholic. The profession requires three different levels of approval and distinguishes between revealed truths, dogmatic statements, and ordinary magisterium. About the latter, it says that the Catholic is called to ensure a “religious submission of will and intellect” to the teachings that the Pope and the college of bishops “offer when they exercise their authentic Magisterium,” even if they are not proclaimed in a dogmatic way, as is the case with most of the documents of the magisterium...
The fact that the new and more appropriate response - which was considered in the sacred palazzos to be a “step forward” - needs to be carefully studied and considered, meaning that it is neither a definitive “yes” or “no” to the final text of the preamble. But it welcomes some parts of the Vatican text, while expressing reservations about others, and above all, it calls for further clarifications and additions. In fact, the Lefebvrians do not intend to give their assent to the texts of the Council regarding collegiality, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom, because they believe these to be inconsistent with tradition. Indeed, the concept of tradition - “Traditio” - and its value, represents the crux of the debate that has characterized the talks between the Society and the Holy See. The Lefebvrians criticize some of the Council’s provisions, considering them to be at odds with the tradition of the Church.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

On Adhesion to the Second Vatican Council

As the drama in the dialogue between Rome and the SSPX continues to unfold, a very relevant essay on the nature of adhesion to the Magisterium of the Second Vatican Council was published in the December 2, 2011 edition of L'Osservatore Romano penned by Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz.



This essay addresses several important aspects concerning the nature and levels of assent owed to the Magisterium in general and the various teachings of the Second Vatican Council in particular.  Some of the key points raised in the essay are among the following:


1. The pastoral motivation behind the Second Vatican Council does not imply that it was void of doctrinal content.  


2. The fact that the Second Vatican Council did not solemnly define dogmas explicitly invoking the charism of infallibility does not imply that its doctrinal "teaching is therefore to be considered "fallible" - in the sense that what is proposed is somehow a “provisional doctrine” or just an “authoritative opinion”. Every authentic expression of the Magisterium must be received for what it truly is: a teaching given by Pastors who, in the apostolic succession, speak with the “charism of truth” (Dei Verbum, n. 8), “endowed with the authority of Christ” (Lumen Gentium, n. 25), “and by the light of the Holy Spirit” (ibid.).


3. "Those affirmations of the Second Vatican Council that recall truths of the faith naturally require the assent of theological faith, not because they were taught by this Council but because they have already been taught infallibly as such by the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. So also a full and definitive assent is required for the other doctrines set forth by the Second Vatican Council which have already been proposed by a previous definitive act of the Magisterium." 


4. "The Council’s other doctrinal teachings require of the faithful a degree of assent called 'religious submission of will and intellect'.   Precisely because it is “religious” assent, such assent is not based purely on rational motives.  This kind of adherence does not take the form of an act of faith.  Rather, it is an act of obedience that is not merely disciplinary, but is well-rooted in our confidence in the divine assistance given to the Magisterium, and therefore 'within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith'" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 24 May 1990, n. 23).


5. If the Magisterium has the "charism of truth" when it proposes Catholic doctrine - it does not not imply that every utterance or passage is doctrinal and requiring the assent of the faithful.  The non-doctrinal elements included in Magisterial texts are contingent and ultimately fallible.  "Documents of the Magisterium may contain elements that are not exactly doctrinal — as is the case in the documents of the Second Vatican Council — elements whose nature is more or less circumstantial (descriptions of the state of a society, suggestions, exhortations, etc.). Such matters are received with respect and gratitude, but do not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense (cf. Instruction Donum Veritatis, nn. 24-31)". 


6.  Where there exist "difficulties in understanding the continuity of certain Conciliar Teachings with the tradition, the Catholic attitude, having taken into account the unity of the Magisterium, is to seek a unitive interpretation in which the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the preceding Magisterial documents illuminate each other. Not only should the Second Vatican Council be interpreted in the light of previous Magisterial documents, but also some of these earlier magisterial documents can be understood better in the light of the Second Vatican Council."


7. The Second Vatican Council proposed some innovative doctrines.  "These are innovations in the sense that they explain new aspects which have not previously been formulated by the Magisterium, but which do not doctrinally contradict previous Magisterial documents. This is so even though, in certain cases — for example, concerning religious freedom — these innovations imply very different consequences at the level of historical decisions concerning juridical and political applications of the teaching, especially given the changes in historical and social conditions."  


8. "An authentic interpretation of Conciliar texts can only be made by the Magisterium of the Church herself."


