Saturday, July 05, 2003

SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops:
(Part V of V)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of the thread, please go HERE.

The following is a largely verbatim piece of material from a rather lengthy multi-topic thread located HERE. Additional material added specifically for this response will be in brackets.

What is noted below applies to all Catholics in principle. So I ask that the reader not presume that though it was originally pertaining to "trads" that somehow it only applies to them.


Liceity is a moveable feast. If the Vatican declares that kneeling for communion is illicit, it is illicit.{1} But this has not to my knowledge happened.

Frankly, recipients should receive in accordance with the particular custom of the church they are attending mass at: if it is standing then receive standing (with an appropriate gesture of reverence). If it is kneeling then receive kneeling.

I realize there are people who kneel when everyone else is standing but this really does not promote any greater reverence. Instead, it is the individual drawing attention to themselves which is akin to the Pharisees "widening their phylacteries and enlarging their tassels" in order to be "seen by men" (cf. Matthew xxiii,5).

It is also true that those who do this think they are being more reverent. However, this is not true at all. Instead, they are falling for the secret sin of pride.{2}

To deliberately go against the manner whereby the particular church administers the sacrament viz standing or kneeling is a sign of hidden pride and manifested spiritual immaturity. As I note in my treatise refuting false "traditionalism", spiritual immaturity is at the root of so much of the problems with their faith weltanschauung.


{1} Much as the Vatican declared in the Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum of 1570 that the usage of any missal except the Roman Missal in dioceses where there was less than a two hundred year old continuous usage was illicit. I am sure there were not a few prelates who insulted Pope St. Pius V for this legislation and indeed who "resisted to the face" its implementation. Whatever their personal opinions were, they were as out of line opposing Pius V as the self-styled "traditionalists" are opposing the Second Vatican Council and the authority of the post Pius XII popes.

[To quote Pope Pius XII on appealing to custom over and against decrees of the ecclesial magisterium:

"We are aware that those who thus belittle obedience in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have unrighteously assumed, defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise. In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying."{Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Letter Ad Apostolorum Principis §43 (c. 1958)}]

{2} Likewise this is the case for the one who in a church where they administer communion kneeling and on the tongue who stands by the rail and extends their hands to receive. In both cases the principle is the same.

[For more reading on the subject of traditional obedience, click HERE.]

[Update: In light of a preliminary clarification on this thread by SAM - who has not yet responded to this thread in any detail - a clarification was made which helps in contextualizing the letter I was responding to. This clarification can be read HERE. - ISM (7/6/03 2:20 pm)]

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SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops:
(Part IV of V)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of the thread, please go HERE.

The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that kneeling Catholics are disobeying the direct instructions of the Vatican. That is calumnious.


The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that kneeling Catholics are disregarding the personal preference of the Bishop, and doing so in a climate (which its own pages have intentionally created) where that can only bring obloquy and odium to them. That is detracting.

Again, I concur with you.

The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that Catholics kneel because we have unworthy motives of rebellion and antipathy for Catholicism. That is suspicion.

I agree again.

I'm sure this scandalous cruelty stems (like all cruelty) from what are thought to be the highest and purest motives, and that the editors would be upset to think they're intentionally driving Catholics out of their parishes in tears (which has, in fact, happened) and provoking animosity and spitefulness between Catholics and their priests (which has, in fact, occurred). But that doesn't make it right, or even sane.

I agree. Few things are more disappointing to me than those who seem to presume the worst motives in others. This is a problem of epidemic proportions in the church today. Is it any wonder that there is so much strife??? And will anyone dare claim that this is not a direct byproduct of such serial suspicion and uncharitable attitudes taken towards others who may not agree with us???

If a campaign to encourage perceptions of schism, heresy, and betrayal is warranted, then surely it is warranted regarding a host of subjects about which the Diocsean Paper has remained oddly and timidly silent.

Indeed. They have a strange way of picking their targets.

There are Catholic politicians in this Diocese who support abortion on demand and receive communion regularly.

There are Catholics in this Diocese who regularly commune despite having divorced and remarried without recourse to the Church's annulment tribunal.

There are Catholics in this Diocese who use contraception and provide it to their children, and there are Catholics in this Diocese who openly condone homosexuality.

All of which is sadly true.

As far as one can tell from the Diocesan Paper's silence, a Catholic who does these things need not fear for his reputation, because he uses a politically-correct posture to "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." (1 Cor. 11:29).

I will not judge the internal forum of anyone (nor I am sure would you). But in light of what is tacitly passed over compared to what is focused on, there are no shortage of "blind guides who strain out the gnat but swallow the camel" (Matthew xxiii,24) - as you detail well above.

I am put in mind of what Julia told Winston in 1984 -- so long as you keep the little rules, you can break all the big ones. That seems to be the Diocesan Paper's editorial priority as well -- who cares if you put your fourteen-year-old daugher on the pill, so long as you keep her from kneeling to receive communion!

Or to paraphrase another Orwell classic Animal Farm: "all rules are equal. But some are more equal than others."

And isn't it doubly-odd to imagine a fourteen-year-old girl who kneels to receive communion being on the pill to avoid getting pregnant by her fifteen-year-old boyfriends?

I would not make the presumption that kneeling to receive communion would mitigate against what you have noted. I know of some fellow parishoners at SSPX who knelt to receive communion yet who went on to have children out of wedlock. Likewise, there were actually some modernists who preferred the Tridentine liturgy for aesthetic reasons over the Pauline liturgy. One should never consider any liturgy - or form of communion reception - to be a bulwark against error in and of itself. As long as there are flawed people in the equation, no law however sacred is safe from being contravened.

A good way to sum this thought up is with the words of the late French Premier George Clemenceau. The latter noted at Versalles in 1918 when discussion of the Armistace was being worked out that God has given us ten commandments and we have broken every single one of them. Now [President Woodrow] Wilson gives us his fourteen points...we shall see... The same principle applies here.

If you ask me, there's a question far more worthy of the Diocesan Paper's resources than its present affection for twine-and-chewing-gum arguments about the heresy of people who want to immitate St. Padre Pio and kneel whenever God appears.

I agree with you SAM but of course there is also the issue of obedience to lawful authority. I went over the subject of traditional obedience in a recent weblog series and will not reiterate it here. However, it is important to note that disobedience is disobedience even if what we are talking about is in terms of gravity of malice the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

I will end this with a quote from an earlier Rerum Novarum entry on the subject of liceity and the entire "kneel or not kneel" subject. Click on the appendix link below for the final installment of this thread.

