18 November 2016

Newman and the current crisis

The decision of our Holy Father not to respond to a formal request from four Cardinals to resolve formally some formal dubia, and thus to fulfil the Petrine mandate to confirm (sterizein) his brethren, is a striking event not easily paralleled. A refusal to respond to such a formal request, even if not published in the official records of the Holy See, can hardly not itself be a formal act. So I turned, as surely we in the Ordinariate instinctively do, to our beloved Patron Blessed John Henry Newman, quo quis doctior, quis sapientior?

" ... 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 ..."

I am therefore testing in my thoughts (doing what we colloquially call "sleeping on it" and at this moment "thinking aloud") the possibility that the current Roman Pontiff's recent decision may be seen as formally constituting the beginning of a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in "temporary suspense"; 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.

I am very fallible and I may have got all this completely wrong. But in any case, we are, of course, all now very much in uncharted waters. As well as using our sextants to the best of our abilities, we are under a moral obligation to go very slowly and extremely carefully, tentatively casting the lead to check where the Ship is heading, and how safely. This is no time for wild impetuosity and no place for loose cannons.

And it is no time for running like frightened and panicking children to ridiculous non-solutions such as the various dippy theories which purport to show that Bergoglio is not pope. He most certainly is. Fully and every bit as much as any other pope ever has been or ever could be. But not in the sense disavowed by Blessed Pius IX and by Benedict XVI, of being an "absolute monarch" with the authority to "reveal new teaching".

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 ... not applicable to Vatican II!


The Flying Dutchman said...

Slightly off topic: You have, dear and Reverend Father, previously explained the original meaning of the argumentum ad hominem. Now John L. Allen, Jr., at Crux writes about how our beloved Holy Father '[...] puts his enemies not on the rack, but the couch'. Perhaps you could tell us the correct rhetorical term for attacking someone's mental or spiritual health instead of responding with reasoned arguments?

mark wauck said...

In American political terms this act of refusal could perhaps be termed "unconstitutional," in the sense of constituting an attack on the instituting Spirit that should enliven the very constitution of the Church. It's not unlike Peter refusing to consult with the other Twelve. Ultra-Montanism run wild and amuck has no kinship to that instituting Spirit.

StMichael said...

My thought is that one can safely distinguish the faculty to be Ecclesia docens from its exercise, but not the faculty to act as Ecclesia docens from being the right magisterial organ (i.e., a bishop or a pope). In other words, I would find it problematic to think that one could say the Pope has temporarily lost the faculty to teach, but not problematic to say that he is not currently exercising it.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

StMichael: That is precisely what Newman meant and I mean. He most certainly hasn't lost it and is sovereignly free to resume it at any moment, but is currently entirely by his own choice not using it. And not simply by negligence or idleness or indifference or inadvertence, but formally and with intent.

Sue Sims said...

The Flying Dutchman: my favourite term for this (which has even attained the dizzy heights of a Wikipedia entry) is C.S. Lewis's coinage, 'Bulverism'. It's now become the default argument of our age.

Tony V said...

In other words, the pope is on vacatio, but definitely not on sede-vacatio. OK, got it.

I don't know what all the impatience is about. I've got a mountain of emails I haven't got to yet, and I've long ago stopped opening my post (for all I know there's unopened letters from various cardinals in there, as well as council tax bill and demands for television license payment). Give the poor pope a break; he'll answer as soon as he decides what he wants to say. Assuming he's already opened the letter, that is.

Thomas said...

I think he is refusing to clarify Amoris Laetitia because he knows that that must mean either a) he retracts the meaning and practical consequences he more and more clearly intends to be taken from the document, or b) he spells out with ringing clarity in a formal magisterial response something that he know is clean contrary to the teaching of all his predecessors right up to and including the man who still lives in retreat in his gardens. So he stays silent and refuses to teach anything.

His modus operandi is to achieve things by innuendo and gradual subversion of practical outcomes. The Cardinals have called his bluff and he is now trying to bluff it out, perhaps through arrogance or fear, or more likely because he thinks he still holds all the cards and that the inevitable direction of 'progress' is on his side. The crisis may not resolve util he goes from the Papacy (but you never know what may transpire; grace is wonderfully powerful), but I think the circumstances and the choices this Pope has made and is making will lend themselves very well to the analysis that Newman makes. Strange days indeed.

