25 February 2016
IS the Magisterium in crisis?
So Fr Lombardi believes, apparently, that Papa Bergoglio was right: B Paul VI did permitt nuns in the Congo to guard themselves contraceptively against the consequences of rape. If there is evidence that Montini made some utterance to this effect, then we have a right to be told where it is so that we can go and look at it. That, surely, is why the Apostolic See publishes its Acta. If people are required to respect and obey a Magisterium, then Natural Justice requires that they should have the means to acquaint themselves with their obligations. Otherwise, why decimate the rain-forests in order to produce endless large books?
If Paul VI really did say anything remotely like this in a remotely Magisterial context, the precise words he used would be of great importance. If he was allowing the suppression of ovulation so as to prevent unwanted and resisted intercourse resulting in conception ... well, that is one thing. But the context (preventing the conception within matrimony of babies with microcephaly) in which Bergoglio referred to this alleged event appears to me to refer to a radically different moral situation. And, of course, the question would also have to be faced of whether the pharmaceutical means envisaged had an abortifacient dimension.
But the broader question, which generates justified anxiety, is the apparently flippant way in which the speaker implied, firstly, that he believed this dubious story; and secondly, that it had an authoritative function and could be applied to a current situation.
If some pope at the back of some airliner tells some journalists that his predecessor X said Y and Z, then either that assertion must be verifiable, or it should be withdrawn. Anything less would be to treat the Magisterium with frivolous irresponsibility.
The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to Capital Punishment, if that is the only possible effective way of defending human lives against an unjust aggressor.
Doctrine develops, evolves, is nuanced. But it must always be eodem sensu eademque sententia.
So, under S John Paul II, the Magisterium, after reiterating the traditional teaching, went on to teach us (CCC 2267 citing Evangelium vitae 56) that in our time, given the resources at the State's disposal, such occasions are rare, even very probably non-existent.
How can anyone find fault with that prudential judgement? Most certainly not I. All power to that Great and Holy Pontiff's elbow.
Recently, however, we have been told that Capital punishment is "inadmissable, no matter how serious the crime committed", and "an offence against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person"; that "Thou shalt not kill has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty"; and that "even a criminal has the inviolable right to life". "Absolute", mark you. And "Inviolable".
I do not see how all this is eodem sensu as the Traditional teaching. I do not see how it is a development eadem sententia from CCC 2267. It is a novel theologoumenon which in fact contradicts the Tradition.
I view Capital Punishment with quite as much personal revulsion as the Holy Father does. When I read about the Death Rows and the botched executions in a handful of North American states; about the gentle delicacy with which the Chinese shoot their convicts so as not to damage organs which can be profitably 'harvested'; I feel both very angry and uncomfortably sick. But his and my revulsion is not the point.
Perhaps one should make allowances for the fact that Jorge Bergoglio spent his middle years in a barbarous land in which thousands were 'disappeared' and many more tortured under a murderous and corrupt military dictatorship (to the downfall of which my own country may have made some small contribution).
But when every allowance is made, the Magisterium is not an arena in which the Sovereign Pontiff is entitled to attach the prestige of his office to some personal enthusiasm.
Let me conclude by sharing with you my very own view about all this stuff.
I do not, I am afraid, believe that the Holy Spirit was given to Pope Francis, or to any other pope, so that by His revelation they can put out some new doctrine, but so that (with the Holy Spirit's help) they can guard and set forth the Tradition handed down through the Apostles ... what we call the Deposit of Faith.
Does this bold admission put me beyond the pale?