9. "Nevertheless, there remains space for legitimate theological freedom to explain in one way or in another how certain formulations present in the Conciliar texts do not contradict the Tradition and, therefore, to explain the correct meaning of some expressions contained in those passages."


10. "An assessment of the teaching of these Popes and the corresponding assent of the Episcopate to that teaching should transform a possible situation of difficulty into a serene and joyful acceptance of the Magisterium, the authentic interpreter of the doctrine of the faith. This must be possible and is to be hoped for, even if aspects that are not entirely understood remain. In any case, there remains legitimate room for theological freedom and for further opportune in-depth study.


Monday, July 04, 2011

The Patriot


Two dozen ANGRY, YELLING, MEN OF PROPERTY. Among them are ROBINSON, HAMILL and JOHNSON, who are Patriots. Opposed to them are SIMMS, WITHINGTON and BALDRIDGE who are Loyalists. As Martin makes his way to his seat, the SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY POUNDS HIS GAVEL.


Slowly, the room quiets down.

Our first order of business...

And our last if we vote a levy...


ORDER! ORDER! Mr. Simms, you do not have the floor.


Our first order of business is an address by Colonel Harry Lee of the Continental Army.

An imposing figure makes his way to the front of the assembly, COLONEL HARRY LEE, about Martin's age and cut from the same cloth -- strong, weathered, with a powerful bearing. Lee sees Martin and offers a familiar nod, which Martin returns, stone-faced. At the dais Lee pauses, then speaks simply.

You all know why I am here. I am not an orator and I will not try to convince you of the worthiness of our cause. I am a soldier and we are at war and with the declaration of independence we all expect from Philadelphia, it will soon be a formal state of war. In preparation for that, eight of the thirteen colonies have levied money in support of a Continental Army. I ask South Carolina to be the ninth.

In the balcony, Gabriel nods in agreement. Simms rises.

Colonel Lee, Massachusetts may be at war, along with New Hampshire and Rhode Island and Virginia, but South Carolina is not at war.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire are not as far from South Carolina as you might think and the war they're fighting is not for independence of one or two colonies. It's for the independence of one nation.

And what nation is that?

Robinson, one of the Patriots, stands up.

An American nation. Colonel Lee, with your permission?

Lee nods.

Those of us who call ourselves Patriots are not seeking to give birth to an American nation, but to protect one that already exists. It was born a hundred-and-seventy years ago at Jamestown and has grown stronger and more mature with every generation reared and with every crop sown and harvested. We are one nation and our rights as citizens of that nation are threatened by a tyrant three thousand miles away.

Were I an orator, those are the exact words I would have spoken.

Laughter. Martin rises.

Mister Robinson, tell me, why should I trade one tyrant, three thousand miles away, for three thousand tyrants, one mile away?

Laughter from the Loyalists. Surprise from Lee and the Patriots. In the gallery, Gabriel winces.


An elected legislature can trample a man's rights just as easily as a King can.

Captain Martin, I understood you to be a Patriot.

If you mean by a Patriot, am I angry at the Townsend Acts and the Stamp Act? Then I'm a Patriot. And what of the Navigation Act?  Should I be permitted to sell my rice to the French traders on Martinique? Yes, and it's an intrusion into my affairs that I can't... legally.


And what of the greedy, self-serving bastards who sit as Magistrates on the Admiralty Court and have fined nearly every man in this room.  Should they be boxed about the ears and thrown onto the first ship back to England? I'll do it myself.


And do I believe that the American colonies should stand as a separate, independent nation, free from the reins of King and Parliament? I do, and if that makes a Patriot, then I'm a Patriot.

Martin grows more serious.

But if you're asking whether I'm willing to go to war with England, the answer is, no. I've been to war and I have no desire to do so again.

The room is quiet, the Assemblymen having been thrown off- balance. Gabriel is disappointed by his father's speech.

This from the same Captain Benjamin Martin whose anger was so famous during the Wilderness Campaign?

Martin glares at Robinson, then smiles.

I was intemperate in my youth. My departed wife, God bless her soul, dampened that intemperance with the mantle of responsibility.

Robinson looks derisively at Martin.

Temperance can be a convenient disguise for fear.

Martin bristles but before he can answer, Lee steps in.

Mister Robinson, I fought with Captain Martin in the French and Indian War, including the Wilderness Campaign. We served as scouts under Washington. There's not a man in this room, or anywhere, for that matter, to whom I would more willingly trust my life.

