Thursday, September 25, 2003

Points to Ponder:

If I had to do it over again, would I become a celibate priest? Or, if I was a young man with the option between celibate and married priesthood, would I choose celibate priesthood?

These are tricky questions. Obviously I didn't leave the priesthood when it was possible to do so and marry. I know now far better reasons for celibacy than were ever given us in the seminary. The priest is a specially trusted confidant. The priest is a sign of mystery and fascination, pointing to a world beyond himself (hence people's fascination with my novels about priests); the priest is perhaps the most fascinating man in the world, potentially at any rate. He has more freedom for more total commitment. Spare me any comparisons between celibate Catholic priests and married Orthodox priests or Protestant ministers...

A zealous married man will accomplish a lot more than a lazy celibate, but just as obviously a zealous celibate has more time for more extensive and more intense relationships than does a married clergyman with proper commitments to his wife and children..

Som unlike many of my collegues, I think celibacy is one of the treasures of the Western Church and would hate to see it lost...The strength and the independence and the vigor of the celibate Catholic priesthood (when it is lived to the fullest and does not become an excuse for irresponsibility, insensitivity, and laziness) is a strength and a glory for the Western Church, a strength and a glorgy for which, unfortunately, the Western Church does not bother to make many theological or psychological arguments because for the last thousand years it had blindly enforced celibacy as a rule.

My own solution to the celibacy problem is a limited-term priesthood, a "Priest Corps," not unlike the Peace Corps. In the not-too-distant past, to be a priest forever meant to be a priest for ten years because, on the average, priests died at about thirty-five (in nineteenth-century Chicago, from cholera epidemics). Can we not create an environment in which, after someone has fulfilled a commitment of five or ten years to the priestly ministry, he may go forth with dignity and honour and gratitude - still a priest but not in the active ministry save in times of emergency? Would not such a man be a specific kind of husband and father in the world because of his years of service in the priesthood? Given the fact that young men now become priests with far more awareness of withdrawing from the ministry than we did, it would seem to me that such a strategy would merely make a virtue of necessity, and would give us far more priests than we presently have.

Moreover, the demands made on a parish priest these days are so intense that many of us burn out by the time we are forty. There is no point in constraining someone to stay in the priesthood when he has given his best for a long time and really has little left to offer. If you are able to work with teenagers after forty, for example, it is a special grace of personality and biology, not something that can be routinely expected. It is a hideous mistake to keep men in the priesthood who are not happy with the work. They do enormous harm to the unfortunate lay people of God on whom they take out their frustrations and unhappiness. My limited-term "volunteer" priesthood would seem both to protect celibacy and to give those priests who want to marry an option of doing so with dignity and honour when their term of service is finished.

Our sociological research shows it would also solve the vocations shortage overnight. [Fr. Andrew M. Greeley: Confessions of a Parish Priest pgs. 117, 118, 119]


"One From the Vault" Dept.
(Dialogue with Tim Enloe -- Part II of II)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE.

(2) I'm very glad to see a Catholic who can wade right in to a discussion on the papal monarchy of the later Middle Ages without batting an eyelash; you and I could probably have some interesting conversations about what went wrong under the Papacy's direction in the period from roughly 1076-1509. But such conversations will have to wait, as again, I'm simply buried right now.

No problem. I would argue that the period you outline is a mixed bag and does not lend itself either to the picture of complete degeneracy common to most Protestant polemic (broadly speaking) or the full flowering and pristine notion common to some (even many) Catholics who embrace the view common to confessional Catholic outlooks.

(3) My remarks to QB were not an attempt to undermine Catholic beliefs, but rather, to show Catholics and Protestants both that it is possible to take the history of the Middle Ages VERY seriously and yet NOT convert to Rome.

This is true. I would argue that to do as you say involves to some extent a degree of arrested development. However, that is not to accuse you or anyone else of scholarly dishonesty. Everyone operates from certain presuppositions and the sooner we all admit to it the easier it is for fruitful discourse to take place. As I see it, there is a lot of surface fluff that accompanies the Catholic common stance that can be stripped off as not essential to the doctrines themselves. (Stuff that often gets the goat of those who have the biggest problems with the papacy from the standpoint of legitimate perplexities.) The subject is a complex one and not done justice by superficial commentaries from anyone - whatever their position on the subject is.