To go to the Appendix, click HERE

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SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops:
(Part III of V)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of the thread, please go HERE.

I don't have to obey the Bishops' perceptions of what Catholics do at Mass any more than I have to obey their perceptions of where Catholics eat breakfast after Mass.

It is true that nothing the bishops say about what you eat for breakfast. However, you are in danger of context-switching here in equating what the bishops legislate for liturgical norms and what you eat for breakfast. There is more to this than a mere "perception" as you have opined.

Indeed to take the approach you are advocating would mean that the supreme authority and jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop is functionally made into a doctrine without any meaning whatsoever. What is the point of teaching that bishops have supreme authority and jurisdiction if we can ignore at our own whim their directives and judgments pertaining to matters of faith and morals???

Just because the Holy See did not forbid kneeling in the GIRM does not mean that a local ordinary cannot prescribe a standing posture for communion. The USCCB of course does not have authority by divine right to do this but the individual bishops do. Hence, while the USCCB's prescriptions are not binding on the bishops, if the bishops implement them in their dioceses, the faithful are expected to comply to the extent that this is at all feasible to do.

Obviously there are extraordinary situations that make for possible suspension of the norm but we cannot criticize liberal liturgists for making exceptions into norms and then do the same thing ourselves. Consistency is called for however inconvenient it is for what we may personally want. And besides, there is much more to this than procedure but indeed the principle is closely joined to doctrine. I will try to briefly touch on this so that the connection is easier to spot.

One of the criticisms of Pope St. Pius X against the modernists is that their policies emptied a dogma of its meaning. To quote the Encyclical Pascendi "[t]he formulas which we call dogma must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. Here we have an immense structure of sophisms which ruin and wreck all religion. Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and clearly flows from their principles" (Pascendi §12-13 c. 1907).

This same principle outlined by His Holiness above applies to doctrine as well as dogma. And while there is no dogma on the supreme authority of bishops, it is a doctrine constantly taught and was forcefully reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council in a Dogmatic Constitution. Hence, it is just as infallible as a dogma of faith.

In contrast, any custom of more than thirty years' duration among the faithful capable of receiving a law, which is approved by a competent legislator can then have the force of law. Codex Iuris Canonici, Can. 23-27.

Correct. But that is thirty years continuous usage. And if the legislator interrupts that with another implementation, the thirty years starts again from ground zero. Thus, this new GIRM will not to my knowledge allow for a recourse to immemorial custom for at least thirty years from implementation. And while not fully phased in yet, as I understand it, the thirty years will be calculated from 2000 as that was when the IGMR in Latin typical edition was promulgated by the Pope.

Catholics were kneeling at Mass before 1973, and the CDWDS has approved the custom as "completely appropriate" for the celebration of Mass.

Yes but there are issues of papal edicts after Trent which in essence abrogated all contrary customs except those specifically enumerated in Quo Primum. As the latter was either abrogated or obrogated depending on which credible canonist you ask, the functional effect is the same. Thus I am not sure that one can appeal to four centuries of kneeling as a universal practice in the Church since custom was replaced by papal law.

The GIRM for the First Typical Edition of the Roman Missal as revised by decree of the Second Vatican Council was dated 1970. The Second Typical Edition of the Missal - with revised GIRM - was promulgated in 1975. This will be the Third Typical Edition which will soon be promulgated for use in the universal church. Each promulgation as I understand it wipes the slate of any accruing of years to induce a contrary custom.

I'm not a canon lawyer by any means, nor a "liturgist," but I am a betting man and I'd wager on kneeling being a custom with the force of law before I put money on ¶ 160's "norm" really meaning "a command binding on pain of (even venial) sin."

I will ask Pete if he can comment on this since he is a licensed canonist and you and I are not.

I must say I've been astounded by the Diocesan Paper's public campaign encouraging Catholics in this Diocese to regard their kneeling brothers and sisters as schismatics, heretics, and betrayers of the faith. Calumny, detraction, and suspicion are not things one expects to find in a Diocesan newspaper.

I concur with you SAM. There is nothing heretical about kneeling for communion nor is there anything per se schismatic. This does not mean that one should do it of course if this is contrary to prevailing custom but people who make these kinds of wild accusations about others are not to be suffered lightly. We cannot be critical of "trads" who do this and then allow others to do the same thing. Such is wrong regardless of who does it.

I have gone over the subject and definition of suspicion before and will not reiterate it here. Schism involves a rebellious or obstinate refusal to comply with ecclesiastical authority when the latter governs by divine right.

Most who kneel for communion I would argue do not intend to be disobedient. And of course for those who are attending mass in a church where the prevailing custom is to kneel, they would be obedient to prevailing custom. I will explain this in detail later in the thread but in brief: there is nothing to commend for those who would make the kind of outrageous and uncharitable statements that the diocesan paper you referred to made.

To be Continued...

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SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops:
(Part II of V)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE.

I'm not sure I can agree with your statement that kneeling to receive communion is "illicit."

I agree with you here SAM. (It is not illicit to receive kneeling.)

Recall that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ("CDWDS") is the body with final authority over the GIRM and its US adaptations. Even in light of ¶ 43 of the US-GIRM, Bishop X's authority to prefer one posture over another is subject to the CDWDS' ruling.

The CDWDS merely said that it was not forbidden to kneel. That does not mean that kneeling is therefore something that should be encouraged. As St. Paul noted once "[a]ll things are lawful but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful but not all things edify" (1 Cor. x,23). In the liturgical context one could paraphrase this as "all that is lawful is not expedient. All that is lawful does not edify." I will explain why those who go against prevailing customs are not edifying others later on in this thread. In the meantime, let us return to The Secret One's note.

The CDWDS has vigorously condemned the practice (which has occurred in this Diocese) of refusing communion to kneeling Catholics. In its condemnation, the Congregation said:

In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species. -- Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Protocol #1322/02/L, 1 July 2002. The text may be found at this link.

As there is not a prohibition on kneeling from the Holy See, it would not be right to refuse communion to someone who did kneel to receive it. But lest that appear to be a tacit approval by myself for contravening prevailing custom, I will explain my position in more detail later on in this thread.