I stand corrected.

But, damn it, Benjamin! You live in a cave if you think we'll get independence without war...

Wasn't it a Union Jack we fought under?

A long time ago...

Thirteen years...

That's a damn long time...

The Speaker POUNDS HIS GAVEL again.

Gentlemen! Please! This is not a tavern!

Martin and Lee ignore the speaker.

You were an Englishman then...

I was an American, I just didn't know it yet...

The Assemblymen and even the Speaker turn their heads in simultaneous anticipation of each rejoinder.

We don't have to go to war to gain independence...


There are a thousand avenues, other than war, at our disposal...

Martin speaks slowly and firmly.

We do not have to go to war to gain independence.

Lee says nothing for a moment, then he speaks more seriously, quietly, grimly.

Benjamin, I was at Bunker Hill. It was as bad as anything you and I saw on the frontier. Worse than the slaughter at the Ashuelot River.  The British advanced three times and we killed over seven hundred of them at point blank range. If your principles dictate independence, then war is the only way. It has come to that.

Martin is silent for a long moment. He softens and grows unsteady, speaking far more honestly than he ever wanted to.

I have seven children. My wife is dead. Who's to care for them if I go to war?

Lee is stunned by Martin's honesty and his show of weakness. At first Lee has no answer, then:

Wars are not fought only by childless men. A man must weigh his personal responsibilities against his principles.

That's what I'm doing. I will not fight and because I won't, I will not cast a vote that will send others to fight in my stead.

And your principles?

I'm a parent, I don't have the luxury of principles.

The other Assemblymen, both Patriots and Loyalists, stare at him, appalled. Martin, feeling weak, sits down. Lee looks at his friend with more sympathy than disappointment. In the gallery Gabriel turns and walks out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Radaelli: "No Rupture, But Also No Continuity"

Sandro Magister hosts a new contribution by Enrico Radaelli to the ongoing rupture vs. continuity debate.  Seemingly unconvinced by the Holy Father's proposal of a hermeneutic of reform in continuity with Tradition, and in sharp contrast to the arguments proposed by Fr. Cavalcoli, Radaelli argues that the Church currently finds itself in a state where there is neither rupture nor continuity.

According to Radaelli, formal rupture is theoretically impossible -- being limited to the first and second degrees of (infallible) doctrine.  On the other hand, Radaelli considers that the third degree of doctrine is ultimately and in the final analysis "not at all obligatorily binding for the obedience of the faithful."  According to Radaelli, this third degree of doctrine is subject to errors that can even contradict dogmatic truth or irreformable doctrines of the first and second degrees (i.e., authentic magisterial teachings of the third degree can be heretical).  On one hand, Radaelli denies that third degree doctrines touch upon the "dogmatic field".  On the other hand, Radaelli considers that third degree doctrines can nevertheless contradict dogma or doctrines within the "dogmatic field" representing a "false continuity with dogma".  While this does not constitute "formal rupture" it nevertheless can reflect a disparity with Tradition and a loss or disconnect with dogmatic truth.  So, we are left with a situation where there is no formal rupture, nor formal continuity -- so long as the errors and contradictions persist within the third degree of doctrine.  According to Radaelli, the only way out is to "purify" the doctrines of the third degree by raising them to the "supernatural level" and bringing them into contact with the "dogmatic fire".  The author proposes that the concilar doctrines be purified by the "white hot fire" on the occasion of the "fiftieth anniversary of the council of discord".

Fr. Cavalcoli has responded to Radaelli in a postscript where he further clarifies some of the confused ideas regarding doctrines of the third degree.  The Dominican theologian states that the third level of doctrine often contains a mixture of both doctrinal elements as well as pastoral provisions.  The doctrinal elements can "do no wrong" whereas pastoral provisions are subject to change according to circumstances or can even be imprudent, misguided or wrong in isolated cases.  It is only this later aspect that represents the fallible "straw" of the third degree -- and the process of separating the pure doctrine from the "straw" of pastoral provisions and other contingencies is precisely what is involved in order to raise doctrines from the third to the second or first degree.  Indeed, history has shown this to be a painstaking process that can even take centuries to sort out.  It is by virtue of the doctrinal content (even if these are newly developed points in continuity with the old) that religious submission of intellect and will is due to doctrines of the third degree. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

The ongoing debates between various theological experts (hosted by Sandro Magister) has produced a number of interesting exchanges and clarifications. For example, in one postcript, Fr. Giovanni Cavolcoli clarifies his position relative to the doctrinal authority of Vatican II.

