4 March 2015

Obama and the Da Vinci Code

There is a report that some daft archbishop somewhere has suggested that since the Pope has the power of the keys, perhaps he can dissolve valid consummated sacramental marriages. But, however hard these extreme ultrapapalist mavericks struggle to portray the Holy Father as some sort of magically cunctipotent wizard or godlike superman or supremely effective alchymist, the fact remains that only a nutter, surely, really believes the Pope could do anything. He can't, for example, in my humble and respectful but cynical and decided opinion, turn the Alps into cheese or add the Da Vinci Code to the Bible or beam Obama up to Mars or grow a tail or turn Walter Kasper into the Dalai Lama or abolish the Sacrament of Baptism or suppress Easter or turn a pumpkin into a carriage or abolish bodily death or transsubstantiate a consecrated Host into bread or dissolve a Christian marriage or erase the character of Holy Order or transmute lead into gold. 

I repeat, underneath, a previous post about what the Pope is for and is supposed to do and does have the grace of the Holy Spirit guaranteed to him to accomplish. You might have thought that someone, such as a seminary lecturer, would have broken this somewhat ancient news, dating from at least 1870, to wannabe archbishops.

Doellinger, poor old thing, was excommunicated because he felt unable to accept Vatican I. Why do we now have an open season ...

 "The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might disclose new teaching, but that, by His assistance, they might devoutly guard, and faithfully set forth, the Revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith."

A very sensible reader asked me where this came from. I am happy to oblige. I can reveal that it came from the Decree of the First Vatican Council, on Papal Infallibility. It is a dogma which every Catholic, from the Pope downwards or upwards or sideways, is obliged to believe. Here's some more splendid stuff from the same source:

"So this gift of truth and of unfailing faith is divinely invested in Peter and his successors in this chair, so that they may discharge their lofty job [munere] in order that the whole flock of Christ, turned away through them [the popes] from the poisonous food of heresy, may be nourished by the food of heavenly teaching so that, all occasion of schism being done away, the whole Church may be kept as one and, resting upon its foundation, may stand firm against the Gates of Hell."

I will oblige further with a fine quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman:

"It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection  which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift."

And, finally, with a neatly incisive passage from Joseph Ratzinger:

"After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. ... In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... it is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."

Our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis is most truly and visibly pope when you see him formally and officially condemning doctrinal error; when from the Chair of S Peter he carefully and lucidly puts into words what some erroneous innovation consists of, and then, in effect, declares "If anyone says that, let him be anathema". Or "This judgement is to be definitively held by all the faithful."

THAT is the job ['munus' in that Decree of Vatican I] that he's really there for: keeping the Church in unity by banishing the 'poisonous food' of heresy. 

God bless him; may God in due time make of him a worthy successor to his great predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. As Benedict prayed for himself at his own inauguration, so may Pope Francis, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, discover the strength to resist the Wolves. He will not find this easy; but God does provide for our human weakness whatever graces are needful for the job we are, each of us, put here to fulfill. Pope Francis so very badly needs our prayers.


Chloe said...

Thank you Father.

A. T. Wallace said...

What are your thoughts on this line from Lumen gentium 25: "Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held"?

Is there more to this than simply recognizing that, for example, 'X is true' and a given bishop says 'X'? How is this any different from a layman who makes a profession of faith or profess an article of the creed in public? What's the point of calling this 'infallible'?

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. Hunwicke, I thought I would add a few more sources in support of your mantra, but this time from Lumen Gentium and its teaching on the office of bishop. The footnotes of the last quote cite Pastor Aeternus as the source of the doctrine that infallibility does not extend to novelties:

LG 23 "For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church, to instruct the faithful to love for the whole mystical body of Christ..."

LG 25 "They (the bishops) bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old,(164) making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.(165)"

LG 25 "And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded."

LG 25 " But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church.(45*) The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents;(46*) BUT A NEW PUBLIC REVELATION THEY DO NOT ACCEPT AS PERTAINING TO THE DIVINE DEPOSIT OF FAITH.(47*)"

However, the fear I have is that the serpent will say that no doctrine is being changed, but only the discipline with which the doctrine is applied will be changed.

