Sunday, March 29, 2020

He walked alone across the empty piazza of St Peter’s, wearing the simple “house cassock” that he favors, through the rain. He did not carry an umbrella. That image alone hit me with the seriousness of the prayer that Pope Francis was about to begin. To pray for the world as he invited the world to pray, on that spot where he says mass and speaks to tens of thousands, alone except for a single aid to help him up the steps. It is an image of these days we share, apart. But Pope Francis was not entirely alone in the rain. To the right, at the foot of one of the great columns of the facade, the icon of “Our Lady, Help of the Roman People,” protected from the rain in a plain plexiglass shrine. It almost never leaves the church of St Mary Major, dedicated in AD 434. Except for the time when Pope St Gregory the Great carried her through the streets of Rome in 593, praying for the end of a great plague, an event that earned the icon the title she has born for almost 1500 years since. To the left, a crucifix at the foot of the other column flanking the entrance. It survived a fire at the church of St Marcello on the Corso in 1519. Three years later, during a great plague it was carried from the rebuilt church through the streets of Rome to St Peter’s. The 600-year-old wooden figure of the crucified stood in the rain, unprotected.

It was between these two ancient images that Francis led the world in a simple prayer. The reading of the account of the Stilling of the Storm in Mark 4:36-41 (read by a lay person), words of reflection from the pope, walking through the rain again to pray before each of the two ancient images, kissing the feet of the crucified Christ.

And then into the portico, the “front porch” of St Peter’s, where the Eucharist was brought to a temporary altar, while the choir inside the church sang Parce, Domine, “Spare Lord, spare your people.” There Francis was joined in silent prayer by just a few of the residents of the Vatican.

And then, while St Peter’s rang every bell it had to let the people of Rome know what was happening, Francis took the monstrance containing the Eucharist in his hands, walked out to the steps, and blessed “Urbi et Orbi.” That blessing, of “The City and The World,” is reserved for two occasions, Christmas Day and Easter Day. It is normally delivered from the pope’s window in the Vatican apartments, using his raised hand. Francis chose this Friday of Lent to bless the world with the True Presence of Christ, from the steps of St Peter’s, in the rain.

There is an ancient tradition of the popes to visit a different church in Rome each day of Lent and the Easter Octave. They are known as Station Churches. Today’s designated church is San Eusebio, the church of the Roman martyr Eusebius. But I noticed on the papal calendar the designation today was changed to “Statio Orbi.” Today, the pope’s church was not San Eusebio, nor even San Pietro where he stood, it was the world. [Fr. Lou Meiman]

Monday, March 23, 2020

Points to Ponder:

I think we need to seriously question whether as long as there are not serious limits on what government at every level can make someone do or not do with their own property if we actually have private ownership or not.

I mean yes some degree of regulation is necessary but we need to ask ourselves if we have not moved in some respects to the point to where the idea that there is really private property or not is not a mirage. If government can tell you that you cannot say build an addition to your property, what you can or cannot have on your property (within reason of course), if they can find creative ways to bilk more money out of you courtesy of various taxes, fees, etc., then is our property really owned and are we really free?

The whole issue needs to be revisited and serious curbs need to be put on what government at all levels can ask of you where your private property is concerned. [Circa January 20, 2020]

Guy Benson

Via senior GOP aide, Schumer/Pelosi now pushing these demands amid pandemic-fueled economic collapse: 1) Unprecedented collective bargaining powers for unions 2) Increased fuel emissions standards for airlines 3) Expansion of wind and solar tax credits
10:18 AM · Mar 23, 2020

Seriously, this is how they treat a pandemic? As far as I am concerned, #DemocratsDelendaEst

Friday, March 20, 2020

On Rash Judgments:
(A Lenten Reflection -Part IV)

It helps in the Lenten season for folks to reflect more on themselves and their particular tendencies to better get a grasp of where improvement is needed spiritually as well as otherwise. The purpose of this reflection is to consider the subject of rash judgment. It was very briefly handled in a reflection from last year but this year, I want to go into the matter in more depth. For this is a problem not infrequent among people in general but it has particular currency among folks who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou. Often these sorts of folks can be just as bad in this area (if not worse!) than many of those they would presume to lecture on matters of ethics and morality. This is the fourth and final part of the series. To start at the beginning, please go HERE. Without further ado...

We do not necessarily judge because we see or are conscious of something wrong. Rash judgment always presupposes something that is not clear, in spite of which we condemn another. It is not wrong to have doubts concerning a neighbour, but we ought to be very watchful lest even our doubts or suspicions be rash and hasty.

A malicious person seeing Jacob kiss Rachel at the well-side, {Gen xxix,11} or Rebecca accepting jewels from Eleazer, {Gen xxiv,22} a stranger, might have suspected them of levity, though falsely and unreasonably. If an action is in itself indifferent, it is a rash suspicion to imagine that it means evil, unless there is strong circumstantial evidence to prove such to be the case. And it is a rash judgment when we draw condemnatory inferences from an action which may be blameless.

Those who keep careful watch over their conscience are not often liable to form rash judgments, for just as when the clouds lower the bees make for the shelter of their hive, so really good people shrink back into themselves, and refuse to be mixed up with the clouds and fogs of their neighbour's questionable doings, and rather than meddle with others, they consecrate their energies on their own improvement and good resolutions.

No surer sign of an unprofitable life than when people give way to censoriousness and inquisitiveness into the lives of other men. Of course exception must be made as to those who are responsible for others, whether in family or public life;--to all such it becomes a matter of conscience to watch over the conduct of their fellows. Let them fulfil their duty lovingly, and let them also give heed to restrain themselves within the bounds of that duty.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

"One From the Vault" Dept.

The following is a flashback to the archives of this website{1} from 2004...

[W]e need to start respecting the Constitution in reality and not just the abstract. I have a few quick proposals for going a significant way towards doing this:

---Abolish permanently the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

---Abolish permanently the modern rider option in congressional legislation methodology and replace it with the approach I will go over next.

---Enact a law that inserts into every budget proposal and program a sunset provision. The points of sunset can be staggered to some extent so the entire wheel is not reinvented at once. However, in every presidential cycle all budget items or federal programs should have to come up for renewal at least once. My proposed point for this is of course the midterm elections. (That way, turnout will be higher and of course it will keep our officials honest.)

And if the representatives do not do the latter, then we the people need to start the Constitutional Amendment process. In fact, maybe we need to start it from the ground up here. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 20, 2004)]

{1} It bears noting in brief that there are a couple of viewpoint in the above flashback thread where I have changed my position in the sixteen odd years since that thread was published. (They are not however in the excerpted material above.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pradheep J. Shanker

1. I hate this in theory. 
2. I don't see any other option.
Quote Tweet


Mnuchin says Trump administration is looking to get cash to Americans 'immediately'…

12:11 PM · Mar 17, 2020
On Rash Judgments:
(A Lenten Reflection -Part III)

It helps in the Lenten season for folks to reflect more on themselves and their particular tendencies to better get a grasp of where improvement is needed spiritually as well as otherwise. The purpose of this reflection is to consider the subject of rash judgment. It was very briefly handled in reflection from last year but this year, I want to go into the matter in more depth. For this is a problem not infrequent among people in general but it has particular currency among folks who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou. Often these sorts of folks can be just as bad in this area (if not worse!) than many of those they would presume to lecture on matters of ethics and morality. This is the third of a four part series. To start at the beginning, please go HERE. Without further ado...

If your affections are warm and tender, your judgment will not be harsh; if they are loving, your judgment will be the same. Holy Scripture offers us three striking illustrations. Isaac, when in the Land of Gerar, gave out that Rebecca was his sister, but when Abimelech saw their familiarity, he at once concluded that she was his wife. {Gen xxvi} A malicious mind would rather have supposed that there was some unlawful connection between them, but Abimelech took the most charitable view of the case that was possible. And so ought we always to judge our neighbour as charitably as may be; and if his actions are many-sided, we should accept the best.

