11 January 2022

The views of Fr Adrian Fortescue on the limitations upon the Papal Office

 " ... even in religious matters the Pope is bound, very considerably, by the Divine constitution of the Church. There are any number of things that the Pope cannot do in religion. He cannot modify, nor touch in any way, one single point of revelation Christ gave to the Church; his business is only to guard this against attack and false interpretation. We believe that God will so guide him that his decisions of this nature will be nothing more than a defence or unfolding of what Christ revealed. The Pope can neither make nor unmake a sacrament, he cannot affect the essence of any sacrament in any way. He cannot touch the Bible; he can neither take away a text from the inspired Scriptures nor add one to them. He has no fresh inspiration nor revelation. His business is to believe the revelation of Christ, as all Catholics believe it, and to defend it against heresy."

Thus Dr Fortescue, in his (beautifully printed!) The Early Papacy, 1920, three years before his death.

I think that readers who perused the texts I printed yesterday ... the Reply of the German Bishops to the attacks of Bismarck, and the enthusiastic approval by Pope Pius IX of what they wrote ... may be struck by the close, even verbal, similarity of Fortescue's lucid and engaging exposition to the passages I cited from Denzinger (although his book is carefully footnoted, he does not give references to these passages).

I have printed, above, in red, those of Fr Fortescue's words which laudably emphasise, just as S John Henry Newman did in his Apologia, the essentially negative function of the Petrine Ministry; it is a remora against innovation. 

Like Vatican I, AF emphasises that the Roman Pontiff is not the recipient of new inspiration or revelation. 

I am not a Dogmatic Theologian; but it is at this point that the praxis of this pontificate worries me most. I write, of course, subject to appropriate correction, but the persistent suggestion that the Holy Spirit is using Pope Francis to guide the Church into "surprises", seems to me, prima facie, so diametrically opposed to the clear words of Vatican I that I cannot help wondering if the Bergoglianity on the lips both of PF and of his admirers counts formally as heresy. 

In his unfortunate Epiphany homily last week, he once again took the opportunity to roll out his tired and angry rhetoric about the Spirit of Change. 

In this inordinately lengthy pontificate, already far too many painful decades long, he has expressed his own Surprise that so many, particularly the younger, turn to the Authentic forms of the Roman Rite ... it never seems to occur to him that this Surprise might just possibly be one of the Surprises of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary: his response to the Surprise of Tradition is to attempt to restrict and extinguish it it by minute and rigid regulation accompanied by intemperate abuse and sheer cruelty of action. 

When the youthful lads and lasses of the Franciscans of the Immaculate developed Surprising liturgical preferences, he and his thugs soon put paid to them and that, didn't they?

Why is he so eaten up with hatred? Does it go back to unhappy childhood experiences?

I gave evidences of these Bergoglianical preoccupations in my paper published in Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies, Arouca, 2021. Among many examples, I included some words of Vincent Nichols, the retiring Archbishop of Westminster, asserting that the Holy Spirit guided PF's election and guides him daily. 

Nichols claimed to be writing to PF "on the behalf of the Catholic Community of England ...". 

Not in my name.


Frederick Jones said...

The present pope is doing a wonderful job of convincing catholics of the dangers of 19th century ultramontanism and consequent papolatry.Is it blasphemous to claim for the Holy Ghost a part in this process? Is ancient liturgy part of the deposit of faith?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. What has been happening - all of the sturm und drang of captious changes, all of the novelties associated with and following the 1960s Synod - was proffered a defense by Paul VI and who, back then, was bold enough to shout BASTA! for the Pope then was invoking The Holy Spirit as an agent of change

The Church present in a changing world

This is exactly how the Council presented itself. Two terms defined it: renewal (cf. Lumen gentium, 8, at the end; Optatam totius, introd.) and "aggiornamento". The latter expression, coined by Pope John XXIII, has now entered into common parlance, and not only in Italy (cf. AAS 1963, p. 750); they are two terms that speak of newness, one referring rather to the interior, spiritual realm; the other, to the exterior, canonical, institutional aspect.

We are very pleased that this "spirit of renewal" (as the Council expresses it in Optatam totius, at the end) is understood by all and is alive. It responds to a dominant aspect of our times, which are in a state of rapid and enormous transformation, i.e., in a position to produce novelties in all sectors of life. The objection immediately arises: everything changes but religion? Doesn't the reality of life and Christianity, especially Catholicism, create a difference, a break, a mutual incomprehension, a mutual hostility? The one runs, the other stays still: how can they agree? How can Christianity influence life today? And this is the reason for the reform undertaken by the Church, especially after the Council; this is the reason for the Episcopate to promote the renewal corresponding to the present needs (cf. Here is the message of the Episcopate of Trentino and Alto Adige to the clergy in 1967); here are the religious orders ready to reform their statutes; here is the Catholic laity in the process of inserting itself into the life of the Church; here is the liturgical reform, the extent and importance of which are known to all; here is Christian education re-examining its pedagogical methods; here is all the canonical legislation undergoing a revision and renewal.