How can kneeling be "completely appropriate" and "illicit"?

Good question.

Given the fact that Bishop X's actions under ¶43 (as well as the USCCB's actions under ¶ 160) are nothing more than the exercise of personal or local preferences under an authority which itself expressly requires bishops to recognize kneeling as "completely appropriate," I think the word "illicit" is well-nigh calumny, although I know you don't intend it that way.

I would agree with this. Illicit means unlawful. There is no prohibition on kneeling to my knowledge. Hence, the term "illicit" is not appropriate to use here.

I also think that ¶ 160 doesn't lay down any rule at all. It says that the "norm" for the reception of communion is standing. What is a "norm"? It is a thing which may be frequent, or required, or both.

A "norm" means in essence "standard procedure" if you will. (Or what is authorized to be used.) Much as receiving water baptism is a norm for one who wants to be saved. Norms of course can admit of exceptions but one of the problems we have today is people trying to elevate exceptions into the rule.

It is the "norm" for drivers in the United States to exceed the speed limit, but it is not the "norm" that they be required to do so.

I presume SAM means "not to exceed the speed limit." And of course one who does exceed the speed limit will normally - if caught - receive a ticket. However, if one is rushing to a hospital with a pregnant woman, the police will actually provide an escort oftentimes. Again, a norm "do not speed" that admits of an exception.

It is the "norm" for Catholics to avoid contraception, but as all the polls tell us, eschewing contraception is not the "norm" among American Catholics.

I am afraid this example runs the risk of blurring the distinction between ancillaries and primaries. The Church teaches that artificial forms of contraception are always gravely illicit because they are intrinsically opposed to what has traditionally been called "the natural law." They cannot for that reason be made licit.

However, communion posture is not remotely in the same category in that liceity is a movable feast in this regard to some extent. It falls under the realm of regulating the application of the divine law - a principle explicitly recognized by the Council of Trent. To quote from Session XXI which dealt with the Doctrine on the Most Holy Eucharist:

The power of the Church as regards the dispensation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. [The Sacred Council] furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, (l) it may ordain, or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places."

This principle applies to all matters of discipline and government. And thus it also applies to communion posture.

Is the word a perception, or a command?

A norm is something that people are expected to do.

As the CDWDS has already said, it is not a command. Therefore it is a perception.

A norm is an expectation. It is set down to be followed and should be barring unusual or extraordinary circumstances. (For example, someone in a wheelchair would not have to stand for communion if that was standard protocol.) Having noted that, it will require at least two more installments to finish this thread - possibly three with current Blogger space constraints so I will conclude this part now.

To be Continued...

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SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops:
(Part I of V)

It has been a long while since The Secret One and I have sparred on a subject. I received the following from him in a circular email. As this is a good subject and as he argues his points persuasively (as usual), it seemed good to me to blog and interact with the email. His words will be in black font and his sources will be in fire coloured font.

Oh, lest I forget, this response of The Secret One was not a response written to me but to someone else. The party being responded to was taking some very stringent positions on communion posture. My intention here is to prevent overreach on the part of my friend in trying to draw his adversary away from their error. As for myself, my position on this issue has been articulated not a few times before. I will take this opportunity to restate it again with more detail than previous blog treatments on this issue have contained. (To thereby provide more support for why I take the position I do.) But without any further ado, let us get to it.

Bishop X is wrong when he says the GIRM requires standing during communion, and wrong when he says that to the Diocese in the Diocesan Paper. In view of ¶ 43 of the 2000 US-GIRM, I don't understand how that mistake could be made. Even the 1974 US-GIRM was interpreted by the Vatican to make standing during communion optional:

"Thus it [standing] is a matter of option, not obligation." Notitiae 10 (1974) 407.

I think it is important to recognize what the liturgical intentions of the Vatican have been since the Second Vatican Council. In essence there are two threads here that need to be considered. The first is the Holy See retaining control of the liturgical celebration following in the footsteps of the liturgical reform after the Council of Trent. The second is to return the liturgy to the regulation of the local ordinary where it properly belongs. The former is properly understood as of a macro nature, the latter of a much more micro one.

Bishop Bruskewitz posed our question about the new GIRM adaptations to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

Query: Is it the case that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by no. 43 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, [the new 2000 GIRM] intends to prohibit the faithful from kneeling after the Agnus Dei and following reception of Communion?

Response: Negative.-- Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Prot. 2372/00/L, 7 November 2000.

This is correct, there is no prohibition on kneeling.

No one can truly say that the GIRM requires, or that it is even intended to require, the faithful to stand during communion. What the GIRM intends to do, at best, is to consign standing during communion to the personal preference of the Bishop.

Correct. The GIRM is an international governance of the liturgy. Depending on the circumstances, the Holy See wanted to leave this to the judgment of the local ordinary who has supreme direction of the liturgy in his own right in communion with the Holy See. By noting that kneeling was not "forbidden", this would leave the door open for either posture to be recommended at the discretion of the bishop.

That makes the relevance of "obedience" very hazy and uncertain, since Catholics aren't under a moral obligation to conform themselves to the personal preferences of their Bishop. We don't have to drive the same car he does, like the same television shows he does, etc. Certainly posture during Holy Communion is a much more serious matter, but that only means the USCCB's amendments aren't treating the subject as seriously as it deserves, and who owes obedience in that context?

I will get to this in a moment. First though, the USCCB is an administrative entity that can make suggestions but they are not part of the divine constitution of the Church. The latter recognizes the office of bishop and the jurisdiction that a bishop has in his dioceses. The Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary defines this as follows:

Bishops, Jurisdiction of. Bishops are the successors of the Apostles and by divine institution rule their dioceses with ordinary power under the authority of the pope. They have legislative, juridical, and executive power...[A] bishop can enact those laws which he considers for the good of his dioceses and he is a judge in the first instance in all ecclesiastical trials; he can punish lay people with censures and clerics by deprivation of offices or censures (qv). He has supreme direction of the clergy, the conduct of divine worship, administration of ecclesiastical property, building of churches, etc.[Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary: Donald Attwater General Editor, tenth edition, pg. 62 (c. 1941)]

In short, the local ordinary possessing the authority to regulate "the conduct of divine worship" would have this authority to the extent that the Holy See allows it. And the practice of the Holy See in the past forty odd years has been to allow the local ordinary to legislate in micro matters as they see fit within due limits. These due limits are specified in the GIRM of 2000 which as of fall will to my knowledge be fully implemented. (Right now they are phasing it in.)