Again, when S. Joseph found that the Blessed Virgin was with child, {S. Matthew i} knowing her to be pure and holy, he could not believe that there was any sin in her, and he left all judgment to God, although there was strong presumptive evidence on which to condemn her. And the Holy Spirit speaks of S. Joseph as "a just man." When a just man cannot see any excuse for what is done by a person in whose general worth he believes, he still refrains from judging him, and leaves all to God's Judgment.

Again, our Crucified Saviour, while He could not wholly ignore the sin of those who Crucified Him, yet made what excuse He might for them, pleading their ignorance. (8) And so when we cannot find any excuse for sin, let us at least claim what compassion we may for it, and impute it to the least damaging motives we can find, as ignorance or infirmity.

Are we never, then, to judge our neighbour? you ask. Never, my child. It is God Who judges criminals brought before a court of law. He uses magistrates to convey His sentence to us; they are His interpreters, and have only to proclaim His law. If they go beyond this, and are led by their own passions, then they do themselves judge, and for so doing they will be judged. It is forbidden to all men alike, as men, to judge one another.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

On Rash Judgments:
(A Lenten Reflection -Part II)

It helps in the Lenten season for folks to reflect more on themselves and their particular tendencies to better get a grasp of where improvement is needed spiritually as well as otherwise. The purpose of this reflection is to consider the subject of rash judgment. It was very briefly handled in a reflection from last year but this year, I want to go into the matter in more depth. For this is a problem not infrequent among people in general but it has particular currency among folks who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou. Often these sorts of folks can be just as bad in this area (if not worse!) than many of those they would presume to lecture on matters of ethics and morality. This is the second of a four part series. To start at the beginning, please go HERE. Without further ado...

[Some hearts] there are who are guilty of rash judgments less out of a bitter spirit than from pride, supposing to exalt their own credit by disparaging that of others. These are self-sufficient, presumptuous people, who stand so high in their own conceit that they despise all else as mean and worthless. It was the foolish Pharisee who said, "I am not as other men are." {S. Luke xviii,11}

Others, again, have not quite such overt pride, but rather a lurking little satisfaction in beholding what is wrong in others, in order to appreciate more fully what they believe to be their own superiority. This satisfaction is so well concealed, so nearly imperceptible, that it requires a clear sight to discover it, and those who experience it need that it be pointed out to them.

Some there are who seek to excuse and justify themselves to their own conscience, by assuming readily that others are guilty of the same faults, or as great ones, vainly imagining that the sin becomes less culpable when shared by many.

Others, again, give way to rash judgments merely because they take pleasure in a philosophic analysis and dissection of their neighbours' characters; and if by ill luck they chance now and then to be right, their presumption and love of criticism strengthens almost incurably.

Then there are people whose judgment is solely formed by inclination; who always think well of those they like, and ill of those they dislike. To this, however, there is one rare exception, which nevertheless we do sometimes meet, when an excessive love provokes a false judgment concerning its object; the hideous result of a diseased, faulty, restless affection, which is in fact jealousy; an evil passion capable, as everybody knows, of condemning others of perfidy and adultery upon the most trivial and fanciful ground. In like manner, fear, ambition, and other moral infirmities often tend largely to produce suspicion and rash judgments.

What remedy can we apply? They who drink the juice of the Ethiopian herb Ophiusa imagine that they see serpents and horrors everywhere; and those who drink deep of pride, envy, ambition, hatred, will see harm and shame in every one they look upon. The first can only be cured by drinking palm wine, and so I say of these latter,--Drink freely of the sacred wine of love, and it will cure you of the evil tempers which lead you to these perverse judgments. So far from seeking out that which is evil, Love dreads meeting with it, and when such meeting is unavoidable, she shuts her eyes at the first symptom, and then in her holy simplicity she questions whether it were not merely a fantastic shadow which crossed her path rather than sin itself.

Or if Love is forced to recognise the fact, she turns aside hastily, and strives to forget what she has seen. Of a truth, Love is the great healer of all ills, and of this above the rest. Everything looks yellow to a man that has the jaundice; and it is said that the only cure is through the soles of the feet. Most assuredly the sin of rash judgments is a spiritual jaundice, which makes everything look amiss to those who have it; and he who would be cured of this malady must not be content with applying remedies to his eyes or his intellect, he must attack it through the affections, which are as the soul's feet.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Points to Ponder:

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds. [John Perry Barlow]

Thursday, March 12, 2020

On Rash Judgments:
(A Lenten Reflection -Part I)

It helps in the Lenten season for folks to reflect more on themselves and their particular tendencies to better get a grasp of where improvement is needed spiritually as well as otherwise. The purpose of this reflection is to consider the subject of rash judgment. It was very briefly handled in a reflection from last year but this year, I want to go into the matter in more depth. For this is a problem not infrequent among people in general but it has particular currency among folks who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou. Often these sorts of folks can be just as bad in this area (if not worse!) than many of those they would presume to lecture on matters of ethics and morality. This is the first of a four part series. Without further ado...

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged," said the Saviour of our souls; "condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:" {S. Luke vi,37} and the Apostle S. Paul, "Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." {1 Cor. iv,5}

Of a truth, hasty judgments are most displeasing to God, and men's judgments are hasty, because we are not judges one of another, and by judging we usurp our Lord's own office. Man's judgment is hasty, because the chief malice of sin lies in the intention and counsel of the heart, which is shrouded in darkness to us.

Moreover, man's judgments are hasty, because each one has enough to do in judging himself, without undertaking to judge his neighbour. If we would not be judged, it behoves us alike not to judge others, and to judge ourselves. Our Lord forbids the one, His Apostle enjoins the other, saying, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." {1 Cor. xi,31} But alas! for the most part we precisely reverse these precepts, judging our neighbour, which is forbidden on all sides, while rarely judging ourselves, as we are told to do.

We must proceed to rectify rash judgments, according to their cause. Some hearts there are so bitter and harsh by nature, that everything turns bitter under their touch; men who, in the Prophet's words, "turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth." {Amos v,7} Such as these greatly need to be dealt with by some wise spiritual physician, for this bitterness being natural to them, it is hard to conquer; and although it be rather an imperfection than a sin, still it is very dangerous, because it gives rise to and fosters rash judgments and slander within the heart.

To Be Continued...

With the next post being one of Lenten Reflections, I have decided to debut at that time a Lenten Reflections seasonal subtag and apply it to both future as well as past posts specifically designated as such on this site.
Miscellaneous Musings on Defining "Normalcy":

This was posted to social media yesterday and reposted here except for some material that was moved to footnotes. Without further ado...

So Clarence Oveur...err...Joe Biden is going to run on a campaign of "returning to normalcy." It is not an original idea as Warren G. Harding ran a "return to normalcy" campaign in 1920 after eight years of Woodrow Wilson and the drama and fatigue of The Great War. Harding won big that year actually. But what is "normalcy" in the modern environment?

For example, oil prices are falling big, gas prices continue to fall as a result, Trump's policies{1} played a definite role in that, and the US is more energy independent than at any time since the mid twentieth century. Is "normalcy" a return to Obamas policies here and once again due to overregulation, a returning of the US to being under the thumb of OPEC and the other Middle East cartels?

Also, for all the talk about Trump being a dangerous trigger happy and unstable warmonger, he has turned out to be the most anti-interventionist president since Coolidge militarily. Is a "return to normalcy" a return to regular military interventions around the globe?

Consider as well that the economy is overall doing the best it has been in about twenty years and wages on the lower end are rising for the first time since Monica was under Bill's desk. Is a "return to normalcy" a return to a sinking or tepid at best economy which flattens those trying to rise from the bottom?