I feel no urge to cross the Tiber simply because I pick up some volume of Medieval writings and see people lauding the Bishop of Rome and appealing to his authority and receiving archepiscopal dignities from him and referring doctrinal questions to him, etc.

Nor would I expect such things in and of themselves to constitute a sufficient motive of credibility for you to do so.

These things simply don't add up to "Universally sovereign Papacy is what Christ set down from the beginning."

Well, much of it is not that is for sure. The appointing of bishops used to be localized and only later (much later actually) did the papacy reserve the right to themselves. And of course anyone can laud an authority and that in and of itself is not conclusive proof either. It is similar to the rockery I built in my garden a couple of weeks ago: each rock in and of itself does not make a rockery. But when you stack enough of them together and in the right way, a structure is present that no individual rock can create.

However, I am about to appear to contradict myself in stating that there is one "rock" in all of the claims made either by or about the papacy over the centuries that constitutes the "corner-stone" of the edifice if you will. And that is the subject of resolving doctrinal questions. I would argue -and have for a long time- that the subject of being the final court of appeal in resolving doctrinal controversies is the core of the doctrine of the primacy claim. Everything else that you can note is to some degree an ancillary and is not essential in that if it does not happen somehow the core claim is impaired. There was a lot of centralization that took place in the early to mid second millennium - some of it was in my view good (even very good) and some was not so good (even at times very bad). All of it can be boiled down to how the core principle of primacy was applied.

My remarks to QB were designed not to destroy the Papacy, but to show that the Papacy is a legitimate office in the Church which should be respected for the many good things it has done, but which need not be bowed to as some kind of vicarius Petri, or even vicarius Christi.

It seems that you are approaching this from the standpoint of "primacy of honour" theology. Obviously I do to some extent not agree with such an outlook - seeing it as historically unviable as well as unworkable in practice. However, I do not expect you to accept what I say about that simply because I say it of course. Anyone can make claims unsubstantiated.

I must say though that compared to where we were on this subject about two and a half years ago that you have made a quantum leap in my direction. And with that in mind, it bears noting to any readers of this thread who take a facile approach to these subjects that there are principles to consider here.

Essentially as a Catholic, I profess a proposition that you do not accept. It is important for people to realize before anyone can give assent to a proposition (whatever that proposition may be), that they have to reach a point where they recognize a certain accumulation of evidence that for them substantiates the credibility of said proposition. In its discussion on Christian Doctrine The Catholic Encyclopedia explains it as follows:

No one may prudently embrace the Christian religion unless he sees clearly that it is credible. Hence the motives of credibility, the sure arguments that convince the understanding and move the will to command the assent of faith, must be clearly set forth. The higher the social or intellectual position of inquirers, the more thorough and diligent should be the instruction...In the case of uneducated persons who are drawn to the Church, the prudent director will avoid such controversy as might lead his pupil to defend errors hitherto unknown. Better educated inquirers are to be fully satisfied on all points that they have held against Catholic doctrine and must be provided with the means of resisting both internal and external temptations. The length of time and the character of the instruction will vary with each individual.

I note this as it highlights the root and matrix of the entire equation and that is this: you cannot be expected to assent to a proposition that you see as either a mere possibility or even as probable. There must a certainty of conviction reached first. Therefore, and radtrads especially will hate hearing this but it must be said: unless or until you find the authority claims of the Catholic Church convincing, it would be a violation of conscience on your part to subscribe to them.

And while it is true that we have a fairly large theological playground in the Catholic Church; at the same time, many Catholics appear to mistaken their particular understanding of a Catholic teaching as *the* teaching. (And not infrequently these people are in serious error themselves.) I have enunciated this criticism more times than I can count and indeed you probably recall some of them years ago when we were at Steve's board.

