1 August 2021

Fr Karl Rahner, S. J., and Traditionis Custodes

I owe this quotation (taken from a book which Rahner, one of the great Conciliar liberals, wrote in 1965) to the magnificent Phoenix from the Ashes by Mr Henry Sire (Angelico Press). 

"Imagine that the pope, as supreme pastor of the Church, issued a decree today requiring all the uniate churches of the Near East to give up their Oriental liturgy and adopt the Latin rite ... the pope would not exceed the competence of his jurisdictional primacy by such a decree, and the decree would be legally valid. But we can also pose an entirely different question. Would it be morally licit for the pope to issue such a decree? Any reasonable man and any true Christian would have to answer 'no'. Any confessor of the pope would have to tell him that in the concrete situation of the Church today such a decree, despite its legal validity, would be subjectively and objectively an extremely grave moral offence against charity, against the unity of the Church rightly understood (which does not demand uniformity), ... a mortal sin from which the pope could be absolved only if he revoked the decree."

Rahner was right. An action can be "legally valid" and, at the same time, be totally wrong. There is a Something which can trump mere "legal validity", and that Something is Holy Tradition

I would not, myself, play around as Rahner does with speculations about what papal confessors might or might not say in the confessional. I would certainly not join Rahner in his exalted view of the "competence of [the pope's] jurisdictional primacy" ... a view which seems to me to be a big part of our current problem. 

I would simply say that such a pope, and such a decree, would lack all AUCTORITAS, because they flout Holy Tradition.  

Such an action would be, as Sire observes, "not merely a sin, ... but an act of schism against the tradition of the Church, and one for which [a pope] has neither moral nor legal competence."

Rahner's observations, of course, hold true also of the Roman Rite, which has just as much auctoritas as the Oriental Rites. It is, in fact, older than they are.

PF's evident policy of destroying the Authentic Roman Rite, and his recent purported legislative action, lack auctoritas and place no burden upon anybody's conscience. I am confident that, one day, it will be declared that they were null.


Thomas said...

The idea of popes having "universal and immediate jurisdiction" over the whole Church is certainly more of an ecumenical stumbling block than the attribution to the papal magisterium of ultimately infallible judgement in matters of dogmatic or moral doctrine under certain conditions. Would it make sense to say that, as the supreme legislator (on earth) and the final court of appeal in matters of ecclesial disciple, a pope does indeed have the authority to intervene anywhere and over any other office holder in the Church in matters such matters, however, this is not the same as saying that he can do whatever he likes with the exercise of that juridical competence. Just because a power is global in its reach does not mean that if can be arbitrary in its scope.

PDLeck said...

I understand Pope Francis may be acting ultra vires in trying to stop the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Mass from being celebrated. However, I do believe that fact is of little comfort to the average parish priest. If his bishop is pleased by Traditionis custodes and uses it to try to end celebrations of the EF Mass in his diocese the average parish priest will have to comply. Bishops can make priests’ lives intolerable in they try to act contrary to his wishes.

Cosmos said...

This is the first time in a long time I agree with Rahner, at least to the same degree Father does.

But it also reveals a strange aspect of modern Western thought which is so protective of other people’s cultural inheritance while being so violent and dismissive of its own. Academics approach non-western culture with the delicacy of a curator or archeologist, while approaching their own culture like a crazed scientist in a laboratory.

It reminds me of a saying that I once heard about social science that, implying a subtle racism, noted that sociology was the study of Western man, while anthropology was the study of everyone else.

coradcorloquitur said...

A superb analysis. No more need be said.

Arthur H. said...

Dear Father,

Your fine distinction is to the point: I would simply say that such a pope, and such a decree, would lack all AUCTORITAS, because they flout Holy Tradition.

Cosmos's point is also excellent, this perspective would appear to give the Pope the leeway to even promulgate TC. I would also add the political, even legal battle faced by the bishops, now that the US Catholic news man who threw down the gantlet to warn bishops that if they continued to go after good holy priests who were forthright and courageous in preaching the faith, then he would go after them. It wasn't but a fortnight interval before TC appeared.

The connection in my mind is that the traditional Mass communities are the sources of strength of good, holy, courageous priests. Take out the strong communities, take out the troublesome priests, problem solved...

E sapelion said...

von Balthasar :
Characteristically, Greek has no word that corresponds to the Latin "auctoritas" (which incidentally indicates in the first place "authentication", a beneficial guarantee, a helpful influence, weighty recommendation, advice, exhortation, and so forth, and only secondarily authentically expresses opinion, command, and authority). ... [Love alone is credible; 1963/trans.2004, footnote p.56]

Ryan Carey said...

