20 October 2022


I find it hard to express adequately the great debt I feel I owe to Cardinal Mueller for his unfailing and continuing defence of the Catholic Faith during these dark days of papal apostasy. It fills the need that many of us feel for the sort of sound, and intelligent, teaching we received in the last two pontificates.

May I, today, remind you of the Magisterial "Manifesto of Faith" which his Eminence issued on 8 February 2019.

Remarkable was the fact that in Section 2 of this Credo  ... "The Church." ... it did not mention the Petrine, Papal, ministry.

I venture to suggest that a reason for this may be as follows.

" ... the [Vatican I] definition of infallibility has a logical status quite different from that of any other definition; it is a second-order definition, a definition about definitions, whereas they are first-order definitions, definitions about the faith. Thus to be told that, under certain conditions, the Pope is infallible, is not to be told anything about the Christian faith at all; it is only to be told something about the conditions under which you may be told something about it."

I think that this is a valuable insight with regard to the exercise of the papal ministry as a whole, and not only those exercises of it which directly involve the question of formal Infallibility. 

It comes from The Recovery of Unity, 1958, by the Reverend Professor Doctor Eric Mascall, of this University. He was a logician, a mathematician, a theologian, whom Fr Aidan Nichols, O.P. praised in 1993 as a 'separated doctor' of the Catholic Church. 

Dr Nichols, by the way, before his most interesting relocation to Jamaica, very importantly drew to our attention the need, during the post-Bergoglian pontificate, for serious theological work on the exercise of the Petrine Ministry. 

Rather than centring embarrassingly upon the particular disasters of this unfortunate pontificate, it might be more useful (as well as more tactful) to concentrate on the identification of different types of papal intervention. Helped by a few miracles of taxonomical wizardry, we might identify ways of wriggling out of "the mess" in which PF will have left us, while still retaining a Petrine Ministry.


Richard said...

Funny how in these troublous times that name keeps popping up, hinting that maybe the wrong Nichols got the top job.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. It may already be too late.

Even though he Has created the majority of Cardinals eligible to vote in the Conclave, Jorge Bergoglio may not be willing to let that Conclave assemble to take a decision on the next Pope.

No, he wants to preserve his legacy and ensure the changes he implemented remain. There is one way he could make those changes permanent -

He just might choose to name his successor before he retires to join Father Ratzinger in The Old Popes Home in Rome until the first Pope Emeritus dies and then Bergoglio can return to the slums in the peripheries of Argentina.

It may be difficult to predict just what his replacement/ retirement text may read but I suspect it may be something like the following - he will name a replacement to take effect the day after he retires at some future specific date, prolly three months upon the release of the text.

Dear Brothers and Sisters. At this most propitious time I ask all of us to remember to bless the Holy Ghost who has brought us all of these most wonderful blessings beginning with my election to the Papacy so that, finally, we could bring to fruition all of the blessings provided for in the Second Vatican Council.

From our treating of the Church as a field hospital to venturing out into the peripheries to starting the Synodal process, all of these initiatives are proof that the people of God are being faithful to the surprises of the Holy Ghost and yet who has not heard the excessive negativity and complaints from the Pharisees who are anxious, some even praying, for my death so they can try to politically manipulate the conclave to elect a Pope who will take us back to the Dark Ages?

We know who these Pharisees are and what they love; they loved it when the Church persecuted and tortured Galileo; they loved it when the Church still had Capital punishment and services in Latin; they loved it when the Church excommunicated reformers like Martin Luther; they loved it when The Church persecuted our Protestant brothers and sisters and they especially loved it when they sent Crusading Armies into foreign lands to kill Muslims who just wanted Religious Liberty.

We can not go back. We will not go back. In the earliest days of the Church, Popes picked their successors which kept politics out of the process and The Holy Ghost has told me what I must do to secure the blessings of Vatican Two and stay free of the poisonous politics of The Pharisees and so today I am naming ( full in the blank) as my successor and he will become Pope the day after I retire three months from now on (fill in the blank.) and May Good Bless his beautiful, peaceful, and loving Church in which all are welcome.

Banshee said...

I guess this is a valuable work for a certain type of personality/mind -- to determine exact degrees of X and Y in the magisterium, papal infallibility, etc.