Appeals to the Bishop's authority as "chief liturgist" is self-referential silliness, in my view, since "liturgists" are simply administrative functionaries whose purpose is to facilitate the observation of the rite per the GIRM. In light of ¶ 43 of the US-GIRM, saying the Bishop is "chief liturgist" is merely saying he's chiefly responsible for determining his personal preference about posture for communion.

Not exactly. The term is intended to convey the truth I noted above about the bishop's authority in liturgical matters trumping that of priests and other self-proclaimed "experts" in the dioceses. I think the attempt to speak "liturgeze" in the US GIRM amendments is pretty weak but nonetheless the intention is not to place the bishop in the same lot as the "liturgist." Indeed regulation of the divine worship is the competence of the Holy See and the diocesan bishop. No one else is authorized to do this at all pace the sophisms of so-called "liturgists" who have long illicitly usurped this faculty for themselves.

To be Continued...

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Hmmmmmmmm, I would have banked on being "Wolverine". Oh well...

You are Beast!

You are brilliant and extremely clever. You can handle almost any problem swiftly and efficiently. You are devoted to philosophy and are always up for a good discussion. Sometimes, though, your anger gets the best of you and you upset those whom you care about.

Which X-Men character are you most like?
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In scanning the weblog of my friend Stephen Hand, he had a portion from a May 9, 2003 edition of the National Catholic Distorter Reporter which pertained to a recent lecture on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian. Here is the entry in full:

Dominican Fr. Augustine Di Noia, under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave an important lecture on "the ecclesial vocation of the theologian" at Rome's Lay Centre on Thursday, May 8. Di Noia, an American, is a distinguished intellectual (he holds a Ph.D. from Yale) and the former chief of staff for the doctrinal committee of the U.S. bishops conference, so his views would be of interest in any case. As a key Vatican policy-maker, however, what he had to say is obviously of special interest.

At the same time, it should be noted that Di Noia was careful to present his reflections as a "personal vision" representing merely "what I think at this point in my life."

The CDF issued a formal document on "the ecclesial vocation of the theologian" in 1990, and Di Noia’s lecture covered some of the same ground.

Pay very close attention traddies and so-called "progressivists"...

Di Noia argued that the post-Vatican II, post-Humanae Vitae idea of a "dissenting theologian," meaning a theologian who sees himself or herself as a kind of "loyal opposition" with respect to church authorities, is unprecedented in the history of Christianity. The theologians who were his teachers, he said, might have disagreed with one or another pronouncement of the magisterium, but the idea of systematic and public dissent was "unimaginable."

Di Noia argued that a "kind of mythology" has grown up since Humanae Vitae that reads back the idea of theological dissent into previous eras.

"One sometimes hears absurd discussions of Aquinas as a dissenting theologian himself, suggesting that if Aquinas could be thought to be heterodox by the theologians of the University of Paris, then somehow I could still be vindicated," Di Noia said. "This is a deeply distorted reading of the history of reactions to the introduction of Aristotle in 13th century Paris."

Are you still paying attention pseudo-"traditionalists" and pseudo-"progressives"???

Di Noia said that the classic understanding of theology took revelation – all of it – as its starting point, and sought to discover its underlying intelligibility. The system was premised on a great confidence in the capacity of the human mind to grasp the truth in divine action. Today, he said, theologians tend to emphasize rationality rather than intelligibility, subtracting items from revelation that don't seem reasonable to them. By that standard, Di Noia said by way of example, some deny the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

In this context, Di Noia cautioned against a particular reading of the idea of a "hierarchy of truths," found in Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism. This idea is not meant to establish an "A list" and "B list" of doctrines, the second of which can be freely contested or disbelieved, Di Noia said. It was intended to show how the whole doctrinal system hangs together, illustrating how secondary doctrines depend upon core ideas such as the Trinity.

Di Noia called for an effort to revitalize the classical understanding, while at the same time recognizing that "we can't blink our eyes and pretend that modernity never occurred."

Among the factors that dissolved the classical understanding, Di Noia said, are nominalism, positive theology, specialization, a transformed relationship with the sources of theology under the impact of historical-critical method, the collapse of the Catholic theological synthesis, disagreement over the interpretation of Vatican II, and the phenomenon of dissenting theologians.

One intriguing moment came when Di Noia suggested that the emphasis on whether or not a doctrine is "infallible" that followed the First Vatican Council has in some ways placed the accent on the authority of a teaching rather than its truth. He said that when the New York Times called him upon the release of the papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae to ask if it was infallible, he responded that this was "the least interesting question to ask.

"The better question is, is it true?" he said.

In the end, he said, the role of Church authorities is to establish the rules of the game. "In the classical understanding, the definition of a doctrine did not set up blocks, but it created a space in which something could happen," Di Noia said.

"It seems to me this is a more helpful way to think about the magisterium, even when it has to be critical of the work of a given theologian," he said.

The temptation to say to critics "see, I told you so" on virtually all of the points covered above will be resisted...

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

"The Framers Know Best" Dept.

It seems with the stupidity coming from the highest court in the land on what is and is not a "constitutional right" that we need to consider the "general norms of interpretation." And no, this time I am actually not referring to theology or canon law with that expression. Instead, I refer to the papers that outline what the Framers actually thought about what should go into the very Constitution that we now have. If the Framers do not show any recognition of a supposed "right" then it is a lie to assert that the Constitution actually contains that "right" - whatever it happens to be.

I will quote other Framers from the Federalist Papers but right now I want to focus on Alexander Hamilton. {1} Here are a couple of excerpts for musing from Mr. Hamilton on the Judiciary. I quote from Federalist #78:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.

The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated.

The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like.

Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.

Some perplexity respecting the rights of the courts to pronounce legislative acts void, because contrary to the Constitution, has arisen from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power.

It is urged that the authority which can declare the acts of another void, must necessarily be superior to the one whose acts may be declared void. As this doctrine is of great importance in all the American constitutions, a brief discussion of the ground on which it rests cannot be unacceptable.

There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid. ...