For a variety of reasons, the problems with unchecked or lax enforcement of immigration laws in this country have declined and we have other countries{2} policing our mutual borders better which has fixed some of the prior problems of recent decades in this area. It would be foolish to pretend that no Trump policies has a role in this. So, is a "return to normalcy" a reversal of Trump's policies here and a return to the Obama/Bush 43/Clinton failures in this area?

Finally, there is as a result of Trump's tremendous originalist judicial appointments a greater judicial restraint at all levels of the legal system than we have seen in decades. Is a "return to normalcy" a return to the days of judicial activism and the appointment of activist justices who invent rather than apply the law?

Joe Biden plans to campaign on "a return to normalcy." It therefore is only appropriate that he be pressed on this point to explain what he means by that and if the supposed "national nightmare" we are supposedly living through right now includes any of the examples noted above.


{1} Including reversing a number of Obama's executive actions that hampered exploration, drilling, and development, etc.

{2} Such as Mexico.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Points to Ponder:

Obedience has a wet nurse, true humility, and the soul is as obedient as she is humble, and as humble as she is obedient. This humility is also charity’s governess and wet nurse, and she nurtures the virtue of obedience with the very same milk. The garment this nurse gives the soul is self-abasement, the clothing of disgrace and mockery and abuse, the choice of my (God the Father’s) pleasure over her own. In whom will you find all this? In the gentle Christ Jesus, my only-begotten Son. [St. Catherine of Siena: From Her Dialogues]

Sunday, March 08, 2020

On Clarifying and Retracting Some Prior Statements on the Magisterium:
(From My Essays and Other Web Writings)

I originally planned to write an expository musing consisting of clarifications and retractions of prior statements on the magisterium. The problem is, the time it would take to sift every piece I have written over the past twenty odd years in various mediums would make such an effort both tedious and counterproductive. I can think of more productive things to do with my time.

However, it seems appropriate to still say something about the fact that there will be some undeniable divergences from time to time from things I have written in the past on this subject. (With what was covered in the detailed exposition on the magisterium which was published on Ash Wednesday of this year.{1}) The nature of development is one reason as greater understanding of a subject inexorably involves a greater precision in explication. Another is a convergence of events and circumstances as well as a perceived need that was more real today than in years past. Certainly the need for a different direction on these matters is one that I explained in an email circular to many folks involved in Catholic apologetics many moons ago{2} in the following words:
Considering that religious submission to all non-definitive teaching of the ordinary magisterium is required under the new Profession of Faith, it is high time that Catholic apologists rethink how they approach the subject of potential "errors" in the magisterium at any level. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 11, 2003) as originally published in an Email Correspondence (circa October 2002)]
That is a position I hold in substance to this day. One difference perhaps in my view now versus my view then is I have become aware of greater shadings in statements by the pope and others who participate in his authority than I possessed at that time. And while I apparently planned for some time on writing on the subject of the ordinary magisterium{3}; at the same time, I cannot remember having that intention firmly in mind until recently.{4} But the value of site archives is they can remind one of what they may have forgotten.{5} The reasons this endeavour likely got derailed are undoubtedly many but truthfully, I am sure some degree of Providence was involved. I had studied this matter a lot in years past. Nonethelesd, it is clear to these eyes as I perused some older writings on this subject{6} that I was not ready then to handle it with the degree of completeness and nuance that a subject such as this would require.

Nonetheless, the project which has been to varying degrees in my conscious mind to do since I returned to publishing material on this website{7} is now completed. I have decided agains attempting a St. Augustine style list of Retractions on all magisterium related subject matter in this archive and elsewhere from years past. Instead, I have decided to publish this brief entry and stipulate that with the recent publication of the magisterium project, any past statements I have made on that subject on this site or anywhere else that in any way contradicts what was recently published can be considered to the extent there is a genuine contradiction thereby obrogated.

Let this posting suffice to deal with any clarifications or retractions necessary on this subject from any past writing of mine in any medium whatsoever in perpetuity.


{1} Which in a certain sense distills the subject down and covers it in a detail and with a systemization that I never remotely approached before.

{2} Yes, much as I am loathe to admit it nowadays, there was a time I was really involved in apologetics and actually had a positive outlook on that endeavour. To say that my view is nearly 180 degrees different now than it was back in the late 1990s-early 2000s is no exaggeration as I have long had a far more jaded view of apologetics and those who spend an inordinate amount of time in that realm than I once did.

{3} "The part about the 'next planned essay' is no longer true - as the long planned essay on the ordinary magisterium has again been shelved in favour of working on another long-planned essay first." [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 1, 2003) as Originally Published to a Discussion Forum (circa April 15, 2003)]

{4} Pinpointing the precise moment that my interest in this subject was rekindled is difficult. I remember discussing it privately during my time with WherePeterIs which formally spanned June 16, 2018 to August 6, 2018. But the genesis of the aforementioned rekindling was spawned by two events of 2017: the drafting of three lengthy responses to the Correctio which though published in April of 2019 were composed in first draft form during the month of October that year. (As well as a revisiting of the subject of the death penalty published in late October of 2017.)

{5} This is another reason why preserving one's archives is a good idea -even if on occasion some of the material can make one wince when reading it later on. Another is writing helps the memory and for reasons I have explained before, my memory of things in the mid 2001-late 2003 period is less reliable than of the time periods prior to and subsequent to that time range.

{6} With the idea of utilizing where feasible past writings on this subject to avoid completely reinventing the wheel.

{7} See footnote four.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

On the Liturgy:
(A Lenten Reflection)

What you get out of the liturgy is the privilege of glorifying almighty God. If you think it's about you, stay at home. It's not about you. It is for you, but it's not about you.

One of the great problems today, especially among some of the younger generations, is that they think that salvation history is their own autobiography. They think they're the center of the universe. In John 3, when John the Baptist is asked whether Jesus is the Messiah, John says quite clearly that Jesus is the important one: 'He must increase, I must decrease.'

He must increase, I must decrease. Everybody needs to hear that. It's not about me, it's not about you. It's about something infinitely more important than us. [Fr. Robert Taft SJ]

Friday, March 06, 2020

Though I published it in early January as an intended project linked to the detailed expository musing finally published on Ash Wednesday{1}, it seems appropriate now to recall in a followup posting a companion piece of sorts on the subject of magisterial interpretation. So without further ado...

On Magisterial Interpretation (circa January 4, 2020)

Also, there are now a few undeniable incongruities between some statements I have made in the past{2} on the subject matter published on Ash Wednesday.{3} I will tend to that matter soon with a posting to clarify and/or retract certain previous statements where applicable.


{1} On the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Obedience, and the Requirements of Faithful Catholics (circa February 26, 2020)

{2} Either in site postings to Rerum Novarum or other projects, web essays in the past, or stuff posted to social media or message board forums in years past.

{3} See footnote one.


Delegate Count as of 10:55am 3/6/20:

Biden: 637
Sanders: 559
Warren: 64
Bloomberg: 60
Buttigieg: 26
Klobuchar: 7
Gabbard: 2

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Though I have done eight candidate updates so far in 2020, because of the Super Tuesday results, this feature will be discontinued. It is clear now that there are only two horses left in the Democratic primary race and they are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. So henceforth, the others will not be mentioned on this site except in delegate counts unless one of them by some miracle is the nominee in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Today would have been the 79th birthday of my father Richard Dunn McElhinney. If readers could offer some prayers for the eternal repose of his soul, I would appreciate it. For those who do not believe in this ancient custom, then prayers for my mother (who still has difficulties on anniversaries such as this) and the rest of the family would be appreciated.

