8 August 2020

Papa Lambertini's conundrum

Pope Benedict XIV pointed out (1) that we are obliged to venerate an exposed Host (cultum negari non posse hostiae ad venerationem expositae). But (2): although it is de fide that consecrated Hosts have been transubstantiated, (3) it is not de fide that this particular host actually was, as a matter of History, certainly consecrated (licet de fide non sit esse consecratam).

You see what he means in part (3) of that. The validity of its (or rather, Its) consecration depends on our certainty that Fr O'Flanahan did say the proper words over it with an adequate intention (poor old chap undoubtedly getting senile) and that the novice nun who baked it did get the recipe right (last week her scones tasted of Vindaloo) and that the village miller's labourer didn't confuse his wheat-grain with his barley-grain (should have gone to Specsavers) and that our rather cranky Sacristan Maire Murphy didn't surreptitiously substitute an unconsecrated host for the consecrated Host (has brainstorms every full moon) and that the priest who baptised Fr O'Flanahan, the notorious Fr Jack Hegarty of Craggy Island, didn't deliberately do it invalidly (by withdrawing his intention to perform any sort of Christian rite) in order to take revenge on bishop Brennan for cutting off his supply of whiskey and girls.

While we are in via, even the majesty of Dogma does not free us from dependance on ordinary human probabilities. Watertight logical certainties guaranteed by a string of immaculate syllogisms are not the stuff of our Christian lives.

In addition to Dogma and syllogisms, we need Trust in God,

I think that we particularly need to be aware of this truth when we are living through a period of ecclesial crisis.

Important reading: Newman's Grammar of Assent.


Michael Phillips said...


Anonymous said...

Grammar of Assent (as abbreviated) is superb and profoundly important for us and for humanity always. A significant influence on Wittgenstein, as Sir Anthony Kenny has noted, and the foundational text of analytical Thomism. Add The Abolition of Man and we are fully armed. The Grammar is regarded as difficult but it is, above all, humble.

Matt said...

I think the underlying logic of the quote from Benedict XIV can be applied to the identity of the pope, just as it can to whether or not this particular host in the monstrance before me was validly consecrated. I think there are a whole lot of good people who don’t realize they have not only the right, but the duty to question whether or not Jorge Bergoglio is pope, just as they must do when they decide to receive Holy Communion. I had to explicitly do that several years ago when I decided not to receive Communion at a "mass" where it appeared the priest was using invalid matter. I decided that if I trusted the priest, even though my eyes saw a loaf of leavened bread being "consecrated," and I believed it to be invalid matter, I would be engaging in idolatry. We are not exempt from the obligation to use our brains to decide whether or not to worship any particular host, or to give obedience to any particular man who claims to be pope. We trust, but we also verify if there is reason not to trust.

PM said...

Bear in mind that, whatever the ultramontane uberinfallibilists such as WGW might have said, infallibility has never, repeat never, applied to a pope's prudential judgements, and applies only to ex cathedra definitions on faith and morals, not to obiter dicta.

The catch in traditional ecclesiology, though, is that, while he must face the judgement of God, he can be judged by no one on earth. And his prudential decisions are to be received with obsequium debitum. The question, of course, is what debitum means.

William Tighe said...

"even though my eyes saw a loaf of leavened bread being "consecrated," and I believed it to be invalid matter"

Leavened bread is not, per se "invalid matter," al;though its use in the Roman Rite of the Catholic church is illicit. The question, perhaps, in such circumstances is not whether the bread was unleavened, but whether the "bread" was bread as the Church defines it for eucharistic purposes.