30 October 2014


(1) I suggested that the Holy Father's claim that "the presence of the Pope is, for everybody, a guarantee of orthodoxy", implies, for completeness, assumed presuppositions. Now I see that Cardinal Meissner has also taken up this point: "The Continuity in the teaching and preaching was always the guarantee of the soundness of our faith". I think this phrase is just what is needed. Its addition brings the Holy Father's claim fully into line with the teaching of the Fathers going back to S Irenaeus, and with Pastor aeternus, the decree of Vatican I by which canonically his Petrine ministry is supported.

(2) In the Homily which he wrote for the 10th Anniversary of Juventutem, Cardinal Pell made two immensely wise points.
(a) That the Papacy, despite being of immense importance and being completely essential to the Church Catholic as Christ founded her, is not guaranteed against malfunctions due to human weakness. His Eminence pointed out that "For the last 150 years ... the Church has been led by Popes, who were better, wiser, holier, and more learned, than the historical papal average for the two millennia." In other words, having wise and good popes is not something which the Holy Spirit guarantees; not part of the divinely-protected essence of the office. Regular readers will remember my own emphasis on the absurdity of claiming, after every Conclave, that each elected pope is "God's Choice". Cardinal Pell himself goes on to remind us of the 'Pornocracy' (google Marozia), the Avignon papacy, and the Renaissance. I would add, in particular, the papal madman who, out of anti-Spanish paranoia, fatally and malevolently weakened the Church in this country during its Marian Renaissance and, arguably, is the answer to the question "Why did Elizabeth Tudor find it so easy to destroy Catholicism in England?". It is neither true that every pope is a good pope, nor that bad popes are not really popes. Later in his homily, Cardinal Pell returns to this theme: "the contribution of the many good Popes far outweighs the sins and mistakes of the minority".

I also deplore the hollywoodish personality cult of popes. I think that perhaps the most striking sentence in Cardinal Pell's homily is the following, which simply praises Francis factually for what the homilist knows he is to be honestly applauded for, without sycophantic overstatement or fawning hyperbole: "Today we have one of the more unusual popes in history, enjoying almost unprecedented popularity. He is doing a marvelous job backing the financial reforms."

(b) "The college [of bishops] and all synods work by consensus, and teachings and pastoral practice can only be changed by consensus ... We all have an important task during the next twelve months i.e. to explain and build a consensus out of the present divisions ... this is a unique opportunity which we must seize in God's name". Cardinal Pell is right. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of synodal consensus, both in Ecumenical Councils and in lesser bodies such as synods.

(3) The subject of consensus brings me on to the thinking of B Cardinal John Henry Newman, after Vatican I: if the bishops who opposed the decision of the Council "allege in detail acts of violence and deceit used against the Fathers, if they declare they have been kept in the dark and been practised on, then there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the definition is not valid". Manipulation and bullying can render a conciliar decision void because of the lack of true, moral, consensus.

1 comment:

E Milco said...

Greetings! I'm an American theology teacher at a Jesuit high school. I've only been following your blog for a few months, but I wanted to pipe up and say that your thoughtful posts and generally cheerful tone have been wonderful over the past few weeks. Thanks for the clarity and restraint!