Eternal rest grant unto his soul oh Lord and may thy perpetual light shine upon him...May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Apmen.
Super Tuesday Scorecard:

States Won:

Biden: VA, NC, AL, OK, AR, TN, MN, MA, TX

Bernie: VT, CO, UT, CA

ME: Too close to call

Bloomberg: American Samoa

Delegate Count as of March 4, 2020 @ 8:30am:

Joe Biden: 453
Bernie Sanders: 382
Elizabeth Warren: 50
Michael Bloomberg: 44
Pete Buttigieg: 26
Amy Klobuchar: 7
Tulsi Gabbard: 1

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

From the mountains to the sun, life has only just begun
We wed this land and pledge our souls to meet its end
Life has only just begun
Here my people roam the earth, in the kingdom of our birth
Where the dust of all our horses hides the sun
We are mighty on the earth, on the earth

You have come to move me, take me from my ancient home
Land of my fathers I can't leave you now
We will share it with you, no man owns this earth we're on
Now the wheels are rolling, hear the howling winds of war
It's my destiny to fight and die
Is there no solution, can we find no other way, Lord let me stay

Under the endless sky and the earth below
Here I was born to live and I will never go, oh no
But we cannot endure like the earth and the mountains
Life is not ours to keep, for a new sun is rising

Soon these days shall pass away, for our freedom we must pay
All our words and deeds are carried on the wind
In the ground our bodies lay, here we lay. [Kerry Livgren]

Monday, March 02, 2020

Points to Ponder:

One of my Fundamental Political Axioms is "Do not seek to establish a precedent that can come back later on and bite you in the ass." [Circa March 2, 2017)]
For the eighth time time in recent months, I will post an update on the Democratic presidential field which has expanded as well as contracted since the last update of this nature. As of this writing, it is at 6 5{1} candidates.{2} Here is a brief list of those who have dropped in and dropped out so far:

In the Race -Listed By Declaration Date:

Tulsi Gabbard (January 11, 2019)
Elizabeth Warren (February 9, 2019)
Bernie Sanders (February 19, 2019)
Joe Biden (April 25, 2019)
Michael Bloomberg (November 24, 2019)

Out of the Race -Listed By Suspension Date:

Richard Ojeda (January 25, 2019)
Eric Swalwell (July 8, 2019)
Mike Gravel (August 6, 2019)
John Hinckenlooper (August 15, 2019)
Jay Inslee (August 21, 2019)
Seth Moulton (August 23, 2019)
Kirsten Gillibrand (August 28, 2019)
Bill de Blasio (September 20, 2019)
Tim Ryan (October 24, 2019)
Beto O'Rourke (November 1, 2019)
Wayne Messam (November 19, 2019)
Joe Sestak (December 1, 2019)
Steve Bullock (December 2, 2019)
Kamala Harris (December 3, 2019)
Julian Castro (January 2, 2020)
Marianne Williamson (January 9, 2020)
Corey Booker (January 13, 2020)
John Delaney (January 31, 2020)
Michael Bennett (February 11, 2020)
Andrew Yang (February 11, 2020)
Deval Patrick (February 12, 2020)
Tom Steyer (February 29, 2020)
Pete Buttigieg (March 1, 2020)
Amy Klobuchar (March 2, 2020)


{1} After this was posted, Amy Klobuchar suspended her campaign.

{2} Well technically there are others but the above listed ones are the only ones with a snowballs chance in hell of being nominated.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

On the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Obedience, and the Requirements of Faithful Catholics:
(Musing of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)


There has been no shortage of error on the subject of the Church's Magisterium from even reputably orthodox sources over the years. I have addressed parts of the subject "at sundry times and in diverse manners" (cf. Heb. i,1) where it was warranted to do so; however, in all prior cases, I only went as far as was needed at those particular times. As a result, the subject by itself had up to now never received a truly comprehensive treatment. Due to the particular circumstances of recent years, I finally decided to tend to that lacuna and the result is what you have before you now. As there is plenty to get to, let us do so without any further delay.

Part I

Prefatory Comments on the Subject of Obedience
"Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” [Proverbs x,17]

The Catholic Church's Magisterium is an institution of authority and to all institutions of legitimate authority, a certain degree of deference is owed. The Bible outlines the importance of obedience in not a few places. To note one from each testament, we have the Prophet Samuel telling King Saul after Saul sinned by disobedience that "obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams. It is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey" (1 Samuel xv,22-23). And St. Paul instructed the Romans in his epistle to "[l]et every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation." (Rom xiii,1-2). When considering the importance of obedience as outlined in divers parts of the Bible, it seems appropriate to begin any treatment on the magisterium with the subject of obedience.

On the Nature of Obedience

As Mike Mentzer was fond of saying, "definitions are the tools of thought." So with that in mind, let us define the concept of obedience and consider some of the particulars involved. For that purpose, let us consult the Catholic Encyclopedia courtesy of the New Advent online portal. To wit:
Obedience (Lat. obêdire, "to hearken to", hence "to obey") is the complying with a command or precept. It is here regarded not as a transitory and isolated act but rather as a virtue or principle of righteous conduct. It is then said to be the moral habit by which one carries out the order of his superior with the precise intent of fulfilling the injunction.{1}
Obedience is viewed not only as an isolated act but also as a virtue. It is perhaps the most efficacious counter to the capital sin of pride. Jesus' entire earthly life was one of obedience from his time as a young boy to Mary and Joseph (cf. Luke i,52) throughout his public ministry. When speaking, Jesus did not do so on his own initiative but instead through the commandment of the Father who sent him who told what to say and speak (cf. John xii,49). So perfect was his obedience that Jesus was obedient to death on the cross (cf. Phil ii,8). Obedience in other words is a virtue that Jesus viewed as being of no small importance. And obedience has been a frequent theme in the writings of the Catholic spiritual tradition as well.

Examples of Obedience in the Writings of the Catholic Spiritual Tradition
"Obedience has a wet nurse, true humility, and the soul is as obedient as she is humble, and as humble as she is obedient." [St. Catherine of Siena]

As an entire book could be filled with examples of obedience within the writings of the Catholic spiritual tradition, I will limit myself at this time to three examples only. The three Doctors of the Church whose words on this subject I will focus on are St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales and St. Catherine of Siena. Let us start with some words of St. John of the Cross:
"Obedience is a penance of reason, and, on that account, a sacrifice more acceptable than all corporal penances and mortifications." 
"God is more pleased to behold the lowest degree of obedience, for His sake, than all other good works which you can possibly offer to Him."
Similar sentiments can be found in the writings of St. Francis de Sales:
"The Devil doesn’t fear austerity but holy obedience." 
"Obedience is a virtue of so excellent a nature, that Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance upon the whole course of His life; thus He often says, He did not come to do His Own will, but that of His Heavenly Father."

"Naturally we all have an inclination to command, and a great aversion to obey; and yet it is certain that it is more for our good to obey than to command; hence perfect souls have always had a great affection for obedience, and have found all their joy and comfort in it."

"Obedience is a consecration of the heart, chastity of the body, and poverty of all worldly goods to the Love and Service of God. Blessed indeed are the obedient, for God will never permit them to go astray." 
"Saint Paul commands us to obey all superiors, even those who are bad. Our Blessed Saviour, His Virgin Mother, and Saint Joseph have taught us this kind of obedience in the journey they took from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when Caesar published an edict that his subjects should repair to the place of their nativity to be enrolled. They complied with this order with the most affectionate obedience, though the Emperor was a pagan and an idolator, so desirous was Our Lord of showing us that we should never regard the persons of those who command, provided they be invested with sufficient authority."
And finally, we have some words of St. Catherine of Siena to consider:
"All that is done by obedience is meritorious . . . It is obedience, which, by the light of Faith, puts self-will to death, and causes the obedient man to despise his own will and throw himself into the arms of his superior . . . Placed in the bark of obedience, he passes happily through the stormy sea of this life, in peace of soul and tranquility of heart. Obedience and faith disperse darkness; he is strong because he has no longer any weakness or fears, for self-will, which is the cause of inordinate fear and weakness, has been destroyed."

