16 January 2017

The Maltese bishops and their enthusiasm for papal footnotes

I wrote this at the beginning of December last year. The Maltese Bishops, all two of them, have just spectacularly confirmed the suspicion that led me to write it ... how I love being proved right!

What I suspected was this: that the more heterodox members of the episcopate, in their need to force an extreme hermeneutic onto the grey areas of Amoris laetitia, would have to rely exclusively upon the footnotes. I share, incidentally, what I understand to be Cardinal Mueller's view; that firmly established doctrine and praxis can hardly be overturned without a most explicit declaration that this is what is being done. And, what I suspect to be Cardinal Burke's opinion, that those parts of AL which do not simply affirm what is already clearly taught, cannot be Magisterial.

So this is what I wrote: --

I wonder if anybody has ever seen a theological consideration of the question whether Footnotes ... either in Conciliar documents or Papal ones ... are, or can be, or cannot be, Magisterial?

Furthermore, if anyone has Acta Apostolicae Sedis and Acta Sanctae Sedis sitting cheerfully beside their desks, it would be the work of a moment for them to spot when Roman documents started to appear with footnotes.

I see, in the front of my hand-missal, that Divino afflatu (1909) has footnotes, but only such as identify quotations. (These can hardly be Magisterial; either they provide mere bibliographical facts or, if erroneous, are simply proofs that curial clerks might possibly fail accurately to verify references.) So my query may fall into two parts:
(1) when did such formal documents start to have any footnotes; and
(2) when did they start to have footnotes of any greater significance than references to identify quotations?

The Codex Iuris Canonici, the Ritus Servandus, the de Defectibus, manage without footnotes ... I think ...


Unknown said...

Father Feeney who had been excommunicated over his strict views on salvation - that one must be a member of the CATHOLIC CHURCH to be saved - had his excommunication removed by a footnote in the Vat II document on the Church - without him ever changing his "heretical" opinion, as I understand it as a layperson pewsitter type guy.

thewarourtime.com said...

Amoris Laetitia is not Magisterial - Capital "M" - not because Pope Francis has not taught with the authority of the pope that he has [after all AL is an exhortation just as FC is, which it contradicts, and therefore, it is papal magisterium - small "m"], but because an erroneous document cannot belong to or be introduced into the Body of what the Church teaches as regards faith or morals, i.e., into her Magisterial [=Teaching] documents and the Church cannot err in what she teaches as to faith or morals, for she is our infallible guide in both [cf. "PENNY CATECHISM"].
Cf. - #AmorisLaetitia: My Papa Offers Me A Mistress - http://wp.me/p2Na5H-rK and
- Prayer whenever faced with error, even that emanating from Rome. - https://twitter.com/TheWarOurTime/status/752590528114413568

John Vasc said...

This smuggling of heterodox opinions in via a footnote reminds me of the art of writing memos in large organizations as codified decades ago. The subject is certainly not the real subject, the recipients at whom the message is targeted will be buried somewhere anonymously on the long cc. list, the named addressee will not have the slightest idea what it's all about: the message begins with the word 'We' without further specification, a new revelation hitherto unknown to all is introduced with the phrase 'As we all know'; a recent discussion is cited with a colleague whose forename or acronyms will be only vaguely guessable to only few; an obscure reference will be made to an internal event long forgotten, and somewhere near the end the bombshell that is the point of the exercise is dropped in a gentle parenthesis.
Mystifying footnotes are, of course, unnecessary in such a well-planned departmental dispatch. I deplore their introduction: they dilute the whole atmosphere of splendid general bafflement with a mere sense of ambiguity that might - heaven forfend - lead to motives and even meanings being generally surmised.

GOR said...

One of my criticisms of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - apart from length - was the proliferation of quotes and footnotes referencing them. My idea of a catechism includes brevity and pithiness.

But then the authors may just have been Thomistic. After all, St. Thomas described his five volume Summa as for beginners and being set forth "as briefly and clearly as the matter itself may allow".

DO said...

They are not. In discussing Laudato Si, even Pope Francis pointed out that for that document the footnotes were the proper place for the less than certain items.

Chris said...

He was reconciled using the Athanasian Creed. I know of no footnote that had any impact here.

Of significance was Razinger, as CDF supremo, when he reconciled some of Feeneys flowers wrote that their belief was within the realm considered historically acceptable.

Honesgly, have always thouhht this is how SSPX is recomciled..

Nicolas Bellord said...

Footnotes are often there to indicate the authoritative source of some assertion of the writer. Frequently with Pope Francis the authoritative source often turns out to be some previous statement of his own.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Chris: please forgive me for being Elderly, but ... don't you think it might be a trifle discourteous to submit something with six typos in four lines?

bombcar said...

Had footnotes been the practice at the time of the Gospels, perhaps this line would have had the translation as a footnote:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Don Wachtel said...

No footnotes required in the clarity of "Veterum Sapientia".

An Apostolic Constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The Apostolic Constitution "Veterum Sapientia, "On the Promotion of the Study of Latin" by a saint and father of Vatican II has been totally ignored. Compare that response to that of a lower category decree, the Apostolic Exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia".

