Cardinal Mueller's magnificent Manifesto is an interesting document. Happily, it is bound to arouse amusing comments from the Usual Suspects ... the Robert Mickenses; the Austen Ivereighs; all the Silly Gang. (I wonder what that theological heavyweight Cupich will make of it?) I write 'happily' because we can do with the laughs. I pastorally counsel readers to laugh, rather than getting depressed. You have a duty to refuse to let PF and his cronies make you depressed. If nothing else works for you, you could resort to Alcohol. This morning's communication from the Wine Society speaks very well of the 2017 Rhones. Cointreau, lemon juice, and vodka make a classical thirties 'White Lady'. Praise to our Lady of Lourdes, our Lady of Victory!
Perhaps this could be worked up into a new branch of Pastoral Theology: what to take as an antidote to each species of heresy. A few simple recipes could be lodged permanently in every confessional for use in quantum possum et tu indiges.
As some of the Silly Gang have observed, it is undoubtedly true that there is one large apparent gap in His Eminence's Manifesto.
He does not mention the Petrine Ministry of the Roman Pontiff.
This is unusual in modern Catholic discourse. The sickly mawkish modern cult of the Bishop of Rome has for so long pushed the Witness of the Incarnate Word, the words of Scripture, the teaching of the Fathers, into the background. How often have you heard a semi-literate sermon in which "Pope Francis Says" is prominent, but never any hint is given of "Jesus Says"? So, if the Manifesto had no other value, that particular silence would be as refreshing as a glass of cold water on a sticky day.
Possibly the Cardinal agrees with the great Anglican theologian Eric Mascall that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility does not so much tell us something about the Christian Faith, as about the circumstances in which we might be told something about that Faith.
But I am convinced that, consciously or unconsciously, Gerhard Mueller has in mind the teaching of Blessed John Henry Newman about the situation during the Arian crisis:
"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."
It seems to me that the moment when PF decided not to aswer the Dubia of the four Cardinals was the formal, official moment ... the starting gun ... when the Petrine Ministry entered into its current "temporary suspense". When, likewise, he ignored the Filial Correction which some of us had sent him, he confirmed that Suspense. Thus we are officially in a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in a vacatio which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally returns from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, "devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith".
In a masterly address on Apostasy delivered a couple of years ago at Buckfast, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke spoke of "The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church's pastors in the matters of Worship, teaching, and moral discipline ... ". His dear Eminence always puts things so much better than I could!
And you will remember the Letter sent to PF by Fr Tom Weinandy. He wrote that a bishop who espoused heretical teaching "would no longer bear within himself as a bishop the four defining marks of the Church and, therefore, he could no longer justifiably act as an ecclesial member within the Church. He may continue to act outside the Church, or even within the Church, but his actions would lack a genuine ecclesial character, for the essential and indispensable four marks of the Church would be absent within his specious ministry."
If this pontificate lasts much longer, perhaps we shall need to unpick some of the implications of that last sentence.
As if to confirm providentially the judgement of Mueller, Weinandy and others, a few days ago PF enacted a document which was not carelessly enunciated at the back of an airliner but, so he himself has told us, had been in his consideration for months. The Indifferentism so often condemned by his predecessors, so repugnant to the teaching of Holy Scripture, so insulting to the witness of each and every Martyr, is now the teaching of a man who also, lamentably, holds the office of Bishop of Rome. This suggests to me that PF has himself consciously stopped even bothering to remain within the parameters set by the Magisterium to which he is as much under an obligation to submit as is anybody else. Fas est et ab hostibus doceri: never forget the chilling words of Fr Rosica, that this pope is free from the constraints of Scripture and Tradition.
I can see no present grounds plausibly to speculate that PF's divagations from orthodoxy will in future tolerate any restraints. It is as if, having discovered himself at the bottom of a hole, he has decided that the only thing to do is to keep digging with redoubled energy until he gets to Tasmania. Or, like the Duke of Wellington in the Fifth Act of the Battle of Waterloo, perhaps he is saying to the world "In for a penny, in for a pound"! Or does he think that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb? Will his parting gift to the Church Militant be a ringing endorsement of the homoiousios? Will his lips murmur En pote hote ouk en as they nail down the coffin?
By joining with Newman in this analysis, I do not, of course, in any way suggest that PF and the silent or heterodox bishops have lost the right or capacity to use the Magisterium of his and their offices. On the contrary. Precisely as Newman did, I am simply observing that, as a matter of fact, he is not and they are not at this moment using it.
Her Immaculate Heart will prevail!
Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So nobody should try to apply these words to Vatican II, which was undoubtedly a 'valid' Ecumenical Council. Whether it always sought all the right answers to all the right questions in all the right places is, of course, another matter.