"Oh! how sweet and glorious is the virtue of obedience, by which all other virtues exist, because it is the offspring of charity! On it is founded the rock of faith; it is a queen, whom he that espouses is rich in every kind of good and whom no evil can assail."
Now certainly this far from exhausts the well of what saintly men and women have written on this subject over the centuries.{2} However, what is posted above suffices to establish the importance of obedience in the eyes of God.

We have now considered the importance of obedience courtesy of some writings from key doctors of the Church. Let us move on to establish the nature and scope of the obedience owed to the Magisterium of the Church by those who would claim to be faithful Catholics.

Part II

The Nature and Scope of the Magisterium: Faith and Morals

We have identified the importance of obedience and considered this subject in the light of some writings from Doctors of the Church. Let us move forward now and establish the nature and scope of obedience owed to the Church's Magisterium. From the ever helpful Catholic Encyclopedia, we find this helpful explanation on the issue:
Faith means the speculative doctrines of revelation; morals, the practical doctrines of revelation. Faith is what we have to believe, morals what we have to do, in order to obtain eternal life.{3} 
Faith and morals embrace both speculative and practical: what is to be believed and what is to be done.

On A Brief History of Understanding Magisterial Concepts

It is well worth the time to consider the historical view of popes and ecumenical councils on the magisterial authority of the popes as a pretext for any discussion on the present subject matter. With that thought in mind, some sections for this work were drafted for inclusion but upon review, it was decided in the revising of this writing not to go into those subjects in detail here. (Lest the present work become longer than would be prudent.) I have however posted those sections as separate sources for reader perusal if interested at the following links:

On Ecumenical Council Statements of Papal Authority (circa February 19, 2020)

At this point, it seems appropriate in the present exposition to reflect on the history of magisterial concepts as well as the nature and degrees of magisterial interventions. As a rule, anything in church history admits of some development in understanding of more complex subject matters. Where the present subject is concerned, as we will show, it does not deviate from that norm.

What has not shown development in understanding over time however is the attitude of those who find themselves on the wrong side of church authority. The latter not infrequently seek to minimize the assent owed to the latter if they even acknowledge it at all. If anything, there has been an arrestment of development by many of those folks including not a few who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou. I noted this factor during a Lenten Reflections thread early last year in the following words:
It is true that not every statement is of equal weight and there is room for divergent views in different areas to certain extents. But the seeming attitude of many is that if the pope has not spoken infallibly on dogma that it means something is up for grabs. I guess that means at Nicaea only the divinity of Christ was required belief and everything for the first 325 years was optional. That is not how it works and the so-called "paragons of faithful orthodoxy" should know that if they are what they claim.{4}
Unfortunately, this problem is not one that is new but is one that I have long observed and even put into writing in different forms in the past. To cite a few examples, here are three references from writings published nearly twenty years ago where the germ of this idea currently being fleshed out was put forward:
[T]he pope sets the rules on these matters and we follow. Whether we liked it or not we would have to comply or else the authoritative Magisterium as we speak of it to Protestants would be nothing but a dead letter.{5}
The context for that statement was an essay responding to Cardinal Alphons Stickler in a piece he wrote on the Tridentine Latin Mass. The phenomenon of seeking to diminish the ordinary teaching authority of the Church has been presented in a variety of ways and I noted the following in an essay response to Fr. Chad Ripperger published a few months after the previously referenced essay:
There is far too much casual disregard for the Teaching Authority of the Church in all quarters. The impression is given that obedience is somehow contingent on infallibility or prudence of a given directive...{6}
And in a piece written on the subject of the Syllabus of Errors published not long after the latter writing, I made the following observation:
The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. — Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863. 
Interestingly enough, most self-styled 'traditionalists' often act as if they agree with proposition twenty-two above.{7}
I have continued to notice this problem over the years except with the present pontificate, many of those who did not act this way in prior pontificates{8} now seem to regularly do so. But this is not how the Magisterium of the Church envisions a faithful Catholic acting.

Now it is certainly true that terms like ordinary magisterium, ordinary and universal magisterium, and extraordinary magisterium are of more recent vintage. Nonetheless, they clarify with greater precision than was once the case the nature of various Magisterial interventions. The first use of the term ordinary magisterium was in an apostolic letter sent by Pope Pius IX to the Archbishop of Munich. It was written as a response to a gathering of Catholic theologians organized by Ignaz von Dollinger. The pope had gotten word that an opinion was being floated at the aforementioned gathering that Catholic theologians were only bound to hold truths of faith which were solemnly defined.{9} Pope Pius IX responded to this position in the following way:
We want to persuade ourselves that they do not wish to limit the obligation by which Catholic teachers and writers are bound only to those things which have been proposed by the infallible judgment of the Church as dogmas of faith to be believed by all. And we are persuaded that they did not wish to declare that that perfect adherence to revealed truths which they acknowledge to be absolutely necessary for the genuine progress of science and for the refutation of errors can be had if faith and assent is given only to the expressly defined dogmas of the Church. For even if it is a matter of that subjection which must be given in the act of divine faith, it must not be limited to those things which have been defined by the express decrees of councils or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this Apostolic See, but must also be extended to those things which are handed on by the ordinary magisterium of the Church scattered throughout the world as divinely revealed and therefore are held by the universal and constant consent of Catholic theologians to pertain to the faith.{10}
This position was later reiterated in the Syllabus of Errors when it paraphrased the above passage from Tuas Libenter as follows:
The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. — Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.{11}
The teaching from the Apostolic Letter Tuas Libenter later found its way into the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius of the First Vatican Council where it was formulated in the following way:
Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.{12}
With the above formulation from the First Vatican Council, the first explicit usage of ordinary and universal magisterium makes its appearance in print. Also making a debut of sorts was the first reference somewhat obliquely of what is now referred to as the extraordinary magisterium.{13}

Despite this delineation, the error continued to be propagated in some quarters that consent was not required when the popes were not exercising their supreme or extraordinary teaching authority. Pope Pius XII reproved this error as it pertained to encyclical letters in Humani Generis with these words:
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority.{14}
The principle enunciated above found its way in an even fuller form into the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council in its section on the hierarchial structure of the Church. Speaking of the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff in toto{15}, this is how the matter was framed in the Council text:
[R]eligious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.{16}
The formulation in Lumen Gentium capped off roughly a century of development on the matter of magisterial interventions.{17} The end result is quite clear and unambiguous: the position of the Magisterium itself as to the assent owed to its teachings is not that one can ignore anything that is not an ex cathedra or solemn pronouncement. Rather, all teachings require assent though the nature and degree of the assent owed from case to case could vary.

With that in mind, it now is time in this examination to explain what these different levels of magisterial teachings involve. Furthermore, what kinds of assent is owed to magisterial interventions and how does this affect magisterial interventions in the prudential order. Finally, in what areas if any is there the right to differ from statements issued by the Teaching Authority of the Church.

Part III

On Extraordinary Matters of Faith

In undertaking an examination of the subject of magisterial interventions, we will begin by considering what has become known as the extraordinary magisterium. This is the least controversial part of the magisterium among Catholics so it will not get as extensive a treatment as the others. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued an important Instruction to theologians on their ecclesial vocation which speaks of the extraordinary magisterium in the following way:
When the Magisterium of the Church makes an infallible pronouncement and solemnly declares that a teaching is found in Revelation, the assent called for is that of theological faith. This kind of adherence is to be given even to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium when it proposes for belief a teaching of faith as divinely revealed.{18}
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had updated the Profession of Faith (Lat. Professio Fidei) in the prior year{19} and included this passage in the text:
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.{20}
And of course when the Code of Canon Law was updated to more precisely conform to the new Professio Fidei, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a doctrinal commentary. The paragraph in footnote twenty was explained in the commentary as follows:
The object taught in this paragraph is constituted by all those doctrines of divine and catholic faith which the Church proposes as divinely and formally revealed and, as such, as irreformable.