Personally, I plan (as much as possible) to ignore it until it goes away, on the principle of vox populi and the ostrich. Because when somebody is saying a lot of thoughtless stuff, it is a mistake to pay too much attention, or to attempt to understand it in a logical framework.

So it isn't so much a suspension of the papal ministry (which honestly I think is kinda impossible) as just not using its teaching properties very much, or at all.

A teacher thinks about it, and a prophet carefully only says what God tells him. But care and thought about God are not in first place in this kind of "I will just say something to own everyone else" talker. Chess moves are not infallible teachings, either.

JOSEPH said...

Dear Fr.Hunwicke.After reading the below Gospels of both days Luke-12:39-48 and Luke-12:49-53
Saints John de Br├ębeuf and Isaac Jogues, priests, and their Companions, Martyrs
on Wednesday of week 29 in Ordinary Time and Thursday of week 29 in Ordinary Time
or Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest.I read the commentary of cornelius a' lapide.Ver. 48.3rd paragraph down.Again, S. Bernard (Lib. iv. de Consid.), lays down forcibly, and point by point, to Pope Eugenius III. what, and how much, God requires from Pontiffs, Bishops, and Prelates. “Consider thyself,” he says, “as the form of justice, the mirror of holiness—the exemplar of piety—the assertor of the truth, the defender of the faith, the doctor of the Gentiles, the leader of Christians, the friend of the bridegroom, the ordainer of the clergy, the pastor of the people, the governor of the unwise, the refuge of the oppressed, the advocate of the poor, the hope of the wretched, the tutor of the young, the judge of widows, the eyes of the blind, the tongue of the dumb, the staff of the aged, the avenger of crimes, the dread of the wicked, the glory of the good, the rod of the powerful, the hammer of tyrants, the father of kings, the judge of the laws, the dispenser of canonries, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the priest of the Most High, the Vicar of Christ. Who would not be struck with fear, and tremble, when he heard this, all of which is required of your see?” Thus S. Paul to the Heb. xiii. 17, on which, says S. Chrysostom, “I wonder if any guardian of souls can be saved.” Cardinal Bellarmine said the same of Pontiffs. Hence wise and holy men have avoided prelacies, and have only accepted them by compulsion. S. Cyprian, in his Epist. 2, lib. iv., wrote thus of Cornelius the Pontiff. “He did not demand the popedom for himself, nor seize it by force, as others puffed up by their arrogance and pride have done, but quietly and modestly, and like others who have been divinely called to this office, he endured force lest he should be compelled to accept it.” In like manner, as far as they could, SS. Gregory, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Nazianzen, Nicholas, Athanasius, shunned the office of Bishops; and in our own times Pius V., when chosen Pontiff, turned pale and almost fell into a faint. When asked the reason he frankly answered, “When I was a Religious of the Order of Benedict, I had very good hope of my salvation; when I was afterwards made a Bishop I began to have a dread about it: now that I am chosen Pontiff I almost despair of it, for how am I to give account to God for so many thousands of souls as are in this whole city, when I can scarcely answer for my own soul?” So it is in his life. Finally, the Council of Trent declares the burthen of a Bishop’s office to be one formidable to the shoulders of angels.I ask that this commemt not be published by me,but that you my give your readers an understanding how to grasp this commentary in a 1,2,or 3 lessons,as you have already started in todays colume.joseph.God bless you.

Father Ambrose said...

Thank you, dear and Reverend Father, for you excellent work here on this blog.
I am a Norbertine Canon of St. Michael's Abbey in Southern California, and I have read your blog daily now for many years. For the last 14 years I have been the novice master and director of our formation program of the seminarians here for our monastery, and my seminarian sons tease me for saying often, "Would that we could extract the essence of Father John Hunwicke and inject it into every priest in Christendom!"
I was up at Oxford briefly before the turn of the century as a Rhodes Scholar reading Greats at Somerville before entering religious life, and your blog is my most constant reminder and happy connection to that marvelous place.
I thought that you might like to know that Father Aidan Nichols has initiated the process of making a formal transitus from the Order of Preachers to the Order of Premontre, and he has just this week arrived at our abbey in California to become a member of our house.
Please pray for him, and please pray for all of us here at St. Michael's Abbey who pray for you and who love and appreciate you from afar.
In Domino,
Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem. ... a poor sinner

Albertus said...