Excerpt from Veterum Sapientia, promulgated 8 month before the opening of Vatican II.

4. Wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse through the assimilation of the academic program to that which obtains in State public schools, with the result that the instruction given is no longer so thorough and well-grounded as formerly, there the traditional method of teaching this language shall be completely restored. . . .

Hence professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task.

Finally, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, We will and command that all the decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution remain firmly established and ratified, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, however worthy of special note.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the feast of Saint Peter's Throne on the 22nd day of February in the year 1962, the fourth of Our pontificate.

12 December, 2016

Fr John Hunwicke said...

"Totally ignored"? Obviously,Don, you are new to this blog!

Percy Gryce said...

In this regard I always remember what St. Francis de Sales wrote in prefatory remarks in the third edition (1610) of his Introduction to the Devout Life: This book "is still without references, since the learned do not need them and the others are not concerned about them."

Don Wachtel said...

"Totally ignored" did not refer to members of this blog which I have been reading for a couple of years. I refer to those who pushed thru liturgical change in the spirit of Vatican II. They totally ignored the Apostolic Constitution "Veterum Sapientia". Those of the same progressive mindset now attempt to use footnotes in an Apostolic Exhortation as the end all and be all in redefining their version of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Fr John Hunwicke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr. VF said...

Feeney was excommunicated for repeated disobedience to his Jesuit superiors.

I have noted that Feeneyites consistently emphasize that his excommunication had nothing to do with his theology, but always insist that the lifting of the excommunication constituted the Church's endorsement of his theology.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve said...

In recent decades Church documents have exploded with footnotes. Some have 2 or 3 hundred or more. I think that's excessive.

Joshua said...

Whether or not a given person is… surely the Archbishop of Malta and Bishop of Gozo are now, by their own admission, heretics? I see that at least one moral theologian simply said of them, Anathema sit.

I do look forward to the next Ecumenical Council: it will be just like those of the first millennium (right down to its being preceded by a Robber Synod or two), with throngs of bishops shouting out, "Peter has spoken through N. [the future Pope regnant]! To the impious blasphemers Walter and so forth, anathema! To their satellites the heresiarchs Charles and Mario, anathema! To all who deny the indissolubility of marriage, anathema! To all who would profane the Most Blessed Sacrament, anathema, anathema, anathema!" Won't that be jolly! With a bit of luck some modernists will have turned up and episcopal fisticuffs will ensue.

Hopefully the Eastern bishops present will provide a suitable list of damnatory epithets (culled from Patristic sources and the liturgical texts of the Triumph of Orthodoxy) for the benefit of their unlettered Western brethren.

Joshua said...

P.S. Leaving aside, for the moment, that entertaining Mediæval axiom whereby Papa hæreticus est depositus, does the falling of prelates into heresy ipso facto remove them from their own positions of authority, as they slide from their episcopal thrones down onto the floor, the better to meditate on their latter ends, as it were? In other words, are the dioceses of Malta and Gozo now vacant, or must the dear Holy Father, through his press office minions, announce the fact, and their replacements, in the next Bollettino? As if there weren't enough calls for help emanating from the Mediterranean!

Mike Hurcum said...

the greatest barrier to Amoris Laetitia and ecumenism is the Council of Trent which in reality this manger la merder
advisor and his hencemen are leading up to. The complete destruction of the Sacraments is high on their list. The complete elimination of purity and sanctification of our souls is very near to acceptance. Old Scewtape is dancing on our altars, As for the mention of Fr Feeney I find that some much knowledge is evident on these comments but as old Robbie Burn's granny would say not a whit of intelligence to use it. I am fed up with pseudo christians ranting obout only way to heaven is foolish. Then stop using the bible all be it mistranslated to get to heaven The bibke is the Catholic Church's book in its entirety. There is no Wisdom (book) in theirs.

ChrisB said...

Fr. Hunwicke:

It appears that Walter Kasper - Francis's theologian - is actually a heretic - he publicly denies the Catholic doctrine that God is immutable:

“The God who is enthroned over the world and history as a
changeless being is an offense to man... Such a God springs from a rigid

Link to story here:

So - the scandal unleashed by Francis' civil war is the proposal of an outright heretic - Cdl. Walter Kasper

Athelstane said...

The raising of the subject of magisterial footnotes brought me to mind immediately of an instance where they were *removed*, rather than inserted, with apparently dubious intent - specifically, in Vatican II's constitution on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (See Susan Benofy, "Footnotes for a Hermeneutic of Continuity: Sacrosanctum Concilium’s Vanishing Citations” (Adoremus Bulletin 21.1 [2015], 8-9)).

Of course, SC's vanished footnotes couldn't change a jot or tittle of the document itself (they provided merely explanatory context for the unwary which certain conciliar jacobins wished to obscure), any more than Amoris Laetitia's footnotes can change a jot or tittle of the Church's teaching or praxis on marriage or the Eucharist - and unlike Amoris, SC's footnotes were purely reference, not discursive. But it's interesting just the same how footnotes in documents emanating from nominal magisterial authority have become a choice field of battle for modernists - sometimes by omission, sometimes by commission. In this pattern hangs a tale.