These doctrines are contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and defined with a solemn judgement as divinely revealed truths either by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra,' or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium...{21}
The extraordinary magisterium is an area which virtually all who claim to be faithful Catholics understand for the most part.{22} For that reason, what is covered above is sufficient and we can move onto more controversial matters.

On Ordinary Matters Pertaining to Faith

We will now consider what is referred to as the ordinary magisterium or at times referred to as the ordinary and universal magisterium. This is not usually{23} an issue for most of those who consider themselves More Faithful Than Thou though we will get to their areas of difficulty in due time.

With this aspect of the Church's Magisterium, what is not usually understood well is that the infallibility of the magisterium is not limited to the deposit of faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Paul VI explained this in an important but often overlooked Instruction as follows:
According to Catholic doctrine, the infallibility of the Church's Magisterium extends not only to the deposit of faith but also to those matters without which that deposit cannot be rightly preserved and expounded.{24}
These matters include a number of factors that are required by logical extension for upholding the deposit of faith. In referring to this secondary realm of infallibility, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published the following as part of the most recent Professio Fidei which is required for anyone holding a teaching position in the Church:
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.{25}
This is a general term but it covers a number of areas. In an important Instruction published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II, church theologians{26} were advised as follows:
When the Magisterium proposes "in a definitive way" truths concerning faith and morals, which, even if not divinely revealed, are nevertheless strictly and intimately connected with Revelation, these must be firmly accepted and held.{27}
Among these truths to note a couple examples are matters such as "the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council."{28} Also worth noting are "the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts)"{29} and others which for the sake of economy of prose will be omitted at this time. There are those among the self proclaimed "traditionalist" wing of the Church who deny these truths but they are an outlier and probably not even a majority within their own faction. The CDF makes it quite clear however that "[w]hoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church."{30}

On the Authentic Magisterium

We now come to a point in our examination where no shortage of folks who claim to be More Faithful Than Thou show themselves to be fugazis. The authentic magisterium embraces the lion's share of the teachings of the Church's Magisterium. Yet to observe most folks these days from the self proclaimed "conservative" or "traditionalist" wings of the Church{31}, this aspect of the magisterium might as well not exist. Why do I say this? Because most of these folks so blatantly ignore or downplay it with Pope Francis that they are scarcely any different than the very liberals they whined and complained about for years. And it should go without saying that those who have regular failings in this area have literally no credibility whatsoever when they complain about anything. Scripture is clear when it comes to folks like this when Jesus says "[t]hou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew vii,5) and as St. Paul said "[w]herefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest" (Romans ii,1-2).

What are the duties owed by a faithful Catholic to the teachings of the authentic magisterium? The very Professio Fidei that has been mentioned a few times in this text is pretty clear:
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.{32}
As for specifically how this should affect the attitudes and actions of the truly faithful Catholic in the pew, as usual, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been useful in pointing these matters out to us:
When the Magisterium, not intending to act "definitively", teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of Revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect. This kind of response cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith.{33}
We covered the impulse of obedience to the faith earlier in this exposition with the writings of St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena. While not exhaustive, these nonetheless are comprehensive insofar as they represent a pretty unanimous testimony of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church on the matter in question.{34} The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its doctrinal commentary explained obedience to the authentic magisterium in the following words{35}:
The third proposition of the Professio fidei states: "Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act". 
To this paragraph belong all those teachings – on faith and morals – presented as true or at least as sure, even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgement or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Such teachings are, however, an authentic expression of the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff or of the College of Bishops and therefore require religious submission of will and intellect. They are set forth in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of revelation, or to recall the conformity of a teaching with the truths of faith, or lastly to warn against ideas incompatible with those truths or against dangerous opinions that can lead to error. 
A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be qualified as erroneous or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as rash or dangerous and therefore 'tuto doceri non potest'.{36}
There is scarcely a supposedly traditionalist website out there where the More Traditional Than Thou folks do not flat out ignore this requirement on a whole plethora of issues. And in the era of the pontificate of Pope Francis, this has also become an ever increasing problem with a lot of those who try and present themselves as More Faithful Than Thou conservative Catholics. In a nutshell: most who claim to be faithful Catholics are regularly and habitually disobedient in this area.

We will shortly touch in brief on matters of church discipline and church government as well as what is and is not magisterial in the various and sundry statements put out by the Vatican. However, before getting to that, let us briefly revisit the subject of obedience by considering some words of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman. He wrote on the aforementioned issue to counter the caricature of Catholics as mind numbed robots subservient to the Pope in all things.{37} In discussing the obligations owed by Catholics to the Pope, Newman framed the subject in the following way:
It is the rule of Christ's providence, that what His Vicar does in severity or in mercy upon earth, He Himself confirms in heaven...[I]n his administration of Christ's kingdom, in his religious acts, we must never oppose his will, or dispute his word, or criticise his policy, or shrink from his side?...Our duty look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and as a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God...{38}
Considering everything that is outlined above, it should be glaringly evident that the orthodox attitude towards the authentic magisterium is one that is sorely neglected today. It is also conspicuous in its near absence by the lions share of supposedly faithful Catholics. As not much more needs to be said than that, I will end this section now and move on.

Part IV

On Matters of Ecclesiastical Discipline and Government

Because the present exposition has become longer than I intended, this section will be briefer than it could be. (For this same reason, the subject of magisterial interpretation has been dealt with elsewhere.) The position of the Church's Magisterium on matters of ecclesiastical discipline and government can be summed up in the writings of four popes -three of whom had pontificates in the decades prior to the Second Vatican Council. Without further ado:
[We cannot] pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that 'without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church's general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.' But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.{39}
Pope Pius IX did not have any patience with those who would claim to find some clever sophism for evading the judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See on matters of ecclesiastical discipline and government. Nor was he unique in this regard:
[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them... 
On this point what must be remembered is that in the government of the Church, except for the essential duties imposed on all Pontiffs by their apostolic office, each of them can adopt the attitude which he judges best according to times and circumstances. Of this he alone is the judge.{40}
Pope Leo XIII would not accept the argument that someone could choose to hold onto a past directive and shun his authority to loose it and bind another in its place. Instead, he viewed such actions as "not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them." His method was simple: when there were differing directives, the one to assent to is the present one while disregarding ones from the past. And in his encyclical published against Modernism, one of the tactics of the Modernists according to Pope Pius X was to "try in every way to diminish and weaken the authority of the ecclesiastical magisterium itself."{41}

As for how the Church has viewed these matters since the Second Vatican Council, consider these words from Pope Paul VI. They were published in the context of an encyclical treatment on the Church in general and dialogue in particular:
[T]he very exercise of authority becomes, in the context of this dialogue, an exercise of obedience, the obedient performance of a service, a ministry of truth and charity. By obedience We mean the observance of canonical regulations and respect for the government of lawful superiors, but an observance and respect readily and serenely given, as is only to be expected from free and loving children. 
By contrast, a spirit of independence, bitter criticism, defiance, and arrogance is far removed from that charity which nourishes and preserves the spirit of fellowship, harmony, and peace in the Church. It completely vitiates dialogue, turning it into argument, disagreement and dissension-a sad state of affairs, but by no means uncommon. St. Paul warned us against this when he said: "Let there be no schisms among you." (1 Cor 1. 10.){42}
And sadly, what Pope Paul VI wrote decades ago has become far too common today -including by folks who consider themselves Paragons of Faithfulness.