The one who presently sits upon Saint Peters throne has appointed an atheist, radical abortionist, declared enemy and public mocker of christianity as newest member of the Pontifical Academy of "Life", founded by Pope JPII to foster respect for the same unborn whom this same newest appointee to the Acadamy would gladly see killed off. Has the Church became a madhoyse, where nothing said or done makes any kind of sense? Is this even the same Church into which i - like so many others - was baptised, confirmed and ordained? After the presnt apostatic pontificate, i now think that only the coming again in glory of OLJC Himself can bring about a restoration of the Church.

PM said...

I was interested to see Fr Ambrose's news of Fr Aidan Nichols.

Readers may also be happy to know that the English Dominicans are still fighting the good fight: see the following


Prayerful said...

Even with all of the Bergoglian appointees, I strongly suspect that most will see their role as Cardinal electors and local notables as far more important than securing some esoteric interpretation of V2, espoused by Pope Francis & co., which is not just the usual Spirit guff of tie dyed vestments, self important parish laity dressing up as priests, and altar girls, but the idea that the Church was in occlusion before V2, that Constantine the Great invented the 'Latin' Mass and made the Church corrupt. Perhaps the long term friendship for unrepentant abortionists like Emma Bonino and various atheists might be of a piece with that. I heard the Constantine nonsense, as surely most did, if there were Passionists or Redemptorists in their neck of the woods. long before influencers like 'Return To Tradition' suggested this as the underlying idea of the Pope Francis project (aside from doing the bidding of Amazon or MIcrosoft et cetea). Francis likely won't bind his successor and Bill Gates won't be able to help, as with any legislative measure.

Howard said...

In the comments here (and elsewhere) I see a lot of concern about what Pope Francis can do, "for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed," much like what was once attributed to Balaam son of Beor. Do Catholics today have so little faith that we believe God can no longer send "the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand" should a Pope attempt to introduce heresy into the Magisterium?

Revelation 2:14 indicates a different kind of danger, one that we should be more concerned about.

frjustin said...

In one homily on taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI articulated the traditional Catholic understanding of two issues of current importance: 1)the papacy; and 2)abortion.

1) On the papacy: "The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism...

"The Pope knows that in his important decisions, he is bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed throughout the Church's pilgrimage. Thus, his power is not being above, but at the service of, the Word of God. It is incumbent upon him to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage."

And immediately following this passage he spoke on abortion:

"Pope John Paul II did this when, in front of all attempts, apparently benevolent to the human person, and in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he unequivocally stressed the inviolability of the human being and of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery."


Stephen said...

There is, of course, a fairly well-established approach to understanding Petrine prerogatives, put forth in the nineteenth century rather succinctly in the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848 A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns" https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/1848orthodoxencyclical.asp
While it is not the most harmonious missive to modern western ears, it nonetheless is a relatively recent and still active summary, and predates Pastor Aeternus by over 20 years. And it is not without legitimate claims to catholicity, Apostolicity and universality.
The whole issue of the Petrine ministry is hampered, boxed in, by Pastor Aeternus, which has proven to be not the restricted, not-to-worry- about-it proclamation as desired by hesitant signers such as Card. Newman, but a cudgel to be wielded aggressively against the foes of whomever sits in Peter's chair, be it a Pius X or a Francis. Be done with Pastor Aeternus, and relieve Holy Mother Church its misery.

Stephen said...

A relevant comment from another thread:

But no pope can enact a law binding on his successors; each pope is the “sovereign pontiff” and sovereignty is the power to make and unmake any law whatsoever. That is why canonists say the pope is legibus solutus [not bound by laws] and also Lex loquens [a speaking law]. The y have always applied to him the words of Ulpian in the Digest of Justinian: Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem – What has pleased the ruler has the force of law.(Dig. 1.4.1. pr. Ulpianus 1 inst.). Indeed, it is the common opinion of canonists that the enactments of his predecessors only continue in force in virtue of his tacit consent.

Pius XII, who established a commission for the general reform of the liturgy in 1947, was in no doubt of his authority:

“The Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification. Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship…

The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded.” (Mediator Dei 58, 20 November 1947)

Stephen said...

