31 August 2023


Almost at the very end of the press conference to 'present' Amoris laetitia, a young woman, who, I think, was sitting next to the erudite Professor Roberto de Mattei, was allowed to ask a question. Unlike most of the hacks and hackettes, Diane Montagna asked a question ... an appeal for "clarification" ... "everybody wants to know" ... which was very short and totally to the point. She just wanted to know whether there was anything in this new document which contradicted paragraph 84 of Familiaris consortio. The question went for answer to some Austrian called von Schoenborn. He repudiated strongly the idea that there could possibly be a contradiction. But he proceeded to explain that Doctrine develops.

The Austrian gentleman referred us instead to Blessed John Henry Newman's Essay on Development. I think anybody who wants to be up-to-the-minute should reread that brilliant tour de force. Remember, incidentally, that the Blessed did not write it as a guide to how future curial spokespersons, by a neat conjuring trick, could present Change as Non-change; but as an analysis of how in fact Catholic Doctrine had in the past developed while remaining true to type.

Newman shared with S Paul the advantage of not being an Austrian aristocrat.

When Pope Francis was later asked about the coherence of Amoris laetitia, he replied by referring us all to this 'Introduction' by von Schoenborn, whom he described as a great theologian and a former secretary of the CDF. (It is a mercy that Vatican I, in defining the Primacy and Infallibility of Roman Pontiffs, did not claim that they had good memories with regard to the Curricula Vitae of their associates.)

I have recently been repeating some previous posts making clear what the Church has formally taught about DEVELOPMENT, in a Magisterium which begins with a phrase of S Paul's which was then taken up by writer after writer, pope after pope, Council after Council, until our own time.

The phrase is

                                EODEM SENSU EADEMQUE SENTENTIA.

People ought to chant this at PF whenever he .... er ... 

New readers might like to read back over these old articles of mine, which I usually published at 5 in the afternoon.


Dominie Mary Stemp said...

And the first attacks on the catechism came from Catholic Voices speaker Caroline Farrow. On radio 4 last night she criticised the Catechism paragrapg or section on homosexuality by saying the term "intrinsic disorder" is not a helpful term
So there we are

mark wauck said...

Question: Is "Development of Doctrine" part of the Faith handed down by the Apostles, or is it rather a theoretical construct formulated by an Anglican clergyman who was undergoing a crisis of faith in the context of 19th century Liberalism? To rework Mark Twain a bit: everyone talks about "Development of Doctrine" but no one defines it.

Of course, V2 had something to say about this: "... there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. ... as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her" (Dei Verbum 8).

Sounds good, a bit like the Gospel of Progress--onward and upward with nary a falter in our step! But even Benedict, a Newman fanboy, pointed out at Regensburg that things haven't always gone so smoothly in the history of thought within the Church--and that the effects remain with us today.

On a very practical level, let me suggest that once you adopt terminology that's bound to be misunderstood (I say that for the sake of the argument) then your cause is lost--and "Development of Doctrine" is just such a term. Think about it. How many people correctly understand "papal infallibility" as defined at V1? Hardly anyone. I've read, and believe, that despite great advances in Catholic education fully 90% of Catholics as polled believe that the IC has something to do with Jesus' conception.

On a more theoretical level, David Knowles, who knew a thing or two about The Evolution of Medieval Thought, had some penetratingly relevant things to say. Here's one example, well worth pondering:

"... there is an obverse to this brilliant medallion. If Augustine was a second Bible to the dark and middle ages, he was all but the Gospel to the three great heresies, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Jansenism ..."

Obviously there's a lot more to be said on that subject--and Knowles does go on to say a fair amount of it. I point this out to illustrate that Newman's idea of "Development" may have served a purpose back in his day, but it's a decidedly two-edged sword.

Deo volente said...

Father, thank for your analysis. Since I consider your blog a "must read", I link to it often.

Pax tecum!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Well, Mark, there is that passage in the Commonitorium. You need something to get you from the Johannine prologue to the homoousios if not beyond ...

Liam Ronan said...

Better than that silly old disyllabic murmur, I can think of a trisyllabic chant apropos of the present moment 'Barabbas'.

Ben of the Bayou said...

Dear Father,

Your suggestion about how to fill the vacancies in the Anglican Communion isbspot on. I hope the interested parties are listening.

If I may also say, there is one thing you now have, in the misdst of this looniness, which is the indefectibility of the Roman and Catholic Church. I wonder whether the Lord has chosen this time to test our faith on that very point.

Pax et bonum,


mark wauck said...

Father, these are deep waters, as I'm sure you recognize. What I would tentatively want to suggest is the distinction between Apostolic Tradition and later "theologizing" on the deposit of faith--different levels of authority, even including Councils. The argument would then be, to use one of your favorite examples, that the V1 definition of "infallibility" is really there right from the beginning--simply not under that rather unfortunate name. What I think we see at times is that theologians too often have attempted to offer quasi scientific explanations for what are mysteries of the faith. (And the Anglican patrimony may have some guidance to offer here.) I don't say that theologizing is illegitimate, but I do say two things: 1. Due caution has not always been exercised in the embrace of theological views, and 2. the influence of Platonic philosophy on Christian theology has been very troubling over the long haul.