And how many other consoling and promising novelties are sprouting in the Church, attesting to its new vitality, which show in these years so difficult for religion the continuous assistance of the Holy Spirit.

1969 General Audience.

Ethan C Pace said...

Well said, Father. But of course the problem is that most take an entirely presumptive view of this papacy: “It isn’t a new doctrine - it’s a development, and we know it isn’t a doctrinal novelty because the Supreme Interpreter has said it.” It seems to me that this is where traditional apologetics are at their weakest. Rarely can anyone explain how we can avoid this magisterial presumption without lapsing into “private judgement.”

coradcorloquitur said...

To assert that the Holy Ghost inspires and guides the cruelty, vindictiveness, and ignorance on many subjects (pertinent to his office) of the present pontiff is nothing if not blasphemy of the worst sort, as it attributes to the Omnipotent the source for the pettiness and vulgarity (not to speak of errors) we see stemming from Francis on a daily basis.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Despite the claims of Franics that we ought be open to surprises, there can be no surprise about his game plan - to create a different Church - because hs admitted that publicly:

“There is no need to create another Church, but to create a different Church,” the Pope said citing Dominican priest Father Yves Marie-Joseph Congar.  “For a ‘different Church’, the Pope urged all to invoke the Holy Spirit with greater fervour and frequency and humbly listen to Him.


Ethan C Pace said...

“But of course it isn’t cruelty. This is authority doing what needs to be done, even if it is painful and contrary to your sensibilities. The Holy Ghost aids the Supreme Pontiff so we know this is necessary and in accordance with his office. Who appointed you to stand in judgement of what is cruel, vindictive, and ignorant?”

Unfortunately, it is easier to articulate this kind of sycophantic attitude than it is to provide a completely satisfying apologia for “recognize and resist.” Kyrie Eleison.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Here is a quote that not only illustrates that what happened during and after Vatican Two was a liturgical rupture but most of your readers will prolly assume I made up this quote.

I didn't. It is part of the Text of The Second Vatican Council’s Message to World and it is impossible to even imagine some Pope, Prelate or Priest saying this publicly today;

We wish to convey to all men and to all nations the message of salvation, love and peace which Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, brought to the world and entrusted to the Church.

In fact, it is for this reason that we, the successors of the apostles, all united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, forming one single apostolic body whose head is the successor of Peter, are gathered here at the invitation of His Holiness Pope John XXIII.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we intend in this meeting to seek the most effective ways of renewing ourselves and of becoming increasingly more faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Christ.

We will strive to propose to the men of our times the truth of God in its entirety and purity so that they may understand it and accept it freely.

Conscious of our duties as pastors, we wish deeply to meet the demands of those who seek God “and perhaps grope after him and find him though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17: 27).

Faithful, therefore, to the mandate of Christ, who offered Himself as a holocaust ..“ in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory … but that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27) we shall devote ourselves with all our energies, with all our thoughts toward renewing ourselves and the faithful entrusted to us, that the image of Jesus Christ, which shines in our hearts “to give enlightenment concerning the knowledge of the glory of God” (II Cor. 4:6) may appear to all people.

Go on, try to imagine a Pope,Prelate or Priest publicly speaking the truth that Jesus offered Himself as a Holocaust and that in The Real Mass what is re-presented on our altars is a Holy Holocaust.

Any of the ordained who can not bring themselves to speak this truth publicly are part of the problem of rupture.

Banshee said...

I'm sure the Holy Spirit tries His best to guide every Holy Father, every day, particularly in the readings of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

So yeah, we should pray that the Holy Father will listen, at least as hard as the rest of us; and that he will respond and comply. But I'm afraid he's not all that interested in that part.

The Saint Bede Studio said...

A note to readers : the comments of Dr Frederick Jones are intended ironically, of course.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Mr Pace

If it was licit for St Paul to resist St Peter to his face, it is licit to resist an erring pope or any other bishop. This is the solution to your dilemma stated at a fairly high level of abstraction.


PDLeck said...

Is Cardinal Nichols finally retiring or was it just wishful thinking on your part, Father?

DP said...

This is where the Orthodox have a very telling critique of Catholics: our pneumatology is really weak. We spend too much time talking about the Holy Spirit in terms of what He does for the Church, associating Him with our ecclesial works, as opposed to considering Who He Is.

This is especially the case--and especially problematic--when discussing whomever's backside is dimpling the cushions of the throne of Peter.