So you have the self-perception of the Bishops of Rome on the one hand, and the degree to which other bishops (and the lower clergy, religious and laity at the end of the day) accept/have accepted/should accept the claims of that self-perception on the other. At one level, I can certainly understand and appreciate the Bishops of Rome jealously guarding and expanding their prerogatives; it's only human nature to guard and to expand, you've got a solid track record, a strong mandate from the early days, and, from your point of view, the least amount of variance from the mean historically in comparison to anyone else. Until recently. With Pastor Aeternus, the papacy was declared the mean - hence, no matter what, by definition there could no longer be any variance by the Bishop of Rome. That was the overreach; the claims to begin with were never accepted by everyone, at all times, everywhere, and to the present day there is the normal, organic jockeying and back and forth inherent in any human corporate endeavor. Add to that the destruction of the western liturgical patrimony led and mandated by successive Bishops of Rome and their courts, and now you've revealed you can diverge from the mean no differently than your brother bishops and patriarchates, but sadly with much more power, fueled by those centuries of self-perception and codified by Pastor Aeternus, and hence with greater downside impact. Reduce the beta, limit the variance potential, get rid of Pastor Aeternus.

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear Howard,

we don't lack faith that God can do such a thing, if He will. We don't lack faith, either, that God *will* fulfil his promises, amongst which is that no dogma that the Holy Father will proclaim will be false. And there is, as yet, a good case to be made - though this is not dogma, but only a probable opinion of some theologians - that the Pope never will be a formal heretic. (Though the fact clearly speaks volumes that "after all, not even Pope Francis was" would in the future be used as an argument for this thesis...)

The thing is that to suppose anything more, and not only under an "in the general outline generally", but under "with no exception whatsoever", is disproven by Church history. One Council condemned Pope Honorius as a heretic, and while that was technically wrong, the accusation that he was an enabler of heresy, a not-hinderer of heresy, seems to be well-founded and was accepted even by a successor. Pope John XXII taught a material heresy which in his days was quite instantly recognized as such by the informed faithful, though the dogma would only come later. The present Holy Father himself has manifestly contradicted Scripture (though not technically a dogma) on the matter of capital punishment (apparently thinking that only contradicting Scripture would be the real force-booster for the, do not misunderstand me, quite Catholic stand to this practice which Pope St. John Paul II took). And obviously a Pope can make life for faithful orthodox Catholics pretty uncomfortable even without being a formal heretic.

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear Stephen,

three points.

1. One cannot get rid of Pastor aeternus, because it is dogma.

2. One does not need get rid of Pastor aeternus, either, because there's nothing wrong in it, which is why St. John Henry was so happy about it. Hyperpapalism is a problem, but it's the problem "at Vatican I, the faction that would assign the Pope more rights won against the faction that would assign him less, which obviously means that the Pope has any rights whatsoever"; a thing which has aptly been called the "Spirit of Vatican I". This is, of course, logically bogus; the obvious cure is to stick to the actual text of Pastor aeternus, with which we will be quite fine. Not unlike Vatican II (though there, because there was no dogma, "getting rid of it" is at least a remote theoretical possibility, though neither probable nor in my view advisable).

3. In fact, there's a good chance that to combat the hyperpapalist side-effect, perhaps of Vatican I, is one of the reasons of the pontificate of Pope Francis, as it is, in God's Providence. (Not a good topic to speculate on...) Also, it's possbile that at least in his earlier days in office, the Pope even consciously decided to speak and speak and speak so many things, publishing his daily sermons and what not, so that noone could possibly mistake his word for dogma.

4. Pope Ven. Pius XII - who by the way was not here talking infallible, but still, in my view, right - obviously did not mean that only the Pope could come up with Stations of the Cross or Nightfever and what not, but that the matter of entire rites (as in: Latin Rite, Byzantine Rite) is up to him and he has the final say of what is official Catholic worship (but not either that a bishop, subordinate to him, would not be able to say anything about a local use before getting an explicit say-so from Rome). Curiously lacking from his list are:
i. a right to abolish any rite,
ii. a right to modify any rite against the will of its users for any other reason than "requires (!!) modification"; he does not claim such a right for the reason that the Pope would like it in this and that manner, nor for the reason that while not strictly necessary, this change would make it a bit better;
iii. a right to call modification of a rite what is in fact its replacement by a different one,
iv. a right to force a new rite (which he does claim to have a right to invent) on unwilling recipients.

Stephen said...

