30 May 2016


I am not currently enabling Sedevacantist contributions. Sorry; but I don't want my blog to be any sort of encouragement to that sort of profoundly wrong approach.

My previous piece mentioning Archbishop Gaenswein was not designed to suggest that he is a traddy; but because I feared that some of his words might be seized upon by distressed traddies clutching at straws. My very firm conviction is that "Bipapalism" is very nearly as grave a disorder as Sedevacantantism and the currently fashionable Papolatry.

In my own, personal and fallible, judgement, this is a Pontificate which has some dysfunctional characteristics. This leads to good, conscientious Catholics being at risk of accepting some silly idea which appears to offer them a silver lining. But there is naught for your (or my) comfort except the very wise words of Cardinal Pell, drawing our attention to the fact that the history of the Papacy offers examples of previous extremely questionable pontificates. And Cardinal Burke's gentle, insistent, reminders that we need to look carefully at papal pronouncements and weigh up carefully the evidence for and against the conclusion that they are magisterial or non-magisterial.

My own personal guideline here is that when our Holy Father says something which is eodem sensu eademque sententia with the repeated assertions of Scriptures, Fathers, Roman Pontiffs, Roman dicasteries, and Ecumenical Councils over many centuries, he is bearing authentic witness to the Magisterium. When he says things which have a strong prima facie appearance of lacking this coherence, then ... the jury is out on the question, and (for all I know) may well continue to be so for several more pontificates. In these circumstances, every Catholic may carefully weigh up the matter concerned, and has the liberty to express both positive and negative views. By doing this, the entire plebs sancta Dei will be playing its part in the evolution of the eventual answers to contraverted questions. It would be edifying if the Bishops took part in this process, rather than leaving it to presbyters, deacons, and layfolk.

Vatican I made clear that ex cathedra pronouncements of the Roman Pontiff are infallible and irreformable ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae. This leaves it arguable (on different grounds) whether a particular pronouncement not ex cathedra is or may be reformable by the reception or non-reception of the Church.


MAB said...

Thank you for this. I've saved it to refer back to, when I get discouraged.

Michael Leahy said...

I read somewhere recently that unless a Pope makes a pronouncement that he specifically asserts as contradicting orthodoxy, this pronouncement should be interpreted as supporting orthodoxy. As Pope Francis hasn't come right out and claimed that Jesus Christ is wrong and he is right to contradict Him, his exhortation must be understood to be in support of the words of Our Lord, no matter how difficult it might be to understand them. Since the language of Pope Francis is so vague and imprecise, we would be all better off to ignore his writings and take what we need from the Tradition of the Church. After all, there must have been vast amounts of papal scribblings over the centuries that hardly anyone bothered with.

TomG said...

Michael, one of the wisest comments on anything I've seen in a long time.

Opacus said...

As a matter of logic, while the proposition that if x is ex cathedra then x is infallible implies that if x is fallible then x is not ex cathedra, it certainly does not imply that if x is not ex cathedra then x is fallible; that would be the fallacy of denying the antecedent. A related error is to think that because the Church has declared that if x is ex cathedra then x is infallible it follows that x is infallible only if x is ex cathedra. The form 'p only if q' is equivalent to 'if p then q', so to derive 'x is infallible only if x is ex cathedra' from 'if x is ex cathedra then x is infallible' is to derive 'p only if q' from 'if q then p' i.e. to derive 'if p then q' from 'if q then p'; yet that is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. One would think that Catholics would have learnt something from the 'filioque' controversy. A mistake made by many Orthodox was to think that because the Church had declared that if x is the Father then the Holy Spirit proceeds from x it had declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from x only if x is the Father. Once again there is a concealed fallacy of affirming the consequent. Traditional Catholics who think that papal teachings can be resisted merely because they are not ex cathedra are thinking neither traditionally nor with sufficient attention to the niceties of logic which so characterised the tradition prior to Vatican II.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Fair enough, Opace. I have amendes my text accordingly.