Here's one more example--one that has bedeviled (!) Christian thought for centuries, in one form or another: Original Sin. It's at the heart of the nature/grace controversies that were the theological battlegrounds for the heresies that Knowles cites. I think most people who have read Benedict's writings on this subject, including quite recent writings, are aware that his views on this subject are quite different than Augustine's views were--not that those were totally worked out in all desirable detail. Well, then, between Augustine and Benedict: deeper understanding, continual forward movement? Or something else--such as different expressions of underlying Gnostic and/or Neoplatonic ideas, Plotinian, Hegelian?

Obviously not an easy matter to decide, involving historical issues of scripture, etc. What I'm basically suggesting, however, is that there ARE such issues that, below the surface, have posed continuing difficulties for the Church. It would be very helpful, moving forward, for those who hold to the Apostolic Faith to be able to address these issues in a convincing manner. My view is that "Development of Doctrine" a la Newman does't really offer the necessary tools because his thought was too involved with 19th century Liberalism and lacks the philosophical depth for coming to grips with more recent variations on that theme. I think that this is an area in which "traditionalists" are rather stymied by modernists and are in need of a breakthrough.

Let me add that it's precisely because your blog leads to such reflections that I value it as I do. Despite my chatter about philosophy (above), I strongly believe in the importance of your repeated contention that liturgical studies have a key, but currently undervalued, role to play in resolving or at least clarifying these doctrinal, spiritual, and ecclesiological matters.

Tommy said...

"I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium" (AL 3). "I thought it appropriate [to add] other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges" (AL 4).

Peter dialogues with the Church, and seems to say in his own words that this is non-magisterial (although were that to be clarified later I would certainly retract my speculation). Let us read it slowly and respond in charity, always praying for our Holy Father and thanking the Lord ceaselessly for the gift of the papacy.

"Revelation is entrusted to the whole Church, and all, under the leadership of Peter, are to preserve it, interpret it, and produce a living exposition of it. And since the office of Peter is borne by fallible human beings, it needs everyone's watchful but loving cooperation so that the exercise of this office may be characterized by the degree of 'infallibility' that belongs to it. More precisely, this means that a pope can exercise his office fruitfully for all only if he is recognized and loved in a truly ecclesial way, even in the midst of paraklesis or dispute." -- Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, p. 343, Ignatius Press, 2007

Unknown said...

"the question went for answer to some Austrian called Schoenborn... , S Paul of Tarsus, who was not an Austrian... Newman shared with S Paul the disadvantage of not being Austrian..."

But Father! What have you got against Austrians? I understand that
Reichsfürst Graf und Kirchenfürst Schönborn has less-than orthodox views, but there's no need for pointing out the obvious fact that S. Paul and Bl. Newman had not the fortune to be born in the Heart of Christendom, as if it were a good thing. After all Father, Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo...

mark wauck said...

Tommy, the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, in reporting on negotiations between the Vatican and SSPX, quotes ArchB Pozzo to the effect that SSPX is being asked “to accept that the magisterium of the Church is the only one to whom is confided the deposit of the faith to be guarded, defended and interpreted.” Nothing about the pope asking to be "recognized and loved in a truly ecclesial way," as von Balthasar would have it. IOW, the pope just wants SSPX to recognize his authority. Love is optional, it would appear.

This document is unquestionably "magisterial." I quote the ultimate authority (Wikipedia--but I think they're right):

"The Church's magisterium is exercised without this solemnity [i.e., of infallibility] in statements by popes and bishops, whether collectively (as by an episcopal conference) or singly, in written documents such as catechisms, encyclicals and pastoral letters, or orally, as in homilies. These statements are part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church."

It's certainly no LESS magisterial than his homilies. The statement from the document that you quote is itself magisterial--no help for it.

John R said...

Have you read Orestes Brownson's critique (1847) of Newman's essay on development?

Highland Cathedral said...

Is that the same Christoph Schoenborn who was the editorial secretary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and co-wrote, with Cardinal Ratzinger, ‘Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church’?

UnanimousConsent said...

Quite frankly, I reject the whole idea that doctrine develops. Maybe our way of understanding the truth in light of cultural developments is affected, but doctrine doesn't.

For instance, lets take slavery. In the early years of the Church, slavery was.considered almost charitable, because it spared the life of the conquered man, whereas the Romans would normally line them up, sodomized and then kill them in front of their families.

Now, the institution is slavery changed, and hence, so too did our understanding. It wasnt that doctrine developed, but we were really speaking about two wholy different things.

The same can be said for usury.

With respect to Orestes Brownson, what a giant of a man. I need to read his critique.

mark wauck said...

Thanks, John R.