It is on this latter point that the battle must be fought and won.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Bless you for repeating these essential truths

Repetitio est mater studorium

Paul Borealis said...

Personally, I find the push at the Synod for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Eucharist, to be scandalous. Adding the ecumenical dimension and the Eastern Orthodox church practices, etc. only makes matters worse and even more confusing. Now this issue.

Regarding your post, you might find this of interest. Thanks.

"6. Today's meeting with you, members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, is an appropriate setting for also speaking to the whole Church about the limits of the Roman Pontiff's power over ratified and consummated marriage, which "cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death" (CIC, can. 1141; CCEO, can. 853). By its very nature this formulation of canon law is not only disciplinary or prudential, but corresponds to a doctrinal truth that the Church has always held.

Nevertheless, there is an increasingly widespread idea that the Roman Pontiff's power, being the vicarious exercise of Christ's divine power, is not one of those human powers referred to in the canons cited above, and thus it could be extended in some cases also to the dissolution of ratified and consummated marriages. In view of the doubts and anxieties this idea could cause, it is necessary to reaffirm that a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman Pontiff. The opposite assertion would imply the thesis that there is no absolutely indissoluble marriage, which would be contrary to what the Church has taught and still teaches about the indissolubility of the marital bond."

To be continued....

Paul Borealis said...

"7. This doctrine that the Roman Pontiff's power does not extend to ratified and consummated marriages has been taught many times by my Predecessors (cf., for example, Pius IX, Let. Verbis exprimere, 15 August 1859: Insegnamenti Pontifici, Ed. Paoline, Rome 1957, vol. I, n. 103; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Arcanum, 10 February 1880: ASS 12 [1879-1880], 400; Pius XI, Encyc. Let. Casti connubii, 31 December 1930: AAS 22 [552]; Pius XII, Address to Newlyweds, 22 April 1942: Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di S.S. Pio XII, Ed. Vaticana, vol. IV, 47). I would like to quote in particular a statement of Pius XII: "A ratified and consummated marriage is by divine law indissoluble, since it cannot be dissolved by any human authority (can. 1118); while other marriages, although intrinsically indissoluble, still do not have an absolute extrinsic indissolubility, but, under certain necessary conditions, can (it is a question, as everyone knows, of relatively rare cases) be dissolved not only by virtue of the Pauline privilege, but also by the Roman Pontiff in virtue of his ministerial power" (Address to the Roman Rota, 3 October 1941: AAS 33 [1941], pp. 424-425)With these words Pius XII gave an explicit interpretation of canon 1118, corresponding to the present canon 1141 of the Code of Canon Law, and to canon 853 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in the sense that the expression "human power" also includes the Pope's ministerial or vicarious power, and he presented this doctrine as being peacefully held by all experts in the matter. In this context it would also be appropriate to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the great doctrinal authority conferred on it by the involvement of the whole Episcopate in its drafting and by my special approval. We read there: "Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom" (n. 1640).

8. The Roman Pontiff in fact has the "sacra potestas" to teach the truth of the Gospel, administer the sacraments and pastorally govern the Church in the name and with the authority of Christ, but this power does not include per se any power over the divine law, natural or positive. Neither Scripture nor Tradition recognizes any faculty of the Roman Pontiff for dissolving a ratified and consummated marriage; on the contrary, the Church's constant practice shows the certain knowledge of Tradition that such a power does not exist. The forceful expressions of the Roman Pontiffs are only the faithful echo and authentic interpretation of the Church's permanent conviction.

It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff's power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church's Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively, even if it has not been solemnly declared by a defining act. This doctrine, in fact, has been explicitly proposed by the Roman Pontiffs in categorical terms, in a constant way and over a sufficiently long period of time. It was made their own and taught by all the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, with the knowledge that it must always be held and accepted by the faithful."


Pope John Paul II


Friday, 21 January 2000


Patrick Sheridan said...