Rose Marie said...

Thomas is right about the Pope preferring practical consequences to doctrinal statements. He laid it all out in Evangelii gaudium, nn. 231-233: "Realities are more important than ideas." Let the actual practice, the reality on the ground, change and then either doctrine (ideas) will change to match it or simply become irrelevant. Then the project of the Modernists will have succeeded.

The Pope's best bet now is to remain silent and hope that there is not a tsunami of support for the Four Cardinals in the College of Cardinals or the hierarchy. Canceling the meeting with the Cardinals on Friday prevented an opportunity for that. I am afraid that his bet is a pretty good one, but I am praying hard otherwise.

Sixupman said...

Father, how could we exist without access to your erudition and humour and not forgetting the responses generating! Lang may your lum reek!

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

Of course, Pope Liberius did not co-exist with, and effectively share a residence with, a Pope Emeritus who publicly announced he would retain the 'munis' of the papal office, even pre-supposing that Pope Liberius was canonically elected.

Would you be good enough to explain to me what the 'munis' is and what, if any, effect Benedict XVI's retention of this papal 'munis' would have in the present circumstance?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Liam

I don't know a noun munis ... perhaps there is somebody who can help here? Is it perhaps a misspelling of the word munus, one of the meanings of which is job? Did Benedict use it when he was explaining his role after his abdication? I recall him talking about how he would support his successor by prayer, etc., but I don't remember the terminological details.

Amatuer Brain Surgeon said...

Pope Saint Liberius.

The great Saint Athanasius defended the orthodoxy of Pope Saint Liberius because the Emperor had kidnapped Pope Liberius and tortured him - and YET- where is the evidence he excommunicated Athanasius or signed a heterodox formula?

Please see Denzinger's "St. Liberius" the entry twixt # 57 & 58 and see Saint Anastasius 1 on the orthodoxy of Pope Saint Liberius # 93

Saint Liberius died in 366 A.D.and Pope St Anastasius reigned from 398-401 A.D. and so one supposes his judgment of Pope Liberius is far worthier than the judgment of Michael Davies, especially considering that Saint Athanasius his own self publicly praised the orthodoxy of Saint Liberius AFTER he, supposedly, signed an iffy formula.

Saint Athanasius blamed the troubles on the Emperor who kidnapped Liberius and the emperor's functionaries who tortured Saint Liberius.

Amatuer Brain Surgeon said...

The Transalpine Redemptorists defend the orthodox of Pope Saint Liberius


Arch lector said...

According to Crux, Archbishop Gänswein believes that Benedict retains the ministry:


For Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s resignation announcement on Feb. 11, 2013 marked the introduction of a new institution into the Catholic Church: the Pope emeritus.

Pope Benedict, he said, used a key phrase in his resignation speech: “Munus Petrinum.” This phrase is often translated “Petrine Ministry.” According to the archbishop, the Latin word “munus” has many meanings: service, commitment, guide, gift, even wonder.
“Benedict XVI thought of his commitment as a participation in that Petrine ministry,” the archbishop said. “That means that he left the papal throne, but he did not abandon this ministry.”

Benedict XVI now acts “with a collegial and synodal dimension” and a “common ministry” that appears to echo his episcopal and papal motto: ‘cooperatores veritatis,’ ‘cooperators of the truth’,” he said.

Hence, “since Pope Francis’ election, there are not two Popes, but there is a de facto enlarged ministry, with both an active and a contemplative member.”

The archbishop said that this is why Benedict did not renounce his papal name, or give up his white cassock.

“This is the reason why the correct appellation for him is ‘Your Holiness.’ This is finally the reason why he did not retire to an isolated monastery, but within the Vatican walls, as if he just took a step aside to make space for his successor and for a new step in the history of the papacy,” Gänswein said.

mark wauck said...

Self explanatory: Pope Francis’ Race Against Time to Reshape the Church - The New York Times

The Saint Bede Studio said...

Thank you Father. Would all your readers appreciate your examination of Saint Paul's correction of Saint Peter (Cephas) as described in the Epistle? This is the precedent for an Apostle giving a correction to Christ's chosen "Rock" and therefore is of critical importance to our understanding of various perogatives.

mark wauck said...