On What is Not Magisterial

It helps to remember at the outset of treating on this subject matter that "a simple sentence, even spoken by the Sovereign Pontiff, is not an act of the Magisterium; we know that all statements have different degrees of authority."{43} So those who conflate airplane interviews{44}, purported statements of non-dogmatic fact{45}, speeches on geopolitical matters{46}, or musings on economics particulars{47} are going outside what the Church requires. This also applies to those who make too much out of statements about historical events,{48} personal opinions on various subject matters from papal exhortatory comments,{49} as well as papal empirical surmises.{50} The following advice from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is very helpful in addressing these sorts of matters as well as other matters of the prudential order:
When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies. Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question.{51}
That "[n]ot all moral issues have the same moral weight"{52} and "[t]here may be a legitimate diversity of opinion"{53} in some areas peripheral to the Church's Magisterium has long been recognized. This applies to "matters in which without harm to faith or discipline...there is room for divergent opinions"{54} as well as other areas I previously mentioned.{55} But in the process, it is important to remember that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline."{56} This problem happens not infrequently with various pundits, agenda provocateurs, and apologists who in many cases run afoul of what the Church teaches on these matters.

As I have outlined in previous sections, there is no shortage of flagrant disobedience by supposedly orthodox Catholics who consider themselves Paragons of Faithfulness when it comes to showing "neglect of and even contempt for the Teaching Authority of the Church itself"{57} if not downright ignoring as Pope Pius XI wrote "the teaching authority of the Church...which is daily exercised through the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops who are in communion with him."{58} I include a section such as this one rather reluctantly for that reason but it is unfortunately a required antidote for certain presumptuous overly judgmental pundits, agenda provocateurs, and apologists who brazenly and ignorantly treat any disagreement with the popes whatsoever --no matter the subject or context-- as a matter of "dissent from the True Faith."{59} One can accurately assert that true faithfulness requires a generous and even one might say, habitual attitude of assent to the judgments and directives of the popes and those bishops who teach in communion with him.{60} But this requires balance and moderation and not the dressing up of one's particular subjective whims in cloaks of authority that they do not actually possess.

On Handling Personal Difficulties Versus Dissent

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in their Instruction Donum Veritatis provides the following advice for theologians in dialogue with the Magisterium on difficult issues:
In the dialogue, a two-fold rule should prevail. When there is a question of the communion of faith, the principle of the "unity of truth" (unitas veritatis) applies. When it is a question of differences which do not jeopardize this communion, the "unity of charity" (unitas caritatis) should be safeguarded.

Even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions. Respect for the truth as well as for the People of God requires this discretion (cf. Rom 14:1-15; 1 Cor 8; 10: 23-363 ). For the same reasons, the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression to them.

The preceding considerations have a particular application to the case of the theologian who might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him wellfounded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching.{61}
The above advice if followed by all Catholics with a presence in the public square would be of no small benefit to the Church at large. For as we have outlined in previous sections of this writing, the Church does not look kindly on those who engage in dissent. Referring again to the Instruction Donum Veritatis, here is what the CDF had to say{62} on the subject of dissent:
The Magisterium has drawn attention several times to the serious harm done to the community of the Church by attitudes of general opposition to Church teaching which even come to expression in organized groups. In his apostolic exhortation Paterna cum benevolentia, Paul VI offered a diagnosis of this problem which is still apropos. In particular, he addresses here that public opposition to the Magisterium of the Church also called "dissent", which must be distinguished from the situation of personal difficulties treated above. The phenomenon of dissent can have diverse forms. Its remote and proximate causes are multiple...

[A]rgumentation appealing to the obligation to follow one's own conscience cannot legitimate dissent. This is true, first of all, because conscience illumines the practical judgment about a decision to make, while here we are concerned with the truth of a doctrinal pronouncement...Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty. It is an act of moral judgement regarding a responsible choice. A right conscience is one duly illumined by faith and by the objective moral law and it presupposes, as well, the uprightness of the will in the pursuit of the true good.

The right conscience of the Catholic theologian presumes not only faith in the Word of God whose riches he must explore, but also love for the Church from whom he receives his mission, and respect for her divinely assisted Magisterium. Setting up a supreme magisterium of conscience in opposition to the magisterium of the Church means adopting a principle of free examination incompatible with the economy of Revelation and its transmission in the Church and thus also with a correct understanding of theology.{63}
To summarize the prior two sections in syllabus form: there is in the mind of the Church's Magisterium no right to dissent among faithful Catholics from magisterial teachings or ecclesiastical disciplinary directives. There are however other areas sometimes intertwined with these areas where there is a diversity of opinions allowed. Furthermore, there are Vatican approved ways of approaching personal difficulties individuals may have from time to time. There are often problems in accurately distinguishing between these areas. And unfortunately, few supposedly faithful Catholics do this correctly if they even concern themselves with these matters at all.


The problems outlined above have to varying degrees existed to an increasing extent in recent decades. However, they seem to have reached epidemic proportions during the current pontificate. And they have most notably subsisted among those who often had criticized it in the actions and statements of so-called liberals during prior pontificates. I diagnosed the problem among self proclaimed traditionalists in a previous writing and its general applicability to both them as well as presumptively conservative Catholics is quite apropos:
One of the problems that permeates "the diseased and rebellious mindset of not a few of the so-called 'traditionalist' wing of the Church"[...] is their general bitterness. This is one of several indications that their zeal is not genuine. True zeal and charity are intertwined[...] and habitual failure of some of these folks to manifest even the most rudimentary characteristics of charity[...] presents a strong probability that they are in the words of St. Paul "as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."{64}
It is my hope that what is written in this exposition can help folks in coming to grips with difficulties that they may come across from time to time to with greater ease navigate the variegated waters of magisterial matters. That way, if they are of good will, such folks will ultimately show as the Second Vatican Council says in one of its Dogmatic Constitutions a proper obedience with "religious submission of mind and the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will."{65}
"Those therefore who expose themselves to the grave danger of opposing the Church must seriously reflect that once 'Rome has spoken', they cannot carry on regardless, even for reasons of good faith." [Holy Office: Protocol Suprema Haec Sacra (circa August 8, 1949) in Denz. 3869-72]


{1} Catholic Encyclopedia: From the Article Obedience (circa 1913)

{2} Many more examples of quotes from saints on the subject of obedience can be found at this link from where the above examples were taken.

{3} Catholic Encyclopedia: From the Article Theological Definition (circa 1913)

{4} Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Note On Certain Pharisee Parallels Amongst the "More Faithful Than Thou" Crowd (circa March 21, 2019)

{5} Excerpt from the Writing Confusing Culture With 'Tradition' (circa April 20, 2001)

{6} Excerpt from the Writing Distinctions of Outlook (circa August 30, 2001)

{7} Excerpt from the Writing The 'Counter-Syllabus' Canard (circa November 15, 2001)

{8} Or at least did not seem do so with the degree of regularity that has become a pattern in recent years.

{9} This has to a certain extent become the defacto position of many who call themselves Traditional Catholics in recent decades to say nothing of not a few who consider themselves Progressive Catholics. It is also is one recently embraced by not a few who consider themselves Conservative Catholics, Faithful Catholics, or some similar delineation thereof.

{10} Pope Pius IX: Apostolic Letter Tuas Libenter (circa December 21, 1863)

{11} Pope Pius IX: Syllabus of Errors Condemned Proposition #22 (circa December 8, 1864)

{12} First Vatican Council: Excerpt from the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius §3,8 (circa April 24, 1870)

{13} The expression used in Dei Filius to refer to the extraordinary magisterium is that of a solemn judgment.

{14} Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Letter Humani Generis §20 (circa August 12, 1950)

{15} And not just on the matter of encyclical letters as Humani Generis had done.

{16} Second Vatican Council: Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium §25 (circa November 21, 1964)

{17} The sources above span from 1863 to 1964.