Does the infallibility of the pope depend upon the infallibility of the faithful? If it is so poorly understood and so uselessly and sparingly invoked one could well ask whether it was a platitude to define it de fide in the first place and question the propriety thereunto when it was, for centuries, a hypothesis and by no means believed by all.

Are they anathema who until 1870 thought papal infallibility a nonsense? One of the greatest churchmen of that age, Cardinal Strossmayer, delivered a flawless and impassioned address in fluent Latin to the Council (despite the acoustic problems in St Peter's and repeated attempts to shut him up), arguing against the definition on scriptural, theological and historical grounds. He kept up his resistance until about 1875, I think, when he relented. I doubt he sincerely believed the dogma even after then.

I would support the process of his canonization.

Fr. Michael LaRue said...

The problem I see, a most serious problem, is this. We live in an age where words mean whatever a person wants them to mean, that is, men nowadays believe that words do not have anything approaching an objective meaning. Therefore, if there is to be an agreed meaning, one person's meaning, and by extension, one person's will, must be imposed on every one else. The question then becomes, who is that person, and how is that person to be chosen and known.

Given this presupposition, which holds for most Roman Catholics of my acquaintance, that person is the pope. The individual RC has no business asking himself what things mean, for the pope will tell him. If the pope should decide that it is the faith of the Church that the moon is made of Stilton cheese, then that is the faith of the Church. It does not really matter anyway, since there is no such thing as objective truth. That is where we now find ourselves.

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all." .

The Rad Trad said...

"One of the greatest churchmen of that age, Cardinal Strossmayer, delivered a flawless and impassioned address in fluent Latin to the Council...."

I hope you don't mean that ridiculous forgery made up by a protestant which started circulating in the Anglophonic world in 1890?—I doubt there was a Latin original. That "speech" denies very basic traditional ideas, such as that Peter was even in Rome (something I have only heard an Antiochian Orthodox priest and Protestants deny).It raves and banters like a sola Scriptura ecstasy. If anyone wants to read it and test if anyone claiming roots in Apostolic Christianity could have given it, be my guest: http://www.bible.ca/cath-joseph-georg-strossmayer.htm

Unknown said...

Deacon Augustine wrote:

"However, the fear I have is that the serpent will say that no doctrine is being changed, but only the discipline with which the doctrine is applied will be changed.

"It is on this latter point that the battle must be fought and won."

Then might not the serpent say that the new to be drawn from Revelation is that communion depends not on one''s actions but only on accepting as an ideal what the Church teaches.

Patrick Sheridan said...

Rad Trad,

A letter by bishop Strossmayer, bearing the date 27th November 1870, and reprinted in the Kolnische Zeitung of 13th July 1881, puts the fact very clearly:

"The Vatican Council was wanting in that freedom which was necessary to make it a real Council, and to justify it in making decrees calculated to bind the consciences of the whole Catholic world...Everything which could resemble a guarantee for the liberty of discussion was carefully excluded...And as though all this did not suffice, there was added a public violation of the antient Catholic principle, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. In a word, the most hideous and naked exercise of Papal infallibility was necessary before that Infallibility could be elevated into a dogma. If to all this be added that the Council was not regularly constituted, that the Italian bishops, prelates, and officials were in a monstrously pre-dominating majority, that the Apostolic Vicars were dominated by the Propaganda in the most scandalous manner, that the whole apparatus of that political power which the Pope then exercised in Rome contributed to intimidate and repress all free utterance, you can easily conceive what sort of 'liberty' - that essential attribute of all Councils - was displayed at Rome."

This indictment makes it useless to allege the validity of the dogma of Papal Infallibility as the concurrent act of both pope and Council (as in the opening words of the definition).

Stephen said...

I am reminded of this insightful analysis of the degeneration of the Church in Russia before the revolution. It speaks of a lethargy, of a sclerosis, a atrophia, on the part of clergy and laity, which may account also for much of what you are talking about in the west.

At the end of the day, every believer has to own it, as they say. When we outsource fidelity and its practices, we open the path to all this crap.(That's a technical term, btw.)