I've indicated my willingness as a convinced Reformed person to seek a renewed **catholic** unity with other Christians (indeed, at this point I am even willing to stipulate that I have to privately maintain my Calvinism because I think it is true, but could publicly submit to a broader consensus of the Christian community that was not Calvinist),

Not to sound like a commercial but there is a venerable school of thought in the Catholic Church that in several areas comes close to Calvinism.

but frankly, if Catholics can't meet this attitude halfway because they're just too deeply attached to an "all or nothing" concept of the Papacy's place relative to everything else, well then, I'm afraid unity is going to continue to elude us all.

I agree. That is one reason that Pope John Paul II has extended the invitation to non-Catholics to involve themselves in advancing propositions for how he can exercise his ministry for the benefit of and to promote Christian unity. Obviously there are certain areas which are not negotiable. But these are much fewer than the overwhelming majority of Protestants or Orthodox would realize. (Heck, I would argue that probably a majority of informed Catholics would not realize it either.)

Hopefully in future discussions we can go over some of them. Now that you are blogging, it makes such discussions easier to have than on a message board where each of us throws volume-length posts at one another.

I really wish the box hadn't cut off the rest of my response. I tried to detail what I meant by "catholic Christian culture", and that's what got lost. Let me make it clear, hopefully, that my concept doesn't require Catholics to give up their essential beliefs--that would be unrealistic and unfair. But again, at the same time my view does also require Catholics to meet others halfway--keep your Vatican I if you must, but hopefully Quickbeam is right in his belief that Ut Unum Sint allows for the Catholic distinctive to be "administered" differently toward other communions than it is administered toward the Catholic communion. Because if he's wrong, and as far as Catholicism is concerned everyone has to bow and kiss the Pope's ring just like Catholics do, I'm afraid any kind of substantive cooperation and effort toward reunification simply is going to die the moment it sees the light of day.

In essence Tim, there are two sides of the puzzle: (i) doctrines and (ii) how they are applied. It is one thing to admit the principle of papal supremacy but if that doctrine is applied in an overly centralized entity that appears to try to micromanage everything, that will of course not work in reality. (And it would of course cause a degree of resentment from those who felt that certain legitimate liberties were being trampled on.)

I do not expect a non-Catholic to fully grasp the kind of latitude that a Catholic has in matters liturgical, theological, devotional, disciplinary, and the like. Those are the areas which most directly impact the individual and those are also the areas where there is the most flexibility. But we can go over that another time perhaps.

Catholics can't just decide to act like the last 1,000 years don't matter, but then, neither can the rest of us.

True. One positive element of Catholicism is that it is historically an assimilative outlook to some extent. It is this element that many ignorant fundys associate with paganism. So we have the means to assimilate a good amount of Calvinist outlook. Am I correct in detecting from your recent material that you believe it may be possible to do the same in the Reformed camp too???

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"One From the Vault" Dept.
(Dialogue with Tim Enloe -- Part I of II)

Hi Tim:

I will very briefly touch on your comments located HERE and HERE. Might as well start from the first one so here goes. (Your words will be in black font.)

(1) I remain unconvinced **from the sources** that the papacy exercised the type of authority it does now "from the beginning", and I think the incredible weakness of such a viewpoint is shown precisely in the fact that one MAJOR way it is shored up today is by reference to "development of doctrine".

I do not see how reference to a development in doctrine indicates a weakness in the Catholic doctrinal position on the papacy. If anything it recognizes the principle that all live organisms go through various stages in their manifestation. Of course the papacy exercises a lot of levels of authority today - not as many as in the past but still quite a few. And to be a legitimate claim there has to be some evidence of it even if the evidence is initially more implicit than explicit. I blogged a very good summary statement on development from a Lutheran theologian HERE.

I could say more but brevity would be compromised if I did. The core claim which the historical record shows as I see it is the authority to determine the conditions of the common unity. I see no record of this authority itself ever being challenged as to its legitimacy - even by the Fathers who occasionally found themselves at odds with it. I underlined the above because controversialists can point to many objections to the use of the authority but that is not the same thing.

Oh yes, doctrine has "developed".

It always does. Every doctrine we can mention has at one point or another gone through development. I would argue that if we consider the doctrines of Our Lord's Consubstantiality and Coeternity with the Almighty Father, it is easier to outline the doctrine of papal primacy/supremacy in the ante-Nicene period than it is to demonstrate the former two doctrines. (Though with papal primacy it is through demonstration that it is attested to, not any treatises devoted to the theme.) But I digress.