Though I trust the friends of the proposed Constitution will never concur with its enemies, in questioning that fundamental principle of republican government, which admits the right of the people to alter or abolish the established Constitution, whenever they find it inconsistent with their happiness, yet it is not to be inferred from this principle, that the representatives of the people, whenever a momentary inclination happens to lay hold of a majority of their constituents, incompatible with the provisions in the existing Constitution, would, on that account, be justifiable in a violation of those provisions; or that the courts would be under a greater obligation to connive at infractions in this shape, than when they had proceeded wholly from the cabals of the representative body.

Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the established form, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually; and no presumption, or even knowledge, of their sentiments, can warrant their representatives in a departure from it, prior to such an act.

Let me see, it would seem according to Alexander Hamilton the Framer that if the Constitution is supposed to be limited by its nature that one cannot logically presume that whatever is not mentioned by the Constitution as a right is therefore sanctioned as one. Further still, without a solemn act of authority to annul or amend the Constitution, it remains binding on the people collectively as well as individually.

In short, [t]he Constitution is a written instrument. As such, its meaning does not alter. That which it meant when it was adopted, it means now.{2} It is worth noting how the Court's view of the Constitution has changed over time - and not for the better I might add.


{1} And no, the reason I started with Alexander Hamilton is not simply because - according to the Founding Father Quiz - I most resemble him amongst the Founding Fathers.

{2} South Carolina v. United States, 199 U.S. 437, 448 (1905)

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Monday, June 30, 2003

"Empty Spaces" Dept.

Whaaat shaaall we uuuse...
To filllll...the emp-ty...
spa-ces...where...we used to taaaalk?
Howwww...shall I fillll...the
Howwww shall the wall?

This post originally comprised the seventh part of a series referred to as "Palm Desert" Dept. However, it came to my attention that in formatting that series I had a good amount of overlap in two of the sections material-wise. In making the necessary adjustments, the series was shortened to six parts and can be read in its entirety HERE.

Thus, there is an empty space here now to fill. I will do so with an advertisement for my good friend Dave Armstrong's books. Click HERE for details. If you mentally replace the references to Christmas with "post Fourth of July" or some other equivalent, everything else falls into place nicely.

[Posted 7/5/03]


Some More Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist'
(Part II of II)

This is a continuation of sort from the thread located read HERE. If interested, you can go HERE to start from the very beginning of this sequence.

[This final section is basically a summation of the preceding parts of the thread with some points for pondering thrown in for the benefit of those who are sympathetic with the positions espoused by David Smith - ISM]

What is supposed to be so "beneficial" about the "trad" solutions to the problems??? I frankly see nothing whatsoever that benefits the Church as a whole. Now if their ideas{1} were proposed as one charism within the Church - and indeed there are apostolates which do just that - there would be of course be no viable objections that could be raised. However, it is very clear with most of them that there is not concern for the universal church in reality.

It is instead an attempt to impose their own whims onto the populace exactly as certain unsavoury elements of the neo-modernist "we are church" types try to do. This is not the mark of spiritual maturity but instead it is spiritual immaturity. It is as my good friend Dr. Art Sippo has noted, a refusal to embrace the Dark Night and be purged of our sensual desire for consolations so that we may follow God by faith, in hope and through love without the need to be affirmed beyond our trust in Him. That is the crux of the issue really.

I have run various spiritual instruction threads on the subjects of spiritual direction, a two part series on zeal, a seven part series on prayer (which spanned a few months) all from an eighteenth century spiritual manual. I did this because they all highlight in spades how the so-called "traditionalists" are so far afield of true Traditionalism that it is not even funny. For the same reason, I recently ran a fourteen part series on traditional obedience.

The primary contributors to the instruction on traditional obedience were the so-called "liberal" Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, the so-called "conservative" Pope St. Pius X, and the Dominican Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Siena. The verdict of course is that these are all areas where the "trads" have a near-complete disconnect with what could be properly styled as Traditional. There is also the element of spiritual maturity and the true Traditionalist is spiritually mature - or at least on their way there - and not spiritually immature. Let me touch briefly on this subject as it is of crucial importance.

You see, the first mark of Traditionalism (properly so-called) is that the welfare of the Church is what is important, not individual whims. This is why the "trads" are so untraditional: they promote such things as the Tridentine liturgy for selfish interests and yearnings for spiritual sweetness. They claim it is for the "good of the Church" but then have to face the fact that most people do not want what they are peddling - at least not in the manner they peddle it.

If pressed, they will prove that it is for soothing their own psyches more than any actual concern for the Church. (I have noticed this to some degree even in the responses of many of those whom I would consider authentically Traditional and whose sincerity I do not question.) They fall to varying degrees into the very traps that St. John of the Cross outlines in his Dark Night treatise on the spiritual journey to God. Are there ways of mitigating this and at the same time retaining many of the key elements of the "trad" agenda??? Yes there are. But one of them involves a degree of sacrifice that many (such as Albert) are unwilling to make.

For Traditional Catholicism properly practiced takes into account the welfare of the entire Church and places individual wants in sacrifice on the altar of the common good. To quote from the Rule of St. Augustine as observed by the Dominican Order:

[W]hen we find it written of charity, that she "seeks not her own," we should thus interpret the words, namely, that the common good is to be preferred to our own selfish interests, and not our own interests to the common good. Judge, therefore, your progress by this rule: whether or not you more and more prefer the welfare of the community to your own private interests, so that in all the needs of this life which pass away that charity may reign which abides forever. [The Rule of St. Augustine used by the Order of Preachers]

I have almost never seen examples of "trad" theorizing that is not integrally of selfish import - whether its propagators are aware of it or not. This does not mean that there is none of course; only that it is as rare as water in a desert to find it. And even those apostolates which are legitimate expressions often have those who if not for such arrangements would probably no longer be in the Church at all. Thus, it is clearly not because of spiritual maturity that these apostolates are endorsed by such individuals. But this response is already overlong so I will leave it at that point as there is ample material here for spiritual reflection.


{1} Referring to liturgical and devotional but also those areas of discipline which were not contrary to currently prescribed forms. (Along with theological speculation that was not contrary to teachings of the Magisterium.)

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Some More Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist' :
(Part I of II)

This is a continuation of sort from the thread located read HERE. If interested, you can go HERE to start from the very beginning of this sequence.

How about the issue of contraception, once again threatening the Church because of the invention of the Pill. Did the Council address this issue?

