10 January 2022


(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; it was even suggested 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 can you detect anything 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 an innovatory agenda.


 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." 

To be fair: I here add that PF has used opportunities to reinforce the teaching of his predecessors about the impossibility of woomen in priesthood. My assumption is that he has looked into this matter; has had it explained to him that there is no way of 'getting round' this teaching; and has accepted that fact.
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 in a symposium 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 ... ".


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. God Bless you and thank you.

I do fear that W.O. is part of his end game as Pope and that he hopes to accomplish that before he leaves his position, by choice or death.

Of course he can be quoted differently but I have in mind how modernists can appear to be on both sides of particular questions, saying one thing publicly while, out of the reach of the eyes and ears of the public, working diligently for an outcome different than one assumed to be an outcome supported by one or more of his public quotes.

Said otherwise, I do not trust him nor do I take him at his word which is a tragic and sad omission for one who is so proud to have been born into a large Irish-Algonquin Catholic family in Vermont lo these many years go.

Lord have mercy.

Wynn said...

All well and good, I’m sure. But how are these limitations to be carried into effect, if the “arbitrary, absolutist, and despotic view of the Papacy” were to be, well, the view of the Pope himself? By what persons or mechanisms could he then properly be called to account, or (if necessary) deposed? If he declares that he is acting within his powers, and compatibly with the “divine constitution of the Church”, who is to judge otherwise? Statements of abstract principle count for little if they are provided with no teeth.

Fr PJM said...

"Qui mange du pape, meurt." We have to be patient, I guess. The divine constitution of the Church does not seem to give any earthly member with teeth to bite the Pope. But our Lord Himself...

Francis said...

A sort of Catholic bill of rights may be a useful start. A future [decent] pope could promulgate a charter of freedoms for Catholics - but these would all be couched in terms of freedoms FROM things within the Church that are bad. We would be given the right to be free from the whims of despotic pontiffs and prelates (which would be explicitly ultra vires), from teachings from the throne or the pulpit that are heretical, from wild diversions from tradition and the perennial teaching of the Church and sacred scripture, from liturgical revolutions and abuses etc. etc.

In order not to undermine the papal office in good times, it seems inappropriate to have a court of appeal against breaches of these rights since it would create a parallel authority to the pontiff. But a charter of freedoms would give victims of doctrinal, liturgical and other abuses a proper tool for challenging infringements of the basic rights of Catholics.