28 September 2021

Saint John Henry Newman and Aggressive Insolent Factions

There can be no doubt that PF has presented us with yet another Rupture; and a rupture which (as well as having practical aspects) is also a rupture in the field of dogma. 

Pope Benedict XVI unambiguously taught that what, in liturgical tradition, has been loved and practised, cannot be simply forbidden. Pope Francis I has now declared that the Roman Rite has only one (unica) form; and that the form is the Bugnini-Liturgy. As logical and practical outworkings of their conflicting positions, Benedict XVI enacted that no priest of the Latin Church needs any permission whatsoever to celebrate the older form; Pope Francis I now as categorically asserts that the older form may not be celebrated without permissions galore.

Neither of these two contradictory positions has the authority of an infallible declaration by an Ecumenical Council or a Roman Pontiff. In fact, in each case, their authority is manifestly well below that of an infallible utterance. Which ... if either ... binds us?

I propose to look at attitudes adopted by S John Henry Newman at the time of Vatican I, confident that criticisms and qualifications which he deemed appropriate with regard to a doctrinally active and infallible Ecumenical Council will, a fortiori, apply to these much lesser papal declarations and in this current crisis. It seems to me that his guidance is all the more important in these days leading up to his Festival ... if we are to celebrate this festival with any integrity.


Early in 1870, S John Henry received a letter from his bishop William Ullathorne about the disgraceful bullying going on at the [First] Vatican Council. He replied with words which became justly famous: "Why should an aggressive insolent faction be allowed to 'make the heart of the just to mourn, whom the Lord hath not made sorrowful?'" ... words which spring easily to mind when one thinks about the this pontificate in general, and Traditionis Custodes in particular. They are positively uncanny in their appropriateness! Seven months later, on 23 July, Newman saw the Definition of papal infallibility five days after it had passed through the Conciliar Aula. He was relieved, even delighted, at its "moderation"; it afforded him no problems.

But a further question did remain to trouble him. "Does it come to me with the authority of an Ecumenical Council?" 

Newman did not instantly accept it as such. He wanted to know what the conciliar minority would do. This was important, because unanimity, at least 'moral' unanimity, was accepted as essential for the validity of a conciliar definition of doctrine. If the Fathers "allege in detail acts of violence and deceit ... if they declare they have been kept in the dark and been practised on, then there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the Definition is not valid."

We may not possess 'our Cardinal's' immense erudition. But we are subject to the same moral imperatives as those by which he was moved to speak and to act as he did.

If some papal intervention repeats or is in continuity with what the Church has immemorially taught and practised, then it is for that reason magisterial; if it were to bear manifest signs of shameless rupture, the reader would have to draw the necessary conclusion and repudiate it ... to declare "This is not valid".

Traditionis Custodes bears, unmistakably and aggressively, manifest signs of shameless rupture when it is compared with Summorum Pontificum. It bears upon its surface the very clearest marks of violence and deceit.


These are troubled days when we, laics and clerics and bishops, are surely called upon to speak with the same Parrhesia that S John Henry employed. If members of the hierarchy attempt to bully, to intimidate, to abuse their status to silence any who speak out, we should remember 'our Cardinal's' condemnations of an aggressive insolent faction

We have this Holy Father's own reiterated encouragements of Parrhesia as our defence and inspiration. 

Not to mention Canon 212.


Greyman 82 said...

Thank you for this post, Fr. Hunwicke. It inspires me to resist Traditionis Custodes and Pope Francis's unwarranted, ultra vires attempts to restrict the Traditional Latin Mass. I'm not a great devotee of the TLM myself, and am perfectly happy with the vernacular Ordinariate Use of the Latin (i.e. Roman) Rite. But, I feel very strongly a fraternal bond with those Catholics who have a particular devotion to the TLM and Traditional Catholic liturgy generally.