Btw, it must be difficult to maintain this sort of silence when, as Ed Pentin of NCR reports, one is "boiling with rage."

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

So it is a question of 'u' or 'i', eh? For my part I confess to great ignorance of Latin. I was required to study the language for several years in my long-past youth. I recall only our priest instructor, Father Langan, shaking his head and muttering something akin to 'multas jaciebat' whenever I would deliver my ex-temp responses to his questions in the classroom.

In any event, I think 'U' are correct in respect of the petrine 'munus' term I incorrectly referenced in my earlier post.

Notwithstanding, I have come upon a piece written and posted on September 15, 2014 by Sandro Magister: "Reigning and “Emeritus.” The Enigma of the Two Popes" and which delves into the matter more minutely.


There has been more written on the question, but I trust Magister's reportage on most occasions and so take the liberty of offering this one.

The full Latin text of Benedict XVI's resignation address is published on-line. I would forward that here too, but I couldn't read it. I can hear Father Langan even now, God rest his soul.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

Regrettably, I forgot to include this most important reference with my previous post. Mea Culpa.

"The resignation of Benedict XVI. History, law and conscience" - published February 2013, Chiesa Espresso Repubblica

'The author, Stephen Violi is a priest of the diocese of Modena and teaches canon law at the Theological Faculty of Emilia Romagna and in the Faculty of Theology of Lugano'


rick allen said...

My recollection is that Newman opposed the papal definition of Vatican I, not because it was erroneous, but because it was "inopportune." In that judgement he seems to me to have suggested that there are times that it is advisable not to define a disputed dogma.

And that seems perfectly correct to me. Surely the worst thing the unhappy cardinals could do would be to somehow pressure a pope into a binding dogmatic declaration that he really does not want to make.

El Codo said...

How long O Lord until our Blessed is recognized as he truly is,a Doctor of the Church?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Many years ago I was taken to task by a lady tutor in St Hilda's for not immediately recognising that Beroul's "Tristan et Iseut" had possibly 29 different authors. Now that we have computers to do textual analysis I wonder whether anybody has analysed Amoris Laetitia. I suppose one has to look at the original language but I do have the vague impression that it looks at though at least four different people have had a hand in it and I wonder if Pope Francis actually wrote any of it and indeed I wonder whether he has read it all - some of it is pretty tedious - viz: his early claim that he could not remember the controversial footnote. A bit irritating if having farmed the task out to your friends to find yourself accused of something on the way to heresy.

Sixupman said...

N.B.: subcontracting creates all manner of problems?

mark wauck said...

A comparison is instructive. Here are my translations (from Italian) of the two relevant passages (more was said, but these are most pertinent):


"For the first time in the history of the Church we have the case of two legitimate living popes. Certainly only Pope Francis is the Pope, but Benedict is the emeritus [pope], and so is somehow still tied to the papacy. This unprecedented situation has to be addressed theologically and spiritually. On how to do it, there are different opinions."


"Before and after his resignation, Benedict has understood and understands his task as participation in the 'Petrine'. He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the passage of 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry. Instead, he built the office staff with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a ministry in common."


"Since the election of his successor Francesco, March 13, 2013, there are thus not two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry, with an active member and a contemplative member. This is why Benedict XVI has given up neither his name, nor the white cassock. Therefore the correct name with which even today he is addressed is 'Holiness'; and therefore, also, he has not retired to a monastery in isolation but within the Vatican, as if he had just stepped to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy."

Jacobi said...

This is a time for Common Sense. For Truth as revealed in Scripture, Revelation, and Tradition as in the Magisterium.

Sadly, few of my normal fellow-congregation would understand that except for a few “oldies” and two other priests I know, one of whom says the nearest Latin Mass.

Liam Ronan said...

@ Jacobi,

As my father once remarked to me in the '60s: "Common sense isn't so common any more."

It's been down hill ever since.

Nicolas Bellord said...

If Pope Benedict still has munus then surely this is the time to use it to resolve the present scandalous situation. Incidentally it is surely significant that the OED's new word of the year is "Post-truth".