{18} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §23 (circa May 24, 1990)

{19} Circa January 9, 1989, See Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) 81

{20} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Excerpt from the Profession of Faith (circa July 15, 1988) as Posted to the Vatican's Website (circa May 18, 1998)

{21} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Excerpt from the Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formulary of the Professio Fidei §5 (circa June 29, 1998)

{22} Well, except for sedevacantist heretics who deny this dogma defined by the extraordinary magisterium at the First Vatican Council:
[I]f anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself ... that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole church...let him be anathema.
{23} One area where some of these folks have shown some straying from the orthodox Catholic position is in the area of canonization of saints -a subject I go over here in some detail:

On the Infallibility of Papal Canonization of Saints (circa May 7, 2019)

{24} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Mysterium Ecclesiae in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day §3 (circa June 24, 1973)

{25} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: From the Professio Fidei (circa January 6, 1989)

{26} And by logical extension, anyone of lesser rank than licensed theologians as well.

{27} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §23 (circa May 24, 1990)

{28} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: From the Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei §11 (circa June 29, 1998)

{29} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: From the Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei §11 (circa June 29, 1998). See also the material in footnote twenty-three.

{30} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: From the Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei §6 (circa June 29, 1998)

{31} "It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics...There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." [Pope Benedict XV: Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum  §24 (circa November 1, 1914)] 

{32} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Excerpt from the Profession of Faith (circa July 15, 1988) as Posted to the Vatican's Website (circa May 18, 1998)

{33} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §23 (circa May 24, 1990)

{34} Seriously, the sorts of examples used earlier in this writing could be indefinitely multiplied if I had used words from all the Doctors of the Church.

{35} Minus the footnotes which I excised from the text.

{36} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: From the Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei §10 (circa June 29, 1998)

{37} Incidentally, the same accusation made today by not a few so-called Traditionalist Catholics who are ignorant of how much they sound like the anti-Catholic William Gladstone!

{38} St. John Henry Cardinal Newman: On the Obedience Owed to the Pope From Rerum Novarum in the Points to Ponder Series (circa October 13, 2019)

{39} Pope Pius IX: Encyclical Letter Quanta Cura §5 (circa December 8, 1864) as Quoted in the Writing The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard (circa January 14, 2004)

{40} Pope Leo XIII: Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua (circa June 17, 1885) as Quoted in the Rerum Novarum Note On Correcting the Pretentions "Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church", Addressing Its Accusations, Etc. (circa May 14, 2019)

{41} Pope Pius X: Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis §42 (circa September 8, 1907) as Quoted in the Rerum Novarum Posting On the Controversy of Amoris Laetitia Amongst The More Faithful Than Thou Crowd (circa December 5, 2019)

{42} Pope Paul VI: Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam §115 (circa August 6, 1964) as Quoted in the Writing On the Intricacies of Dialogue - A Commentary (circa December 16, 2003)

{43} Cardinal Dario Castrillo Hoyos: Excerpt from his Letter to Bishop Bernard Fellay (circa April 5, 2002)

{44} While I would not necessarily dismiss the entirety of a papal plane interview, the off the cuff questions about various issues would inexorably result in far more material that would not fit the criteria of magisterial teaching than material which would.

{45} Except for non-dogmatic statements of fact. Some examples of purported statements of fact would be Pope John Paul II's statements in the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae that the Didache was "the most ancient non-Biblical writing" which is a matter of scholarly debate. Another example is the aforementioned pontiff's opinion in the same encyclical letter about the presumptive improvements (or lack thereof) of modern penal systems. A third example of a purported statement of fact is Pope Benedict XVI's claim in his encyclical letter Caritas et Veritate that prior to Pope John Paul II's anniversary commemoration of Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter Populorum Progressio that "[u]ntil that time, only Rerum Novarum had been commemorated in this way" when actually, Pope Pius XII in the encyclical letter Divino Afflante Spiritu had previously commemorated in the same manner Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter Providentissemus Deus.

{46} For example, Pope Gregory XVI's hostility towards non monarchial government forms and Pope Pius IX's support for the Confederacy in the American civil war and Catholics voting in Italian democratic elections. I could also mention Pope Pius X's position on the establishment of a nation of Israel or specifics pertaining to Pope Benedict XV's proposals for peace to end the First World War. Also worth noting here is any papal statements in a homily or speech about specific historical military tactics or the presumptive justness or lack thereof of any given war. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church "the evaluation of...conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good" (§CCC 2309) a reference which in context applies to "public authorities" (§CCC 2310,§CCC 2311). General moral and ethical principles are one thing, specific adaptations are another matter altogether. Whatever Spirit-led guidance is present in the former should not rashly be presumed to similarly pertain to the latter.

{47} Apart from the sorts of general moral and ethical principles which must inform any faithful Catholic's approach to economics matters of course.

{48} See the examples in footnotes forty-four, forty-five, and forty-six. Also worth noting are examples such as Pope Pius XI's statement "did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls?" in the encyclical letter Mortalium Animos. The early Church never had a conception of papal primacy that involved an overly centralized papal bureaucracy that sought to insert itself into an ever increasing number of minute matters. As that became the practice of the papacy in recent centuries; ergo, such errors of anachronism are hardly ones which can be used to compel any Catholic's assent. (The late Reverend Archimandrite Robert F. Taft SJ was far more accurate when he stated in his usual blunt fashion "[w]hat we’ve made out of the papacy is simply ridiculous. There’s no possible justification in the New Testament or anyplace else for what we’ve made out of the papacy.") A similar example could be noted in Mortalium Animos with its advocation of a theologically flawed and historically suspect ecumenism of return which while far from unique to it was also a problem in various writings of popes from Pope Leo XIII's Satis Cognitum to Pope John XXIII's Ad Petri Cathedram. (When addressing the subject of divisions amongst various Christian groups, most notably the Churches of the East.)

{49} What could be noted here are a number of examples insofar as they do not directly involve matters of faith and morals. I will only briefly point out two examples here. The first is Pope Pius XII's musings on the world of cinema in The Ideal Film. The second is Pope Paul VI's desire to prop up the western discipline of clerical celibacy by engaging in a seeming diminishment of eastern disciplines viz married priests in Sacerdotalis Caelibatus §38-41. These sorts of matters come up most notably and frequently in mediums such as homilies, speeches, and ordinary letters.

{50} Such as Pope Francis' claims about the supposedly very solid scientific consensus on matters of the nebulously labeled climate change environmental issue in Laudato Si and various corollary issues pertaining to it respectively.

{51} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §24 (circa May 24, 1990)

{52} Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: From his Memorandum Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion -General Principles (circa July 2004)

{53} Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: From his Memorandum Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion -General Principles (circa July 2004)

{54} Pope Benedict XV: Excerpt from his Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum §23 (circa November 1, 1914)

{55} See footnotes forty-four through fifty and the parts of the text above to which they refer.

{56} Pope Benedict XV: Excerpt from his Encyclical Letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum §23 (circa November 1, 1914)

{57} Pope Pius XII: Excerpt from his Encyclical Letter Humani Generis §18 (circa August 12, 1950)

{58} Pope Pius XI: Excerpt from his Encyclical Letter Mortalium Animos §9 (circa January 6, 1928)

{59} "There is no small problem with those who approach magisterial texts with the same lack of discernment as fundamentalists do with the Bible." [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Posting On Veritatis Splendor, Gaudium et Spes, and Intrinsic Evil (circa July 27, 2019)]

{60} "They are easily aroused to eager enthusiasm for the highest ideals, but it is most important that they learn prudence, self-restraint, and obedience to authority." [Pope John XXIII: Encyclical Letter Ad Petri Cathedram §123 (circa June 29, 1959)]

{61} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §26-28 (circa May 24, 1990)

{62} I removed the footnotes from the text.

{63} Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction Donum Veritatis on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian §32,§38 (circa May 24, 1990)

{64} Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Posting On the Controversy of Amoris Laetitia Amongst The More Faithful Than Thou Crowd (circa December 5, 2019)

{65} Second Vatican Council: Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium §25 (circa November 21, 1964)