29 January 2015


(1) "The decrees of the Vatican Council give not even the shadow of a foundation to the assertion that the pope has been made by them an absolute ruler (principem absolutum), and, indeed, by virtue of the Infallibility, "a monarch more absolute than any in the world". ...  even as far as concerns ecclesiastical matters, the pope cannot be called an absolute monarch (monarchus absolutus), since indeed he is subject to Divine Law and is bound to those things which Christ set in order (disposuit) for His Church. He cannot change the constitution (constitutionem) of the Church which was given to it by its Divine Founder, after the manner of a civil legislator who can change the constitution of the state. The constitution of the Church in all essential matters is founded in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is therefore immune from every arbitrary human disposition." (Denzinger 3114)

(2) "Venerable Brethren, you have continued the glory of the Church, since you have undertaken to restore the genuine sense of the definitions of the Vatican Council which had been twisted by the deceptive interpretation publicised by a certain circular letter, lest it deceive the faithful and, converted into an object of ill-will, appear to provide a handle to machinations being placed in the way of the freedom of election of a new pontiff. Indeed, such is the perspicuity and solidity of your declaration, that, since it leaves nothing to be desired, it ought to provide the occasion for our most fulsome congratulations; unless the crafty (versuta) voice of some journals were to demand from us an even weightier testimony - a voice which, in order to restore the force of the letter which has been refuted by you, has tried to deprive your hard work of credibility by arguing that the teaching of the conciliar definitions approved by you has been softened and on that account does not truly correspond with the mind of this Apostolic See. We therefore reject this sly (vafram) and dodgy (calumniosam) insinuation and suggestion; since your declaration expresses the inherent (nativam) catholic judgement, which is accordingly that of the sacred Council and of this Holy See, skilfully fortified and cleverly (nitide) explained with such brilliant (luculentis) and inescapable arguments (rationum momentis) that it can demonstrate to any honest person that there is nothing in the attacked definitions which is new or makes any change ..." (Denzinger 3117)

Let me explain. (1) is part of the response of the German Hierarchy to Chancellor Bismarck, who, after the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870, had attacked it as being subversive both of State and of Church. The German Bishops thus vigorously refuted the notion that the Pope is an absolute monarch who can do anything.

Their admirable declaration was then attacked on the grounds that they were toning down what Papal Primacy and Infallibility really meant; that their motive in doing so was simply to calm things down in Germany; that Rome itself was angry with them.

(2) is part of the message of Blessed Pius IX to the German Bishops, confirming their interpretation of the Council. And there is nothing niggardly about his approbation of their words! Even Pio Nono, despite his undeserved reputation, had no notion of the arbitrary, absolutist, and despotic view of the Papacy which is held ... but only when it suits them! ... by modern liberals enthusiastic about promoting innovatory agendas.


 In the light of (1) and (2), let us now consider the centrally important paragraph by which S John Paul II, in his brief document Ordinatio sacerdotalis, condemned the idea of women priests.

"Ut igitur omne dubium auferatur circa rem magni momenti, quae ad ipsam Ecclesiae divinam constitutionem pertinet ... declaramus Ecclesiam facultatem nullatenus habere ordinationem sacerdotalem mulieribus conferendi, hancque sententiam ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam."

The Holy Pontiff thus unambiguously declares that the inability of the Church to ordain women is a matter which "pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself". The language he uses is a clear allusion to (1) above. Indeed, we know that Cardinal Ratzinger, who presumably drafted this passage, had (1) very much in his mind: you will recall his famous condemnation of the "Spirit of Vatican II" error that the Pope is an absolute monarch who, especially if acting upon the mandate of a ecumenical council, can do anything.

I hope this simple clarification may be of assistance to anybody who finds him/herself obliged to oppose the idea that 'WO' is a matter which is up for any discussion other than that of further demonstrating the coherence of the Holy Pontiff's teaching with the general body of Catholic doctrine. To argue for this aberration would be an assault, not merely upon the infallible Ordinary Magisterium of the Universal Church which S John Paul here declares, but upon the very wise limitations with which Vatican I surrounded its teaching on the Papacy ... "the Holy Spirit was not promised to the popes so that they could disclose new doctrine but so that they can guard the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles."
Ordinatio sacerdotalis declared that the Church nullatenus has the facultas to ordain women. The sense of these two Latin words is important. Facultas comes from the root of facere, to do; and has a general sense of the wherewithal, the means, to do, to effect something. To say that the Church lacks the facultas to ordain women is like saying that a man with an empty purse does not have the facultas to to give a sovereign to a beggar; a man without a membrum virile does not have the facultas to perform sexual intercourse. In other words, the Holy Pontiff is not saying that the Church ought not to ordain women; he is saying that she is unable to do so. If she attempted to, the action would be a nullity, just as to give someone a 'dud cheque' is to give them nothing. Nullatenus [accent on the a; I once heard a liberal so-called scholar mispronounce it with comically vigorous decision] is a post-classical word meaning literally "right as far as, absolutely all the way up to, nothing". The Holy Pontiff could have written nullam habere facultatem ... ("has no wherewithal to ... ") or facultatem non habere ... ("does not have the wherewithal to ... "), but instead chose, more  emphatically, to assert that the Church has "absolutely no wherewithal whatsoever ... none at all ...
                                                     nil, zilch ... 
                                                                                    you gotta believe it".


Liam Ronan said...

God bless you, Father. I read your posts avidly.

May I, however, humbly suggest that you are past words from Bl. Pius IX to refer to the present as though former utterances still apply.

I should point out that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldesseri stated at the January 22 - 24 2015 international conference of pro-family and pro-life groups convened in Rome by the Pontifical Council for the Family, that not only do doctrine and dogma evolve, but a particular understanding that was held 2,000 years ago does not mean that it cannot be challenged today.

"'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all'.”

Oh! Sorry. Careless of me. That rogue quote was from Lewis Carroll's, "Through the Looking Glass".

Cardinal Baldisseri's pearls may be found at this link (below). Of course, these remarks were made in the past so I'm not sure if they still apply.


Eques said...

From the website of Vatican Radio:
Archbishop Longley says there is a personal response and an ecclesial dimension to the ordination of Bishop Libby Lane which is likely to be up for discussion when ARCIC holds its next meeting near Rome in May. At a local level, he says, it will also be of significance as Catholics prepare to work more closely with women bishops over the years to come….

Archbishop Longley says that while the conversation about women's ministry continues in parts of the Catholic Church, this development is unlikely to bring about changes in the Catholic teaching on the sacrament of ordination….

Archbishop Longley also speaks about the importance of praying together for Christian unity and about the possibility of sharing the Eucharist in specific situations, outlined in the bishops’ document ‘One Bread, One Body’. He cites the example of an Anglican mother who was able to receive the Eucharist in a Catholic Church during her son’s ordination. He says Catholic bishops and clergy have a responsibility to make these norms better known, since they also deepen the communion of other Christians with the Catholic Church…..

GOR said...

I can understand non-Catholics’ advocating ‘women’s ordination’ in the wake of militant feminism, political correctness and the example of the Anglican communities. Less understandable is the fact that Catholics – clergy, even – also take this stance.

If the experience of over two millennia of Church Tradition and the crystal clear words of St. John Paul II are not enough, what will convince them? One could say it takes faith.

And if you don’t share the fullness of the Catholic Faith, what business do you have telling the Church what to do? Further, if you are a cleric and are calling into question the Church’s teaching, what business do you have being a Catholic cleric?