One need only look at what was done by Pseudo-Dionysius on the Neoplatonic foundation bequeathed by St. Augustine, and then what was done with Pseudo-Dionysius beginning in roughly the 9th century and going onward through the Gregorian reforms to see that doctrine has, indeed, "developed".

Genuine developments of doctrine by their nature must have some degree of presence at all times - even if initially this presence is more latent. However, to some extent this is context-switching because Pseudo-Dionysius is not a doctrine but instead was a work attributed to another writer. But let us consider the Pseudo-Dionysius for a moment.

Pseudo-Dionysius' writing was thought to be genuine and they were therefore used as authoritative sources. You may say "but the Fathers and Doctors were using some forged sources" and this is true. However, if (i) they corresponded in general content to sources that were genuine and (ii) the sources were not known to be forged, then I fail to see what the problem really is. Just because a source is forged hardly means that it does not enunciate certain truths. For this reason, claiming that because the source itself was forged that any argument or statement from the source is ipso facto false is quite a stretch in my opinion. (And I doubt you would seek to advance such an argument explicitly.) There is also the manner whereby ancients used to attribute certain works to certain writers.

It was not uncommon in earlier periods to attribute later writings to earlier authors. Indeed many scholars believe that much of the Torah was not actually written by Moses himself. Yet these books are still referred to as the "5 books of Moses." The Psalms are all attributed to King David but there is no certainty that he actually wrote every single one of them. (Nor does there have to be.) The Wisdom literature was often referred to as the "5 Books of Solomon" even though Solomon at the most wrote three of them - and probably only two. The rest were attributed due to a similarity of style. I realize that this concept is difficult for moderns like us to grasp but maybe the best way to look at it is in the context of a modern "ghostwriter" who writes a work that is attributed to someone else.

The same thing is possible with a work such as Hebrews which differs so much stylistically from the rest of Paul's epistles{1} that it is likely that it was written by one of his disciples who sought to cover a specific point by expressing the thoughts of Paul but in their own way. (And thereby they attributed the work itself to the Apostle Paul on whom they learned the teachings thus expounded upon in their work.) 2 Peter differs significantly in its form than 1 Peter - hence it is also possible that someone associated with Peter wrote the epistle. (Or maybe Peter dictated to someone who wrote it in the same informally controlled manner whereby many scholars believe the Synoptics were written.) The same is the case with 2 John and 3 John. And these are not the only biblical books which could be mentioned.

Now lest I am understood here, none of what I am saying in any way infringes on the inspired status of these books. Instead, it is recognizing an ancient reality that modern literalists often do not realize. For if the aforementioned biblical works being attributed to authors who did not actually write them{2} is not a disqualification of their merits substance wise, then there is no reason to treat the Pseudo-Dionysius as if it is of questionable content simply because it did not issue forth from the pen of the same Dionysius the Areopagate to whom it was attributed. This is why we need to be very careful in how we appropriate concepts such as "forging" by modern vernacular and also how we reckon works which come to be known as authored by different sources than originally was thought to be the case.

But "development" doesn't equal "X is the 'essence' of Y, and X is the 'ancient and constant faith of the universal Church' (Vatican I).

Of course as you are not a Catholic, I extend to you some leeway in not understanding the norms of theological interpretation that are supposed to guide a proper interpretation of Catholic magisterial documents. One of these is understanding what the magisterium means by the phrase "ancient and constant faith of the universal Church" and its equivalents. Vatican I recognized explicitly the concept of development of doctrine - even referencing verbatim from St. Vincent of Lerens' commonitory on the subject. From the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius - which preceded the better known Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus - I quote from the fourth chapter on the subject of faith and reason:

On faith and reason

The perpetual agreement of the Catholic Church has maintained and maintains this too: that there is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards its source, but also as regards its object.

With regard to the source, we know at the one level by natural reason, at the other level by divine faith.

With regard to the object, besides those things to which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known.