All agree that there are three basic "degrees" of Catholic teaching.  The first and second degrees are infallible and definitive.  The third degree, however, while demanding religious assent is nevertheless reformable.  At the same time, however, it would be false to assume that this "reformability" implies the possibility of a contradiction between the various levels or degrees of doctrine.  So we are left with something of a parodox: if third degree doctrines can't contradict doctrines of the first and second degree then in what sense can these be fallible?  Fr. Cavalcoli resolves the problem by distinguishing between (a) the dogmatic order and (b) practical-pastoral directives.  The supreme magisterium can never defect with respect to the former (a) -- even if it is subject to err at times in the later (b).  The reason is that doctrines of the third degree can treat dogmatic elements that are proposed in a manner that is nevertheless comingled with non-dogmatic and contingent aspects:

"The third degree also admits the fallibility of opinions and doctrines of a pastoral, moral or legal character." (Adapted from Google Translation)

Therefore, the hermeneutic of reform in continuity presupposes that the development of newer points of doctrine (third degree doctrines) must be perfectly compatible and analogically homogeneous with previously declared doctrines of the first and second degrees.  At the same time, however, third degree doctrines are not irreformable and "definitive" insofar as they contain contingent aspects related to the pastoral-prudential order.  The proper understanding of these distinctions is the key to the hermeneutic of reform in continuity and protects us from the dangers of rupture theology.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Basile Valuet On Hermeneutic Of Reform

Sandro Magister brings us another important contribution by Benedictine theologian Basile Valuet to the ongoing debate concerning the nature and interpretation of the "hermeneutic of reform" proposed by Pope Benedict XVI.  As we have seen previously, the philosopher Martin Rhonheimer considers that Vatican II had "corrected" previous teaching relative to the nature and function of the state in relation to the Church and its duties towards religious truth.  Furthermore, Rhonheimer considers the logic behind the "due limits" taught by DH to correspond to a conception of a civil order that has a secular character in the sense of being "neutral" towards the diverisity of religious traditions.  This is precisely where Rhonheimer identifies the "discontinuity" introduced by vatican II -- even if not at the level of a dogmatic rupture.  According to Rhonheimer, the previous Magisterium seemed to demand the "confessional" Church-state model (where the state acts as a department or "secular arm" of the Church) whereas Vatican II seemed to propose the secular model of the state where the spiritual and temporal powers are each considered mutually autonomous.


Basile Valuet rejects this conclusion and indicates that Vatican II leaves open the possibility for a variety of governmental forms -- including a confessional state.  The Benedictine theologian also stresses that the errors of liberalism, condemned in the 19th century, remain condemned today and are perfectly compatible with DH and the "hermeneutic of reform" proposed by Pope Benedict XVI:   

"According to Benedict XVI, Pius IX was taking aim at the "radical liberalism" of the 19th century, but not at other forms of the organization of society, rising from a further evolution of liberalism. The discontinuity between Vatican II and Pius IX stems from the fact that RF is not the "freedom of conscience" condemned in the 19th century: it did not have either the same foundation, or the same object, or the same limitations, or the same goal. So it will always remain true that the liberalism condemned by Pius IX was condemnable (R. does not see this), but it will not always remain true that the theories or the states of law that we have before us are the ones that Pius IX condemned (R. grasps this perfectly)."

The principles of RF are universal whereas the application can vary accrording to the circumstances of time and place.  In other words, there is no universal or "one size fits all" juridical formula to implement RF in every possible circumstance or social context.  The development or "novelty" introduced by Vatican II was to formulate the principles governing RF in a more general way -- taking into account changing circumstances and the wide diversity of legitimate social and governmental forms in the modern era:

"If a change of situation cannot change the natural law, it can nevertheless make a principle of the natural law (let's call it P1: it is not contrary to the natural law that the state should repress religious error), valid in a previous situation of ius gentium (in which RF is not yet recognized in reciprocal form), no longer apply in the same way in a new situation of ius gentium (in which RF is mutually recognized), and make another principle be applied now (P2: the modern state does not have penal competency, not even delegated, in religious matters).  In this way, if one wishes to have a truth that is valid in every situation, one is obligated to formulate a principle P3, more general, which combines P1 and P2, and which DH has made an effort to formulate: it is contrary to the natural law that the state - in any age - should repress religious error, unless, in the circumstances considered, it disturbs the just, objective public order."