I have lost nearly all the respect for Pope Francis that I ever had. I respect and revere the great office of Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff, but I have no personal regard for His Holiness Pope Francis. Like many of his predecessors, he has "followed the devices and desires of [his] own [heart]" rather than exercise faithfully the office of Pope. I hope there will be a new Pope soon. Since 2013, I know I can write that without it implying I wish for the death of the present Pontiff. Let us ask for St John Henry Newman's prayers that we will be guided by divine grace to do what is right for Holy Mother Church and to resist the wrongful rulings of a misguided, unsuitable occupant of the Chair of St Peter.

Pulex said...

Dear Father, does it make sense trying to discern if "Traditionis custodes" (TC) is infallible or not? Infallibility pertains to acts of teaching. TC, in turn, is an act of government (as was "Summorum Pontificum"). The former require our faith, the latter - our obedience. On the other hand, the Pope Benedict's quote from his letter to bishops may well be a piece of teaching if it can be shown that it has some grounding in Revelation.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Pulex

I'm a bit puzzled. I certainly never intended to discuss whether TC was 'infallible'. It manifestly isn't. My argument was based on a simple a fortiori.

Scribe said...

There must be many like Greyman 2 who are angered by the attack on the Tridentine Rite and its followers. Greyman 2 is happy with the Ordinariate rites (when will PF start to attack *them*?). I have always been content with the Novus Ordo, but that doesn't stop me from feeling deep sympathy for those who revere the older form of the Mass, which I regularly watch from St Mary's Warrington. I suppose we must just all hope for the best.

Stephen said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke,

May I suggest that Pulex's inquiry is highly representative of how many people, Catholic or not, process ANY utterance by a Pope? It's quite akin to a reflex; Pope says 'X', most people immediately think to themselves "Is 'X' infallible?".

One could attribute this reflex to any number of causes, such as not being a regular reader of your blog. Perhaps to more quickly inform this reflex, it would be truly helpful if you could offer an "Infallibility Explained" blue-button on your home page. By clicking on it, everyone could read your succinct and erudite prose on the topic, at all times, everywhere.

John Vasc said...

The idea that there is some equivalence between Summorum Pontificum - the solemn declaration that the ancient form of the Latin Mass that has existed since the Middle Ages has never been abrogated and *can never be abrogated* - and a brief, tetchy (and ambiguously drafted) insistence on radically restricting its use, has no plausibility. That anyone in Christendom can or ever could bar and restrict the Roman rite, is as ludicrous as the notion that the 1970 Bugnini Committee text (never approved by the Ecumenical Council) is the sole rite of the Roman church. It simply will not stand.

PM said...

... especially if one reads Fr Bouyer's disgusted account if the rackety process of the Bugnini consilium, its philistinism and bureaucratic chicanery.

PM said...

Admirable sentiments (presumably drafted by someone else), but they evidently do not apply to devotees of the TLM.

One of his Mexican episcopal sycophants has not only banned the TLM but suspended one of its erstwhile celebrants who took to celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin. That suspension, I should think, would be completely ultra vires.

Even PF celebrated an NO Mass in Latin, with a massed choir singing the Missa de Angelis, Credo III and Latin motets, at the Eucharist Congress in Budapest.

Pulex said...

Dear Stephen, apparently I have not written clearly enough to be understood. Probably because English is not my native language. My thought was that TC cannot be infallible simply because it is an administrative decree rather than an act of teaching, regardless of any other qualities of that document. Why I wrote my comment at all is that the very fact of comparing Vatican I and today's situation might suggest otherwise. In fact, Fr. Hunwicke compared "infallible Ecumenical Council" to "much lesser papal declarations" regarding permissibility to criticise them. I think that they are not "lesser", but of differend kind altogether.

David said...

If I may try to reformulante your inquiry, it seems that there are two distinct matters.

(1) Cardinal Newman, faced with a doctrinal matter, raised criteria by which to determine whether a definition was worthy of *belief*.

(2) We, faced with a disciplinary matter, need criteria to determine whether an edict is worthy of *obedience*.

Fr. Hunwicke seems to suggest that there these criteria substantially overlap. I would like to see a more careful analysis of this argument, as doctrine and discipline are distinct categories and as such would seem to call for distinct methodologies.