Wherefore, when the Apostle, who witnesses that God was known to the gentiles from created things, comes to treat of the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, he declares: We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this. God has revealed it to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. And the Only-begotten himself, in his confession to the Father, acknowledges that the Father has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to the little ones.

Now reason, does indeed when it seeks persistently, piously and soberly, achieve by God's gift some understanding, and that most profitable, of the mysteries, whether by analogy from what it knows naturally, or from the connection of these mysteries with one another and with the final end of humanity; but reason is never rendered capable of penetrating these mysteries in the way in which it penetrates those truths which form its proper object.

For the divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity, as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight.

Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.

God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the Church, or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason...

For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated.

Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.

May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole Church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding. [Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius]

The Council therefore was asserting that what was being defined was contained in the deposit of faith - at least in latent form - from the very beginning. This is not the same thing as retrojecting later dogmatic definitions into the early Church. I doubt many of the Fathers would recognize the doctrine of papal infallibility as it was defined. Nor would we expect them to since part of the discernment of the teaching was to be borne out in the myriad confrontations that took place over the centuries between the heretics and schismatics and the Church. To quote part of Cardinal Newman's essay on the subject:

[W]hen some great enunciation, whether true or false, about human nature, or present good, or government, or duty, or religion, is carried forward into the public throng of men and draws attention, then it is not merely received passively in this or that form into many minds, but it becomes an active principle within them, leading them to an ever-new contemplation of itself, to an application of it in various directions, and a propagation of it on every side...Let one such idea get possession of the popular mind, or the mind of any portion of the community, and it is not difficult to understand what will be the result. At first men will not fully realise what it is that moves them, and will express and explain themselves inadequately. There will be a general agitation of thought, and an action of mind upon mind. There will be a time of confusion, when conceptions and misconceptions are in conflict, and it is uncertain whether anything is to come of the idea at all, or which view of it is to get the start of the others. New lights will be brought to bear upon the original statements of the doctrine put forward; judgments and aspects will accumulate. After a while some definite teaching emerges; and, as time proceeds, one view will be modified or expanded by another, and then combined with a third; till the idea to which these various aspects belong, will be to each mind separately what at first it was only to all together. It will be surveyed too in its relation to other doctrines or facts, to other natural laws or established customs, to the varying circumstances of times and places, to other religions, polities, philosophies, as the case may be. How it stands affected towards other systems, how it affects them, how far it may be made to combine with them, how far it tolerates them, when it interferes with them, will be gradually wrought out. It will be interrogated and criticized by enemies, and defended by well-wishers. The multitude of opinions formed concerning it in these respects and many others will be collected, compared, sorted, sifted, selected, rejected, gradually attached to it, separated from it, in the minds of individuals and of the community. It will, in proportion to its native vigour and subtlety, introduce itself into the framework and details of social life, changing public opinion, and strengthening or undermining the foundations of established order. Thus in time it will have grown into an ethical code, or into a system of government, or into a theology, or into a ritual, according to its capabilities: and this body of thought, thus laboriously gained, will after all be little more than the proper representative of one idea, being in substance what that idea meant from the first, its complete image as seen in a combination of diversified aspects, with the suggestions and corrections of many minds, and the illustration of many experiences.

This process, whether it be longer or shorter in point of time, by which the aspects of an idea are brought into consistency and form, I call its development, being the germination and maturation of some truth or apparent truth on a large mental field. On the other hand this process will not be a development, unless the assemblage of aspects, which constitute its ultimate shape, really belongs to the idea from which they start. [Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine Ch. I]

An example of development of an idea can perhaps be envisioned by comparing Newman's explanation of development with that of Vincent of Lerens writing fourteen hundred years earlier:

The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant...In like manner, it behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits. [Commonitory]

It is clear to any objective observer that Newman's explanation is much more sophisticated than that of Lerens; however the essence of Lerens' thesis is found in Newman albeit expanded in a more complete manner. That is one value of (i) fourteen hundred years of additional data on the subject on the part of Newman and (ii) having Lerens to build on.

