15 November 2014

An Encyclical? (1)

I have several times recently expressed my view that an essential role of the Roman Pontiff is to guard the truth handed down from the Apostles and to act as a breakwater against innovatory error. Benedict XVI expressed this brilliantly and so did B John Henry Newman. It is the teaching of Vatican I Pastor aeternus.

At a time when some doctrinal errors about matters of Family Morality seem to be spiking the decibels, I presume that our Holy Father must be planning, as a matter of urgency, a major Encyclical in order to correct them. He has certainly not been mute in reaffirming the timeless teaching of the Church, but this is not the sort of thing the Media easily hear and relay ... not least because it does not slot into the rather constraining narrative which they have constructed with regard to this Pope. What is necessary is Magisterium laid on with a sufficiently generous trowel so as actually to get heard. What gardeners and builders among us might think of as an encyclical trowel.

I know Encyclicals take a lot of time because they have to go through the relevant dicasteries. And then get translated into Latin, which not many people in Rome understand nowadays. But I do hope it can be done as soon as possible, and preferably before the next Synod. At the moment, it almost looks as if there is some sort of vacatio legis with regard to important parts of the moral Law. This has all happened before. In April 1967, The Tablet, Le Monde, and The National Catholic Reporter published simultaneously the full texts of documents which were very plausibly taken to indicate the strong likelihood that 'the Pill' would be declared morally unobjectionable, thus bringing Rome more or less into line with the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. In the year before Humanae vitae emerged, this expectation had hardened into rigid assumption. We don't want something like that to happen again, do we? It would be thoroughly scandalous and a most grave abuse of Christ's faithful people.

The persona so skilfully constructed around the present Pope has the potential to be very useful. People are more prepared to listen to him than they have been to any pope for a long time. But that persona can hardly be an end in itself. It can only be coin to be spent rather than hoarded. Francis himself talked about a "two or three year" papacy. Surely the time has just about come, in this next twelve months, to utilise, to call in, the credit accrued by the Bergoglio persona. When Pope Francis finally dishes it out straight and heavy, the journalists ... and the gullible multitudes who swallow what they're told ... won't be able just to say "Well, he would say that, would'n 'e?" This is not a pontiff of whom it will be so easy for crooked journalists to explain that he graduated from the Hitler Youth via the Panzers to the Inquisition. They will doubtless dream up a substitute narrative lie, probably about how a 'good and loving' Pope Francis has been 'bullied' by 'hardliners' in the Vatican (a sort of new "Prisoner of the Vatican" story); but at least the Gospel message will have forced its way out into the open.

When Cardinal Kasper was going around claiming that Pope Francis shared his own rather eccentric views, Cardinal Burke informed the world that "The Pope doesn't have laryngitis; the Pope is not mute". Good!
Plura d.v. sequentur.


Seeker said...

What an excellent suggestion Father Hunwicke! I hope Francis is inspired to write that encyclical with dispatch.
I so enjoy your blog- thank you!

GOR said...

I entirely agree, Father. The comparison with the events of 1966 - 68 had occurred to me also. The lacuna between Pope Paul’s receipt of the Commission’s Report and the promulgation of Humanae Vitae gave rise to expectations of change. The leaking of the reports seemed to confirm the expectations - such that when they were not met, uproar ensued.

We do not need a repeat of that.

Woody said...

I'm sure it will continue for some time, given the reluctance for Catholic seminarians to learn Latin, but it seems to me that one of the requirements of being Pope should be that one is literate in Latin. And if the individual duly elected is not so learned, then you, good Father, should be sent off to Rome to teach the Pope Latin. And much more.

Jacobi said...

I suspect an encyclical is on the way, and it will be crucial. It will not be about the environment, which can look after itself when all is said and done.

Pope Francis is an Argentinian and has the Argentinian habit of being unable to keep his mouth shut. I know the Argentines fairly well, from the 80s that is.

But he is also Pope. Now I am all for mercy. What Catholic isn’t? We hope for it at Judgement. But there is also the matter of Truth. And this concept has become uncomfortably distorted recently.

So yes, I am sure the Pope, the Successor of Peter, Keeper of the Keys will sort a few things out, with a considered, thought out, and definitive orthodox teaching, between now and the second session of the Synod.