Actually, yes this was addressed. The Fathers withdrew the subject from the Council for Pope Paul to pronounce on later. However, the teaching of the Council was clear:

[Members] of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. [Gaudium et Spes §51]

This is footnoted with references to Casti Connubi, Pius XII's October 29, 1951 Allocution to Italian Midwives, and Paul VI's Allocution of June 23, 1964. The teaching of the Church at this point was not a mystery and that the status quo was being maintained until further notice was made clear. Anyone with half a brain in their heads knew what the Church's position on that point was.

The subject of dispute was the new technology of the Pill, not the other methods of birth prevention which had been proscribed by Pope Pius XI in his Encyclical Letter Casti Connubi. The fact that Pope Paul insisted on this encyclical being footnoted in the relevant part of the text should have made it clear that the teachings of Pius XI and Pius XII were retained by the Council.

Furthermore, as the Pill was subsequent to Pius XI and Pius XII - and further since it was different concept-wise from anything previously addressed by the Church's Magisterium - it would require a separate judgment and the Council decided to remit this judgment to the Pope later on.

How about Communism?

I dealt with this subject HERE in a discussion with Albert. Communism was adequately and meticulously dealt with in the sense that all the principles of communism that were foreign to the Gospel were exposed and rejected. (And all the "wheat" of the principle was retained.)

What about the issue of the Chinese Church?

Pope Pius XII had issued Ad Apostolorum Principis in 1958 to deal with the Chinese Church. The Second Vatican Council's agenda was universal and not of a provincial nature. And besides, the principles that the Council would develop - particularly with regards to religious liberty - would be of a benefit to all those under totalitarian regimes in providing a consistent rationale for the right of religious expression free of the blatant contradictions and hypocrisy of the Roman school formularies on this subject.

Saying historically that problems persist for 40 to 60 years after a Council has sought to address them is evading the issue.

Not at all. It is admitting to a historical reality that is too often whitewashed in the circles of so-called "traditionalists" such as youself.


I have addressed this prevarication on your part many times in my writings an also in this response. Only the willfully ignorant can miss it. For more missteps from a fellow list participant (not Albert), see this link.

Moreover there is not the slightest indication that the Church's problems are going to go away in 2 or even 20 years.

For those with their heads buried in the sand, sure. But for those with eyes to see, it is clear that about twenty years ago the Church had her Stalingrad if you will.{1} In the past decade plus there have been a return of the numbers of people reverting to the Church or being received into full communion either by baptism or conversion. Last year there were over 200,000 in America alone. And increasing rates have been the trend in recent years.

Now one could argue that in light of how far things fell, that there is a lot of catching up still to do. Of this I would not disagree. But to promote a return to the policies of neglect that rotted out the trunk to begin with is not the best way to insure long-term viability of the Church.

Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that there is equal blame to be placed on the shoulders of those who shirked for too long at confronting modernity as there was in those who in seeking to come to grips with it went off the rails. Of course with the so-called "traditionalists" they never seem to want to accept what their policies of "Fortress Catholicism" did to weaken the Church internally.

For indeed if the Church was as sound as many of them would claim it was, the situation would not have deteriorated in the aftermath of the Council as quickly as it did. But this is a subject for another time perhaps. What is of greater importance is not bemoaning what has happened but considering what the best way of dealing with it is and doing this in as objective of a way as possible.

I will go over this in the next installment.

To be Continued...


{1} From that point onward, like the Russians slowly pushing the Germans back to Berlin, the Church has been gaining ground in this conflict. It started with increased conversion rates of a qualitative nature. And over the last decade, the conversions and reversions have been both qualitative and quantitative. Meanwhile, those who ran roughshed after the Council are dying out.

There is bitter irony in that those who were the most antifecundity now are reaping the (lack of a) harvest that they have sown. But you cannot see this because (i) your head is buried in the sand and (ii) your view of Catholicism is artificially construed. Much of what you and Albert do not notice is gone over in summary form HERE.

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Some Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist' Viz. Understanding Humani Generis and Vatican II:
(Part IV of IV)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of the thread, please go HERE.

Now it is time to touch on a teaching that "trads" and so-called "progressivists" blatantly ignore on a regular basis: Humani Generis §20. Here is the text:

"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. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";{Luke x,16} and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians." [HG §20]

Vatican II reaffirmed this in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium §25 and made it unambiguously clear that this principle extended to the entire papal magisterium. This was necessary because what is permanent is the principle, not the means used. (Hence the arguments against any document for not being an encyclical letter would be rendered meaningless.)

HG §21-22 deal with the the study of theology in accordance with Scripture and Tradition. (Dei Verbum covered these points.) HG §26 dealt with the existence of angels (mentioned at least a half dozen times in Lumen Gentium alone). HG §27 is based in part on a paraphrase of Mystici Corporis Christi and only on that basis avoids some degree of formal contradiction.

HG §30 notes the following:

Of course this philosophy deals with much that neither directly nor indirectly touches faith or morals, and which consequently the Church leaves to the free discussion of experts. But this does not hold for many other things, especially those principles and fundamental tenets to which We have just referred. However, even in these fundamental questions, we may clothe our philosophy in a more convenient and richer dress, make it more vigorous with a more effective terminology, divest it of certain scholastic aids found less useful, prudently enrich it with the fruits of progress of the human mind. [HG §30]

That is of course exactly what the Second Vatican Council did with many previously used terms. (And this is also why when "trads" attempt to approach these issues taking an apples-apples approach, they are continually falling into errors.)

HG §31-35 deals with the instruction of priests in the methods and principles of the Angelic Doctor. It is not difficult to consult the Vatican II Decree on priestly training Optatam Totius and notice that it refers to these principles.

HG §40-44 is predominantly a series of instructions to ecclesial authorities (Bishops and Superior Generals of Religious Orders) to bind them in conscience to do as the encyclical outlines in the various areas. And those self-styled "traditionalists" who post stuff to the web or in discussion lists which casts derision on the Magisterium or its teachings clearly run afoul of this part of the encyclical as well.

In other words, there is nothing whatsoever in Humani Generis which is a matter of doctrine that is not taught by Vatican II - and generally in a very explicit manner. There are differences in the approach of each but that is not irregular. And the same contempt of the ecclesial magisterium is present for those who ignore or downplay Vatican II as "trads" love to do.