Likewise, it can be reasonably shown that what was defined at Vatican I conforms to the views of the Fathers on papal primacy as Newman does to Lerens. The two are not identical of course -far from it. However, (to quote Newman) "scanty as the Ante-nicene notices may be of the Papal Supremacy, they are both more numerous and more definite than the adducible testimonies in favour of the doctrines of our Lord's Consubstantiality and Coeternity with the Almighty Father."

In short, the subject of development is not an easily discussed subject since the principles that accompany such a discussion are so often misunderstood. However, that does not mean that many do not try to utilize it at least in some way. For example, a reasonably informed Catholic knows that it is easier to show a pattern that supports the doctrine of papal primacy throughout the first four centuries of the Church than there is for the various doctrines that comprise the orthodox understanding of the Trinity as professed by the first two ecumenical synods. They may not know how to draw this out as well as it could be oftentimes; however the basic principle is understood even if imperfectly so.

To be Continued...


{1} I happen to opine that Hebrews may well have been written by Clement of Rome. (As the styles are quite similar between it and 1 Clement which was written approximately a decade after it.)

{2} And this has long been the consensus amongst biblical scholars.

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Those who are interested in ecclesiology may find this link of interest. The piece is one from Fr. Yves M. Congar OP, quite possibly the pre-eminent twentieth century Catholic theologian on the subject of ecclesiology. (And one whose work heavily influenced Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium.)

Interestingly enough, there are some references to the work of the Jesuit theologian Fr. Sebastian Tromp in this 1939 essay as well. Readers who are not familiar with him would do well to note that he was the primary draftsman of Pope Pius XII's 1943 encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi - an important milestone in the Church's magisterial pronouncements on ecclesiology. (And without which Lumen Gentium would not have been possible - and not only because LG references MC twelve times{1} on various themes pertaining to the nature of the Church.)

Oh, I should probably also note that the piece is technical in spots and should not be read lightly. Nonetheless, it is well worth reading - particularly for ecclesiology buffs.


{1} Of the forty-six references to the magisterium of Pope Pius XII in LG, MC is referenced twelve times: by far more than any other source - and twice as much as the encyclical Mediator Dei. (The second most heavily referenced source.) Further still, seven of the twelve references to MC are in sections which deal with the mystery of the Church (chapters one and seven).

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

Guest Editorial on the Pro Multis Subject:
(By Father Thomas Carleton)

[This entry was revised with material sent to your weblog host by Fr. Tom Carleton - the author of this editorial. Please see the footnoted section below -as well as the attacked footnote for details. (ISM 9/22/03 3:50 pm)]

Longtime readers of this humble weblog know the process of the Guest Editorial feature. For those who have tuned in more recently, the words between ### lines are those of the person submitting the piece for publication - barring the occasional editing of this weblog host.

Details on submitting a Guest Editorial for publishing at this weblog can read the principles outlined HERE to learn how to go about doing this. Without further ado, let us get to it.



Beyond the overall distress at the changing of the Latin Mass, there is particular unease and even anger over the changing of the words in the Canon of the Mass from "pro multis" (as in the old Mass and in the original Latin of the Novus Ordo) into "pro omnibus" (as in the vernacular translations of the Novus Ordo). We should, nevertheless, keep in mind the following:

Firstly, most of the Church's principal Doctors and theologians (who have, implicitly or explicitly, expressed themselves on this matter) believe that the form of Consecration does not include the words in dispute, but rather consists only of these words: "This is the chalice of My Blood", as in the Latin Church, or "This is My Blood", as in the Greek Church.

These authorities include: Saint Ambrose, Saint Thomas [in quoting St. Ambrose]:

"the form of this sacrament involves only the consecration of the material, which consists in the transubstantiation, that is when it is said, 'this is my body', or, 'This is the chalice of my blood'" (III, Q.78, a.1),

Saint Bonaventure:

"Forma consecrationis calicis, videlicet: 'Hic est calix sanguinis mei', est recta et certa et congrua; sed utrum sit tota, anquod sequitur sit de integritate, dubium est; creditur tamen, quod est tota. . . Est etiam tota et perfecta: sufficiens enim est ad significandum transubstantiationem vini in sanguinem Christi.' (IV, dist. 8, p.2., a.1, q.2),

as well as other authorities including Toletus:

"Illa sola esse de essentia: 'Hic est calix sanguinis mei'; reliqua ad essentiam non pertinere." (Q.78; art.3;
Cardinal Toledo, d. 1596),

Alexander, Durandus, Cajetan, and Billuart:

"Dico. Probabilius videtur haec sola verba, 'Hic est calix sanguinis mei', vel 'Hic est sanguis meus', esse formae calicis essetialia" (Dis.V. art.3).