Tommy said...

mark, I would be interested in Father Hunwicke's take on what counts as magisterial or non-magisterial, fallible or infallible, ordinary or inordinary, etc. I remember reading one time that one cannot simply look at the "type" of document itself but also the wording of the document, how it presents itself, etc. So for example an encyclical does not automatically rank higher than an Post-Synodal Exhortation simply because it calls itself an Encyclical -- the text itself also has to suggest that it is an exercise in the teaching and binding authority of the Church. If a text suggests that it is merely making suggestions, then we can accept them as merely suggestions. So the phrase -- "the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture ..." -- is a lot different than "I would also point out that ...", even taking into consideration different writing styles and changes in how teaching is communicated.

Again, I submit all of this to the judgment of the Church -- I'm just speculating.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, the lady with the question that you quote was here in Austria today, at a conference where Card. Schönborn gave an English version of his presentation. At one point he noticed her in the audience, and said "you were at the press conference yesterday." Here's a recording I made with an iPhone: https://archive.org/details/20160409155923

Jacobi said...

Doctrine deepens but does not develope. Adultery is a mortal sin and adulterers may not receive Holy Communion other than by incurring further mortal sin.

Now the mess is clearly to be seen there in front of us Somewhere amongst the debris is the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth, the Catholic Church and it is up to all good orthodox Catholics and True to find and restore it.

We have been here before after all!

erick said...

Fr Hunwicke,

Indeed, indeed.

We have here, it seems, a Papal error.

Monica said...

Blessed John Henry Newman's Essay is gratis ( but lengthy) on Amazon Kindle.

Melinda said...

@Highland Catholic.

No. A great number of the cardinals appear to have the same name but are in fact different persons than they were under Benedict.

John R said...

With Schonborn's comments on development, not change, I decided to provide a link. The copy at the Brownson Society has many typographical errors. I am interested in any critique of Brownson someone might know since I haven't read Newman's Essay in many years and am lazy. (It's broken in two parts.)


Cordelio said...

With the important qualifier that I only speak and read English, I would maintain that Cardinal Newman had one of the most powerful and clear Catholic minds since Aquinas. I think it is relevant to this conversation that Brownson later admitted that his earlier criticism of Newman was mistaken, because he did not understand the point Newman was actually making.

The admission can be found here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.c022660303;view=1up;seq=493

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Usury remains a sin and Vix Prevent remains in force despite granted exemptions


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Mr James Larson applying Thomism to the ideas of Blessed Newman



El Codo said...

Blessed John will be declared a Doctor of the Church one day. That is a racing certainty. Please God ,I will be alive to see and rejoice in it.As he once said:”Heresy is usually the revenge of a half truth”.

armyarty said...

I thought that I would lift a couple of paragraphs from Cardinal Newman's speech, made on being elevated to Cardinal, as they seem apt, in light of Amoris Laetitia, and the official reaction to criticism of it:

In a long course of years I have made many mistakes. I have nothing of that high perfection which belongs to the writings of Saints, viz., that error cannot be found in them; but what I trust that I may claim all through what I have written, is this — an honest intention, an absence of private ends, a temper of obedience, a willingness to be corrected, a dread of error, a desire to serve Holy Church, and, through Divine mercy, a fair measure of success.

And, I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as it is, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Usury is still regarded as a sin. The problem is the complexity of financial instruments which proliferate. The 2008 crash from which the World has not recovered is a reminder of the sinfulness of usury.

dunstan said...

Mark Wauck says "everyone talks about Development of Doctrine but noone defines it." But not so. St Pius X defined it as follows: "the Catholic religion, as it exists today, is that which was founded by Jesus Christ, that is to say, that it is nothing else than the progressive development of the germ which he brought into the world." The HF concludes, "Thus do they argue, not perceiving their determination of the primitive germ is only an a priori assumption of agnostic and evolutionist philosophy, and that the germ itself has been gratuitously defined so that it may fit in with their contention." (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 35) And who are 'they'? That's right, his target throughout the encyclical: the Modernists.

This is not what Newman meant by Development but the above makes Mr Wauck's point: Development is a weasel word and one one which lacks clarity because, as he argues, it is unphilosophical. St Pius identifies evolutionism as the philosophy of the Modernist idea of Development. The question I take Mr Wauck to be posing is whether there is a truly Catholic idea of Development, one consistent with the Vincentian formula. And that is a question which Pius answers with a resounding negative.

Development belongs to evolutionary philosophy which was the dominant philosophical paradigm of the 19thc. It found its theological expression in Liberalism as Newman pointed out, but I would submit that he did not fully grasp its philosophical cause, namely, the evolutionism which is so acutely and relentlessly exposed in Pascendi: 'The Modernists lay down the general principle that in a living religion everything is subject to change... to the laws of evolution everything is subject under penalty of death - dogma, Church, worship, the Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself.' (Pascendi, 26)

dunstan said...

Thus the homoousios is not a development of the Prologue but its restatement, eodem sensu eademque sententia.