For Humani Generis rebuked in strong tones those who did not obey the Teaching Authority of the Church. And insomuch as the documents of the Council represent acts of the Church's Magisterium, they are one and the same thing and fall under the teaching of Humani Generis §20.

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Some Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist' Viz. Understanding Humani Generis and Vatican II:
(Part III of IV)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE. To start from the beginning of the thread, please go HERE.

Parts 13-16 of HG deal with those who do not exercise caution in theology or in the explication of Catholic doctrine. A careful reading of these sections will bring one to realize that nothing in Vatican II remotely approaches the points proscribed in those parts. Paragraph 14 may be a stumbling block if not explained so here goes:

"In theology, some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents." [HG §14]

Though this in no way applies to the Council teaching, it is not deniable that some of those involved at the Council manifested this intention. (Nor were they for the most part among the leading lights of the Council contrary to many of the popular myths.) Indeed the synod reaffirmed explicitly every dogma of the Faith that I can think of except one.{1} And of course, there are parts of HG §16 that are also not congruent with "trad" theology:

"Everyone is aware that the terminology employed in the schools and even that used by the Teaching Authority of the Church itself is capable of being perfected and polished; and we know also that the Church itself has not always used the same terms in
the same way." [HG §16]

And indeed many of the terms underwent a paradigm shift at the Council and also as applied in the magisteriums of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Thus, those who do not seek to accurately represent them are guilty of the very contempt for the Teaching Authority of the Church that Humani Generis so often rebukes.

Paragraphs 17-19 are basically criticisms of those who would impugn scholastic theology or seek to overthrow existing theological methods wholesale with those which were not as established. Many have sought to find in these passages a condemnation of the supposed Nouvelle Theologiae but as I point out in my essay on the Syllabus of Errors, the latter is actually much more faithful to the methods and principles of St. Thomas than the methods popularized at the so-called "Roman school." (And Humani Generis being drafted by theologians of the so-called "Roman school" makes this passage quite ironic actually.)

To be Continued...


{1} What I have in mind here is an explicit reference to the dogma of transubstantiation. There are twenty-six references in the magisterial documents of the Council to the Definitions and Declarations of the Council of Trent. Of these, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium alone contains fourteen of them. (Including three distinct references to Session XXII's doctrine on the Mass.) This should have been more than enough but apparently it was not for some individuals. Nonetheless, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei eleven days before the opening of the Fourth Session of the Council which effectively removed any doubts on the matter whatsoever that may have existed in some quarters. (As to the teaching of the Council on the matter.)

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Some Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist' Viz. Understanding Humani Generis and Vatican II:
(Part II of IV)

The previous installment of this thread can be read HERE.

"There is also a certain historicism, which attributing value only to the events of man's life, overthrows the foundation of all truth and absolute law, both on the level of philosophical speculations and especially to Christian dogmas." [HG §7]

Note the words "a certain historicism." Some "trads" have sought to condemn any and all historicist theory on the basis of this text. The tenure of the text itself does not allow for such an interpretation to be posited. But those who cherry pick texts for "goodies" do not pay attention to these crucial factors.

"In all this confusion of opinion it is some consolation to Us to see former adherents of rationalism today frequently desiring to return to the fountain of divinely communicated truth, and to acknowledge and profess the word of God as contained in Sacred Scripture as the foundation of religious teaching. But at the same time it is a matter of regret that not a few of these, the more firmly they accept the word of God, so much the more do they diminish the value of human reason, and the more they exalt the authority of God the Revealer, the more severely do they spurn the teaching office of the Church, which has been instituted by Christ, Our Lord, to preserve and interpret divine revelation. This attitude is not only plainly at variance with Holy Scripture, but is shown to be false by experience also. For often those who disagree with the true Church complain openly of their disagreement in matters of dogma and thus unwillingly bear witness to the necessity of a living Teaching Authority." [HG §8]

I wish I had a dollar for every tract I have read over the years of "trads" who do exactly what is noted above. And of course the fact that Humani Generis attests to the Living Magisterium will of course be ignored or explained away by those who took issue with Vatican II's emphasis on the living teaching authority of the Church in the Dogmatic Contitution Dei Verbum. Though there is more, let us recapitulate what is covered thus far.

Humani Generis in the first sections 1-6 deals with (i) the importance of faith and reason (ii) how divine revelation is necessary because faith transcends reason (iii) how reason is often impugned by those who affirm that they accept the Word of God in the Scriptures. Vatican II issued a Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation affirming the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture and reaffirming the teachings of Vatican I on faith and reason. This was covered in the first parts of HG but also in HG §22,23,24,25 and 39. (The subject of evolutionary theory was also covered in HG §36-38.)

Thus, there is no need to reiterate these sections since I have already pointed out, the numerous references God in the Council's documents directly affirms HG's condemnation of atheistic evolutionary theory. But we are not done yet outlining the "trad" disregard for Humani Generis when the latter is read in proper context.

"Now Catholic theologians and philosophers, whose grave duty it is to defend natural and supernatural truth and instill it in the hearts of men, cannot afford to ignore or neglect these more or less erroneous opinions." [HG §9]

"More or less erroneous OPINIONS???" This is not indicative of an actual condemnation of doctrinal errors.

"Rather they must come to understand these same theories well, both because diseases are not properly treated unless they are rightly diagnosed, and because sometimes even in these false theories a certain amount of truth is contained, and, finally, because these theories provoke more subtle discussion and evaluation of philosophical and theological truths.

If philosophers and theologians strive only to derive such profit from the careful examination of these doctrines, there would be no reason for any intervention by the Teaching Authority of the Church. However, although We know that Catholic teachers generally avoid these errors, it is apparent, however, that some today, as in apostolic times, desirous of novelty, and fearing to be considered ignorant of recent scientific findings, try to withdraw themselves from the sacred Teaching Authority and are accordingly in danger of gradually departing from revealed truth and of drawing others along with them into error." [HG §9-10]

This is exactly what "trads" of various stripes do. And it is done not only explicitly. No, indeed it is also done by implication when they propose to judge the Teaching Authorty in any way whatsoever with forms of the great "trad" proto-Protestant principle of "Sola Traditio." (Generally this is done either with "sola texta magisteria" or "sola denzingera.")