Some commentator (Timothy Flanders?) said that TC seems to be violating the principle of subsidiarity, which is a Catholic principle of justice. The "universal and immediate jurisdiction" is subject to subsidiarity and proportionality, all subsets of justice. It would be a sin for the Pope to meddle in affairs that could be handled by a lower level of authority (religious superior, diocesan bishop). The purpose of the Pope's universal and immediate jurisdiction is obviously to mediate disputes between bishops and dioceses and sui juris churches. I don't see a reason for the Pope to be issuing disciplinary decrees that meddle so much in the minutiae of chapels and parishes and diocesan business. I don't even see the need after Trent for the Pope to make wholesale liturgical changes. But the fact that the Pope intervenes such seem to mean that he finds some danger to the Old Mass and Tridentine theology. Almost as if he thinks Vatican 2 gave us a new religion that is not compatible with the Catholic Church prior to Vatican 2.

I also think that somebody needs to issue a correction to an erroneous interpretation concerning the Pope as "supreme authority". That is true in the sense that the Pope is the highest living authority in the Church. But it does not mean that somehow his authority is over Scripture or Tradition or the Rites of the Church. "Supreme" means no living man is higher, not "I can do whatever I want and nobody can question or resist me".

The policy since Vatican I of having the Vatican get more and more control, i.e. appointing nearly every bishop, making diocesan bishops essentially only delegates of the Pope, making wholesale liturgical changes from scratch, having a gigantic curial apparatus, all seems like a parallel to the growth of bureaucratic secular governments. These governments eventually end by economic catastrophe, a crisis leading to a new constitution, or secession. In terms of the Church we are living in the economic catastrophe, that's basically the apostasy and the practical end of vocations. But since the Vatican has a bank and depends a lot upon money, maybe there will be an actually economic collapse? The secession is schism, which is probably coming, from whom I do not know, but it seems likely. And the new constitution must be a change in the way the Vatican is run (not in the divine constitution of the Church). Christ gave us Peter and the Apostles. Not the Vatican secretary of state and the congregation of bishops.

Robin said...

You should regard it as a great tribute that the Latin Mass is seen as such a threat to those poor souls marooned in the 1960s and 70s. Their time is passing-that is why they are so frightened and are lashing out. If you were not a threat they would ignore you.
As well as Pope Benedict's words about what previous generations held sacred you may also consider the words of Edmund Campion at his trial in penal days:
'In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors-all the ancient priests, bishops and kings..' to which one might add popes too.

Unknown said...

Observation. One thing I have noticed about contributors to the Latin Mass at my location (Southeast US) is that they contribute much less in proportion to the N.O. Mass folks in general. Why is that? They are also the most demanding as well when it comes to sacraments. Although they may be growing in number, they also need to step up their givings if the church is to survive in the future. They are poor stewards of their resources. Is anyone else experiencing this. From Chip Skate.

Stephen said...

Veterum Sapientia is issued by a Pope as a major encyclical, and is completely ignored. Bishops, priests, high profile theologians and boatloads of laity openly rejected Humanae Vitae, and no discipline is taken. High ranking prelates for DECADES enabled sexual abuse within their ranks or did it themselves, and were protected for years by the Church. Authority be damned!

But those who appreciate an older version of the Mass are the ones in the crosshairs of the Bishop of Rome. And these are the ones who actually accept his authority with the greatest embrace, while those who take it or leave it at their own whim (see above) are celebrated. Such irony and inversion. There is something at work here that has been going on for a long, long time, of which this latest MP and its impact are but the most recent manifestations of a deep-seated pathology. Much more than just self-hating.

Anita Moore said...

The idea of a Pope being in schism is one that deserves further elucidation and consideration. I think most people -- including me, until recently -- think of schism as meaning only the rejection of the authority of the Pope as Pope. This narrow understanding is part of what fuels the Francis-is-an-antipope narrative. Its advocates hold as absurd that a true Pope could be in schism, since then he would be in schism with himself.

For the record, I reject the antipope theory. It was only a matter of time before we got a Pope like the current one, and the Church's present travail was never going to play itself out fully until we did.

Oliver said...

I genuinely don't understand this business about a law being "legally valid" but lacking auctoritas. A law that is contrary to the common good is ipso facto null and void.