Dear Moritz,
You must know how much Paul VI thought of his authority; unlimited comes to mind, and it is not an exaggeration. And he is not alone in taking such an expansive view, and whatever you, I, or anybody else may opine on Pastor Aeternus or any matter related to papal authority, the plain fact remains that many Popes (and certainly the most since Paul V) have taken rather expansive views of their authority, and it is their view that counts. What limits to Papal power actually exist? If any, how would they be enforced? I'd welcome any evidence you can point to. Sadly, there is way too much evidence that supports the opposite, namely that no checks exist to the papal authority. And what do you see before you, what do your eyes tell you, has been the fruit of the exercise of that power regarding the western liturgical patrimony? Popes gone wild. Rome as the engine of innovation. And you have to endure that because of a faith requirement? Is that what dogma is supposed to do and enable?

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear Stephen,

>>and it is their view that counts

There you would be wrong. What counts is what the dogma actually says, even if noone but you and me - nay, even if not even the two of us is interested in it.

And whatever the problem of abuse of Papal authority - which, yes, we have to endure because of a faith requirement, and which wont last forever because one of these days we're dead - amounts to, the suggestion that some document containing a dogma should be "got rid of" will not help to better the situation in the slightest, considering
i) the suggestion won't be followed anyway,
ii) both document and dogma are quite fine in what they actually say,
iii) supposing par impossible that the Pope had no Pastor aeternus, he could still use as much power in Church politics just without the justification (which as we have seen doesn't justify unlimited power anyway, so the situation in case of an abuse is actually not different, and)
iv) after all, truth is still truth, and it is a good thing in itself to know this particular truth; infalliblity and direct jurisdiction over the whole Church may have been truths inopportune to define at Vatican I, but they have been defined (so the question of opportunity is entirely academic and without practical consequences for today, and while I like academic questions without practical consequences for today, it's not good discussing them with people who somehow do wish to draw practical consequences for today from the discussion). (That it is a particular truth, however inopportune at the time of its definition, and not an error is, I hope, clear without further ado. If a dogma, even a spiritually and liturgically rather unimportant dogma, were wrong, Revelation would be proven to be false.)

The question what a dogma is supposed to do and enable is entirely secondary to the fact that it "is true for starters". Of course, even if it were really nothing else but a cross intended for us to bear because our life would be too nice otherwise - and as I said it is not that; but even if it were - it would still be a cross we actually do have to bear.

>>If any, how would they [the limits to Papal power] be enforced?

By the Lord telling the respective Pope at both Judgments that he overstepped his boundary there. Obviously. What else?
- As for something secondary, but more tangible on this side of the Jordan, the reaction of the trad community to Traditionis custodes is, all in all (you can always critizise something here or there), pretty exemplary. The faithful always have the the options of reluctant obedience and, in clear-cut cases, of disobedience. No Pope is able force anyone to obey an order of his gladly; and that's a pretty important limit to Papal power actually.

Stephen said...

Moritz, to your allusion of St. John Newman being happy about Pastor Aeternus, that notion is completely contrary to what I've read about his approach and rationale for his support. Grudging, reluctant, hesitant are more accurate adjectives to describe him. Granted, he didn't have to be on the hyper-enthusiastic, super-duper ultramontane end of the spectrum, as Cardinal Manning occupied that space for just about the entire world, which gave Newman some leeway to be judicious and thorough, which was of course his nature and preferred approach. But his defense for signing Pastor Aeternus boiled down to a mere logistical deduction (as he new the claims of PA could not hold up to the Lerin's bar of always, by everyone, everywhere), one of "God wouldn't have left us without an ultimate source of authority." That's not exactly a ringing defense and embrace of anything.

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear Stephen,

in that particular thing, our difference appears to be semantics: I meant a "I feared a catastrophe; I got something I can accept" type of happy. Which in my books is very happy.

- Otherwise, the fact that someone unenthusiastic and visibly repelled by hyperpapalist tendencies comes to the conclusion "well, God indeed would not have left us without an ultimate source of authority, so what is said there is true; be careful though" is, to me, a much more ringing defence and embrace of the dogma (as such and in its actual meaning) than that those clap in whose vein it is anyway.

(Besides, of course, the infallibly of a Council led by the Pope did not then need to be discussed because that much was clear. - When actually using its infallibility, of course. - Now if such a Council dogmatizes Papal infallibilty, then Papal infallibility cannot logically be false without Conciliar infallibility also being false.)