As it would take too long to go through the entire document as we have done with the first quarter of the encyclical, let us in summary form highlight what was covered in the encyclical and also touch on what Vatican II taught. Of the 44 sections of HG, we will exclude from this what was already covered or referred to indirectly - or parts 1-10, 22,23,24,25,29, and 36-39. There is no need to repeat ourselves here. As for the rest, we will touch on them in brief at this time.

HG §11 deals with false irenicism and certain apologetical approaches. Vatican II condemned false irenicism in the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio §4. As for the rest, here is HG §11-12:

"And as in former times some questioned whether the traditional apologetics of the Church did not constitute an obstacle rather than a help to the winning of souls for Christ, so today some are presumptive enough to question seriously whether theology and theological methods, such as with the approval of ecclesiastical authority are found in our schools, should not only be perfected, but also completely reformed, in order to promote the more efficacious propagation of the kingdom of Christ everywhere throughout the world among men of every culture and religious opinion.

Now if these only aimed at adapting ecclesiastical teaching and methods to modern conditions and requirements, through the introduction of some new explanations, there would be scarcely any reason for alarm." [HG §11-12]

And that is all Vatican II set out to do and did. I will not argue that there have been those who have treated Vatican II with the same sloppy hermeneutic that many "trads" do the pre-Vatican II magisterium. Nevertheless, judging something on the basis of abuses is the worst thing someone can do because it is contrary to Traditional Catholic spiritual instruction on charity. I do not tolerate it well when I see this from *any* particular viewpoint. Disagreement is one thing, but disingenuous and unChristian methodology is another. (And this is a problem that is hardly the franchise of the "trads" alone I might add.)

To be Continued...

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Some Errors by a Self-Proclaimed 'Traditionalist' Viz. Understanding Humani Generis and Vatican II:
(Part I of IV)

Thirty-seven years of teaching have taught me that convincing arguments will only carry the assent of those willing to accept the conclusion drawn. Numerous are those who will never be convinced because their will stands in the way: The conclusion is not to their taste. [Alice von Hildebrand (c. 2002)]

This is a response to a Catholic convert and once very prominent and influential Catholic evangelist David Smith. It has been many moons since we corresponded on a discussion list. I want to take the opportunity of this response to clarify some points and refute some of David's statements. His words will be in black font while my sources will be in darkblue.

Assuming Shawn's historical claim is true (that problems perdure for 40 to 60 years after a general council), how can one possibly apply this standard to Vatican II? When Bl. John XXIII first called the Council, he did not do so to address any problems; rather, he attested to the health of the Church at the time.

Pope John also claimed to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to call the Council. I find it interesting that you would probably discount this opinion while retaining the one you have made. Besides, anyone familiar with nature knows that even a tree with a good degree of internal rot still shows plumage and appears healthy for some time even after it is infected. And there was no shortage of infection in the Church which was cosmetically papered over for many decades and (for the most part) not squarely faced up to.

That there were errors and corruption in the Church at the time has now been established beyond any doubt -- but the Council was not called to address them and in fact did not address them.

While agreeing with the first part of the statement, I disagree profoundly with both assertions of the second part. (And have detailed in not a few writings why they are false.) In this response that will be touched on again - only this time briefly.

For example, consider the errors that Pope Pius XII sought to address in Humani Generis. Did the Council address these errors?

There is an important distinction you are not making. Humani Generis for the most part was not a doctrinal letter in the same manner as Pius IX's Quanta Cura, Pius X's Pascendi, or John Paul II's Veritatis Splendour. There are some elements which in clarifying previous points have a doctrinal refernence point. But Humani Generis makes it very clear at the outset that what is being addressed are predominantly "false opinions". Thus, one must interpret the encyclical according to its own manifested intention and not impose onto it what we might want it to say. As this is a serious problem that self-styled "traditionalists" and other dissidents never cease to have, I will reiterate it again.

Humani Generis makes it clear that what was being predominently condemned were "opinions" and not "errors". Reference to actual errors (as opposed to opined ones) are only made five times.{1} And the word "opinions" - which is not a judgment of the dogmatic order but instead the theological order - is used three times as frequently. These are not insignificant points.

For by the norms of theological interpretation, we cannot elevate what is manifestly proscribed by theological censure to the level of doctrinal censure. Yet that is what "trads" so often do with Humani Generis. They also read the text very superficially and claim that various parties were "condemned" by the encyclical which is not infrequently based on a similarly facile treatment of the works of the respective theologians they have a Pavlovian reaction against.

In truth, very few of the popular "trad" whipping boys are implicated at all by HG - though Karl Rahner in failing to uphold monogenism would have been among those implicated. There are some others who would appear to be implicated {2} but there is nothing in noting that which all orthodox Catholics would not object to.

I have for quite some time noted that the attitudes and opinions expressed by self-styled "traditionalists" are in not a few ways irreconcilable with the teaching of Humani Generis. Here are a few examples:

[T]hough, absolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also of the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts, still there are not a few obstacles to prevent reason from making efficient and fruitful use of its natural ability.

The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men, completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life. Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful." [HG §2]

I need not outline the many areas where "trads" fall astray here as I have done this in numerous web writings and also articles in print publications.{3}

"It is for this reason that divine revelation must be considered morally necessary so that those religious and moral truths which are not of their nature beyond the reach of reason in the present condition of the human race, may be known by all mean readily with a firm certainty and with freedom from all error."[HG §3]

Albert is particularly susceptible to the above example as he separates faith and reason on many occasions - and subjects theology to philosophy rather than the converse.

To be Continued...


{1} And of course the very dogmatic reiteration of obedience to the magisterium in the twentieth section of the letter is very important. We will get to it later in this thread.

{2} It seems to me that Fr. Schillebeeckx and Fr. Kung would also have been implicated at least indirectly. However, we also have the benefit of hindsight and the CDF taking canonical action against them. It is hard to tell if Schillebeeckx would have been implicated back in 1950 or not. Kung certainly would not have been as he had not even received a licence thesis in philosophy by 1950. He was also not to get into deep kim chee until after the Council - starting around 1967 and ending with his disciplining in 1979 when he was stripped of his theological faculties. Certainly in that span he had gone far beyond even the limits of Humani Generis.

Of course the encyclical in its imprecision was used to persecute a lot of theologians who were later vindicated by the Church. (And "trads" often use this encyclical in the same sloppy fashion to implicate these theologians.) But that is a subject for another time altogether.

{3} The statement men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful is so applicable to radtrads that it is not even funny.

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