More recently, the learned Father Nicolas Gihr, who has written at length on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, expresses it thus:

"'Ceci est le calice de mon sang'. . . Selon le sentiment commun, ces paroles seules composent la forme essentielle de la consécration du calice; elles opèrent et figurent la présence réelle du sang de Jésus-Christ sous les espèces du vin. Les autres mots: 'novi et aeterni Testamenti, - mysterium fidei qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum', ont été ajoutés pour des motifs de haute convenance" (LE SAINT SACRIFICE DE LE MESSE; 6 Fr.ed.; org. 1897).{1}

If the words following: "This is the chalice of My Blood", were, in fact, necessary, it would call into question (which no one does) the validity of the Mass in the Greek Church, whose liturgies, completely or in part, omit them.

To clarify the point, let us give the following hypothetical case: If the priest during a Holy Mass had a heart attack before finishing the words: 'This is the chalice of My Blood', the wine would not be consecrated into the Blood of Christ. If, on the other hand, the priest had a heart attack after saying those words, but prior to saying the passage including "pro multis" or "pro omnibus", the wine would have already been consecrated into the Blood of Christ and would therefore have to be consumed or otherwise safeguarded.

In a word, the debate concerning the changing of the words: "pro multis" into "pro omnibus", however important, does not involve the Consecration of the wine into the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, the "pro omnibus" is, in fact, Scriptural: "For the Charity of Christ presseth us: judging this, that if one died for all (pro omnibus), then all were dead. And Christ died for all (pro omnibus); that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. V, 14-15).

Thirdly, it should be pointed out that the part of the Canon where the "pro multis" occurs is already a scriptural composite: for example, the "pro vobis" is from Saint Luke's Gospel; the "pro multis" is from Saints Matthew and Mark; and the "in remissionem peccatorum" is from Saint Matthew's Gospel.

Having made these observations for the benefit of devout faithful who might have, regarding this particular issue, doubts about the validity of the Novus Ordo Masses which they, in good faith, have attended; we cannot help but regret that this text was tampered with. After all, the original Latin exemplar, the "editio typica", did not change these words from the Tridentine Mass and besides specifically warned that no one was authorized to change them.

As I finish this clarification, word has arrived of an eight year old boy, son of a gentleman very dedicated to the old Mass, was diagnosed with a form of cancer; we beg all, therefore, to remember him in your Masses, Rosaries and prayers.

In Christ,
Father Thomas Carleton


{1} "'For this is the chalice of My Blood'. . . . According to the common opinion these words alone constitute the essential formula for the Consecration of the chalice; for they signify and effect the presence of the Blood of Christ under the appearances of wine. The remaining words: 'the Blood of the new and eternal testament - the mystery of faith -, which (Blood) shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins,' are appropriately added" (THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS; 1897/1902) .


Those who have read my work on this subject are not unaware of my view of the pro multis question. In summary, I believe the current translation is more accurate if translated from the underlying Greek hoi pollen but not from the Latin text pro multis.

And as the typical Latin edition of the Revised Missal uses "pro multis", it is my view that either the Holy See should amend the Latin addition to read "pro omnibus", "pro multitudinis", or insist on the vernacular translations of the upcoming Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal to properly translate pro multis as it should read: which is not "for all" but instead as "for the many", "for the masses", or even "for many." I personally prefer the first two options for reasons I have explained before. Nonetheless, if the only options we had were between "for many" and "for all" as a translation from the current text, then it is "for many" which should be used as it is more accurate than "for all" is.

Finally, if the readers of this weblog could offer some prayers for the eight year old boy with cancer that Fr. Thomas refers to, it would be most appreciated.